August 23, 2014

Word: Desmond Tutu on Israel

Desmond Tutu - Last month, 17 EU governments urged their citizens to avoid doing business in or investing in illegal Israeli settlements.

We have also recently witnessed the withdrawal by Dutch pension fund PGGM of tens of millions of euros from Israeli banks; the divestment from G4S by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation; and the U.S. Presbyterian Church divested an estimated $21 million from HP, Motorola Solutions and Caterpillar.

It is a movement that is gathering pace.

Violence begets violence and hatred, that only begets more violence and hatred.

We South Africans know about violence and hatred. We understand the pain of being the polecat of the world; when it seems nobody understands or is even willing to listen to our perspective. It is where we come from.

We also know the benefits that dialogue between our leaders eventually brought us; when organizations labeled “terrorist” were unbanned and their leaders, including Nelson Mandela, were released from imprisonment, banishment and exile.

We know that when our leaders began to speak to each other, the rationale for the violence that had wracked our society dissipated and disappeared. Acts of terrorism perpetrated after the talks began – such as attacks on a church and a pub – were almost universally condemned, and the party held responsible snubbed at the ballot box.

The exhilaration that followed our voting together for the first time was not the preserve of black South Africans alone. The real triumph of our peaceful settlement was that all felt included. And later, when we unveiled a constitution so tolerant, compassionate and inclusive that it would make God proud, we all felt liberated.

... Those who continue to do business with Israel, who contribute to a sense of “normalcy” in Israeli society, are doing the people of Israel and Palestine a disservice. They are contributing to the perpetuation of a profoundly unjust status quo.

Those who contribute to Israel’s temporary isolation are saying that Israelis and Palestinians are equally entitled to dignity and peace.

Ultimately, events in Gaza over the past month or so are going to test who believes in the worth of human beings.

It is becoming more and more clear that politicians and diplomats are failing to come up with answers, and that responsibility for brokering a sustainable solution to the crisis in the Holy Land rests with civil society and the people of Israel and Palestine themselves.

... The State of Israel is behaving as if there is no tomorrow. Its people will not live the peaceful and secure lives they crave – and are entitled to – as long as their leaders perpetuate conditions that sustain the conflict.

I have condemned those in Palestine responsible for firing missiles and rockets at Israel. They are fanning the flames of hatred. I am opposed to all manifestations of violence.

But we must be very clear that the people of Palestine have every right to struggle for their dignity and freedom. It is a struggle that has the support of many around the world.

No human-made problems are intractable when humans put their heads together with the earnest desire to overcome them. No peace is impossible when people are determined to achieve it. Israelis and Palestinians joining together.

August 22, 2014

Trend setter

How Ferguson rips off the poor

Daily Beast - Three times a month—one day and two nights—the [Ferguson] City Council chamber also serves as home to the incredibly busy and extremely profitable municipal court.

A report issued just last week by the nonprofit lawyer’s group ArchCity Defenders notes that in the court’s 36 three-hour sessions in 2013, it handled 12,108 cases and 24,532 warrants. That is an average of 1.5 cases and three warrants per Ferguson household. Fines and court fees for the year in this city of just 21,000 people totaled $2,635,400.

The sum made the municipal court the city’s second-biggest source of revenue. It also almost certainly was a major factor in the antagonism between the police and the citizenry preceding the tragedy that resulted when Wilson had another encounter with a subject six months after he got his commendation.

The ArchCity Defenders report notes: “Whites comprise 29% of the population of Ferguson but just 12.7% of vehicle stops. After being stopped in Ferguson, blacks are almost twice as likely as whites to be searched (12.1% vs. 6.9%) and twice as likely to be arrested (10.4% vs. 5.2%).”

Lest anyone contend that blacks inherently merit greater police attention than whites, the report offers another statistic.

“Searches of black individuals result in discovery of contraband only 21.7% of the time, while similar searches of whites produce contraband 34.0% of the time.”

That would suggest both that whites were more likely to be stopped when there was actual probable cause and that blacks were more likely to be stopped when there was not. And the antagonism sure to be generated by such racial disparities was magnified by the sheer number of cases.

The report cites a court employee as saying the docket for a typical three-hour court session has up to 1,500 cases. The report goes on to say that “in addition to such heavy legal prosecution,” the Ferguson court and others like it in nearby towns “engage in a number of operational procedures that make it even more difficult for defendants to navigate the courts.”

Jazz break

Inside government

Project on Government Oversight
Government Accountability Project
Thomas Drake
Bill Binney
Chelsea Manning
Edward Snowden

Vermont moves away from criminalizing approach to heroin addiction

Business Week - Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin devoted his entire State of the State address in January to what he called Vermont’s “full-blown heroin crisis.” Since 2000, he said, the state had seen a 250 percent increase in addicts receiving treatment. The courts were swamped with heroin-related cases. In 2013 the number of people charged with heroin trafficking in federal court in Vermont increased 135 percent from the year before, according to federal records...

Vermont has passed a battery of reforms that have turned the tiny state of about 627,000 people into a national proving ground for a less punitive approach to getting hard drugs under control. Under policies now in effect or soon to take hold, people caught using or in possession of heroin will be offered the chance to avoid prosecution by enrolling in treatment. Addicts, including some prisoners, will have greater access to synthetic heroin substitutes to help them reduce their dependency on illegal narcotics or kick the habit. A good Samaritan law will shield heroin users from arrest when they call an ambulance to help someone who’s overdosed. The drug naloxone, which can reverse the effects of a heroin or opioid overdose, will be carried by cops, EMTs, and state troopers. It will also be available at pharmacies without a prescription. “This is an experiment,” Shumlin says. “And we’re not going to really know the results for a while.”

Department of Good Stuff: De Blasio backs cooperatives

Yes Magazine - Mayor Bill de Blasio and the New York City Council allocated $1.2 million to support worker cooperatives in 2015’s budget. According to the Democracy at Work Institute, New York’s investment in co-ops is the largest by any U.S. city government to date.

Cooperatives are businesses owned and controlled by their members on the basis of one member, one vote. Given enough time, worker-owned cooperatives tend to increase wages and improve working conditions, and advocates say a local co-op generally stays where it’s founded and acts as a leadership-building force.

ISIS: Another US Mid East plot gone astray

Tony Cartalucci Activist Post - In reality, US special forces and other Western operatives have been inside and operating in Syria for years. The only missing ingredient the US seeks to justify is direct, open military intervention including airstrikes on Syrian territory.

It was the United States itself that intentionally created ISIS, beginning as early as 2007 for the expressed purpose of overthrowing the government of Syria and confronting pro-Iranian forces across the Middle East from Lebanon to Iran's very doorstep. Veteran journalists and Pulitzer Prize-winner Seymour Hersh noted in his prophetic 2007 New Yorker article, "The Redirection Is the Administration’s new policy benefitting our enemies in the war on terrorism?" that (emphasis added):
To undermine Iran, which is predominantly Shiite, the Bush Administration has decided, in effect, to reconfigure its priorities in the Middle East. In Lebanon, the Administration has cooperated with Saudi Arabia’s government, which is Sunni, in clandestine operations that are intended to weaken Hezbollah, the Shiite organization that is backed by Iran. The U.S. has also taken part in clandestine operations aimed at Iran and its ally Syria. A by-product of these activities has been the bolstering of Sunni extremist groups that espouse a militant vision of Islam and are hostile to America and sympathetic to Al Qaeda.
It would be difficult for anyone today not to call ISIS one of several "extremist groups that espouse a militant vision of Islam and are hostile to America and sympathetic to Al Qaeda." The clandestine nature of this support from 2007, to 2011 when widespread violence erupted across Syria and soon began spreading beyond its borders, was less obvious.

