Saturday, March 10, 2012

Why the American Empire Was Destined to Collapse

Author and social critic Morris Berman says the fact that we're a nation of hustlers lies at the root of our decline.
March 7, 2012

Several years after the Wall Street-ignited crisis began, the nation’s top bank CEOs (who far out-accumulated their European and other international counterparts) continue to hobnob with the president at campaign dinners where each plate costs more than one out of four US households make in a year. Financial bigwigs lead their affluent lives, unaffected, unremorseful, and unindicted for wreaking havoc on the nation. Why? Because they won. They hustled better. They are living the American Dream.

This is not the American Dream that says if you work hard you can be more comfortable than your parents; but rather, if you connive well, game the rules, and rule the game, your take from others is unlimited. In this paradigm, human empathy, caring, compassion, and connection have been devalued from the get-go. This is the flaw in the entire premise of the American Dream: if we can have it all, it must by definition be at someone else’s expense.

In Why America Failed, noted historian and cultural critic Morris Berman’s brilliant, raw and unflinchingly accurate postmortem of America, he concludes that this hustling model, literally woven into the American DNA, doomed the country from the start, and led us inevitably to this dysfunctional point. It is not just the American Dream that has failed, but America itself, because the dream was a mistake in the first place. We are at our core a nation of hustlers; not recently, not sometimes, but always. 

Conventional wisdom has it that America was predicated on the republican desire to break free from monarchical tyranny, and that was certainly a factor in the War of Independence; but in practical terms, it came down to a drive for "more" -- for individual accumulation of wealth.

So where does that leave us as a country? I caught up with Berman to find out.  READ MORE

Island nation of Kiribati plans mass relocation due to climate change

By Stephen C. Webster
Thursday, March 8, 2012 11:08 EST

Rising sea levels created by the melting of Earth’s polar ice caps and glaciers pose such a threat to the low-lying Pacific island nation of Kiribati that its leader said this week they were in talks to purchase land in neighboring Fiji for a mass relocation of its citizens.
Kiribati President Anote Tong said that they were specifically eyeing land on the neighboring nation’s second largest island, Vanua Levu, according to published reports. Tong added that the mass migration was “our last resort” after a number of its tropical atolls vanished beneath the waves. None of the nation’s islands sit higher than two meters above sea level.
The nation has about 102,000 citizens spanning about 32 atolls across a size of the Pacific roughly equivalent to the continental United States, according to the U.S. State Department. One of the nation’s islands was the key site of a World War II battle that saw some of the bloodiest fighting of the war.
Many there are currently participating in emergency migrant education programs to make them more attractive to other nearby countries, like Australia and New Zealand, Tong said.   READ MORE

Georgia lawmaker compares women to cows and pigs

By David Edwards
Friday, March 9, 2012 14:41 EST

Republican Georgia state Rep. Terry England says that his experience with cows, pigs and chickens has proven to him that women should be forced to have their babies after 20 weeks of pregnancy.

In a debate over Georgia House Bill 954, which would ban abortions after 20 weeks even if the baby is not expected to live, England recalled the time he had spent with livestock.

“Life gives us many experiences,” he explained. “I’ve had the experience of delivering calves, dead and alive — delivering pigs, dead and alive. … It breaks our hearts to see those animals not make it.”

England continued: “You know a few years ago, I had a man come to me in our store, it was when we were debating, talking about dog and hog hunting, I believe, and at that point there was some language inserted in there that dealt with chicken fighting. And the young man called me to the side and he said, ‘I want to tell you one thing.’ And y’all, this is salt of the Earth people I’m talking about, someone I would have never in a hundred years expected to tell me what he told me that day.”  READ MORE


Rep. Terry England compares women to cows, pigs and chickens. from Bryan Long on Vimeo.

Former NJ gov. poses as mentally ill man at homeless shelter




By David Edwards
Wednesday, March 7, 2012 11:54 EST

Earlier this week, a former governor of New Jersey went undercover to expose the struggle homeless people go through if they are mentally ill.

Democratic state Sen. Richard Codey, who briefly took over as governor after Jim McGreevey (D) resigned in 2004, began calling homeless shelters last November only to find out that they were hesitant to take “crazy people,” required ID or that the person be on welfare.

“To find some place to take you if you were homeless was impossible, essentially, unless you were on some government entitlement program,” he explained to NBC New York.

After spending an hour with a makeup artist to make him unrecognizable, Codey took on the fictional identity of Jimmy Peters, a mentally ill man who had been recently released from a local hospital’s psychiatric ward.    READ MORE

South Carolina’s Republican lieutenant governor resigns in ethics scandal

By Muriel Kane
Friday, March 9, 2012 21:29 EST

 South Carolina’s Republican Lieutenant Governor Ken Ard resigned on Friday just before being indicted on seven counts of misusing campaign money.

An hour after the indictment was announced, he pleaded guilty and was sentenced to five years of probation and a $5000 fine. He could have faced as much as seven years in prison and $35,000 in fines.
Ard was elected in November 2010 with 55% of the vote, but by the following February the state ethics commission had begun investigating his campaign finances and he was charged with 106 civil violations. Ard admitted to these and paid a fine, but a grand jury soon began the criminal investigation that led to the current indictment.

According to South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson, Ard had tried “to create the false appearance of a groundswell of political support through fictitious or bogus campaign contributions.”
  READ MORE

You Are Being Tracked Online: Here Are 5 Ways to Protect Your Privacy

Photo Credit: Shutterstock
If you listen carefully online, you’ll hear a deep sucking sound -- that's the sound of all your personal data being gobbled up by digital service providers.
March 6, 2012

If you listen carefully when you turn on your smartphone or tablet computer or go online using your computer, you’ll hear a deep sucking sound. That's the sound of all your personal data being gobbled up by a growing array of digital service providers.

