Ushering in a new meaning for head of state?
Ushering in a new meaning for head of state?
"still a man hears what he wants to hear
and disregards the rest" - paul simon (the boxer)
We all know that people have always tended to hang with like-minded people and tended to go to news sources that reinforce their personal beliefs, the difference today is that modern media such as the internet and especially social networking sites are making the situation much more intense, polarizing people to a far greater degree.
So how do we undo it and start to listen and hear one another? How do we avoid our own biases?
Given the power of our prior beliefs to skew how we respond to new information, one thing is becoming clear: If you want someone to accept new evidence, make sure to present it to them in a context that doesn't trigger a defensive, emotional reaction.
How our brains fool us on climate, creationism, and the vaccine-autism link.
By Chris Mooney
"A MAN WITH A CONVICTION is a hard man to change. Tell him you disagree and he turns away. Show him facts or figures and he questions your sources. Appeal to logic and he fails to see your point." So wrote the celebrated Stanford University psychologist Leon Festinger (PDF), in a passage that might have been referring to climate change denial--the persistent rejection, on the part of so many Americans today, of what we know about global warming and its human causes. But it was too early for that--this was the 1950s--and Festinger was actually describing a famous case study in psychology.
Festinger and several of his colleagues had infiltrated the Seekers, a small Chicago-area cult whose members thought they were communicating with aliens--including one, "Sananda," who they believed was the astral incarnation of Jesus Christ. The group was led by Dorothy Martin, a Dianetics devotee who transcribed the interstellar messages through automatic writing.
Through her, the aliens had given the precise date of an Earth-rending cataclysm: December 21, 1954. Some of Martin's followers quit their jobs and sold their property, expecting to be rescued by a flying saucer when the continent split asunder and a new sea swallowed much of the United States. The disciples even went so far as to remove brassieres and rip zippers out of their trousers--the metal, they believed, would pose a danger on the spacecraft.
Festinger and his team were with the cult when the prophecy failed. First, the "boys upstairs" (as the aliens were sometimes called) did not show up and rescue the Seekers. Then December 21 arrived without incident. It was the moment Festinger had been waiting for: How would people so emotionally invested in a belief system react, now that it had been soundly refuted?
Read also: the truth about Climategate.Read also: the truth about Climategate.At first, the group struggled for an explanation. But then rationalization set in. A new message arrived, announcing that they'd all been spared at the last minute. Festinger summarized the extraterrestrials' new pronouncement: "The little group, sitting all night long, had spread so much light that God had saved the world from destruction." Their willingness to believe in the prophecy had saved Earth from the prophecy!
From that day forward, the Seekers, previously shy of the press and indifferent toward evangelizing, began to proselytize. "Their sense of urgency was enormous," wrote Festinger. The devastation of all they had believed had made them even more certain of their beliefs.
In the annals of denial, it doesn't get much more extreme than the Seekers. They lost their jobs, the press mocked them, and there were efforts to keep them away from impressionable young minds. But while Martin's space cult might lie at on the far end of the spectrum of human self-delusion, there's plenty to go around. And since Festinger's day, an array of new discoveries in psychology and neuroscience has further demonstrated how our preexisting beliefs, far more than any new facts, can skew our thoughts and even color what we consider our most dispassionate and logical conclusions. This tendency toward so-called "motivated reasoning" helps explain why we find groups so polarized over matters where the evidence is so unequivocal: climate change, vaccines, "death panels," the birthplace and religion of the president (PDF), and much else. It would seem that expecting people to be convinced by the facts flies in the face of, you know, the facts.
click pic to enlarge
The Republicans are basically hucksters who have raised the "bait and switch" and "big lie" techniques to an art form. The real question is why do so many Americans still fall for it? Are we really that ignorant of what is going on?
Insincere Republicans, Justified Cynicism
by: Paul Krugman
Republicans are deeply, sincerely concerned about the budget deficit. That's why, in unveiling their plan last week, they declared themselves willing to give ground on their traditional priorities, signaling a readiness to accept higher taxes on the wealthy and reduced defense spending as part of a deficit-reduction deal.
You mean they didn't do anything like that?
You mean that even while warning about an imminent fiscal crisis, they actually tried to cut taxes on the rich to their lowest level since 1931?
Why, you might actually think that they're not sincerely concerned about the deficit. But that can't be true, since they keep saying that they are.
O.K., you get the point. It's truly amazing that so many commentators -- people who presumably know something about the relationship, or lack thereof, between what politicians say and what they do -- are willing to accept at face value claims of deep, sincere concern about the deficit from people whose actual priorities are demonstrated by their absolute unwillingness to sacrifice anything they want in the name of deficit reduction.
Duncan Black, better known by his pseudonym, Atrios, likes to say in his blog, Eschaton, that nobody cares about the deficit.
Basically, that's right.
"For the millionth time, the Ryan plan isn't a deficit reduction plan, it's a cut tax on rich people plan," he wrote recently. "And of course it is, because nobody cares about the deficit, and most of the people who claim to just care about cutting taxes on rich people. The deficit talk is just a way to sucker gullible beltway scribes into writing nice things about it."
Look, we've been here before. The obvious parallel in my mind is what happened after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, when more or less the same people declared themselves totally focused on fighting terrorism -- but unwilling to give up anything they wanted, and in fact eagerly using the terrorist threat as an excuse to grab even more goodies.
I mean, within 48 hours of the attack congressional Republicans were preparing their response: a cut in the capital gains tax; in the immediate aftermath, the Bush administration fought hard to keep airport security in private hands.
Somehow, responding to terrorism only involved doing things the administration wanted to do anyway: invading Iraq, torturing people, tapping our phones, etc.
For what it's worth, President Obama is actually offering to make some sacrifices on the budget; call it political positioning if you like, but that's infinitely more than his opponents are doing.
So it's easy to be completely cynical about self-proclaimed deficit hawks -- and the cynicism is totally justified. There's no sincerity here.
Next stop: How was this negro allowed into Harvard?
You know what scares the bigots the most? They fear that a black man appears to be better than they are at just about everything. When they claim they want their country back they are really saying they want their uncontested and god-given superiority back.
"Show me your papers!"
Major Blackard, then just 19 years old, dug into his trousers in search of his wallet. He padded his jacket, but could not find his billfold.
"Sir, I done left my wallet..." Blackard said. Before he could finish his sentence, the young man was posted against the brick wall, cuffed and taken to the St. Louis city jail. Unable to prove his identity, he would spend the next 21 days in a cramped, musty cell. That's where his older brother Matt found him, beaten and bloodied. Matt returned with Major's employer later that day, wallet and identification card in hand, to post bond.
The year was 1899. Major Blackard was my great, great grandfather.
The real crime, as Pulitzer Prize winning author Doug Blackmon points on in his seminal work Slavery by Any Other Name, was that my grandfather was a colored man in America.
This morning, as White House staffers released copies of the president's long form birth certificate, I couldn't shake the feeling that something very ugly was going on. For the first time in recorded history, a sitting president of the United States found it necessary to produce his original birth certificate for public inspection. Not once, in 235 years, have we ever demanded proof that our president was born on American soil.
In a stunning display of unchecked ego, Donald Trump quickly hosted a news conference, during which he took credit for forcing President Obama's hand. The sometime real estate developer, socialite, author and television personality went on to caution onlookers to let "experts" examine the document. Lest the president continue perpetrating was Trump has called potentially the "biggest fraud in American history."
Click here to view a PDF version of President Obama's long form birth certificate
For weeks, the thrice married, comb-over construction magnate has enthralled news reporters with his apocalyptic ranting. Trump openly questioned whether President Obama belonged in the White House, a boardroom, or even an Ivy League lecture hall.
And we let him.
We used all manner of excuses to justify giving Trump as much oxygen as he could suck up. Rarely, if ever, did we press him to produce a shard of evidence to substantiate his wild claims. We smiled gingerly as he all but called us stupid sycophants who were in cahoots with an illegitimate president. We allowed him to hold court on issues on which he clearly has no knowledge and no credibility, beyond the limo ride briefings he apparently receives from his merry band of "yes men."
Trump didn't just want the birth record. He wants the president to release his college transcripts. "How did such a bad student get into Harvard?," Trump keeps asking. The implication is the Barack Obama was the beneficiary of affirmative action and took the place of a more qualified white student. Apparently, graduating magna cum laude from the nation's most prestigious law school and being named editor of the Harvard Law Review -- the institution's highest student honor -- is not enough for him.
It never is for people like Trump.
"If he gets off the phone, or gets off his basketball court or whatever he's doing at the time," Trump said. "I mean he should be focused on OPEC and getting those prices down."
When they tell you this isn't racial, don't believe them. This controversy was constructed solely as a way to de-legitimize the presidency of a black man. Those who question the location of Barack Obama's birth are the very same people who would pack up and move out of the neighborhood if someone like me moved in next door.
