Saturday, December 31, 2011

Why a Woman of Color Risked Her "Honorary White Man" Status to Blow the Whistle at EPA

Evaggelos Vallianatos, Truthout: "I met Marsha Coleman-Adebayo in 1990 in Washington, DC. She was working for the World Wildlife Fund, an international environmental organization.... She sued EPA for racism and retaliation - and she won.... It is an interesting, inspiring and well-written book; the story it tells is revealing of larger national environmental and political issues. It is a microcosm of racism in American society, callousness and imperialism in foreign policy, and corporate domination of the government and the world."
Read the Article

The Belittle Big Bodies Banzai: A Year-End OWS Salute and Immune Key to 2012

by: W. David Kubiak, Truthout | Op-Ed 
Yes, Virginia, there really are silver bullets and here's a sterling one for you.

After a lifetime clashing with monstrous corporate bodies in the US, India and Japan, I hobble into the Occupation arena with a grateful hallelujah and some wild reconnaissance.

The hallelujah is a chorus, by the way.
It also arises from countless other US expatriates who have long lived abroad and prayed for signs of a Yankee spring, i.e. any American uprising against the rampant, corporate coup that's beggared the nation at home and scarred its honor overseas.

As for the recon, life in Asia teaches you to see the world as an interplay of living systems - ancient, healthy ones like tribes, wetlands and mammal bodies, and newly emerging malignant ones like megacorporations. It also suggests we're not simply facing a random series of fiscal, social or environmental crises, but a human/megacorps endgame battle for future of the earth.

Like the sorcerer's apprentice, we have conjured up an army of intended servant beings that have grown colossal, escaped our control and now overrun the planet. Indigenous leaders have begun calling big multinationals bodies an "alien invasive species" that menace their cultures and homelands more than any threat they've faced before.

In this view, Big Banks, Big Oil, Big Pharma, Big Agrobiz, Big "Defense" et gargantuan cetera are all variations of an emergent new life form - sensually/spiritually/morally blind superorganisms that are alive, in charge and out of control. These Big Bodies' sickening effects on our lands and lives are everywhere apparent, but the good news is that they are a monocultured mutation and remedies that incapacitate some may help to cure them all.  READ MORE

Poverty Matters!: A Christmas Miracle

Charity Crowell, 9, checks her school supplies at the trailer where she lives
by: Paul Thomas, The Daily Censored | News Analysis 
Something profound appears to have occurred—a cosmic shift in the education reform debate that reflects our larger social debates in the U.S.

After Ladd and Fiske published a commentary in The New York Times“Class Matters. Why Won’t We Admit It?,” and Diane Ravitch blogged “Scrooge and School Reform,” several commentators quickly chimed in about the poverty debate in education.

Amanda Ripley commented on her own blog to clarify: “I also agree that out-of-school factors are hugely impactful on student learning, of course.”

And more directly and fully, Peter Meyer has offered “A Christmas Carol For Our Schools”: “What I don’t understand in all of this is who exactly is claiming that class (or poverty or parents or kids) doesn’t matter?  Ladd and Fiske spend most of their essay stating the obvious: that socio-economic circumstance matters to education outcomes.”  READ MORE

Contractors' Role Grows in Drone Missions, Worrying Some in the Military

David S. Cloud, McClatchy Newspapers: "America's growing drone operations rely on hundreds of civilian contractors, including some, such as the SAIC employee, who work in the so-called kill chain before Hellfire missiles are launched, according to current and former military officers, company employees and internal government documents. Relying on private contractors has brought corporations that operate for profit into some of America's most sensitive military and intelligence operations. And using civilians makes some in the military uneasy."
Read the Article

How Many US Casualties in Iraq? Guess Again.

Casualties and the injured during the Iraq War, 12/30/11. (photo: US Navy Seals)
By Dan Froomkin, Reader Supported News

30 December 11

Reports about the end of the war in Iraq routinely describe the toll on the U.S. military the way the Pentagon does: 4,487 dead, and 32,226 wounded.

The death count is accurate. But the wounded figure wildly understates the number of American servicemembers who have come back from Iraq less than whole.

The true number of military personnel injured over the course of our nine-year-long fiasco in Iraq is in the hundreds of thousands - maybe even more than half a million - if you take into account all the men and women who returned from their deployments with traumatic brain injuries, post-traumatic stress, depression, hearing loss, breathing disorders, diseases, and other long-term health problems.

We don't have anything close to an exact number, however, because nobody's been keeping track.

