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Author Archive

Lap Dancers, the CIA, Pay-offs, and BP’s Deepwater Horizon

Friday, April 18th, 2014

 

 

Earlier this month, the Obama Administration officially OK’d BP’s right to resume drilling in the Gulf of Mexico. And two weeks ago, just to assure the company that all is forgiven, the U.S. Department of the Interior gave BP a new contract to drill in the Gulf of Mexico––right next to where the Deepwater Horizon went down. At the same time, the forgive-and-forget U.S. Justice Department has put the trial of David Rainey, the only BP big-shot charged with a felony crime in the disaster, on indefinite hold. [more]

Only Reason For Climate Denial

Thursday, April 17th, 2014

…There is only on leg on which climate denial stands: Money.

The polluters give and spend money to create false doubt. The polluters give and spend money to buy political influence. the polluters give and spend money to keep polluting. that’s it. Not truth, not science, not ecomonics, not safety, not policy, and  certainly not religion, nor morality.”

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, 2013

Rural Americans have inferior Internet access — High Country News

Sunday, February 16th, 2014

Does it matter that broadband quality varies so widely?

“As the Internet becomes a more integral part of daily life, people with shoddy connections are at an economic disadvantage. Fast Internet is necessary to take video-based online classes and to sign up for health care. (Imagine the horror of trying to navigate Healthcare.gov with dial-up.) Rural hospitals use it to video-conference with urban medical specialists, and schoolteachers increasingly record lectures that students can watch at home.”

via Rural Americans have inferior Internet access — High Country News.

.:Middle East Online::Hypocritical Righteousness on Syria:.

Thursday, September 5th, 2013

Screen Shot 2013-09-05 at 11.49.40 AMHypocritical Righteousness on Syria

Secretary of State John Kerry waxed eloquent about the need to punish national leaders who violate international law. He meant Syria’s Bashar al-Assad but his lecture could have applied to American officials who enabled the invasion of Iraq, including himself, just one of many US hypocrisies, as Lawrence Davidson notes.

Middle East Online

President Barack Obama sidestepped the political hole he had dug for himself (what we might call the “red line” hole) over his proposed attack on Syria. Having insisted there must be “consequences” for a breach of international law, specifically the alleged use of banned chemical weapons by the Syrian government, he was faced with both popular American reluctance to support military action and congressional pique over not being included in the decision process.

As a consequence President Obama announced on Aug. 31 that he now supports a congressional debate and vote on the issue of attacking Syria. Then he told us how he sees the situation, “This [Syrian chemical] attack is an assault on human dignity. … It risks making a mockery of the global prohibition on the use of chemical weapons. … Ultimately this is not about who occupies this [White House] office at any given time, it’s about who we are as a country.”

For all I know, the President really believes his own words, but I am pretty sure his implied question of “who we are as a country” is meant to be rhetorical. If one was to give an evidence-based answer to that inquiry, as it relates to chemical weapons, it would be embarrassing in the extreme.

Lest we forget, the US. defoliated parts of Vietnam with a chemical weapon called Agent Orange and by its use killed a lot more than large swaths of jungle. Agent Orange killed and maimed an estimated 400,000 Vietnamese and an estimated half a million children have subsequently been born deformed. It also did a fatal job on many of the American troops that handled the stuff.

Later, the US. sold chemical and biological weapons-grade material to Saddam Hussein and followed up by helping his army aim the stuff accurately at Iranian troops. Saddam also used it on the Iraqi Kurds. Then there is the fact that our “very special friend,” Israel, used phosphorous bombs (a banned chemical weapon) on the civilians of Gaza. At the time Israel did this, President Obama occupied the Oval Office.

I don’t remember him displaying any moral angst or positioning US. ships in the eastern Mediterranean with cruise missiles aimed at Israeli airbases. The truth is that during all of these episodes no one in the government worried (at least publicly) about what our actions or lack thereof, said about what sort of country this is.

However, this question does deserve a direct answer. What sort of country is the US. in relation to the use of chemical weapons? The kindest answer one can give is it is a bloody hypocritical nation.

Back to Congress

Nonetheless, sending the issue of a possible attack on Syria to Congress is a timely political move for the President. It puts off having to face the dilemma of taking military action that cannot both constitute meaningful punishment for the violation of international law and, at the same time, keep the US. from becoming ever more deeply embroiled in the Syrian civil war.

It also could be a good political move for the US. as a whole because it creates a good precedent. Having Congress debate and vote on the issue of military action against Syria could help resuscitate the moribund War Powers Act. Although Obama claims he has the authority to launch an attack no matter what Congress decides, he would be politically hard pressed to do so if the legislators said don’t do it.

