October 13, 2015

Arne Duncan leaves with one final foul up

Salon - US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan’s surprise announcement to leave his position in December is making headlines and driving lots of commentary, but an important story lost in the media clutter happened three days before he gave notice.

On that day, Duncan rattled the education policy world with news of a controversial grant of $249 million ($157 the first year) to the charter school industry. This announcement was controversial because, as The Washington Post reports, an audit by his department’s own inspector general found “that the agency has done a poor job of overseeing federal dollars sent to charter schools.”

Post reporter Lynsey Layton notes, “The agency’s inspector general issued a scathing report in 2012 that found deficiencies in how the department handled federal grants to charter schools between 2008 and 2011? – in other words, during Duncan’s watch.

Even more perplexing is that the largest grant of $71 million ($32.5 the first year) is going to Ohio, the state that has the worst reputation for allowing low-performing charter schools to divert tax money away from educational purposes and do little to raise the achievement of students

Victims of CIA torture sue designers of program

Washington Post - Two former CIA prisoners and the family of another detainee who froze to death at a secret prison in Afghanistan have sued the architects of the spy agency’s detention and interrogation program.

The lawsuit was filed  in federal court in Spokane, Wash., against James Mitchell and Bruce Jessen, a pair of psychologists who earned millions using untested, brutal techniques, such as waterboarding, on CIA prisoners.

The suit alleges that the CIA tortured Suleiman Abdullah Salim and Mohamed Ahmed Ben Soud at a black site dubbed Salt Pit, exposing them to a regime that the psychologists had developed.

The men say they were subjected to extreme cold, darkness, noise and repeated beatings. They were also shoved into small confinement boxes, according to the lawsuit.

People's Party: Americans overwhelmingly recognize climate change

Guardian -Around 70% of Americans believe in the science behind global warming - the highest level of acceptance in the US since 2008 - according to a new survey.

The level of belief has increased seven percentage points in the past six months, the polling by the University of Michigan and Muhlenberg College shows.

The researchers said the significant rise in acceptance is particularly notable among Republicans and evangelical Christian groups.

The swing is largely due to recognition of the role that climate change is playing in changing weather patterns, with respondents citing weather events close to home, according to Prof Barry Rabe, a co-author from the University of Michigan.

More Americans eating alone

Washington Post - A 1999 survey found that the number of people who ate alone at least part of time tripled between the 1960s and 1990s. By 2006, nearly 60 percent of Americans regularly ate on their own, according to the American Time Use Survey. And today that number is even higher.

Breakfast has undergone the most significant transformation. Roughly 53 percent of all breakfasts are now eaten alone, whether at home, in the car, or at one's desk, according to the latest report.

Lunch meanwhile is nearly as lonely these days. Some 45 percent of midday meals are had alone, according to the report.

Dinner is the only meal that is still largely communal. Roughly three quarters of all supper's are still eaten with others today. But even that is changing.

"Every meal is becoming a more solitary affair, even dinner" said Seifer. "People are eating alone at home and out."

One of the clearest reasons for the shift is something that has been happening to American households, gradually, for decades: they have been getting smaller. Over the more than 30-year span between 1970 and 2012, the percentage of households that contained a single person grew from 17 percent to 27 percent, according to Census Bureau data.

"Only 13 percent of households had one person in them in the 1960s," said Seifer, who credits marriage and family trends with the rise of the single person American household. "People are either delaying marriage or putting off the formation of families after they get married more and more these days."

Word: Sorry about that bombed hospital

George Monbiot, Guardian - “The strike may have resulted in collateral damage to a nearby medical facility.” This is how an anonymous Nato spokesperson described Saturday’s disaster in Afghanistan. Let’s translate it into English. “We bombed a hospital, killing 22 people.” But people, hospital and bomb, let alone we: all such words are banned from Nato’s lexicon. Its press officers are trained to speak no recognizable human language.

The effort is to create distance: distance from responsibility; distance from consequences; distance above all from the humanity of those who were killed. They do not merit even a concrete noun. Whatever you do, do not create pictures in the mind.

.... An analysis published last year by the human rights group Reprieve revealed that attempts by United States forces to blow up 41 men with drone strikes killed 1,147 people. Many were children. Some of the targets remain unharmed, while repeated attempts to kill them have left a trail of shattered bodies and shattered lives.

.... As the analyst Paul Rogers points out, the US Air Force dropped 1800 bombs while helping Kurdish fighters to wrest the town of Kobane in northern Syria from Isis. It used 200 kg bombs to take out single motorbikes.

Every misdirected bomb, every brutal night raid, every non-combatant killed, every lie and denial and minimisation is a recruitment poster for those with whom the US is at war. For this reason and many others its wars appears to be failing on most fronts. The Taliban is resurgent. Isis, far from being beaten or contained, is growing and spreading: into North Africa, across the Middle East, and in the Caucasus (a development that Putin’s intervention in Syria will only encourage). The more money and munitions the West pours into Syria and Iraq, the stronger the insurgents appear to become. And if, somehow, the US and its allies did succeed, victory over Isis would strengthen the Assad regime, which has killed and displaced even greater numbers.

Getting the counterculture out of the closet

From our overstocked archives

Sam Smith, 2012

I know it’s not really my business but since no one else seems interested, I thought I would start a counterculture.