On Feb. 23, the White House issued a long-awaited report outlining a framework for personal cyber privacy, “Consumer Data Privacy in a Networked World: A Framework for Protecting Privacy and Promoting Global Innovation in the Global Digital Economy.” Billing itself a "Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights," the report stresses the need for transparency, security, accuracy and a reasonable limits to what is collected.

Unfortunately, this “white paper” is in keeping with the Obama administration’s overall policy of compromise so that both policy and principle meet the vested interests of those with power. As with the banking and financial service regulation or oversight over healthcare providers, insurance companies and big pharma companies, the interests of the digital data collectors and the advertising industry will be furthered while the privacy rights of ordinary digital user will be sacrificed.  READ MORE

Why Can’t You Smoke Pot? Because Lobbyists Are Getting Rich Off of the War on Drugs

Photo Credit: Theequinest

Why we still put hundreds of thousands of people in steel cages for pot-related offenses. 
March 7, 2012

John Lovell is a lobbyist who makes a lot of money from making sure you can’t smoke a joint. That’s his job. He’s a lobbyist for the police unions in Sacramento, and he is a driving force behind grabbing Federal dollars to shut down the California marijuana industry. I’ll get to the evidence on this important story in a bit, but first, some context.

At some point in the distant past, the war on drugs might have been popular. But not anymore — the polling is clear, but beyond that, the last three Presidents have used illegal drugs. So why do we still put hundreds of thousands of people in steel cages for pot-related offenses? Well, there are many reasons, but one of them is, of course, money in politics. Corruption. Whatever you want to call it, it’s why you can’t smoke a joint without committing a crime, though of course you can ingest any number of pills or drinks completely within the law.

Some of the groups who want to keep the drug illegal are police unions that want more members to pay more dues. One of the primary sources for cash for more policing activities are Federal grants for penalizing illegal drug use, which help pay for overtime, additional police officers, and equipment for the force. That’s what Lovell does, he gets those grants. He also fights against democratic mechanisms to legalize drugs.

In 2010, California considered Prop 19, a measure to legalize marijuana and tax it as alcohol. The proposition gained more votesthan Meg Whitman, the former eBay executive and Republican gubernatorial nominee that year, but failed to pass. Opponents of the initiative ran ads, organized rallies, and spread conspiracy theories about billionaire George Soros to confuse voters.

Lovell managed the opposition campaign against Prop 19. He told Time Magazine that he was pushing against the initiative because, “the last thing we need is yet another mind-altering substance to be legalized.”   READ MORE

Invisible Children "Kony 2012" Leader Suggests It's About Jesus and Evangelizing

Is one of the biggest viral video in history Christian fundamentalist propaganda? Invisible Children's founder lays out his agenda at Liberty University. 
March 8, 2012

Photo Credit: Sean Dreilin
 "A lot of people fear Christians, they fear Liberty University, they fear Invisible Children - because they feel like we have an agenda. They see us and they go, "You want me to sign up for something, you want my money. You want, you want me to believe in your God." And it freaks them out." --- Jason Russell, speaking at Liberty University, November 7, 2011

Is Invisible Children a nonprofit devoted to human needs, or is it a ministry devoted to bringing souls to Jesus ? Judging by a talk co-founder Jason Russell gave last November at Liberty University, it would seem to be a bit of both.

A few days ago, Russell's Invisible Children nonprofit began to blitz the Internet with posts on social media promoting the nonprofit's new KONY 2012 video, which by now has received over 36 million hits. The media campaign has already provoked a backlash of well informed criticism, from academics and other with expertise concerning Joseph Kony and the LRA, and the conflict in Northern Uganda and the surrounding region (see links and material, below transcript).   READ MORE

The Religious Right's Plot To Take Control Of Our Public Schools

The people who brought you "Jesus Camp" are moving into your neighborhood school. And there's not a damn thing you can do about it.
March 6, 2012 

The Good News Club: The Stealth Assault on America’s Children by Katherine Stewart uncovers a right-wing conspiracy to infiltrate and destroy the nation’s public school system, using recent Supreme Court decisions as a lever. It’s a must-read for anyone who’s seen public school kids, perhaps their own, targeted for proselytizing by peers, teachers and adult volunteers. And for those who haven’t, it’s a wake-up call.  

Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas once wrote, “Religion is certainly a source of positive values, and we need as many positive values in the school as we can get.” It sounds benign. But what if the particular brand of religion is coercive, and in conflict with the teachings and values of the family of the students being targeted? It doesn’t matter. Because under the law as it stands now, evangelical churches have the right to gather, teach and proselytize in your neighborhood school. 

Spiritual Warfare in Your Neighborhood

How did it come to this? If you haven’t personally observed today’s aggressive “spiritual warfare,” it may be difficult to imagine that young children are being taught that their school is a battlefield and they are the warriors who must save their classmates from themselves. With a remarkable amount of grace and restraint, Stewart describes the havoc in communities around the nation as initiatives to evangelize public school students have increased.

Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas once wrote, “Religion is certainly a source of positive values, and we need as many positive values in the school as we can get.” It sounds benign. But what if the particular brand of religion is coercive, and in conflict with the teachings and values of the family of the students being targeted? It doesn’t matter. Because under the law as it stands now, evangelical churches have the right to gather, teach and proselytize in your neighborhood school.    READ MORE

How Republicans Are Trying to Force You to Pay for Others' Religious Beliefs

We shouldn't have to subsidize the antiquated religious beliefs of a small minority.
March 6, 2012

 Last week, the Blunt-Rubio Amendment, which would have allowed any employer to refuse to cover any medical goods or services he or she found “morally objectionable,” went down to a narrow defeat, but Republicans aren't giving up on the issue. They appear to be intent on using the power of government to force the vast majority of Americans who have no problem with birth control to pay for a small minority's personal beliefs through higher insurance premiums.

I should make one thing clear: religious liberty is bedrock principle, and people whose faith leads them to oppose the use of birth control have that right. But that's not the issue – nobody is being forced to use contraception contrary to their beliefs, and the “accommodation” the Obama administration came to with the Catholic bishops means that religious institutions don't need to get involved.   READ MORE
 

Offensive Is Nothing New: Rush Limbaugh's 5 Worst Remarks

Limbaugh is losing advertisers fast after calling law student Sandra Fluke a "slut"--but bad behavior is nothing new for Rush. Here are five of his worst moments.
March 6, 2012

Has Rush Limbaugh finally gone too far?

Despite a notably insincere apology for calling Georgetown law student Sandra Fluke a “slut” and a “prostitute” for the crime of using birth control pills, Limbaugh is shedding advertisers like mad. As of Monday evening, nine companies—including AOL, the parent company of the Huffington Post-- have stopped buying time on Limbaugh's radio show, and at least a couple say they have severed ties with the program permanently.

Even Republican presidential candidates have issued tepid condemnations of Limbaugh's rant. Mitt Romney, whose private equity firm Bain Capital is one of the owners of Clear Channel – which owns and broadcasts Premiere Radio Networks, the company that syndicates Limbaugh's show -- told reporters, “I’ll just say this, which is, it’s not the language I would have used,” before quickly changing the subject back to Tuesday's primaries. Democrats quickly pounced on Romney's wimpy repudiation, but none of them bothered to point out the presidential candidate's profit motive in Rush's program.  READ MORE

What Really Killed Andrew Breitbart? The Likely Cause of Death The Mainstream Media Ignored

Not a single mainstream media outlet or website dared to publicly raise the question of substances. Instead, the media began giving airtime to right-wing conspiracy theories.
March 8, 2012

Want to get the latest on America's drug & rehab culture? Sign up for The Fix's newsletter here.    Want to get the latest on America's drug & rehab culture? Sign up for The Fix's newsletter here.   

The sudden death of a youngish media celebrity in the early hours of the morning can usually be counted on to provoke a torrent of salacious speculation from LA's ravenous media gossip mill. The passing of Andrew Breitbart last Thursday was no exception.

Breitbart, who died at 43, was a conservative icon—a manic, maddening architect of some of the most explosive political scandals in recent years. He played an outsized role in some of the world's most influential news sites, working with Matt Drudge as an editor at the Drudge Report before helping Arianna Huffington launch the Huffington Post. More recently he started his own successful network of conservative news websites, including Breitbart.com, BigGovernment.com and BigHollywood.com, which draw millions of visitors every month and earned him a hefty salary and a high profile. But he achieved a new level of notoriety in the past two years, after he helped orchestrate a series of crudely-edited video stings that led to the resignation of Shirley Sherrod, a U.S. Dept. of Agriculture executive, and the collapse of the social-advocacy association ACORN. These and other triumphs—including the Twitter-pic takedown of New York congressman Anthony Wiener—turned Breitbart into a right-wing hero, a sought-after speaker on the right-wing lecture circuit, and a regular opinionator on Fox News.  READ MORE

Pope Leo XII Had a Coke Habit? 10 People You Probably Didn't Know Were Addicts

A mix of modern and long-deceased, these actors, musicians, and prominent thinkers challenge stereotypes surrounding addiction.
March 2, 2012

Want to get the latest on America's drug & rehab culture? Sign up for The Fix's newsletter here.   

1. Daniel Radcliffe
Even boy wizards have their vices. Radcliffe's was whisky, which he began to rely on during the filming of the sixth Harry Potter movie in 2009. "There were a few years there when I was just so enamored with the idea of living some sort of famous person's lifestyle that really isn't suited to me," the now-22-year-old actor told GQ. He added that he hadn't had a drink since August of 2010. “As much as I would love to be a person that goes to parties and has a couple of drinks and has a nice time—that doesn’t work for me,” he said.

2. Kristin Davis

3. Alec Baldwin

4. Charlie Watts

5. William F. Buckley, Jr.

6. Oprah Winfrey

7. Bob Dylan

8. Benjamin Franklin

9. Craig Robinson

10. Pope Leo XIII

  READ MORE         

FOCUS: Dangerous, Ignorant Warmongers

Leslie H. Gelb, The Daily Beast
Gelb writes: "I'm giving away the deepest, darkest secret of the foreign policy clan: even though we sound like we know everything, we know very little, especially about the intentions of bad guys and the consequences of war. But since the media keeps treating us like sages and keeps ignoring our horrendous mistakes, we carry on with our game, and do a lot of damage."
READ MORE

NYPD report on Muslim shops includes stores owned by Jews, Catholics

Kings Row, a Brooklyn clothing store, was included
in a report about Muslim businesses. “I happen to be
a Sephardic Jew," said shop owner David Idy. " My
family is from Egypt, but I was actually raised in
Bensonhurst and consider myself an American.”
NYPD anti-terror detectives were compiling lists of businesses, stores and mosques linked to Muslim New Yorkers with Syrian, Albanian and Egyptian roots.

