September 1, 2014

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Born again economics

From 50 years of our overstocked archives

Sam Smith, 2005 - While a lot of attention is being paid to evangelical Christian extremism, far less is directed towards an equally dangerous religious sect - the practitioners of evangelical economic extremism.

Although the latter faith is not often regarded as an actual religion, it has far more in common with evangelism than it does with rational intellectual inquiry or thoughtful academic analysis. Along with the Christian extremists, the economic evangelists share an arrogant certainty, single factor fetishism, missionary mania, belief in intelligent design, an unlimited desire to impose their myths on others, and a rhetoric that is only meaningful if you already accept their premises. Their arguments are largely based on iconic folkloric texts and ignore the true variety of human existence and its communities and families.

And they both speak in tongues, which they consider a good thing. The big difference is that while the Christian bible has the money changers being chased out of the temple, the free market bible wants them back in again.

One sect blasphemes its namesake by practicing such unchristian traits as bigotry, intolerance, and aggression. The other mocks its namesake by fostering an economy that is free only to those who manipulate or steal from it.

In the end, both share an extraordinary narcissism with one putting their own salvation before everything else, the other doing the same with their own power and fiscal fortunes.

There are, of course, plenty of nice economists just as there are plenty of good Christians. The former practice their faith for the betterment of society just as good Christians practice love, charity, and forgiveness. They use their faith as a guide for themselves rather than as a weapon against others.

Increasingly, however, both Christians and economists have been tarnished by roving bands of heretical Talibanic bullies who have left the sanctuary of church and classroom to enforce their narrow and mean will upon the land. The one would have us believe that abortion and gay marriage are more important than housing, health and a breathable environment; the other that salvation lies in letting the robber barons do just what they want.

And as their false doctrine has caused countless suffering to others, these false prophets have gained status and wealth, an issue so profoundly raised by Ray Stevens in his epic work "Would Jesus Wear a Rolex":

Would Jesus be political
if He came back to earth?
Have His second home in
Palm Springs, yeah, and try
to hide His worth?
Take money, from those
poor folks, when He comes
back again?

For twenty five years, while one sect has increasingly controlled what we watch and read and how we mate, the other has helped create an ever more monopolized economy, indifferent to either conscience or consumer. One believes that their particular God and Jesus reveal all truths. The other says it's the market and money that does it.

In fact, it is hard to imagine a free market in a real world, and certainly not in Washington where 35,000 corporate lobbyists work hard to make sure the market is anything but free, as the politicians they have indentured and the media they have fooled prattle endlessly about said market's virtues.

Although free market advocates parade themselves as - and often appear to be - highly intelligent people, they are either exceptionally deluded or are perpetrating a massive fraud. As Robert Kuttner has pointed out, "There is at the core of the celebration of markets a relentless tautology. If we begin, by assumption, with the premise that nearly everything can be understood as a market and that markets optimize outcomes, then everything else leads back to the same conclusion -- marketize! If, in the event a particular market doesn't optimize, there is only one possible inference: it must be insufficiently marketlike. This epistemological sleight of hand is an astonishing blend that blurs the descriptive with the normative. It is a no-fail system for guaranteeing that theory trumps evidence."

In fact, any moderately observant person, not brainwashed by a quarter century of contrary missionary zeal, would notice that in addition to money, humans are affected by such things as community, religion, family, friends, social ambition, politics, virtue, and psychological faults and strengths. In short, the market driven society is just another form of false salvation being foisted on the unwary citizen, in this case by the Elmer Gantries of rightwing economics.

As with various forms of religious excess, the media has played a deeply enabling role. From the moment the Jerry Falwells of free markets - Thatcher and Reagan - commenced their con, the media bought into it with hardly a scintilla of skepticism. To this day one can easily assume from the media that there is a constitutional amendment guaranteeing a free market.

The damage evangelical economics has done of the country has been stunning, ranging from the extreme monopolization of American business to the disintegration of our language into a collection of corporate cliches. It has destroyed pensions, made decent healthcare and housing ever more difficult, and threatened social security. And yet none dare call these tyrants bullies, fools or liars.

In the end, it may be argued that all promises of salvation are false, but if a Christian evangelist and a market missionary should happen to ring your door at the same time, go with Jesus. Even the most extreme Christian advocate will at least offer you food, shelter, and warmth. The free marketer will leave you dying in the gutter, and standing over your last gasps, proudly tell you that the market was right again.

Department of Good Stuff: Urban bike projects

Sustainable Cities reports on:
  • Copenhagen’s non-stop bike commute.
  • Portland’s car-free bridge
  • Melbourne’s elevated bike superhighway
  • Hangzhou’s dedicated bike lanes


Obama fails to achieve Gitmo promises

NY Times - Although President Obama pledged last year to revive his efforts to close Guantánamo, his administration has managed to free just one low-level prisoner this year, leaving 79 who are approved for transfer to other countries. It has also not persuaded Congress to lift its ban on moving the remaining 70 higher-level detainees to a prison inside the United States.

“It’s a long way from being closed,” said Gen. John F. Kelly, the leader of the United States Southern Command, which oversees Joint Task Force Guantánamo. “Obviously the president is trying hard, he’s got people trying hard to get countries to take them, but at the end of the day, it’s going to take congressional action” to repeal the transfer ban.

More than 12 years after the Bush administration sent the first prisoners here, tensions are mounting over whether Mr. Obama can close the prison before leaving office, according to interviews with two dozen administration, congressional and military officials. A split is emerging between State Department officials, who appear eager to move toward Mr. Obama’s goal, and some Pentagon officials, who say they share that ambition but seem warier than their counterparts about releasing low-level detainees.

Legal pressures are also building as the war in Afghanistan approaches its official end, and the judiciary grows uncomfortable with the military’s practice of force-feeding hunger strikers. And military officials here, faced with decaying infrastructure and aging inmates, are taking steps they say are necessary to keep Guantánamo operating — but may also help institutionalize it.

Pocket paradigms

We need a museum of the good, curricula in decency studies, and practice in its skills and rhythms. We need peace experts instead of military experts on Fox and MSNBC. We need mediators instead of just lawyers on Court TV. We need movies, heroes, and moving stories that win Academy Awards with models for our children that lead them to the contentment of cooperation and fairness rather than to brutal examples drawn from the play-by-play of violence and wrong that appears with every other click of the zapper. - Sam Smith

Word

Habit is habit, and not to be flung out of the window by any man, but coaxed down the stairs one step at a time -- Mark Twain.

August 31, 2014

A conversation with God

From 50 years of our overstocked archives

[Encouraged by our two leading presidential candidates I decided to also try to have a conversation with the Father Almighty. I got through without any trouble - Sam Smith 2004]]

SAM - Hey Pops, this is Sam down on earth,  just checking in.

GOD - Good to hear from you. I get so tired of those suck-ups at the Christian Coalition and the Republican National Committee. Like I told them, the deal was I work six days, take the next day off, and then get at least three millennia in comp time.

But, no, they keep calling me and saying stuff like "You're with us if we take down Fallujah, right?" and I tell them they're on their own but then they run it through the spin cycle and the next thing I know I got a bunch of dead or angry Muslims on my hands.

SAM - Got any thoughts on the race?

GOD - Well, I wish that Shilling guy wouldn't give me so much credit for his pitches in the World Series. I mean, where does that leave me with those born-agains on the Cards and the Yankees? I try to be fair, you know, but everyone keeps insisting I'm their God and then using it as an excuse to beat the shit out of somebody else. Besides, I've been a Red Sox fan since at least 1932 and it hasn't done them much good until now.

SAM - I didn't know you used language like that.

