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Monday, December 12, 2011

Define Terrorism • Climate Change Disaster • Republican Corruption • Fox News Lies about Russia (and more) and Admits it is Not Fair or Balanced • Occupy Police Brutality • Legal Political Bribery • more

- The real definition of Terrorism By Glenn Greenwald
    Is that not exactly the mindset that more or less anyone in the world would have: if a foreign army invades your country and proceeds to brutally occupy it for the next eight years, then it’s your solemn duty to fight them? Indeed, isn’t that exactly the mentality that caused some young Americans to enlist after the 9/11 attack and be hailed as heroes: they attacked us on our soil, and so now I want to fight them? Yet when it’s the U.S. that is doing the invading and attacking, then we’re all supposed to look upon this very common reaction with mockery, horror, and disgust– look at these primitive religious fanatic Terrorists who have no regard for human life — because the only healthy, normal, civilized reaction someone should have to the U.S. invading, occupying, and destroying their country is gratitude, or at least passive acquiescence. Anything else, by definition, makes you a Terrorist.
- GOP Keystone Corruption, by the numbers
    Right at the moment, Republicans in the House and Senate are doing their level best to ensure a speedy approval of the Keystone Pipeline by attaching it to the payroll tax cut. Their claim is that it's a jobs bill, even though their numbers are  entirely bogus.Anyway, it's a great chance to understand how this system actually works--the fact that it's corporate power that calls the shots, especially within the GOP [Republican party]. So here, for your perusal, are the numbers that actually matter. And if you felt like sending them to your Senator, just so that they know you know that no-one's being fooled, that would be okay too.
- URGENT - FOX News Caught Using Fake Video Of Riots
    News bulletins around the world have been following Russia's election rallies. But one channel stands out - America's Fox News has been showing streets ablaze, violent clashes and firebombs thrown at security officers, but with one major problem - the images are not from Russia, they're from Greece!
- My Occupy LA Arrest, by Patrick Meighan
    My name is Patrick Meighan, and I’m a husband, a father, a writer on the Fox animated sitcom “Family Guy”, and a member of the Unitarian Universalist Community Church of Santa Monica.
    I was arrested at about 1 a.m. Wednesday morning with 291 other people at Occupy LA. I was sitting in City Hall Park with a pillow, a blanket, and a copy of Thich Nhat Hanh’s “Being Peace” when 1,400 heavily-armed LAPD officers in paramilitary SWAT gear streamed in. I was in a group of about 50 peaceful protestors who sat Indian-style, arms interlocked, around a tent (the symbolic image of the Occupy movement). The LAPD officers encircled us, weapons drawn, while we chanted “We Are Peaceful” and “We Are Nonviolent” and “Join Us.”
- 6 Members of Walton (Wal-Mart) Family Have More Money Than 30% of Americans
    There’s been a constant stream of headlines about the widening gap between rich and poor for months now, but this is pretty remarkable: Just six members of the Walton family, heirs to the Walmart fortune, possess wealth equal to that of the entire bottom 30 percent of Americans.
- Foods with Color Additives Deceive Consumers, Says CSPI
    ...the nonprofit nutrition and food safety watchdog group is urging the Food and Drug Administration to require food companies to disclose on the front of food labels whether a product is artificially colored.
    There are also health reasons to be concerned about artificial colorings. The FDA has acknowledged that artificial food dyes, such as Red 40 and Yellow 5, trigger hyperactivity and behavioral problems in some children. CSPI has also highlighted the cancer risks associated with certain caramel colorings, Yellow 5, and Yellow 6, which are contaminated with carcinogens. In addition, some consumers are allergic to natural or synthetic color additives.
- Obama Gives A Speech On Inequality, Fox Hears An Assault On Freedom
    On December 6, President Obama gave a speech in Osawatomie, Kansas, in which he called for a more "fair" society that has less "inequality" and "rebuild[s] the middle class in this country." Predictably, Fox News figures -- who have proven they will defend the rich at any cost -- reacted by calling Obama a "socialist" who was promoting "class warfare," then even went on to falsely claim Obama said that " 'liberty' doesn't work" and "freedom doesn't work."
- U.S. Obstructionism Is Hurting Climate Talks
    Here in Durban, the U.S. is once again trying to kill off the global climate talks by eviscerating the mid-summit draft agreement. On Saturday, the U.S. axed a whole section of the draft agreement that would have offered real protection to those who are being hardest and fastest hit by global warming.
- Animal Control Officer Goes Out With a Bang on Craigslist
    Fed up with people who refuse to spay and neuter their animals, people who want someone to wave a magic wand and find a home for their "eight-year-old Rottweiler [who] spent his entire life chained to a tree," and people who allow their dogs to run loose, leaving others to scoop up "Scooby with a plastic bag," a frustrated animal control officer posted an off-the-hook "I quit!" rant on Craigslist that's going viral."I wish to god that there was a mandatory spay/neuter law and that the penalty for breaking it was to be forced to spend a day working in the euthanasia room," writes the shell-shocked shelter worker. "Every dog or cat you carelessly add into this world takes away a home for a dog or cat that is already here. So breeding means killing … so have a good day, executioners! I hope the 50 bucks you made off that puppy sure feels good."
- Facebook Photo Gets Animal Abuser Busted
    In a rare case of legal protection for a rat, a Denver woman has pleaded guilty to a cruelty-to-animals charge for torturing and killing a rat. Tashaya Abbott and Alison Milke bought a rat from a pet store to feed live to a snake, but the snake did not eat the animal for four days—during which time the terrified rodent was confined to a tank with the snake. So the young women reportedly electroshocked, shot with blow darts multiple times, and finally crushed the rat to death. Evidently thinking that this animal's horrific suffering and death were something to laugh about, Milke posted a photo of the rat to her Facebook page and boasted about the crime that they had committed.
- Fox Business Host Stuart Varney: "We Must Win. I Say 'We' -- I'm A Conservative, I'm A Republican. I Say We Must Win"
    Fox hosts admitting they are not fair or balanced.
- The Conservative Plan To End Inequality: Deny It
    In other words, the share of wealth owned by the top 1% leveled off because the "democratization of stock ownership" spread the wealth among just 5% of the population, those earning an average of $500,000 per year. A few people -- 5 out of 100 -- got very rich, but everyone else lost ground.
- Between 2008 And 2010, 30 Big Corporations Spent More Lobbying Washington Than They Paid In Income Taxes
    A report released this month by Public Campaign demonstrates just how important it is for Americans to battle corporate special interests and reclaim our democracy. The group’s research finds that thirty big corporations actually spent more money lobbying the federal government between 2008 and 2010 than they spent in taxes. For example, General Electric — one of the top 10 most profitable companies in the world — got a net tax rebate of $4.7 billion during this period. Meanwhile, it spent $84 million lobbying the federal government.
- Q&A: The flu catcher
    Richard Webby studies the ecology of influenza, trying to better understand how certain strains of influenza can leap across the species divide from animals to people. Nature Outlook sat down with him to learn more about his research.Why does the influenza virus seem to be so active in jumping between animals and people right now?

    That's the question everyone is asking. Certainly the much larger demand on protein from the global population and rearing animals in larger numbers in smaller areas play a role in the evolution of some of these viruses. And these practices are also bringing domestic species into more contact with wild species.

Why 2020 is Too Late for the Climate
by Alex Stark
puiblished Dec 7, 2011 on

Since the opening of COP17 in Durban, the US has insisted that a new legally binding treaty regime will be impossible before 2020, and that the voluntary pledges that countries made last year in Cancun will be enough until then. At a press conference yesterday, head US negotiator Todd Stern said "if we do this right over the course of the next number of years—I mean these commitments all range between now and 2020—we can really lay the foundation for climate arrangements, whether it's in a new treaty or a new protocol."

Durban is the first major forum where the 2020 number has cropped up, and it is sneaking its way into comments and proposals from many countries. It has been cited so many times over the past week and a half that it has assumed a kind of normalcy here. But we should raise the alarm every time we hear it cited, because it has far-reaching implications that are not immediately apparent.

David Roberts wrote a fantastic piece on today summarizing "the brutal logic of climate change"—that is, explaining why the climate doesn't care as much about the nice things that countries say at the UNFCCC as what they actually do.

