May 2011 Archives

Death by Banana

Paramilitary warlords, backed by top military and political leaders, have admitted to killing more than 50,000 civilians, Colombian prosecutors said.

Chiquita sued over Colombian paramilitary payments

chiquita.jpgEach name is next to a number, in black type on a thick legal document. They are the mothers and fathers, spouses, sisters and brothers of thousands of Colombians who were killed or vanished during a bloody civil conflict between leftist guerrillas and right-wing paramilitary groups whose victims have largely been civilians.

The list has at least 4,000 names, each one targeting Chiquita Brands International in U.S. lawsuits, claiming the produce giant's payments and other assistance to the paramilitary groups amounted to supporting terrorists.

Cincinnati-based Chiquita in 2007 pleaded guilty to similar criminal charges brought by the Justice Department and paid a $25 million fine. But if the lawsuits succeed, plaintiffs' lawyers estimate the damages against Chiquita could reach into the billions. The cases filed around the country are being consolidated before a South Florida federal judge who must decide whether to dismiss them or let them proceed.

"A company that pays a terrorist organization that kills thousands of people should get the capital punishment of civil liability and be put out of business by punitive damages," said attorney Terry Collingsworth, who filed one of the first lawsuits on behalf of Colombians.

Chiquita has long maintained it was essentially blackmailed into paying the paramilitary groups - perpetrators of the majority of civilian deaths in Colombia's dirty war -- and insists the lawsuits should be dismissed.

"Chiquita was extorted in Colombia and company officials believed that the payments were necessary to prevent violent retaliation against employees," said company spokesman Ed Loyd.

The lawsuits could be strengthened by the recent release of some 5,500 pages of internal Chiquita documents that were produced during the Justice Department probe. The documents detail how payments were hidden by accounting maneuvers, and shed light on Colombian government and political involvement with the paramilitary group. They also show there was a debate among Chiquita executives about whether the payments were proper.

In a 1997 handwritten note, one Chiquita executive said such payments are the "cost of doing business in Colombia."

"Need to keep this very confidential -- people can get killed," he wrote.



It's astonishing how cell phones have revealed the self-centered lack of consideration some humans have for others. The worst examples are of course to be found when cell use is combined with driving.

Non-stop Cell Phone Talker Escorted off Amtrak Train by Police

Submitted by Elaine Magliaro, Guest Blogger at the Turley Blog

Lakeysha Beard admitted that she had been blathering away on her cell phone in the "quiet car" of an Amtrak train. Still, "she didn't understand why she had to be escorted off the train" by police. Beard said she felt "disrespected" by the incident.

Police in Salem, Oregon, said Beard got into a "verbal altercation" with other train passengers who complained that she refused to put her cell phone away. They were annoyed that she had been talking continuously from the time the train had left the station in Oakland, California--sixteen hours earlier.

According to one report, train operators called police and stopped the train near Salem after they received complaints that Beard had been talking loudly and causing problems with other passengers in her car. Police arrested Beard for Disorderly Conduct.

Having traveled a number of times on Amtrak trains myself, I can understand the frustration of the passengers who were incensed by Beard's non-stop chatter when use of cell phones is prohibited in the "quiet cars." Author Matt Taibbi says he was delighted when he heard the tale of Beard and her arrest. He wrote the following on his blog at Rolling Stone: "I travel on Amtrak a lot and have long believed that willful violators of quiet car protocol should be subject to the death penalty. In fact I believe each train should be outfitted with a special car full of half-starved wolverines and wild boars, into which quiet-car cell phone talkers should be thrown. I'm hoping the Supreme Court takes up this issue in the future."

Do you think the death penalty would be a tad too harsh a punishment? Does anyone else have suggestions as to what type of punishment would best fit the crime of loud and incessant cell phone chatter in the "quiet car" of an Amtrak train?

You Can't Fix Stupid

| go right ahead and eat them gold coins of yers, Harley, once the the banks and the crops fail.

Utah Law Makes Coins Worth Their Weight in Gold

FARR WEST, Utah -- Most people who amass the pure gold and silver coins produced by the United States Mint do so for collections or investments, not to buy Slurpees at 7-Eleven.

"You'd be a fool," Tom Jurkowsky, a spokesman for the Mint, said of the Slurpee idea, "but you could do it."

After all, while the one-ounce American Eagle coin produced by the Mint says "One Dollar," it is actually worth more like $38 based on the current price of silver. (An ounce of gold is worth more than $1,500.)

Now, however, Utah has passed a law intended to encourage residents to use gold or silver coins made by the Mint as cash, but with their value based on the weight of the precious metals in them, not the face value -- if, that is, they can find a merchant willing to accept the coins on that basis.

The legislation, called the Legal Tender Act of 2011, was inspired in part by Tea Party supporters, some of whom believe that the dollar should be backed by gold or silver and that Obama administration policies could cause a currency collapse. The law is the first of its kind in the United States. Several other states, including Minnesota, Idaho and Georgia, have considered similar laws.

Mr. Jurkowsky said the new law "is of no real consequence," and is purely symbolic, but supporters say it is more than political pocket change. They say that it is just a beginning, that one day soon Utah might mint its own coins, that retailers could have scales for weighing precious metals and that a state defense force could be formed to guard warehouses where the new money would be made and stored.

"This is an incremental step in the right direction," said Lowell Nelson, the interim coordinator for the Campaign for Liberty in Utah, a libertarian group rooted in Ron Paul's presidential campaign. "If the federal government isn't going to do it, then we here in Utah ought to be able to establish a monetary system that would survive a crash if and when that happens."

Utah has a strong conservative streak, but there are other reasons why it was first to pass such a law.

For many of its supporters, the new law represents an extension of the notion of preparedness that is nurtured by Utah's powerful founding institution, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Many of the law's supporters believe policies like stimulus spending, the bank bailout and national health care will soon bankrupt the government, sending inflation soaring. Owning gold and silver, they say, will help protect people.

"It's kind of written into our theology that we're supposed to be prepared for any eventuality," said Mr. Nelson, who was involved in early meetings with state lawmakers about the law.



Quote of the Day


To friend a person is merely to include the person in our private hall of flattering mirrors. - Jonathan Franzen

Liking Is for Cowards. Go for What Hurts.

Household Petty Cash


Mexico's Attorney General's office shows the largest seizure of cash in the history of drug enforcement, about US$ 207 million seized at alleged drug trafficker Zhenli Ye Gon's home, a Chinese-Mexican businessman in Mexico City. This was in one guy's house!


The Potential of Muslim Modernism


Many people confuse cultural traditions with the actual core tenets of Islam.

Mustafa Akyol talks about the way that some local cultural practices (such as wearing a headscarf) have become linked, in the popular mind, to the articles of faith of Islam. Has the world's general idea of the Islamic faith focused too much on tradition, and not enough on core beliefs?



When it comes to visiting asteroids, NASA doesn't pick run-of-the-mill space rocks. The target of NASA's latest asteroid mission is not only thought to be rich in the building blocks of life, it also has a chance -- although a remote one -- of threatening Earth in the year 2182.

The asteroid 1999 RQ36 is the target of a new unmanned spacecraft, which NASA plans to launch in 2016 to collect a sample from the space rock and return it to Earth by 2023.

The mission's leaders spent a long time surveying possible destinations for the mission, and finally settled on 1999 RQ36. NASA calls the mission OSIRIS-Rex, which is short for Origins-Spectral Interpretation-Resource Identification-Security-Regolith Explorer.

See how NASA's OSIRIS-REx mission to collect samples of the asteroid 1999 RQ36 will happen in this infographic.

Losing an Essential


He proved the revolution will not be televised...the revolution will be live. He was a revolution unto himself.


Gil Scott-Heron, dubbed the "godfather of rap" for his mix of poetry and music, died Friday in New York, his publicist at XL Recordings said. He was 62.

It was not immediately known what killed Scott-Heron, who was best known for the 1970 song "The Revolution Will Not Be Televised," a politically and socially charged song that examined the African American condition in America at the time. The song was banned by some radio stations.

Scott-Heron died at 4 p.m. at a New York hospital, said Lisa Gottheil, his publicist at XL Recordings.

Scott-Heron defined the genre, long-time friend and former bandmate Charlie Saunders told CNN. Saunders worked on Scott-Heron's 1970 debut album "Small Talk At 125th & Lenox."

Saunders, a percussionist, said the last time he saw Scott-Heron was about two years ago when he needed a place to stay.

"He came by our house to get himself together. He spent 4 to 5 days and then moved on," Saunders said.

Much of Scott-Heron's poetry and music reflected his struggles with drugs and alcohol.

PiecesOfaMan_cover.jpgBorn in 1949, Scott-Heron first gained fame for his poetry and spoken word performances in the late 1960s. By the mid-1970s, he had published two books of poetry and recorded four albums, including "Small Talk At 125th & Lenox."

His early albums, "Pieces of a Man" and "Winter in America," have been credited with influencing other musical genres, such as hip hop. But it was the song "The Revolution Will Not Be Televised" that put Scott-Heron on the musical map.

His music has been sampled by everyone from Kanye West, who sampled "Comment #1" for his 2010 song "Who Will Save America," to Common's sample of "No Knock" on his 2008 hit "Universal Mind Control."

After a 13-year hiatus from making music, Scott-Heron put out a new album last year called "I'm New Here."

Paul Ryan is less a political figure than a religious one. He is a full fledged member of the Ayn Rand cult, even exhorting his staff to read her \"holy word\". You cannot argue facts or much sensibility with people who are blindly enthralled by their religious tenets and that is exactly what is going on with people who are part of Ayn Rand's Religion of Self. (Some claim that the repeated meme of Ryan requiring staff to read Rand is false, but I say his behavior and stance would in any event make the meme plausible).

Paul Ryan and his fellow conservative zealots are simply not capable of rational dialogue about much of anything, let alone social programs as has been proven by their churlish and self-centered congressional behavior over the last couple of years.

The economic distortions and outright lies spilling from the lips of the likes of Paul Ryan are merely the posturings of deluded zealots who could care less about the common betterment of America or the majority of its citizens.

There's really not a whole lot of difference between the sky-is-falling hysteria about medicare costs or the deficit doom propaganda than the recent end-is-nigh garbage of Harold Camping's delusions...both are the result of cult mania.

NY Times columnist Charles Blow's "Endangered Ryan-os" drew the following sensible comment.

6. RLS Virginia May 28th, 2011

The Ryan budget is a cowardly budget that will increase poverty and inequality. It makes spending cuts on the backs of the most vulnerable and politically weakest in our society to give more tax breaks to millionaires who don't need them. Two-thirds of the cuts are from programs for lower-income Americans. Ryan's shortsighted plan slashes education and infrastructure funding at a time when our low rankings in education have weakened our competitiveness internationally and our roads and bridges are crumbling. The draconian cuts are offset by new tax breaks for the wealthy and corporations resulting in ONLY $380 billion of deficit savings over ten years. This budget is not a deficit-reduction plan but a massive transfer of wealth from ordinary Americans to the top 1 percent.

Ryancare would lead to the rationing of health care by income. Low income children and people with severe disabilities on Medicaid would lose basic health care. It would give seniors a voucher for about $8,000 to use in the private market. The voucher would buy less health care each year because it doesn't keep pace with rising health care costs. Affluent seniors would be able to purchase supplemental insurance. Seniors who have very modest incomes would be out of luck.

Critics still WRONG on what's driving deficits in coming years -- economic downturn and Bush-era policies drive the numbers:

Deficit estimates through 2019:
$7.3 trillion - Bush tax cuts from 2001 if extended to 2019
$3.0 trillion - Iraq and Afghanistan wars
$1.0 trillion - Medicare drug bill
$3.6 trillion - Economic downturn and recovery measures

Republicans are phony deficit hawks. If they cared about the deficit they would not be adverse to looking at the income side of the budget. Eisenhower understood that: "We cannot afford to reduce taxes, reduce income until we have in sight a program of expenditure that shows that the factors of income and outgo will be balanced." The tax entitlements that corporations and the wealthy receive are the most wasteful spending in the budget. Speculators pay a "lower" effective tax rate than people who work for a living and many multinational companies pay "little or no tax." In the 1950s, corporations paid 30 percent of federal taxes. They paid only 6.6 percent in 2009.

The Congressional Progressive Caucus budget takes a common sense approach to reducing the deficit and reflects the priorities that a majority of Americans support such as protecting Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security. By 2021, it eliminates the deficit, creates a surplus, and reduces the debt by $5.6 trillion. With revenue the lowest it's been in decades, it ends corporate welfare and raises taxes for the wealthy.