When they say they want to take their country back, they mean from us.
According to a recent Public Policy Polling survey, a stunning 51 percent of Republicans believe the president wasn't born in the United States. In Mississippi, nearly half of all Republicans believe interracial marriage should be illegal. If they had their way, not only would Obama not be president, he never would have been born.That's how far we have not come.
Some 112 years after my grandfather was snatched from a street corner in the central west end section of St. Louis, it seems we still need to prove our right to be here.
I thought we were better than this.
Here's an uphill cultural battle...
Personally, I consider circumcision, male or female, to be a physical assault on an infant who has zero say about the act. Why not wait until puberty when the kid might be able to have some idea about what is going down? If my religion held that it was an important ritual to cut the ear lobe off each ear immediately after birth, would that be considered plausible?
SAN FRANCISCO -- A group opposed to male circumcision said on Tuesday they have collected more than enough signatures to qualify a proposal to ban the practice in San Francisco as a ballot measure for November elections.
But legal experts said that even if it were approved by a majority of the city's voters, such a measure would almost certainly face a legal challenge as an unconstitutional infringement on freedom of religion.
Circumcision is a ritual obligation for infant Jewish boys, and is also a common rite among Muslims, who account for the largest share of circumcised men worldwide.
The leading proponent of a ban, Lloyd Schofield, 59, acknowledged circumcision is widely socially accepted but he said it should still be outlawed.
"It's excruciatingly painful and permanently damaging surgery that's forced on men when they're at their weakest and most vulnerable," he told Reuters.
His group submitted about 12,000 signatures supporting his proposed ban, said Rachel Gosiengfiao, campaign services manager for the city's Department of Elections. The agency has 30 days to verify the petitions. He needs 7,200 valid signatures to qualify.
Measure would make circumcision a misdemeanor
The measure, which would only apply in San Francisco, would make it a misdemeanor crime to circumcise a boy before he is 18 years of age, regardless of the parents' religious beliefs. The maximum penalty would be a year in jail and a $1,000 fine.
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Schofield, who would not discuss his current occupation but previously worked for hotels in the San Francisco Bay area, has found allies for his cause in the anti-circumcision groups Intact America and the National Organization of Circumcision Information Resource Centers, according to his group's website.
However, some experts said it was doubtful such a measure would withstand legal scrutiny if challenged.
"The practice of Judaism requires a boy to be circumcised. I suspect the California courts would ultimately require the city to demonstrate the practice is harmful," said Jennifer Rothman, a professor at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles.
"I don't think there's sufficient medical evidence that it is, which would place the law's constitutionality in question."
But Josh Davis, professor and associate dean for faculty scholarship at the University of San Francisco School of Law, said the U.S. Supreme Court has previously indicated in rulings that "religions don't get a free pass."
"So if circumcision is the harm that's being targeted -- because circumcision is perceived as causing harm, and not because it is a religious practice -- it might well be a constitutionally valid law," he said.
Schofield's proposal would make exceptions for boys who need a circumcision for health reasons.
Nevertheless, Davis and Rothman both said voters would be likely to reject the measure at the polls.
"I think that people are very likely to react to it as interfering with religious practices," Davis said.
One of the first things you learn after moving to Florida is to pay attention to where you stand when outdoors lest you find out why fire ants are named such.
A cluster of fire ants floating on the surface of water is pushed down with a pair of tweezers. Note the deflection of the water surface and how water does not penetrate the raft.
Is It Fear of Uprisings or Altruistic Punishment?
by Antonia Darder, TruthoutIf there is no struggle, there is no progress. Those who profess to favor freedom and yet depreciate agitation, are men who want crops without plowing up the ground. They want rain without thunder and lightning. They want the ocean without the awful roar of its many waters. This struggle may be a moral one; or it may be a physical one; or it may be both moral and physical; but it must be a struggle. Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will. - Frederick Douglass, 1857
As the uprisings are spreading around the world and in the United States, there are many who feel fear, reticence and intense skittishness about what is transpiring. Yet, this anxiety, rather than surprising, is well cultivated by the contemporary hegemonic forces that govern our lives.
What is most important for us to understand is that we, as a people, are most conditioned to fear when populations reclaim their social agency and collective power and rise up against the unjust policies of the state. Here, I am speaking of protests that are generally aimed against economic and social policies of repression that are directly tied to the interests of the powerful ruling class. As much as US rhetorics would like to pretend we are a classless nation, such protests are forms of class struggle.
Moreover, as an educator, what I see is that the hegemonic pedagogy of the West socializes us all to be self-centered individuals and to fear or hold suspect communal life. Along with this, we are conditioned to fear "the wrath" of the masses, if and when they should rise collectively to counter the long-term political betrayal of our leaders. This causes even good liberals to worry incessantly about the dangers of mass protests.
This is partly because by the time people throw caution to the wind and mount collective action on the street, they are responding not only from a place of reason, but also from their emotions, their hearts. The result is a reclaiming of humanity and public space - both well domesticated and controlled under contemporary Western rule - when the people finally refuse to permit the oppressive forces of injustice to be reasoned away or for repressive public policies to press upon our souls one more moment, without responding.
No historical transformation has ever been possible without the consolidation of the passion or Eros, as George Katsiaficas reminds us, of the people on the streets, collectively directed with their reason toward their pursuit of justice. But we are also taught that to enter collectively into this state of uprising is dangerous, for, in many instances, it may result in violence with impunity by the state, in an effort to regain control of public life.
What is often dismissed, as Paulo Freire reminds us in "Pedagogy of the Oppressed," is that violence, more often than not, is initiated not by those rebelling from oppression, but by those who refuse to step down or cede their power when the people have called for change. So, in many ways, we can also think of uprisings that call for the ousting of government heads and officials as forms of "altruistic punishment," a term used by Stephen Hall to speak of a collectively loving act of faith by the people, rightly exercised with their "flesh and blood" for the greater good.
Is drinking water a human right or merely a commodity? Who gets to decide?
The World Bank has predicted that by the year 2025, two-thirds of the world's population will run short of fresh drinking water. Given such a grim future, it comes as little surprise that Fortune magazine recently defined water as "the oil of the 21st century."
The natural response to such a scenario would be to concentrate energy and resources on protecting existing supplies, enhancing conservation efforts, helping vulnerable populations, improving pollution control initiatives and raising public awareness about
an impending crisis that could threaten the lives of hundreds of millions -- perhaps
billions -- of people. Moreover, such a crisis could unleash an environmental cataclysm from which the planet could never recover.
Unfortunately, this is not the thinking of corporate executives and, increasingly,
government officials throughout the world. Instead, more and more of them are proposing to transfer the control of this precious resource from the public sector to the private sector. Today, one cannot avoid hearing the word "privatization" when the global water crisis is discussed.
Given the track record of corporations that have begun to privatize water systems, and given how privatization has wreaked economic, social and environmental havoc on other utility industries, there is no reason to believe that corporations will demonstrate more responsible stewardship practices if they gain control of drinking water systems. It is no underestimation to say that the very survival of billions of people could rest on decisions being made today -- behind closed doors, in most cases -- in corporate boardrooms and government offices throughout the world.
With each drop of water that falls into the hands of private interests, any sustainable solution to the global water crisis moves further and further from the public's grasp. Here are 10 reasons -- among many -- why the privatization of drinking water supplies could spell doom for many of the world's 6 billion-plus people.
Each item in this list are dealt with more fully in an acrobat document you can open or download here:
1) Privatization Leads to Rate Increases
2) Privatization Undermines Water Quality
3) Companies are Accountable to Shareholders, not Consumers
4) Privatization Fosters Corruption
5) Privatization Reduces Local Control and Public Rights
6) Private Financing Costs More Than Government Financing
7) Privatization Leads to Job Losses
8) Privatization is Difficult to Reverse
9) Privatization Can Leave the Poor With No Access to Clean Water
10) Privatization Would Open the Door to Bulk Water Exports
Hulu is offering a documentary on the topic called Flow: For the Love of Water
by Noam Chomsky
The democracy uprising in the Arab world has been a spectacular display of courage, dedication and commitment by popular forces--coinciding, fortuitously, with a remarkable uprising of tens of thousands in support of working people and democracy in Madison, Wis., and other U.S. cities. If the trajectories of revolt in Cairo and Madison intersected, however, they were headed in opposite directions: in Cairo toward gaining elementary rights denied by the dictatorship, in Madison toward defending rights that had been won in long and hard struggles and are now under severe attack.
Each is a microcosm of tendencies in global society, following varied courses. There are sure to be far-reaching consequences of what is taking place both in the decaying industrial heartland of the richest and most powerful country in human history, and in what President Dwight Eisenhower called "the most strategically important area in the world" --"a stupendous source of strategic power" and "probably the richest economic prize in the world in the field of foreign investment," in the words of the State Department in the 1940s, a prize that the U.S. intended to keep for itself and its allies in the unfolding New World Order of that day.