The support to these sectarian extremist mercenaries became much more apparent after 2011, with monthly admissions published in the pages of the New York Times, the Washington Post, and other prominent newspapers across the West of the US CIA arming and funding terrorists along the Syrian-Turkish border for years - in the very areas now clearly serving as safe havens and conduits for ISIS.

Government information officers blacklisting journalists

In These Times - As states move to hide details of government deals with Wall Street, and as politicians come up with new arguments to defend secrecy, a study released earlier this month revealed that many government information officers block specific journalists they don't like from accessing information. The news comes as 47 federal inspectors general sent a letter to lawmakers criticizing "serious limitations on access to records" that they say have "impeded" their oversight work.

The data about public information officers was compiled over the past few years by Kennesaw State University professor Dr. Carolyn Carlson. Her surveys found that 4 in 10 public information officers say "there are specific reporters they will not allow their staff to talk to due to problems with their stories in the past."

"That horrified us that so many would do that," Carlson told the Columbia Journalism Review, which reported on her presentation at the July conference of the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication.

Carlson has conducted surveys of journalists and public information officers since 2012. In her most recent survey of 445 working journalists, four out of five reported that "their interviews must be approved" by government information officers, and "more than half of the reporters said they had actually been prohibited from interviewing [government] employees at least some of the time by public information officers."

In recent years, there have been signs that the federal government is reducing the flow of public information. Reason Magazine has reported a 114 percent increase in Freedom of Information Act rejections by the Drug Enforcement Agency since President Obama took office. The National Security Agency has also issued blanket rejections of FOIA requests about its metadata program. And the Associated Press reported earlier this year that in 2013, "the government cited national security to withhold information a record 8,496 times—a 57 percent increase over a year earlier and more than double Obama's first year."

Those revelations foreshadowed a recent letter from more than half of the government's inspectors general saying that federal agencies' move to hide information from them represents a "potentially serious challenge to the authority of every Inspector General and our ability to conduct our work thoroughly, independently, and in a timely manner."

In that letter, the inspectors general assert that agencies are saying information is "privileged" and therefore must be kept secret. That is one of many increasingly creative rationales that public officials are now citing as reason to keep government information secret.

In Chicago, for example, officials in Mayor Rahm Emanuel's administration rejected a request for documents about an opaque $1.7 billion fund that is often used for corporate subsidies, some of which have flowed to the mayor's political donors. In a letter explaining the rejection, the officials said it would take too much staff time to compile the data and that therefore the request was "unduly burdensome."

Likewise in Rhode Island, Democratic State Treasurer Gina Raimondo rejected a newspaper request for information about the state's hedge fund contracts on the grounds that she wanted fund managers to "keep this information confidential to help preserve the productivity of their staff and to minimize attention around their own compensation."

Carlson's polls from 2014 show that three-quarters of journalists surveyed now agree that "the public is not getting the information it needs because of barriers agencies are imposing on journalists' reporting practices."

Learning Vietnam

From 50 years of our overstocked archives. The following documents some of the steps your editor went through to arrive at full opposition to the war in Vietnam. It may be helpful - and perhaps hopeful - to those trying to change minds about the current conflicts.] 

Sam Smith - Although a researcher stumbling upon The Idler, the predecessor to the Progressive Review,  might regard it as an early example of the alternative press, I initially saw myself more as an unconventional member of the establishment rather than its opponent. Early on, I tried to explain to readers I suspected were considerably more traditional than myself some of the remarkable changes that were occurring in America and how they might best adapt to them. If anything, my view of American radicalism was that of a sympathetic, albeit sometimes patronizing, observer. Among other things, The Idler tracked my sometimes awkward, equivocating, or pompous pilgrimage away from what I had been taught and still in many ways believed I was. In June 1965, for example, I wrote:

"There is a new radical spirit. It has drawn much of its strength from the civil rights movement, but it goes far beyond that, challenging not just America's racial attitudes but some of her most cherished and smug assumptions, It protests the whole humdrum, humbug world of white urban American sophistication with its self-serving definition of success, its indifference towards the socially and economically disenfranchised of the country, its phony values and its 8 oz. drip-dry culture. It is as purposeful as a March on Montgomery and as pointless as an obscene sign on the University of California campus."

Yet when it came to applying such principles to our increasing involvement in Vietnam, I found myself on far less certain ground. For example, from a piece in September 1965:

"President Johnson is faced with two major dangers. He must not let this war expand beyond reasonable limits and he must not negotiate a phony and ignominious settlement. The president is fully aware of these dangers and, no doubt, personally confident that he can avoid them. At present our strategy appears to be based on the concept of holding Saigon and selected areas along the east coast, then moving out into the countryside as conditions permit. According to news reports, we have also determined not to waste American troops in missions with high ambush potential, and instead will reserve them for battalion-size action. This is a realistic strategy. It makes much more sense than one based on the false hope of negotiation or false faith in expansion. It implies a lengthy stay in Vietnam and it means, for perhaps years to come, something less than total victory against the V.C. But it also represents our best hope of saving what is left of South Vietnam without paying an unreasonable price . . .But the public must be conditioned to the realities of the situation. They must be made to understand the necessity of the undramatic, sufficient, and lengthy application of American force in South Vietnam."

This was written by a 27-year-old barely a year out of the military, raised in the bosom of cold war liberalism, conscious of my responsibility to realpolitik, and influenced by friends and media to whom even such cautious words bordered on questionable. It perhaps provides some perspective to quote a small item that appeared in a box in the same issue:

"We sent a classified ad up to the Saturday Review not so long ago and got back a reply which said, in part, 'After careful consideration, our Acceptability Board came to the conclusion that it would prefer not to run your ad.' We had hoped that the Saturday Review would be able to find a little space for us amongst their other ads concerning Sell's Famous Liver Pate, WBAI-FM, exotic tropical fruit, work for an ex-convict, sex education records, and a private party wishing to buy Horatio Alger books. So we called them up to find out what was wrong. Nothing wrong with the ad, the lady told us. 'The board just decided your magazine was a little too liberal.'"

It was not the harshest view. Among the notes received was a subscription blank that read: "You all go to hell as Reds. We're on to you and we'll fight you to the death." The subscription form was made out for "Martin Luther Coon" Further expiation may be found in the fact that I wrote those words only months after the anti-war movement had begun. Howard Zinn remembers because he was there:

"The movement against the war in Vietnam started with isolated actions in 1965. Black civil rights activists in the South were among the first to resist the draft. SNNC's Bob Moses joined historian Staughton Lynd and veteran pacifist Dave Dellinger to march in Washington against the war, and Life Magazine had a dramatic photo of the three of them walking abreast, being splattered with red paint by angry super patriots. In the spring of 1965 I spoke at what was to be the first of many anti-war rallies on the Boston Common. It was a discouragingly small crowd - perhaps a hundred people. . . ."