Roberts cites a paper by Dr. Kevin Anderson and Alice Bows, "Beyond 'dangerous' climate change: emission scenarios for a new world" released earlier this year. The paper models various emissions scenarios based on different peak years. The model in which emissions peak in the year 2020, as they might under such a legal regime, looks at 18 different scenarios. In 13 of those scenarios, reaching the two degree Celsius target, the number commonly agreed upon as being essential to avoid catastrophic climate impacts, is technically impossible. The remaining scenarios would require something like a 10% reduction per year in emissions. Roberts points out that the only thing has ever caused an emissions reduction greater than 1% per year is, in the words of the Stern Report, "recession or upheaval"—not very appealing options.

Most NGOs have been pushing for an emissions peak in 2015, saying that pushing it off until later significantly raises the chances of warming above 2 degrees Celsius, and therefore cataclysmic and irreversible climate change. With a 2020 peak, we're more likely to see a 3 or even 4 degree rather than a 2 degree world. That doesn't sound like much of a difference, but the potential on-the-ground impacts are be astonishing.

According to Andrews and Bows, "a 4 degrees C future is incompatible with an organized global community, is likely to be beyond 'adaptation', is devastating to the majority of ecosystems, and has a high probability of not being stable."

Yes, you read "incompatible with an organized global community" correctly—it's not hyperbolic to say that 4 degrees of warming could very well spell the end of civilization as we know it.

This afternoon, I had the chance to explain this model to a senior US official, and asked, off-the-record, whether it is really responsible to delay increasing mitigation targets given such potential impacts. Rather candidly, said official admitted that it is not at all clear whether current targets will be enough to keep the world below 2 degrees of warming, but that the pledges made in Cancun were "as far as we could go."

That may be so, but it's still not good enough to protect our future.


Tuesday, December 6, 2011

The Lie of American Exceptionalism • Climate Change Caused by Mankind • Water Wars? • Fukushima Leaking Radioactive Water into Ocean • Fox Says Muppets are Communists • Dogs and PTSD • Republicans Trying to Kill Post Office • Occupy Art • more

- Coming to a Theater Near You: The Greatest Water Crisis in the History of Civilization
    And here’s the bad news in a nutshell: if you live in the Southwest or just about anywhere in the American West, you or your children and grandchildren could soon enough be facing the Age of Thirst, which may also prove to be the greatest water crisis in the history of civilization.  No kidding.
    Jonathan Overpeck, a climate scientist at the University of Arizona who played a major role in the Nobel-Prize-winning work of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, tells me that the prospect of 130° F days in Phoenix worries him far less than the prospect of decades of acute dryness. “If anything is scary, the scariest is that we could trip across a transition into a megadrought.” He adds, “You can probably bet your house that, unless we do something about these greenhouse gas emissions, the megadroughts of the future are going to be a lot hotter than the ones of the past.”
- Extreme Weather
    Given the expected weather pattern shifts due to La Nina, is there cause to bring climate change into the extreme weather debate? The Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change (IPCC) believes so. The Nobel prize winning group released a report on November 18 focusing on extreme weather events, linking their increase in frequency to climate change.
- It's Official, Climate Change Caused by Man: Three-quarters of climate change is man-made
    Natural climate variability is extremely unlikely to have contributed more than about one-quarter of the temperature rise observed in the past 60 years, reports a pair of Swiss climate modellers in a paper published online today. Most of the observed warming — at least 74 % — is almost certainly due to human activity, they write in Nature Geoscience.
- From Cairo to the Cape, climate change begins to take hold of Africa
    The world's poorest communities have begun to experience extreme weather outside the natural variability of African climate. Without a rapid reduction in emissions, the continent faces calamitous temperature rises within this century
- Health ‘first casualty’ of climate change
    The World Health Organisation predicts that changing climate conditions will lead to increases in malaria, cholera and dengue fever, as well as losses of life due to extreme weather events
- Horn of Africa Crisis: Drought Zone
    As millions in Kenya suffer from extreme hunger, is the US addressing the causes of the crisis or just its syptoms?
- Fukushima Plant Leaks Radioactive Water
    Large quantities of highly radioactive water have leaked through a crack in the wall of a treatment facility at the Fukushima power plant, and some may have founds its way into the sea, the plant's operator, Tokyo Electric Power [Tepco], said.
- Fox Business' Follow The Money Unmasks The Muppets' Liberal Agenda: "Brainwashing" Your Kids!
    This attempt at right-wing media criticism brought to you by the letter "S"... for stupid.
- NPR’s domestic drone commercial
    But listeners of NPR would know about virtually none of that. On its All Things Considered program yesterday, NPR broadcast a five-minute report (audio below) from Brian Naylor that purported to be a news story on the domestic use of drones but was, in fact, much more akin to a commercial for the drone industry.
- The Postal Service Plots Its Own Demise
    There are many appropriate targets for Occupy Wall Street protests. But the OWS protesters hit a bull’s-eye when they invaded a National Press Club briefing where Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe—who likes to make like a corporate executive and refer to himself as “Chief Operating Officer of the US Postal Service”—was giving a speech about the need to close local post offices, layoff workers and, though this was unspoken, take the steps that will lead to the privatization of the one of the country’s greatest public assets.[republicans want to kill the US postal service because it's a well functioning public branch of government and unionized. Republicans hate unions and hate any part of government that works well]
- Arizona Outraged At Right Wing Racist Sheriff Arpaio Fiasco, Calls For Resignation
    Less than two weeks after Citizens for a Better Arizona announced their intent to form the nation's first ever "Citizens Posse" to hold infamous Sheriff Joe Arpaio accountable for gross abuses of power and civil rights violations, an alarming new investigation just released by the Associated Press has found that hundreds of reported sex crimes, including child molestation, have fallen through the cracks of the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office.
- After Duty, Dogs Suffer Like Soldiers
    If anyone needed evidence of the frontline role played by dogs in war these days, here is the latest: the four-legged, wet-nosed troops used to sniff out mines, track down enemy fighters and clear buildings are struggling with the mental strains of combat nearly as much as their human counterparts.
- BEST CAPTION AT THE ONION ALL WEEK: Rumors Of Extramarital Affair End Campaign Of Presidential Candidate Who Didn't Know China Has Nuclear Weapons
    Republicans are so dumb they reject Cain for extra-marital affairs, but not for being utterly uninformed about the world. And then ironically throw their support behind serial-philanderer Newt Gingrich.
- Occupy Art
    Poster artwork inspired by the Occupy movement.

If you want a gauge of an America on the downward slope, you could look at the recent poll commissioned by the newspaper the Hill, in which a startling 69% of respondents said they considered the country to be in decline. Or you could just consider the soaring language of this season's presidential candidates. Mitt Romney, in a recent Republican debate on foreign policy, was typical, insisting that "this century must be an American century" in which "America leads the free world and the free world leads the entire world."

President Obama too is prone to the overheated language of American exceptionalism, announcing frequently his intention to ensure that the 21st century is "another American century."

As a 67-year-old, I grew up in a post-World War II era that, by any measure, was the height of the first American century. As much of the rest of the developed world struggled to rebuild devastated cities, the United States couldn't have been more exceptional, a one-of-a-kind country in producing the big-ticket items both of peace and of war, often from the same corporations.

Back then, there was no need for presidents or presidential candidates to get up and repetitively reassure the American people of just how exceptional we were. It was too obvious to state. After all, when you've really got it, you don't have to flaunt it.

So, the next time you hear any politician insisting that this country is American century-style exceptional, think of it as a kind of secret confession that we aren't. These days, you can feel the uncomfortably defensive snarl (or whine) that lurks in the insistence that our country isn't just another powerful nation in political gridlock and economic trouble.

Think here, if you will, of Rambo's muscles, which were in their own way as much a confession of insecurity as Romney's talk of exceptionalism. Back in the day, the screen western or war hero — Gary Cooper or John Wayne — might be strong and silent, but brute physique was the least of his attributes. He wasn't overmuscled or cartoonishly outsized. As a man of that true American century moment, he didn't have to go out of his way to emphasize his hero-hood and his physical power.

Rambo arrived on-screen in the post-Vietnam War years as a creature of American defeat. It was a time when strong and silent wasn't convincing enough anymore, when a literal arms race seemed necessary, when the pecs of American power needed to be overblown to be overshown.

Romney and crew are, verbally speaking, the Rambos of this 21st century American moment. And their version of nonstop exceptionalism fits well with another strange repetitive feature of the present landscape: the exaltation of the American soldier as a hero of heroes, an exemplar for the nation.