2011: The Year The Right-Wing Media's Foreign Policy Argument Fell Apart

Rightwing headline
Since President Obama took office, right-wing media have argued that his foreign policy is making the United States less safe and is bent on attacking Israel. Those attacks have continued in 2011, even as the Obama administration has overseen the death of Al Qaeda leaders Osama bin Laden and Anwar Al-Awlaki, repeatedly supported Israel, and been praised by Israeli leaders. Read More

What Are Your Twitter Followers Worth, and Who Owns Them?

Twitter bird on branch artwork, 06/15/09. (art: Twitter)
Brian Ries, The Daily Beast

Ries begins: "It wasn't too long ago when hastily departing employees were denied the chance to grab Rolodexes from atop their desks. Goodbyes were brief. Doors were held open. The tragedy, as it were, was that these outgoing employees were swiftly neutered of their networks - that giant web of business contacts mapping those with money to those who seek it - and forced to start over at their next place of employment."

ALEC-Linked Group Revealed as Major Secret Donor In Referendum on Maine Voting Rights

Maine Gov. Paul LePage, 12/21/11. (photo:
By Scott Keyes, ThinkProgress
30 December 11

ast month, Maine voters delivered a major rebuke to Gov. Paul LePage (R) and the Republican-held legislature when they approved a referendum restoring election day voting registration rights in the state. Earlier this year, state legislators passed a bill repealing the state's 38 year-old law allowing citizens to register at the polls on election day.

Tens of thousands of Mainers responded by petitioning for the matter come to a referendum. Issue 1 was one of the most-anticipated votes on election day this year, with pundits watching closely to see how citizens would react to the Republican-led war on voting, which ramped up in states across the country this year.

Recognizing the referendum's importance, voting rights opponents poured money into the campaign to repeal election day registration. In fact, just two days after the state's campaign finance reporting deadline, a secret conservative donor funneled $250,000 into the race, allowing the No On 1 campaign to make significant TV ad buys in an inexpensive media market.

Per state law, however, the identity of donors must be revealed within 45 days after the election. In fact, the entire $250,000 worth of late money came from a single source: the American Justice Partnership.

US and Iran Continue War of Words Over Hormuz

By Al Jazeera
30 December 11

standoff between Iran and the US over Tehran's threats to close the strategic Strait of Hormuz to oil tankers has worsened, with warships from each side giving weight to an increasingly bellicose exchange of words.

Iran's Revolutionary Guards rejected a warning that the US military would "not tolerate" such a closure, saying they would act decisively "to protect our vital interests".

Iran said it would shut the strait if the West imposed more sanctions over its nuclear programme.
State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said on Thursday that Iran had exhibited "irrational behaviour" by threatening to close the strait.

"One can only guess that the international sanctions are beginning to feel the pinch, and that the ratcheting up of pressure, particularly on their oil sector, is pinching in a way that is causing them to lash out," she said.  READ MORE

Montana Supreme Court Upholds State's Ban on Corporate Campaign Cash

Montana Supreme Court

The Montana Supreme Court on Friday upheld the state’s century-old ban on direct corporate spending for or against state political candidates.
The court ruled 5-2 in favor of the state’s attorney general’s office and commissioner of political practices, which had defended the 1912 voter-passed initiative.

Western Tradition Partnership, a conservative political group based in Washington, D.C., and others had successfully argued in state District Court that the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2010 decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission rendered the Montana law unconstitutional. District Judge Jeffrey Sherlock had ruled in their favor.

But the Supreme Court majority saw it differently.

“Citizens United does not compel a conclusion that Montana’s law prohibiting independent political expenditures by a corporation related to a candidate is unconstitutional,” Chief Justice Mike McGrath wrote for the majority. “Rather, applying the principles enunciated in Citizens United, it is clear that Montana has a compelling interest to impose the challenged rationally-tailored statutory restriction.“

Now You've Gone and Made Newt Cry

Newt Gingrich... So Sad!
Sam Stein reports that little Newtie is feeling all sorry for himself now that he's tanking in Iowa after being barraged by 10 million dollars worth of negative ads:
At the Rotary Club, he waxed nostalgic about the old days, recalling -- in a sanitized way -- how he had run a "positive" campaign to taker over the House based on his "Contract with America."

"It was a positive, issue-oriented campaign that fall," he told the Rotarians. He said he had wanted to do the same in the presidential campaign but had been blindsided by how nasty and "cynical" the contest was. "We got off to a bad start," he said. "I can't do modern politics." A tired Gingrich suddenly looked the part of the college professor he once was.
Right. He don't know nothin' bout all this negativity. He's just an old country perfesser --- a political Mr Chips, if you will --- who got caught in the crossfire of modern political warfare. 

Kentucky Prepares To Turn its Largest Hospital Over to Religious Fanatics

University Hospital Kentucky
Kentucky is about to turn its largest public hospital over to a bunch of women-hating, poor-people-exploiting, child-rapist-protecting, anti-Democratic, un-American clerics who will let people die rather than obey the law.