Despite all the changes since, there is every reason to suppose that today's policymakers basically adhere to the judgment of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt's influential advisor A.A. Berle that control of the incomparable energy reserves of the Middle East would yield "substantial control of the world." And correspondingly, that loss of control would threaten the project of global dominance that was clearly articulated during World War II, and that has been sustained in the face of major changes in world order since that day.
From the outset of the war in 1939, Washington anticipated that it would end with the U.S. in a position of overwhelming power. High-level State Department officials and foreign policy specialists met through the wartime years to lay out plans for the postwar world. They delineated a "Grand Area" that the U.S. was to dominate, including the Western Hemisphere, the Far East and the former British empire, with its Middle East energy resources. As Russia began to grind down Nazi armies after Stalingrad, Grand Area goals extended to as much of Eurasia as possible, at least its economic core in Western Europe. Within the Grand Area, the U.S. would maintain "unquestioned power," with "military and economic supremacy," while ensuring the "limitation of any exercise of sovereignty" by states that might interfere with its global designs. The careful wartime plans were soon implemented.
It was always recognized that Europe might choose to follow an independent course. NATO was partially intended to counter this threat. As soon as the official pretext for NATO dissolved in 1989, NATO was expanded to the East in violation of verbal pledges to Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev. It has since become a U.S.-run intervention force, with far-ranging scope, spelled out by NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, who informed a NATO conference that "NATO troops have to guard pipelines that transport oil and gas that is directed for the West," and more generally to protect sea routes used by tankers and other "crucial infrastructure" of the energy system.
Grand Area doctrines clearly license military intervention at will. That conclusion was articulated clearly by the Clinton administration, which declared that the U.S. has the right to use military force to ensure "uninhibited access to key markets, energy supplies and strategic resources," and must maintain huge military forces "forward deployed" in Europe and Asia "in order to shape people's opinions about us" and "to shape events that will affect our livelihood and our security."
The same principles governed the invasion of Iraq. As the U.S. failure to impose its will in Iraq was becoming unmistakable, the actual goals of the invasion could no longer be concealed behind pretty rhetoric. In November 2007, the White House issued a Declaration of Principles demanding that U.S. forces must remain indefinitely in Iraq and committing Iraq to privilege American investors. Two months later, President Bush informed Congress that he would reject legislation that might limit the permanent stationing of U.S. Armed Forces in Iraq or "United States control of the oil resources of Iraq"--demands that the U.S. had to abandon shortly after in the face of Iraqi resistance.
In Tunisia and Egypt, the recent popular uprisings have won impressive victories, but as the Carnegie Endowment reported, while names have changed, the regimes remain: "A change in ruling elites and system of governance is still a distant goal." The report discusses internal barriers to democracy, but ignores the external ones, which as always are significant.
The U.S. and its Western allies are sure to do whatever they can to prevent authentic democracy in the Arab world. To understand why, it is only necessary to look at the studies of Arab opinion conducted by U.S. polling agencies. Though barely reported, they are certainly known to planners. They reveal that by overwhelming majorities, Arabs regard the U.S. and Israel as the major threats they face: The U.S. is so regarded by 90 percent of Egyptians, in the region generally by more than 75 percent. Some Arabs regard Iran as a threat: 10 percent. Opposition to U.S. policy is so strong that a majority believes that security would be improved if Iran had nuclear weapons--in Egypt, 80 percent. Other figures are similar. If public opinion were to influence policy, the U.S. not only would not control the region, but would be expelled from it, along with its allies, undermining fundamental principles of global dominance.
Until Americans remove the for profit health care insurance industry we will remain nothing more than consumers of fixed market commodities.
By Paul Krugman
Earlier this week, The Times reported on Congressional backlash against the Independent Payment Advisory Board, a key part of efforts to rein in health care costs. This backlash was predictable; it is also profoundly irresponsible, as I'll explain in a minute.
But something else struck me as I looked at Republican arguments against the board, which hinge on the notion that what we really need to do, as the House budget proposal put it, is to "make government health care programs more responsive to consumer choice."
Here's my question: How did it become normal, or for that matter even acceptable, to refer to medical patients as "consumers"? The relationship between patient and doctor used to be considered something special, almost sacred. Now politicians and supposed reformers talk about the act of receiving care as if it were no different from a commercial transaction, like buying a car -- and their only complaint is that it isn't commercial enough.
What has gone wrong with us?
About that advisory board: We have to do something about health care costs, which means that we have to find a way to start saying no. In particular, given continuing medical innovation, we can't maintain a system in which Medicare essentially pays for anything a doctor recommends. And that's especially true when that blank-check approach is combined with a system that gives doctors and hospitals -- who aren't saints -- a strong financial incentive to engage in excessive care.
Hence the advisory board, whose creation was mandated by last year's health reform. The board, composed of health-care experts, would be given a target rate of growth in Medicare spending. To keep spending at or below this target, the board would submit "fast-track" recommendations for cost control that would go into effect automatically unless overruled by Congress.
Before you start yelling about "rationing" and "death panels," bear in mind that we're not talking about limits on what health care you're allowed to buy with your own (or your insurance company's) money. We're talking only about what will be paid for with taxpayers' money. And the last time I looked at it, the Declaration of Independence didn't declare that we had the right to life, liberty, and the all-expenses-paid pursuit of happiness.
And the point is that choices must be made; one way or another, government spending on health care must be limited.
By Mike Appleton
In 1773 the British East India Company was broke. In an effort to prevent bankruptcy, and the resulting loss of the crown's investment, the British government eliminated all taxes on domestic tea sales and granted the company a monopoly on tea shipments to the American colonies. In December of that year radicals boarded ships in Boston harbor and threw $75,000.00 worth of tea overboard. The first Tea Party was a violent reaction to monopolistic economic power protected by government.
The modern Tea Party doesn't understand history, so it can't be expected to appreciate irony. It is a mongrel movement, its leaders self-proclaimed, its agenda by turns unfathomable and incoherent, its philosophy grounded in vehemence. So how can it possibly be dangerous? Here, in no particular order, are my four Rs of the Tea Party.
1. It is racist. I know. I just played the race card. But the best way to stop someone from playing the race card is to quit dealing it. Public expressions of bigotry began as soon as Barack Obama was nominated at the Democratic convention, and continued throughout the campaign, during which prominent Republicans referred to him as "boy," "uppity" and other vulgarities. In short order he became a socialist and a Marxist and was then transformed into an extremist Arab Muslim. Sarah Palin eventually settled on the euphemistic "let's take our country back," but we all knew what she meant. The Tea Party began forming before the inauguration and was printing "Don't Tread on Me" posters while the Obama family was still unpacking in the White House. On April 15, 2009, the Tea Party was protesting a tax burden that was, and is, the lowest in 60 years.
The Tea Party has promoted ugly forms of nativism, including punitive immigration laws, English only legislation and bans on the teaching of ethnic studies. It is the 1840s once again, but the targets are Muslims and Hispanics rather than Germans and Irish.
2. It is a religionist movement. I don't know if religionism is a word, but I use it to describe a phenomenon distinct from traditional religion: religion as political philosophy. It is the view that the Constitution was divinely inspired, that America is God's gift to mankind, that capitalism is mandated by Holy Scripture and that the notion of "social justice" is the work of the Antichrist. It is a culmination of the fundamentalist reaction in the early 1900s to Darwin and the progressive movement. It has spawned a form of Christian imperialism that justifies the "crusades" in Iraq and Afghanistan, supports Israel uncritically and sends American politicians to Africa to lobby for the death penalty for homosexuals.
3. It is repressive. The Tea Party is committed to authoritarianism. Lawmakers in Congress and throughout the country, particularly in states with heavily Republican legislatures, have been imposing humiliating burdens on women's constitutional rights at breakneck speed. They are simultaneously reducing taxes on business and cutting funding for education and health care. The regulation of entire industries is being eliminated in certain states. The integrity of public employees has been impugned and their rights to organize curtailed. Laws banning the phony threat of sharia are pending in a dozen states. The independence of the judiciary has been threatened by proposals to reduce courts' rule-making authority and politicize the judicial selection process.
4. It is revisionist. The Christian right and its supporters in legislatures and on school boards have demanded that high school history texts be rewritten to eliminate references to the deism endorsed by many of the Founders in favor of promoting the false notion of America as an exclusively Christian nation. The history of slavery and the Civil War is being falsified to satisfy the desires of apologists for the Confederacy and southern "values." Science cannot be re-written, but it can be denied. The sciences of climate change and evolutionary processes have become the subjects of unnecessary controversy.
Robert La Follette, a founder of the progressive movement, became governor of Wisconsin in 1900 and immediately took on the railroads, forcing them to pay higher taxes on their assets. When the new governor of Wisconsin took office this year, he immediately took on labor in an effort to destroy public employee unions and cover the cost of new tax reductions for business. But like I said earlier. People who don't understand history can't appreciate irony.