Much of this would have rung weirdly indeed to the ears of Americans in my childhood. They had their own set of outsized fears, but they still lived in a country with a citizen army that a draft ensured just about everyone took part in. Like mine, most families then had at least one WW II vet. And yet no one talked about greatest generations or American heroes or, like President Obama and George W. Bush before him, "the finest fighting force in the world" (or "that the world has ever known"). The soldier was simply an American.

Now, in the world of the all-volunteer Army, with the U.S. permanently, if remarkably unsuccessfully, at war around the world, the military largely exists in a separate sphere, with many Americans having no direct link to the wars being fought in their name and the soldiers who are fighting them.

Yet today, supporting the troops (or "America's warriors," as they are now often called) has become a near-religious duty. This recurrent insistence on their need for support should, like Romney's exceptionalism, be viewed as another kind of secret admission.

After all, the greatest mistake of our era was undoubtedly this: When the Soviet Union suddenly disappeared in 1991, our leaders imagined that they had achieved a kind of American victory never before seen. Where, for centuries, there had been two or more great-power rivals, there was now only the sole superpower (or even hyperpower) of planet Earth, with no significant threat anywhere.

To some, it looked as if this were, by definition, a second post-WW II moment of American exceptionalism. Mistaking military might for global power, they didn't notice that the mightier superpower of the Cold War was also heading slowly downhill in a cloud of self-congratulation. The rest of this grim story we are now living.

Long gone is that American moment and the "century" that went with it. Decline is upon us, and every assurance that it isn't only serves, however subliminally, to reinforce that reality. At whatever pace, our "warriors" and "heroes" are coming home to a distinctly unhappy, unheroic and insecure country, lacking in jobs. In the meantime, our leaders doth protest too much.

Tom Engelhardt, co-founder of the American Empire Project, runs the Nation Institute's His latest book, "The United States of Fear," is just out.


Friday, December 2, 2011

Only the Uninformed Support Ron Paul • Ron Paul is a Horrible Fraud (we always knew this) • Republican Hypocrisy • Climate Change, "Beyond Dangerous" • NYPD Working for Fox "News" • Vegans • Wasps Recognize Faces • USA Loves War • more

- NYPD Gives Fox News Special Protection
    When Occupy Wall Street protesters marched past media tycoon Rupert Murdoch’s posh 5th Avenue penthouse during the “Millionaires March” on October 11, they were accompanied by a “very light police presence” according to a reporter at the scene. But down at Rupert’s News Corp. headquarters on Sixth Ave.–which has never been a terrorist or protest target of any significance–the media empire is guarded by a 24-hour-a-day New York Police Department security detail seven days a week, a patrol that one security expert estimated costs the city at least half a million dollars a year.
- 2011 Vegetarian and Vegan Stats
    The results are in for the Vegetarian Resource Group's poll of the number of vegetarians in the United States. The results are promising, with approximately 5 percent of poll respondents saying that they never eat meat, including fish, seafood, or poultry. Even better? About half of these vegetarians are also vegan!
- House votes to end public funding for presidential campaigns
    The chamber approved Rep. Gregg Harper’s (R-Miss.) bill on a 235-190 vote, with no Democrats voting for it and just one Republican opposed. The measure seems unlikely to come up for a stand-alone vote soon in the Democratic-controlled Senate.“The bill would force many candidates into an endless cycle of fundraising at the expense of engagement with voters on the issues, and would place a premium on access to large donor or special interest support, narrowing the field of otherwise worthy candidates,”
- Beyond ‘dangerous’ climate change: emission scenarios for a new world
    The analysis suggests that despite high-level statements to the contrary, there is now little to no chance of maintaining the global mean surface temperature at or below 2°C. Moreover, the impacts associated with 2°C have been revised upwards, sufficiently so that 2°C now more appropriately represents the threshold between ‘dangerous’ and ‘extremely dangerous’ climate change.
- Climate change conference lures no congressmen
    A broad coalition of civic leaders, elected officials and labor, environmental and social activists launched a new campaign Wednesday aimed at persuading U.S. politicians that they should curb greenhouse gas emissions for moral and ethical reasons.
    The Climate Ethics Campaign--which kicked off with a Capitol Hill press conference headlining Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Chairwoman Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.)--comes as negotiators are struggling to make progress at United Nations climate talks in Durban, South Africa.
- Africa especially vulnerable
    Asked about the role of the US, she said that Americans needed to develop a much better understanding of how climate change was affecting their country, and an appreciation of the US's moral responsibility to the rest of the world.
- Alaskan community revives legal bid for global warming damages
    A native American community in remote Alaska this week revived legal efforts to hold some of the world's largest energy companies accountable for allegedly destroying their village because of global warming.
    The so-called "climigration" trial would be the first of its kind, potentially creating a precedent in the US courts for further climate change-related damages cases.
- “Debunking” deniers: Practical tips
    As we all continue to work to share the reality of climate change in our communities, let’s remember these tips. Today, they could help us “win the conversation” against climate change deniers, and tomorrow, the fight for a clean energy future.
- Wasps clock faces like humans
    “Fifteen years ago, if people had claimed [face recognition] existed in insects, others would have thought they were mad,” says Lars Chittka, a behavioural and sensory ecologist at Queen Mary University of London who was not involved in the study. But in 2002, Elizabeth Tibbetts, then a graduate student at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, demonstrated that the golden paper wasp, Polistes fuscatus, can recognize individuals of the same species from their facial markings.
- Is Iran Already Under Attack?
    Adam Chandler, the Goldblog deputy-editor-for-monitoring-Iran-obsessively-even-though-Goldblog-himself-also-monitors-Iran-obsessively, pointed out to me the other day that perhaps the West has already begun the attack on Iran's nuclear facilities, that perhaps we ought to reframe this issue a bit. The attacks he mentioned are not the usual sub-rosa, eyebrow-raising tech and computer virus sort of attacks, but outright physical attacks. This is more a semantic issue, I suppose (and yes, I realize the Iranian regime is virulently anti-semantic), but operations against Iran are seeming to move away from the pure Mossad-in-the-70s-style attacks to straight-up military confrontations. I don't know if this is a sign of escalation or desperation or both, though it seems fair to say that less subtlety on the part of Israel, the U.S. and whoever else is doing this suggests that the previous tactics were deemed insufficient.
- 25 years later, how ‘Top Gun’ made America love war
    Americans are souring on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The military budget is under siege as Congress looks for spending to cut. And the Army is reporting record suicide rates among soldiers. So who does the Pentagon enlist for help in such painful circumstances?

    In June, the Army negotiated a first-of-its-kind sponsorship deal with the producers of “X-Men: First Class,” backing it up with ads telling potential recruits that they could live out superhero fantasies on real-life battlefields. Then, in recent days, word leaked that the White House has been working with Oscar-winning director Kathryn Bigelow on an election-year film chronicling the operation that killed Osama bin Laden.

    country questioning its overall military posture, and a military establishment engaging in a counter-campaign for hearts and minds — if this feels like deja vu, that’s because it’s taking place on the 25th anniversary of the release of “Top Gun.”
    That Jerry Bruckheimer blockbuster, made in collaboration with the Pentagon, came out in the mid-1980s, when polls showed many Americans expressing doubts about the post-Vietnam military and about the constant saber rattling from the White House. But the movie’s celebration of sweat-shined martial machismo generated $344 million at the box office and proved to be a major force in resuscitating the military’s image.
- Republican Presidential Candidate Herman Cain Launches ‘Women For Cain’ With Brutal Attacks On ‘Husbandless’ Accusers
    While Herman Cain weighs whether to stay in the race after being accused of carrying on a decade-plus affair, the campaign is looking to repair the damage his various alleged improprieties have caused with women supporters.
- From a republican website, so disregard the anti gay marriage insanity, but it's noteworthy because Cain slams gay marriage as "undermining marriage" while he faces multiple charges of extra martial affairs! Republican hypocrisy at its most basic: Herman Cain condemns Massachusetts Supreme Court's upholding Gay Marriage
    Today, the Massachusetts Supreme Court ruled that they will accept nothing short of full marriage rights for same-sex couples.