I also know that countercultures are meant to vast in size, vague in origins, and viral in creation. But these are not ordinary times. We are organized by Facebook, communicate with thumbs tapping on tiny buttons, and accept bureaucratic and legalistic formulations as an adequate substitute for community, justice, passion, love and joy.

To be sure, we have the Occupiers, but they are a movement, not a culture. A culture doesn’t have a common goal so much as a common soul. But in a society that claims to honor the rational, spirit doesn’t count for much.

Besides, in recent decades the moral and the wise have been neatly separated into little niches so the environmentalists don’t have time to fight torture and the local food folk are too busy to worry about violations of civil liberties. As a journalist covering these things, I am constantly struck by how many good causes function in sad isolation. We have forgotten how to come together and discover the varieties of things others share with us. And I have never seen a time when so much was wrong and so many were trying to act as if nothing had happened.

Sane and decent America is acting like gays in the closet. Having been convinced by the corporate media and our leaders – either by being ignored or dismissed – that its views have no status or power, it accepts the unacceptability that has been assigned to it.

But the facts are quite to the contrary. For example, recent polls show a majority of Americans approve of abortions, don’t think we should be in Afghanistan, approve of Planned Parenthood, believe climate change is occurring, favor legalization of marijuana, think the economy should be improved by government investment rather than tax and spending cuts, want stronger environmental controls, think food stamps shouldn’t be cut, want more control of fracking, don’t believe the First Amendment goes too far, oppose cuts in Social Security, would ban Super PACS, support increased taxes on the rich and lower military spending.

Now ask yourself: how often has the national news media or our major politicians even hinted that this is the dominant national politics?

Some try to deal with this problem in typically rational ways, such as web sites promoting clicktivism or formal coalitions gathering on the Mall and hoping to get that a corporate media refuses to spare.

What is missing is not organization but the multitudinous confluences that create a culture – yes, organization, but also music, spirit, values, gatherings, habits. . .

To be sure we have grisly imitations all around us: coffee shop culture replaced by Starbucks, “hip” apparel determined by multinational corporations; a presidential candidate promising “hope” and “change” but providing neither, teens learning to scream at music rather than listen to it in preparation for lifetime service as loyal consumers. Whether it’s Facebook, Abercrombie & Fitch or Barack Obama our task is to buy it and shut up.

When, if ever, we think of counterculture, pot, love beads, and Joan Baez may come to mind. Or bongo drums and berets. Or freedom schools and singing We Shall Overcome.

While they are just examples from particular times, they are instructive because they reveal something our intellect easily forgets: change is an act of art and music and theater as much as of organization; of symbols as much as substance, of informal dress on a bar stool as much as formal addresses on a podium.

And above all, positive change doesn’t need a mission statement, strategic plan, or table of organization; it requires the creation of a community of common dreams and values and a meaningful way to express them.

Writers often live their whole lives in a counterculture – and too often a counterculture of one. We are minorities of the mind always seeking integration into something greater. Sometimes, as in the Sixties and the time of the beats, it is there, but now it seems invisible and unattainable.

So you’re lonely, but you also cling to the faith that at some point millions who also feel lonely, angry and sad will come out of their cautious closets and discover each other – not just for a protest, not just for a piece of legislation, not just for one cause, but for the sum of what a better America might be like- and to follow the advice of Alan Watts: “The only way to make sense out of change is to plunge into it, move with it, and join the dance.”

We live in a time when more American progress is being cancelled or reversed than at any point in our history. A time of justified angst and anger. Yet where is the music, where are the symbols, where are the special places that symbolize and share both our cares and our dreams?

Every time I see a young child wearing a T shirt with a peace symbol, the irony hits home. That half century old sign still has more power than anything describing our present condition.

Countercultures are about everything beyond our specific agendas. In the Sixties for example, the peace, anti-poverty and civil right movements shared alternative space because there was so much more behind what they were up to than just their chosen priorities.

Today, our various causes share too little beyond isolation and lack of common ground with others. The Green Party and labor unions don’t know each others. Nor the prison reformers and the anti-war activists. What will bring us together is not our agendas but our spirits and our souls.

And that is what missing.

OK, I know it is neither my right nor skill to start a counterculture.

So consider me just a place holder.

Get your own counterculture going. Give it symbols, songs, style – and places where we can go when we escape our silent surrender to the current disaster.

And I’ll be there.


Writing must come from a great emotional upheaval in the soul, and if that upheaval is not present, it must come from the work of any other writer which happens to be handy and easily imitated -- Robert Benchley

Race to the bottom; Media

  • Fox News
  • Megyn Kelly
  • Sean Hannity
  • Bill O'Reilly
  • Wolf Blitzer
  • Ann Coulter
  • Rush Limbaugh
  • Glenn Beck

The GOP vs. the rest of us

People & things
the Republicans don't like based on the actual statements and actions of prominent Republicans