By Rocco Parascandola AND Corky Siemaszko / NEW YORK DAILY NEWS
Published: Friday, March 9, 2012, 7:41 PM
Updated: Friday, March 9, 2012, 10:31 PM

NYPD anti-terror detectives compiled lists of businesses, stores and mosques linked to Muslim New Yorkers with Syrian, Albanian and Egyptian roots.

But they didn’t do a very thorough job.

The owners of most of the establishments listed in the “Syrian Locations of Concern Report” told The Daily News Friday they are neither Syrian nor Muslim.

“I think it’s pretty comical that my store would be in this report,” said David Idy, owner of Kings Row, a clothing store on Avenue U in Brooklyn. “I happen to be a Sephardic Jew. My family is from Egypt, but I was actually raised in Bensonhurst and consider myself an American.”

Cops also listed a Bronx barber shop called “Dino’s European Hair Style,” noting that its owner is Albanian and its close proximity to the North Bronx Muslim Center.

Shop owner Sammy Eirovic said, “I’m not Albanian, I’m Montenegran.”

“Honestly, I’m really surprised anybody would be spying on me,” he said. “We just cut hair.”

Among the supposedly Egyptian-owned businesses listed by the NYPD were defunct nightclubs like the Cleopatra on 5th Ave. in Brooklyn, which served liquor — something observant Muslims shun.

The reports were obtained by the Associated Press, whose ongoing probe of NYPD spying has sparked sharp criticism from Islamic and civil rights groups — and prompted strong rebuttals by Mayor Bloomberg and Commissioner Ray Kelly.
  READ MORE

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Big Food Must Go

Wal-Mart is one of a handful of corporations that
control what ends up on our dinner tables.
(photo: Reuters)
By Christopher D. Cook, AlterNet
27 February 12

t is no longer news that a few powerful corporations have literally occupied the vast majority of human sustenance. The situation is perilous: nearly all of human food production, seeds, food processing and sales, is run by a handful of for-profit firms which, like any capitalist enterprise, function to maximize profit and gain ever-greater market share and control. The question has become: What do we do about this disastrous alignment of pure profit in something so basic and fundamental to human survival?

It is time - now, not next year - to de-occupy Walmart. And Archer Daniels Midland. And Tyson Foods. And Monsanto. And Cargill. And Kraft Foods. And the other large corporations that decide what ends up on our plates. Take all our money out, public and personal, from our shopping dollars to school district lunch contracts to the corporate subsidies that uphold these firms' grip on our food supply, and invest it in a new system that's economically diverse and ecologically sustainable.

These corporations' stranglehold over food has wreaked havoc on the environment, our health, farmers, workers, and our very future. It is time for an end to Big Food, and a societal shift to something radically different. We all deserve a future where what we eat feeds community and land, instead of eroding soils, polluting water and air, and tossing away small farmers and immigrant workers as if they were balance sheet losers.  READ MORE

Supreme Court to Weigh Torture Lawsuits Against Corporations

Famed Nigerian author and environmental activist
Ken Saro-Wiwa at a rally, 1993.
(photo: Greenpeace/AP)
By David G. Savage, Los Angeles Times
27 February 12

Can international companies be sued in the U.S. over ties to foreign regimes that commit human rights abuses?

wo years ago, the Supreme Court said corporations were like people and had the same free-speech rights to spend unlimited sums on campaigns ads. Now, in a major test of human rights law, the justices will decide whether corporations are like people when they are sued for aiding foreign regimes that kill or torture their own people.

It would "create a weird paradox" if the corporations are people when funding campaigns but not when they violate human rights, said Peter Weiss, vice president of the Center for Constitutional Rights in New York.

At issue is an obscure 18th century law unearthed by human rights lawyers in the 1980s and increasingly used against U.S. corporations whose work overseas has entangled them with brutal regimes.

On Tuesday, the justices will hear an appeal of a suit accusing Royal Dutch Petroleum and its Shell subsidiary in the United States of aiding a former Nigerian regime whose military police tortured, raped and executed minority residents in the oil-rich delta. The victims included famed Nigerian author and environmental activist Ken Saro-Wiwa.  READ MORE

Ex-KBR Chief Gets 30 Months in Prison for Bribery

Former KBR Inc. chief executive Albert 'Jack' Stanley
arrives at the federal courthouse for sentencing in Houston,
02/23/12. (photo: AP)
By Michael Graczyk, Associated Press
26 February 12

fter years of sentencing delays, a former KBR Inc. chief executive received two and a half years in prison Thursday for his role in a scheme to bribe Nigerian government officials in return for $6 billion in engineering and construction contracts.

Albert "Jack" Stanley also must serve three years of probation and pay $1,000 a month in restitution after he is released.

Stanley pleaded guilty in 2008 to conspiring in the decade-long scheme related to the company's natural gas operations in Nigeria from 1995 to 2004. Stanley was KBR's chief executive until 2001 and chairman until June 2004.

The 69-year-old spoke to U.S. District Judge Keith Ellison in court Thursday, saying that alcoholism played a role in compromising the traditional American values of hard work, honesty and integrity that he brought to his professional life.

"I lost touch," he said. "I wish to be very clear that I accept full responsibility for what I have done ... and hope to be able to continue to make amends for my past."    READ MORE

Karen Santorum: Rick's Presidential Run Is 'God's Will'

GOP presidential candidate Rick Santorum with his
wife, Karen, as he campaigned at the Faith and
Freedom Coalition Prayer Breakfast in Myrtle Beach,
SC, 01/15/12. (photo: Charles Dharapak/AP)
By Sandhya Somashekhar, 
The Washington Post 
26 February 12

ick Santorum's wife granted a rare interview Thursday, telling conservative talk show host Glenn Beck that she initially had been against her husband running for president but finally concluded it was "God's will."