Over the next year, my views, like that of many others would undergo major transformation. By March 1966 I was still writing things such as:

"We must learn the limits of a realistic American role and not exceed them. The specific extent of this role is hard for one sitting at a desk half a world away to suggest. But it would seem to include defense of major South Vietnamese population centers and areas of strategic importance, including all or part of the Mekong Delta. It includes the presence of large numbers of American troops, the provision of technical assistance and supplies to the South Vietnamese army and a far higher level of economic assistance than that at present.'

But I was also suggesting limits and alternatives:

"[The proper role] does not include bombing North Vietnam, ravishing South Vietnam's villages in order to flush out a few Vietcong. or wasting American lives in battle for ground not worth the powder to blow it to hell. We may have to stay in Vietnam a long time. The American public will accept this if it feels the course we pursue there is reasonable, just as the public has accepted the large number of American troops in Europe for over two decades. But if we repeatedly engage in actions that are neither moral nor productive, the public at home and the nations abroad will reject our role. The Americans in Vietnam will become lonely, hated men fighting a lonely, hated war. As I write, the big peace offensive is still underway. I hope it will be by the time this reaches the reader. For we have not, until recently, been as diligent in escalating the peace as we have been in escalating the war. We could too easily slip back into the old ways of battle. The big lesson of the Cold War is that careful, conscientious escalation of the peace works to the benefit of everyone, despite the minor immediate losses of face and compromised ideological goals. We can always risk taking a few halting steps away from disaster."

Then in April 1966:

"Perhaps it is not too late to salvage our position in Vietnam, but if we are to do it there are going to have to be some fairly dramatic changes made,. . . .The overriding fact of the Vietnamese war is that neither we nor the South Vietnamese are doing a good job at it. One does not improve a bad situation by enlarging its scope."

June 1996:

"[LBJ's] Vietnam escapade has been an abject failure."

April 1967:

"If we pursue the war to ultimate military victory, which appears the present goal of our government, we shall have surrendered reason and justice to the temptations of brazen power. We may defeat the communists, but we shall have also defeated ourselves."

November 67:

"Some, including myself, are not psychologically inclined to have their heads bashed in by a US Marshall guarding the Pentagon. Still it seems almost inevitable that extraction from the mess of SE Asia or of our cities will not come without vehement, even violent, confrontation, Those willing to risk that confrontation on behalf of those less bold are more to be honored than censured."

The same issue contained an article by Howard Zinn defending radical protests against the napalm-maker, Dow Chemical. I had become a full-winged dove. The story came from Liberation News Service, which I described as a "news service for the so-called underground press." That month I turned thirty, the age it was said on the left that one could no longer be trusted. In fact, most of those on the streets were younger than I; those condemning and suppressing them were older. I had wandered into a generational no-man's land and never would have guessed that over thirty years later, I would be one of the few members of the "so-called underground press" still at it.

Pocket paradigms: Corruption

1. Hit the corrupters at least as hard as the corruptees. The real danger in corruption is what the bribe buys, not the soul of the bought politician (which probably never was in that great a shape anyway).

2. The worst corruption tends to be legal, therefore hardly anyone notices it. Remember that corrupt not only means dishonest, it also means without integrity. In most jurisdictions the latter is not a violation of the law.

3. Just because the corruption is legal doesn't mean you have to accept it. Martin Luther didn't -- and so helped to reform a little church-run protection racket known as indulgences.
4. Simply because corruption is bad, don't assume all reforms are good.

5. If forced to choose between minor corruption and major incompetence, take the former. It's cheaper and easier to live with.

6. Favor corruption that is well distributed-- that gets down to the street over that which only favors a few. Thus: reform zoning policies before you worry about parking tickets. - Sam Smith


When it shall be said in any country in the world, 'My poor are happy; neither ignorance nor distress is to be found among them; my jails are empty of prisoners, my streets of beggars; the aged are not in want, the taxes are not oppressive -- when these thing can be said, then may that country boast of its constitution and government. -- Thomas Paine

August 21, 2014

Median net worth of Americans declines

Washington Post - The median net worth of American households declined between 2000 and 2011, the Census Bureau said  in a report that showed the steepest drops experienced by minorities and people under age 55.

The wealth drop in the bottom 60 percent was so great that it more than offset healthy increases in the net worth of the top 40 percent. As a result, median household net worth for the nation as a whole fell by more than $5,000 over a little more than a decade, a decline of almost 7 percent.

16th state wins federal court decision for gay marriage


Distressed house sales drop

Foreclosed or 'short sale' properties have dropped below 10 percent of sales for the first time since the Great Recession. In 2009, more than 1 in 3 home sales were distressed.



Mike Michaud does it again

The only candidate for governor in the US who is a Democrat, gay, member of the steelworkers union, and endorsed by the state police association, has done it again.

Working Maine - The Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine treleased its grades for Maine candidates for governor. The organization gave U.S. Rep. Michaud, the Democratic nominee for governor, an A-, noting that he is a longtime supporter of issues important to Maine sportsmen.

“He has worked to help fund important programs within the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, including Search and Rescue and he has received the SAM endorsement in the past and was an important part of the moderate Blue Dogs in Congress (Democrats that worked for middle ground on many issues) including the protection of the Second Amendment. He is an advocate of preserving land and resources, as well as the rights of rural Mainers,” SAM wrote.

SAM noted that Michaud received an A- because he supports expanding background checks, which the organization opposes.

“As a lifetime SAM member, I'm proud to receive such a high grade after devoting much of my career to protecting Maine’s proud sporting heritage for fishermen and hunters, protecting our public lands and improving access to trails for snowmobilers, ATV enthusiasts and hikers,” Michaud said. “Even though we may not agree on my support for strengthening background checks, I'm committed to maintaining a strong partnership with SAM and its members as governor."

Helicopter parenting out of control

Reason -  A whopping 68 percent of Americans think there should be a law that prohibits kids 9 and under from playing at the park unsupervised, despite the fact that most of them no doubt grew up doing just that.

What's more: 43 percent feel the same way about 12-year-olds. They would like to criminalize all pre-teenagers playing outside on their own (and, I guess, arrest their no-good parents).

Those are the results of a Reason/Rupe poll confirming that we have not only lost all confidence in our kids and our communities—we have lost all touch with reality.

"I doubt there has ever been a human culture, anywhere, anytime, that underestimates children's abilities more than we North Americans do today," says Boston College psychology professor emeritus Peter Gray, author of Free to Learn, a book that advocates for more unsupervised play, not less.

In his book, Gray writes about a group of 13 kids who played several hours a day for four months without supervision, though they were observed by an anthropologist. "They organized activities, settled disputes, avoided danger, dealt with injuries, distributed goods... without adult intervention," he writes.

The kids ranged in age from 3 to 5.

Of course, those kids were allowed to play in the South Pacific, not South Carolina, where Debra Harrell was thrown in jail for having the audacity to believe her 9-year-old would be fine by herself at a popular playground teeming with activity. In another era, it not only would have been normal for a child to say, "Goodbye, mom!" and go off to spend a summer's day there, it would have been odd to consider that child "unsupervised." After all, she was surrounded by other kids, parents, and park personnel.

Harrell's real crime was that she refused to indulge in inflated fears of abduction and insist her daughter never leave her side. While there are obviously many neighborhoods wrecked by crime where it makes more sense to keep kids close, the country at large is enjoying its lowest crime level in decades.