- Republican Presidential Candidate Newt Gingrich: 'Really Poor Children' Have No Work Habits 'Unless It's Illegal'
    According to ABC News, "Gingrich was asked by an audience member to clarify the comments he made last month in which he called the current child labor laws 'stupid' and would replace janitors with schoolchildren to work in the community school."The Hill writes: "A former House colleague of Gingrich, noting his penchant for controversial statements, told The Hill this week that Gingrich’s hand is always 'six inches from the self-destruct button.'"

Ron Paul’s Phony Populism
The libertarian presidential candidate is a true friend of the 1 percent
By Gary Weiss
Published Nov 29 2011 on
 Ron Paul

To me, the epiphany of the most dreadful presidential campaign in history took place in Keene, New Hampshire, last week, when a Ron Paul town meeting was interrupted by some Occupy Wall Street hecklers.

“Let me address that for a minute,” the Republican presidential candidate said, “because if you listen carefully, I’m very much involved with the 99. I’ve been condemning that 1 percent because they’ve been ripping us off –” He was interrupted again, this time by cheers, almost drowning him out.

After the usual chants of “We are the 99 percent” and “There are criminals on Wall Street who walk free,” Paul quickly took back the audience, not that he had ever lost it. “Do you feel better?” he asked, to laughter.

“We need to sort that out, but the people on Wall Street got the bailouts, and you guys got stuck with the bills, and I think that’s where the problem is.”

It was a masterful performance. Ron Paul — fraudulent populist, friend of the oligarchy, sworn enemy of every social program since Theodore Roosevelt — had won the day, again.
Why shouldn’t he? Frauds win, whether they are in finance or politics. Bernie Madoff proved that, and so did Ronald Reagan. The success of the Ron Paul campaign with young voters, which David Sirota pointed out in Salon Monday, is but the latest example of how Americans can be persuaded to support the most reactionary politicians in America when they’re suitably manipulated, even if they aren’t reactionary and, sometimes, even when they identify themselves as progressive.

There’s little doubt that aspects of his message are both appealing and sincere. There is a definite “yay factor” in some of his oratory, and his denunciations of Dick Cheney are the kind of thing that gets yays on “The Daily Show With Jon Stewart.”

Paul has been consistent in opposing the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and in opposing American military adventures in general. He has staked out a lonely position as the only presidential candidate to oppose aid to Israel (until Rick Perry more or less aped him on that), and his distinctly non-aggressive posture on Iran is indistinguishable from that of dovish Democrats like Dennis Kucinich.

So there’s no question that there’s a lot to like in Paul’s foreign policy positions, if you’re leaning to the left. The problem is that Paul is less of a 21st century dove than he is a throwback to the isolationism of the early to mid-20th century, in which fear of foreign entanglements was embraced by the hard right — with all that came with it. Paul emerges from that mold as about as far right as they come, further right than Ronald Reagan ever was, more of an enemy of the poor and middle class, and an even warmer friend of the ultra-wealthy. A Ron Paul America would make the Reagan Revolution look like the New Deal.

Paul’s own oratory tends to de-emphasize his reactionary stance on social issues, or to sugarcoat it. But his program is now laid out in black-and-white. Last month, the Paul campaign set forth the details of what it grandiloquently called a “Plan to Restore America.”  It has received surprisingly little attention, given Paul’s surging popularity.

This is not a plan for the 99 percent. It is about as much of a 1 percent-oriented ideological meat cleaver as you can find anywhere in the annals of politics. Paul would take an ax to the federal budget, hacking off $1 trillion in the first year alone, ripping and cutting and deenacting and deregulating so as to ostensibly return America to “its former constitutionally limited, smaller-government and less-burdensome place.”

“Return” implies that America would be taken back to a starting place, though it’s not clear where that would be. What I do know is that there is definitely an undercurrent to his slash-and-burn philosophy, a strong whiff of Ayn Rand — the Russian-born philosopher-novelist, atheist and advocate of individuality, rational self-interest and selfishness. Paul is, in fact, the closest of all the GOP candidates to carrying out the anti-government policies Rand advocated.

To be sure, there are aspects of this budget plan that hardcore Randers would not like. It leaves in far too many nonessential government functions, such as allowing the continued existence of the Department of Health and Human Services. But, from the Randian perspective, Paul is definitely moving in the right direction. His “restore” plan embraces the kind of deprivation that Rand’s Objectivist philosophy would impose on America, and would enact a fundamental change in the role of government that the radical right cherishes.

After spelling out the good stuff from the leftist perspective — a 15 percent Defense Department spending cut ending all funding for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan — the hard charge backward commences:
  • No more aid to education. Goodbye, Department of Education.
  • No more government-subsidized housing. Goodbye, Department of Housing and Urban Development.
  • No more energy programs. Goodbye, Department of Energy.
  • No more programs to promote commerce and technology. Goodbye, Department of Commerce.
  • *No more national parks. Goodbye, Department of the Interior.
His opposition to the very existence of the Federal Reserve — he wrote a book titled “End the Fed” — is straight out of Rand, as is his promotion of the gold standard.

Paul would not reform the abysmally flawed and underfunded Securities and Exchange Commission, he would eliminate it. The only agency of the federal government that stands between the public and greedy bankers and crooked corporations would be gone. He is philosophically opposed to it, as he is to Sarbanes-Oxley and Dodd-Frank, the reform measures enacted after Enron and the 2008 financial crisis, respectively. His Reformed America would no longer discomfit Wall Street with the latter’s restrictions on banks or annoy corporate executives with Sarb-Ox’s ethics and fair-disclosure rules.

And this is but the beginning of the shower of blessings that would rain down upon the very richest Americans. He would end the income tax, thereby making the United States the ultimate onshore tax haven. The message to both the Street and corporate America would be a kind of hyper-Reaganesque “Go to town, guys.” With income, estate and gift taxes eliminated and the top corporate tax rate lowered to 15 percent (and not a word about cutting corporate tax loopholes), a kind of perma-plutonomy would come to exist in the land — to the extent that there isn’t one already.

The guts of Paul’s grand scheme, where its rubber hits the road, is in the all-important theme of cutting programs that benefit the poor and middle class. Despite all its window-dressing and spin, the heart of every libertarian plan for this country is a kind of mammoth subtraction: making deep cuts in programs benefiting millions of Americans, out of a belief that such programs are morally wrong. Restoring America is a moral statement, an enshrinement of the Randian belief that aid to one facet of the population (the poor) is really “looting” of resources from other facets of the population (the wealthy).

So when you see in this plan a $645 billion cut in Medicaid over four years, what you are seeing is an expression of the philosophy that Medicaid itself is wrong, that it should not exist because it is not the function of society to provide healthcare for the poor. If they get sick, tough. While Paul does not go the full Randian route by entirely eliminating this program, he goes a long way to establish the principle that as a general proposition, as a moral question, we simply should not have this program.

Ayn Rand believed that there is no such thing as a “public,” and that the public was a collection of individuals, each having no obligation to the other.  So when you read through this budget, and see the deep cuts in food stamps and child nutrition, what you are seeing is an expression of a philosophy that is at odds with the Judeo-Christian system of morality embraced by most Americans.

That, fundamentally, is what the deficit debate is all about, from the perspective of Ron Paul and the radical right. It’s not about getting the red ink out of the government but using the government’s fiscal travails as a pretext to change the very purpose of government. So yes, he opposed the Wall Street bailouts, as Rand no doubt would have, and that also is “yay”-worthy to many people. But if you buy that, if you buy Ron Paul, you have to buy the rest of his belief system: his opposition to securities regulation, his opposition to consumer protection, his belief that the markets can defend Americans from the depredations of big business.

What I’ve just described is many things, but it is the very antithesis of the values of Occupy Wall Street, which is based on opposition to the prerogatives of the top 1 percent at the expense of the 99 percent. Yet rather than forthrightly oppose OWS, which would at least be intellectually honest, Paul has sought instead to co-opt it, con it, calling it a “healthy movement” at one appearance, and seeking to link it with his “end the Fed” agenda. In Keene he went one step further by declaring himself as being in league with the 99 percent and against the 1 percent.

That’s about as far from the truth as it possibly could be. The only question is, how long is Paul going to be allowed to get away with his faux-populist con job? I agree with his backers in this sense: He is less of a fringe candidate than he is sometimes portrayed in the media. His positions are increasingly infecting mainstream Republican politics, and it’s scary.

No, strike that. His positions are scary only if you know what they actually are, and not how he spins them.


Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Fascism in Greece • Pepper Spray Retailing • Insane Republicans • US Kills Kids • Climate Change, Meat Farming and the Spread of Disease • Pepper Spray Creator Decries Use on Protesters •

- Dead Afghan Kids Still Not Newsworthy
    On November 25, the New York Times reported--on page 12--that six children were killed in one attack in southern Afghanistan on November 23. This news was, as best I can tell, not reported on ABC, CBS, NBC or the PBS NewsHour.
    There were, on the other hand, several pieces about U.S. soldiers eating Thanksgiving dinners.
- The shocking truth about the crackdown on Occupy
    US citizens of all political persuasions are still reeling from images of unparallelled police brutality in a coordinated crackdown against peaceful OWS protesters in cities across the nation this past week...
    But just when Americans thought we had the picture – was this crazy police and mayoral overkill, on a municipal level, in many different cities? – the picture darkened. The National Union of Journalists and the Committee to Protect Journalists issued a Freedom of Information Act request to investigate possible federal involvement with law enforcement practices that appeared to target journalists.
- Mark Ames: Austerity & Fascism In Greece – The Real 1% Doctrine
    See the guy in the photo there, dangling an ax from his left hand? That’s Greece’s new “Minister of Infrastructure, Transport and Networks” Makis Voridis captured back in the 1980s, when he led a fascist student group called “Student Alternative” at the University of Athens law school. It’s 1985, and Minister Voridis, dressed like some Kajagoogoo Nazi, is caught on camera patrolling the campus with his fellow fascists, hunting for suspected leftist students to bash. Voridis was booted out of law school that year, and sued by Greece’s National Association of Students for taking part in violent attacks on non-fascist law students.
    With all the propaganda we’ve been fed about Greece’s new “austerity” government being staffed by non-ideological “technocrats,” it may come as a surprise that fascists are now considered “technocrats” to the mainstream media and Western banking interests. Then again, history shows that fascists have always been favored by the 1-percenters to deliver the austerity medicine.
- Next Stop on the GOP Crazy Train: 'Newtsville'
    The respectful response of the media to the batshit-crazy statements one hears from the second-tier Republican candidates—candidates who occasionally rise to the first tier and then just as quickly sink down again, having never been serious contenders in the first place—is doing definite damage to this country. How many credulous Americans may have decided to shun the HPV vaccine for their daughters after hearing Bachmann’s nutty suggestion that it causes mental retardation? What of the insistence of that ignorant idiot Herman Cain that the “objective” purpose of Planned Parenthood’s founding was to “kill black babies before they came into the world. It’s planned genocide.” Now we’ve got a new front-runner, Gingrich, who holds, among other crazy notions, that the Obama administration’s “secular-socialist machine represents as great a threat to America as Nazi Germany or the Soviet Union once did,” when his diseased brain is not focusing on his moronic (and racist) contention that “only if you understand Kenyan, anti-colonial behavior, can you begin to piece together” the inspiration for Obama’s foreign policies.
- Pepper-Spray Creator Decries Use of Chemical Agent on Peaceful Occupy Wall Street Protesters
    We speak with Kamran Loghman, the expert who developed weapons-grade pepper-spray, who says he was shocked at how police have used the chemical agent on non-violent Occupy Wall Street protesters nationwide
- Pepper-Spray Cop Begets Pepper-Spray Shopper
    First we had the Pepper-Spray Cop. Now we have the Pepper-Spray Shopper, an as-yet unidentified woman who allegedly sprayed open an avenue for herself amid crowds grasping for Black Friday bargains in an LA-area Walmart. Apparently, she needed an Xbox at half off.
    Of course, big box stores have long encouraged “competitive shopping.” After an employee was trampled to death at a Long Island Walmart on Black Friday in 2008, stores vowed to improve their crowd control. But they don’t advertise their sales with the words “door busters”—with that hint of drug-raid-level violence—for nothing. They know that hysteria can drive higher sales. It works so well that stores have been moving door busters back earlier and earlier, so that this year Black Friday at Walmarts across the country began on Thanksgiving night, forcing employees to work on the holiday in order to sow the itching powder of urgency among customers.
- Climate Change Boosts Lethal Hendra Virus
    Heavy rains and floods in Australia may have helped the deadly disease cross from bats to humans and that has doctors concerned about climate change
- Fukushima Radiation Risks "Severely Underestimated": Greenpeace
    Greenpeace today renewed its demand for the Japanese government to keep its nuclear reactors offline as simulation maps of potential accidents at Japan’s nuclear plants - used in the development of nuclear emergency response efforts - "are completely inadequate, and have not been updated since the Fukushima disaster."
- Ringling Brothers Agree To USDA Fine For Allegedly Violating Animal Welfare Act
    Life's no circus for the Ringling Brothers these days.The USDA announced Monday that an agreement was reached where Feld Entertainment, Inc., doing business as Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus (Feld), will pay a $270,000 fine for allegedly violating the Animal Welfare Act (AWA).
- Is the pet food you are serving up killing your four-legged friend? (and making your vet rich)
    Few people are aware of the little-publicized concerns about processed pet foods
- Scientists say Kenai Peninsula getting drier and warmer
    Climate change is taking place on the Kenai Peninsula, slowly but surely.
The victims the NYT Editors forgot
To justify the killing of Pakistani troops, the paper of record regrets all those killed by the war - except some
By Glenn Greenwald
Published Nov 29 2011 at

The New York Times Editors chime in today on the border killing of two dozen Pakistani soldiers by the U.S., and offer up a formulaic both-sides-have-some-explaining-to-do sermon. It’s their first paragraph that is notable:
It’s not clear what led to NATO strikes on two Pakistani border posts this weekend, but there can be no dispute that the loss of lives is tragic. At least 24 Pakistani troops were killed. We regret those deaths, as we do those of all American, NATO and Afghan troops and Pakistani and Afghan civilians killed by extremists.
This opening from the pro-Afghan-War NYT Editors is meant to provide balance and justifying context to the deaths of these soldiers by pointing to the deaths caused by The Other Side: sure, it’s regrettable that these Pakistanis are dead, but let’s remember that it’s not just these soldiers who have been killed, but also “American, NATO and Afghan troops and Pakistani and Afghan civilians killed by extremists.” Therefore, the American war against these “extremists” (a war we’ve been supporting for more than a decade and still support as much as ever) is just despite this week’s little regrettable incident.

Except when constructing their general statement of regret for all those killed in the war they support, the NYT Editors forgot to mention one rather large category of victims: namely, “Pakistani and Afghan civilians killed” not “by extremists” but by the American military (unless, that is, they used “extremists” to refer to the invading U.S. army, which seems highly unlikely). That’s a particularly striking omission given that it was just this week that the United States extinguished the lives of six more Afghan children from the air. But it’s as though the NYT Editors can’t even bring themselves to acknowledge that it isn’t only the “extremists” but also their own country’s army, fighting a war they’ve long cheered, which regularly kills civilians. But that’s par for the media course: American war media narratives, as Ashleigh Banfield was demoted and then fired by NBC News back in 2003 for pointing out, specialize in erasing the existence of America’s war victims, and this is a perfect example of how that’s done.

Ongoing American killing of Pakistani civilians is a major cause of the tension between those two nations: that’s because governments and their citizenries tend not to like it and generally become quite angry when foreign nations kill their civilians (though there is one major exception to that rule when it comes to American citizens). America’s constant killing of numerous Afghan children independently inflames anti-American rage. If the NYT Editors are going to purport to provide context and balance to the conflict between the U.S. and Pakistan by listing (and expressing cursory regret for) all the killing beyond just this one border incident, perhaps they should include — rather than awkwardly ignore — this category of deaths (and those justifying the war in the name of what’s good for The Afghan People should also take that into account, along with polling data about what they actually think). It might also be good to start thinking about the cumulative effects of those ongoing civilian killings by the U.S. when deciding whether this war should continue even though Al Qaeda — the original justification for this war more than a decade ago — is, according to U.S. officials, “operationally ineffective” and virtually non-existent in that region.


Thursday, November 24, 2011

Thanksgiving as a Day of Atonement

- An Indian “prayer of thanks”
    This Thanksgiving, don’t call on me, as an American Indian, to offer up a prayer of thanks.