GOD - Where do you think Howard Stern learned it? I'm God to all people, after all, not just to George Bush.

SAM - I was actually asking about the presidential race.

GOD - Oh that one. Well, I got to say I'm pretty disappointed in how you all are handling your democracy. Kind of wished I had thought of that one a little earlier myself, but then when Tommy Jefferson and the gang came along I had real hopes that the earth might work out better than it seemed. Now it's only two centuries later and you folks are about to blow the whole deal. I don't believe in messing with things, but I did try to warn them with those Florida hurricanes and all. I guess I was too subtle. I'd hate to think I'd have to come back down there but I'm getting pretty pissed. . .

SAM - Sounds like you're backing Kerry.

GOD - Well, I'm tempted but my basic rule is create and then stand back. But it's damn tough, especially when you've got that Bush guy taking my name in vain every chance he gets and talking about sanctity of life and then going out killing a whole bunch of people. Thing I want to know is why does the sanctity of life expire after only nine months? It should have a longer warranty than that.

SAM - So you got anything less than an endorsement, say like a suggestion?

GOD - Me yes, here's my tip for swing states: vote Kerry and then gain absolution by voting for every Green elsewhere on the ticket. It's that old Catholic trick: sin and then say a few Hail Marys. I like those Catholics because they still sin. The trouble with the born-agains like Bush is that they think they're always right because they claim I said so. Never said no such thing. Ever heard of Bush admitting he was wrong after he found Jesus? I mean, my me, if that was the case I could close down this place and move to Texas. You don't need two heavens.

SAM - Didn't know you were a Green.

GOD - Well, I got to admit I prefer folks who try to do my will over those who claim I blessed them and then do whatever they want. Remember my man Frankie over at Assisi? He said, always preach the gospel and if necessary use words.

It was like I was telling my son the other day: you know, if you go back on earth you might want to think about registering Green. And he says, but Dad, I thought Bush was the Big Christian. And I said, my me, if Bush had been born in that manger instead of you he would have had cut some Enron type deal with Pontius Pilate, privatized miracles, outsourced charity, and give a big tax deduction to crucifix manufacturers.

SAM - I thought maybe you were more the Ralph Nader type.

GOD - Oh, I like Ralph and he and I are pretty much on the same wavelength. But it's like I tried to tell him, you don't have to do my will every damn moment. I said, why don't you take some time off, and get back to my will after the election?

SAM - Doesn't look like he listened to you.

GOD - Nope, but keep in mind that I'd still take him over the whole Democratic and Republican Party combined. And have those Democrats been mean to him. They don't hold a candle to him but they treat him like dirt. Now I admit, the saintly can be a real pain in the butt, but, me knows, they do more for the world than the average politician.

SAM - Well, this is quite a different take on the election than I've been hearing from certain Catholic bishops and members of the Christian right.

GOD - So you think I'm going to go to all the trouble to create a world and then pass on my opinions through the likes of some pompous priest, Pat Robertson, or George Bush? I am the almighty after all. I don't have to use charlatans to get my word out. Hell, I'd rather use Jessica Simpson as my emissary.

SAM - Well, that raises a whole new issue, but I've taken enough of your time.

GOD - No problem, mate. Just answer me one question

SAM - Sure

GOD - I thought you didn't believe in me so how come we're having this conversation?

SAM - Well, you know what they say about us journalists. We'll do anything for a story.

GOD - Okay, but don't go soft on me. I get so tired of talking with phony true believers. Especially the ones who give big tax cuts to the rich and bomb the hell out of people they don't like.

SAM - If you want I could get you a list of states with same day registration

GOD - You tempt me but I think I'll stay here and wait to see how it all comes out..

Living with the American family

From 50 years of our overstocked archives

Sam Smith, 2005 - Since the election the tone of our Feedback section has become more vituperative that at anytime I can recall. The anger is mostly not coming from the right but from liberal Democrats and is not directed at wrong-headed policies but at - in the opinion of our correspondents - wrong-head people and wrong headed sections of the country, particularly the south.

The irony is that these messages followed a piece in which I suggested that the future of a better politics lay partly in the toleration of some differences in order to unite on other matters, that there was no progress in polarity but rather in unexpected alliances. The first reactions were highly favorable but then began to shift into a crueler rhetoric of a sort that if, say, directed against gays or women, would get one censored or banned on many campuses. I had always assumed that diversity included people who didn't agree with me; many of our correspondents apparently do not share that view.

My thoughts on this matter stem in part from having lived in a part of the country that is a major target: the south. Washington is not really the south you may say, but I come from a time when it was very much so and my early reporting included covering the city's struggle to break away from its segregated past and related heritage which dated back as far as the Civil War when over half of the officers in the DC militia resigned and joined the Confederacy.

My experiences, which have ranged from going to a segregated school to working in SNCC, have affected my view of how change is really brought about. For example:

- I have seen Washington break with its segregated past becoming one of the most progressive cities in the country but then turning its back on its hard-won new values to become a corrupt and contented place where ethnic discrimination has been replaced by socio-economic cleansing.

- I have seen people with various degrees of willingness and fairness give up their old ways for something better. I have watched former voices of fairness become corrupt and indifferent.

- I have seen once deep antagonists discover common ground and use it for useful purposes.

- I have seen hate wither and decency sprout, but I have also seen the once fair-minded start to use the sort of slyly invidious distinctions that supported segregation to justify other forms of discrimination.

- I have seen principles and tactics, such as those invoked by Saul Alinsky, bring people together who are theoretically not supposed to be together and form powerful new coalitions. Out of these coalitions, diversity stopped being just a theory and became a personal experience and habit.

I have, as a result, learned to concentrate on specific wrongs at specific times and to expect, indeed try to foster, the unexpected.

It is bad enough when the right engages in slapstick slander against others, but it is scary to see liberal Democrats picking up the habit as well. Are we on our way to a sort of American Bosnia or Middle East?

We do not have to accept insults but that does not mean we have to match them and raise them ten. It is certainly, for example, within the realm of reasonable politics to start a boycott against a city or state that has show rank prejudice against gays, but we must always concentrate our efforts on those in power and not the powerless who, through propaganda and maleducation, have come to believe them.

I once asked the black journalist Chuck Stone how to get along with other Americans. As columnist and senior editor of the Philadelphia Daily News, 75 homicide suspects had surrendered to him personally rather than take their chances with the Philadelphia police department. Stone also negotiated the end of five hostage crises, once at gun point.

He said that he had learned how to listen and to believe in building what he called the "the reciprocity of civility." His advice for getting along with other Americans: treat them like a member of your family.

Which reminded me of something my father had told us from time to time: "You don't have to like your relatives, you just have to be nice to them." It might work with the greater American family as well.

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Dishing the dirt is healthy

Modern Farmer - In 2007, Christopher Lowry, associate professor in the Department of Integrative Physiology and Center for Neuroscience at University of Colorado Boulder, and a team of researchers published an article in Neuroscience that had people wondering if dirt was the new Prozac. The study examined a specific soil bacterium, Mycobacterium vaccae, and its potential role in the regulation of emotional behavior. In other words: did the bacteria have antidepressant qualities?

“Soil, especially soil with abundant organic matter, contains saprophytic bacteria, meaning that they live off of dead and decaying organic matter, such as leaves,” says Lowry. “Humans coevolved with these bacteria over millennia and they have been shown to affect the immune system in a way that suppresses inflammation. This means that these bacteria may be helpful in preventing or treating diseases with excess inflammation.”

So what are exactly, are diseases with “inflammation?”