  • 9/11 responders
  • AARP
  • Americorps
  • Bicyclists and bikes
  • Black men
  • Census
  • Children with pre-existing health conditions
  • College graduates
  • College students
  • Consumers
  • Cops
  • Disabled people
  • Disaster victims
  • Earthquake warnings
  • Employed women
  • EPA
  • Ethnically mixed couples
  • Federal courts
  • Federal Reserve Board
  • Fire fighters
  • Food stamp recipients
  • Gays
  • Home owners
  • Ill people who need medical marijuana
  • Immigrants and their children
  • Internal Revenue Service
  • Journalists
  • Latinos
  • Medicare
  • Medicaid recipients
  • Methodists
  • Minimum wage workers
  • Minimum wage
  • National Endowment for the Arts
  • National Institutes of Health
  • National Parks
  • National Science Foundation
  • NPR & PBS
  • Policemen
  • Postal Service
  • Public school students
  • Public workers
  • Residents of DC-Guam-Puerto Rico-Virgin Islands
  • Sandy storm victims
  • Scientists
  • Separation of church and state
  • Social Security recipients
  • State workers
  • Teachers
  • Unemployed workers
  • United Nations
  • Wildlife
  • Women

October 12, 2015

How Trump got fired

Toledo Blade

How to tell you live in an empire

Roger Cohen NY Times - One way to define Barack Obama’s foreign policy is as a Doctrine of Restraint. It is clear, not least to the Kremlin, that this president is skeptical of the efficacy of military force, wary of foreign interventions that may become long-term commitments, convinced the era of American-imposed solutions is over, and inclined to see the United States as less an indispensable power than an indispensable partner. He has, in effect, been talking down American power.

Antarctica could be crisis by 2100 say scientists


Antarctic ice is melting so fast that the stability of the whole continent could be at risk by 2100, scientists have warned.
Widespread collapse of Antarctic ice shelves – floating extensions of land ice projecting into the sea – could pave the way for dramatic rises in sea level.
The new research predicts a doubling of surface melting of the ice shelves by 2050. By the end of the century, the melting rate could surpass the point associated with ice shelf collapse, it is claimed.

News without headlines

One of the problems with journalism is that it reports on what is happening today while ignoring or downgrading what has been happening for days, weeks and years but lacks a good headline. Yet the latter happenings often define our future and so are worth checking from time to time. Here are some examples:

We are in the midst of potentially the most dangerous phenomenon in human history -   climate change - but tend to treat it as just one more political issue.

Perhaps the most important factor in climate change - population growth - is still ignored even by many of those otherwise concerned about the environment.

As exemplified by the TPP agreement, we are in the midst of a huge but hidden world war, one that is not between nations but between corporations and nationhood. Not since secession have so many American politicians been willing to give up so much sovereignty and democracy without the slightest hint of embarrassment.

We have never been presented with a choice of GOP presidential candidates led by those so incompetent, corrupt, reactionary and/or irresponsible. And we have only once before been presented with a leading Democratic presidential candidate who has as many close business partners and major fundraisers who have been charged with, or convicted of, so many criminal offenses - the previous instance being her husband.

We have never before had our national politics so tightly in command of wealthy donors, including corporations, rather than the public.

We have seldom had so few national leaders - in politics, academia and media - offering so few moral alternatives to our corrupt political, economic and social systems.

We have seldom had so few religious voices offering alternatives to the blasphemies of the evangelical right. Which is one reason why the Pope made such an impression. He was saying things American Christian church leaders should have been saying but weren't.

We have not won a significant war since WWII, but have been repeatedly engaged in major failed efforts such as Vietnam and our futile decade and a half in the Mid East.

We have not done any better with the domestic battle called the war on drugs. It has been four decades of failure. Among its effects have been massive incarceration rates - especially for ethnic minorities - and the creation of a drug mafia that we ignore in favor of jailing minor offenders.

We have never had our public  education system under such an attack by corporate interests and phony experts undermining the knowledge and wisdom of real teachers.

We view our increasing multi-ethnicity as a problem to be argued about rather than an asset to value and honor, 

We appear to be headed towards another Cold War with Russia for no known purpose other than to display the purported manhood of our leaders.

Our government and its policies have been taken over by a gradocracy of lawyers, MBAs and economists lacking the social intelligence that used to characterize politicians. As a result we are faced with increasing legislation and regulations relying  on complex and unreliable  processes that can make even good ideas look bad and anger the very voters they are meant to please.

Liberalism has become more of a religion than the political movement it once was. As such, liberals ignore the very issues that could bring them needed support - led by economic and social reforms. The broad programs of the New Deal and Great Society have been forgotten in favor of policies that demonstrate liberal moral superiority over the very people they should be organizing and converting in the cause of a better nation.

Our economy has deteriorated in many ways but we avoid dealing with this issue by concentrating on short term and minor changes in things like unemployment. Consequently little attention is paid to matters such as the fact that technology improvements have permanently reduced the need for workers in many areas or that a higher percentage of children live in poverty now than did during the Great Recession.

The slow death of purposeless walking


The real Paul Ryan

Mainly from our 2012 election archives

Paul Ryan deals with a jobless man by giving him candy

Things Paul Ryan would like you to forget

Why Paul Ryan loves Ayn Rand and what Ayn Rand has to say about it

Matt Taibbi on Ryan

Paul Ryan research report

Liberal group rates Ryan a zero in House votes

Things to know about Paul Ryan

Paul Ryan's distaste for civil liberties

Ryan would cut deficit on backs of the old, sick and poor

Bernie Sanders estimates that the Ryan budget would slash funding for roads, bridges, rail lines, transit systems, and airports by nearly 40% next year alone.