The article: Atlas Without Angelina
April 17th, 2011
This was an important column. Apart from Bill Maher, and some readers comments, including my own, mainstream media has all but ignored the fact that Paul Ryan is a disciple of Ann Rand. More important, Allan Greenspan, formerly " America's Economist" and anointed economic guru and head of the Federal Reserve, was a member of Rand's inner circle.
Here is a quote from the "esteemed" Mr. Greenspan. "Atlas Shrugged" is a celebration of life and happiness. Justice is unrelenting. Creative individuals and undeviating purpose and rationality achieve joy and fulfillment.Parasites,who consistently avoid either purpose and reason, perish as they should."
By the way Mr.Greenspan came to Ann Rand's funeral last year with a floral arrangement in shape of a dollar sign. That was in the end their religion.
It should also be noted that Mr. Greenspan, sounding like some former member of a cult, said publicly that he was shocked that bankers were unable to regulate themselves. He sounded to me like a member of some apocalyptic cult that was shocked that the world didn't end of the prophesied day. Imagine, that this man, immersed and brainwashed by such extremist, cruel cult like irrational non reality tested beliefs was in a position to influence America and the world's economy for decades.
It might be also important to note that Rand, in her old age, and sick with cancer did the following to insure her financial and economic security: she applied for and received social security and medicare.
So much for practicing what you preach. In the end she became as much as a "parasite" to use her terminology as the rest of us.
I think it is also interesting that Rep. Ryan's father died when he was a little boy. Do you know how he paid for his college education? He saved up the Social Security checks that he was entitled to and received from the government. This "parasite" has a very short and ungrateful memory, don't you think?
Ann Rand's Objectivist philosophy is the intellectual foundation of Reganomics and the economic teachings of Milton Friedman and the Chicago School of Economics. It applies the law of the jungle,literally, to economic and social relations. The big and powerful eat the small and weak. The "creative people", the corporate class, and the rich, are morally superior to all others in society by virtue of their wealth and power.The poor are morally inferior parasites who feed off everyone els and ordinary Americans like the working and middle class are inherently morally inferior to the 'creative" ones and should rightly be in a subservient position to them. If taken to their logical conclusion, these ideas are best suited to an oligarchy or fascist government. They are totally incompatible with the ideals of America and those of every major religion on earth. They are most definitely against the teachings of Jesus Christ, the dominant religious influence in America. They are pure and simple nihilism applied to economics.
According to Ann Rand's thinking, the bankers of Wall Street, if faced with the prospect of very stringent regulation which would reduce their gambling, make their transactions transparent and limit their obscene bonuses would have only one logical alternative: blow up their banks.
Is this the philosophy you want to dominate our society?
Nina Simone - Brown Baby
Tennessee Tea Party legislator state Rep. Frank Nicely argues in favor of a bill to encourage public schools to "teach the controversy" for evolution and climate change. He falsely attributes a mangled version of a 16th-century Francis Bacon quotation to humanist Jew Albert Einstein. And speaking of mangled, check out the lack of logic in the rest of his argument.
"I think that if there's one thing that everyone in this room could agree on, that would be that Albert Einstein was a critical thinker. He was a scientist. I think that we probably could agree that Albert Einstein was smarter than any of our science teachers in our high schools or colleges. And Albert Einstein said that a little knowledge would turn your head toward atheism, while a broader knowledge would turn your head toward Christianity."
Of course Einstein said nothing of the sort.
How can someone holding a public office be this ignorant on so many levels? And what does it say about the people who elected him?
When I was a Cub Scout we were taught that fire is a good servant but a bad master. It can cook your food and keep you warm or it can burn your house down and kill you. I would describe Capitalism in exactly the same way - a good servant but a bad master . Capitalism can be a powerful force for good that can fulfill our needs in many ways. But; we always have to vigilant and keep Capitalism in its place. It should always be made to work for us and never the other way around. It is easy to fall into the Wall Street trap where we end up on our knees serving the needs of Capitalism.
Just like fire, if you get careless and turn your back on it, you can end up getting burned. I am an ardent supporter of Capitalism, but Capitalism should never be allowed to run the show.
Faywood, New Mexico
April 17th, 2011
Using wikis and digital fabrication tools, TED Fellow Marcin Jakubowski is open-sourcing the blueprints for 50 farm machines, allowing anyone to build their own tractor or harvester from scratch. And that's only the first step in a project to write an instruction set for an entire self-sustaining village (starting cost: $10,000).
This debut volume of political cartoons from the revered Mr. Fish spans politics, popular culture, the economic crisis, the Obama presidency, and much more, where nobody--right, left, nor middle--is safe from his razor-edged satire. The volume also includes original essays from Mr. Fish.
by David Cay Johnston
For three decades we have conducted a massive economic experiment, testing a theory known as supply-side economics. The theory goes like this: Lower tax rates will encourage more investment, which in turn will mean more jobs and greater prosperity--so much so that tax revenues will go up, despite lower rates. The late Milton Friedman, the libertarian economist who wanted to shut down public parks because he considered them socialism, promoted this strategy. Ronald Reagan embraced Friedman's ideas and made them into policy when he was elected president in 1980.
For the past decade, we have doubled down on this theory of supply-side economics with the tax cuts sponsored by President George W. Bush in 2001 and 2003, which President Obama has agreed to continue for two years.
You would think that whether this grand experiment worked would be settled after three decades. You would think the practitioners of the dismal science of economics would look at their demand curves and the data on incomes and taxes and pronounce a verdict, the way Galileo and Copernicus did when they showed that geocentrism was a fantasy because Earth revolves around the sun (known as heliocentrism). But economics is not like that. It is not like physics with its laws and arithmetic with its absolute values.
Tax policy is something the framers left to politics. And in politics, the facts often matter less than who has the biggest bullhorn.
The Mad Men who once ran campaigns featuring doctors extolling the health benefits of smoking are now busy marketing the dogma that tax cuts mean broad prosperity, no matter what the facts show.
By Jennifer Medina
In California public schools, students are required to learn about black history and women's history. And if a bill approved by the State Senate this week becomes law, the state will become the first in the country to mandate that schools also teach gay history.
While the bill does not set specific requirements about what should be taught to students, it does say that contributions of gays and lesbians in the state and country must be included in social science instruction. So Harvey Milk, one of the first openly gay elected officials in the state, and Bayard Rustin, a civil rights activist, may take a prominent place in the state's history books.
Advocates say that teaching about gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people in schools would prevent bullying and shatter stereotypes that some students may harbor. They point to several students who have committed suicide after being taunted by peers for being gay. But the bill has drawn vociferous criticism from opponents who argue that when and how to talk about same-sex relationships should be left to parents.
A similar bill was approved by the Democratic-controlled Legislature in 2006, but vetoed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who said that school curriculum should be left up to local schools. But there is a new governor now. And both supporters and opponents of the bill expect it will sail through the heavily Democratic Assembly and be signed into law by Gov. Jerry Brown, a Democrat who has been supportive of gay rights.
"It is very basic to me that people dislike and fear that with which we are less familiar," said Mark Leno, who sponsored the bill and is one of the first openly gay men elected to the State Senate. Students who come to view their fellow classmates as regular members of society, rather than misfits, will find that "their behavior changes for the better," Mr. Leno said.
Some school districts, including San Francisco and Los Angeles, have already put in place such a curriculum. But even in those more liberal areas, Mr. Leno said, students may not realize how recently gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender individuals have been given more rights. For example, he said, many teenagers would be shocked to learn that it was just more than a decade ago when the state legally prohibited discrimination based on sexual orientation.
The increasing acceptance of gays and lesbians is precisely what bothers some of the opponents of the legislation. Craig De Luz, a conservative activist and school board member from Sacramento, said that in many communities "the issue of homosexuality is far from settled."
"There is still a big cultural discussion of: Is it something that one chooses, or is it something that someone is born with," Mr. De Luz said. "It is all part of the same agenda, which is largely about social acceptance. Now this is a way of endorsing a lifestyle that many people are morally opposed to."
Bob Huff, a Republican from San Bernardino, said he worried that the bill would water down the state curriculum and distract students from learning the basics.
"To have something this nebulous just opens it up to problems," Mr. Huff said. "At what age do you start doing this instruction? What is age appropriate and what is appropriate at all is really a question we haven't answered."
Carolyn Laub, the director of the Gay-Straight Alliance Network, who lobbied for the legislation, cited the experience of an Orange County student as an example of how the law might work. When the student learned that the civil rights protests of the 1960s would be discussed in history class, he asked the teacher to talk about the Stonewall riots.
"Suddenly students see he is part of a broader community, and they have a much better understanding of that community in the context of the rest of the world," Ms. Laub said. "It has absolutely nothing to do with sex; it's about entire communities that are left out."