“This includes conditions like asthma, but also, perhaps, stress-related psychiatric disorders characterized by elevated inflammation, such as major depressive disorder or post-traumatic stress disorder,” says Lowry.

It’s not so surprising that we may benefit from microorganisms in the soil, given that we need them to live.

The regulation of the immune system is indeed connected to the biodiversity of the natural environment. We benefit from being outdoors and exposed to things like soil and animals, because of the fact that we’re exposed to microorganisms.

“A human is not an individual. We are ecosystems. At least 90% of the cells in a human body are microbes, most of them living in the gut,” says Graham Rook, professor at the Centre for Clinical Microbiology at the University College London. “ These organisms constitute the ‘microbiota,’ and the microbiota should be regarded as an organ, just like your liver or your brain.”

While the organisms that make up that microbiota are inherited — like we inherit genes — there is a proportion of the organisms that come from elsewhere, and that’s where things get interesting.

“An unknown proportion of the organisms that constitute the microbiota come from the environment,” says Rock. “It now seems that the most likely explanation for the health benefits of exposure to farms, dogs in the home, and green space is that the natural environment (including the animals in it) is a resource that provides organisms as we need them.”

Just last year Rook published an article that explored those connections, concluding that the regulation of the immune system is indeed connected to the biodiversity of the natural environment. We benefit from being outdoors and exposed to things like soil and animals, because of the fact that we’re exposed to microorganisms.

“People usually assume that the health benefits of exposure to green space are due to exercise. In fact two large studies now demonstrate that although exercise is definitely good for you, it does not explain the beneficial effect of green space,” says Rook. “Contact with microbial biodiversity is looking like the most probable explanation for the green space effect.”

So if microorganisms are good for you, how much exposure do you need to have in order to reap the benefits? How many days in the garden do you need to commit to?

That’s what’s still unclear.

“We don’t yet know how much exposure to environmental bacteria (for example, through activities that involve contact with the soil) is enough to confer health benefits,” says Lowry. “It is clear, however, that exposure through breathing or consuming specific types of environmental organisms has the capacity to reduce inflammation and confer health benefits.”

Which means that you now have another reason to go outside and get your hands dirty.

Pocket paradigms

We live in a nation hated abroad and frightened at home. A place in which we can reasonably refer to the American Republic in the past tense. A country that has moved into a post-constitutional era, no longer a nation of laws but an autocracy run by law breakers, law evaders and law ignorers. A nation governed by a culture of impunity ... a culture in which corruption is no longer a form of deviance but the norm. We all live in a Mafia neighborhood now.- Sam Smith

Word

John Kenneth Galbraith

Politics is not the art of the possible. It consists in choosing between the disastrous and the unpalatable.

Nothing is so admirable in politics as a short memory.

Few can believe that suffering, especially by others, is in vain. Anything that is disagreeable must surely have beneficial economic effects.

Wealth, in even the most improbable cases, manages to convey the aspect of intelligence.
Much literary criticism comes from people for whom extreme specialization is a cover for either grave cerebral inadequacy or terminal laziness, the latter being a much cherished aspect of academic freedom

Pocket paradigms: The 1950s

The 1950s

Sam Smith - They called my generation the "silent" one, the one America skipped in moving from George Bush to Bill Clinton. Maybe some of us were quiet because we were trying to figure out how to avoid becoming the man in the gray flannel suit or part of the lonely crowd. The struggle, we thought, was about individuality and no one spoke of movements. Our cultural heroes didn't organize anything. They hit the road. Our goal wasn't to overthrow the establishment, someone would say a decade later, but to make it irrelevant. Or, like Miles Davis in concert, play with your back to it. In the 1960s, when we were in our 30s, we were told that we already were too old to be trusted. It wasn't really true; in many ways the 60s was just the mass movement of something that had started in the 50s with our coffee houses, music and conscious political apathy. We were the warmup band for the 1960s.

Some of us made Humphrey Bogart an anti-hero in part, I think, because we already suspected that America was our own Casablanca, a place of seductive illusions and baroque deceptions, where nothing was at it appeared. After all, we had been taught that if we crawled under our desks, we would be safe from The Bomb. Even our teachers lied to us. Bogie knew how to live in a time of lies.

Unlike today's activists we lacked a plan; unlike those of the 60s we lacked anything to plan for; what substituted for utopia and organization was the freedom to think, to speak, to move at will in a culture that thought it had adequately taken care of all such matters. Although the Beats are frequently parodied for their dress, sartorial nonconformity was actually more a matter of indifference rather than, as in the case of some of the more recently alienated, conscious style. They even wore ties from time to time. Cool resided in a nonchalant, negligent non-conformity rather than in a considered counter style and counter symbolism.To a far great degree than rebellions that followed, the Beat culture created its message by being rather than doing, rejection rather than confrontation, sensibility rather than strategy, journeys instead of movements, words and music instead of acts, and informal communities rather than formal institutions.

August 30, 2014

Last year British police offiers fired their guns three times. No one died

PRI - In 2012, 409 people were shot and killed by American police in what were termed justifiable shootings. In that same year, British police officers fired their weapons just once. No one was killed.

In 2013, British police officers fired their weapons all of three times. No one died. According to The Economist, "British citizens are around 100 times less likely to be shot by a police officer than Americans. Between 2010 and 2014, the police force of one small American city — Albuquerque in New Mexico — shot and killed 23 civilians; seven times more than the number of Brits killed by all of England and Wales’s 43 forces during the same period.

The Economist argues that the reason for this disparity is actually quite simple: guns are comparatively rare in the UK. Most cops don't carry them and criminals rarely have access to them. The last time a British officer was killed by a gun was in 2012. In the US last year, 30 police officers were shot and killed in the line of duty.

In December, PRI's The World reported on Icelanders grieving after their police force killed a man — for the first time in the country's history as a republic.

Housing stats


Getting better

New home sales highest since 2008
Housing starts largest since 2006
Mortgage delinquencies decline
Homes with indoor plumbing up from 55% in 1940s to 99% now
Homelssness down from 2007
Utah slashes homelessness

Getting worse

This year's Children's Defense Fund report finds roughly 1.2 million public school students were homeless in 2011-2012, 73 percent more than before the recession. More than one in nine children lacked access to adequate food in 2012, a rate 23 percent higher than before the recession.

Other

2014
Where federal housing dollars go

Half of renters pay 30% of income on rent


HOMELESSNESS

Record 53,000 homeless in NYC shelters
@amprog - Housing a homeless person costs $21,000 less than doing nothing
Homelssness down from 2007

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National Immigration Project
 
The foreign born population in the US - as a percentage of the total - is about what it was from 1860 to 1910: 13%. It has ranged from a low of 5% in 1970 to 15% between 1880 and 1900. The only time it has fallen below 10% in the past century was between 1940 and 1980. 

Caifornia headed to be first state to ban plastic bags

Eco Watch - The California Senate voted 22-15  to pass a statewide ban on single-use plastic bags. The bill, SB 270, will phase out single-use plastic bags in grocery stores and pharmacies beginning July 2015, and in convenience stores one year later, and create a mandatory minimum ten-cent fee for recycled paper, reusable plastic and compostable bags.

The bill, which passed both houses of the California State Legislature now heads to the Governor’s desk. If signed, California will become the first state in the U.S. to ban what advocates call “the most ubiquitous consumer item on the planet.”

Word

Dinka, Future Cape Town, South Africa - The more we fear each other, the less we trust each other. The less we trust, the less we open up to each other, and the less we learn about each other. And the less we know, or understand, about each other, the more we fear each other. And so on and so forth until fear (and Facebook) diminish what little experience of neighborliness we have left.

In short: fear desensitises.