Thanksgiving as a Day of Atonement
by Jennifer Browdy de Hernandez
Published on Thursday, November 24, 2011 by

The founding myth of Thanksgiving is the fateful meal shared by the indigenous peoples of Massachusetts with the starving English Pilgrims. The Pilgrims “gave thanks” at that meal for the generosity of their hosts, and thus was born the tradition of a November Thanksgiving feast.

To my way of thinking, Thanksgiving should actually be a day of atonement marked by fasting, in the spirit of Yom Kippur, Lent or Ramadan.

We Euramericans should be reflecting and repenting on this day for the way our ancestors turned on their Native hosts, once the time of starvation was past.

We repaid their kind welcome with a shameful record of stealing, swindling, enslavement, displacement and deliberate infection.

We waged vicious war that slaughtered children and old people along with warriors both male and female.

We occupied their lands without a second thought, and proceeded to cut the primeval forests to make room for our livestock, roads and cities.

This pattern started with the Puritan Pilgrims in Massachusetts, and spread inexorably West, all the way to California and Texas, where indeed the brutal work had already been begun by the Spanish.

I don’t really expect Americans to give up the tradition of the jolly Thanksgiving feast.
But we do need to be mindful of the real historical background behind the custom of gathering to celebrate with family and friends.

American Thanksgiving is a holiday that honors the spirit of sharing the bounty. When we dig into that heaped plate today, we should be giving thanks to the rich Earth that has nourished human beings for millennia, and for the Native peoples of this continent, who learned how to live in harmony with the flora and fauna of this place, cultivating the first corn, beans and squash, and craftily culling the abundant indigenous turkeys.

And we should pause in our feast to reflect on the ignoble history that unfolded after that original Thanksgiving in Plymouth MA, where America repaid her hosts not with honor, but with persecution, scorn and hate.

In the act of repentance springs redemption.  The indigenous people of this continent are not gone–they are alive and well and living among us. Let us raise a glass to them today and give them the honor and thanks they deserve.


Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Survey Finds Fox Viewers Less Informed than People Who Watch NO NEWS! • Police Abuse and Occupy and Fox "News" • Child Labor and Republicans • DOGS! • Climate Change • more

- Occupy Protesters 'Mic Check' Obama in New Hampshire video
    Occupy New Hampshire has confirmed that they were behind the mic check today of during Obama's speech at a Manchester high school.This is the full message Occupy protesters read to Obama: "Mr. President, Over 4,000 peaceful protesters have been arrested. While Banksters continue to destroy the economy. You MUST stop the assault on our 1st amendment rights. Your silence sends a message that police brutality is acceptable."
- Rich Nations 'Give Up' on New Climate Treaty Until 2020
    Governments of the world's richest countries have given up on forging a new treaty on climate change to take effect this decade, with potentially disastrous consequences for the environment through global warming.
- Occupy Seattle protester claims police caused her miscarriage
    A pregnant woman who was pepper sprayed during the Occupy Seattle protests in the US claims she had a miscarriage five days later as a result of injuries allegedly inflicted by the police.
- The roots of the UC-Davis pepper-spraying
    The now-viral video of police officers in their Robocop costumes sadistically pepper-spraying peaceful, sitting protesters at UC-Davis (details here) shows a police state in its pure form. It’s easy to be outraged by this incident as though it’s some sort of shocking aberration, but that is exactly what it is not. The Atlantic‘s Garance Franke-Ruta adeptly demonstrates with an assemblage of video how common such excessive police force has been in response to the Occupy protests. Along those lines, there are several points to note about this incident and what it reflects:
- Fox's Megyn Kelly: Pepper Spray Used On UC-Davis Protesters Is "A Food Product, Essentially"
    Fox "News" tries to downplay the attacks on Occupy protesters by peppe-spray-wielding cops by saying pepper spray is a food product.
- It's Time to Stop Lying to Students and Parents and Raise Our Educational Standards
    The US is essentially the only OECD country where our 25-35 year olds are less well educated than the 55-65 year olds.
- Why Iowa Wants to Make Farm Photos Illegal
    New video footage shot during an undercover investigation on an Iowa pig factory farm should be enough to make anyone who isn't profiting from the abuse of pigs swear off pork chops.
    The footage shot by Mercy for Animals shows similar abuses to those documented by PETA during investigations at pig farms in North Carolina and Iowa in 2007 and 2008. Workers are seen kicking piglets and hurling them across the room. The piglets have their tails cut off and testicles ripped out by hand, without being given any painkillers, and some piglets later die from herniated intestines.

    As is standard practice on factory farms, mother pigs are crammed into stalls so small that they cannot even turn around. Constant pregnancies leave the sows so weak and exhausted that they often suffer from prolapsed uteruses.

    A proposed "ag gag" ("gag" is appropriate, if you've seen the footage) bill in Iowa would make taking a photograph of or filming on a farm illegal, which would effectively keep anyone still eating meat from seeing what happens to pigs, chickens, and other animals every day of their lousy lives. PETA Vice President Dan Mathews has held news conferences in Iowa showing PETA's photos and video from Iowa farms, and his news conference in New York helped defeat a similar bill there. If you live in Iowa, please take a moment to urge your state senators to oppose HF 589.
- Simply Vegan
    My plate was full. It was one of those treacherous walks to the outside cookout table where I felt like a banana peel would suddenly appear on the ground and send my overflowing plate flying. Thanksgiving in July, if you will.
    A spinach salad with balsamic dressing, smoked potatoes, and a veggie burger piled high with its own buffet of toppings fought for their rightful place on my plate. You can imagine my surprise when a tablemate made the all-too-common remark, "It must be so hard being vegan."

    Judging by the weight of my plate, I obviously wasn't struggling for food. In fact, I rarely visit specialty health-food stores. I can get by just fine with a weekly trip to the local grocery store to round up all my vegan grub. The next time that you get the verbal vegan sympathy card, be sure to tell your friends how easy veganism is! Check out the following list of great (and cheap!) vegan staple foods that any grocery store is sure to carry:
- Dogs left at home alone 'as traumatised as children'
    Although many dog owners leave for work and lock their pets in the house without a second thought, evidence suggests the experience may be more traumatic than they realize.
- The motives of Bradley Manning
    The notion that [Manning's] reactions to wholly unjustified, massive blood-spilling is psychologically warped [as painted by the mainstream media] is itself warped. The reactions described there are psychologically healthy; it's far more psychologically disturbed not to have the reactions Manning had. There are countless people who knew from the start, or who ultimately concluded, that the Iraq War was an act of supreme barbarism. Many who so concluded -- especially among our political and media elite -- did nothing to stop it or bring accountability for those who caused it; Manning, by stark and commendable contrast, took action. Which is the psychologically suspect behavior? Manning was clearly motivated by the principle attributed by the New York article to Julian Assange, but espoused by countless heroic activists and philosophers throughout history: "Every time we witness an act that we feel to be unjust and do not act, we become a party to injustice."
- Medicare's Still Delivering After 45 Years; The Only Serious Threat to Its Future [Are Republicans]
    “On this anniversary that they should be celebrating, Republicans in Congress are working to privatize Medicare, cut benefits, and force seniors to buy insurance on their own,” Baldwin said Friday. “According to the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office, under the Republican plan, most elderly people will pay more for medical care and get less than they do under Medicare. Not one dollar of that increase in beneficiary costs goes to reducing the deficit—it all goes to cover the higher costs of private plans that the Republicans would force seniors to join.”
- Ending Nuclear Evil
    We must not tolerate a system of nuclear apartheid, in which it is considered legitimate for some states to possess nuclear arms but patently unacceptable for others to seek to acquire them. Such a double standard is no basis for peace and security in the world. The Non-Proliferation Treaty is not a license for the five original nuclear powers to cling to these weapons indefinitely. The International Court of Justice has affirmed that they are legally obliged to negotiate in good faith for the complete elimination of their nuclear forces.
- What Michele Bachmann and Her Teapot 'Patriots' Do Not Know About America
    Bachmann has for some time peddled the notion that the nation’s founding fathers worked "tirelessly until slavery was no more in the United States." She is simply wrong about this.
- US Firm's Teargas Used Against Tahrir Square Protesters
    The teargas used by interior ministry troops in Cairo's Tahrir Square is supplied by a US company. Demonstrators say cartridges retrieved from the scene are branded with the name and address of Combined Systems Inc
- Republicans Want Child Labor!
    Repeatedly the republicans have attacked regulations that protect children. They have repeatedly said they would prefer to return to a time, like the late 1800s, where worker protection regulations didn't exist. Now they are trying to dismantle these regulations and asking that children be allowed to be used as labor.
- Unnecessary Force Used Against Occupy Movement with New Weapons

Survey: Fox News Viewers Less Informed Than Those Who Don’t Watch Any News
Published on Tuesday, November 22, 2011 by Democracy Now!