Speaking in deeply spiritual terms, Karen Santorum said she had been reluctant to throw her support behind the idea because her husband's failed 2006 Senate re-election campaign had been so brutal. Also, she said, her husband had become more involved with the family after leaving the Senate, and was even coaching Little League.

But she said she prayed on the matter, and finally changed her mind after the passage of the 2010 health care overhaul.

"I did always feel in my heart that God had big plans for Rick. Eventually it was there, tugging at my heart," she said. "When Obamacare passed, that was it. That put the fire in my belly."    READ MORE

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Bill Maher | Republican Debate Review

Bill Maher, Reader Supported News

26 February 12

he Republicans sure have the right symbol with the elephant. Republican debates are nothing but elephants in the room.

The biggest of which must be: to someone out there who's hurting, they spend the whole two hours yammering away about earmarks and illegal immigrants and contraception and every other peripheral, wish-I-had-the-time-to-worry-about-it issue they can think of.

Then there is the elephant of how they all - with the sometime exception of Ron Paul - nod along to insane statements just because they don't want to ever look like they're to the left of anybody, on anything, especially the evilness of Barack Obama. So Wednesday night when Newt said the president of the United States had a history of practicing infanticide... yep, yep, yessir, that's what he does all right. Clubs infants like baby seals in his spare time. Ike played golf, Kennedy liked boating...

Ron Paul said foreign aid just helps our enemies. Which, I believe, would make Israel and Egypt our two biggest enemies. Yup, yup, hate foreign aid. A meaningless percentage of the budget, btw.

Newt said where government becomes the central provider of services, it's a move towards tyranny - yeah, except in all the countries where it isn't, like all of Scandanavia and much of Europe. Today a barium enema paid for by medicare, tomorrow Poland.  READ MORE

Another March to War?

By Matt Taibbi, Rolling Stone
18 February 12

s a journalist, there's a buzz you can detect once the normal restraints in your business have been loosened, a smell of fresh chum in the waters, urging us down the road to war. Many years removed from the Iraq disaster, that smell is back, this time with Iran.
You can just feel it: many of the same newspapers and TV stations we saw leading the charge in the Bush years have gone back to the attic and are dusting off their war pom-poms. CNN's house blockhead, the Goldman-trained ex-finance professional Erin Burnett, came out with a doozie of a broadcast yesterday, a Rumsfeldian jeremiad against the Iranian threat would have fit beautifully in the Saddam's-sending-drones-at-New-York halcyon days of late 2002. Here's how the excellent Glenn Greenwald described Burnett's rant:
It's the sort of thing you would produce if you set out to create a mean-spirited parody of mindless, war-hungry, fear-mongering media stars, but you wouldn't dare go this far because you'd want the parody to have a feel of realism to it, and this would be way too extreme to be believable. She really hauled it all out: WMDs! Terrorist sleeper cells in the U.S. controlled by Tehran! Iran's long-range nuclear missiles reaching our homeland!!!! She almost made the anti-Muslim war-mongering fanatic she brought on to interview, Rep. Peter King, appear sober and reasonable by comparison.
Like Greenwald, I was particularly struck by Burnett's freak-out about Iran's nuclear program, about which she said, "No one buys Iran's claim that [it is] for peaceful purposes." She then cited remarks by Director of Intelligence James Clapper, which, she said, "drove that message home." But then she ran a clip with Clapper's quote, which read as follows:   READ MORE




Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Robert B. Reich: The extra dollars you're paying at the pump are going to Wall Street speculators


Tribune Media Services 

February 28, 2012
Nothing drives voter sentiment like the price of gas -- already up nearly 30 cents from the start of the year and hitting $4 in many places. The last time gas topped $4 was 2008.

And nothing energizes Republicans like rising energy prices. House Speaker John Boehner is telling Republicans to take advantage of voters' looming anger over rising prices at the pump. House Republicans have passed a bill to expand offshore drilling and pressure the White House into issuing a permit for the Keystone XL pipeline. The tumult has already prompted the Interior Department to announce expanded oil exploration in the Arctic.

If prices at the pump continue to rise, expect the gas wars to intensify.

But the current surge in gas prices has almost nothing to do with energy policy. It doesn't even have much to do with global supply and demand. It has most to do with America's continuing failure to adequately regulate Wall Street.

Oil supplies aren't being squeezed. Over 80 percent of America's energy needs are now being satisfied by domestic supplies. In fact, we're starting to become an energy exporter.

Iran is threatening to cut production in retaliation for sanctions imposed by the European Union and the United States. But Saudi Arabia's increased production is more than enough to make up the difference.

Demand for oil isn't rising in any event. Oil demand in the U.S. is down compared to last year at this time. The American economy is showing only the faintest signs of recovery. Meanwhile, global demand is still moderate. Europe's debt crisis hasn't gone away. China's growth continues to slow.