Ryan doesn't believe in climate change

Paul "End Medicare as we know it" Ryan

Ryan's healthcare plan would cost the average 65-year old $6,000 more a year  

Ryan isn't smart; he's just a liar

Questions remain over Ryan's stock trading

Ryan's family thrived on government intervention

Ryan thinks states should have the right to violate Constitution on school prayer

Ryan supports ultrasound requirement for women seeking abortion

Recovered history

We used to run the cartoons of Ron Cobb - one of the great commentators on the 1960s and early 1970s - and so was pleased to see that Richard Brenneman had unearthed one from 1968 which is just as relevant today 


Why testing is kindergarten child abuse

Phyllis Doer, Defending the Early Years - My first sample vocabulary challenge as we began our practice test was the word "market," from the nursery rhyme “To Market, To Market.” After explaining the setup of the test, I begin. "The word is market," I announced. "Who can tell me what a market is?" One boy answered, "I like oranges." "Okay, Luke is on the right track. Who can add to that?" "I like apples. I get them at the store." We're moving in, closer and closer. A third child says, "It's where you go and get lots of things." Yes! What kinds of things? "Different stuff." Another student chimes in: "We can get oranges and apples and lots of other types of food at the market." "Excellent! Everyone understands market?" A few nod.

"Now, I will give you a sentence with the word 'market' in it. If the sentence makes sense, you will circle the smiley face, but if it is a silly sentence and doesn't make sense, you circle the frown." A hand goes up. "Mrs. Doerr, what's a frown?" I explain what a frown is.

Next, I read the sentence: "'I like to play basketball at the market.' Now, does that sentence make sense?"

The students who are not twisting around backward in their chairs or staring at a thread they've picked off their uniforms nod their heads. "Please, class, listen carefully. I'll tell you the sentence again: 'I like to play basketball at the market.' That makes sense? Remember we said a market is where we shop for food."

A hand goes up. Terrell says, "I like soccer." "Okay, Terrell, that's great! But did I use the word 'market' correctly in that sentence?" "I don't know."

Another hand. "Yes? Ariana? What do you think?" "My dad took me to a soccer game! He plays soccer!" "Thank you for sharing that, Ariana." The students picked up on something from the sentence and made what seems to be, but is not, a random connection. "Girls and boys, look at me and listen. I want you to really think about this. Would you go to a market and play basketball?" At this point everyone seemed to wake up. Finally! I was getting somewhere! "YES!" they cried out in unison.

Of course! It would be a total blast to play basketball in the market!

So here we find another huge problem with this vocabulary test: a 5-year-old's imagination. A statement that uses a word incorrectly sounds OK to a child whose imagination is not limited by reality. It is the same reason Santa and the Tooth Fairy are so real to kindergartners -- unencumbered imagination.

... During testing, I walked around to see that a few students had nothing written on their papers, one had circled every face -- regardless of expression -- on the whole page, another just circled all the smileys and one, a very bright little girl, had her head down on her arms. I tapped her and said, "Come on, you need to circle one of the faces for number 5." She lifted her head and looked up at me. Tears streamed down her face. I crouched down next to her. "What's wrong, honey?" "Mrs. Doerr, I'm tired," she cried. "I want my mommy." It was a moment I will never forget. I took her test and said, "Would you like a nice comfy pillow so you can take a rest?" She nodded. I exchanged her paper for a pillow.

So this is kindergarten.

We force children to take tests that their brains cannot grasp.

We ignore research that proves that children who are 5-6 learn best experientially.

We rob them of precious free play that teaches them how to be good citizens, good friends and good thinkers.

We waste precious teaching and learning time that could be spent experientially learning the foundations of math, reading and writing, as well as valuable lessons in social studies, science and health.

Race to the bottom: Celebrities

  • Kardashians
  • Justin Bieber
  • Bill Cosby
  • Real Housewives


How do I know what I think until I have written about it? -- E. M. Forster

The GOP vs.women

From our archives

Cruz out to destroy America's government and economy to get at Planned Parenthood

Fiorina's maternity leave stance attacked

Huckabee ready to use federal troops to shut down abortion clinics

DC Politics - Sen. Marco Rubio (R) was among the Florida state legislators who voted for the so-called “Scarlet Letter” law in 2001 that required single mothers to publish their sexual histories in the newspaper in order to place their babies up for adoption. ....

Senator Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) reintroduced a ban on abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy and said he would "insist" that the bill get a vote in the Senate.

Scott Walker wanted it all right for doctors to lie to patients about abortion

Eight 2012 Senate candidates - backed by Romney - who would force women to have the babies of rapists


Salon - A Virginia Republican currently running for the U.S. House of Representatives believes that incest exceptions in abortion bans are unnecessary because sometimes incest is “voluntary,” accord to a report from the Washington Times. Delegate Bob Marshall ...also believes that children born with developmental disabilities are God’s “vengeance” on people who have had abortions.

Ann Coulter: If we took away women's right to vote, we'd never have to worry about another Democrat president. It's kind of a pipe dream, it's a personal fantasy of mine, but I don't think it's going to happen.