A new survey from Fairleigh Dickinson University has found that viewers of Fox News are less informed about world events than people who do not watch any news. The study found viewers of Fox are 18 points less likely to know that Egyptians overthrew their government six points less likely to know that Syrians have not yet overthrown their government compared to those who watch no news. Fairleigh Dickinson political science Professor Dan Cassino said, "The results show us that there is something about watching Fox News that leads people to do worse on these questions than those who don’t watch any news at all."


Friday, November 18, 2011

Extreme Weather due to Climate Change • Racists Denying Racism • Fox "News" Lies Again • more

- Extreme weather will strike as climate change takes hold, IPCC warns
    Extreme weather will strike as climate change takes hold, IPCC warnsHeavier rainfall, storms and droughts could wipe billions off economies and destroy lives, says report by 220 scientists
- From Shore to Forest, Projecting Effects of Climate Change
    These possibilities — modeled deep into this century — are detailed in a new assessment of the impact that climate change will have in New York State. If carbon emissions continue to increase at their current pace, for example, temperatures are expected to rise across the state by 3 degrees Fahrenheit by the 2020s and by as much as 9 degrees by the 2080s. That would have profound effects on agriculture across the state, the report found. For example, none of the varieties of apples currently grown in New York orchards would be viable. Dairy farms would be less productive as cows faced heat stress. And the state’s forests would be transformed; spruce-fir forests and alpine tundra would disappear as invasive species like kudzu, an aggressive weed, gained more ground.
- Explainer: How Did Inequality in America Get So Bad? And What Can the Government Do to Fix It?
    In one of the more odd recent pairings, both the wonks at the Congressional Budget Office and the activists occupying Wall Street and beyond have come to the same conclusion: inequality is skyrocketing and one percent of the country is taking home a bigger and bigger share of all the income in the country. The CBO just released a study, years in the making, which confirms that the income for the top one percent has nearly tripled from 1979 to 2007. And not only are those in the top one percent much richer, they also take home a larger share of the economy as a whole than they did thirty years ago.
- Wow. Fox Nation Claims Obama's Would-Be Assassin "Linked" To Occupy Protest
    Here's the stunningly dishonest headline:Man Linked To 'Occupy' Protest Charged With Attempted Assassination of Obama
    The striking part, of course, is that investigators have reportedly found no link between the man in question, Ramiro Ortega-Hernandez, and the Occupy movement
- IRONY AWARD GOES TO FOX NEWS Fox Falsely Dubs Alleged White House Attacker As "'Occupy' Shooter", Implies that "Media" would go crazy if Attacker was tied to Tea Party
    Fox & Friends claimed that alleged White House shooter Oscar Ramiro Ortega-Hernandez [who claims Obama is the Anti-Christ] had been "tied to [the] Occupy" movement, even calling him the "Occupy' shooter." In fact, investigators have reportedly "found no connection between him and the Occupy protesters."
- Tea Party Claims Obama is the Anti Christ

- Is Israel preparing an assault against Iran?
    The IAEA report on Iran's alleged nuclear programme was surrounded by a media frenzy in Israel supporting an attack.
- College Students, Blackface and How to Talk About Race
    Earlier this week, Colorlines’s Jorge Rivas flagged this troubling story from the University of Southern Mississippi:
        The University of Southern Mississippi confirmed on Monday that six students dressed in blackface for a costume party....Dean of Students Dr. Eddie Holloway, “it was also clear that they had little cultural awareness or competency, and did not understand the historical implication of costuming in blackface.”

    ...why is it so hard for (some) white college students to grasp the core prejudice and disrespect that comes with blackface? After asking friends about this, and their answers were illuminating.

    As one noted, part of this has to do with our national reluctance to engage race like adults. Public schools teach the basics of slavery, the Civil War, Reconstruction and the civil rights movement, but there’s no attempt to go deeper with the material, and move away from the notion that racism is something reserved for the Bull Connors and Klansmen of the world. It’s not just that students leave history education with a skewed, and often benign, view of American apartheid (in my experience, Jim Crow is reduced to its cultural signifiers—there’s no attempt to deal with the reality of state-condoned terrorism against black Americans), but that they come away with the belief that racism is the sole province of bad people.

    In the minds of many white students, another friend pointed out, racism is something of a Platonic state. Racism isn’t expressed in behavior—if they themselves aren’t racist (meaning, if they believe that they aren’t racist), then none of their actions can be racist, even if they are clear demonstrations of racial prejudice. The flipside of this is a devotion to the idea of “colorblindness” as if racial disparities no longer exist. I’m sure that if you were to poll white university students, you’d find significant opposition to affirmative action, on the view any consideration of race is racist, even if you’re trying to adjust for past disparities.

    Challenging this—and providing students with a more sophisticated understanding of racial prejudice—is much harder than it might look.
- Dog Freezes to Death in Flight
    he last time that John and Julia Von Achen saw their beloved dog, J, alive, they were boarding a flight from Moscow to New York. When the Von Achens disembarked, they discovered that their dog had apparently frozen to death in the cargo hold during the 11-hour flight.
    "It seems the airlines are not equipped and they're not really set up to handle pets, but they take the money anyway," Van Achen said, adding, "I'll never fly with a pet again."

    J was far from the first dog to perish in a cargo hold, and he won't be the last.

Climate Change Will Worsen Extreme Weather
Changes in extreme weather will require governments to change how they cope with natural disasters, a new report from the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change warns

By Lauren Morello Friday, November 18, 2011

Climate change is shifting weather extremes, increasing the frequency of drought and heat waves and the intensity of rainstorms -- changes that will require the world's governments to change how they cope with natural disasters, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) said today.

The report, written by more than 100 of the world's top scientists, recommends taking steps now to increase the world's ability to adapt and cope with climate extremes.

"The report finds much to be positive about, as far as the chance to make the world a better place at the same time we reduce risk and disaster losses," said Christopher Field, a Stanford University professor who leads the IPCC's working group on climate change impacts.

The key, according to the report, is to focus on what Field called "low-regret" strategies to help reduce future disaster risk while improving people's current livelihoods and well-being.
The report, the IPCC's first in-depth examination of extreme weather, was released in Kampala, Uganda, where researchers gathered this week to finalize their analysis.

IPCC chief Rajendra Pachauri said he hoped governments gathering later this month in Durban, South Africa, for U.N. climate talks would pay heed to the report's conclusions.
"We need to sensitize the global community to the scientific reality of climate change, because therein lies the basis by which society can take action," Pachauri said. "If we do not give science the primacy it deserves ... I'm afraid you're not likely to get any action."

Tracking human-driven changes since the 1950s

The analysis describes wide-ranging changes in climate extremes since the middle of the last century, and says there is good evidence that some of those changes have been driven by human activities.

Those changes include an overall decrease in the number of cold days and nights, and an overall increase in the number of warm days and nights, worldwide -- a shift that researchers said was "very likely," which in IPCC terms signifies 99-100 percent confidence in that conclusion.

The report says it is "likely" -- or a 66-100 percent chance -- that human activities have contributed to that shift.

There have been "statistically significant" changes in the number of heavy precipitation events in some areas, with more areas experiencing increases than decreases.

Researchers say they have "medium confidence" that humans have influenced those changes, and "medium confidence" that parts of the world, including southern Europe and West Africa, have seen more intense and longer droughts. Other areas, like central North America and northwestern Australia, have seen droughts becomes less frequent, less intense or shorter.

Researchers say they have low confidence of any long-term shifts in hurricane and tornado activity, and there is sparse evidence available to determine whether climate change has altered the magnitude and frequency of flooding.

Those trends are likely to continue and intensify through the end of the century, [without efforts to cut the world's output of greenhouse gases], the report says.

It predicts "substantial warming" of temperature extremes by 2100, with the length, frequency and intensity of heat waves increasing over most land areas.