(Kentucky Governor Steve) Beshear said he wants to make a decision “by the end of the year.”“I think the merger partners have requested that I do that because they’ve got some … legal issues with bonds and different things that if they get to move ahead they need to do so by Dec. 31,” Beshear said. “So I think I owe it to them. I think we’ve spent the time we need to spend, and gathered the information we need to gather, and I’ve got to sit down once I get the attorney general’s report — either this afternoon or tomorrow — and make a decision.”

In Last Three Years, Student Debt Of Middle-Age Americans Grew By Nearly 50 Percent

Middle aged people return to school
An analysis by Reuters finds that “middle-aged borrowers are piling up student debt faster than any other age group,” with debt for those aged 35-49 increasing by nearly 50 percent in the last three years. 

The reason for this debt explosion is that “the tough economy has pushed people to seek mid-career training,” while more people are attending for-profit colleges, which push students to pile up larger debt loads. (HT: Jordan Weissmann)

San Francisco Becomes First in Nation with $10 Minimum Wage (and the Sky Isn't Going to Fall)

"Sir,  would you like me to add french fries to your order?"
The business community is screaming that the higher wages will "cost jobs," but the data suggest otherwise.

December 30, 2011

On January 1, the minimum wage in San Francisco will cross the psychological threshold of $10 an hour. An automatic cost-of-living adjustment built into city law will raise the wage floor 3.2 percent, from its current $9.92 to $10.24. Predictably, employers have been warning that the increase will cost jobs. In fact, a great deal of economic evidence suggests otherwise.

Last March, my CEPR colleague, David Rosnick, and I finished a detailed study of the employment impact of the first three years of the San Francisco minimum wage. Back in early 2004, San Francisco established a city-wide minimum wage of $8.50 --25 percent higher than the $6.75 California state minimum wage at the time and 65 percent higher than the prevailing federal minimum of $5.15.
We analyzed employment patterns in a range of industries with a high share of low-wage workers, including fast food and retail. We compared trends in wages and employment in San Francisco before and after the increase with trends over the same period in San Francisco's adjacent suburbs and, separately, in nearby Oakland, two areas where the minimum wage was unchanged.

To rule out statistical flukes, we looked at the impact after one year, then two years, then three years. We also examined the impact on low-wage employers, regardless of industry, and we isolated the impact on small employers (fewer than 10 employees and 10 to 24 employees).

We consistently found that the minimum-increased boosted wages, but had no discernible impact on employment. Wages rose significantly in fast food, broader food services, and in low-wage establishments (regardless of industry). Because wages in San Francisco were already relatively high in retail trade, the law had no significant impact on wages in that sector. At the same time, the new, higher minimum wage had no measurable impact --one way or the other-- on employment in these same industries and establishments.

Our Economy Has Failed -- Until We Admit That, We're Screwed

Industries, communities, natural resources, even sports leagues have collapsed as Ronald Reagan’s corrosive vision has become dominant.

December 30, 2011

At the foot of Manhattan’s Broadway Ave., just below Wall Street, stands one of the city’s most reliable tourism draws: Arturo Di Modica’s 3.5-ton statue of a charging bull. Since 1989, the sculpture has been an iconic symbol of American wealth, of the aggressive capitalist spirit that, it is argued, made this country great and powerful. Visitors flock from around the world to rub the bull’s horns for good luck. Or they used to, at least. Now, tourists snap pictures from behind police barricades.

For more than two months, the raging bull of wealth has sat caged, facing eye-to-eye with a New York Police Department cruiser as cops have worked around the clock to protect it from the Occupy Wall Street movement. The park’s administrator has called the security “Orwellian.” That’s to say the least.
If you’re looking for visuals to encapsulate 2011, look no further than the bizarre scene at Di Modica’s bull. Daily, the country’s largest police force mobilizes to protect the idea of American prosperity from an imagined threat, while the actual economy lays gored and gutted by demonstrable and ongoing crimes.

Schizoid Sexual Society: Focused on the Petty Sex Scandals, Ignoring the Ones That Really Matter

Why isn't it a bigger scandal when politicians chip away at our rights to control our bodies and our sexuality? 
December 29, 2011

In a year when America has been otherwise austerity-obsessed, we are still sex-scandal rich. But while we certainly flock like moths to the scandal flame when that flame is a photo of a Congressman's penis, isn't it just as much of a scandal when Congressmen (and women) want to redefine rape, criminalize abortion and sex work, and chip away at our rights to control our bodies and our sexuality? Why is the media so easily obsessed when casting aspersions on the real or imagined sex lives of the already powerful, but not when the powerful target the rest of us? Before we get all misty-eyed with nostalgia – or tear gas – let's look back on some of 2011's sex scandals, with attention to the ones that should have scandalized us all.