Michigan Republicans Offer a Tax Credit for Fetuses After Cutting Tax Credits for Children

GOP goes global with war on birth control

October 11, 2015

158 families controlling our election

NY Times - Just 158 families, along with companies they own or control, contributed $176 million in the first phase of the campaign, a New York Times investigation found. Not since before Watergate have so few people and businesses provided so much early money in a campaign, most of it through channels legalized by the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision five years ago.

How the war on language affects the war on the poor

From our overstocked archives

Sam Smith, 2012

The war on language conducted by politicians, bureaucrats and media in our capital has a direct and negative effect on what they claim to be talking about. For example, as noted here before, if someone speaks of infrastructure you significantly reduce the number of people who understand what is being described. Normal people call them bridges, roads and public works. Thus, if you're trying to build a constituency for more spending on such matters, calling it infrastructure doesn't help at all.

The same can be said of the widespread use of TANF, SNAP and similar acronyms. Most important bills coming out of Congress these days have such an acronym and the result is that most outside the system don't know what the hell is being discussed. When the actual topics are welfare and food stamps, this is more than a minor offense.

For example, Bill Clinton, who launched the reversal of decades of American progress that helped lead to the present GOP pathology, got legislation that included Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, Hence TANF.

At least it was a better name than the underlying bill, the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Act, aimed at ending "welfare as we know it." The cynical and dishonest implication was that it was laziness and not the economy that sent people into poverty. The idea, according to one description, was to change welfare reform, "once considered an open-ended [sic] right," into "a finite program built to provide short-term cash assistance and steer people quickly into jobs."

Thus TANF is really a welfare cutting measure, but you'd never know from the initials.

Similarly, when someone talks about SNAP, it is likely that only a minority of people know that the topic is food stamps. Keeps it all nicely in the club. Even its awkward real name, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, at least gives a better clue, albeit in 9 syllables.

For journalists, the tendency is just to go with the flow or JGWTF. Even the Review does so much of the time although we have learned to use the phrase, "anti-internet legislation" whenever we can instead of the numerous acronyms applied to such bills.

And we routinely exorcise initials following the name of an organization or piece of legislation. This is an ugly habit picked up from that least literate of professions - lawyers - and should be avoided at all costs.

For more on this topic, see: SomeRulesForWriting LLC (SRFW)!

Still, it feels like a losing battle. Much as I would like to snap the tanf of any official who abandons, as one my high school teachers put it, "speaking United States," I realize that there will soon come a time when no one in Washington will know what food stamps or welfare are. And we will become the first empire to collapse under the weight of its acronyms. 

TPP: All that we feared

Electronic Fontier Foundation -  Release by Wikileaks of what is believed to be the current and essentially final version of the intellectual property chapter of the Trans-Pacific Partnership confirms our worst fears about the agreement...

If you skim the chapter without knowing what you're looking for, it may come across as being quite balanced... If you dig deeper, you'll notice that all of the provisions that recognize the rights of the public are non-binding, whereas almost everything that benefits rights holders is binding. That paragraph on the public domain, for example, used to be much stronger in the first leaked draft, with specific obligations to identify, preserve and promote access to public domain material. All of that has now been lost in favor of a feeble, feel-good platitude that imposes no concrete obligations on the TPP parties whatsoever.

Another, and perhaps the most egregious example of this bias against users is the important provision on limitations and exceptions to copyright. In a pitifully ineffectual nod towards users, it suggests that parties “endeavor to achieve an appropriate balance in its copyright and related rights system,” but imposes no hard obligations for them to do so, nor even offers U.S.-style fair use as a template that they might follow....

Perhaps the biggest overall defeat for users is the extension of the copyright term to life plus 70 years, despite a broad consensus that this makes no economic sense, and simply amounts to a transfer of wealth from users to large, rights-holding corporations. The extension will make life more difficult for libraries and archives, for journalists, and for ordinary users seeking to make use of works from long-dead authors that rightfully belong in the public domain.

... One of the scariest parts of the TPP is that not only can you be made liable to fines and criminal penalties, but that any materials and implements used in the creation of infringing copies can also be destroyed. The same applies to devices and products used for circumventing DRM or removing rights management information. Because multi-use devices such as computers are used for a diverse range of purposes, this is once again a disproportionate penalty. This could lead to a family's home computer becoming seized simply because of its use in sharing files online, or for ripping Blu-Ray movies to a media center.

In some cases, the penalties for copyright infringement can even include jail time. Traditionally, this has because the infringer is operating a business of commercial piracy. But under the TPP, any act of willful copyright infringement on a commercial scale renders the infringer liable to criminal penalties, even if they were not carried out for financial gain, provided that they have a substantial prejudicial impact on the rights holder. The copying of films that are still playing in movie theaters is also subject to separate criminal penalties, regardless of the scale of the infringement.



The whole duty of the writer is to please and satisfy himself, and the true writer always plays to an audience of one. Let him start sniffing the air, or glancing at the Trend Machine, and he is as good as dead, although he may make a nice living. -- E B White

Race to the bottom: Local officials

  • Baltimore PD
  • Ferguson PD
  • NYC PD
  • Rahm Emanuel

The GOP's real cause

Some stories from our archives

100 Republicans who got $1 million from ATT urge Obama to let firm buy T-Mobile

Ohio GOP governor wants to privatize just about everything

Michigan GOP governor wants to slash business taxes by $2 billion while cutting working class services

Florida Governor Rick Scott wants to balance the budget by slashing at least $2 billion from education, and has proposed $1.7 billion in tax cuts for property owners and corporation. . . .