This proposal lowers health care costs by creating a public option and negotiating drug prices. Medicare and Medicaid are not out of control; it's our health care costs that are out of control. We pay twice as much per person as other industrialized countries and have worse health outcomes. If our costs were in line with other countries, we would have budget surpluses rather than deficits.

The CPC plan brings an end to the wars and reduces the bloated military budget. Out-of control spending on outdated weapons, an excess of military bases, and useless wars doesn't increase our security, it only destroys our economy. And it PUTS AMERICA BACK TO WORK -- investing $1.45 trillion in education, infrastructure, energy, broadband, R&D, and job creation. This plan would have been considered CENTRIST in the 1950s. An overview of the People's Budget:

The public opposes cutting Medicare and Medicaid while giving even more tax breaks to corporations and the wealthiest individuals. Forty GOP senators and the House Republicans are now on record for supporting the Ryan budget. It's a vote that they will come to regret.

Zach Zopplin, a senior at Baton Rouge Magnet School, talks about his battle against creationism currently being taught in Louisiana schools. This kid is an intellectual hero and deserves major kudos.

Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Ry Cooder's Alive and Packing


Exclusive: Ry Cooder's 'No Banker Left Behind'

cooder.jpgAn interview and new release sample via Truthdig

The legendary musician tells Robert Scheer that his new album, including a song inspired by one of Scheer's Truthdig columns, was written out of feeling frustrated, helpless and angry with current events.

Please Please Pretty Please, Palin


Good god! Can you imagine Palin as the GOP candidate? Romney would probably defeat her in the primaries...but who knows? At least there will be a lot of humor in the campaign to be had....of course it's more than likely that she won't really run.


Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Irwin Lives!


East coast 10-year-old drags alligator home from canal


Florida wildlife officials say a 10-year-old boy dragged a nearly 6-foot alligator home from a nearby canal.

Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission officers were called to the Rockledge home of Michael Dasher on Wednesday after the boy's grandfather saw the alligator in the front yard.

Michael told the officers he had been fishing with friends when something big caught the hook and snapped the line. The boy said the alligator ran at him, so he started hitting it with sticks and jumped on its back.

Michael dragged the alligator home and suffered only minor scratches on his hands and arms. Wildlife officers measured the alligator at 5 feet 9 inches long.

The officers let Michael off with a stern talk but no charges. They'll release the alligator back into the St. John's River.

Religious Oppression at Its Finest


High School Student Stands Up Against Prayer at Public School and Is Ostracized, Demeaned and Threatened

When a high school atheist tried to stop prayer at his graduation, he was harassed and kicked out of his house. But the atheist community stepped in.

By Greta Christina

Whatever you think about atheists -- good, bad, mixed, indifferent -- this story should seriously trouble you.

bewareofdogma.jpegDamon Fowler, an atheist student at Bastrop High School in Louisiana, was about to graduate. His public school was planning to have a prayer as part of the graduation ceremony: as they traditionally did, as so many public schools around the country do every year. But Fowler -- knowing that government-sponsored prayer in the public schools is unconstitutional and legally forbidden -- contacted the school superintendent to let him know that he opposed the prayer, and would be contacting the ACLU if it happened. The school -- at first, anyway -- agreed, and canceled the prayer.

Then Fowler's name, and his role in this incident, was leaked. As a direct result:

1) Fowler has been hounded, pilloried, and ostracized by his community.

2) One of Fowler's teachers has publicly demeaned him.

3) Fowler has been physically threatened. Students have threatened to "jump him" at graduation practice, and he has received multiple threats of bodily harm, and even death threats.

4) Fowler's parents have cut off his financial support, kicked him out of the house, and thrown his belongings onto the front porch.

Oh, and by the way? They went ahead and had the graduation prayer anyway.

Before we get into the details, let's be clear about the facts and the law: Nobody -- not Fowler, not the ACLU, nobody -- is telling anybody at Bastrop High School that they can't pray. People can pray at graduations and other school events all they want. The sole issue here is whether a public school can have a prayer at a graduation or other school event as an official, school-sponsored part of the program. Individual prayer? Hunky dory. Off-campus prayers at churches or private events? Knock yourself out. Government promotion of a religious agenda? Not so much. What with the First Amendment and the "establishment of religion" bit and all.

It's a law and a Constitution that protects everybody, not just atheists. If you wouldn't want to be subjected to a government-sponsored Buddhist prayer, you ought not to be subjecting others to a government-sponsored Christian prayer.

Okay. I hope that's clear.

So here's a little more detail about what exactly happened with Damon Fowler.

A Ray of Light

| an otherwise dismal political climate.

Democrat Wins G.O.P. Seat; Rebuke Seen to Medicare Plan


By Raymond Hernandez

Democrats scored an upset in one of New York's most conservative Congressional districts on Tuesday, dealing a blow to the national Republican Party in a race that largely turned on the party's plan to overhaul Medicare.

The results set off elation among Democrats and soul-searching among Republicans, who questioned whether they should rethink their commitment to the Medicare plan, which appears to have become a liability heading into the 2012 elections.

Two months ago, the Democrat, Kathy Hochul, was considered an all-but-certain loser in the race against the Republican, Jane Corwin. But Ms. Hochul seized on the Republican's embrace of the proposal from Representative Paul D. Ryan, Republican of Wisconsin, to overhaul Medicare, and she never let up.

On Tuesday, she captured 48 percent of the vote, to Ms. Corwin's 42 percent, according to unofficial results. A Tea Party candidate, Jack Davis, had 8 percent.

Voters, who turned out in strikingly large numbers for a special election, said they trusted Ms. Hochul, the county clerk of Erie County, to protect Medicare.

"I have almost always voted the party line," said Gloria Bolender, a Republican from Clarence who is caring for her 80-year-old mother. "This is the second time in my life I've voted against my party."

Pat Gillick, a Republican from East Amherst, who also cast a ballot for Ms. Hochul, said, "The privatization of Medicare scares me."

The district, which stretches from Buffalo to Rochester, has been in Republican hands for four decades, producing influential Republican figures like Representative Jack Kemp and siding with Carl P. Paladino, a Republican, last year over Andrew M. Cuomo in the governor's race.

The campaign drew intense interest, with both major parties in Washington and their allies flooding the district with radio and television advertising. Total spending exceeded $6 million.

Of course, there are limits to how much broader meaning can be extrapolated from a special election, which can be shaped by local dynamics and personalities.

Still, on Tuesday, Republicans were examining the results and debating how the party lost the seat, despite outspending the Democrats.

Destructive Beauty



Tell me it doesn't look like an idealized bucolic painting.

It is bad enough that there are criminals who abuse us, but our outrage is even greater when those we have entrusted with powers to protect us from such abuse have themselves become the abusers.

Prophets put forward during their day ideas that the mass of people, including the elite, denounce as impractical and yet at the same time sense to be true.
This is what invokes the rage against the prophet.
He or she states the obvious in a society where the obvious is seditious.
Prophecy is feared because of the consequences of the truth.

Why Liberal Sellouts Attack Prophets Like Cornel West

by Chris Hedges

deathbycorporation.jpgThe liberal class, which attempted last week to discredit the words my friend Cornel West spoke about Barack Obama and the Democratic Party, prefers comfort and privilege to justice, truth and confrontation. Its guiding ideological stance is determined by what is most expedient to the careers of its members. It refuses to challenge, in a meaningful way, the decaying structures of democracy or the ascendancy of the corporate state. It glosses over the relentless assault on working men and women and the imperial wars that are bankrupting the nation. It proclaims its adherence to traditional liberal values while defending and promoting systems of power that mock these values.The pillars of the liberal establishment--the press, the church, culture, the university, labor and the Democratic Party--all honor an unwritten quid pro quo with corporations and the power elite, as well as our masters of war, on whom they depend for money, access and positions of influence. Those who expose this moral cowardice and collaboration with corporate power are always ruthlessly thrust aside.

The capitulation of the liberal class to corporate capitalism, as Irving Howe once noted, has "bleached out all political tendencies." The liberal class has become, Howe wrote, "a loose shelter, a poncho rather than a program; to call oneself a liberal one doesn't really have to believe in anything." The decision to subordinate ethics to political expediency has led liberals to steadily surrender their moral autonomy, voice and beliefs to the dictates of the corporate state. As Dwight Macdonald wrote in "The Root Is Man," those who do not make human beings the center of their concern soon lose the capacity to make any ethical choices, for they willingly sacrifice others in the name of the politically expedient and practical.

By extolling the power of the state as an agent of change, as well as measuring human progress through the advances of science, technology and consumption, liberals abetted the cult of the self and the ascendancy of the corporate state. The liberal class placed its faith in the inevitability of human progress and abandoned the human values that should have remained at the core of its activism. The state, now the repository of the hopes and dreams of the liberal class, should always have been seen as the enemy. The destruction of the old radical and militant movements--the communists, socialists and anarchists--has left liberals without a source of new ideas. The link between an effective liberal class and a more radical left was always essential to the health of the former. The liberal class, by allowing radical movements to be dismembered through Red baiting and by banishing those within its ranks who had moral autonomy, gradually deformed basic liberal tenets to support unfettered capitalism, the national security state, globalization and permanent war. Liberalism, cut off from the radical roots of creative and bold thought, merged completely with the corporate power elite. The liberal class at once was betrayed and betrayed itself. And it now functions like a commercial brand, giving a different flavor, face or spin to the ruthless mechanisms of corporate power. This, indeed, is the primary function of Barack Obama.

An Interesting Observation


1. The sport of choice for the urban poor is BASKETBALL.

2. The sport of choice for maintenance level employees is BOWLING.

3. The sport of choice for front-line workers is FOOTBALL.

4. The sport of choice for supervisors is BASEBALL.

5. The sport of choice for middle management is TENNIS.


6. The sport of choice for corporate executives and officers is GOLF.


The higher you go in the corporate structure, the smaller your balls become.

There must be a ton of people in Washington playing marbles!

hat tip to Ms Williams

Do Not Speak Truth To Power


Or how to get railroaded by the NSA

U.S. v. Whistleblower Tom Drake

Tom Drake, a former NSA senior executive indicted last year for espionage after leaking to the media allegations that the nation's largest intelligence organization had committed fraud, waste and abuse will appear in his first television interview. Scott Pelley reports.

Read more:;photovideo#ixzz1N8ejyJOc



Make Your Own Petitions


Just Do It

| | Comments (5)

10 Steps to Defeat the Corptocracy

The only way to overcome the power of money is regain our courage and solidarity.

By Bruce E Levine

Here's how to do that.

Many Americans know that the United States is not a democracy but a "corporatocracy," in which we are ruled by a partnership of giant corporations, the extremely wealthy elite and corporate-collaborator government officials. However, the truth of such tyranny is not enough to set most of us free to take action. Too many of us have become pacified by corporatocracy-created institutions and culture.

Some activists insist that this political passivity problem is caused by Americans' ignorance due to corporate media propaganda, and others claim that political passivity is caused by the inability to organize due to a lack of money. However, polls show that on the important issues of our day - from senseless wars, to Wall Street bailouts, to corporate tax-dodging, to health insurance rip-offs - the majority of Americans are not ignorant to the reality that they are being screwed. And American history is replete with organizational examples - from the Underground Railroad, to the Great Populist Revolt, to the Flint sit-down strike, to large wildcat strikes a generation ago - of successful rebels who had little money but lots of guts and solidarity.

The elite spend their lives stockpiling money and have the financial clout to bribe, divide and conquer the rest of us. The only way to overcome the power of money is with the power of courage and solidarity. When we regain our guts and solidarity, we can then more wisely select from - and implement - time-honored strategies and tactics that oppressed peoples have long used to defeat the elite. So, how do we regain our guts and solidarity?

1. Create the Cultural and Psychological "Building Blocks" for Democratic Movements

Historian Lawrence Goodwyn has studied democratic movements such as Solidarity in Poland, and he has written extensively about the populist movement in the United States that occurred during the end of the 19th century (what he calls "the largest democratic mass movement in American history"). Goodwyn concludes that democratic movements are initiated by people who are neither resigned to the status quo nor intimidated by established powers. For Goodwyn, the cultural and psychological building blocks of democratic movements are individual self-respect and collective self-confidence. Without individual self-respect, we do not believe that we are worthy of power or capable of utilizing power wisely, and we accept as our role being a subject of power. Without collective self-confidence, we do not believe that we can succeed in wresting away power from our rulers.