Military bans the Intercept

Popular Resistance - The U.S. military is banning and blocking employees from visiting The Intercept in an apparent effort to censor news reports that contain leaked government secrets. According to multiple military sources, a notice has been circulated to units within the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marine Corps warning staff that they are prohibited from reading stories published by The Intercept on the grounds that they may contain classified information. The ban appears to apply to all employees—including those with top-secret security clearance—and is aimed at preventing classified information from being viewed on unclassified computer networks, even if it is freely available on the internet. Similar military-wide bans have been directed against news outlets in the past after leaks of classified information

Pocket paradigms

The rise of corporations truly represented a counter-coup against the values of the American Revolution. It dramatically undermined both political and economic freedom, corrupted politicians and ransacked national assets. It replaced the feudalism of the monarchy with the feudalism of the corporation. - Sam Smith


Corrupted by wealth and power, your government is like a restaurant with only one dish. They've got a set of Republican waiters on one side and a set of Democratic waiters on the other side. But no matter which set of waiters brings you the dish, the legislative grub is all prepared in the same Wall Street kitchen - Huey Long

The immigration myth

From 59 years of overstocked archives

Sam Smith, 2006

IT IS taken as a given in the immigration debate that our current system for dealing with the issue has some sort of historical logic. It doesn't. The story of immigration in the U.S. is a mishmash of hospitality and hatred, encouragement and restriction.

The Naturalization Act of 1790, for example, said that "any alien, being a free white person, may be admitted to become a citizen of the United States." Blacks, indentured servants, and most women couldn't be citizens no matter where they came from, but the underlying approach to immigration would boggle the mind of today's strict constructionists. If you were a free white male, you came, you saw, and you signed up. As the Citizenship and Immigration Services describes ti, "the law required a set period of residence in the United States prior to naturalization, specifically two years in the country and one year in the state of residence when applying for citizenship. When those requirements were met, an immigrant could file a Petition for Naturalization with "any common law court of record" having jurisdiction over his residence asking to be naturalized. Once convinced of the applicant?s good moral character, the court would administer an oath of allegiance to support the Constitution of the United States."

The essence of immigration as we know it today - i.e. the restriction of immigration - didn't become a major issue until the Chinese exclusion Act of 1882, hardly something of which Americans should be proud. This was the period of the great post-reconstruction counter revolution during which corporations gained enormous power but the rest of America and its citizens lost it.

The counter-revolution was not only an attack on would-be immigrants, it was aimed at American ethnic groups who had proved far too successful at adding to their political clout in places like Boston and New York City.

Richard Croker, a tough 19th century county boss of Tammany Hall, grew almost lyrical when he spoke of his party's duty to immigrants:

"They do not speak our language, they do not know our laws, they are the raw material with which we have to build up the state . . . There is no denying the service which Tammany has rendered to the republic. There is no such organization for taking hold of the untrained, friendless man and converting him into a citizen. Who else would do it if we did not? . . . [Tammany] looks after them for the sake of their vote, grafts them upon the Republic, makes citizens of them."

Alexander B. Callow Jr. of the University of California has written that Boston pol Martin Lomansey even met every new immigrant ship and "helped the newcomers find lodging or guided them to relatives. James Michael Curley set up nationalization classes to prepare newcomers for the citizenship examination . . . Friendly judges, anticipating election day, converted their courts into naturalization mills, grinding out a thousand new Americans a day. . . . Flags were waved, prose turned purple, celebrations were wild on national holidays. . . . Patriotism became a means for the newcomer to prove himself worthy."

By 1891 the federal government had assumed control of admitting or rejecting all immigrants and one year later Ellis island opened. By 1903 we had a law restricting Mexican laborers and during and after World I, laws were expanded greatly including a ban on all Asians save the Japanese.

We did not have the equivalent of a green card until 1940 and the actual card of that name only came in during the anti-communist hysteria of the 1950s. What we think of as our immigration system is in no small part a leftover from the McCarthy era.

It is common today to discuss immigration as though it were primarily an employment and economic matter. The trouble with this claim is that many of the people who are most anti-immigration are the same who have caused infinitely more economic harm to the country through globalization and outsourcing.

In truth, what really scares the exclusionists is the politics of immigrants, potentially more progressive than they would like. From Nordic populists in the northern middle west to European socialists, to the right immigration has meant left.

This, of course, isn't always true as in the case of Cuba but it helps to make the debate a bit clearer to understand what it is about.

In the end, we don't really have an immigration policy but an exclusion policy, outsourcing our prejudices by not letting their targets enter the country.

Small town on Pacific island to be first to move because of climate change

Think Progress - A small town on Taro Island — the capital of Choiseul Province in the Solomon Islands — is planning to relocate its entire population in response to climate change, Reuters reports. It’s the first time that a provincial capital in the Pacific Islands will have done so.

The islands that make up Choiseul Province and the rest of the Solomon Islands sit east of Papua New Guinea in the Solomon Sea, and northeast of Australia. Taro Island itself is only 6.6 feet above sea level, and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change projects global sea level rise of one to three feet by the end of this century. But that’s likely a low ball estimate. Compounding factors like a speed-up in the melt of Greenland’s glaciers and the effectively irreversible collapse of the West Antarctic glacier could drive it considerably higher.

Rising seas will in turn bring ever-higher risks of storm surges, tsunamis, and floods to the community, which ranges from 500 to 1,000 people according to various reports. So in consultation with a team of engineers, scientists, and planners, Taro Island decided to build an entirely new town on a higher and larger nearby island, to which the population will be moved in stages. Money to purchase the land for the new project was provided by a $3 million grant from the Solomon Islands government in 2008.

Word: A public defender on being black and poor in Ferguson

Thomas Harvey, executive director and co-founder of ArchCity Defenders:  His group represents low-income residents of St. Louis County in municipal court proceedings.

Clients reported being jailed for the inability to pay fines, losing jobs and housing as result of the incarceration, being refused access to the courts if they were with their children or other family members, and being mistreated by the bailiffs, prosecutors, clerks and judges in the courts," the report finds. Clients report being jailed for the inability to pay fines.

I can't tell you what's going on in the mind of a police officer but, in the mind of my clients, they're being pulled over because they're black. They're being pulled over so the city can generate revenue.

What we see is that the lowest level offenses can cause really significant problems for people. We're talking about homeless folks who cannot gain access to services they need because there's a warrant for their arrest. There are poor people who can't afford to pay their tickets and then they end up with a warrant and it's a black hole. They get their license suspended and to get it reinstated they have to pay fines on tickets that they couldn't pay in the first place.

This becomes a major issue: if you can't pay your fines, you stop going to court. And then a warrant goes out for their arrest, and if they don't have the fine money they'll sit in jail until the next court date. We're talking about traffic tickets here, really the lowest level offense.

I don't know the intent of the officers pulling them over. But it's 100 percent true that is the impression that people have.. There's a really fundamental distrust. I would never pretend like traffic tickets are the reason this is happening. But it is a factor. It's something that is happening in all the municipalities, and it contributes to the distrust. We hear from people who say, "I spent 25 days in jail for a traffic ticket." That happens.

It's always some initial moving violation, like speeding or rolling through a stop sign. Many will tell us, they feel that it's driving while black in their own community. Sometimes the police officer knows them, and knows the car wasn't registered the first time they were pulled over and goes through the whole thing again. They feel like they're being harassed and it creates this constant low level of stress.

We had one woman who was pulled over and charged with driving with a suspended license, failure to register and no proof of insurance. She was ticketed and assessed fines of $1,700. She couldn't pay that; she's a mother of three living in Section 8 housing. She didn't go to court, a warrant was issued for her failure to appear and a few months later she got into a car accident that wasn't her fault.