House Republican wants to abolish the tax code

"In Washington, the view is that the banks are to be regulated, and my view is that Washington and the regulators are there to serve the banks," -Spencer Bachus (R), incoming Chairman of the House Financial Services Committee

Senate Republicans unanimously opposed ending tax cuts for those earning over $1 million annually.

It's been kept secret until now but at a private campaign fundraiser, Sharon Angle said of Augusto Pinochet's privatizing of Social Security: "Sometimes dictators have good ideas."

Meg Whitman's plan to eliminate the capital gains tax would widen the state's budget deficit by about $5 billion, and for what? One winner would be Whitman, who would save $8-41 million during a four year term as governor.

GOP Kentucky senatorial candidate Ron Paul would like to replace the national income tax with a sales tax. To accomplish this would take about a 23% sales tax. That would be on top of state sales tax and would be a massive giveaway to the rich. For example, in California, Meg Whitman would gain hundreds of thousands of dollars while those in the bottom 20% would have to pay several thousand dollars more a year.

How America's music tastes have changed

Pacific Standard -  A new study that examines the musical genres Americans abhor offers an intriguing look into who we do, and do not, care to affiliate with. This has apparently shifted, as the types of tunes we find distasteful have changed significantly over the past two decades.

The types of music that are more disliked today are those "that appeal to disproportionately white, rural, Southern audiences."

University of Notre Dame sociologists Omar Lizardo and Sara Skiles began their research by looking at the "cultural module" of the 1993 General Social Survey. The 1,606 participants were presented with a list of 18 styles of music, from big band to reggae, and asked whether they liked, disliked, or had "mixed feelings" about each.
In the summer of 2012, the researchers partly replicated that study. They commissioned a survey of 2,250 Americans (a representative sample of the total population) and asked the same question, this time limiting the results to 15 musical genres.

"The most obvious change (over the 20 years) consists of the steep declines in the probability of younger persons to reject rap and heavy metal," Lizardo and Skiles write. "Only about one-fifth of young Americans reject rap and hip-hop, a figure that is lower than that observed for country, bluegrass, gospel or opera for this age group."
The biggest shift in this regard came from young people with the highest education levels. This suggests they are using rap and hip-hop to differentiate themselves from the older generation of well-to-do Americans.
These same "high-status newcomers" were more likely than their counterparts of 20 years ago to declare their distaste for classical music and jazz, as well as rock 'n' roll. "While in 1993, a college-educated person between the ages of 25 and 29 had an 8 percent chance of disliking classical (music), in 2012, a respondent in that same age-education group had a 15 percent chance (of doing so)," the researchers write.

Overall, "the probability of disliking decreased for seven musical styles (classical music, opera, jazz, Latin, rap, rock, and metal), and increased for four styles (country, bluegrass, folk, and religious/Gospel music)," the researchers write. (Ratings for show tunes, blues and R&B, and reggae remained roughly the same in the 1993 and 2012 surveys.)

October 10, 2015


If you can'tIf you can't be funny, be interesting -- Harold Ross, editor of the New Yorker be funny, be interesting -- Harold Ross, editor of the New Yorker

Most Republicans want border fence

MSNBC - A sweeping majority of Republicans — 73% — agree that a fence should be built along the nearly 2,000-mile border, compared to 29% of Democrats who feel the same.

33 times HRC lobbied for TPP

US Uncut

Another drug scheme down the drain

Think Progress -Tennessee’s first year of drug testing welfare recipients uncovered drug use by less than 0.2 percent of all applicants for the state’s public assistance system.

In total, just 1.6 percent of the 28,559 people who applied for Temporary Assistance for Needy Familiesbenefits in the first year of testing answered one of the three screening questions positively. Out of the 468 people who peed in a state-funded cup, 11.7 percent flunked the test.

Another pharma greedster comes out

US Uncut -  J. Michael Pearson,  the current CEO of Valeant Pharmaceuticals ... recently said that his company’s responsibility is to it’s shareholders, while making no mention of his customers who rely on his drugs to live.
“If products are sort of mispriced and there’s an opportunity, we will act appropriately in terms of doing what I assume our shareholders would like us to do.”
Already this year, Valeant has increased the price of 56 of the drugs in its portfolio an average of 66 percent...In an interview with CNBC, Pearson defended his business practice of acquiring drugs instead of investing in research and development.
“My primary responsibility is to Valeant shareholders. We can do anything we want to do. We will continue to make acquisitions, we will continue to move forward.”
Since being named CEO in 2008, Valeant has acquired more than 100 drugs and seen their stock price rise more than 1,000 percent with Pearson at the helm.

Race to the Bottom; Education

  • Common Core
  • Arne Duncan
  • Bill Gates
  • Teach for America
  • Michelle Rhee

The GOP vs. democracy

GOP has limited democracy in 15 states

Judson Phillips, president of prominent Tea Party group Tea Party Nation: “The Founding Fathers… put certain restrictions on… the right to vote… you had to be a property owner. And that makes a lot of sense.

GOP vote restrictions biggest act of segregation in a half century

The coming America

Portion of Americans under the age of five who are non-white: 1/2

October 9, 2015

Today in history

1940 -- Future Beatle John Lennon is born

1967 -- US: First edition of Rolling Stone magazine appears.