Thus, it is the job of all of us - from parents, to students, to teachers, to journalists, to clergy, to psychologists, to artists and EVERYBODY who gives a damn about genuine democracy - to create individual self-respect and collective self-confidence.

2. Confront and Transform ALL Institutions that Have Destroyed Individual Self-Respect and Collective Self-Confidence

In "Get Up, Stand Up, " I detail 12 major institutional and cultural areas that have broken people's sprit of resistance, and all are "battlefields for democracy" in which we can fight to regain our individual self-respect and collective self confidence:
    •    Television
    •    Isolation and bureaucratization
    •    "Fundamentalist consumerism" and advertising/propaganda

    •    Student loan debt and indentured servitude

    •    Surveillance

    •    The decline of unions/solidarity among working people

    •    Greed and a "money-centric" culture

    •    Fear-based schools that teach obedience

    •    Psychopathologizing noncompliance

    •    Elitism via professional training

    •    The corporate media

    •    The US electoral system

It's not about the deficit


It's about shrinking government...killing it really.

The Battle is Squared, and Why We Need Budget Jujitsu

Robert Reich

Technically, the federal government has now reached the limit of its capacity to borrow money.

Raising the debt ceiling used to be a technical adjustment, made almost automatically. Now it's a political football.

Democrats should never have agreed to linking it to an agreement on the long-term budget deficit.

But now that the debt ceiling is in play, there's no end to what the radical right will demand. John Boehner is already using the classic "they're making me" move, seemingly helpless in the face of Tea Party storm troopers who refuse to raise the ceiling unless they get their way. Their way is reactionary and regressive - eviscerating Medicare, cutting Medicaid and programs for the poor, slashing education and infrastructure, and using most of the savings to reduce taxes on the rich.

If the only issue were cutting the federal deficit by four or five trillion dollars over the next ten years, the President and Democrats wouldn't have to cave in to this extortion. That goal can be achieved by doing exactly the opposite of what radical Republicans are demanding. We can reduce the long-term budget deficit, keep everything Americans truly depend on, and also increase spending on education and infrastructure -- by cutting unnecessary military expenditures, ending corporate welfare, and raising taxes on the rich.

I commend to you the "People's Budget," a detailed plan for doing exactly this - while reducing the long-term budget deficit more than either the Republican's or the President's plan does. When I read through the People's Budget my first thought was how modest and reasonable it is. It was produced by the House Progressive Caucus but could easily have been generated by Washington centrists - forty years ago.

But of course the coming battle isn't really over whether to cut the long-term deficit by trillions of dollars. It's over whether to shrink the government we depend on and to use the savings to give corporations and the super-rich even more tax benefits they don't need or deserve.

The main reason the "center" has moved so far to the right - and continues to move rightward - is radical conservatives have repeatedly grabbed the agenda and threatened havoc if they don't get their way. They're doing it again.

Will the President and congressional Democrats cave in to their extortion? When even Nancy Pelosi says "everything is on the table" you've got to worry.

We can fortify the President and congressional Democrats and prevent them from moving further right by doing exactly what the Tea Partiers are doing -- but in reverse.

Call it budget Jujitsu.

The message from the "People's Party" should be unconditional: No cuts in Medicare and Medicaid or Social Security. More spending on education and infrastructure. Pay for it and reduce the long-term budget deficit by cutting military spending and raising taxes on the rich. The People's Budget is the template.

But what if the President and Dems show signs of caving? This is the heart of the progressive dilemma. Are we prepared to say no to raising the debt ceiling if our demands aren't met? That way, the responsibility for rounding up the necessary Republican votes shifts to Wall Street and big business -- arguably more eager to raise the debt ceiling and avoid turmoil in credit markets than anyone else. They're also better able to push the GOP -- whom they fund.

Which leads to a more basic question: Are we ready and willing to mount primary challenges to incumbent Democrats who cave?

Too Busy Doing Other Stuff I Guess



15 minutes of joy if you click the pic...

Brought to you by Shaun Tan

Da End Be Nigh



Wal-Mart PSA


Tell Wal-mart: Intervene Before Labor Activists Are Sentenced to Death

walmartpetition.jpgIn Bangladesh, the minimum wage for a garment worker is a mere US$43 per month. Studies show that this wage fails to cover the cost of the minimum nutritional needs of a single worker, let alone a family.

When workers staged protests demanding a livable wage, Bangladeshi factory owners responded with fabricated criminal charges against three labor leaders from the Bangladesh Center for Worker Solidarity, Kalpona Akter, Babul Akhter, and Aminul Islam. These three organizers spent 30 days in jail, during which they were threatened and tortured. They are now free on bail; however, the falsified charges against them remain. If convicted, they face possible life imprisonment or death penalty.

As the largest buyer of Bangladeshi-made clothing, Walmart has the power to ensure that Bangladeshi garment workers who face poverty wages and abusive conditions can stand up for their rights without risking harassment, imprisonment and torture. Ask Walmart to tell its suppliers that have instigated false charges against Kalpona Akter, Babul Akhter, Aminul Islam, and other labor leaders that those charges must be dropped; that the officers responsible for torturing these individuals must be held accountable; and that labor rights defenders like the Bangladesh Center for Worker Solidarity must be allowed to operate freely.

For more background, read our report: Enemies of the Nation or Human Rights Defenders? Fighting Poverty in Bangladesh.

Whack-a-Doodle Do or Don't


As far as I'm concerned its child abuse. It comes down to whether or not you believe that parents own their children.

Circumcision ban to appear on San Francisco ballot

Supporters say the practice is genital mutilation, opponents call claims misleading

By Robin Hindery

A group seeking to ban the circumcision of male children in San Francisco has succeeded in getting their controversial measure on the November ballot, meaning voters will be asked to weigh in on what until now has been a private family matter.

City elections officials confirmed Wednesday that the initiative had received enough signatures to appear on the ballot, getting more than 7,700 valid signatures from city residents. Initiatives must receive at least 7,168 signatures to qualify.

If the measure passes, circumcision would be prohibited among males under the age of 18. The practice would become a misdemeanor offense punishable by a fine of up to $1,000 or up to one year in jail. There would be no religious exemptions.

The initiative appears to be the first of its kind in the country to actually make it to this stage, though a larger national debate over the health benefits of circumcision has been going on for many years. Banning circumcision would almost certainly prompt a flurry of legal challenges alleging violations of the First Amendment's guarantee of the freedom to exercise one's religious beliefs.

Supporters of the ban say male circumcision is a form of genital mutilation that is unnecessary, extremely painful and even dangerous. They say parents should not be able to force the decision on their young child.

"Parents are really guardians, and guardians have to do what's in the best interest of the child. It's his body. It's his choice," said Lloyd Schofield, the measure's lead proponent and a longtime San Francisco resident, who said the cutting away of the foreskin from the penis is a more invasive medical procedure than many new parents or childless individuals realize.

But opponents say such claims are alarmingly misleading, and call the proposal a clear violation of constitutionally protected religious freedoms.



Capitalism Revealed


Say no more....

Except perhaps this from pal YoumaycallmeIshmael

"You realize, of course, that only about three per cent of the population are capable of grasping what he has to say, and that most of them are also the problem.

What we need is to appoint me the czar of determining who can vote.

I can just look at people and say whether they have any business exercising the franchise. The masses are asses, and that is what is fundamentally wrong with Marxist dogma-- the notion that if power is diffused among the people, society will naturally become more just and fair. Always bear in mind that the median IQ is 100; half of the world tops out at dull normal, and it gets worse from there. This touching faith that if we could somehow get these idiots involved in the political process everything would come right is just utterly misplaced. Evil lives, and it is indiscriminate: it is as happy to reside in idiots as it is to control the planet through the medium of clever plutocrats. It is simply not enough to understand what is happening, because that will not retard the progress of events."

also a hat tip to Lafayette

There is no war on terrorism


Terrorism is a tactic. It cannot be defeated because it is not a war, it is a method. Now some idiot congress men want to thrust the US into a perpetual state of false war by enacting legislation that would once and for all turn the US into a world wide police state.

A Conflict Without End

NY Times Editorial

Osama bin Laden had been dead only a few days when House Republicans began their efforts to expand, rather than contract, the war on terror. Not content with the president's wide-ranging powers to pursue the archcriminals of Sept. 11, 2001, Republicans want to authorize the military to pursue virtually anyone suspected of terrorism, anywhere on earth, from now to the end of time.

This wildly expansive authorization would, in essence, make the war on terror a permanent and limitless aspect of life on earth, along with its huge potential for abuse.

The Authorization for Use of Military Force, approved by Congress a week after Sept. 11, 2001, gives the president the power to go after anyone who committed or aided in the 9/11 attacks, or who harbored such people, to prevent acts of terrorism. It was this document that authorized the war in Afghanistan and the raid on Bin Laden's compound.

A new bill, approved last week by the House Armed Services Committee and heading for the floor this month, would go much further. It would allow military attacks against not just Al Qaeda and the Taliban but also any "associated forces that are engaged in hostilities against the United States." That deliberately vague phrase could include anyone who doesn't like America, even if they are not connected in any way with the 2001 attacks. It could even apply to domestic threats.

It allows the president to detain "belligerents" until the "termination of hostilities," presumably at a camp like the one in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. Since it does not give a plausible scenario of how those hostilities could be considered over, it raises the possibility of endless detention for anyone who gets on the wrong side of a future administration.

The bill, part of the National Defense Authorization Act, was introduced by the committee chairman, Howard McKeon of California, who said it simply aligns old legal authorities with current threats. We've heard that before, about wiretapping and torture, and it was always untrue.

These powers are not needed, for current threats, or any other threat. President Obama has not asked for them (though, unfortunately, the administration has used a similar definition of the enemy in legal papers). Under the existing powers, or perhaps ignoring them, President George W. Bush abused his authority for many years with excessive detentions and illegal wiretapping. Those kinds of abuses could range even more widely with this open-ended authorization.

As more than 30 House Democrats protested to Mr. McKeon, a declaration of "global war against nameless individuals, organizations, and nations" could "grant the president near unfettered authority to initiate military action around the world without further Congressional approval." If a future administration wanted to attack Iran unilaterally, it could do so without having to consult with Congress.

This measure is unnecessary. The Bush administration demonstrated how dangerous it could be. The Democrats were right to demand the House conduct hearings on the measure, which was approved with little scrutiny. If it passes, the Senate should amend it out of existence, and President Obama should make clear he will veto it.

Endeavor Final Flight



Awesome photo of shuttle from airplane

A passenger on a flight from New York to Florida caught a glimpse of U.S. space history Monday.

Stefanie Gordon of Hoboken, N.J., captured three images and a 12-second video of the final launch of the Endeavour shuttle with her phone -- about 30 minutes before her flight arrived in Palm Beach, Fla.

The Bible Scam

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Believers of course will dismiss out of hand the claims of renowned biblical scholar, Bart Ehrman, because facts are just not an important ingredient when it comes to religions.
They only time the faithful deign to deal in facts is when they are manipulating them to serve their beliefs.

Half of New Testament forged, Bible scholar says

By John Blake

A frail man sits in chains inside a dank, cold prison cell. He has escaped death before but now realizes that his execution is drawing near.

"I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come," the man -the Apostle Paul - says in the Bible's 2 Timothy. "I have fought the good fight. I have finished the race. I have kept the faith."

The passage is one of the most dramatic scenes in the New Testament. Paul, the most prolific New Testament author, is saying goodbye from a Roman prison cell before being beheaded. His goodbye veers from loneliness to defiance and, finally, to joy.

scribe.jpgThere's one just one problem - Paul didn't write those words. In fact, virtually half the New Testament was written by impostors taking on the names of apostles like Paul. At least according to Bart D. Ehrman, a renowned biblical scholar, who makes the charges in his new book "Forged."

"There were a lot of people in the ancient world who thought that lying could serve a greater good," says Ehrman, an expert on ancient biblical manuscripts.In "Forged," Ehrman claims that:

  • At least 11 of the 27 New Testament books are forgeries.

  • The New Testament books attributed to Jesus' disciples could not have been written by them because they were illiterate.

  • Many of the New Testament's forgeries were manufactured by early Christian leaders trying to settle theological feuds.

Were Jesus' disciples 'illiterate peasants'?

Ehrman's book, like many of his previous ones, is already generating backlash. Ben Witherington, a New Testament scholar, has written a lengthy online critique of "Forged."