Nashville's Music Row threatened by developers

Al Jazeera

Gay acceptance weakening gayborhoods

USA Today - In the midst of 20 straight wins in federal courts for same-sex marriage and polling that demonstrates Americans' growing acceptance of LGBT people, scholars and demographers say there are signs that the draw of the so-called gayborhood is fading away.

Understanding the extent of the gay and lesbian migration from gayborhoods with precision is difficult, since the U.S. Census Bureau doesn't ask all individuals about their sexuality. But the bureau does collect data on same-sex couple households, providing the best, albeit incomplete, account of the USA's LGBT population.

By that measure, the number of gay men who live in gay enclaves nationwide has declined 8.1% while the number of lesbians has dropped 13.6% over the last decade, Ghaziani notes in his new book, There Goes the Gayborhood?

Federal judge slaps down Texas abortion law

A federal judge invalidated a major Texas abortion regulation that would have shut down 19 licensed clinics next week, ruling that it created “a brutally effective system” designed to close abortion facilities, not to improve women’s health as state lawyers had argued.
U.S. District Judge Lee Yeakel of Austin ruled that a key provision in House Bill 2, passed last summer in the second of two raucous special legislative sessions, imposed an impermissible burden that blocked access to abortion for “women throughout Texas.”

Pocket paradigms

Those who run the country, whether in government, business or media, seldom speak of this land anymore with feeling, affection or understanding. They too often carry forth their affairs unburdened by place, history or culture -- without conscience, without country, and without any sense of the pain they have caused. America is no longer a place to serve and to love. Because they have, in the name of global glories, cut themselves off from their own land, it is becoming for them increasingly a place of danger -- a place of long, grim shadows, the sort of shadows that too often conceal a foe..- Sam Smith

Word

Real generosity toward the future lies in giving all to the present -- Albert Camus

August 29, 2014

Americans overwhelmingly support paid vacations

Huffington Post - Americans overwhelmingly support the idea of requiring large U.S. employers to provide their workers with at least some paid vacation time, according to a new HuffPost/YouGov poll.

75 percent of respondents said they believe in placing such a mandate upon the business community. A mere 17 percent said they oppose it. The support crossed party lines to include 87 percent of self-identified Democrats and 65 percent of Republicans.

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What Obama claimed to believe in 2007

Boston Globe, 2007

1. Does the president have inherent powers under the Constitution to conduct surveillance for national security purposes without judicial warrants, regardless of federal statutes?

The Supreme Court has never held that the president has such powers. As president, I will follow existing law, and when it comes to U.S. citizens and residents, I will only authorize surveillance for national security purposes consistent with FISA and other federal statutes.

2. In what circumstances, if any, would the president have constitutional authority to bomb Iran without seeking a use-of-force authorization from Congress? (Specifically, what about the strategic bombing of suspected nuclear sites -- a situation that does not involve stopping an IMMINENT threat?)

The President does not have power under the Constitution to unilaterally authorize a military attack in a situation that does not involve stopping an actual or imminent threat to the nation.

As Commander-in-Chief, the President does have a duty to protect and defend the United States. In instances of self-defense, the President would be within his constitutional authority to act before advising Congress or seeking its consent. History has shown us time and again, however, that military action is most successful when it is authorized and supported by the Legislative branch. It is always preferable to have the informed consent of Congress prior to any military action.


3. Does the Constitution empower the president to disregard a congressional statute limiting the deployment of troops -- either by capping the number of troops that may be deployed to a particular country or by setting minimum home-stays between deployments? In other words, is that level of deployment management beyond the constitutional power of Congress to regulate?

No, the President does not have that power. To date, several Congresses have imposed limitations on the number of US troops deployed in a given situation. As President, I will not assert a constitutional authority to deploy troops in a manner contrary to an express limit imposed by Congress and adopted into law.

4. Under what circumstances, if any, would you sign a bill into law but also issue a signing statement reserving a constitutional right to bypass the law?

Signing statements have been used by presidents of both parties, dating back to Andrew Jackson. While it is legitimate for a president to issue a signing statement to clarify his understanding of ambiguous provisions of statutes and to explain his view of how he intends to faithfully execute the law, it is a clear abuse of power to use such statements as a license to evade laws that the president does not like or as an end-run around provisions designed to foster accountability.

I will not use signing statements to nullify or undermine congressional instructions as enacted into law. The problem with this administration is that it has attached signing statements to legislation in an effort to change the meaning of the legislation, to avoid enforcing certain provisions of the legislation that the President does not like, and to raise implausible or dubious constitutional objections to the legislation. The fact that President Bush has issued signing statements to challenge over 1100 laws – more than any president in history – is a clear abuse of this prerogative. No one doubts that it is appropriate to use signing statements to protect a president's constitutional prerogatives; unfortunately, the Bush Administration has gone much further than that.

5. Does the Constitution permit a president to detain US citizens without charges as unlawful enemy combatants?

No. I reject the Bush Administration's claim that the President has plenary authority under the Constitution to detain U.S. citizens without charges as unlawful enemy combatants.

6. Does executive privilege cover testimony or documents about decision-making within the executive branch not involving confidential advice communicated to the president himself?

With respect to the “core” of executive privilege, the Supreme Court has not resolved this question, and reasonable people have debated it. My view is that executive privilege generally depends on the involvement of the President and the White House.

7. If Congress defines a specific interrogation technique as prohibited under all circumstances, does the president's authority as commander in chief ever permit him to instruct his subordinates to employ that technique despite the statute?

No. The President is not above the law, and the Commander-in-Chief power does not entitle him to use techniques that Congress has specifically banned as torture. We must send a message to the world that America is a nation of laws, and a nation that stands against torture. As President I will abide by statutory prohibitions, and have the Army Field Manual govern interrogation techniques for all United States Government personnel and contractors.

8. Under what circumstances, if any, is the president, when operating overseas as commander-in-chief, free to disregard international human rights treaties that the US Senate has ratified?

It is illegal and unwise for the President to disregard international human rights treaties that have been ratified by the United States Senate, including and especially the Geneva Conventions. The Commander-in-Chief power does not allow the President to defy those treaties.

9. Do you agree or disagree with the statement made by former Attorney General Gonzales in January 2007 that nothing in the Constitution confers an affirmative right to habeas corpus, separate from any statutory habeas rights Congress might grant or take away?

Disagree strongly.

10. Is there any executive power the Bush administration has claimed or exercised that you think is unconstitutional? Anything you think is simply a bad idea?


First and foremost, I agree with the Supreme Court's several decisions rejecting the extreme arguments of the Bush Administration, most importantly in the Hamdi and Hamdan cases. I also reject the view, suggested in memoranda by the Department of Justice, that the President may do whatever he deems necessary to protect national security, and that he may torture people in defiance of congressional enactments. In my view, torture is unconstitutional, and certain enhanced interrogation techniques like “waterboarding” clearly constitute torture. And as noted, I reject the use of signing statements to make extreme and implausible claims of presidential authority.

Some further points:

The detention of American citizens, without access to counsel, fair procedure, or pursuant to judicial authorization, as enemy combatants is unconstitutional.

Warrantless surveillance of American citizens, in defiance of FISA, is unlawful and unconstitutional.

The violation of international treaties that have been ratified by the Senate, specifically the Geneva Conventions, was illegal (as the Supreme Court held) and a bad idea.

The creation of military commissions, without congressional authorization, was unlawful (as the Supreme Court held) and a bad idea.

I believe the Administration’s use of executive authority to over-classify information is a bad idea. We need to restore the balance between the necessarily secret and the necessity of openness in our democracy – which is why I have called for a National Declassification Center.