But Wall Street is betting on higher oil prices.    READ MORE

Feinstein detainee bill for citizens, residents

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif, said she does not "believe there is support to go beyond" citizens and permanent legal residents for her Due Process Guarantee Act.
March 1, 2012, San Francisco Chronicle (San Francisco's leading newspaper)

Sen. Dianne Feinstein said [on February 29] that her legislation to roll back an antiterror law, which allows the military to indefinitely detain people in the United States suspected of ties to al Qaeda or "associated forces," would have to be limited to citizens and permanent legal residents. Her bill, the Due Process Guarantee Act, ... would ensure that the detainee portions of last year's National Defense Authorization Act, or any declaration of war or congressional authorization to use military force, would not allow the military to imprison without trial citizens and green card holders living in the United States. Rep. John Garamendi, D-Walnut Grove (Sacramento County) has introduced a companion bill in the House. The detainee provisions of the law ... have generated a rare combination of outrage from liberals and conservatives who say it violates constitutional liberties and habeas corpus rights that provide an individual redress to unlawful imprisonment by the state. Civil liberties groups have argued that the Constitution's Bill of Rights extends to all people, regardless of their citizenship. Noncitizens include tourists, students and business travelers as well as illegal immigrants. Feinstein said including noncitizens in her bill is not politically feasible. Feinstein described her bill as a follow-on to the 1971 Non-Detention Act, a response to the Japanese internment that was signed by former President Richard Nixon. The act bars imprisonment of citizens suspected of sabotage without explicit congressional approval.

Note: The NDAA clearly violates the U.S. Bill of Rights, which clearly states in the fifth amendment that no person shall be held to answer for a crime "without due process of law," and in the sixth amendment which states that "the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial." It is simply amazing that the American public is not loudly protesting this breach of the constitution.    READ MORE

Vets feel abandoned after secret drug experiments

Human test subjects
By David S. Martin, CNN
March 1, 2012 -- Updated 1356 GMT (2156 HKT)
 
CNN) -- The moment 18-year-old Army Pvt. Tim Josephs arrived at Edgewood Arsenal in 1968, he knew there was something different about the place.
 "It just did not look like a military base, more like a hospital," recalled Josephs, a Pittsburgh native. Josephs had volunteered for a two-month assignment at Edgewood, in Maryland, lured by three-day weekends closer to home.

"It was like a plum assignment," Josephs said. "The idea was they would test new Army field jackets, clothing, weapons and things of that nature, but no mention of drugs or chemicals."

But when he went to fill out paperwork the morning after his arrival, the base personnel were wearing white lab coats, and Josephs said he had second thoughts. An officer took him aside.

"He said, 'You volunteered for this. You're going to do it. If you don't, you're going to jail. You're going to Vietnam either way -- before or after,'" Josephs said recently.
 
From 1955 to 1975, military researchers at Edgewood were using not only animals but human subjects to test a witches' brew of drugs and chemicals. They ranged from potentially lethal nerve gases like VX and sarin to incapacitating agents like BZ.
Read the secret (now unclassified) Army document revealing BZ tests on soldiers (PDF)

The military also tested tear gas, barbiturates, tranquilizers, narcotics and hallucinogens like LSD.
Read the confidential (now unclassified) Army document uncovering LSD tests on volunteers (PDF)

  READ MORE

 

Cop-cadet sex case has precedents

FILE - In this Saturday, Jan. 28, 2012 file photo, Santa Barbara County Sheriff investigators and Santa Maria firefighters stand near the spot where a Santa Maria officer was shot and killed, in Santa Maria, Calif. Police shot and killed a fellow officer when he fired his gun as they tried to take him into custody on suspicion of sexual misconduct with a teenage member of a junior police program, authorities said. It turns out, inappropriate relationships between officers and youths in the junior police program aren’t all that unusual. No organization keeps statistics but an Associated Press examination of news accounts during the 21 years since the Explorers was spun off from the Boy Scouts of America found at least 97 cases involving officers accused of sexual assault on minor girls, and sometimes boys, in the program. MAGS OUT; Photo: The Santa Maria Times, Leah Thompson / AP
Updated 08:32 a.m., Thursday, March 1, 2012
SANTA MARIA, Calif. (AP) — When an on-duty police officer was shot and killed by a colleague a month ago, residents of this agricultural community north of Santa Barbara were horrified. Outrage grew when they learned the shooting occurred as fellow officers tried to arrest the policeman on suspicion he was having a sexual relationship with a 17-year-old girl in the city's "Police Explorers" program.
But inappropriate relationships between officers and youths in the junior police program aren't all that rare. No organization keeps statistics but an Associated Press examination of news accounts during the 21 years since the Explorers was spun off from the Boy Scouts of America found at least 97 cases involving officers accused of sexual assault on minor girls, and sometimes boys, in the program.
And that's likely a fraction of all such incidents, said Samuel Walker, a University of Nebraska-Omaha criminal justice professor and expert on police misconduct and accountability. Most relationships never become public because a youth is unlikely to report it and even if fellow officers are aware, they're reluctant to do anything.
"More often than not other officers know that something wrong is going on and they don't report it," Walker said. "Police departments are like villages: everybody gossips and everybody knows."
The Explorer program is run by Learning for Life, a subsidiary of Boy Scouts of America that pairs young people 14 to 21 with police mentors who take them on ride-alongs, and teach them to write reports and direct traffic in the hope they'll be inspired to pursue law enforcement careers. It is open to anyone, male or female.
Learning for Life representatives would not speak directly to AP, but answered written questions submitted through a public relations firm. National Director Diane Thornton said mentors, before participating, go through a training program aimed at keeping young people safe. Explorers under 18 can't go on ride-alongs after midnight and should not be used in covert operations or as confidential informants or sources, she said.  READ MORE

Ritual abuse of children: a hidden and under-reported crime

Police in London have a special unit to probe this type of crime but believe they have only scratched the surface

Witchcraft-based abuse first came to national consciousness with the murder 12 years ago of Victoria ClimbiƩ by her guardians. After her death it emerged that the police and other authorities had missed several opportunities to step in and save the eight-year-old. Her death led to a public inquiry and produced major changes in child protection policies in England.