Witherington calls Ehrman's book "Gullible Travels, for it reveals over and over again the willingness of people to believe even outrageous things."

All of the New Testament books, with the exception of 2 Peter, can be traced back to a very small group of literate Christians, some of whom were eyewitnesses to the lives of Jesus and Paul, Witherington says.

"Forged" also underestimates the considerable role scribes played in transcribing documents during the earliest days of Christianity, Witherington says.

Even if Paul didn't write the second book of Timothy, he would have dictated it to a scribe for posterity, he says.

"When you have a trusted colleague or co-worker who knows the mind of Paul, there was no problem in antiquity with that trusted co-worker hearing Paul's last testimony in prison," he says. "This is not forgery. This is the last will and testament of someone who is dying."

Ehrman doesn't confine his critique to Paul's letters. He challenges the authenticity of the Gospels of Matthew, Mark and John. He says that none were written by Jesus' disciplies, citing two reasons.

He says none of the earliest gospels revealed the names of its authors, and that their current names were later added by scribes.

Ehrman also says that two of Jesus' original disciples, John and Peter, could not have written the books attributed to them in the New Testament because they were illiterate.

"According to Acts 4:13, both Peter and his companion John, also a fisherman, were agrammatoi, a Greek word that literally means 'unlettered,' that is, 'illiterate,' '' he writes.

Will the real Paul stand up?

KLF14 Gene and Diabetes


Fat's 'master switch found

Targeting gene also linked to diabetes, cholesterol could lead to new treatments for metabolic diseases

Scientists have found that a gene linked to diabetes and cholesterol is a "master switch" that controls other genes found in fat in the body, and say it should help in the search for treatments for obesity-related diseases.

In a study published in the journal Nature Genetics, the British researchers said that since fat plays an important role in peoples' susceptibility to metabolic diseases like obesity, heart disease and diabetes, the regulating gene could be target for drugs to treat such illnesses.

"This is the first major study that shows how small changes in one master regulator gene can cause a cascade of other metabolic effects in other genes," said Tim Spector of King's College London, who led the study.

More than half a billion people, or one in 10 adults worldwide, are obese and the numbers have doubled since the 1980s as the obesity epidemic has spilled over from wealthy into poorer nations.

In the United States, obesity-related diseases already account for nearly 10 percent of medical spending -- an estimated $147 billion a year.

Type 2 diabetes, which is often linked to poor diet and lack of exercise, is also reaching epidemic levels worldwide as rates of obesity rise.

Scientists have already identified a gene called KLF14 as being linked to type 2 diabetes and cholesterol levels, but until now they did know what role it played.

Spector's team analyzed more than 20,000 genes in fat samples taken from under the skin of 800 British female twin volunteers. They found a link between the KLF14 gene and the levels of many other distant genes found in fat tissue, showing that KLF14 acts as a master switch to control these genes.

They then confirmed their findings in 600 fat samples from a separate group of people from Iceland.

In a report of their study, the researchers explained that other genes found to be controlled by KLF14 are linked to a range of metabolic traits, including body mass index, obesity, cholesterol, insulin and glucose levels.

"KLF14 seems to act as a master switch controlling processes that connect changes in the behavior of subcutaneous fat to disturbances in muscle and liver that contribute to diabetes and other conditions," said Mark McCarthy from Britain's Oxford University, who also worked on the study.

"We are working understand these processes and how we can use this information to improve treatment of these conditions."

What It's Coming To



hat tip C. J. MARLIN

Mercenaries for the Wealthy

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If we were smart we would kill the likes of Eric Prince straight away because what he is doing in the Arab Emirates he will attempt here in the States. Its only a matter of time.

Secret UAE desert force set up by Blackwater's founder

Documents show 800-strong mercenary force is aimed at UAE's external -- and internal -- foes

By Mark Mazzetti and Emily B Hager

Late one night last November, a plane carrying dozens of Colombian men touched down in this glittering seaside capital. Whisked through customs by an Emirati intelligence officer, the group boarded an unmarked bus and drove roughly 20 miles to a windswept military complex in the desert sand.

The Colombians had entered the United Arab Emirates posing as construction workers. In fact, they were soldiers for a secret American-led mercenary army being built by Erik Prince, the billionaire founder of Blackwater Worldwide, with $529 million from the oil-soaked sheikdom.

eric.prince.jpgMr. Prince, who resettled here last year after his security business faced mounting legal problems in the United States, was hired by the crown prince of Abu Dhabi to put together an 800-member battalion of foreign troops for the U.A.E., according to former employees on the project, American officials and corporate documents obtained by The New York Times.

The force is intended to conduct special operations missions inside and outside the country, defend oil pipelines and skyscrapers from terrorist attacks and put down internal revolts, the documents show. Such troops could be deployed if the Emirates faced unrest or were challenged by pro-democracy demonstrations in its crowded labor camps or democracy protests like those sweeping the Arab world this year.

The U.A.E.'s rulers, viewing their own military as inadequate, also hope that the troops could blunt the regional aggression of Iran, the country's biggest foe, the former employees said. The training camp, located on a sprawling Emirati base called Zayed Military City, is hidden behind concrete walls laced with barbed wire. Photographs show rows of identical yellow temporary buildings, used for barracks and mess halls, and a motor pool, which houses Humvees and fuel trucks. The Colombians, along with South African and other foreign troops, are trained by retired American soldiers and veterans of the German and British special operations units and the French Foreign Legion, according to the former employees and American officials.

In outsourcing critical parts of their defense to mercenaries -- the soldiers of choice for medieval kings, Italian Renaissance dukes and African dictators -- the Emiratis have begun a new era in the boom in wartime contracting that began after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. And by relying on a force largely created by Americans, they have introduced a volatile element in an already combustible region where the United States is widely viewed with suspicion.

The United Arab Emirates -- an autocracy with the sheen of a progressive, modern state -- are closely allied with the United States, and American officials indicated that the battalion program had some support in Washington.

Money vs Justice


If our nation were to return to the rates of incarceration we had in the 1970s, we would have to release 4 out of 5 people behind bars. A million people employed by the criminal justice system could lose their jobs. Private prison companies would see their profits vanish. This system is now so deeply rooted in our social, political and economic structures that it is not going to fade away without a major shift in public consciousness.

In Prison Reform, Money Trumps Civil Rights

By Michelle Alexander

The legal scholar Derrick A. Bell foresaw that mass incarceration, like earlier systems of racial control, would continue to exist as long as it served the perceived interests of white elites.

Thirty years of civil rights litigation and advocacy have failed to slow the pace of a racially biased drug war or to prevent the emergence of a penal system of astonishing size. Yet a few short years of tight state budgets have inspired former "get tough" true believers to suddenly denounce the costs of imprisonment. "We're wasting tax dollars on prisons," they say. "It's time to shift course."

Newt Gingrich, the former House speaker, shocked many earlier this year when he co-wrote an essay for The Washington Post calling on "conservative legislators to lead the way in addressing an issue often considered off-limits to reform: prisons."

Republican governors had already been sounding the same note. As California was careering toward bankruptcy last year, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger lamented that more money was being spent on prisons than on education. Priorities "have become out of whack over the years," he said. "What does it say about any state that focuses more on prison uniforms than on caps and gowns?" Another Republican governor, John R. Kasich of Ohio, recently announced support for reducing penalties for nonviolent drug offenders as part of an effort to slash the size of the state's prison population.

A majority of those swept into our nation's prison system are poor people of color, but the sudden shift away from the "get tough" rhetoric that has dominated the national discourse on crime has not been inspired by a surge in concern about the devastating human toll of mass incarceration. Instead, as Professor Bell predicted, the changing tide is best explained by perceived white interests. In this economic climate, it is impossible to maintain the vast prison state without raising taxes on the (white) middle class.

Given this political reality, it is hardly a surprise to read a headline that says, "N.A.A.C.P. Joins With Gingrich in Urging Prison Reform," rather than the other way around. If there were ever an illustration of Professor Bell's theory that whites will support racial justice only to the extent that it is in their interests, this would seem to be it.

Of course, in the late 1970s, when Professor Bell, who now teaches at New York University School of Law, first advanced his theories, our prison population was much smaller. The Reagan revolution had not yet taken hold. No one knew that the war on drugs and the "get tough" movement would unleash a wave of punitiveness that would trap generations in ghettoes, and brand them criminals and felons. No one foresaw the caste-like system that would emerge, the millions who would be stripped of basic civil and human rights supposedly won in the civil rights movement -- the right to vote, to serve on juries, and to be free of discrimination in employment, housing, education and public benefits.

Today, 2.3 million Americans are behind bars; the United States has the world's highest rate of incarceration. Convictions for non-violent crimes and relatively minor drug offenses -- mostly possession, not sale -- have accounted for the bulk of the increase in the prison population since the mid-1980s.

African-Americans are far more likely to get prison sentences for drug offenses than white offenders, even though studies have consistently shown that they are no more likely to use or sell illegal drugs than whites.

What to do now? Understandably, civil rights advocates and criminal justice reformers are celebrating this moment of what Professor Bell calls "interest convergence." They say we must catch the wave and ride it. Many have given up all hope of persuading the white electorate that they should care about the severe racial disparities in the criminal justice system or the racial politics that birthed the drug war. It's possible now, they say, to win big without talking about race or "making it an issue." Public relations consultants like the FrameWorks Institute -- which dedicates itself to "changing the public conversation about social problems" -- advise advocates to speak in a "practical tone" and avoid discussions of "fairness between groups and the historical legacy of racism."

Surely the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. would have rejected that advice.

We're on offense again, this time putting the spotlight on David Koch and denying him a chance to spend his millions on credibility and social status.

We organized a flashmob in the heart of NYC. We projected four Koch Brothers Exposed videos on the facade of the David H. Koch Theater in Lincoln Center during our Guerrilla Drive In.

Did Dorothy Murder the Witch?

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And should she have stood trial for it?

You cannot know who your enemy is until you know who you are. More often than not, on serious inspection, you discover there is little difference. One can get extremely fascist in the pursuit of killing Nazis.

As a nation the US is so far beyond questions of legal fidelity that questioning the legal validity of Osama bin Laden's execution (which is exactly what it was) is not only moot, but pointless.

Are we a nation of laws? Not really.

But Was It Murder?

By Bill Blum

Osama bin Laden is dead and the verdict is in. As "Weekend Update" host Seth Meyers quipped on "Saturday Night Live" in the show's first broadcast after the terrorist's death, "Somewhere, high above us, there are 72 bummed-out virgins." It didn't matter to America, Meyers continued, whether bin Laden was armed or resisted or was "holding a bunny. We're totally cool with it."

The day after Meyers' joke-fest, President Barack Obama declared on "60 Minutes" that "justice was done" and that anyone who questioned that truth needed "to have his head examined."

Since then a number of polls have shown that the American people, by margins of up to 90 percent, support not just the fact but the manner of bin Laden's killing. The president's popularity has rebounded to levels not seen since the early days of 2009. The country, by some indicators, feels renewed and vindicated.

But amid all the wisecracking, backslapping and official self-congratulations, a different and uneasy counter-narrative has emerged, best expressed by Gary Younge, a columnist writing in Britain's Guardian newspaper: "This was not justice; it was an extra-judicial execution. If you shoot a man twice in the head, you do not find him guilty. You find him dead. This was revenge. And it was served very cold indeed."

As much as we all might wish that the counter-narrative, with all of its uncomfortable implications, would fade away, it's not likely to, given this country's obsession with legal process. "In the United States," as the French political thinker Alexis de Tocqueville wrote, "everyone is personally interested in enforcing the ... law." So it was in 1835 when de Tocqueville penned his classic study "Democracy in America"; so it is today as the nation continues to celebrate the May 1 death of the world's terrorist mastermind.

And so it is incumbent upon us to ask even in this highly charged period of unbridled emotions: Who's right on the law, those who praise the killing of bin Laden as just and legal or those who condemn the killing as an illegal act and even an act of murder?

The answer, unfortunately, is that there is no easy answer--at least not yet. The legality of the killing depends not only on the facts as they unfolded at bin Laden's compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, but also on what body of law, domestic or international, is used to analyze the facts.

In congressional testimony in the days after the killing, Attorney General Eric Holder pronounced the act lawful under any legal standard. The killing of a man who was himself responsible for mass murder was warranted, according to Holder, and no apologies are needed.