One of the complaints the progressive blogosphere commonly levels against the Democratic leadership in DC is about negotiating strategy. Generally, the complaint is that the Democratic leadership in Congress and in the White House make opening bids that are already compromises, which results in final legislative deals skewing further to the right than necessary. Perhaps the most frequent specific example of this complaint is that Democrats in Congress should have started the health care debate by proposing a single-payer plan, and might have ended up with a public option in the final bill as a result.
Whether or not you agree with that complaint in either the general or the specific, if it is applied to the budget fight the Democratic leadership in DC should have started with The People's Budget (PDF), which the Congressional Progressive Caucus introduced today. It's a budget that produces a surplus by 2021 without cutting services for the poor and middle-class. It thus provides a stark contrast with the recent proposal by Rep. Paul Ryan, and a left-flank to the principles outlined by President Obama.
Here's a general overview of the People's Budget:
Progressive Caucus co-chair Raul Grijalva said the People's Budget--which is an actual piece of legislation, not simply an outline--was filed with the Rules committee this morning. His fellow co-chair, Representative Keith Ellison, told me he thinks it will get more than 100 votes, which would be a majority of House Democrats. Even though that is still not enough to pass the chamber, Ellison said "we have to tell people what we would do if we had the numbers."
Getting those numbers will of course be very difficult. However, under no circumstances should we consider it impossible. One of my favorite stories in political history is the passage of the Reform Act of 1867 by the British Parliament. This was a bill expanding the franchise that was passed by a Conservative government, even though the Conservatives had gotten into power largely by defeating a weaker form of the same bill. However, the Conservatives ended up passing the bill largely because of overwhelming public pressure in the spring of 1867.
To me, the moral of that story has always been that the location political center can, and often does, change very quickly. The first step in making change happen is by talking about new possibilities. Today, with their introduction of the People's Budget, the Congressional Progressive Caucus has taken that first step.
A brilliant and definitive 1 hour lecture on the central cause of the obesity and type 2 diabetes epidemic, cardiovascular disease, hypertension and gout...in a word fructose.
It's true the speaker uses a fair amount of statistical evidence in a suggestive manner to make his points, but overall I find his arguments both solid and persuasive. It's also true he seemingly has a moral imperative, but its subjugated to the factual arguments. He's understandably a crusader given the severity of damage the last 40 years of conspiratorial politics and industrial economics have wrought on the food chain and national health.
One thing to beware of in the article below is that the author keeps using the generic word "sugar" when he should be talking about a particular type of sugar called "fructose".
By Gary Taubes
On May 26, 2009, Robert Lustig gave a lecture called "Sugar: The Bitter Truth," which was posted on YouTube the following July. Since then, it has been viewed well over 800,000 times, gaining new viewers at a rate of about 50,000 per month, fairly remarkable numbers for a 90-minute discussion of the nuances of fructose biochemistry and human physiology.
Lustig is a specialist on pediatric hormone disorders and the leading expert in childhood obesity at the University of California, San Francisco, School of Medicine, which is one of the best medical schools in the country. He published his first paper on childhood obesity a dozen years ago, and he has been treating patients and doing research on the disorder ever since.
The viral success of his lecture, though, has little to do with Lustig's impressive credentials and far more with the persuasive case he makes that sugar is a "toxin" or a "poison," terms he uses together 13 times through the course of the lecture, in addition to the five references to sugar as merely "evil." And by "sugar," Lustig means not only the white granulated stuff that we put in coffee and sprinkle on cereal -- technically known as sucrose -- but also high-fructose corn syrup, which has already become without Lustig's help what he calls "the most demonized additive known to man."
It doesn't hurt Lustig's cause that he is a compelling public speaker. His critics argue that what makes him compelling is his practice of taking suggestive evidence and insisting that it's incontrovertible. Lustig certainly doesn't dabble in shades of gray. Sugar is not just an empty calorie, he says; its effect on us is much more insidious. "It's not about the calories," he says. "It has nothing to do with the calories. It's a poison by itself."
If Lustig is right, then our excessive consumption of sugar is the primary reason that the numbers of obese and diabetic Americans have skyrocketed in the past 30 years. But his argument implies more than that. If Lustig is right, it would mean that sugar is also the likely dietary cause of several other chronic ailments widely considered to be diseases of Western lifestyles -- heart disease, hypertension and many common cancers among them.
The number of viewers Lustig has attracted suggests that people are paying attention to his argument. When I set out to interview public health authorities and researchers for this article, they would often initiate the interview with some variation of the comment "surely you've spoken to Robert Lustig," not because Lustig has done any of the key research on sugar himself, which he hasn't, but because he's willing to insist publicly and unambiguously, when most researchers are not, that sugar is a toxic substance that people abuse. In Lustig's view, sugar should be thought of, like cigarettes and alcohol, as something that's killing us.
This brings us to the salient question: Can sugar possibly be as bad as Lustig says it is?
VARIETY GASHOLE (Documentary on HULU)
By Rob Nelson
As paying at the pump gets pricier by the day, the well-timed "GasHole" fuels driving concerns about Big Oil greed, domestic dependence on foreign crude, the global economy, and, not least, the environment. Alternatively powered by public-domain footage as well as talking heads and voiceover narration, the shrewdly produced and principled docu has compelled Republican filmmakers Jeremy Wagener and Scott D. Roberts to take their self-distributed show on the road, ironically or not, with stops in U.S. cities skedded through summer's end. Pic's value stands to rise in direct proportion to gas costs, which show little sign of decreasing soon.
Film opens in historical mode with archival proclamations from Presidents Nixon, Ford and Carter, the last of whom, circa 1980, presciently identifies the "clear and present danger" of U.S. addiction to Mideast pipelines. There will be blood, pic asserts, whenever there's oil, drawing evidence not just from the current war in Iraq but also from the mysterious demises of early veggie-oil fan Rudolf Diesel and vapor-engine pioneer Tom Ogle, who got 100 miles to the gallon in the Lone Star state before turning up dead of an unlikely drug overdose. (Current oil executives unsurprisingly declined to speak on camera about these or any other matters.)
Conspiracy theorizing, though, is kept to a relative minimum as contempo interviewees -- from economic historian Les Manns to "biodiesel fuel consumer" and "Dawson's Creek" alum Joshua Jackson -- help sketch the century-old rapacity of Standard Oil and the increasingly incestuous relations between auto and oil industries. Coming across as a George Clooney-in-training, Jackson smartly acknowledges Big Oil's basic moneymaking agenda while accusing price-gouging corporations of exploiting working people and doing undue damage to both environment and economy.
by Bob Sullivan
There's only one way to get the best price on a service: Shop around. And there's only one way to shop around: Compare prices. But banking consumers who try to engage in this pillar of free market economic activity often simply can't, according to a study released Tuesday by a consumer group.
At nearly one in four banks, consumers can't learn the price of doing business because fee schedules are unavailable before they sign up, according to the Public Interest Research Group (PIRG), which conducted the study. Those banks are breaking the Truth in Savings Act, which requires such up-front fee disclosures, it said.
The results are all the more concerning because they mirror results from a similar study conducted by Congress' Government Accountability Office three year ago, which spurred government regulators to reiterate banks' obligation to offer fee disclosures in 2010.
PIRG conducted an extensive "secret shopper" study to craft the report, "Big Banks, Bigger Fees: A National Survey of Bank Fees." PIRG sent staff members to 392 banks and credit union branches in 21 states and reviewed online fees at banks over the past six months.
Only 38 percent of banks produced fee schedules after the first request, PIRG found. After three requests, compliance jumped to 55 percent. Still, about one-quarter of banks provided incorrect information and 23 percent never produced fee information at all, it said.
"Shopping for banks is harder when they don't obey the law and provide up-front information about the fees they charge," said Jon Bartholomew, consumer advocate at PIRG's Oregon office. "Local community banks and credit unions are more likely than national banks to provide fee schedules."
Virtually no banks made the query easy: fee brochures were nowhere to be found on brochure racks near the doorway, and tellers often couldn't produce the information. In many cases, consumers were referred to banks sales staff sitting behind loan desks, who often tried to act as "closers" at car dealerships, according to the report, aggressively pushing consumers to sign up for accounts. Even then, the undercover PIRG staffers received "a variety of versions of 'no,' such as 'look online,' or 'you need to open an account.'"
The idiocy money and its manic pursuit generates is at an all time high. We've gone back to a robber baron era mentality just as ruthless and absurd as the last one that both Roosevelts tried to quash last century.
After the continue reading jump, I've included a comment to the following NY Times editorial from one of the readers which pretty much sums up my view about all of it.
When the Supreme Court ruled that money equals speech 35 years ago, it was responding to forces of technology and economics reshaping American politics that made it much more expensive to run a campaign. While ruling that public financing and limits on contributions are valid ways to limit donors' undue influence, it struck down candidate, campaign and independent spending limits.