Daily Bleed


Oddest political claim of the week

History News Network - For over three decades, Carly Fiorina’s bachelor’s degree from Stanford University in medieval history and philosophy has had little real-world application.

But as she mounts a presidential bid, the Republican candidate says her degree is finally of use as she considers how she would deal with ISIS as commander-in-chief.

“Finally my degree in medieval history and philosophy has come in handy,” Fiorina said Sunday night, “because what ISIS wants to do is drive us back to the Middle Ages, literally.”

HRC has long record of double talk on trade agreements

Ian Fletcher, Huffington Post - [Hillary Clinton has] a long record of verbally criticizing free-trade agreements, but then supporting them when in office.

For example, during the 2008 campaign, she announced that she'd "renegotiate" NAFTA to fix its defects.... Both Clinton and Obama promised to do something about NAFTA if elected. Barack Obama hasn't exactly covered himself with glory here: he certainly hasn't renegotiated NAFTA, despite the fact that he was elected. But Clinton, as his Secretary of State, has failed just as egregiously. She went in the opposite direction, helping to negotiate the NAFTA-esque Trans-Pacific Partnership.

Clinton's record on free trade agreements is, in fact, a long saga of rhetorical bobbing and weaving to handle changing political expediencies, while on actual policy she does what the free traders want. 

You could be Speaker of the House

Until now, the Progressive Review has been a rare place where you could have learned that you don't have to be en elected representative to be Speaker of the House. Now the Washington Post, in typical snotty fashion, admits it

Janell Ross, Washington Post - Whenever there is chatter about the next speaker, some helpful souls inevitably remind us all that the rules technically allow a non-member to serve. It's never actually happened, mind you, but it could. Desperate times might call for desperate measures, right? And it's fun to speculate!

To that end, we submit the following list, which culls some names mentioned Thursday and some of our own ideas and goes on to offer some genuine analysis of why they might make sense.

Please be advised that we are aware that none of the following are ever actually going to hold (or, in one case, regain) the speaker's gavel. But like those non-binding resolutions accompanied by extended floor speeches, we're going extend our moment thanks to a quirk of the House rules.

The possibilities Ross discusses:

Dick Cheney
Newt Gingrich
Colin Powell
Mitt Romney
Donald Trump
Kayne West

Cold (or Hot) War revivalist Brzezinski strikes again

, Activist Post - When the dark lord of the Anglo-American empire, Zbigniew Brzezinski, stated that the United States should retaliate against Russia as a result of the latter ruining the former’s credibility in the Middle East (which the U.S. needed no help in doing), the world got a glimpse into just how far the ruling elite is willing to take the world’s population in its quest for total hegemony.

After all, Brzezinski is no mere talking head or media mouthpiece. He is the architect of al-Qaeda and controller of much of the American geopolitical strategy. When he states that retaliation must be part of U.S. strategy, there is a very real possibility that it will be.

Indeed, in order to understand much of the U.S. geopolitical strategy at work today, it might serve us well to consult the work Brzezinski in his book The Grand Chessboard: American Primacy And Its Geostrategic Imperatives.

The book, written in 1997, seemed to lament the fact that the public would not support such blatant imperialism unless they truly viewed the crusade to be in their own immediate self-interest. Only fours year later, the public would receive such a “sudden threat or challenge” to their “sense of domestic well-being” in the form of the 9/11 attacks.

However, the Grand Chessboard discusses so much more than the lack of desire to wage war by the general public absent a perceived external threat. The book discusses in detail the various major players in the geopolitical game and the methods they may use to achieve their goals of hegemony.

In regards to Russia, Brzezinski clearly laid out his desire to see a fractured Russia, a nation that was drastically smaller in size and much weaker in terms of its governmental structure. In other words, a Russia incapable of opposing Anglo-American hegemony.

Brzezinski wrote,
Given the enormous size and diversity of the country, a decentralized political system, based on the free market, would be more likely to unleash the creative potential of both the Russian people and the country’s vast natural resources. In turn, such a more decentralized Russia would be less susceptible to imperial mobilization.
Brzezinski makes it clear that the strategy towards Russia is one that involves the breakup of the country into three parts, loosely confederated, partially beholden to NATO-dominated Europe, and blended with the other powers of Asia.


Is this why McCarthy dropped out?

, Hufington Post - In the hours before House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) abruptly withdrew his candidacy to be the next speaker of the House, he was sent an email from a conservative activist threatening to expose an alleged affair with a colleague. The subject line: “Kevin, why not resign like Bob Livingston?”

The email, sent just after 8 a.m. on Thursday, came from Steve Baer, a Chicago-based GOP donor known for mass-emailing conservative figures and Republican lawmakers. It was addressed to McCarthy and numerous others, including the personal account of Rep. Renee Ellmers (R-N.C.), who conservative media sites have suggested is tied romantically to McCarthy.

McCarthy has brushed off the affair allegation. After announcing that he would not seek the speaker's post on Thursday, he was asked about Wednesday's cryptic letter from Rep. Walter Jones (R-N.C.), which asked that "any candidate for speaker of the House, majority leader, and majority whip withdraw himself from the leadership election if there are any misdeeds he has committed since joining Congress that will embarrass himself, the Republican conference, and the House of Representatives if they become public."