Extreme heat expected by century's end

Extreme heat now considered a 1-in-20-year event will occur every 1-2 years by the end of the century in most parts of the world. In high northern latitudes, such heat waves will occur every 1-5 years by 2100, the report says.

Very hot days now considered 1-in-20-year extremes will grow 1.8-5.4 degrees Fahrenheit warmer by mid-century and 3.6-9 degrees Fahrenheit warmer by the end of the century.

The number of heavy rainfall events and the proportion of annual rainfall that falls during those events will also increase, the report says. Very rainy days that now occur once every 20 years will occur once every five to 15 years by the end of the century.

Even in places that appear likely to become drier as the planet warms, there is "medium confidence" that individual rainstorms will become more intense, the report says.

There is also "medium confidence" that droughts will grow more severe in a broad swath of the globe, including southern and central Europe, the Mediterranean, central North America, Central America and Mexico, northeastern Brazil and southern Africa.

Hurricanes' average maximum winds will grow stronger in many ocean basins, although the number of storms will remain steady or decrease slightly. That change in wind speed, coupled with a "very likely" increase in average sea level, is a concern for small tropical island nations, the report says.

The analysis also says there is "high confidence" that changing rainfall and temperature extremes will increase the likelihood of landslides in high mountain regions and flooding caused by the rapid release of glacial meltwater from mountain glaciers.

Scientists are less certain about climate change-driven shifts in flooding and natural climate patterns like El NiƱo, the report says.


Thursday, November 17, 2011

High Veg Diets Fight Depression • Climate Change Deniers Finally Admit Climate Change is Real • Republicans Denying American's the Right to Vote • Mega-Rich Don't Pay Taxes

- High-Veg Diet Fights Depression
    A new study has found that people who abide by a plant-rich diet are less likely to suffer from depression and anxiety.
- Stop pretending it’s not climate change
    The fact is: Human-caused climate change has increased the odds of extreme, even unprecedented weather events. Senior scientist Jerry Meehl of the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) puts it this way, “Just as steroids make a baseball player stronger, and increase his chances of hitting home runs, greenhouse gases are the steroids of the climate system.” So in the case of climate, the extra juice (greenhouse gases, not performance-enhancing drugs) doesn’t result in more home runs but in the greater likelihood that heat waves and other forms of extreme weather will occur.Climate scientists have long warned that if we continue to burn fossil fuels like coal, oil and natural gas as our dominant source of energy, the planet will warm, extreme events will increase, and we will become more vulnerable to disasters.
    The media often avoids making the connection between weather and climate change — and while weather coverage has dominated the headlines all year, these climate facts go largely unmentioned. For example, last August the New York Times ran a gripping piece on the intense drought that plagued 14 states along America’s southern tier. The story put a human face on the economic toll of this slowly unfolding disaster. However, when it came to providing readers with a deeper understanding of the shifting dynamics of drought, the reporters neglected the elephant in the room – climate change.
- Biggest jump ever seen in global warming gases
    The global output of heat-trapping carbon dioxide jumped by the biggest amount on record, the U.S. Department of Energy calculated, a sign of how feeble the world's efforts are at slowing man-made global warming.
    The new figures for 2010 mean that levels of greenhouse gases are higher than the worst case scenario outlined by climate experts just four years ago.
    It is a "monster" increase that is unheard of, said Gregg Marland, a professor of geology at Appalachian State University, who has helped calculate Department of Energy figures in the past.
- "Fair And Balanced?" Fox & Friends Outraged Students Will Hear From Anti-War Groups As Well As Military
    Fox & Friends, whose network's slogan is "Fair and Balanced," today attacked a school board for allowing anti-war groups to speak to high school students alongside military recruiters.
- New State Rules Raising Hurdles at Voting Booth
    Since Republicans won control of many statehouses last November, more than a dozen states have passed laws requiring voters to show photo identification at polls, cutting back early voting periods or imposing new restrictions on voter registration drives.
- Restrictions Could Keep Five Million Traditionally Democratic Voters From The Polls In 2012
    Restrictive voting laws in states across the country could affect up to five million voters from traditionally Democratic demographics in 2012, according to a new report by the Brennan Center. That’s a number larger than the margin of victory in two of the last three presidential elections.
    The new restrictions, the study found, “fall most heavily on young, minority, and low-income voters, as well as on voters with disabilities. This wave of changes may sharply tilt the political terrain for the 2012 election.”
- Corporate Taxpayers and Corporate Tax Dodgers, 2008-2010
    A comprehensive new study that profiles 280 of America’s most profitable companies finds that 78 of them paid no federal income tax in at least one of the last three years. Thirty companies enjoyed a negative income tax rate over the three year period, despite combined pre-tax profits of $160 billion.
- Bill Moyers on a Democracy in Shambles: "Money First, People Second... If At All" video
    Keynote Address at Public Citizen's 40th Anniversary Gala

The Scientific Finding that Settles the Climate-Change Debate
By Eugene Robinson
Published October 24 in the Washington Post

For the clueless or cynical diehards who deny global warming, it’s getting awfully cold out there.

The latest icy blast of reality comes from an eminent scientist whom the climate-change skeptics once lauded as one of their own. Richard Muller, a respected physicist at the University of California, Berkeley, used to dismiss alarmist climate research as being “polluted by political and activist frenzy.” Frustrated at what he considered shoddy science, Muller launched his own comprehensive study to set the record straight. Instead, the record set him straight.

“Global warming is real,” Muller wrote last week in The Wall Street Journal.
Rick Perry, Herman Cain, Michele Bachmann and the rest of the neo-Luddites who are turning the GOP into the anti-science party should pay attention.

“When we began our study, we felt that skeptics had raised legitimate issues, and we didn’t know what we’d find,” Muller wrote. “Our results turned out to be close to those published by prior groups. We think that means that those groups had truly been careful in their work, despite their inability to convince some skeptics of that.”

In other words, the deniers’ claims about the alleged sloppiness or fraudulence of climate science are wrong. Muller’s team, the Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature project, rigorously explored the specific objections raised by skeptics — and found them groundless.
Muller and his fellow researchers examined an enormous data set of observed temperatures from monitoring stations around the world and concluded that the average land temperature has risen 1 degree Celsius — or about 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit — since the mid-1950s.

This agrees with the increase estimated by the United Nations-sponsored Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Muller’s figures also conform with the estimates of those British and American researchers whose catty e-mails were the basis for the alleged “Climategate” scandal, which was never a scandal in the first place.

The Berkeley group’s research even confirms the infamous “hockey stick” graph — showing a sharp recent temperature rise — that Muller once snarkily called “the poster child of the global warming community.” Muller’s new graph isn’t just similar, it’s identical.

Muller found that skeptics are wrong when they claim that a “heat island” effect from urbanization is skewing average temperature readings; monitoring instruments in rural areas show rapid warming, too. He found that skeptics are wrong to base their arguments on the fact that records from some sites seem to indicate a cooling trend, since records from at least twice as many sites clearly indicate warming. And he found that skeptics are wrong to accuse climate scientists of cherry-picking the data, since the readings that are often omitted — because they are judged unreliable — show the same warming trend.

Muller and his colleagues examined five times as many temperature readings as did other researchers — a total of 1.6 billion records — and now have put that merged database online. The results have not yet been subjected to peer review, so technically they are still preliminary. But Muller’s plain-spoken admonition that “you should not be a skeptic, at least not any longer” has reduced many deniers to incoherent grumbling or stunned silence.

Not so, I predict, with the blowhards such as Perry, Cain and Bachmann, who, out of ignorance or perceived self-interest, are willing to play politics with the Earth’s future. They may concede that warming is taking place, but they call it a natural phenomenon and deny that human activity is the cause.

It is true that Muller made no attempt to ascertain “how much of the warming is due to humans.” Still, the Berkeley group’s work should help lead all but the dimmest policymakers to the overwhelmingly probable answer.

We know that the rise in temperatures over the past five decades is abrupt and very large. We know it is consistent with models developed by other climate researchers that posit greenhouse gas emissions - the burning of fossil fuels by humans — as the cause. And now we know, thanks to Muller, that those other scientists have been both careful and honorable in their work.

Nobody’s fudging the numbers. Nobody’s manipulating data to win research grants, as Perry claims, or making an undue fuss over a “naturally occurring” warm-up, as Bachmann alleges. Contrary to what Cain says, the science is real.

It is the know-nothing politicians - not scientists - who are committing an unforgivable fraud.