The overseas corporate tax scandal

Rolling Stone

Pearson's role in the LA Ipad scandal

NPR

40 hour work week dying

Gallup - Adults employed full time in the U.S. report working an average of 47 hours per week, almost a full workday longer than what a standard five-day, 9-to-5 schedule entails. In fact, half of all full-time workers indicate they typically work more than 40 hours, and nearly four in 10 say they work at least 50 hours.

Something they forget to tell you about beheadings


In Saudi Arabia death row inmates are beheaded and crucified. Picture: Amnesty Internatio 
AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL

News, Australia - A person has been put to death in Saudi Arabia almost every day this month...

Hajras al-Qurey will become the latest person to be executed in the last three weeks with human rights groups horrified by what they are calling a surge in executions.

The execution of al-Qurey will top off a deadly week around the world with the beheading of an Egyptian man by Libya armed groups and the execution of 18 informers by Hamas, according to Amnesty International.

Last Monday four men — two sets of brothers Hadi bin Saleh Abdullah al-Mutlaq and Awad bin Saleh Abdullah al-Mutlaq along with Mufrih bin Jaber Zayd al-Yami and Ali bin Jaber Zayd al-Yami — were beheaded.

Amnesty claims they were sentenced to death largely on false confessions they gave.

According to Amnesty, there has been a surge in executions in Saudi Arabia since the end of Ramadan on July 28, with 22 executions taking place between August 4 and August 22, compared to 17 executions between January and July this year.

Amnesty International said called on the Kingdom to halt all executions after four members of the same family were beheaded for “receiving drugs”.

Said Boumedouha, Deputy Director of Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Program, said the execution of people accused of petty crimes and on the basis of confessions extracted through torture had become shamefully common in Saudi Arabia.

“The use of the death penalty in Saudi Arabia is so far removed from any kind of legal parameters that it is almost hard to believe” Mr Boumedouha said.

Hajras al-Qurey, 53, was sentenced to death on 16 January last year in the south-eastern city of Najran on drug-trafficking charges.

He was arrested, together with his son Muhammad, on 7 January 2012 at the al-Khadra border crossing with Yemen, when customs officers suspected they were carrying drugs in their car.

His son was sentenced to 20 years in prison and 1000 lashes.

But according to Amnesty, both men claim they were tortured during their interrogation and were denied access to their lawyers.

Their families were also told to stop appealing to human rights organizations to save them from execution.

“That people are tortured into confessing to crimes, convicted in shameful trials without adequate legal support and then executed is a sickening indictment of the Kingdom’s state-sanctioned brutality,” Mr Boumedouha said.

“It is clear that the authorities are more interested in threatening victims’ families to shut them up rather than putting an end to this grotesque phenomenon.”

A deadly August is just the tip of the iceberg for Saudi Arabia which executed more than 2000 people between 1985 and 2013, figures provided by the human rights group reveal.

According to them, trials in capital cases are often held in secret and defendants are given no or insufficient access to lawyers.

And people in Saudi can be executed for a range of crimes including adultery, armed robbery, apostasy, drug-related offences, rape, witchcraft and sorcery.

Most executions are done by beheading and many take place in public.

In some cases decapitated bodies are left lying on the ground in public squares as a “deterrent”.

We interrupt the panic for a few facts about ISIS

Gary Brecher, Pando  - The “Iraqi Army” routed by ISIS wasn’t really a national army, and ISIS isn’t really a dominant military force. It was able to occupy those cities because they were vacuums, abandoned by a weak, sectarian force. Moving into vacuums like this is what ISIS is good at. And that’s the only thing ISIS is good at.

ISIS is a sectarian Sunni militia—that’s all. A big one, as militias go, with something like 10,000 fighters. Most of them are Iraqi, a few are Syrian, and a few hundred are those famous “European jihadis” who draw press attention out of all relation to their negligible combat value. The real strength of ISIS comes from its Chechen fighters, up to a thousand of them. A thousand Chechens is a serious force, and a terrifying one if they’re bearing down on your neighborhood. Chechens are the scariest fighters, pound-for-pound, in the world.

But we’re still talking about a conventional military force smaller than a division. That’s a real but very limited amount of combat power. What this means is that, no matter how many scare headlines you read, ISIS will never take Baghdad, let alone Shia cities to the south like Karbala. It won’t be able to dent the Kurds’ territory to the north, either. All it can do—all it has been doing, by moving into Sunni cities like Mosul and Tikrit—is to complete the partition of Iraq begun by our dear ex-president Bush in 2003. By crushing Saddam’s Sunni-led Iraq, the Americans made partition inevitable. In fact, Iraq has been partitioned ever since the invasion; it’s just been partitioned badly, into two parts instead of the natural three: the Kurdish north, and the remainder occupied by a weak sectarian Shia force going by the name of “The Iraqi Army.” The center of the country, the so-called “Sunni Triangle,” had no share in this partition and was under the inept, weak rule of the Shia army.

By occupying the Sunni cities, ISIS has simply made a more rational partition, adding a third part, putting the Sunni Triangle back under Sunni rule. The Shia troops who fled as soon as they heard that the ISIS was on the way seem to have anticipated that the Sunni would claim their own territory someday. That’s why they fled without giving even a pretense of battle.

So, Iraq is now partitioned on more natural, sensible lines, thanks to ISIS. It’s going to be a messy transition, as Iraqi transitions tend to be, with mass executions of collaborators like those already happening in Mosul and Tikrit.

But in the long run, ISIS has simply swept into a power vacuum, like it’s done from the start.

Pocket paradigms

Today almost every principle upon which this country was founded is being turned on its head. Instead of liberty we are being taught to prefer order, instead of democracy we are taught to be follow directions, instead of debate we are inundated with propaganda. Most profoundly, American citizens are no longer considered by their elites to be members or even worker drones of society, but rather as targets - targets of opportunity by corporations and of suspicion and control by government.- Sam Smith

Word

It takes your enemy and your friend, working together to hurt you: the one to slander you, and the other to bring the news to you - Mark Twain

Americans desert those who brought them the 7 day, 40 hour work week


GALLUP

Obama's no win approach to the Mid East

Shamus Cooke, Truth Out - By attacking the Islamic State in Syria, Obama will become a de facto ally of the Syrian government, just as Obama and ISIS were de facto allies when they were both targeting Bashar al-Assad. Most Americans are likely fed up with Obama’s zig-zagging foreign policy, and with each new u-turn support drops for the next war.

But the US has no plans to leave the Middle East to its own devices, and “fixing” the current problems will mean that Obama will need to tear up the patchwork of alliances previously pieced together amid past US wars. The next US-led “solution” will only compound the catastrophe, and continue the senseless logic of permanent war.

The situation has become so absurd that the US is now spending millions of dollars bombing US-made military equipment in Iraq — itself worth millions, previously gifted to the Iraqi government and then taken by ISIS.

Obama’s constant Middle East flip-flops have made it difficult to keep allies. After having built a coalition of nations to wage a proxy war against Bashar al-Assad, Obama backed out of his promised air strikes last year, in effect abandoning his anti-Syrian partners, many of whom still bear a grudge.

As a result, Obama faces a “credibility gap,” as does anyone who doesn’t do what they say they’re going to do. Obama also said he supported a two-state solution in Palestine, but then backed Israel 100 percent in its ongoing slaughter against the Palestinians and its continued building of settlements.

Obama also promised to wage a “war on terror,” but allowed the growth of jihadi movements in his fight against the Libyan and Syrian governments, since they were de facto allies against the targeted governments. This is one of the reasons given by Middle East journalist Patrick Cockburn on why the “war on terror” failed.