"No. No. Come on," said McCarthy. His decision to withdraw, he said, was to ensure that fellow GOP members didn't have a tough vote. "For us to unite, we probably need a fresh face," he said.

October 8, 2015

Another Clinton story comes back to life

Daily Beast - One name the Clintons cannot be happy to see back in the news is Ng Lap Seng. Ng being the mega-rich Chinese national who used a proxy to pour more than $1 million into the Democratic National Committee and the Clinton-Gore campaign back in 1996. Scandal was joined by embarrassment when it turned out that Ng had been favored with 10 visits to the White House, including an elevator ride with Hillary Clinton.
His proxy went to prison, but Ng escaped criminal charges. He continued the life of a billionaire real estate developer in Macau with ties to the upper levels of the Chinese government and possibly its intelligence services.
… Maybe Ng figured all that stateside fuss about the Clintons was forgotten when he made a series of brief trips to New York with suitcases of cash on a total of 10 occasions between July 12, 2013, and July 5 of this year. The amounts ranged from $200,000 to $900,000, for a total in excess of $4.5 million.Ng may also have assumed that the feds could not prove otherwise when he told them the money was variously intended for gambling, acquiring real estate, and purchasing art and antiques. The FBI set to work.
“In truth and in fact the more than $4.5 million in cash was not principally used for or intended to be used for these purposes,” the FBI concluded in the resulting criminal complaint filed last month.
Ng was arrested when he was about to board one of a $30 million fleet of private planes for a flight home. He was sporting a gold and diamond watch said to be worth $200,000. He had three cellphones and 20 credit cards.

Washington Post, 1997 - Former Little Rock, Arkansas, restaurateur Yah Lin ``Charlie'' Trie and Macau-based businessman Ng Lap Seng collaborated in a scheme to contribute hundreds of thousands of dollars in foreign funds to the DNC. Ng wired over one million dollars from accounts he maintains in Macau and Hong Kong to accounts maintained by or accessible to Trie in Little Rock and Washington, D.C. Although Trie held himself out as an international trader (and, in fact, actively sought to develop an international trading business he called Daihatsu International Trading Corporation), he was never successful. Trie's bank records and tax returns reveal that he received little or no income from sources other than Ng Lap Seng.

Although he failed to establish a successful, income- generating international trading business, Trie, his wife and his businesses managed to contribute a total of $220,000 to the DNC between 1994 and 1996. Trie and Ng also reimbursed the contributions made by a number of other DNC contributors who were recruited by Trie in order to further disguise the ultimate source of the contributions.
An angry Sen. Fred Thompson, chairman of the Senate panel investigating campaign finance abuses, announced today that White House documents turned over to Congress say the mysterious Chinese businessman Ng Lap Seng, also known as "Mr. Wu," visited the White House 10 times between June 1994 and October 1996. - Federation of American Scientists
Worldnet Daily, 2000- Ng Lapseng, according to Asia expert Bill Triplett, is part owner of "Ang-Du International," reported to be one of several firms that acquire women for Ng to employ at his Macau brothels.

Progressive Review, 1994 - Webster Hubbell is convicted of tax evasion and mail fraud involving the theft of nearly a half million dollars from his partners at the Rose firm and failing to pay nearly $150,000 in taxes. After quitting the Justice Department and before going to jail, Hubbell is a busy man. He meets with Hillary Clinton, and follows up by getting together with major scandal figures John Huang, James Riady, and Ng Lapseng. Riady and Huang go to the White House every day from June 21 to June 25, 1994 according to White House records. Hubbell had breakfast and lunch with Riady on June 23. Four days later -- and one week after Hubbell's meeting with Hillary -- the Hong Kong Chinese Bank, jointly owed by Lippo and the Chinese intelligence services, sends $100,000 to Hubbell. Huang, incidentally, formerly worked for the Hong Kong Chinese Bank. Hubbell also receives $400,000 from other sources.
Macao businessman Ng Lap Seng, closely linked to a couple of major Chinese-owned enterprises, is regularly bringing in large sums of money to the US, according to customs records. On June 20 he arrives with $175,000 and then two days later meets with Charlie Trie and Mark Middleton at the White House. That evening Ng sits at Clinton's table at a DNC fundraiser. Middleton, incidentally, has a 24-hour pass that allowed him to visit Trie's apartment at the Watergate at any time. The apartment is paid for by Ng.

Increase in percent of films that depict killing

Race to the Bottom: Governors

  • Scott Walker
  • Paul LePage
  • Bobby Jindal
  • Sam Brownback

The GOP war on veterans

Forty one GOP senators voted against a bill to improve the provision of medical services and benefits to veterans

Republicans vote against jobs program for vets


Yes, it's hard to write but it's harder not to.- Carl Van Doren

Eight cities do away with "Columbus Day" name for holiday

US Uncut - Following a growing trend, the city council of Albuquerque, New Mexico has voted six to three to recognize October 12th – typically known to most as “Columbus Day” within the USA– as Indigenous Peoples’ day in a new proclamation. Albuquerque has the highest concentration of Indigenous people in New Mexico.
In the past two months, eight cities got rid of Columbus Day in favor of adopting Indigenous Peoples’ Day. Three of those cities adopted Indigenous Peoples’ Day this week.