  • Cops Got Bailed Out, We Got...?
  •  Anthony Weiner, Sext Addict?
  • Trafficking in Lies
  • The Scarlet Letter Lives On
  • Trial By Post
  • Blastocysts: Not People
  • Ashton Gets “Real”
  • Pro-Choice Movements: We Need a Plan B
  • Unoccupy My Body
       READ MORE

Thomas Frank: How the Right Wing Hijacked Rage Over the Economic Collapse and Swindled America

Frank discusses one of the most important political developments of the Obama presidency: how the crash of 2008 served to strengthen the political right.
December 28, 2011

In his new book, “Pity the Billionaire,” Tom Frank turns his mordant eye on the unlikeliest political development of the Obama presidency: how the crash of 2008 served to strengthen the political right. The deregulation of Wall Street, championed for 30 years by right-wing leaders, had led to an economic catastrophe so frightening that the country elected a liberal Democrat to the presidency. Yet two years later, the most conservative faction of the Republican Party, the Tea Party, had taken effective control of the House of Representatives, the regulation of Wall Street had stalled, and the champions of economic deregulation in Washington had emerged stronger than ever.

Frank, author of the bestselling book “What’s the Matter With Kansas?” provides a pithy and nuanced explanation of what he calls the “hard-times swindle.” He spoke with Salon from his father’s home in Kansas City, Mo.

Early in the book, you describe the moment in the spring of 2009 when free-market economics had been so thoroughly discredited that Newsweek could run a cover story proclaiming, “We’re all socialists now.” What happened? Why did that moment dissipate?

Friday, December 30, 2011

AlterNet's Most Widely Read Stories of 2011

Here are the stories you found the most interesting in the past year.
December 19, 2011

It was an eventful year, from the Arab Spring to the growth of the Occupy Movement. Regimes fell, Osama Bin Laden was killed and the fabric of the European Union appeared to fray. 
Throughout it all, AlterNet brought its readers the progressive news and analysis they've come to expect. 
Here are your favorite stories from 2011, as measured by the number of readers who clicked on them.


Sacha Baron Cohen's "Interviews" With Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul Tell Us a Lot About the 2012 GOP Field

Last night on MSNBC, Lawrence O'Donnell quoted Newt Gingrich saying that his bipartisan climate change ad with Nancy Pelosi (remember the one?) was the "dumbest single thing" he's done in recent years. "Oh yeah?" asked O'Donnell. What about his 2006 appearance on Da Ali G Show, during which Sacha Baron Cohen completely owns Gingrich on welfare, among other topics. (During the interview, Gingrich never did figure out that the show was a joke.) READ MORE

5 Outrageous Food Stories of 2011

There’s never a shortage of interesting and incendiary stories about food issues to choose from at the end of the year. This year is no exception. As we continue to build our campaign to improve the Farm Bill in 2012, we can see examples of why this work is so important just by taking a look at some of the most outrageous food stories of 2011…
1. Attack on Food Safety Budgets
2. Fair Livestock Rule
3. Taxpayers funding GE salmon
4. Arsenic in Apple Juice
5. Beaver Anal Glands (A rude awakening from a former food exec.)

Occupy Protesters Interrupt Ron Paul During Campaign Event: "Why Do You Hate Gays?"

Yesterday we reported that Occupy protesters were making their way to Iowa to hold a "People's Caucus," interrupt candidates, and camp out at campaign offices. And last night Ron Paul got his first taste of that plan.
As Raw Story reports:
During a rally with veterans last night, candidate Paul saw his speech interrupted by a group of about 20 occupiers, who began shouting as Paul was mid-sentence. After a few seconds, the crowd responded with a boisterous chant of the candidate’s name, over and over again.
“Why do you hate gays?” one of the protesters shouted. “Why do you hate the 99 percent?” Another reportedly asked why he wants to repeal Roe v. Wade and “control a woman’s reproductive decisions.”
All good questions! Paul's response: "Freedom of speech, ain't it wonderful?" (Yes, yes it is.)
Watch video of the incident below.