But there are other reasons Obama has few allies to fight ISIS. The unbreakable bond between the US and the Saudi dictatorship can never be too public, since the overwhelming majority of Saudis hate the United States government, as do the vast majority of people across the Middle East, according to a recent poll.

Why do they hate the US government? Unlike the American media perception of US foreign policy goofily stumbling from one good-intentioned mishap to the next, the average person in the Middle East views the American military as a sociopathic power hell-bent on annihilation.

Real eonomics

Income gap between the top 5% and the bottom 20% is currently the largest on record

Record album sales hit two decade low

Billboard - This week's 3.97-million album sales tally is the smallest weekly sum for album sales since Nielsen Sound Scan began tracking data in 1991. It's also the first time weekly sales have fallen below four million in that time span.

August 28, 2014

Word: Alexander Hamilton on police officers

One of the best descriptions of the proper role of a law enforcement officer was that delivered by Hamilton to the first group of officers of the Revenue Marine, later the US Coast Guard. Said Hamilton:

"While I recommend in the strongest terms to the respective officers, activity, vigilance and firmness, I feel no less solicitude that their deportment may be marked with prudence, moderation and good temper. . . They will bear in mind that their countrymen are freemen, and as such are impatient of everything that bears the least mark of domineering spirit. They will, therefore refrain, with the most guarded circumspection, from whatever has the semblance of hautiness, rudeness or insult. If obstacles occur, they will remember that they are under the particular protection of the laws and they can meet with nothing disagreeable in the execution of their duty which these will not severely reprehend. . . This reflection, and regard to the good of the service, will prevent at all times a spirit of irritation or resentment. They will endeavor to overcome difficulties, if any are experienced, by a cool and temperate perseverance in their duty -- by address and moderation rather than by vehemence and violence."

This quotation was on a page by itself at the very front of the Coast Guardsman's Manual that I was given as officer candidate in 1961. In the next edition, a few years later, it had disappeared - replaced by the Star Spangled Banner.

Poll: Ukraine

Huffington Post - According to the survey, only 29 percent of Americans think the U.S. has a responsibility to defend Ukraine in the case of a Russian invasion, while 38 percent think it does not. Another 33 percent said they're not sure.

Major media censors labor out of talk shows

FAIR - According to a search of the Sunday morning talkshows for this year (January-August), not a single representative of a labor union appeared on any of the four network programs (NBC's Meet the Press, ABC's This Week, Fox News Sunday and CBS's Face the Nation).

... The Sunday shows did, however, find time to hear the views of corporate America. Guests that were identified as current or former corporate CEOs made 12 appearances, including former AOL head Steve Case (Meet the Press, 4/6/14), Apple CEO Tim Cook (This Week, 3/30/14) and Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz (Fox News Sunday, 6/22/14). Former Hewlett Packard CEO and Republican political candidate Carly Fiorina made four appearances.

Introducing a segment with FedEx chair Frederick W. Smith and former UBS Investment Bank chief Robert Wolf, Fox News Sunday host Chris Wallace (5/4/14) announced:

Union made cookout shopping list


American black ops Frankenstein faces its monster

Richard Brenneman - For years the American government’s black ops boys and girls stirred up religious fundamentalists to rise up against strong central governments, invoking populist justifications.

Needless to say, students of history will recognize parallels with other extremists bent on purification through extermination of “impure” or parasitic elements.

And now the blow back, plus a lot more dark arts games are unfolding, with the ironic twists becoming ever more blatant.

Details

Corporate tax turncoats growing

The plastic curse in our oceans

I have just returned with a team of scientists from six weeks at sea conducting research in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch — one of five major garbage patches drifting in the oceans north and south of the equator at the latitude of our great terrestrial deserts. Although it was my 10th voyage to the area, I was utterly shocked to see the enormous increase in the quantity of plastic waste since my last trip in 2009. Plastics of every description, from toothbrushes to tires to unidentifiable fragments too numerous to count floated past our marine research vessel Alguita for hundreds of miles without end. We even came upon a floating island bolstered by dozens of plastic buoys used in oyster aquaculture that had solid areas you could walk on.

Plastics are now one of the most common pollutants of ocean waters worldwide. Pushed by winds, tides and currents, plastic particles form with other debris into large swirling glutinous accumulation zones, known to oceanographers as gyres, which comprise as much as 40 percent of the planet’s ocean surface — roughly 25 percent of the entire earth.

No scientist, environmentalist, entrepreneur, national or international government agency has yet been able to establish a comprehensive way of recycling the plastic trash that covers our land and inevitably blows and washes down to the sea. In a 2010 study I conducted of the Los Angeles and San Gabriel Rivers, we extrapolated that some 2.3 billion pieces of plastic — from polystyrene foam to tiny fragments and pellets — had flowed from Southern California’s urban centers into its coastal waters in just three days of sampling.

The deleterious consequences of humanity’s “plastic footprint” are many, some known and some yet to be discovered. We know that plastics biodegrade exceptionally slowly, breaking into tiny fragments in a centuries-long process. We know that plastic debris entangles and slowly kills millions of sea creatures; that hundreds of species mistake plastics for their natural food, ingesting toxicants that cause liver and stomach abnormalities in fish and birds, often choking or starving them to death. We know that one of the main bait fish in the ocean, the lantern fish, eats copious quantities of plastic fragments, threatening their future as a nutritious food source to the tuna, salmon, and other pelagic fish we consume, adding to the increasing amount of synthetic chemicals unknown before 1950 that we now carry in our bodies.

How California's one percent is still getting its water

Alternet - While most of California worries, cuts back and braces for the worst of this epic drought, the Golden State's 1-percenters are staying flush with water. While some are obeying public water restrictions and having it shipped in by the truckload to their mansions in the tony exurbs of Santa Barbara County, others are just breaking the rules and paying hefty fines for not obeying local water restrictions.

Politico reports that tanker trucks filled with water make routine deliveries to the grand manors of the rich and famous, carting up to 5,000 gallons of water to the region's wealthiest residents. The beltway newspaper reports that Oprah Winfrey, one of Montecito's richest residents, gets water deliveries on a regular basis to keep things flowing at her 40-acre estate. Oprah, whose water bill from the Montecito Water District was almost $125,000 last year, has cut her municipal water use in half this year, but she still needs massive deliveries of H2O to make it work.

Montecito Journal columnist Bob Hazard, says he would not be surprised if some of the town's wealthiest are "paying as much as $15,000 a month for trucked-in water."

If Britain were a US state, it would be the second poorest

Washington Post - If Britain were to join the United States, it would be the second-poorest state, behind Alabama and ahead of Mississippi.

The ranking, determined by Fraser Nelson, an editor of The Spectator magazine, was made by dividing the gross domestic product of each state by its population, and it  took into account purchasing power parity for cost of living. Several other European countries were also included in the ranking.

Ranking by GDP per capita instead of just GDP means that states with mega-economies such as California, which has the top GDP in the United States (its GDP is also larger than most countries’), was knocked down to 14th place among the states when divided by its more than 38 million residents. Alaska comes in first, with a GDP of more than $59 billion divided by a population of 735,000.

Norway was the top European country on the list, between Massachusetts and New Jersey.

Maps: Where religious believers live

Richard Brenneman

Gallery: Before and after shots of the California drought

https://pbs.twimg.com/media/BwGYWOoCcAAIzZ2.png 
VOX

Elizabeth Warren in the AIPAC trap, too

Intercept - The last time Elizabeth Warren was asked about her views on the Israeli attack on Gaza – on July 17 – she, as Rania Khalek put it, “literally ran away” without answering. But last week, the liberal Senator appeared for one of her regularly scheduled “office hours” with her Massachusetts constituents, this one in Hyannis, and, as a local paper reported, she had nowhere to run.