Thus the maneuver might narrow the otherwise rapidly expanding powers of the imperial presidency. Of course, none of this means that Congress can’t be scared or otherwise bamboozled into giving the President the power to do something militarily stupid. Vietnam and Iraq stand as powerful precedents in that regard.

There is another very interesting potential consequence of the President’s going to Congress. It might create a situation where there is a publicly noticeable difference between the express desires of a majority of the voting population and the special interests now encouraging military action against Syria.

In my last analysis, I laid out the idea that in the interim between elections, influential special interests have much more to say about policy than do the voters, most of whom pay little attention to foreign policy. Now, however, we have a rare moment when the populace is paying attention and polls indicate that a healthy majority do not want further intervention in the Middle East.

Who will the Congress respond to in the upcoming debate and vote, their special interest constituents or the voting kind?

Of course, the notion that the President of the United States, with or without congressional approval, has the authority to act as the world’s “policeman” and punish violators of international laws, that it itself flaunts, is offensive and dangerous.

There are international institutions in place such as the International Criminal Court (ICC) that, imperfect as they are, can be used to prosecute violations such as the use of banned weapons. (It is to be noted that the cause of “human dignity” would be greatly advanced if the US. would stop refusing to ratify the treaty empowering the ICC).

How do you characterize a situation where one or a small number of community members takes it upon themselves to go outside the law to punish alleged wrongdoers? Here in the US. this is known as “vigilante justice.” Most often this sort of behavior results is a “lynching” based on little or no reliable evidence.

President Obama’s going to Congress will not change the vigilante nature of US intentions. Let’s just hope that Congress listens to the people this time around and tells the President to keep his cruise missiles to himself. And then, let’s hope he does just that.

Lawrence Davidson is a history professor at West Chester University in Pennsylvania. He is the author of Foreign Policy Inc.: Privatizing America’s National Interest;America’s Palestine: Popular and Official Perceptions fromBalfour to Israeli Statehood; andIslamicFundamentalism.

Consortiumnews

From: .:Middle East Online::Hypocritical Righteousness on Syria:..

E.J. Dionne Jr.: Justice Scalia should resign – The Washington Post

Thursday, June 27th, 2013

ej-dionne-114x80

Justice Antonin Scalia needs to resign from the Supreme Court.

He’d have a lot of things to do. He’s a fine public speaker and teacher. He’d be a heck of a columnist and blogger. But he really seems to aspire to being a politician — and that’s the problem.

E.J. Dionne Jr. Writes about politics in a twice-a-week column and on the PostPartisan blog.

So often, Scalia has chosen to ignore the obligation of a Supreme Court justice to be, and appear to be, impartial. He’s turned “judicial restraint” into an oxymoronic phrase. But what he did this week, when the court announced its decision on the Arizona immigration law, should be the end of the line.

Not content with issuing a fiery written dissent, Scalia offered a bench statement questioning President Obama’s decision to allow some immigrants who were brought to the United States illegally as children to stay. Obama’s move had nothing to do with the case in question. Scalia just wanted you to know where he stood.“After this case was argued and while it was under consideration, the secretary of homeland security announced a program exempting from immigration enforcement some 1.4 million illegal immigrants,” Scalia said. “The president has said that the new program is ‘the right thing to do’ in light of Congress’s failure to pass the administration’s proposed revision of the immigration laws. Perhaps it is, though Arizona may not think so. But to say, as the court does, that Arizona contradicts federal law by enforcing applications of federal immigration law that the president declines to enforce boggles the mind.”

What boggles the mind is that Scalia thought it proper to jump into this political argument. And when he went on to a broader denunciation of federal policies, he sounded just like an Arizona Senate candidate.

“Arizona bears the brunt of the country’s illegal immigration problem,” the politician-justice proclaimed. “Its citizens feel themselves under siege by large numbers of illegal immigrants who invade their property, strain their social services, and even place their lives in jeopardy. Federal officials have been unable to remedy the problem, and indeed have recently shown that they are simply unwilling to do so.

“Arizona has moved to protect its sovereignty — not in contradiction of federal law, but in complete compliance with it.” Cue the tea party rally applause.

As it happens, Obama has stepped up immigration enforcement. But if the 76-year-old justice wants to dispute this, he is perfectly free as a citizen to join the political fray and take on the president. But he cannot be a blatantly political actor and a justice at the same time.

Unaccountable power can lead to arrogance. That’s why justices typically feel bound by rules and conventions that Scalia seems to take joy in ignoring. Recall a 2004 incident. Three weeks after the Supreme Court announced it would hear a case over whether the White House needed to turn over documents from an energy task force that Dick Cheney had headed, Scalia went off on Air Force Two for a duck-hunting trip with the vice president.