Santorum's Plan to End Poverty: More Marriage

Rick Santorum, the GOP 2012 presidential hopeful who has seen his support triple in Iowa, laid out a plan to end poverty at a campaign stop yesterday. As the Huffington Post’s Amanda Terkel noted, one of the plan’s two components is more marriage:

“Do you know if you do two things in your life — if you do two things in your life, you’re guaranteed never to be in poverty in this country? What two things, that if you do, will guarantee that you will not be in poverty in America?” he asked the crowd.    Read more

Prohibition Fails Again: Banned 'Spice' (Fake Pot) Makes a Sneaky Comeback, Reactionary Lawmakers Can't Even Prosecute Dealers

Amid a media frenzy preying on Reefer-Madness-like anecdotes of bad synthetic drug experiences, legislators across the country banned many drugs they knew little about. Now, months after dozens of states forbade synthetic marijuana and bath salts (meth-like uppers), and just weeks after the House voted overwhelmingly to criminalize more than 40 chemicals found in these drugs, the Washington Post reports "Spice [fake pot] is back."  Back with a vengeance: the laws prohibitionists put into place are not only ineffective, but backfiring: They are creating new drugs and making it difficult even to arrest the very criminals the legislation created.  
 Spice manufacturers, who spray herbs with compounds that mimic the active ingredient in marijuana, have altered their recipes just enough to skirt the bans and are again openly marketing spice in stores and on the Web. Some users report that the new generation of products could be more potent than the original formulas, which have sickened hundreds nationwide and been linked to deaths.
So, fake pot is still available. What's more, enforcing the law by prosecuting the drug's dealers has proven difficult, exemplifying poor planning on behalf of lawmakers. READ MORE

Resolve to Keep Science Experiments off Your Plate in 2012

'Tis the season to reflect on the past year and hold high expectations for the blank slate that awaits in January.
Here's one resolution for all you consumers hoping to improve your health and the environment: Starting in 2012, avoid genetically engineered foods.
It won't be easy. By some estimates, 70 percent of processed food contains engineered ingredients. That's why we need lawmakers and grocery retailers to turn over a new leaf in the coming year and support our right to know what we're eating.
 The variety and volume of engineered crops have steadily increased over the past 15 years, despite the lack of independent research on their long-term effects on human health and the environment. Extolled for their potential to boost nutrients and increase yields to feed a hungry planet, in reality the vast majority of genetically engineered crops are designed solely to resist insects and weeds. In fact, 94 percent of soybeans, 88 percent of corn, and 90 percent of cotton are genetically engineered solely for that purpose. 

Occupying the Conventions? How Protests Will Change Politics-as-Usual in 2012

Photo Credit: Sarah Jaffe
Four years after the moment of "hope and change," the 99% is set to alter the dynamics of presidential elections. 
December 26, 2011

Every era has an iconic image, like a protester standing up to a tank in Tiananmen Square, a military officer shooting a handcuffed Vietnamese prisoner in the head at point-blank range, or the famous zeppelin Hindenburg crashing in flames. These images can end wars, destroy industries or memorialize a moment for a nation forever. The image speaks to us through its raw potency and ability to freeze an instant into a frame. It becomes iconic because it captures a particular cultural zeitgeist. These two elements – authenticity and timeliness – grant such images power.

In the autumn of 2011, a video of the casual pepper-spraying of peaceful student protesters at UC Davis by a police officer dressed in full paramilitary gear gave America a new iconic domestic political image. The video, posted on YouTube, immediately became a cultural sensation, showcasing the willingness of American security forces to use chemical weapons on peaceful Americans posing no physical threat. This iconic video didn’t appear from thin air, but was preceded by months of organizing work and a network of tent cities set up around the country. It now stands as a visual accompaniment to linguistic innovation, the creation of a new language of 21st century depression: the 99% versus the 1%.

Major Ron Paul Supporter Favors Death Penalty for Gays

Paul's endorsement from a Pastor who wants the death penalty for gays exposes his link to Radical Christian Reconstructionists.

December 29, 2011  

At first it seemed like the moment of triumph for the Ron Paul for President campaign. The Texas congressman had won the endorsement of Rev. Phillip G. Kayser, a prominent right-wing Nebraska pastor, just as momentum built toward a possible big win for Paul in next week's GOP caucuses in neighboring Iowa, where evangelicals comprise a majority of voters.
The campaign issued a press release lauding Kayser and trumpeting his endorsement, citing "the enlightening statements he makes on how Ron Paul's approach to government is consistent with Christian beliefs." Then came word of Kayser's "Christian belief" in applying the death penalty for gay male sex, and the Paulites got busy scrubbing their press release from the campaign Web site. (The text of the release and a screen shot can be seen on the Web site Outside the Beltway.).

What reporters Pema Levy and Benjy Sarlin of TPM uncovered when they scrolled through Kayser's writings on his Web site, Biblical Blueprints, were not simply the rantings of a random fringe preacher, but a "blueprint" for the philosophy of Christian Reconstructionism, which seeks to make manifest biblical law as the law of the land. That would include the death penalty not only for the practice of sex between men, but also for adultery and insubordination by children. READ MORE

Wrong ringtone can get you killed in Afghanistan:

Taliban routinely check cell phones to see where loyalties lie
Travelers often carry extra SIM card with pro-Taliban content, just in case

BY David Boroff

Friday, December 30 2011, 1:51 AM

The wrong ringtone can get you killed in the unpredictable and dangerous world of Afghanistan.
Thugs at Taliban checkpoints will often check the cells of travelers for hints of their allegiance.