They saw that she had a warrant, and held her for two weeks and then took her in front of a judge. She told them I can't pay this money, so they reduced it to $700. For her, that might as well have been $700,000. What ended up happening was her mom borrowed against her life insurance policy and her sister gave her half her bi-weekly paycheck.

That was two weeks in jail for unpaid traffic tickets. And what the court learned from that, is that, if they send people to jail, they'll probably make money.

36,000 Madoff victims report no restitution

Wall Street on Parade - On May 5, 2014, Irving Picard, the court-appointed trustee in charge of finding and distributing Madoff’s swindled funds to investors released this statement in a press release announcing the fourth interim distribution of funds to victims: “1,129 accounts will be fully satisfied following the fourth interim distribution. All allowed claims totaling $925,000 or less will be fully satisfied after the distribution.”

Just eight days later, Richard Breeden, the Special Master that’s working on behalf of the U.S. Department of Justice to distribute a separate pool of funds to Madoff’s victims reported that more than 36,000 claimants have filed documents with his office indicating that they haven’t yet received a dime of restitution...

Almost six years from the date that Bernard Madoff turned himself in as the largest Ponzi fraudster in the history of finance, the U.S. Department of Justice is still scratching its head over just how much money Madoff actually ripped off from investors and puzzling over how to divvy up its inadequate pot of money.

We know for certain that the Justice Department was stunned to learn that 36,000 claimants said they hadn’t received a dime because in a November 18, 2013 press release, Breeden indicated that he was going to begin accepting claims from “approximately 11,000 investors whose assets came into Madoff Securities indirectly through feeder funds, investment partnerships, bank commingled funds, family trusts or other pooled investment accounts. As a result, we expect approximately 12,000 direct and indirect investors will be eligible for a recovery…” Instead of receiving 11,000 claim forms, Breeden received 51,700 with 36,000 of those reporting zero restitution.

August 20, 2014

FBI loloking into charter school cons

Ruth Conniff, Truth Out - There's been a flood of local news stories in recent months about FBI raids on charter schools all over the country.

From Pittsburgh to Baton Rouge, from Hartford to Cincinnatti to Albuquerque, FBI agents have been busting into schools, carting off documents and making arrests leading to high-profile indictments.

....Charter schools are such a racket, across the nation they are attracting special attention from the FBI, which is working with the Department of Education's inspector general to look into allegations of charter-school fraud.

....Over the last decade, the charter school movement has morphed from a small, community-based effort to foster alternative education into a national push to privatize public schools, pushed by free-market foundations and big education-management companies. This transformation opened the door to profit-seekers looking for a way to cash in on public funds.

.....There are now more than 6,000 publicly funded charter schools in the United States—a more than 50 percent increase since 2008.

Over that same period, "nearly 4,000 traditional public schools have closed," writes Stan Karp, an editor of Rethinking Schools. "This represents a huge transfer of resources and students from our public education system to the publicly funded but privately managed charter sector."

And all that money has attracted some unscrupulous operators.

Most detailed map since 1997 shows Antarctic shrinkage

Daily Mail, UK

Afghanistan threatens NT Times reporter with expulsion

Reuters - Afghanistan has given a New York Times reporter 24 hours to leave the country, accusing him of not cooperating with an investigation into his reporting, the Attorney General's office said on Wednesday.

Matthew Rosenberg, 40, was summoned for questioning on Tuesday after the newspaper ran a story about officials discussing plans to form an interim government and "seize power" if a deadlock over the presidential election failed to break soon.

"Due to the lack of proper accountability and non-cooperation, the Attorney General's office has decided that Matthew Rosenberg should leave Afghanistan within 24 hours," the office said in a statement. "He will not be permitted to enter the country again."

Rosenberg said he and his newspaper had been cooperating fully.

"We simply requested a lawyer as is our right under Afghan law," he said. "We were also never informed of a formal investigation and we do not understand how insisting on the right to a lawyer is not cooperating.”

Caitlin Hayden, spokeswoman for the White House National Security Council, said the Afghan government's move was a "significant step backward for the freedom of the press in Afghanistan and should be reversed immediately"

Who would be helped by minimum wage increse

Ferguson protest in Moscow

Embedded image permalink 

Israel helped mistrain cops in Ferguson crisis

Electronic intifada - Since the killing of eighteen-year-old Michael Brown by Ferguson police in Missouri last weekend, the people of Ferguson have been subjected to a military-style crackdown by a squadron of local police departments dressed like combat soldiers. This has prompted residents to liken the conditions on the ground in Ferguson to the Israeli military occupation of Palestine...

And it’s no coincidence.  At least two of the four law enforcement agencies that were deployed in Ferguson up until Thursday evening — the St. Louis County Police Department and the St. Louis Police Department — received training from Israeli security forces in recent years....

Under the cover of counterterrorism training, nearly every major police agency in the United States has traveled to Israel for lessons in occupation enforcement, a phenomenon that journalist Max Blumenthal dubbed “the Israelification of America’s security apparatus.” Israeli forces and US police departments are so entrenched that the New York City Police Department  has opened a branch in Tel Aviv.

In 2011, then St. Louis County Police Department chief Timothy Fitch attended the Anti-Defamation League’ National Counter-Terrorism Seminar, an annual week-long Israeli training camp where US law enforcement executives “study first hand Israel’s tactics and strategies” directly from “senior commanders in the Israel National Police, experts from Israel’s intelligence and security services, and the Israel Defense Forces,” according to the ADL’s website....

The ADL boasts of sending more than 175 senior US law enforcement officials from 100 different agencies to the seminar since 2004, which are “taking the lessons they learned in Israel back to the United States.”

The ADL is just one of several pro-Israel groups forging close ties between US cops and Israel’s security and intelligence apparatus.

Another is the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs, a neoconservative think tank that claims to have hosted some 9,500 law enforcement officials in its Law Enforcement Exchange Program since 2004.

LEEP “takes delegations of senior law enforcement executives to Israel to study methods and observe techniques used in preventing and reacting to acts of terrorism” and “sponsors conferences within the United States, bringing Israeli experts before much larger groups of law enforcement leaders,” according to JINSA’s brochure.

Former St. Louis Police Department police chief Joseph Mokwa is listed as having traveled to Israel as part of a LEEP conference in February 2008.

Following nationwide outrage and embarrassment, Missouri Governor Jay Nixon pulled St. Louis County Police forces out of Ferguson and placed the Missouri Highway Patrol in charge of policing demonstrators. The St. Louis Police Department voluntarily removed its officers from Ferguson.

As a result, Ferguson no longer looks like occupied territory, though the underlying issue, Michael Brown’s murder, has yet to be addressed.

Meanwhile, the scope of Israel’s influence on US law enforcement remains virtually ignored by the media despite the troubling implications of emulating an apartheid regime actively engaged in ethnic cleansing and war crimes.

Activists prevent Israeli ship from unloading in Oakland for four days

Electronic Intifada

What if we mlitarized others aspects of govenrmment?

From Craig Crawford

Fire Department.   Fire at your house?  Militarized fire fighters will arrive, and treat you and your entire family as “suspected arsonists.”   Face down on the ground, with an assault rifle to your head, you will be given 30 seconds to prove that you are innocent.  If so, you will then be allowed to put out the fire yourself.