 

 

Scalia scoffed at the idea that he should recuse himself. “My recusal is required if . . . my ‘impartiality might reasonably be questioned,’ ” he wrote in a 21-page memo. Well, yes. But there was no cause for worry, Scalia explained, since he never hunted with Cheney “in the same blind or had other opportunity for private conversation.”

Don’t you feel better? And can you just imagine what the right wing would have said if Vice President Biden had a case before the court and went duck hunting with Justice Elena Kagan?Then there was the speech Scalia gave at Switzerland’s University of Fribourg a few weeks before the court was to hear a case involving the rights of Guantanamo detainees.

“I am astounded at the world reaction to Guantanamo,” he declared in response to a question. “We are in a war. We are capturing these people on the battlefield. We never gave a trial in civil courts to people captured in a war. War is war and it has never been the case that when you capture a combatant, you have to give them a jury trial in your civil courts. It’s a crazy idea to me.”

It was a fine speech for a campaign gathering, the appropriate venue for a man so eager to brand the things he disagrees with as crazy or mind-boggling. Scalia should free himself to pursue his true vocation. We can then use his resignation as an occasion for a searching debate over just how political this Supreme Court has become.

ejdionne@washpost.com

E.J. Dionne Jr.: Justice Scalia should resign – The Washington Post.

Ku Klux Kourt kills King’s Dream Law

Wednesday, June 26th, 2013

Replaces Voting Rights Act with Katherine Harris Acts
by Greg Palast for Truthout
Tuesday, 25. June 2013
KatherineHarris1They might as well have burned a cross on Dr. King’s grave. The Jim Crow majority on the Supreme Court just took away the vote of millions of Hispanic and African–American voters by wiping away Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
When I say “millions” of voters of color will lose their ballots, I’m not kidding. Let’s add it up.

Last year, the GOP Secretary of State of Florida Ken Detzner tried to purge 180,000 Americans, mostly Hispanic Democrats, from the voter rolls. He was attempting to break Katherine Harris’ record.

Detzner claimed that all these Brown folk were illegal “aliens.”

But Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act requires that 16 states with a bad history of blocking Black and Brown voters must “pre-clear” with the US Justice Department any messing around with voter rolls or voting rules. And so Section 4 stopped Detzner from the racist Brown-out.

I’ll admit there were illegal aliens on Florida’s voter rolls – two of them. Let me repeat that: TWO aliens–One a US Marine serving in Iraq (not yet a citizen); the other an Austrian who registered as a Republican.

We can go from state to state in Dixie and see variations of the Florida purge game. It quickly adds up to millions of voters at risk.

Yet the 5-to-4 Court majority ruled, against all evidence, that, “Blatantly discriminatory evasions [of minority voting rights] are rare.” Since there are no more racially bent voting games, the right-wing Robed Ones conclude there’s no more reason for “pre-clearance.”

Whom do they think they’re fooling? The Court itself, just last week, ruled that Arizona’s law requiring the showing of citizenship papers was an unconstitutional attack on Hispanic voters. Well, Arizona’s a Section 4 state.

You’ll love this line from the Ku Klux Kourt majority. They wrote that the “coverage” of Section 4 applies to states where racially bent voting systems are now “eradicated practices.”

“Eradicated?” I assume they didn’t see the lines of Black folk in Florida last November. That was the result of the deliberate reducing of the number of polling places and early voting hours in minority areas. Indeed, if the Justice Department, wielding Section 4, hadn’t blocked Florida from half its ballot-box trickery, Obama would have lost that state’s electoral votes.

And that’s really what’s going on here: The problem is not that the Court majority is racist. They’re worse: they’re Republicans.

We’ve had Republicans, like the great Earl Warren, who put on the robes and take off their party buttons.

But this crew, beginning with Bush v. Gore, is viciously partisan. They note that, “minority candidates hold office at unprecedented levels.” And the Republican Supremes mean to put an end to that. See “Obama” and “Florida” above.

And when they say “minority” they mean “Democrat.”

Because that’s the difference between 1965 and today. When the law was first enacted, based on the personal pleas of Martin Luther King, African-Americans were blocked by politicians who did not like the color of their skin.

But today, it’s the color of the ballot of minorities – overwhelmingly Democratic Blue—which is the issue.

Pre-clearance goes WAY north of the Confederacy to Alaska where Alaska’s Natives are often frozen out of the voting system–and West to California.