If your ringtone is Lady Gaga, for instance, the militant group might view it as pro-American and react with hostility or even deadly violence.  As a result, many residents are forced to stock up on Taliban-friendly ringtones in case they are stopped at checkpoints.  READ MORE

How to Wrap Gifts Faaaabulously with Style and Class

The American student loan racket Part one

By Nancy Hanover
3 November 2010

This is the first of a two-part series on the history and predatory policies of the student loan industry. This specialized wing of the finance industry is bankrupting a generation, unabashedly profiteering from the determination of young people to learn, be productive and secure a college degree.

Today’s young adults face a lifetime of diminished expectations, if not outright poverty. A majority of those attending college find themselves caught in the vise of a scissors crisis--low wage jobs and astonishing levels of student loan debt.

This financial strain is leading to rising incidences of depression, broken marriages, the postponement or abandonment of child-bearing, and even decisions to permanently leave the country.

The majority of the parents of college students, after decades of stagnating wages, had only one asset, home equity--a resource that has either vanished or become a punishing debt load under the impact of the housing meltdown. Now the younger generation has mortgaged its future in the form of student loan debt.

The two pillars of the much-touted “American Dream”--home ownership and a college education--have become the means by which the financial aristocracy is plundering both the present and future resources of the working class.

The problem is escalating. In June of this year, US student loan debt exceeded credit card debt for the first time. Now totaling nearly $850 billion, student loan debt is growing at the rate of $90 billion a year. [1]

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Fox's Year Of Class Warfare

December 28, 2011 9:39 am ET — 295 Comments

In 2011, as President Obama and congressional Democrats pushed for increasing taxes on the wealthiest Americans, Fox ramped up its defense of the rich while accusing Obama of attempting to incite a class war. Along the way, Fox relentlessly attacked poor and unemployed Americans, union workers who fought back against attempts by Republicans to strip their right to collectively bargain, and the Occupy Wall Street movement, which has been highlighting increasing income inequality in America. Here, Media Matters looks back at Fox's year of class warfare.

"We Should Be Supporting" The "Mega-Wealthy": Fox Fiercely Defended The Rich

Throughout 2011, Fox figures obsessively defended the wealthy against any possible tax increases proposed by President Obama and congressional Democrats -- even claiming that the rich should pay less in taxes while the poor should pay more. Some Fox figures claimed that "most Americans say" that "patriotism is paying less taxes," while others claimed that those making $200,000 a year are not rich and that increasing their taxes would be unfair. READ MORE

Facebook Set to Turn Users Into Corporate Sponsors

Facebook users could soon find themselves becoming unwitting corporate sponsors under a new advertising scheme unveiled by the social network, 12/28/11. (photo: Daily Mail UK)  
By Damien Gayle, Daily Mail UK
28 Decemeber 11

Facebook users could become unwitting corporate ambassadors under plans by the company to allow the site's main news feed to carry sponsorship messages carrying their mugshots.

Beginning in the New Year, so-called 'sponsored stories' appear in the main news feed that Facebook users' friends see. At present, if you click to 'like' a product, it does not always appear in the main feed.
The new update will show friends your profile picture and the product you have 'endorsed' in much larger form in the main news feed - a move that the site admits is designed to bring in advertising revenue.
Facebook say the scheme is a vital revenue booster, which will help it claw back some of the $1 billion a year it spends on developing the site.

The site claims that because the stories are labelled 'Sponsored', they will be less intrusive.
If a user decides to 'like' a product, the endorsement will also remain on their new, open 'timeline' profile, enabling companies to pay Facebook to feature their adverts more visibly.

But the announcement will infuriate users who feel that the social network is taking too much ownership over its 800 million members' personal information.

Facebook users in the U.S. have now launched a legal action against the company to contest the commercial use of the 'Like' button.

A judge in San Jose, California, has allowed plaintiffs to bring a case against Facebook in which they argue that the company is using their names and likenesses without their authorization. 

America's Best Kept Secret: Rising Suburban Poverty

A sharp surge in suburban poverty is beginning to grab the attention of demographers, government officials and social service advocates, 12/28/11. (photo: iStockphoto)

By Michelle Hirsch, The Fiscal Times
28 December 11

or years, the food pantry in Crystal Lake, Ill., a bedroom community 50 miles west of Chicago, has catered to the suburban area’s poor, homeless and unemployed. But Cate Williams, the head of the pantry, has noticed a striking change in the makeup of the needy in the past year or two. Some families that once pulled down six-figure incomes and drove flashy cars are now turning to the pantry for help. A few of them donated food and money to the pantry before their luck soured, according to Williams.