One voter who identified himself as a Warren supporter, John Bangert, stood up and objected to her recent vote, in the middle of the horrific attack on Gaza, to send yet another $225 million of American taxpayer money to Israel for its “Iron Dome” system. Banger told his Senator: “We are disagreeing with Israel using their guns against innocents. It’s true in Ferguson, Missouri, and it’s true in Israel . . .  The vote was wrong, I believe.” To crowd applause, Bangert told Warren that the money “could have been spent on infrastructure or helping immigrants fleeing Central America.”

But Warren steadfastly defended her “pro-Israel” vote, invoking the politician’s platitude: “We’re going to have to agree to disagree on this one.” According to the account in the Cape Cod Times by reporter C. Ryan Barber, flagged by Zaid Jilani, Warren was also asked about her Israel position by other voters who were at the gathering, and she went on to explain:

“I think the vote was right, and I’ll tell you why I think the vote was right. America has a very special relationship with Israel. Israel lives in a very dangerous part of the world, and a part of the world where there aren’t many liberal democracies and democracies that are controlled by the rule of law. And we very much need an ally in that part of the world.”

Warren said Hamas has attacked Israel “indiscriminately,” but with the Iron Dome defense system, the missiles have “not had the terrorist effect Hamas hoped for.” When pressed by another member of the crowd about civilian casualties from Israel’s attacks, Warren said she believes those casualties are the “last thing Israel wants.”

“But when Hamas puts its rocket launchers next to hospitals, next to schools, they’re using their civilian population to protect their military assets. And I believe Israel has a right, at that point, to defend itself,” Warren said, drawing applause.

Warren even rejected a different voter’s suggestion that the U.S. force Israel to at least cease building illegal settlements by withholding further aid: “Noreen Thompsen, of Eastham, proposed that Israel should be prevented from building any more settlements as a condition of future U.S. funding, but Warren said, ‘I think there’s a question of whether we should go that far.’”

In her defense, Warren has long been clear that this is what she would do. Her Senate campaign website still contains statements such as “it is a moral imperative to support and defend Israel” and ”as a United States Senator, I will work to ensure Israel’s security and success.”

During her time in the national spotlight, Warren has focused overwhelmingly on domestic issues, rarely venturing into foreign policy discussions. Many of those domestic views, particularly her strident-for-D.C. opposition to banks, have been admirable, elevating her to hero status for many progressives.

But when Warren has spoken on national security, she has invariably spouted warmed-over, banal Democratic hawk tripe of the kind that she just recited about Israel and Gaza. During her Senate campaign, for instance, she issued wildly militaristic – and in some cases clearly false – statements about Iran and its nuclear program that would have been comfortable on the pages of The Weekly Standard.

Even as conservative Democratic Senate candidates from red states such as Nebraska’s Bob Kerrey were vehemently condemning the threat of war against Iran during their campaigns, Warren was claiming (contrary to the U.S. Government’s own assessment) that “Iran is pursuing nuclear weapons”, adding: “I support strong sanctions against Iran and believe that the United States must also continue to take a leadership role in pushing other countries to implement strong sanctions as well.” Those claims about Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons remained her position even after she was told that they squarely contradict the U.S. intelligence community’s clear assessment of Iran’s actions.

Echoing Benjamin Nentayahu (and Hillary Clinton), Elizabeth Warren’s clear position is that Israel bears none of the blame for any of this. Or, to use her words, “when Hamas puts its rocket launchers next to hospitals, next to schools, they’re using their civilian population to protect their military assets. And I believe Israel has a right, at that point, to defend itself.” Such carnage is the ”last thing Israel wants.” The last thing. That, ladies and gentlemen, is your inspiring left-wing icon of the Democratic Party.

Pocket paradigms

The major political struggle has become not between conservative and liberal but between ourselves and our political, economic, social and media elites. Between the toxic and the natural, the corporate and the communal, the technocratic and the human, the competitive and the cooperative, the efficient and the just, meaningless data and meaningful understanding, the destructive and the decent..- Sam Smith

Word

If you pick up a starving dog and make him prosperous, he will not bite you. This is the principal difference between a dog and a man. - Mark Twain

August 27, 2014

Flotsam & Jetsam

Sam Smith - As I was watching The Hundred Foot Journey, a mixture of charming acting and what Alonso Duralde called in the Wrap, a "slumgullion of food porn," I remembered standing in line with my sandwich and brownie at the Wild Oaks Bakery & Cafe in Brunswick, ME, as an extraordinarily picky customer ahead of me was directing precisely how much of what items should go into her salad.

It suddenly occurred to me that the foodie movement was not just another random change in our culture, but an unconscious replacement of our former power in politics and national policy with thrice daily decisions on such matters as choice of dressing, glutin composition, and the presence or absence of anchovies. We can no longer determine the character of our politics, so we try make to up for it by selecting the right cheese for our sandwich.


And hardly anyone notices that  choosing between kale or spinach is far less than our founders dreamed we might do in our pursuit of happiness.





History links

Recovered history

ESSAYS & ARCHIVES

Minutes of the Wannsee Conference
Things Irish Protestants should know about their homeland
Joan Baez' first radio appearance
A brief history of bucking the system
Why Nader didn't cause Gore's loss
Gene McCarthy
Making cities black & poor
Pilgrims' folly
Washington on fire in 1968
Unsolved mysteries World Trade Center Crash of TWA 800
 
MEDIA
History News Network

Obama working around the Constitution again

NY Times - The Obama administration is working to forge a sweeping international climate change agreement to compel nations to cut their planet-warming fossil fuel emissions, but without ratification from Congress.

In preparation for this agreement, to be signed at a United Nations summit meeting in 2015 in Paris, the negotiators are meeting with diplomats from other countries to broker a deal to commit some of the world’s largest economies to enact laws to reduce their carbon pollution. But under the Constitution, a president may enter into a legally binding treaty only if it is approved by a two-thirds majority of the Senate.

To sidestep that requirement, President Obama’s climate negotiators are devising what they call a “politically binding” deal that would “name and shame” countries into cutting their emissions. The deal is likely to face strong objections from Republicans on Capitol Hill and from poor countries around the world, but negotiators say it may be the only realistic path.

The American Bar Association might want to conduct an inquiry into the curriculum of the Harvard Law School. If Barack Obama is any example of its product, then there is serious  implication that he was taught that the law - up to and including the Constitution - is something to work around rather than respect. If the law is regarded as just something to manipulate then it steadily loses it value - TPR

Race to the bottom: Most evasive White House press answers

George Stephanopoulos is the winner in 21 years of official evasiveness

McConnell promises to crash government if Republicans win Senate

Political Wire - The Nation has audio of Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) telling a room of conservative activists how Republicans will shut down parts of the government if they gain control of the U.S. Senate.

Said McConnell: "So in the House and Senate, we own the budget. So what does that mean? That means that we can pass the spending bill. And I assure you that in the spending bill, we will be pushing back against this bureaucracy by doing what's called placing riders in the bill. No money can be spent to do this or to do that. We're going to go after them on healthcare, on financial services, on the Environmental Protection Agency, across the board (inaudible). All across the federal government, we're going to go after it..."

Obama's next war lite

Global Research - President Barack Obama delivered a militarist speech  to the annual convention of the American Legion in Charlotte, North Carolina amid reports that US spy drones are already operating over Syria and air strikes could begin there by the end of this week.