But even if apologies are unnecessary, a more complete explanation is. To test the attorney general's view, let's start with a common domestic definition of murder. In the U.S., murder generally is defined as the unlawful killing of a human being with malice aforethought. Murder, in turn, is divided into first and second degrees. The degrees and the corresponding penalties they carry turn largely on a perpetrator's state of mind, with first degree reserved for killings that are premeditated and deliberate.

Domestic law recognizes that some killings, though intentional but carried out in the heat of passion, fall short of murder and rise only to the level of voluntary manslaughter. Equally important, the law recognizes that some killings, even when intentional, are lawful, such as those committed in self-defense or in the defense of others facing imminent deadly harm.

It doesn't take a legal scholar to narrow the debate over bin Laden's killing in a domestic framework. The first question is: What was the administration's intent? Was the mission to capture or kill Bin Laden or, as CIA Director Leon Panetta told NBC's Brian Williams, simply to kill him? If the goal indeed was to kill bin Laden, then it's hard to argue that the carefully planned and meticulously carried-out work of the Navy SEALs was done with anything less than premeditation and deliberation.

Which, I guess, brings us to the recent predawn killing of Osama bin Laden by U.S. Navy SEALs in Pakistan. It has been said that the two things that people don't ever want to see being made are sausages and legislation. I'd amend that to say that doubly ugly to people is legislation that makes sausage. Wars are perhaps the most obvious example of that. Nobody wanted to look at the Iraq Liberation Act when it was passed by Congress and signed by Bill Clinton in '98, for example, nor did they want to look at the Iraq War Resolution or the Bush Doctrine or the Patriot Act that came later, for fear of being revolted by the grotesque notion that America might not be anything more than just a sloppy imperialistic plutocracy held together by a handful of Toby Keith songs and somewhere around 250 million late credit card payments.

Coming of Rage in Neverland

by Mr Fish

G. Gordon Liddy, noted Watergate thief and tournament-level egomaniac, once said that, "The press is like the peculiar uncle you keep in the attic--just one of those unfortunate things." Of course, such a quote, rather than maligning the press, ultimately serves only to label the quote's originator as a crackpot. Who else but a crackpot would want to shove another family member into the attic simply because he or she tends to ask a lot of questions about the world and expects a certain logic to be present in the answers?

It's a common phenomenon, this maligning of the press from the right wing, and it's what I love about blowhards like Liddy. Like the ancient geocentrists who believed that the Earth was the center of the universe and that all other heavenly bodies revolved around it, so much of the conservative ideology assumes that its stubborn refusal to tolerate any point of view that doesn't recognize the values of the GOP as originating from some fixed center at the very core of the moral universe is in adherence to some permanent truth and not merely proof that the GOP is too fearful and too unimaginative and too antiquated to be able to comprehend--let alone keep up with--a reality that, simply by being chemically based, is anything but immovable. That's why the conservatives perceive any criticism of their principles to be an attack on reality itself, and therefore believe that any disagreement with them is not only mad but also depraved and deliberately pernicious. It is also how they are able to so easily integrate the concept of absolute good and evil into their worldview.

A conservative, for example, would never have the sort of conversation that I remember having with my then-girlfriend, who is now my wife, right after I dropped out of college to become an insufferable know-it-all and condescending braggart.

FISH: All I'm saying is that one way to see if you really like somebody is to ask yourself, Would I still go out with this person if he or she was the opposite sex?
GIRLFRIEND: So, wait a minute, you'd still go out with me if I was a guy?
FISH: Yes.
GIRLFRIEND: A big hairy guy with a beard, testicles, hairy ass--the whole thing?
FISH: My mother has a hairy ass. It's not that big of a deal to me.
GIRLFRIEND: She doesn't have a guy's hairy ass.
FISH: Sure she does.
GIRLFRIEND: No she doesn't.
FISH: Next time I'm home I'll take a picture of the soap in her shower, it looks like a baby rabbit.
GIRLFRIEND: She doesn't have testicles!
FISH: Who knows what she's got down there? You know how when an Easter basket looks empty that a lot of times it's not--how there's always some loose jelly beans hidden at the bottom?
GIRLFRIEND: She wouldn't be your mom if she had testicles, you jackass! She'd be your dad.
FISH: No she wouldn't--that's like saying that if my dad had boobs that he'd be my mom.
GIRLFRIEND: Well, who would he be if he had boobs?
FISH: My grandfather.
GIRLFRIEND: Oh, Jesus ...
FISH: It's true, I swear. The only way to tell my grandparents apart when they're swimming together in a pool is that when my grandmother goes underwater she comes up without eyebrows.
GIRLFRIEND: You're an idiot.
FISH: Why am I an idiot?
GIRLFRIEND: I think the more revealing question to ask would be, Would I still go out with this person despite his or her sex?
FISH: (thinking) So wait a minute, you wouldn't go out with me if I was a girl?
GIRLFRIEND: Are you crazy?
FISH: Why not?
GIRLFRIEND: I can't imagine you as a girl.
FISH: Why not?
GIRLFRIEND: Well, for one thing, about 85 percent of your personality comes from your complete fascination with your own penis.
FISH: That's not true--85? 35, maybe 40.
GIRLFRIEND: What are you talking about?! You're the only guy I know with tennis elbow who's never even picked up a racket.
FISH: Oh, come on--
GIRLFRIEND: If you wore one of those self-winding watches you could take it off right now and stick it in a drawer someplace and the thing would run into the next century.
FISH: Oh, that's hilarious.
GIRLFRIEND: Thank you.
FISH: Don't mention it.

More Good Comments


The debt limit debate is total nonsense.

99% of economists fail to understand the importance of private debt - that is why they failed to foresee the crisis which resulted from the private sector going too much in debt (this is how all bubbles pop, and mainstream economists are caught by surprise each time). On the other hand, most mainstreamers agonize about the public debt which is always a much smaller problem.

The mainstream consensus is that we need to fear the public debt because it is "like a household debt, only bigger". In fact, it is OPPOSITE to a household debt: without federal IOUs (dollars, bonds) the public would have NO net savings! I can have a deposit in the bank, but this is bank's liability. To hold savings in aggregate, the private sector needs to hold IOUs of someone outside it. This someone is the government issuing its IOUs. Private net savings is holding government debt (dollars, bonds). No federal debt, no net savings for the private sector.

Imagine a Monopoly game. The central banker wants to "be responsible" and run a surplus - take in more dollars than he emits, thus siphoning off the players' savings. The game will stall. This "plan" is backed by neoliberal theories that defy basic accounting: supposedly this will make the players "more confident in the government" and spend more (spend what? - they have less money, go figure). That is America's "plan for prosperity". Give me a break.

One more thing: the US if off the gold standard. Gold could run out, but now the US creates money as needed with each payment. If you are thinking "what about inflation?!" - you are right. The only problem can be too much money (inflation), but the government cannot possibly run out of dollars, like a bowling alley cannot run out of points. So much for US "going bankrupt". US can create inflation, but not go bankrupt, ever. Here is Bernanke stating that US is not spending money it previously "saved":

Also: contrary to what most pundits claim the US can control the interest rates it pays, listen to people who know how the Fed and the banking system works. US could pay zero in interest if it wanted too: simply issue currency and not interest-bearing bonds (unlike Greece or Portugal, the US issues the currency it pays with, think Japan instead: 200% debt/GDP and low interest rates. The mainstream doesn't understand the fundamental difference between Japan and Greece: Greece can simply run out of Euros, Japan cannot run out of Yen and it shows in the bond yields). And if you heard that issuing currency without bonds is more inflationary, it is because the mainstream never bothered to look at the accounting. Look at agents' balance sheets.

We should ask pundits from both sides:

Do you understand why paying off public debt each time resulted in a depression? It was tried 7 times, each with disastrous consequences.

Why do you claim that public debt crowds out private savings? Accounting proves it's the opposite. Without federal bonds the public sector cannot net save.

Why do you claim Social Security or Medicare can go "bankrupt"? As we saw, the government will always have dollars to buy the next syringe or a blood test. The problem can be a scarcity of REAL resources or lack of productive capacity in the economy to supply these procedures. The government is now manufacturing this future scarcity by allowing the persistence of unemployment and the related forgone education opportunities for the young - all this to "save money" it doesn't need. The lost productivity and wasted human potential are the REAL problem (which may actually result in us as seniors being unable to obtain the care we will need), not the government "not having dollars" in the future.

Let's talk about unemployment instead, shall we? If we stop fearing the federal "debt" the answer is simple: replace the missing private demand with public expenditure, for example a public works program. Invest in infrastructure and education. It worked in 1930s.

Funny thing too: debt/GDP actually decreased then because GDP grew that much faster.

There is ONE problem with this program though: it doesn't make Wall Street richer.

Ron T

Good Ideas from the Peanut Gallery


Here's one from NY Times commenter Larry of St Paul, Minnesota. It's followed by the Krugman piece that inspired it:

Over the last few months,I have been struck by the wisdom expressed in the comments section in response to Paul Krugman's illuminating opinion pieces. What has been missing are specific steps to get from outraged analysis to workable social policy.

I think we need to bypass our political system for the time being. It's too slow and too corrupt. I suggest, instead, that we pool our resources as consumers and go after the powerful corporations who have purchased our government for their own selfish purposes. I am imagining the boycott of the quarter. This quarter it's Exxon Mobil. Next quarter it's Chevron. The quarter after that it's Wal-Mart.

With the prevalence of social networking, this kind of strategy could be achieved on a rapid and quite nimble basis. A sharp drop in quarterly earnings would scare the living daylights out of executives and their boards, and reconfigure the balance of power in this country. It would show corporations what could happen to them if we, the people-consumers, decided to expand our influence beyond the quarter and into a much longer time frame.

Executives and their mouthpieces despise boycotts for the simple reason that they know they're effective. I can see a future Time Person of the Year being the people or organizations who can become leaders of this new movement that would move the balance of power of away from the rich and powerful owners to the rest of us who currently lack the resources to buy off our politicians. In short, follow the money---and stop giving them ours.

Seniors, Guns and Money

by Paul Krugman

This has to be one of the funniest political stories of recent weeks: On Tuesday, 42 freshmen Republican members of Congress sent a letter urging President Obama to stop Democrats from engaging in "Mediscare" tactics -- that is, to stop saying that the Republican budget plan released early last month, which would end Medicare as we know it, is a plan to end Medicare as we know it.

Now, you may recall that the people who signed that letter got their current jobs largely by engaging in "Mediscare" tactics of their own. And bear in mind that what Democrats are saying now is entirely true, while what Republicans were saying last year was completely false. Death panels!

Well, it's time, said the signatories, to "wipe the slate clean." How very convenient -- and how very pathetic.

Anyway, the truth is that older Americans really should fear Republican budget ideas -- and not just because of that plan to dismantle Medicare. Given the realities of the federal budget, a party insisting that tax increases of any kind are off the table -- as John Boehner, the speaker of the House, says they are -- is, necessarily, a party demanding savage cuts in programs that serve older Americans.

To explain why, let me answer a rhetorical question posed by Professor John Taylor of Stanford University in a recent op-ed article in The Wall Street Journal. He asked, "If government agencies and programs functioned with 19% to 20% of G.D.P. in 2007" -- that is, just before the Great Recession -- "why is it so hard for them to function with that percentage in 2021?"

Mr. Taylor thought he was making the case for not increasing spending. But if you know anything about the federal budget, you know that there's a very good answer to his question -- an answer that clearly demonstrates just how extremist that no-tax-increase pledge really is. For here's the quick-and-dirty summary of what the federal government does: It's a giant insurance company, mainly serving older people, that also has an army.

Mike Hucksterby


Rachel makes me laugh at the cultural dumb that scares the hell out of me. What a great team the Maddow show people are.

Family Values


Tell me this doesn't make you want to take a shower.

The financial sector has been taking this country down the rip-off rabbit hole for decades and there's hardly been any action taken. Everybody knows the corruption and sellouts that have been going down and yet no one has been dragged out into the streets to be tarred and feathered. Where's the outrage? Where's the congressional and executive administrative balls? Why are Americans taking it so meekly?

Apparently there is some movement afoot:

"The jury in the illegal insider trading case against Raj Rajaratnam, the billionaire founder of the Galleon Group hedge fund, did what the government has largely failed to do: hold a major Wall Street figure accountable for his reckless behavior."