"People will shyly say to me, ‘You know, I used to give money and food to you guys. Now I need your help,’" Williams told The Fiscal Times last week. "Most of the folks we see now are people who never took a handout before. They were comfortable, able to feed themselves, to keep gas in the car, and keep a nice roof over their head."
Suburbia always had its share of low-income families and the poor, but the sharp surge in suburban poverty is beginning to grab the attention of demographers, government officials and social service advocates.

The past decade has marked the most significant rise in poverty in modern times. One in six people in the U.S. are poor, according to the latest census data, compared to one in ten Americans in 2004. This surge in the percentage of the poor is fueling concerns about a growing disparity between the rich and poor - the 99 percent versus the 1 percent, in the parlance of the Occupy Wall Street movement.

But contrary to stereotypes that the worst of poverty is centered in urban areas or isolated rural areas and Appalachia, the suburbs have been hit hardest in recent years, an analysis of census data reveals. "If you take a drive through the suburbs and look at the strip mall vacancies, the ‘For Sale’ signs, and the growing lines at unemployment offices and social services providers, you’d have to be blind not to see the economic crisis is hitting home in a way these areas have never experienced," said Donna Cooper, a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, a progressive think tank. READ MORE

Mitt Romney: The Real Austerity Candidate

By Charles P. Pierce, Esquire
28 December 11

Over the holidays, Willard Romney has been seeking once again to define himself, a job that is very similar to that undertaken by the people who renovate old country homes. The first thing you have to do is to tear down the accumulated improvements and renovations of the past 40 or 50 years, and get back down to the basic intent of the original architects. (Maybe changing the solarium into a replica of the Jungle Room at Graceland back in '62 wasn't the smartest move in the world.) So, basically, Willard is taking the sledge and the pry-bar to everything he's done politically since he bum-rushed his way into the governor's chair in Massachusetts to reveal the original moral architecture of Willard Romney, International Man of Privilege.

And, yeah, it turns out he's pretty much a smug, arrogant, and, yes, entitled rich kid who divides the world mentally into two kinds of people - himself and The Help. Lately, he's been sounding a new theme in his campaign to be our national CFO. He's railing against what he calls President Obama's attempts to turn the United States into "an entitlement society." (This charge, of course, coming as it does from a guy whose gifts as a liar are as rudimentary as his skills as a demagogue, is utterly false, but let's all be big-boy pundits and pretend for a while that truth isn't necessarily ever the point.) What is important is how easily Romney has managed to slide into the essential character of the most rabid evening-drive radio morons on your dial. Willard Romney has never known a day of peril in his life. He grew up with a silver spoon lodged so deeply in his gums that he had his baby teeth until he was 25. He did his Mormon mission in Provence, for the love of god. He moved onto a lucrative career in predatory capital. If, as was said, George W. Bush was born on third base and thought he hit a triple, then Willard Romney was born in the dugout with four runs in, nobody out, and the bases loaded.  READ MORE

Get Money Out of Politics in 2012

Portrait, Michael Moore, 04/03/09. (photo: Ann-Christine Poujoulat/Getty)
By Michael Moore, Open Mike Blog

28 Decemeber 11

I have many things I'm planning to do in the New Year - walk three miles a day, use an eco-friendly laundry detergent, write fewer anonymous letters to Wolf Blitzer - but I want to declare, right here, that one of my top priorities in 2012 will be to spearhead a drive to remove ALL money from our electoral process, period. Nothing - and I mean NOTHING - we want to accomplish, from creating jobs to protecting the environment to preventing wars, will happen as long as those who hold the purse strings are the ones who own our Congress.

This destruction of our democracy can only be stopped if the majority of us make it clear that we will ONLY vote for those candidates who sign a pledge to make it their TOP legislative priority to push for a constitutional amendment prohibiting any person or entity from donating ANY money to a candidate's campaign (and that includes a millionaire candidate buying his own election). Plus, they must pledge to back a law banning elected officials from working as lobbyists after they leave office.

The majority of Americans already support strong campaign finance reform and lobbying bans. So what are we waiting for? Now is the time to act!