Now the court's conservative majority is again reshaping politics, ruling that what matters most for money and speech is their "fair market" impact. The result will be closer scrutiny of public financing, while enabling even more rampant spending by wealthy candidates.
In the landmark 1976 case of Buckley v. Valeo, the court said that "virtually every means of communicating ideas in today's mass society requires the expenditure of money," so restricting campaign spending meant restricting political speech. The First Amendment required that political speech be unfettered, so the same was required for political spending.
But when the court ruled that money equals speech, it didn't mean, literally, that money is speech. It meant that money enabled speech. A political contribution enabled the symbolic, or indirect, speech of the donor and the actual speech of the candidate -- and may the best speech win. The focus was on enabling the speech, not the money.
That changed in 2008 when the conservative majority struck down a federal rule that had tripled the limit on campaign contributions for a candidate outspent by a rich, self-financed opponent. Justice Samuel Alito Jr. wrote that the rule diminished "the effectiveness" of the rich candidate's spending and of his speech.
In oral argument recently, the court's conservatives appeared ready to take their next step in restricting campaign finance reform and to strike down Arizona's public financing mechanism called triggered matching funds. This is one of the most compelling innovations in the country. The state will match for a state-financed candidate what an opponent raises in private contributions up to triple the initial amount of state financing.
To William Maurer, the lawyer opposing the Arizona mechanism, whenever "a privately financed candidate speaks above a certain amount, the government creates real penalties for them to have engaged in unfettered political expression." That "speaks" was not a slip, but a reinforcement of the money-equals-speech notion.
The fundamental problem, he said, is "the government turning my speech into the vehicle by which my entire political message is undercut," because the public funds triggered are a penalty that reduces the impact of the privately financed candidate's spending and speech. Chief Justice John Roberts Jr. made clear in the argument that he, too, sees triggered matching public funds as a limit on the privately financed candidate's speech.
That makes no sense. Arizona's mechanism means more candidates -- not just the wealthy -- will be able to run in elections. And that means more political speech, not less. But that view depends on seeing money as enabling speech, not vice versa. Money already has far too much sway everywhere in politics. If the court continues this way, the damage and corruption will be enormous.
I've been nauseous all weekend from the budget stupidities perpetrated last week.
Here's a bit of a palliative for that:
Colorado Going Blue
The word "entitlement" is rapidly becoming an outrage. I have worked for someone more wealthy than I since I was thirteen years old and I am in my fifties now. These people made enormous amounts of my money from taking advantage of my impoverishment and lack of mobility in society via beauty or celebrity or geography to pay the lowest of wages and offer no benefits while continually asking for more productivity. And when more productivity arrived-they purchased new mansions, boats, cars, and vacations.
Is there anyone expressing more feelings of entitlement than the top wealth holders in this country? The idea that many of us have labored for years, myself a single mother with two children-one autistic, to survive on minimum wage, avoiding welfare by working more than one job without benefits-all the while barely staying afloat should somehow be less worthy of a quality of life in our old age is despicable. Especially in a country where housing and other necessities are driven by market demand fueled by those with more opportunity, more access to capital, and perhaps the gift of wealth by family-and just pure luck. How many wealth holders do you know that have to pay a banker $35 every time they need a loan of $60 for two days to get that last tank of gas in the car to get to work this week. (And, no, I don't buy cigarettes, potato chips, or gamble, etc. And public transportation is about as popular here as public healthcare).
Those who have dug the sewers, picked up the garbage, and cleaned the bathrooms while still managing to shuttle the kids to soccer games and have done service at PTA and other service based community organizations should somehow stomach the brunt of the force of the GOP's need to drown government in a bathtub and convince American's that are we are broke is nothing less than a con game. A con game designed to keep the magnifying glass from hovering over the bankers, financiers, and corrupt politicians whose poor policy choices and strategies of enriching themselves, their kin, and any politician willing to be bought so closely that they may have to be accountable.
Minimally, get your heads out of the trough, and consider it less of an entitlement and more of a thank you. You might get more cooperation on the idea of change. On the other hand the elite could just start cleaning their own bathrooms instead of leaving it to the less fortunate.
The super wealthy in every era of history never learn. That's why we have the revolutions and purges every so often. The group we have now are just as short sighted and stupid as they've ever been and why they will force us to violently remove their pudgy little grip on wealth and power. They are loser addicts to greed.
By Joseph E. Stiglitz
Americans have been watching protests against oppressive regimes that concentrate massive wealth in the hands of an elite few. Yet in our own democracy, 1 percent of the people take nearly a quarter of the nation's income--an inequality even the wealthy will come to regret.
Illustration by Stephen Doyle
It's no use pretending that what has obviously happened has not in fact happened. The upper 1 percent of Americans are now taking in nearly a quarter of the nation's income every year. In terms of wealth rather than income, the top 1 percent control 40 percent. Their lot in life has improved considerably. Twenty-five years ago, the corresponding figures were 12 percent and 33 percent. One response might be to celebrate the ingenuity and drive that brought good fortune to these people, and to contend that a rising tide lifts all boats. That response would be misguided. While the top 1 percent have seen their incomes rise 18 percent over the past decade, those in the middle have actually seen their incomes fall. For men with only high-school degrees, the decline has been precipitous--12 percent in the last quarter-century alone. All the growth in recent decades--and more--has gone to those at the top. In terms of income equality, America lags behind any country in the old, ossified Europe that President George W. Bush used to deride. Among our closest counterparts are Russia with its oligarchs and Iran. While many of the old centers of inequality in Latin America, such as Brazil, have been striving in recent years, rather successfully, to improve the plight of the poor and reduce gaps in income, America has allowed inequality to grow.
Economists long ago tried to justify the vast inequalities that seemed so troubling in the mid-19th century--inequalities that are but a pale shadow of what we are seeing in America today. The justification they came up with was called "marginal-productivity theory." In a nutshell, this theory associated higher incomes with higher productivity and a greater contribution to society. It is a theory that has always been cherished by the rich. Evidence for its validity, however, remains thin. The corporate executives who helped bring on the recession of the past three years--whose contribution to our society, and to their own companies, has been massively negative--went on to receive large bonuses. In some cases, companies were so embarrassed about calling such rewards "performance bonuses" that they felt compelled to change the name to "retention bonuses" (even if the only thing being retained was bad performance). Those who have contributed great positive innovations to our society, from the pioneers of genetic understanding to the pioneers of the Information Age, have received a pittance compared with those responsible for the financial innovations that brought our global economy to the brink of ruin.
If you don't, you likely will end up unwittingly supporting child labor and slavery.
Before you bite into a chocolate bar or take a sip of hot cocoa, consider, where did it come from?
It may be that the treat is the product of someone else's hard labor. The person who may have sold it or who may have made it may not even be an adult.
The International Labour Organization estimates between 56 and 72 million African children work in agriculture, many in their own family farms. The seven largest cocoa-producing countries are Indonesia, Nigeria, Cameron, Brazil, Ecuador, the Ivory Coast and Ghana. Those last two together account for nearly 60 percent of global cocoa production.
And right now, you can still find children working in the cocoa fields as Romano and his crew did to film "The Dark Side of Chocolate."
So, what should you as a consumer do? First watch the 4 part BBC video above to educate yourself about the situation and the on-going remedies being developed.
"I'd like you to buy either a fair trade chocolate or a direct trade chocolate," Romano says. "I'd like you to buy something where you, as a consumer, can vote responsibly for better treatment of these farmers. And also with fair trade, you know that they're going to be at least on the road to being paid a decent wage. And with the inspections that go on, you know that their children aren't working and are getting an education."
by: Robert Scheer, Truthdig
A "working class hero," John Lennon told us in his song of that title, "is something to be/ Keep you doped with religion and sex and TV/ And you think you're so clever and classless and free/ But you're still fucking peasants as far as I can see."
The delusion of a classless America in which opportunity is equally distributed is the most effective deception perpetrated by the moneyed elite that controls all the key levers of power in what passes for our democracy. It is a myth blown away by Nobel Prize winner Joseph E. Stiglitz in the current issue of Vanity Fair. In an article titled "Of the 1%, by the 1%, for the 1%" Stiglitz states that the top thin layer of the superwealthy controls 40 percent of all wealth in what is now the most sharply class-divided of all developed nations: "Americans have been watching protests against repressive regimes that concentrate massive wealth in the hands of an elite few. Yet, in our own democracy, 1 percent of the people take nearly a quarter of the nation's income--an inequality even the wealthy will come to regret."