In the Golden State, an astonishing 40% of voter registration forms were rejected by the Republican Secretary of State on cockamamie clerical grounds. When civil rights attorney Robert F. Kennedy and I investigated, we learned that the reject pile was overwhelmingly Chicano and Asian—and overwhelmingly Democratic.

How? Jim Crown ain’t gone, he’s moved into cyberspace. The new trick is lynching by laptop: removing voters, as was done in Florida and Arizona (and a dozen other states), by using poisoned databases to pick out “illegal” and “felon” and “inactive” voters—who all happen to be of the Hispanic or African-American persuasion. The GOP, for all the tears of its consultants, knows it can’t rock these votes, so they block these votes.

Despite the racial stench of today’s viciously anti-democratic ruling, the GOP majority knew they were “handicapping” the next Presidential run by a good six million votes. (That’s the calculation that RFK and I can up with for the racially-bent vote loss in 2004—and the GOP will pick up at least that in the next run.)

And the Court knew full well that their ruling today was the same as stuffing several hundred thousand GOP Red votes into the ballot boxes for the 2014 Congressional races.

The Republican court knows that to swipe 2016, they had to replace the Voting Rights Act with a revival of the Katherine Harris act.

Ku Klux Kourt kills King’s Dream Law.

Obamacare Explained: A Guide for Californians | KQED Public Media for Northern CA

Thursday, June 6th, 2013

Obamacare Explained: A Guide for Californians | KQED Public Media for Northern CA.Starting January 1, 2014, most Americans will be required to have health insurance or pay a fine. It’s part of President Obama’s Affordable Care Act. Whether you love it, hate it or are just plain confused, the ACA is the law of the land. The thousand-page law covers a lot of ground and figuring out what part of it has to do with you can be a challenge.

Don’t panic.

We’re here for you. This guide explains how the health law affects you, your family or your small business, here in California. It’s for people who already have insurance and people who don’t — but want to get it. We outline the new health insurance options offered to you as a Californian and show you how to access them. If you’re concerned about the cost, we also show you what help is available.

Simple. Understandable. Portable. Shareable.

You can download the printable version of this guide or pull it up on your smart phone or tablet.

You can also post any part of this guide on your blog or website — simply click the embed button on any page. And, of course, you can share the guide with your friends on Twitter and Facebook.

Ready to start? First, pick the category that describes you:

I have health insurance, I do not have health insurance or I am a small business owner.

Eve Lurie Blog

Thursday, April 25th, 2013
War Criminal George W. Bush

Oakland, California
Grand Lake Theatre Marquee Skewers Bush

I snapped this pic with my iPhone waiting at a red light. Just wish I had time to make a better picture. Click it to see the whole scalding message.

Not enough has been said about George W. Bush being a war criminal. He should be tried for his many crimes against the people of the United States. The ramifications of his time in office continue to haunt the American people. His legacy will not be erased easily while current presidents struggle with the mess he left behind.

Richard RJ Eskow: 9 Chained CPI Facts They Dont Want You to Know

Wednesday, April 17th, 2013

Richard (RJ) Eskow

 

 

 

 

The “chained CPI” proposal in President Obama’s budget continues to draw much-deserved fire, which is only likely to increase as more information about it becomes known.

Here are nine embarrassing facts about the chained CPI which the White House and its defenders would prefer to see overlooked:

1. Of course it’s a benefit cut.

Chained-CPI defenders say it’s not a benefit cut. It’s just a slowdown in the rate of the benefit’s planned increases. That’s a silly semantic game unworthy of serious leaders or analysts. The Social Security benefit, as laid out on the Social Security Administration’s website, includes adjustments designed to keep pace with the rising cost of living.

Those adjustments aren’t a benefit increase. They’re designed to prevent the benefit from being decreased as a result of inflation. If you lower that adjustment, you’re cutting benefits. Period.

2. Of course it’s a tax hike.

Same goes for the tax impact of the chained CPI.  Our tax brackets were designed to make sure that taxes didn’t go up inadvertently because inflation kicked them into a higher tax bracket.  That was done to make sure that people who weren’t earning more in real dollars – which includes many (if not most) of the “99 percent” – weren’t hit with an unearned tax hike.

If you substitute the chained CPI for the current formula, as the president has proposed, people will be kicked into higher tax brackets earlier. Then they’ll pay more in taxes, even if they’re not making any more “real” money.

That’s a tax hike.

3. And it’s a tax hike for everybody but the wealthy.

In fact, it’s a tax hike on all but the highest levels of income. The richest earnings won’t be affected because they’re already in the highest tax bracket.