Here is the wording to the constitutional amendment we need:

Mitt Romney Wants Advertisements on Sesame Street

Responding to a voter in Iowa who asked how he would reduce spending if elected, Mitt Romney said some programs would have to be cut. And then he said:
 You might say, ‘I like the National Endowment for the Arts.’ I do. I like PBS. We subsidize PBS. Look, I’m going to stop that. I’m going to say that PBS is going to have to have advertisement. “We’re not going to kill Big Bird, but Big Bird’s going to have to have advertisements, all right? And we’re going to have endowments for the arts and humanities but they’re going to be paid for by private charity not by taxpayers — or by borrowers.
Raw Story reported:
Sesame Workshop, the nonprofit behind the PBS children’s show Sesame Street, says that the program was designed for children between the ages of 2 and 5, but is increasingly being watched by kids under the age of 2. 
As of 2009, nearly 77 million Americans had watched Sesame Street as children.
In the late 1970s, the Federal Trade Commission determined that advertising to children under the age of 6 was unfair and deceptive. Research has also shown that children under the age of 8 have no defenses against advertising and often take advertising claims at face value.
Some countries like Sweden and Norway ban all advertising directed at children under 12, while other countries such as the United Kingdom, Greece, Denmark and Belgium place restrictions on advertising.
 Watch it: 

Bachmann: 'Obama is Putting Abortion Pills on the Bubblegum Aisle' -- And Other AntiChoice GOP Ridiculousness at the Tele-Town Hall

This is how a powerful interest group gains influence in a contested presidential primary:
Last night, four GOP candidates—Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich, Michele Bachmann and Rick Perry—took part in a “tele-town hall” sponsored by Personhood USA, which was broadcast on the radio program of Steve Deace, an influential Iowa evangelical. The event demonstrated that a commitment to banning all abortion, even in cases of rape, incest, and threats to a woman’s health, is now the normative position among the party’s presidential contenders.
Indeed, the big news to come out of the forum was the rightward shift in Rick Perry’s already very conservative position. In the past, Perry has been committed to banning abortion with very narrow exceptions. But last night, he said he’d changed his mind, and now doesn’t support any exceptions at all. “This is something that is relatively new,” he said, citing a meeting with Rebecca Kiessling, a spokeswoman for Personhood USA who was adopted after her mother, a rape victim, tried and failed to abort her. “Looking in her eyes, I couldn’t come up with an answer to defend the exemptions for rape and incest,” he said. “And over the course of the last few weeks, the Christmas holidays and reflecting on that…all I can say is that God was working on my heart.”
    Read more

The GOP War on Democracy: How Conservatives Shamelessly Disenfranchise People Who Vote Democrat

Across the country, state legislatures and governors are pushing laws that seek to restrict access to the voting booth. 
December 28, 2011

Across the country, state legislatures and governors are pushing laws that seek to restrict access to the voting booth.

All eyes are on Iowa this week, as the hodgepodge field of Republican contenders gallivants across that farm state seeking a win, or at least “momentum,” in the campaign for the party’s presidential nomination. But behind the scenes, a battle is being waged by Republicans—not against each other, but against American voters. Across the country, state legislatures and governors are pushing laws that seek to restrict access to the voting booth, laws that will disproportionately harm people of color, low-income people, and young and elderly voters.

The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund have just released a comprehensive report on the crisis, “Defending Democracy: Confronting Modern Barriers to Voting Rights in America.” In it, they write: “The heart of the modern block the vote campaign is a wave of restrictive government-issued photo identification requirements. In a coordinated effort, legislators in thirty-four states introduced bills imposing such requirements. Many of these bills were modeled on legislation drafted by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC)—a conservative advocacy group whose founder explained: ‘Our leverage in the elections quite candidly goes up as the voting populace goes down.’”  READ MORE

Why the White South Is Still in Denial About Slavery

On a trip through the South, Civil War culture is presented as "authentic." They just leave out the slavery part. 
December 28, 2011

The menu at the Cabin was long, one of those unwieldy, laminated mega-menus that grace the tables of roadside diners and chalets everywhere, and reflected a classic attention to theme (gumbo burger, gumbo omelet, gumbo). If the menu had been covered in tinfoil, I would’ve had a late-summer tan by the time I reached the dessert page. When our waiter approached, I asked — in what I imagined was a small act of clever, Yankee defiance — if the gumbo was any good.

My friend Gabbie and I had come directly from a tour of a former sugar plantation down the road, in Vacherie, La., called Oak Alley, and I had a crook in my neck. Up until that morning, whenever I heard the word “plantation,” I’d thought “slavery.” When I’d booked the tour, I had done so in the spirit of a visitor to Dachau or Wounded Knee. 

But the tour itself was given in the spirit of a visit to the home of a tasteful, Southern movie star. Our guide, in a tone equal parts admiring and envious, devoted 90 minutes to the armoires, linens and chamber pots of the home, but almost no time to the people who built, creased and cleaned them. The words “slave” and “slavery” were never mentioned.

“I guess the white people in antebellum drag getting misty about ‘the Golden Age of the South’ might have been our first clue,” Gabbie observed. READ MORE