Trash Collection.  Did you fail to separate your recyclables?  Don’t be surprised when militarized municipal trash collectors break down your door at 3 AM, handcuff you, put a hood over your head, and load you onto a plane for extraordinary rendition to an Eastern European country for enhanced interrogation.   (“Are you now, or have you ever been, a global warming denier?”)

Public Library.   Talking too loud?  Rather than “shushing” you a librarian/sniper, from a perch above the circulation desk, will fire a warning shot into an arm or leg.  Overdue Book? (Don’t even ask.)

I’m sure you will agree that our local communities will be MUCH more law-abiding if these changes are made.

NY Times full of shit


Pocket paradigms

If you're going to debunk conspiracy theories about 9/11 you'd think you'd start with the biggest one- the one created by the Bush administration to justify the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. Somehow that never made the debunkers' list.

And why are we allowed to have theories on every topic from the creation of the universe to who is going to win the World Series with the sole exception of wondering who in power is screwing us and how? - Sam Smith


Behind the ostensible government sits enthroned an invisible government owing no allegiance and acknowledging no responsibility to the people. To destroy this invisible government, to befoul the unholy alliance between corrupt business and corrupt politics is the first task of the statesmanship of the day. - Theodore Roosevelt

400 police killings annually ruled as justified homicide

Washington Times - More than 400 fatal police killings a year are sanctioned by local, state and federal authorities as justified homicides, but the FBI doesn’t specifically track how many times officers are prosecuted for improperly causing a person’s death.

The FBI said that it doesn’t keep statistics on specific prosecutions of law enforcement officers because it doesn’t track crimes by profession, though it does track justified homicide rulings.

August 19, 2014

Deaths and hospitalization for heart disease and strike drop dramatically

Web MD- Deaths and hospitalizations for heart disease and stroke have dropped dramatically in the United States over the past decade, according to a large study of Medicare patients.

The declines noted from 1999 to 2011 are the result of lifestyle changes, better treatment and effective preventive measures, the researchers said.

"The findings are jaw-dropping," said lead researcher Dr. Harlan Krumholz, a professor of cardiology at the Yale School of Medicine in New Haven, Conn. "They really show that we have begun to reverse this epidemic of heart disease and stroke."

Krumholz's team reviewed data on nearly 34 million Americans covered by Medicare, the publicly funded insurance program for older people. They analyzed trends in rates of hospitalization, dying within a month of being admitted to a hospital, being admitted again within a month and dying during the following year.

By the end of 2011, hospitalization rates for heart attacks had dropped 38 percent. Rates of unstable angina (sudden chest pain that can signal a heart attack) fell almost 85 percent. And hospitalizations declined about one-third for both heart failure and stroke, the researchers found.

Establishment think tank blows its own cover

Progressive Review - The Center for Strategic and International Studies responded to an Amnesty International Twitter with this comment, “Your work has saved far fewer lives than American intervention. So suck it.”

This tweet, which CSIS later removed and apologized for, magnificently sums up the perverted nature of not only the organization but of the establishment types who have been part of it over the years. 

Left Business Observer, 1998 - In a particularly seamy example of the disinformation now rife in the major media, a front-page story in the New York Times pawned off as "bipartisan" a plan to partially dismantle Social Security that is, in fact, the product of a right-wing think tank. Although the Center for Strategic and International Studies put some token conservative Democrats on its National Commission on Retirement Policy, the commission is deeply biased towards corporatist and conservative viewpoints.

The story headlined "Bipartisan group urges big changes in Social Security" spoke of "powerful interest groups including the American Association of Retired Persons" that oppose the commission's plan to create private investment accounts for retirees. The commission also proposed raising retirement age to 70. The commission claims its scheme would keep Social Security solvent for about 75 years -- ironically the same lifetime Robert Reich estimates for the trust fund simply using by realistic economic growth rates rather than the depression-level ones being cited to encourage the current panic.

The true nature of CSIS should be no secret to the Times. Not only has it covered its hyper-hawkish and spook-friendly projects since it was launched in the 1960s, but the paper has been one of the center's donors.

CSIS gained notoriety in the Cold War years thanks to its intimate ties with the military and intelligence establishments as well as its seeming preference for media attention over scholarship. In 1985, for example, CSIS claimed 4,100 media contacts. A year later the Washington Post referred to it as a "conservative propaganda machine."

Its associates included the likes of Henry Kissinger, Jeanne Kirkpatrick, former deputy CIA chief Ray Clines, and other macho geo-politicists such as Zbigniew Brzezinski, James Schlesinger, and Arnaud de Borchgrave.

The controversial center apparently even became a little too much for its host, Georgetown University and CSIS moved to its own quarters in downtown Washington. But one thing remained constant: its status as a conservative advocate. Ronald Reagan, for example, would use it, noted Alison Muscatine in the Washington Post, "as a favorite site for speeches attacking liberals who oppose US aid for the contras."

Although CSIS has acted in a more discreet manner in the post-cold war era, there is little doubt of its loyalty to corporatist conversion projects such as the downsizing of Social Security and the use of its funds by Wall Street. De Borchgrave is still listed as a scholar as are those of the ilk of Edward Lutwak. There is even a scholar's chair for an "Army National Guard Fellow."

On the other hand, CSIS' affirmative action program leaves something to be desired. One of its rare black scholars, so to speak, is General Julius Becton, a buddy of Clarence Thomas who has just departed as head of the DC public schools after a short but disastrous tenure.

There is one more irony to all this: CSIS was kept afloat for many years by not only the NYT, by not only a dozen or so defense contractors, by not only an Arab sheik or two, but by none other than the man the pro-Clinton establishment loves to hate: Richard Mellon Scaife. Scaife has given millions to support this organization that the Times now implies is a reliable source of wisdom on how Americans should plan for their retirement.

FAIR, 2000 - ABC News Middle East analyst and military expert Anthony Cordesman published a report last month advocating the use of "excessive force" against Palestinian civilians, including "interrogation methods that border on psychological and/or physical torture." The report was released by the Center for Strategic and International Studies, an influential Washington think tank where Cordesman holds a chair in international security.

Amnesty International has condemned Cordesman's report as a "dangerously irresponsible contribution to the escalating violence in Israel and the Palestinian Authority" that risks "legitimizing torture." Cordesman's CSIS report urged the Israeli government and the Palestinian National Authority to use security methods that violate human rights in order to implement any future US-brokered peace agreement. CSIS' Middle East task force, which Cordesman co-directs, includes prominent American policy makers such as Sen. Joseph Lieberman and Sen. John McCain. In a section of his report entitled "Peace and Security as the Natural Enemies of Human Rights," Cordesman lays out his recommendations: "There will be no future peace or stable peace process," he wrote, "if the Palestinian security forces do not act ruthlessly and effectively." Specifically, he notes that "effective counter-terrorism relies on interrogation methods that border on psychological and/or physical torture, arrests and detentions that are 'arbitrary' by the standards of civil law, break-ins and intelligence operations that violate the normal rights of privacy, levels of violence in making arrests that are unacceptable in civil cases, and measures that involve the innocent (or at least not provably directly guilty) in arrests and penalties."