Got it? So it’s a tax hike on everybody except the richest among us. (Actually, it’s a tax hike for them too, but only on their lower levels of income. The richer you are, the less you’ll see in a tax-rate increase.)

4. You could save much more money in other, better ways.

The White House has said the chained CPI will save $122 billion in benefits over ten years. Leaving aside the fact that Social Security doesn’t affect the deficit (which we’ll discuss shortly), here’s what isn’t being done:

Close capital gains loopholes: $174 billion.
End the Bush tax cuts at Obama’s original $250,000 level, rather than the compromise $400,000 number: $183 billion.
Cut overseas military bases by 20 percent: $200 billion.
Negotiate with drug companies: $220 billion.
Enact “Defense-friendly” Pentagon cuts: $519 billion.
End corporate tax loopholes (without being “revenue neutral,” as the President’s proposing): $1.24 trillion.
Enact a financial transaction tax on the folks who ruined our economy: $1.8 trillion.

Faced with those numbers, the chained-CPI benefit cut is… well, embarrassing. (Details, and additional alternate deficit reducers, here.)

5. The White House’s proposed “bump” disproves its own argument.

The administration’s been claiming that the chained CPI is merely a “technical adjustment” designed to make cost-of-living increases more accurate. But it’s just introduced an adjustment for seniors who live longer in order to offset the impact of its reduction over time.

But if the chained CPI really measured inflation more accurately, it wouldn’t affect real benefits any more after 20 or 30 years than it did after the first year. Confusing? We explain here. (With pictures and everything.)

Bottom line? They know it’s a benefit cut.

6. It’s political suicide for Democrats.

The polls are clear on that question. Voters over 50 hate the chained CPI. It doesn’t matter whether they’re Democrats, Republicans, or independents. They hate it.

And older Americans are more likely to vote than other voters (who also hate it, according to earlier polls.)

It took the Republicans all of 15 minutes to portray this move, which they’ve supported for a long time, as a “shocking attack on seniors.” They’re ready to run a reply of their successful 2010 strategy, when they ran to the left of Dems with a “Seniors’ Bill of Rights” — and recaptured the House.

7. The Social Security cut doesn’t reduce the deficit.

Social Security doesn’t contribute to the deficit, since it’s funded separately. In fact, it’s forbidden by lawfrom contributing to the deficit.

It doesn’t even belong in these negotiations.

8. That tax hike on everybody except the wealthy will help a little. But …

On the other hand, they’ll be hitting everybody except millionaires and billionaires with tax increases that grow with every passing year.

If regressive taxation is something you believe in, then I guess that’s something. Except for our last embarrassing fact …

9. The deficit’s already shrinking rapidly.

The deficit is already shrinking — and “rapidly,” in the words of those radical lefties at Goldman Sachs.

The deficit isn’t our most urgent economic problem. It’s not even close. We desperately need jobs, real wage growth, consumer confidence, financial security for the elderly and disabled (which means increasingSocial Security) …

Sure, deficits need to be addressed after the economy’s been righted, but right now they’re nowhere near the top of the list.

In fact, there’s an extremely good chance that the cuts in the president’s budget will make the deficit worse, as austerity cuts have in Europe. The Republican budget would certainly have that effect, since its cuts are far more severe.

The bottom line? The chained CPI is the wrong answer to the wrong problem at the wrong time. It’s time for the White House to recognize that and move on. In the meantime Democrats need to walk away from it fast, before they pay a high price for it at the polls.

Richard RJ Eskow: 9 Chained CPI Facts They Dont Want You to Know.

Arianna Huffington: 20 Great Ideas From Cities That Could Change the Country

Tuesday, April 2nd, 2013
ahuff

Arianna Huffington

m_bloomberg

Michael R. Bloomberg

Conversations about how government isn’t working are all too common — and for good reason. Washington is paralyzed by special interest politics and partisan gamesmanship.

Elected officials serving their local communities are just as frustrated with Washington as the rest of the American people. Local leaders are pragmatic problem-solvers, not partisan warriors. Citizens expect safe streets, good schools, affordable services — and it’s up to local governments to deliver…Solutions to many of our most pressing challenges will need to be pioneered in cities — and, based on what is already happening, we have great faith and optimism that they will…Today, on behalf of The Huffington Post and Bloomberg Philanthropies, we are excited to launch a new platform that celebrates the boldness and creativity of mayors and cities across the country…
In this new section, you’ll find video submissions from the 20 finalist cities pitching their ideas and hear directly from their mayors…Watch videos and view posts from the 20
Bloomberg Philanthropies’ Mayors Challenge finalists:

Arianna Huffington: 20 Great Ideas From Cities That Could Change the Country.

Mayors Challenge