Its a small start...we need much more of this

Don't Let Go of the Anger

By William D Cohan

One of the most frustrating facts of the recently abated financial crisis is that those who might have been partly responsible for it have got off scot-free. The only two people prosecuted criminally -- the Bear Stearns hedge fund managers Ralph Cioffi and Matthew Tannin -- were found not guilty by a jury in Brooklyn. Other potential culprits -- Angelo Mozilo, chief executive of Countrywide Financial, Joseph Cassano, chief executive of AIG Financial Products, and Dick Fuld, the chief executive of Lehman Brothers -- were either slapped with a small civil penalty, in the case of Mozilo, or the Justice Department made the decision not to prosecute after months of investigation.

What's worse, not only did bankers escape with no penalty, they walked off with millions of dollars in their pockets while American taxpayers got left holding the bag. Since the crisis was caused by greedy decisions made by one leader after another at various Wall Street firms and at other businesses, like mortgage originators and credit ratings agencies, that attached themselves to Wall Street like pilot fish on a shark, the dearth of prosecutions, or even attempted prosecutions, seems especially unconscionable. The least the Justice Department could do, in declining to prosecute, would be to make available the reams of documents on which it based its decisions, so that the American public can understand why prosecutors let these people walk. Without seeing what the prosecutors have seen, we are left with a sense of frustration and injustice.

It has always been a mystery to me why the American people's reaction to this lack of accountability has been so consistently passive. Why is it that thousands will protest, for weeks, the efforts by the Republican governor of Wisconsin and his Republican allies in the state legislature to strip Wisconsin's public employees of hard-won benefits and contractual rights, but there is barely a peep uttered -- save from a handful of Code Pink activists -- in the face of trillions of dollars of American treasure used to bail out the very banks and securities firms that caused the Great Recession in the first place? Nor is there a whisper of collective protest when the very banks we bailed out turn around and pay their thousands of employees nearly $150 billion in compensation and bonuses in 2010 -- as if they were deserving -- while the rest of us continue to suffer from stubbornly high unemployment, miniscule interest rates on our savings and fast-rising commodity prices (as on oil and food) that Wall Street speculators, in part, drive higher and higher.

Morning Visitor

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Florida has some damn big grass hoppers. This very young nymph, called an Eastern Lubber, visited my monitor this morning. When you pick them up they hiss and eject a foamy spray. They're actually quite sedate when handled, They make slow, small jumps and cannot fly. Apparently, they're quite toxic to predators, which thankfully I am not. They can grow to 4 inches in length and change colors during their various phases of molting growth.


The adults are quite beautiful and look like this (actual size):


Time for a Pee Party Revolt


FL Gov Rick Scott: Criminal, Idiot, Sociopath.

Scott is another newly elected republican whose radical right wing policies, like those of late in Wisconsin, are already generating recall efforts.

The latest show of gross stupidity is his recently passed legislation to drug test anyone receiving any sort of public funding, including government workers of any stripe ( I highly doubt that would include police or legislators, however). It's not only an expensive and pointless exercise in big government intrusion, but it feeds the clinics owned by Scott who would do the testing and is likely to be found unconstitutional in the end anyway.

Examples of Scott stupidity and malfeasance:

Gov. Rick Scott's drug testing policy stirs suspicion

By Stacey Singer

One of the more popular services at Solantic, the urgent care chain co-founded by Florida Gov. Rick Scott, is drug testing, according to Solantic CEO Karen Bowling.

Given Solantic's role in that marketplace, critics are again asking whether Scott's policy initiatives - this time, requiring drug testing of state employees and welfare recipients - are designed to benefit Scott's bottom line.

The Palm Beach Post reported in an exclusive story two weeks ago that while Scott divested his interest in Solantic in January, the controlling shares went to a trust in his wife's name.

This raised a groundswell of concern and questions about his health policy initiatives, especially his push to move Medicaid into private HMOs. Solantic does not take Medicaid but does business with private Medicaid HMOs. The questions are growing louder with Scott's executive order on drug testing.

Solantic charges $35 for drug tests. The main customers? People who want advance reassurance they will pass an upcoming drug test for work or parole, and worried parents who bring in wayward teens, Bowling said. Customers can have results sent confidentially to their homes, without involving their employer or insurer.

"The wellness tests have really grown. People want to come in and find out, and then never see us again," Bowling said in an interview last month.

'Elephant in the room'

Scott surprised state employees Tuesday by issuing his executive order for mandatory drug testing of all prospective hires, and random drug testing of current employees, in agencies whose directors he appoints.

In the same announcement, he praised the Florida Legislature for its plans to require all welfare applicants to undergo drug testing as well.

Taken together, the initiatives could affect hundreds of thousands of Floridians, forcing them to submit to drug tests or risk losing their public jobs or benefits.

"Floridians deserve to know that those in public service, whose salaries are paid with taxpayer dollars, are part of a drug-free workplace," Scott said in a statement. "Just as it is appropriate to screen those seeking taxpayer assistance, it is also appropriate to screen government employees."

Until last week, Scott's communications office in Tallahassee had ignored repeated requests for comment on the potential for a conflict of interest. On Friday, as national media began to call as well, the office issued this response:

Any perception that the governor's business interests pose a conflict of interest with his health policies are "baseless and incorrect," said Scott's deputy communications director, Brian Hughes.

Privately, one Scott official acknowledged that every time the governor discusses health policy, his urgent care business would be "the elephant in the room."

Shortly before he was inaugurated, Scott's lawyers met with attorneys at the Florida Commission on Ethics. Subsequently, they moved his Solantic holdings into a revocable trust in his wife's name, making her the controlling investor in the privately held company. No public records were created from the ethics meeting.

During the election campaign, he had estimated the worth of his Solantic holdings at $62 million. Jacksonville-based Solantic has 32 clinics statewide, including two in Palm Beach County, and plans rapid growth and an eventual initial public offering, according to company documents.

Suffolk University Law Professor Marc Rodwin, author of several books on conflicts of interest in medicine, said the movement of Scott's ownership to his wife's trust was insufficient to eliminate the ethical issues.

"He owned the company and transferred it into his wife's name," Rodwin said. "It's a conflict of interest."

But while it may rise to the level of impropriety, Florida legal experts said, it likely does not rise to the level of illegality.

Prison: Who's Business Is it?

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"If we were to return prison populations to 1970 levels, before the War on Drugs began," she said. "More than a million people working in the system would see their jobs disappear."

Of all African-American men that were born in 1965 or later with less than a high school diploma, 60 percent have a prison record (28 months median time served).

ACA DMC Task Force/Symposium

More Black Men Now in Prison System than Enslaved in 1850

By Dick Price

"More African American men are in prison or jail, on probation or parole than were enslaved in 1850, before the Civil War began," Michelle Alexander told a standing room only house at the Pasadena Main Library this past Wednesday, the first of many jarring points she made in a riveting presentation.


Alexander, currently a law professor at Ohio State, had been brought in to discuss her year-old bestseller, The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness More Black Men Now in Prison System than Enslaved in 1850. Interest ran so high beforehand that the organizers had to move the event to a location that could accommodate the eager attendees. That evening, more than 200 people braved the pouring rain and inevitable traffic jams to crowd into the library's main room, with dozens more shuffled into an overflow room, and even more latecomers turned away altogether. Alexander and her topic had struck a nerve.

Growing crime rates over the past 30 years don't explain the skyrocketing numbers of black -- and increasingly brown -- men caught in America's prison system, according to Alexander, who clerked for Supreme Court Justice Harry Blackmun after attending Stanford Law. "In fact, crime rates have fluctuated over the years and are now at historical lows."

"Most of that increase is due to the War on Drugs, a war waged almost exclusively in poor communities of color," she said, even though studies have shown that whites use and sell illegal drugs at rates equal to or above blacks. In some black inner-city communities, four of five black youth can expect to be caught up in the criminal justice system during their lifetimes.

As a consequence, a great many black men are disenfranchised, said Alexander -- prevented because of their felony convictions from voting and from living in public housing, discriminated in hiring, excluded from juries, and denied educational opportunities.

"What do we expect them to do?" she asked, who researched her ground-breaking book while serving as Director of the Racial Justice Project at the ACLU of Northern California. "Well, seventy percent return to prison within two years, that's what they do."

Organized by the Pasadena Public Library and the Flintridge Center, with a dozen or more cosponsors, including the ACLU Pasadena/Foothills Chapter and Neighborhood Church, and the LA Progressive as the sole media sponsor, the event drew a crowd of the converted, frankly -- more than two-thirds from Pasadena's well-established black community and others drawn from activists circles. Although Alexander is a polished speaker on a deeply researched topic, little she said stunned the crowd, which, after all, was the choir. So the question is what to do about this glaring injustice.

Married to a federal prosecutor, Alexander briefly touched on the differing opinion in the Alexander household. "You can imagine the arguments we have," Alexander said in relating discussions she has with her husband. "He thinks there are changes we can make within the system," she said, agreeing that there are good people working on the issues and that improvements can be made. "But I think there has to be a revolution of some kind."

The Unwisdom of Elites

By Paul Krugman

The past three years have been a disaster for most Western economies. The United States has mass long-term unemployment for the first time since the 1930s. Meanwhile, Europe's single currency is coming apart at the seams. How did it all go so wrong?

Well, what I've been hearing with growing frequency from members of the policy elite -- self-appointed wise men, officials, and pundits in good standing -- is the claim that it's mostly the public's fault. The idea is that we got into this mess because voters wanted something for nothing, and weak-minded politicians catered to the electorate's foolishness.

So this seems like a good time to point out that this blame-the-public view isn't just self-serving, it's dead wrong.

The fact is that what we're experiencing right now is a top-down disaster. The policies that got us into this mess weren't responses to public demand. They were, with few exceptions, policies championed by small groups of influential people -- in many cases, the same people now lecturing the rest of us on the need to get serious. And by trying to shift the blame to the general populace, elites are ducking some much-needed reflection on their own catastrophic mistakes.

Let me focus mainly on what happened in the United States, then say a few words about Europe.

How Do You Spell Jerk


If you're in Louisiana, like this: Assistant District Attorney Nick Noriea Jr

It doesn't get any stupider or wasteful than this:

Fourth marijuana conviction gets man life in prison

By Ramon Antonio Vargas

Cornell Hood II got off with probation after three marijuana convictions in New Orleans.

mjuana.jpgHe didn't fare too well after moving to St. Tammany Parish, however. A single such conviction on the north shore landed the 35-year-old in prison for the rest of his life.

State Judge Raymond S. Childress punished Hood under Louisiana's repeat-offender law in his courtroom in Covington on Thursday. A jury on Feb. 15 found the defendant guilty of attempting to possess and distribute marijuana at his Slidell home, court records show.

Hood moved from eastern New Orleans to the Slidell area after he admitted to separate charges of distribution of marijuana and possession with intent to distribute marijuana on Dec. 18, 2009, in Orleans Parish Criminal District Court. He received a suspended five-year prison sentence and five years' of probation for each -- which was precisely the same penalty he got in that court after pleading guilty to possessing and intending to distribute marijuana on Feb. 22, 2005.

When Hood switched homes, he also requested a new probation officer based in St. Tammany. Authorities granted the wish, and the officer, Dustin Munlin, drove to Hood's place for a routine visit on Sept. 27, 2010.

Munlin found nearly two pounds of pot throughout the house, according to court records. He alerted Sheriff's Office deputies. They arrested Hood, who apparently shared the King's Point house with his mother and young son.

Prosecutors later charged him with one count of possession with intent to distribute marijuana.

At Hood's one-day trial, the evidence presented by the prosecution included a digital scale and about a dozen bags that had contained marijuana before being seized from the house, testimony showed. Deputies also found $1,600 in cash and a student-loan application with Hood's name on it inside of a night stand.

Jurors deliberated for less than two hours and convicted Hood of a reduced charge, which usually carries no more than 15 years' imprisonment. Assistant District Attorney Nick Noriea Jr. then used Hood's past convictions on Thursday to argue that he was a career criminal worthy of a severe punishment.

Drug offenders in the state are subject to life imprisonment after being convicted three or more times of a crime that carries a sentence exceeding 10 years.

Urkeling the Saggers


urkel.jpgAdministrators at a Memphis middle school have developed an interesting way of battling student sagging: making them look like television nerd "Steve Urkel."

When Westside Middle School Principal Bobby White or a staff member sees a student with his or her pants hanging too low on their butts, they apply a plastic zip tie to tighten the pants at a proper (or slightly too high) level.

The too-tight zip tie creates a fashionable "high-water" affect on the pants hem that resembles the look worn by Family Matters character "Steve Urkel."