Since ClimbiƩ's murder, agencies have learned a great deal more about the ritualised abuse and torture of children. But figures collated by the Metropolitan police merely scratch the surface, detectives believe, of a hidden crime that is still under-reported.

In the past 10 years police in greater London have investigated 83 incidents of child abuse and torture linked to witchcraft and other religious rituals. Of these children, four – including Kristy Bamu – were murdered during ritualised violence. One police source said more cases of this kind were coming to light – either because the problem was increasing or because the light shone on the issue had led to increased reporting of incidents.  READ MORE

Note: Sadly very few people are willing to look into these very dark shadows. If you are one of the few, please don't miss the most important documentary on this available here. For lots more powerful information from one who escaped from a powerful cult involved in ritual abuse, click here.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Attorneys for RFK convicted killer Sirhan push 'second gunman' argument

Sirhan Sirhan is taken into custody after the fatal
shooting of Sen. Robert F. Kennedy in 1968.
By Brad Johnson and Michael Martinez, CNN
updated 5:10 PM EST, Sun March 4, 2012
Los Angeles (CNN) -- If there was a second gunman in Sen. Robert F. Kennedy's assassination, who was it?
Lawyers for convicted assassin Sirhan Sirhan claim their client did not fire any of the gunshots that struck the presidential candidate in 1968. And in their latest federal court filing, they also rule out another man some have considered a suspect -- a private security guard named Thane Eugene Cesar, who was escorting Kennedy at the time he was shot.

Attorneys William Pepper and Laurie Dusek insist someone other than their client, Sirhan, fatally shot Kennedy. They now say the real killer was not Cesar, a part-time uniformed officer long suspected by some conspiracy theorists of playing a sinister role in the senator's murder.

Pepper and Dusek made the claim in papers submitted to a U.S. District Court in Los Angeles last week.
Attempts by CNN to contact Cesar, a relative of his and a former attorney of his were unsuccessful.

Prosecutors, attorneys argue: Was there a second gunman?

Cesar was walking behind Kennedy and drew his service revolver as Sirhan fired his own handgun in a Los Angeles hotel on June 5, 1968, only moments after the candidate claimed victory in California's Democratic primary election. The gunfire in the Ambassador Hotel left the senator the most seriously wounded of six shooting victims. Kennedy died the following day while the other five survived.
   READ MORE

Atheist Billboards Set to Delight Atheists, Piss Off Religious People

The atheist group American Atheists has raised enough money to start spreading the word — not to be confused with "The Word" — about atheism. Billboards declaring that God is "a myth" will go up in Muslim and Jewish communities in New York.

On its site, American Atheists says the billboards should appeal to atheists living in insular religious communities "designed to squelch individualism and religious criticism." As for the non-atheists seeing the billboards, the group anticipates some backlash but is hoping for the best.
These billboards are not meant to inflame or enrage, and while the comparison of how the Jewish and Muslim communities react will be interesting, we expect no violence nor vandalism. Although some in those communities might not appreciate our outreach, we have every right and every responsibility to advertise our organization and our movement as we see fit.
In particular, American Atheists is advertising the Reason Rally: a Celebration of Secular Values in Washington DC. Following that, there's the National Convention of American Atheists in Bethesda, Maryland — this year's theme is, "Come out, come out, wherever you are." Which begs the question: what religion were the munchkins in Oz?    READ MORE


Sunday, March 4, 2012

Republican Pol's Sex Romps in Backseat of Government-Issue Car

John R Leopold Anne Arundel County Executive
On a winter evening in 2009, a 911 call came in to the police department of Anne Arundel County, Maryland, where the state Capital, Annapolis, is located. “I see some activity going on in the car, and I don’t think it’s proper… . It looks like sexual activity to me,” said the male caller, later adding, “I’m not positive, but it looks like there’s naked people in the car.”

An officer was sent to investigate. He found the car in parking lot of a shopping mall. It was a black Chevy Impala, with the license “County Executive 1.” In the back seat was John R. Leopold, the Anne Arundel County Executive.

Though the car was government-issue, no charges were filed. Leopold, a major Republican power broker in the state who served for decades in the Maryland legislature, dismissed accusations of impropriety as “rumor and gossip.” He was reelected in 2010.

That seemed to be the end of the matter, but it wasn’t. The incident in the parking lot led a number of county employees to come forward with a variety of accusations against Leopold, and yesterday he was indicted on multiple counts of official misconductREAD MORE

Rep. Luis Gutierrez Gives Romney a Latinos 101 Lesson on House Floor

 U.S. House of Representative Luis V. Gutierrez of Illinois’ Fourth District in the heart of Chicago spoke on the floor of the House earlier this week about recent comments by GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney.
Rep. Gutierrez said that the nation’s 50 million Latinos, most of whom are citizens and eligible voters, is a lot of people, “especially if you want to offend each and every one of us. But to Mitt Romney’s credit — he’s trying.”

By Jorge Rivas | Colorlines
Posted on Saturday, March 3, 2012 @ 10:08 AM 

 

What Are Iowa's Factory Farms Trying to Hide?