As a model for the Palestinian Authority, Cordesman holds up the British forces in Northern Ireland, who often "used excessive force, abused human rights, and used extreme interrogation methods and torture" but who nevertheless "did an excellent job of balancing the conflicting problems of effective security and a concern for human rights." Marty Rosenbluth, Israel/Occupied Territories coordinator for Amnesty International USA, told FAIR: "I've been doing human rights work for almost 20 years and this is one of the most bizarre documents I've ever seen. It's basically a blueprint for human rights violations that [the authors] want the Palestinian Authority to follow."

Do it yourself contraception in England

Huffington Post, UK - According to the survey of 1,500 British women aged 25-34 by Bayer Healthcare, some people are using cling film, sandwich bags and latex gloves as contraception instead of condoms or other methods.

The truth about trade agreements

Pubic Citizen, December 2013 - On the eve of the North American Free Trade Agreement’s 20th anniversary, a new Public Citizen report shows that not only did promises made by proponents not materialize, but many results are exact ly the opposite. Such outcomes include a staggering $181 billion U.S. trade deficit with NAFTA partners Mexico and Canada, one million net U.S. jobs lost because of NAFTA, a doubling of immigration from Mexico, larger agricultural trade deficits with Mexico and Canada, and more than $360 million paid to corporations after “investor - state” tribunal attacks on, and rollbacks of, domestic public interest policies.

The study tracks the promises made by U.S. corporations like Chrysler and Caterpillar to create specific numbers of American jobs if NAFTA was approved, and reveals government data showing that instead, they fired U.S. workers and moved operations to Mexico. The data also show how post - NAFTA trade and investment trends have contributed to middle - class pay cuts, which in turn contributed to growing income inequality; how since NAFTA, U.S. trade deficit growth with Mexico and Canada has been 45 percent higher than with countries not party to a U.S. Free Trade Agreement, and how U.S. manufacturing and services exports to Canada and Mexico have grown at less than half the pre-NAFTA rate.

Pocket paradigms

You don't need a conspiracy to lie, do something illegal or to be stupid. - Sam Smith


The whole purpose of government is to see that the little fellow who has no special interest gets a fair deal - Harry S Truman

August 18, 2014

More than a third of adults haven't started saving for retirement

Christian Science Monitor -   More than a third of US adults haven't started saving for retirement, according to a recent survey from Bankrate. Retirement saving is a low priority for many Americans as the cost of living rises and more families live paycheck to paycheck.

According to a national survey by, 36 percent of US adults say they have not started saving for retirement. And it isn't just the youngest adults: a significant swath of those on the cusp of retirement haven't put anything away, including 14 percent Americans 65 and older and over a quarter (26 percent) of Americans between ages 50 and 64.

100,000 elephants killed in Africa

Associated Press

July fourth hottest on record

Last month, Earth’s ocean surfaces tied the previous record for the hottest July during the 130 years the U.S. government has been compiling data.

The rise of cargo bikes

UPS Cargo Cruiser
Parcel-delivery company UPS is testing its Cargo Cruiser e-bike in a few European cities. (UPS)

BBC - In Portland, Oregon, entrepreneur Franklin Jones has embraced the future of urban transport. Never mind that the future closely resembles early 20th-Century Britain. Jones, the owner of B-Line Sustainable Urban Delivery, uses the same technology relied on by postal carriers in Victorian England, or by Good Humor ice cream vendors in postwar America. Like so many fashion trends, the decidedly low-tech cargo bike – known to early 1900s peddlers and tradesmen as the “poor man’s nag” ­– is making an everything-old-is-new-again comeback.

From Portland, Seattle and Vancouver to Toronto, Boston and New York and points in between, urban businesses and residents are discovering what European and Asian city-dwellers have known for years: cargo bikes make sense, whether used to deliver goods through traffic-choked streets, lug kids to a park or buy groceries. Point of fact: 25% of families with two or more children in Copenhagen, Denmark, own a cargo bike, according to the European Cycle Logistics Federation

In Amsterdam, cargo bikes are supplanting family sedans. (Lonely Planet)
 Even DHL, the global parcel-delivery giant, recently hopped aboard. By replacing 33 trucks with 33 cargo bikes in the Netherlands, the company estimates it is saving about $575,000 annually and reducing carbon-dioxide emissions by 152 metric tonnes annually, the ECLF notes. Not to be outdone, rival UPS has begun testing its own electric-assisted delivery bikes – in brown, of course – in a few European cities.

Who's pro-choice?

Word: Dan Moldea on the JFK assasination

From an interview with  Dan Moldea, author of Confessions of a Guerrilla Writer and a leading journalistic expert on organized crime. If you're looking for an alternative view of the JFK murder, this is probably the most logical one

Avery Kleinman, POGO:  You famously concluded that Jimmy Hoffa in a conspiracy with known mobsters was behind JFK's assassination.  Is there a greater lesson that we should take away from that episode in American history as it relates to power and government secrecy?

Moldea: By definition, organized crime is enterprise crime, conspiracy crime, and crime by association.  Consequently, I have investigated a lot of conspiracies during my career.
My contribution to the JFK murder investigation was that in my 1978 book, The Hoffa Wars, I was the first person to make the case that Jimmy Hoffa and two Mafia figures—Carlos Marcello of New Orleans and Santo Trafficante of Tampa—had likely arranged and executed the murder of President Kennedy in November 1963.  A year after the release of my book, the U.S. House Select Committee on Assassinations concluded that Hoffa, Marcello, and Trafficante had the “motive, means, and opportunity” to kill the President.  The chief counsel of the committee declared, “The mob did it.  It’s a historical fact.”
And I certainly continue to believe that.  

In my opinion, the President was murdered because of the relentless assault against Hoffa and the Mafia by Attorney General Robert Kennedy—who, I believe, was the greatest crime fighter this country has ever had.  And I also believe that the President’s murder sprang out of the CIA-inspired plots with the Mafia to murder Fidel Castro during which the Mafia successfully compromised the intelligence agency.

If former CIA Director Allen Dulles, who authorized these plots, had spoken up during his tenure as a member of the Warren Commission and simply said, “Hey guys, by the way, the CIA worked with the Mafia to murder Castro,” I am absolutely certain that a whole new avenue of investigation would have been created—and that the President’s murder, probably the most daunting mystery in American history, would have been solved a long time ago.

To me, the secrecy that revolved around the CIA’s cooperation with the Mafia in these plots was demonstrably corrupting to the United States Government—as was the Iran-Contra scandal.

I wrote a 1986 book—Dark Victory:  Ronald Reagan, MCA, and the Mob, published in the midst of Reagan’s second term but before the Iran-Contra disclosures—in which I alleged that Reagan had been influenced by people associated with organized crime throughout his career. And that some of his appointments and policies while in the White House had been influenced by these associations, such as CIA Director William Casey and Labor Secretary Ray Donovan, among several others.

I believed that Reagan’s widely-touted war against organized crime and his stand against drugs were nothing more than charades and public-relations campaigns.  And, immediately after the Iran-Contra story broke, I went on national television and said, “I think that this entire [Iran-Contra] situation, when it bottoms out, will bottom out into drugs. . . . That there were people who were selling drugs to purchase weapons for the Contras as part of their eleemosynary activity.  And then there were those who were more mercenary about it, selling drugs for profit, using the Contras as a cover for their operations.  I think that the entire scenario—where you talk about missing millions of dollars, laundered money, Swiss bank accounts—is going to bottomline at drugs."

In short, I believe that Iran-Contra and the CIA-Mafia plots against Castro were two of the biggest intelligence disasters in this nation’s history—and I don’t think we have ever recovered from either of these scandals which were born in secrecy and thrived in a swamp of official corruption and organized crime.