The plan started last week, and about 80 students a day are now getting "Urkeled."
Now sagging pants is said to have dropped 80 percent in the school.

That is until you involve the on-the-take politicians and outright corporate greed.

Weapons of Mass Exploitation

by: Ravi Batra, Truthout

About eight years ago, there was frenzied and furious talk about WMDs, or weapons of mass destruction. Both the frenzy and the fury came from President George W. Bush and his administration, prior to the US invasion of Iraq in March 2003 and soon thereafter. The president's poll ratings had soared in the aftermath of the quick American victory in Afghanistan, which was the base from which al-Qaeda had launched 9/11. In order to keep his poll numbers up, the president and his officials were in a hurry to invade Iraq and remove Saddam Hussein from power. There was a frenzy of claims that Saddam possessed WMDs including chemical arms and nuclear weapons. But when none were found, the officials were furious that Saddam, so to speak, had deceived them. They were also furious at their critics who wondered aloud if the entire WMD claim was actually a fabrication.

The Iraq invasion turned out to be a colossal mistake in terms of lost lives and heavy expenditures that sharply raised the federal budget deficit. However, few realize that the Bush administration made a far bigger mistake in using what may be called Weapons of Mass Exploitation or WMEs, which have all but decimated the US economy and continue to do so.

A WME is a short-term financial palliative that makes the rich richer but postpones economic troubles, while seeming to cure the problems of unemployment and dwindling family incomes. It tends to create debt in the economy, but most economists call it fiscal policy or monetary policy. Once the term "policy" is used, everybody shuts up and accepts the claims of WMEs' beneficence, believing that a genius must have devised it. However, all it does is to generate more debt in the economy, and let the problems pile up, only to return with greater force in the future. Most nations have deployed it in the past 30 years, but various American administrations have been exceptionally adept in its use.

Let us see how a WME only postpones economic ills and also enriches the rich. I am sure you've all heard of supply and demand, even if you never took a course in economics. Supply and demand are like the two wings of an airplane; both have to be equally strong and weighty, or else the plane will crash.

What is the main source of supply? Productivity. What is the main source of demand? Wages. If you become more productive - through education or the use of better technology - you produce or supply more goods. If your wages rise, then you consume or demand more goods. For the economy to stay healthy, supply must be equal to demand, or:

Supply = Demand

Please don't be alarmed by the use of a simple equation, because it will highlight the role of debt in a visual way and make it easily understandable. If supply is not equal to demand, then, like the airplane with unequal wings, the economy will crash some day. Here, supply refers to the value of goods produced in the entire economy, and demand means total spending or the value of goods consumed in the nation.

It so happens that, because of investment and new technology, productivity and, hence, supply rise year after year. This means that wages and, hence, demand must also rise year after, and in the same proportion. Otherwise, there is an imbalance, and unexpected problems arise. If wages trail productivity growth, supply exceeds demand, leading to overproduction. Businesses are unable to sell all that they produce and layoffs follow. Hence, the only cause of unemployment in an advanced economy is the rise in the gap between what you produce and what your employer pays you.

However, joblessness creates problems not only for the unemployed but also for elected officials, because the unemployed have the right to vote. Politicians seek to face a happy electorate and be re-elected. They don't like unemployment anymore than you or I, which means they have to create ways to raise national spending to the level of supply. They face two choices: either to follow policies to raise your salary proportionately to the level of your productivity - which is only fair and ethical - or to adopt measures to lure you into larger debt, so that you spend more not out of a pay raise, but from increased borrowing.




What warms the heart


College students retrace 1961 Freedom Ride

'What the Freedom Rides did 50 years ago paved the way for what I have today'


By Zinie Chen Sampson

Charles Reed Jr. is skipping his college graduation ceremony to do something much more significant to him: retracing the original 1961 Freedom Ride and paying tribute to those who helped win the civil rights that his generation enjoys.

The 21-year-old business administration major at the University of Mary Washington in Fredericksburg, says missing Friday's graduation doesn't compare to the sacrifices the original Freedom Riders made when they challenged the South's segregation laws: quitting jobs, dropping out of college and, ultimately, risking their lives.

"What the Freedom Rides did 50 years ago paved the way for what I have today as an African-American," said Reed, one of 40 college students chosen from nearly 1,000 applicants who will join a handful of the original Freedom Riders on an eight-day journey from Washington, D.C., through the South.

The students pulled up in their bus Friday night to greet more than a dozen original Freedom Riders at the Newseum in Washington for the premiere of a new PBS documentary on the rides based on a book by Raymond Arsenault. They sang "Oh, Freedom" and other tunes together before viewing the film, which premieres May 16 on public broadcast stations.

The documentary recounts the rides state by state and how they pushed President John F. Kennedy to advocate for civil rights. As a young rider, U.S. Rep. John Lewis of Georgia said he "felt like a soldier in a nonviolent army," though the rides were more confrontational than Martin Luther King Jr. and other civil rights leaders would have preferred.

'Never gave in'

Congress of Racial Equality head James Farmer, six other black people and six white people participated in the first Freedom Ride, which left Washington, D.C., on May 4, 1961. The trip was to test whether southern states were implementing Boynton v. Virginia, a U.S. Supreme Court decision that barred segregation in public-transportation facilities.

The group faced violent attacks from white mobs who opposed integration. One of the buses was firebombed in Anniston, Ala., and the riders were beaten. Attacks in Birmingham, Ala., drew national headlines and international embarrassment for the Kennedy administration.

When Crimes Pays


You Call That Tough?

By Joe Nocera

financecrime.jpgIt was Tuesday, and the U.S. attorney in Manhattan was proudly unveiling a lawsuit against Deutsche Bank that his office had filed that morning. As he took reporters through the legal complaint, Bharara spoke sternly about how the bank had defrauded the Federal Housing Administration, which had insured hundreds of millions of dollars' worth of bad loans that the bank then sold to investors, reaping handsome fees.

Listening to Bharara, one could easily think that prosecutors were finally -- finally! -- getting tough on the bad behavior that helped bring about the financial crisis. Alas, it was mainly an illusion.

Upon closer inspection, it turns out that the main target of Bharara's wrath was MortgageIT, a smallish division that Deutsche Bank bought in 2007 -- eight years into an alleged fraud that ended in 2009. In the complaint itself, not one MortgageIT executive was singled out as a wrongdoer; it was as if this faceless corporation had somehow defrauded the government without human help.

Most stunningly, despite concluding that MortgageIT executives had "knowingly, wantonly and recklessly" lied to federal officials, Bharara's office had decided that none of them deserved jail time. It had brought a civil, not a criminal, case, meaning the only punishment prosecutors could seek was money -- more than $1 billion in this instance. That sounds like a lot until you realize that Deutsche Bank's 2010 revenues were more than $42 billion. In other words, a tap on the wrist.

"Every lie is not a crime," said Bharara, when he was asked why no criminal charges had been brought. But two-plus years after the financial crisis, that's not the right question anymore. The right question is: Are there any lies that amount to crimes? When it comes to financial executives, it sure doesn't look that way.

To give him his due, Bharara has brought serious insider-trading charges against Raj Rajaratnam, the hedge fund manager, using evidence that included wiretaps of brazen phone calls between Rajaratnam and the insiders who were feeding him illegal information. If Rajaratnam is convicted -- inexplicably, the jury remains out after several weeks -- he would go to prison for a long time.

But that case doesn't have anything to do with the events that led to the financial crisis; indeed, one can argue that the immense resources devoted to cracking the insider-trading case meant that Bharara lacked manpower to go after those culpable for bringing us to the brink of financial disaster.

Guns: Pittsburg's Unnatural Disaster


Rethinking Afghanistan


Ever wonder how much you paid to fund the war? Use the Afghanistan War Tax Calculator to find out. We'll give you an I.O.U. for what you paid that you can forward to your Member of Congress. Ask for your money back!

Meanwhile back at the ranch


while the whole bin laden dead thing has been hogging the media,the Republicans have been quietly doing really sleazy and unpopular stuff like voting in more anti-abortion legislation...but especially making sure the record profit oil companies will get their billions of tax breaks.

Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

They Still Don't Get It


The false concatenation of 9/11 and Iraq has proved one the most expensive and disastrous engagements the US has ever been involved in and yet people from the last administration are still trying to justify their horrendous decision making at the time as rational.

Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

A Monster of Our Own Creation


usamaliberty.jpgHe was our kind of guy until he wasn't, an ally during the Cold War until he no longer served our purposes. The problem with Osama bin Laden was not that he was a fanatical holy warrior; we liked his kind just fine as long as the infidels he targeted were not us but Russians and the secular Afghans in power in Kabul whom the Soviets backed.

But when bin Laden turned against us, he morphed into a figure of evil incarnate, and now three decades after we first decided to use him and other imported Muslim zealots for our Cold War purposes, we feel cleansed by his death of any responsibility for his carnage. We may make mistakes but we are never in the wrong. USA! USA!

Kind of like when the CIA assigned the Mafia to assassinate Fidel Castro and the Mafiosi turned out to have their own agenda, or when Pentagon experts anointed the Catholic nutcase Ngo Dinh Diem as the George Washington of predominately Buddhist South Vietnam before they felt the need to execute him. A similar fate was suffered by Saddam Hussein, whose infamous Baghdad handshake with Donald Rumsfeld stamped him as our agent in the war to defeat the ayatollahs of Iran.

Awkward, I know, to point out that bin Laden was another of those monsters of our creation, one of those Muslim "freedom fighters" that President Ronald Reagan celebrated for having responded to the CIA's call to kill the Soviets in Afghanistan. That holy crusade against infidels was financed by Saudi Arabia and armed with U.S. weapons to oppose a secular Afghan government with Soviet backing but before Soviet troops had crossed the border. In short, it was an ill-fated and unjustifiable intervention by the U.S. into another nation's internal affairs.

Don't trust me on this one. Just read the 1996 memoir by former Carter administration security official and current Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, a book touted by its publisher as exposing "Carter's never-before-revealed covert support to Afghan mujahedeen--six months before the Soviets invaded." This dismissal of the claimed Cold War excuse for the backing of the mujahedeen was acknowledged by President Jimmy Carter's national security adviser, Zbigniew Brzezinski, who, when asked by the French magazine Le Nouvel Observateur if he regretted "having given arms and advice to future terrorists," answered that he did not: "What is most important to the history of the world? Some stirred-up Muslims or the liberation of Central Europe and the end of the Cold War?"

- Robert Scheer

Some notes on human intelligence


Torture is wrong no matter what


Ask anyone who has been tortured...anyone who has not been tortured and opines it is ok for any reason is a fool and would change their minds instantly if they experienced torture themselves.

There is a vengeful, cruel streak that runs through the American psyche and the use of torture as a plausible government action is a direct product of that cruelty.

The illogic of the torture debate

By Glenn Greenwald

It makes no difference whether it extracted usable intelligence. Criminal, morally depraved acts don't become retroactively justified by pointing to the bounty they produced.

The killing of Osama bin Laden has, as The New York Times notes, reignited the debate over "brutal interrogations" -- by which it's meant that Republicans are now attempting to exploit the emotions generated by the killing to retroactively justify the torture regime they implemented. The factual assertions on which this attempt is based -- that waterboarding and other "harsh interrogation methods" produced evidence crucial to locating bin Laden -- are dubious in the extreme, for reasons Andrew Sullivan and Marcy Wheeler document. So fictitious are these claims that even Donald Rumsfeld has repudiated them.

But even if it were the case that valuable information were obtained during or after the use of torture, what would it prove? Nobody has ever argued that brutality will never produce truthful answers. It is sometimes the case that if you torture someone long and mercilessly enough, they will tell you something you want to know. Nobody has ever denied that. In terms of the tactical aspect of the torture debate, the point has always been -- as a consensus of interrogations professionals has repeatedly said -- that there are far more effective ways to extract the truth from someone than by torturing it out of them. The fact that one can point to an instance where torture produced the desired answer proves nothing about whether there were more effective ways of obtaining it.