That is the harsh reality obscured by the media's focus on celebrity gossip, sports rivalries and lotteries, situations in which the average person can pretend that he or she is plugged into the winning side. The illusion of personal power substitutes consumer sovereignty--which smartphone to purchase--for real power over the decisions that affect our lives. Even though most Americans accept that the political game is rigged, we have long assumed that the choices we make in the economic sphere as to career and home are matters that respond to our wisdom and will. But the banking tsunami that wiped out so many jobs and so much homeownership has demonstrated that most Americans have no real control over any of that, and while they suffer, the corporate rich reward themselves in direct proportion to the amount of suffering they have caused.
Instead of taxing the superrich on the bonuses dispensed by top corporations such as Exxon, Bank of America, General Electric, Chevron and Boeing, all of which managed to avoid paying any federal corporate taxes last year, the politicians of both parties in Congress are about to accede to the Republican demand that programs that help ordinary folks be cut to pay for the programs that bailed out the banks.
So much informed humor, compassion, intelligence and wonder geek child super adult in two small segments. What a great talent. I love what you do to us, Rachel.
There could be a video soon of Bin Laden standing in front of a banner reading;
NY Times Editorial
Last year, Attorney General Eric Holder Jr. described a federal court trial for the self-professed mastermind of Sept. 11 attacks, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, as "the defining event of my time as attorney general." On Monday, Mr. Holder's dream for demonstrating the power of the American court system crumbled when he announced that the trial would take place not in New York City or anywhere in the United States but before a military commission at the Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, prison camp.
That retreat was a victory for Congressional pandering and an embarrassment for the Obama administration, which failed to stand up to it.
The wound inflicted on New York City from Mr. Mohammed's plot nearly a decade ago will not heal for many lifetimes, yet the city, while still grieving, has thrived. How fitting it would have been to put the plot's architect on trial a few blocks from the site of the World Trade Center, to force him to submit to the justice of a dozen chosen New Yorkers, to demonstrate to the world that we will not allow fear of terrorism to alter our rule of law.
But, apparently, there are many who continue to cower, who view terrorists as much more fearsome than homegrown American mass murderers and the American civilian jury system as too "soft" to impose needed justice. The administration of George W. Bush encouraged this view for more than seven years, spreading a notion that terror suspects only could be safely held and tried far from our shores at Guantánamo and brought nowhere near an American courthouse. The federal courts have, in fact, convicted hundreds of terrorists since 9/11. And federal prisons safely hold more than 350 of them.
The pandering toward this mentality began as soon as Mr. Holder announced his plan in 2009 to try Mr. Mohammed in Lower Manhattan. A group of senators, including Joseph Lieberman, an independent of Connecticut, complained that it would give terrorists a platform to rally others to their cause. Senator Charles Schumer, Democrat of New York, said the trial should be moved elsewhere because New Yorkers didn't want it, as if prosecutors needed opinion polls to determine where to seek justice.
The final blow came from Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who originally accepted the trial but then gave in to downtown business interests that opposed it for reasons of inconvenience. His office promulgated the absurd notion that security would cost $1 billion. Congress then made the trial impossible last year with a measure prohibiting any spending to move prisoners from Guantánamo to the United States.
Mr. Holder was right to sound bitter about the decision at his news conference Monday. But the Obama administration must shoulder some of the blame. As The New Yorker reported last year, it did little to prepare the political groundwork for a local trial and barely defended the idea after the unfounded attacks began.
Given the circumstances, Mr. Holder is right to push for a military trial for Mr. Mohammed, rather than let him linger in indefinite limbo. His decision will test whether reforms to the military commission system will allow for both a fair prosecution and a vigorous defense. But Monday's announcement represents a huge missed opportunity to prove the fairness of the federal court system and restore the nation's reputation for providing justice for all.
by Chris Hedges
The phrase consent of the governed has been turned into a cruel joke. There is no way to vote against the interests of Goldman Sachs. Civil disobedience is the only tool we have left.
We will not halt the laying off of teachers and other public employees, the slashing of unemployment benefits, the closing of public libraries, the reduction of student loans, the foreclosures, the gutting of public education and early childhood programs or the dismantling of basic social services such as heating assistance for the elderly until we start to carry out sustained acts of civil disobedience against the financial institutions responsible for our debacle. The banks and Wall Street, which have erected the corporate state to serve their interests at our expense, caused the financial crisis. The bankers and their lobbyists crafted tax havens that account for up to $1 trillion in tax revenue lost every decade. They rewrote tax laws so the nation's most profitable corporations, including Bank of America, could avoid paying any federal taxes. They engaged in massive fraud and deception that wiped out an estimated $40 trillion in global wealth. The banks are the ones that should be made to pay for the financial collapse. Not us. And for this reason at 11 a.m. April 15 I will join protesters in Union Square in New York City in front of the Bank of America.
"The political process no longer works," Kevin Zeese, the director of Prosperity Agenda and one of the organizers of the April 15 event, told me. "The economy is controlled by a handful of economic elites. The necessities of most Americans are no longer being met. The only way to change this is to shift the power to a culture of resistance. This will be the first in a series of events we will organize to help give people control of their economic and political life."
If you are among the one in six workers in this country who does not have a job, if you are among the some 6 million people who have lost their homes to repossessions, if you are among the many hundreds of thousands of people who went bankrupt last year because they could not pay their medical bills or if you have simply had enough of the current kleptocracy, join us in Union Square Park for the "Sounds of Resistance Concert," which will feature political hip-hop/rock powerhouse Junkyard Empire with Broadcast Live and Sketch the Cataclysm. The organizers have set up a website, and there's more information on their Facebook page.
We will picket the Union Square branch of Bank of America, one of the major financial institutions responsible for the theft of roughly $17 trillion in wages, savings and retirement benefits taken from ordinary citizens. We will build a miniature cardboard community that will include what we should have--good public libraries, free health clinics, banks that have been converted into credit unions, free and well-funded public schools and public universities, and shuttered recruiting centers (young men and women should not have to go to Iraq and Afghanistan as soldiers or Marines to find a job with health care). We will call for an end to all foreclosures and bank repossessions, a breaking up of the huge banking monopolies, a fair system of taxation and a government that is accountable to the people.
We need to get the internet to these kids so they can be informed thru social media about how not to be a clueless asshole for their religion.
'Let me go, I want to be a martyr,' says 14-year old in Pakistan after explosives fail to detonate
His accomplices brought carnage to a Sufi shrine, but the 14-year-old suicide bomber who was captured after his explosives failed to detonate was unrepentant.
"Let me go, I want to be a martyr," he said as he was being led away, according to police officer Khalid Mahmood. "I want to send all you policemen to hell!"
The boy, identified as Fida Hussain, was arrested at the shrine in central Pakistan shortly after Sunday's twin suicide blasts, which killed 42 people and wounded 100 others . The complex close to Dera Ghazi Khan in central Pakistan was crowded with thousands of people attending an annual festival.
Another suspect was also detained at the shrine, but police gave no details about him.
On Monday, a suicide bomber struck again, killing seven people at a bus station in the northwestern region of Lower Dir, said police officer Salim Marwat. One of the dead was a tribal elder who was regarding as pro-government, and as such was the likely target, he said.
Information from the pair detained at the shrine could provide clues about the network behind the blasts.
The shrine was targeted because Islamist extremists regard the veneration of Sufi saints -- a much loved and widespread practice in Pakistan -- as un-Islamic.
Mahmood said both boys were apparently from North Waziristan, one of seven tribally administered areas close to Afghanistan. All those areas are militant hotspots, but North Waziristan is considered especially so. It is under virtual militant control and is home to extremists from around Pakistan and the world.
Young boys, often with little or no education, are often used by the Taliban as suicide bombers. As well as being less suspicious, terrorism analyst say their handlers find it easier to persuade them to carry out suicide missions.
Mahmood said Hussain and the other attacker were at the shrine for around one hour before striking. When Hussain's vest failed to detonate, he threw a grenade but it exploded close to him, blowing off his hand. Police then fired at him, hitting him in his other arm.
"It's difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends on his not understanding it" - Upton Sinclair
By Paul Krugman
So the joke begins like this: An economist, a lawyer and a professor of marketing walk into a room. What's the punch line? They were three of the five "expert witnesses" Republicans called for last week's Congressional hearing on climate science.
But the joke actually ended up being on the Republicans, when one of the two actual scientists they invited to testify went off script.
Prof. Richard Muller of Berkeley, a physicist who has gotten into the climate skeptic game, has been leading the Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature project, an effort partially financed by none other than the Koch foundation. And climate deniers -- who claim that researchers at NASA and other groups analyzing climate trends have massaged and distorted the data -- had been hoping that the Berkeley project would conclude that global warming is a myth.
Instead, however, Professor Muller reported that his group's preliminary results find a global warming trend "very similar to that reported by the prior groups."
The deniers' response was both predictable and revealing; more on that shortly. But first, let's talk a bit more about that list of witnesses, which raised the same question I and others have had about a number of committee hearings held since the G.O.P. retook control of the House -- namely, where do they find these people?