Ferguson and suburban degentrification

Sam Smith - Sometimes, as a journalist, one gets so involved in a specific story that even you forget about some of very context for it that you have written about in the past. So it was only yesterday that I suddenly realized that the Ferguson story was actually a manifestation of something I had written about for at least 15 years. I didn’t have a name for it back then, but it came to me yesterday: suburban degentrification.

Suburban degentrification is the flip side of urban gentrification. If you’re going to kick the poor out of the city, they have to go someplace, and while we’re used to thinking of the suburbs as pleasant places to live that is only true if you have the money to live there.

As far back as 1999 I noted some of the effects:

* The transference of big capital and operating expenses from the city to the poorer suburbs.

* Increased problems for the poor as they become even more invisible and dispersed (without adequate transportation) at greater distance from services.

* The weakening of the country's limited black power.

Because of the media and public obsession with cities, impact of gentrification was largely ignored. But consider facts such as suburban distance to stores as well as health centers. Or the tremendous bias in DC’s subway system, designed to move people in and out of the city but not across the suburbs. And who's going to pay for all the new needed social services?

One for the first stories I covered was the largest urban removal program in the country in Southwest DC in the 1950s. And, in truth, it never really stopped. But in those days it was just a matter of getting the black and poor to another part of town, now it’s about getting them out of town completely. And into the suburbs.

And this doesn’t happen accidentally, as was demonstrated a long time ago in St. Louis itself. Back in 2002, I reported:

The suburban bias of the FHA was extraordinary. For example, 91% of the homes insured by the agency in metropolitan St. Louis between 1935 and 1939 were in the suburbs. This practice would continue into the 60s and even the 70s. [Historian Kenneth] Jackson found that in 1976 the federal government had supplied three dollars in loans for suburban St. Louis for every one dollar to the city itself. Between 1934 and 1960, $559 million was loaned for suburban construction in the St. Louis suburbs but only $94 million for the city itself, a suburban per capita loan in 1961 of $794 vs. an urban one of only $126.

We are now seeing the same game, but with the geography reversed. And until the other day, few outside of Ferguson really cared.

Al Jazeera America - Ferguson is an outer suburb of St. Louis, the 16th fastest gentrifying city in the U.S., according to Census data. Not unrelatedly, a 2011 study by Brown University showed that the St. Louis metropolitan area was the 19th most segregated city in the U.S.

The social and economic inequality in the St. Louis area, which is divided along racial lines, is a microcosm of a problem playing out across the U.S.: Wealthier, typically white residents move into a previously economically disadvantaged neighborhood in the city, pricing out black families and displacing them to suburban outskirts, according to a recent Brookings report.

In 2008, the population of poor people in suburbs across the nation grew twice as fast as in city centers, the report said. By 2008, U.S. suburbs were home to the largest share of the nation’s poor.

In the St. Louis area, this type of population shift transformed the predominately white town of Ferguson into a largely black one.

In 1990, white residents of Ferguson comprised 73.8 percent of the total population, while those identified as black made up 25.1 percent, according to the U.S Census. By 2010, 29.3 percent of residents identified as white and 67.4 percent as black.

During that same 20-year period, the city's unemployment rate soared from less than 5 percent to over 13 percent.

By 2012, roughly 25 percent of residents lived below the federal poverty line ($23,492 for a family of four in 2012) and 44 percent fell below twice that level.

Meanwhile, in St. Louis proper, the white share of the population jumped from 28.1 percent in 2000, to 49.2 percent in 2010. Thumbnail image for Missouri governor declares state of emergency, curfew for Ferguson Missouri governor declares state of emergency, curfew for Ferguson.....

Steve Burghardt, professor of social work at the Hunter College School of Social Work, told Al Jazeera, "Ferguson is something that can happen in any one of a hundred places around the country. It's the nature of the daily interaction between a white power structure and a disenfranchised populace."

Blacks in Ferguson did not gain political power as their numbers grew, a fact that contributes to current racial tensions, according to Yohuru Williams, professor of history at Fairfield University. The mayor and the police chief are white, along with five of the six City Council members.

The school board has no black representation and the Ferguson Police Department consists of 53 officers, of which only three are black.

What’s more, African-Americans are arrested at a rate roughly four times higher than white residents, according to statistics released by the Missouri Department of Public Safety.

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Infrequently asked questions

If it was okay for Michael Brown to be killed by a police officer because he had marijuana in his system, doesn't that put George Bush, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama at high risk?

Studies find corporate desertion of America doesn't work for stockholders

Reuters - Establishing a tax domicile abroad to avoid U.S. taxes is a hot strategy in corporate America, but many companies that have done such "inversion" deals have failed to produce above-average returns for investors, a Reuters analysis has found.

Looking back three decades at 52 completed transactions, the review showed 19 of the companies have subsequently outperformed the Standard & Poor's 500 index, while 19 have underperformed. Another 10 have been bought by rivals, three have gone out of business and one has reincorporated back in the United States.

Solar plant killing birds

Associated Press

Time Inc rates writers based on how "beneficial" they are to advertisers

 Gawker - Time Inc. has fallen on hard times. . . .This once-proud magazine publishing empire is now explicitly rating its editorial employees based on how friendly their writing is to advertisers.

Last year—in the opposite of a vote of confidence—Time Warner announced that it would spin off Time Inc. into its own company, an act of jettisoning print publications once and for all. Earlier this year, the company laid off 500 employees (and more layoffs are coming soon). And, most dramatically of all, Time Inc. CEO Joe Ripp now requires his magazine's editors to report to the business side of the company, a move that signals the full-scale dismantling of the traditional wall between the advertising and editorial sides of the company's magazines....

An internal Time Inc. spreadsheet...was used to rank and evaluate "writer-editors" at (Time Inc. provided this document to the Newspaper Guild, which represents some of their employees, and the union provided it to us.) The evaluations were done as part of the process of deciding who would be laid off. Most interesting is this ranking criteria: "Produces content that [is] beneficial to advertiser relationship." These editorial employees were all ranked in this way, with their scores ranging from 2 to 10.

... The Guild has filed an arbitration demand disputing the use of that and other criteria in the layoff decision making process. In a letter to Time Inc., the Guild says that four writer-editors were laid off "out of seniority order" based on the rankings in the spreadsheet.

Entropy update: What Facebook really thinks of us

Gawker - It can be tough distinguishing real from fake on the Internet, but if you're an idiot it's pretty much impossible. For instance, is Busch Garden's new 9,600-mile-long roller coaster an obvious, ridiculous joke or something that exists in reality?
Facebook Knows You're Dumb, Adds "Satire" Tag to Onion Articles
If that last one had you stumped, you'll be happy learn that Facebook has begun marking articles from The Onion with the title tag "[Satire]," ensuring you'll never again get tripped up by puzzlers like "Enraged 500-Foot-Tall Bin Laden Rises From Sea."
Facebook Knows You're Dumb, Adds "Satire" Tag to Onion Articles
In a statement to Ars Technica, a Facebook spokesperson explained the move was a "small test" in response to "feedback that people wanted a clearer way to distinguish satirical articles from others." For now, the tag only appears in the site's "Related Articles" tab, but Facebook wouldn't say if they had plans to display the disclaimer elsewhere in the future.

How Paul Ryan differs from the people he doesn't like