This highlights what has long been a glaring fallacy in many debates over War on Terror policies: that Information X was obtained after using Policy A does not prove that Policy A was necessary or effective. That's just basic logic. This fallacy asserted itself constantly in the debate over warrantless surveillance. Proponents of the Bush NSA program would point to some piece of intelligence allegedly obtained during warrantless eavesdropping as proof that the illegal program was necessary and effective; obviously, though, that fact said nothing about whether the same information would also have been discovered through legal eavesdropping, i.e., eavesdropping approved in advance by the FISA court (and indeed, legal eavesdropping [like legal interrogation tactics] is typically more effective than the illegal version because, by necessity, it is far more focused on actual suspected Terrorism plots; warrantless eavesdropping entails the unconstrained power to listen in on any communications the Government wants without having to establish its connection to Terrorism). But in all cases, the fact that some piece of intelligence was obtained by some lawless Bush/Cheney War on Terror policy (whether it be torture or warrantless eavesdropping) proves nothing about whether that policy was effective or necessary.

And those causal issues are, of course, entirely independent of the legal and moral questions shunted to the side by this reignited "debate." There are many actions that the U.S. could take that would advance its interests that are nonetheless obviously wrong on moral and legal grounds. When Donald Trump recently suggested that we should simply take Libya's oil and that of any other country which we successfully invade and occupy, that suggestion prompted widespread mockery. That was the reaction despite the fact that stealing other countries' oil would in fact produce substantial benefits for the U.S. and advance our interests: it would help to lower gas prices, reduce our dependence on hostile oil-producing nations, and avoid having to degrade our own environment in order to drill domestically. Trump's proposal is morally reprehensible and flagrantly lawless despite how many benefits it would produce; therefore, no person of even minimal decency would embrace it no matter how many benefits it produces.

Exactly the same is true for the torture techniques used by the Bush administration and once again being heralded by its followers (and implicitly glorified by media stars who keep suggesting that they enabled bin Laden's detection). It makes no difference whether it extracted usable intelligence. Criminal, morally depraved acts don't become retroactively justified by pointing to the bounty they produced.

PSA: Bin Laden Malware Threat


'Tis the season to be infected...

Bin Laden-related malware grows on social networks

By Suzanne Choney

With interest still very high in news of Osama bin Laden's death, malware and spam are having a field day on social networks like Facebook and Twitter, say Web and software security companies. And the FBI Tuesday issued a warning to computer users to "exercise caution" when they receive emails that "purport to show photos or videos" of bin Laden's killing, with links in those emails leading to havoc for some users' machines.

Cybercriminals, looking to get your personal information by having you click on a link, or spammers trying to get you to buy rogue anti-virus software the same way, are also "liking" Facebook -- and Twitter -- a lot in recent days to "spread malicious links claiming to be images of bin Laden's death," says Kaspersky Lab.

Behind the success is how quickly such links can be disseminated, "the implied trust of social network contacts" and the "prevalence of shortened URLs," the company says.

"We were especially concerned about the potential distribution of malware on social networks, because of their speed of propagation," says Kaspersky Lab expert Vicente Diaz on a company blog. " So we have been monitoring Twitter, getting some million tweets and a huge number of URLs too. No surprise here as during the last 24 hours the average was 4,000 tweets per second related to this topic.

Kaspersky found a Facebook "scam campaign posing as Osama's death video" (see below).


The complaint center has these recommendations for computer users:

  • Adjust the privacy settings on social networking sites you frequent to make it more difficult for people you know and do not know to post content to your page. Even a "friend" can unknowingly pass on multimedia that's actually malicious software.
  • Do not agree to download software to view videos. These applications can infect your computer.
  • Read e-mails you receive carefully. Fraudulent messages often feature misspellings, poor grammar, and nonstandard English.
  • Report e-mails you receive that purport to be from the FBI. Criminals often use the FBI's name and seal to add legitimacy to their fraudulent schemes. In fact, the FBI does not send unsolicited e-mails to the public. Should you receive unsolicited messages that feature the FBI's name, seal, or that reference a division or unit within the FBI or an individual employee, report it to the Internet Crime Complaint Center at

The courage to be vulnerable


The lack of that sort of courage in the supposed "home of the brave" is exactly how we have spent the last decade becoming the monster we were trying kill and a police state to boot because we allowed ourselves to be manipulated by the power-seeking fear mongers who have built billion dollar political empires offering false security. But we not only paid huge sums of money that could have been used for better, more real purposes, we also gave up constitutional rights and freedoms and found torture to be palatable.

On Osama bin Laden's Death

by Chris Hedges

usama.jpgI know that because of this announcement, that reportedly Osama bin Laden was killed, Bob [Truthdig Editor Robert Scheer] wanted me to say a few words about it ... about al-Qaida. I spent a year of my life covering al-Qaida for The New York Times. It was the work in which I, and other investigative reporters, won the Pulitzer Prize. And I spent seven years of my life in the Middle East. I was the Middle East bureau chief for The New York Times. I'm an Arabic speaker. And when someone came over and told ... me the news, my stomach sank. I'm not in any way naive about what al-Qaida is. It's an organization that terrifies me. I know it intimately.

But I'm also intimately familiar with the collective humiliation that we have imposed on the Muslim world. The expansion of military occupation that took place throughout, in particular the Arab world, following 9/11--and that this presence of American imperial bases, dotted, not just in Iraq and Afghanistan, but in Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Doha--is one that has done more to engender hatred and acts of terror than anything ever orchestrated by Osama bin Laden.

And the killing of bin Laden, who has absolutely no operational role in al-Qaida--that's clear--he's kind of a spiritual mentor, a kind of guide ... he functions in many of the ways that Hitler functioned for the Nazi Party. We were just talking with Warren [Beatty] about [Ian] Kershaw's great biography of Hitler, which I read a few months ago, where you hold up a particular ideological ideal and strive for it. That was bin Laden's role. But all actual acts of terror, which he may have signed off on, he no way planned.

I think that one of the most interesting aspects of the whole rise of al-Qaida is that when Saddam Hussein ... I covered the first Gulf War, went into Kuwait with the 1st Battalion, 1st Marines, was in Basra during the Shiite uprising until I was captured and taken prisoner by the Iraqi Republican Guard. I like to say I was embedded with the Iraqi Republican Guard. Within that initial assault and occupation of Kuwait, bin Laden appealed to the Saudi government to come back and help organize the defense of his country. And he was turned down. And American troops came in and implanted themselves on Muslim soil.

When I was in New York, as some of you were, on 9/11, I was in Times Square when the second plane hit. I walked into The New York Times, I stuffed notebooks in my pocket and walked down the West Side Highway and was at Ground Zero four hours later. I was there when Building 7 collapsed. And I watched as a nation drank deep from that very dark elixir of American nationalism ... the flip side of nationalism is always racism, it's about self-exaltation and the denigration of the other.

And it's about forgetting that terrorism is a tactic. You can't make war on terror. Terrorism has been with us since Sallust wrote about it in the Jugurthine wars. And the only way to successfully fight terrorist groups is to isolate [them], isolate those groups, within their own societies. And I was in the immediate days after 9/11 assigned to go out to Jersey City and the places where the hijackers had lived and begin to piece together their lives. I was then very soon transferred to Paris, where I covered all of al-Qaida's operations in the Middle East and Europe.

Before 9/11


A retrospective on what we have lost and how it changed who we are.

Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Historic Picture


Likely to become iconic.

Obama and executive staff watch attack on Bin Laden's compound in real time


2011 Number Weirdness


This year we are going to experience four unusual dates: 1/1/11, 1/11/11, 11/1/11, 11/11/11. Two down and two to go.

Take the last two digits of the year you were born and the age you will be this year and the result will add up to 111 for everyone! Cool, uh!

Also, this year, October will have 5 Sundays, Mondays & Saturdays. This happens only once every 823 years. You don't want to miss it since you won't be around next time. Come to think of it, you might even miss this time. So be nice to everyone just in case.

hat tip Mr Baker

Beware online "filter bubbles"

As web companies strive to tailor their services (including news and search results) to our personal tastes, there's a dangerous unintended consequence: We get trapped in a "filter bubble" and don't get exposed to information that could challenge or broaden our worldview. Eli Pariser argues powerfully that this will ultimately prove to be bad for us and bad for democracy.

Zealots of Any Stripe


I was still living in Vancouver, BC when I saw the twin towers attacked and fall. The first thing out of my mouth was "Holy shit!"...the second was, "Oh oh..." In an instant, I pictured the roll out of the American exceptionalist jingo-isms and media driven war machine with the CNN strident military music and graphics pushing for bloody revenge.
And of course that's exactly what happened...never mind that we were witnessing a perfect example of "what goes around, around comes".

Not long after that I visited my family in Florida and on the ride to my parents place my Dad mentioned that the good effect of the 911 events had been that it had brought out a national solidarity and pride the US people hadn't experienced in a long time. I replied that that resurgence of zealous nationalism was exactly what scared me the most because it allowed for a mindlessness that could likely lead the country into a police state situation. America, love it or leave it to the max.

I see the same ugly head reared now in the triumph over the execution of a single diabetic old man who plays only a symbolic role in the modern terrorist movement.
I shed not one tear over the death of such a fanatic who caused such human damage, but I despise the "USA USA USA" chanting mind-set and irrational police state he provoked from us as a people.

Eugene Robinson is one of writers and newsman I respect most and I understand his sentiments revealed in the article below exactly, but..... I agree even more with the commenters to the article afterward.

Proud of the United States

By Eugene Robinson

This really is one of those moments when there are no red states or blue states, just United States; no MoveOn progressives or Tea Party conservatives, just Americans. Triumphalism and unapologetic patriotism are in order. We got him.

In the days to come, there will be time to consider the nuanced implications of Osama bin Laden's demise at the hands of the CIA. Will anti-American anger threaten to send unstable Pakistan out of control? Will al-Qaeda's younger, more decentralized leadership feel not bereft but empowered? In a few days or weeks, I might care. But not now.

Tonight, all I can do is think back to Sept. 11, 2001. I was working out at the gym when I heard learned that a plane had hit the World Trade Center. I decided that I'd better head in to work, and on my way to the shower I passed a television set where a crowd had gathered. I didn't have on my glasses, so I had to get up close to see that the second plane had hit the second tower. I threw on my clothes and ran the few blocks to The Washington Post. Crossing 16th Street, I passed a man who was shouting, to anyone who would listen, that something had happened at the Pentagon.

Tonight, I remember watching speechlessly as the towers fell. I remember leaving work, many hours later, and seeing the plume of smoke still hovering above the Pentagon like a taunt. I remember the anger I felt, the sadness, the resolve. When George W. Bush visited Ground Zero and picked up that bullhorn to give voice to a nation's anguish, I was proud.

And tonight, I am proud. "Obama Nixes Osama" would be an appropriate tabloid headline, but I have to give props to Bush as well. We got the son of a bitch. Well done. Well done, indeed.


The comments:

Yes, let's just sit back and bask in our American exceptionalist--jingoist--triumphalist--fundamentalist fervor. Let's not ask questions. Let's not think about the consequences, just follow along stupidly to the steady drumbeats and changing of American exceptionalism! Let's not be reflective, let's not mourn another human life or the possibility that this death may not reduce the risk our soldiers may be subjected to, but in fact increase it. Let's not think at all. Let's not learn the lessons we should have learned in the days after 9/ll and the crazed nationalist cries of "WMDs", "revenge" and "USA! USA!" Let's not think. That's the last thing we should do...

The real problem was never Bin Laden. The real problem has always been America's tendency to deal with other nations with bombs and weapons rather than friendship and respect and help. Americans do not learn foreign languages, they do not learn the history of other nations and they hardly know the geography of our planet. Among developed nations, America devotes the lowest proportion of its GDP to foreign aid, and yet Americans live in the illusion that foreign aid is a major portion of the US budget.

Americans assume that everyone all over the planet really wants to imitate the American way, which consists these days of high rates of divorce, high rates of abortion, innumerably many men in prison, and American children lagging behind in education.

With such a depressing record, what is the point of patting ourselves in the back that we, after more than nine years of effort, finally killed an elderly man suffering from diabetes?


You're exactly right, but they won't hear it over the flapping of all those American flags. Nor will they hear rjpal's comment above.

I'm glad the religious zealot has been taken out...I'm always happy to see religious zealots of any stripe extinguished. Zealotry in any form, including the those who push American exceptionalism, are the most dangerous humans of all.

Osama bin Laden Dead



Conspiracy Fodder Coming Atcha'

What is it that these morons who decided a sea burial of bin Laden within 24 hrs, ostensively to prevent his followers from created a shrine on land, was a good idea? And why the hell would the compound where he was supposedly killed be burned to the ground? There's your shrine right there.

If you thought the birthers were annoying...

Start here: We think that bin Laden 'death photo' is a fake

Prez Zinging Trump


And the turkey deserved every zinger hurled.

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