My favorite, still, was Ron Paul's first hearing on monetary policy, in which the lead witness was someone best known for writing a book denouncing Abraham Lincoln as a "horrific tyrant" -- and for advocating a new secessionist movement as the appropriate response to the "new American fascialistic state."
The ringers (i.e., nonscientists) at last week's hearing weren't of quite the same caliber, but their prepared testimony still had some memorable moments. One was the lawyer's declaration that the E.P.A. can't declare that greenhouse gas emissions are a health threat, because these emissions have been rising for a century, but public health has improved over the same period. I am not making this up.
In a moving and madly viral video last year, composer Eric Whitacre led a virtual choir of singers from around the world. He talks through the creative challenges of making music powered by YouTube, and unveils the first 2 minutes of his new work, "Sleep," with a video choir of 2,052. The full piece premieres April 7 (yes, on YouTube!).
Infrastructure Doesn't Fail, Thousands Don't Die from Bad Water Supply...headlines you won't see because death and calamity prevail as top choices by the MSM. Yet, our infrastructure is appallingly weak and dangerous, but hey, Republicans just can't get hard about the idea of fixing the car.
by: Allison Kilkenny, Truthout
It's no secret that the nation's infrastructure is in dire shape. Last year, the American Society of Civil Engineers gave US infrastructure a "D" rating and specifically bridges a "C," an average grade that might thrill mediocre students, but in this case means 12 percent of the more than 72,000 bridges in the country are too old or "structurally deficient." Additionally, according to the Association of State Dam Safety Officials, 4,400 dams are considered susceptible to failure.
Despite ominous warnings from the country's engineers, infrastructure remains a thoroughly unsexy issue that causes people to nod off. Transportation networks and buildings are things we take for granted - structures that have always and will always be there. It isn't until infrastructure fails that we understand they are magnificent feats and begin to appreciate how much human effort it takes to maintain an acceptable level of safety during our daily commutes.
The ftermath of the Japan earthquake conveys two tales: the nuclear infrastructure and also the story of the country's roads, bridges and buildings. One story has an abysmal ending, the other relatively successful. Despite the failure in Fukushima where reactors were built on an expectation that a 7.9 quake would be the maximum any plant in the area would ever experience - and apparently didn't account for the likelihood of an auxiliary tsunami - it appears as though Japan's overall infrastructure is holding together.
It should be emphasized that the over 10,000 missing people, deaths of thousands (and counting,) radiation exposure, over 100 crippled trains and the obliteration of entire towns all occurred in a rich nation best prepared for earthquakes. Japanese citizens participate in earthquake drills from early childhood, and buildings must adhere to the strictest of regulation codes. Structures are even made "earthquake proof" with deep foundations and shock absorbers designed to withstand seismic waves.
Conversely, Americans are woefully unprepared to deal with quakes. "Americans are not adequately prepared," says Yumei Wang, a geotechnical engineer in Oregon. "The Japanese have the most advanced preparations in the world." However, the biggest problem isn't that Americans are underprepared for a massive quake - it's that their infrastructure isn't ready.
saint simon sez
She looked me over
And I guess she thought
I was all right
All right in a sort of a limited way
For an off-night
She said don't I know you
From the cinematographer's party
I said who am I
To blow against the wind
I know what I know
I'll sing what I said
We come and we go
That's a thing that I keep
In the back of my head
She said there's something about you
That really reminds me of money
She is the kind of a girl
Who could say things that
Weren't that funny
I said what does that mean
I really remind you of money
She said who am I
To blow against the wind
I know what I know
I'll sing what I said
We come and we go
That's a thing that I keep
In the back of my head
She moved so easily
All I could think of was sunlight
I said aren't you the women
Who was recently given a Fulbright
She said don't I know you
From the cinematographer's party
I said who am I
To blow against the wind
I know what I know
I'll sing what I said
We come and we go
That's a thing that I keep
In the back of my head
Today's honored comment:
"It's hard to stand by and watch one set of slaves
rag on the other and vice versa."
By DieDaily, April 2 at 4:49 am
@anarsissy "Who wants more labor?"
Err, um, me and everyone sane, for starters?
Look, it's simple, and I see that most of the commenters get it. You want to regulate the shit out of the large corporations and leave the small business the hell alone. It's real simple.
The reason corporations spend an impressive amount on buying small startups right, left, and center is that large, centrally controlled dinosaurs have sluggish nervous systems and inevitable systematically reward rung-jumping psychopaths while crushing the "dissent" of their most enterprising, innovative and energizing innovators. It's not rocket science. On a level playing field (i.e. one one devoid of the "regulatory capture" achieved by behemoth lobbies over their long-subverted, revolving-door "watch-dog" [i.e. lap dog] agencies) the small and decentralized beat the crap out of the large and centralized nearly every time. Google was created in a garage, Facebook in a dorm room, Einstein's Relativity in a patent clerk's less than roomy office, and the American Revolution in a pub. Think about it.
Socialism has a powerful role to play, and we can't go bandying about the phrase "all hail the free market" when we've never had much of a free market and at this rate never will. Presently we privatize all occasional Wall Street gambling profits while yet we simultaneously nationalize all their gambling losses. And yet a simple Tobin tax transactional tax of <1%) would correct all that! ALL!
It's not "right" vs. "left". It isn't and it never has been. It's a vertical divide. Freedom vs. Authoritarianism. Venal acquisitiveness vs. social consciousness. Exceptionalism vs. sanity.
I stopped commenting here about a year ago because I was not happy about the artifical Left and Right peasants ceaselessly ragging on each other all the time beneath the occasional star-burst of a rose-colored flare fired up the Waspington Post. It's hard to stand by and watch one set of slaves rag on the other and vice versa.
But the tide is definitely turning. I want to come back now because for the first time the so-called Left and Right (god bless their earnest if ignorant souls) are beginning to see that there is little to choose on this false axis, and much to choose with regard to freedom vs. authoritarianism.
The Leftists used to fail to see that an overbearing central government can BAN the right to chose, the right to gay marriage, the right to medicate with herbs. The Rightists used to fail to see that an overbearing central government can BAN the right to bear arms, the right to dissent, the right to innovate and profit from it.
I don't believe, after the fiasco that is Bush-Obama (same diff), that either side is so sure that THEIR version overbearing government is the answer. Statism is sick and dying. Thank goodness. Congrats, people!
I'm truly heartened. I began to doubt whether you had it in you. But article after article, comment after comment, I see that in your hundreds and thousandsyou are waking up to the obvious. Fighting Rep vs. Dem is and always was a distraction. The fight is
vertical not horizontal. So let's get to it!!! The religious Far Right are a bunch of utopian-myth--control-freaks! The radical Far Left are a bunch of utopian-myth-control-freaks!
Fuck both of them (they are the same...freaks...half-humans that would drag the sane down into their midst by force and violence) and get free!
Welcome to the Center, WHERE WE DO WHAT WE NEED TO DO AND WANT TO DO WITHOUT TOLERATING THE INTERFERENCE OF HALF-FORMED FREAKS.
By Daniel Gilbert And Tennille Tracy
Transocean Ltd. had its "best year in safety performance" despite the explosion of its Deepwater Horizon rig that left 11 dead and oil gushing into the Gulf of Mexico, the world's largest offshore-rig company said in a securities filing Friday.
Accordingly, Transocean's executives received two-thirds of their target safety bonus. Safety accounts for 25% of the equation that determines the yearly cash bonuses, along with financial factors including new rig contracts.
The payout contrasts with that for 2009, when the company withheld all executive bonuses after incurring four fatalities that year "to underscore the company's commitment to safety."
In a filing on executive pay, Transocean said, "Notwithstanding the tragic loss of life in the Gulf of Mexico, we achieved an exemplary statistical safety record." Based on the total rate of incidents and their severity, "we recorded the best year in safety performance in our company's history."
A spokesman for Transocean said, "The statements of fact in the proxy speak for themselves, but they do not and can not adequately convey the extent to which everyone at Transocean is keeping the families of the men who lost their lives at Macondo in their thoughts and prayers as we approach the first anniversary of the incident." Nine of the 11 dead worked for Transocean.
Transocean uses two safety criteria to calculate executive bonuses: the rate of incidents per 200,000 hours that employees work, and the potential severity of those incidents. In 2010, the rate of incidents dropped by 4% from 2009. A number that measures potential severity
Arleen Weise, who lost her son Adam in the April 20 Deepwater Horizon explosion, said she believed the company was "safety-conscious" and it didn't bother her that Transocean paid bonuses. "Transocean is still being good to us," Ms. Weise said.
Federal investigators are still probing what caused the explosion of the Deepwater Horizon--which was leased by BP PLC--and why a crucial piece of equipment failed to stop the flow of oil into the Gulf. Transocean has largely blamed BP, saying that as the operator, BP had final responsibility for all decisions on the rig. BP, in turn, has said its contractors, including Transocean, made critical errors.