Obama told the veterans’ organization that “the United States is and will remain the one indispensable nation in the world,” a boast that is belied by the bloody debacle unleashed throughout North Africa and the Middle East by a string of US military interventions in Iraq, Libya and Syria.

Turning to the present intervention in Iraq following the overrunning of much of the country by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), a split-off from Al Qaeda, the US president reiterated the formal pretexts for US military action: protecting “our diplomats and military advisors who are there,” and humanitarian assistance.

... Since launching the first US air strikes in Iraq last month, the Obama administration has already rushed another 1,000 US troops into the country. The US Central Command reported two more air strikes on Tuesday near the Iraqi Kurdish capital of Irbil. The targets were reported to be ISIS armored vehicles, likely captured from the US-supplied Iraqi Army stockpile. Thus far, the US has carried out roughly 100 air strikes in Iraq.

Senator Warren to appear on Letterman

Wednesday September 3

CIA messing with journalism again, creating risk for all journalists

Wayne Madsen, Strategic Culture Foundation - The increasing tendency of the Central Intelligence Agency and other U.S. intelligence agencies to disregard previous prohibitions against the use of journalists as agents puts every legitimate reporter around the world in jeopardy. The CIA has a checkered past in the use of journalists as intelligence agents. The practice was common in the 1960s and early 70s but was banned by Presidents Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter. However, when President Ronald Reagan helped reignite the Cold War, the CIA again began using journalists as intelligence agents. The practice put a number of journalists in jeopardy, especially those taken captive by guerrillas groups during the Lebanese civil war. There is nothing to suggest any president since Reagan has discontinued the practice of using journalists as agents.

Intelligence agents operating under journalistic cover can take a number of forms:

- Journalists who openly work for media operations linked officially to past and current CIA operations. These include Radio Free Europe / Radio Free Liberty, Radio Free Asia, Alhurra, Radio Sawa, Radio and TV Marti, and to some extent, the Voice of America.

- Journalists who work for work for accredited news media companies who agree to work covertly for U.S. intelligence. Such journalists have been known to work for The Washington Post, the International Herald Tribune, and President Barack Obama’s one-time employer, Business International Corporation of New York City, publisher of executive business and political newsletters. CIA director Richard Helms had previously worked as a reporter for United Press International.

- Journalists who work for start-up publications linked to the CIA or CIA fronts, including the the Kyiv Post, Cambodia Daily, Burma Daily, Kabul Weekly, and Lidove Noviny of Prague.

- Freelance journalists who become embedded with U.S. military and paramilitary forces and work for one or more media operations having very low profiles.

Journalists working for media operations financed by the U.S. government’s Broadcasting Board of Governors have been known to leave legitimate media organizations, where they have already established strong journalistic credentials and high-level contacts, to join government operations like Radio Free Europe and the others to carry out assignments for U.S. intelligence.

One of the CIA’s favorite nesting grounds for its journalist-agents during the Cold War was the International Herald Tribune, formerly the Paris Herald Tribune, based in Paris. The paper was eventually jointly owned by The Washington Post and New York Times. The managing editor of the Herald Tribune News Service, Nathan Kingsley, left the paper’s Paris headquarters to be the head of Radio Free Europe’s news service in Munich. Kingsley replaced Gene Mater who became the public affairs spokesman for the Free Europe Committee in New York. Radio Free Europe and the Free Europe Committee were both connected to the CIA.

... Stuart Loory, who worked as the New York Herald-Tribune’s correspondent in Moscow in the 1960s before joining the Los Angeles Times and CNN, has said that the CIA’s use of journalists as spies calls into question the status of every journalist. He said, "If even one American overseas carrying a press card is a paid informer for the CIA, then all Americans with those credentials are suspect." 

However, the caution urged by Loory has, in some cases, fallen on deaf ears. In 2012, New York Times reporter Mark Mazzetti forwarded an advance copy of a column written by his colleague, columnist Maureen Dowd, to the CIA’s spokesperson Marie Harf. Dowd’s column concerned a CIA leak to Hollywood that involved the production of a movie called «Zero Dark Thirty». Harf has since been promoted to deputy press secretary for the Department of State where she is undoubtedly still fronting for her old CIA colleagues in spotting willing journalists, particularly foreign correspondents, eager to cooperate with the CIA.

Race to the bottom: Burger King


The real Michelle Rhee

Mercedes Schneider

Mainers among victims of unconstitutional Real ID law

Portland Press Herald, ME - Mainers may not be able to board a plane using their driver’s licenses starting in 2016 if the state does not start complying with the federal Real ID program.

In 2007, Maine became the first state to reject the federal regulations adopted in response to a study on national security after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. Federal officials wanted to make driver’s licenses more uniform and secure, but opponents said the federal law was too sweeping and intrusive.

Non-compliance, however, has restricted the ability of residents from some states to access some federal buildings, and that is likely to increase.

The act requires states to maintain a database of license applicants’ information that is accessible to the federal government, and take photos of applicants that can be scanned by facial recognition software.

As of April this year, people from states that have not complied can no longer use their driver’s licenses to access some federal buildings, such as the Department of Homeland Security headquarters in Washington, D.C.

In July, the licenses were no longer adequate to access restricted federal facilities, such as the U.S. Mint and nuclear power plants. Residents from non-complying states need passports to enter those buildings. As of January, the licenses will not be adequate to get into semi-restricted federal facilities where a license or passport currently is required.

And by Jan. 19, 2016, Maine driver’s licenses may no longer be an acceptable ID to board aircraft.

.... Concerns about the Real ID program have united libertarian-minded citizens from both parties, especially over the portion of the law that creates a federal database of personal information that would be maintained by the state and accessible to federal officials.

“You might as well just repeal the Fourth Amendment,” Dunlap said, referring to the prohibition against unreasonable search and seizures of property.

Currently, Maine, Massachusetts, Oklahoma, Alaska, Arizona, and Louisiana have refused to comply with the Real ID program, and several other states have not met every requirement, although most have indicated they will.

State income taxes have little effect on migration

Off the Charts - The New York Times’ Upshot blog has published a fascinating set of graphs of Census Bureau data on interstate migration patterns since 1900, bolstering our argument that state income taxes don’t have a significant impact on people’s decisions about where to live.

We plotted the same Census data, which shows which states do the best job of retaining their native-born populations.  Our chart shows that taxes have little to do with the extent to which native-born people leave their states of origin.

If Heritage Foundation economist Stephen Moore’s claim (which other tax-cut advocates often repeat) that “taxes are indisputably a major factor in determining where . . . families locate” were true, states without income taxes would see below-average shares of their native-born populations leaving at some point in their lifetime, while states with relatively high income taxes would see the opposite.  But the graph shows no such pattern:

Three of the nine no-income-tax states perform very poorly in holding on to native-born residents.  Wyoming, Alaska, and South Dakota have three of the nation’s four highest shares of native-born residents who left the state. Four other no-income-tax states are closer to the middle of the pack.  Nevada is almost exactly in the middle of the state rankings, while New Hampshire and Tennessee fall almost equally below and above Nevada; Washington falls within that interval as well.  New Hampshire does no better in retaining its native born than its high-tax neighbor, Vermont.  Tennessee’s neighbor, North Carolina, has had the highest income tax rates among southern states for the past 20 years but outperformed nearly all of them in retaining its native born, tying for second nationally. Only two of the nine no-income-tax states are top performers in retaining their native born.  Three of the five states that retain the largest shares of their natives — California, Georgia, and North Carolina — have income taxes, and California and North Carolina in particular have had higher income taxes than their neighbors.  Texas and Florida are the only no-income-tax states that rank highly for retention.