Iowa is pushing to keep activists from exposing the
conditions in the state's factory farms.
(photo: Rosino/flickr)
By Will Potter, Green Is the New Red
03 March 12

The video below compiled by Mercy For Animals includes video shot at McDonald's former egg supplier Sparboe Egg Farms. Once made public, the video led to McDonald's dropping Sparboe's contract. A note of warning, the video is graphic and discretion is advised. -- JPS/RSN

owa is set to become the first state to pass one of the recent "Ag Gag" laws introduced across the country to target undercover investigators who expose animal welfare violations on factory farms.
House File 589 creates a new crime of "agricultural production facility fraud," and it has already passed the Iowa House and Senate with bipartisan support. It is on the desk of Gov. Terry Branstad for signature or veto.

The bill, and similar efforts such as Utah's Ag Gag bill, carve out special protections in the law to shield factory farms from public scrutiny.

As Randall Wilson of the Iowa Civil Liberties Union of Iowa said: "We all know it's a thinly veiled attempt to eliminate investigative reporting and whistle-blowing regarding abuses in our food production chain."

It should come as no surprise who is behind these efforts. For example, Iowa State Rep Annette Sweeney, a proponent of the bill, is the former Executive Director of the Iowa Angus Association. And Simpson Farms, Florida’s second biggest egg producer, helped draft the language of that bill target animal welfare activists with up to 30 years in prison. It failed.   READ MORE

Another Death Row Debacle: The Case Against Thomas Arthur

Another death row inmate awaits his fate, despite
evidence he may not be guilty. (photo: AP Images)
By Andrew Cohen, The Atlantic
03 March 12
  
In Alabama, a death row prisoner could be exonerated by a DNA test. Why are the courts preventing this from happening - especially when another man has already confessed to the crime?

nother month, another man on death row, another excruciating case that illustrates just some of the ways in which America's death penalty regime is unconstitutionally broken. This time, the venue is Alabama. This time, the murder that generated the sentence took place 30 years ago. And this time, there is an execution date of March 29, 2012, for Thomas Arthur, a man who has always maintained his innocence.

He also has the unwelcome distinction of being one of the few prisoners in the DNA-testing era to be this close to capital punishment after someone else confessed under oath to the crime.

Late last month, I profiled the wobbly capital conviction against Troy Noling in Ohio and there are remarkable similarities between it and the Arthur case. Both involve white defendants. Both include contentions of innocence and allegations of bad lawyering at trial. Both include a lack of physical evidence linking the defendants to the crime. Both include crucial witness testimony that borders the farcical. And both include state officials reluctant to permit sophisticated DNA testing that might definitively answer questions about whether the defendants committed the murders they will die for.

Arthur's attorneys are even willing to pay for that testing, the few thousand bucks it would be, and the testing could be completed by the execution date. It is here where prosecutors and judges lose me when they prioritize "finality" in capital punishment cases at the expense of "accuracy." It would cost Alabama nothing to let Arthur's lawyers do the testing. And it might solve a case that already has cost the state millions of dollars. Instead, Alabama wants to finally solve its Arthur problem by executing him. No matter how the new DNA test could come out, the state is more interested in defending its dubious conviction.

The Trials of Thomas Arthur   READ MORE
------------------------------------------------------
Hmmm...  if an innocent man is convicted,  that means a guilty man has gone free!
Thus,  if it does not matter to the state,  who is punished for what crime,  why do
they tout their crime fighting abilities?  Since they are admitting that they have none.

The Big Fracking Bubble: The Scam Behind the Gas Boom

Fracking may not only be about opening the ground
and cracking the earth, it may also be a real estate
scheme. (photo: Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
By Jeff Goodell, Rolling Stone
03 March 12

It's not only toxic - it's driven by a right-wing billionaire who profits more from flipping land than drilling for gas.

ubrey McClendon, America's second-largest producer of natural gas, has never been afraid of a fight. He has become a billionaire by directing his company, Chesapeake Energy, to blast apart gas-soaked rocks a mile underground and pump the fuel to the surface. "We're the biggest frackers in the world," he declares proudly over a $400 bottle of French Bordeaux at a restaurant he co-owns in his hometown of Oklahoma City. "We frack all the time. What's the big deal?"

McClendon dominates America's supply of natural gas the same way the Tea Party-financing Koch brothers control the nation's pipelines and refineries. Like them, McClendon is an influential right-wing power broker - he helped fund the Swift Boat attacks against John Kerry in 2004, donated $250,000 to the presidential campaign of Rick Perry, and contributed more than $500,000 to stop gay marriage. But unlike his fellow energy czars, McClendon knows how to tone down his politics and present a friendlier, less ideological face to the public. He secretly gave $26 million to the Sierra Club to fight Big Coal, and built a Google-like campus for Chesapeake's 4,600 employees in Oklahoma City, complete with a 63,000-square-foot day care center, a luxurious gym and four cafes manned by cook-to-order chefs. He even voted for Barack Obama because he thought the country needed "an inspirational figure."

At 52, McClendon still looks like the whip-smart accountant he once aspired to be - crisp white shirt, polished shoes, a toss of white hair. To hear him tell it, the cleaner-than-coal fuel he produces will revive our faltering economy, free us from the tyranny of foreign oil and save the planet from global warming. "I have a fossil fuel that makes other fossil fuels obsolete," he boasts. By McClendon's estimate, the industry has drilled more than 1.2 million wells nationwide, yet so far there have been only a few confirmed cases where things have gone wrong - despite dire warnings from scientists and environmentalists that fracking pollutes rivers and streams, contaminates drinking water and turns large swaths of farmland into industrial moonscapes. "Where is the mushroom cloud?" McClendon asks. "Where are the dogs with one leg? Where are the people that have been maimed or hurt?"