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Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Republicans and Tea Partiers are IDIOTS - Tornadoes and Climate Change - The New F Bomb and Sports - Japan Confirms Nuke Meltdown - Obama and Israel - Alternate Energy Sources Very Realistic

- A Link Between Climate Change and Joplin Tornadoes? Never!
    It’s very important to stay calm. If you got upset about any of this, you might forget how important it is not to disrupt the record profits of our fossil fuel companies. If worst ever did come to worst, it’s reassuring to remember what the U.S. Chamber of Commerce told the Environmental Protection Agency in a recent filing: that there’s no need to worry because “populations can acclimatize to warmer climates via a range of behavioral, physiological, and technological adaptations.” I’m pretty sure that’s what residents are telling themselves in Joplin today.
- No wind? No problem
    Variable energy sources such as wind and solar power could provide 19–63% of required electricity in many countries if the technical and market hurdles are overcome, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA). This upbeat view contrasts with what most other experts have said to date.
- Obama: Surrendered Wife?
    Let me see if I’ve got this straight. We’re cutting our budgets here at home in order to send advanced military weaponry to a country that built a secret nuclear program, has continued to expand settlements in Palestinian land in violation of international law and common decency, and, under the leadership of the ever-intransigent Netanyahu, has refused to negotiate in good faith a deal with the Palestinian authorities. This is, in other words, a rogue state. We should be suspending military cooperation with this country, not rewarding it, at least until it mends its ways.
- Watchdog: 70,000 More Should Evacuate After Fukushima
    Seventy thousand people living beyond the 20-kilometre no-go zone around Fukushima should be evacuated because of radioactivity deposited by the crippled nuclear plant, a watchdog said.
- Japan's Tepco Confirms Meltdowns of 2 More Fukushima Reactors
    Tokyo Electric Power Co , the operator of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant disabled by the March 11 earthquake and tsunami, confirmed on Tuesday that there were meltdowns of fuel rods at three of the plant's reactors early in the crisis.
- Joakim Noah, the NBA, and 'The New F Bomb'
    On Monday, while Chicago Bulls center Joakim Noah was being fined for using a homophobic slur against a fan, a commercial for LGBT marriage rights was released featuring Suns All-Star Steve Nash. Last month, the same day Kobe Bryant was caught on camera using the same invective against a referee, Phoenix Suns players Grant Hill and Jared Dudley were filming a public service announcement where they spoke out against using the word “gay” to mean stupid, dumb, or worthy of disrespect.
- Right-Wing Media To Obama: How Dare You Run For Re-election
    At the very most, two articles [in conservative publications] suggested the Obama [re-election] team was engaged in conducting opposition research and fact-checking, which is like saying the Obama team was engaged in hiring speech writers and consultants. i.e. Both activities are utterly mundane in today’s world of professional politics.But oh my, cue the far-right freak-out...
- In Chicago, Coal Is the Real Crime
    We become outraged, and we demand justice for those who have lost their children, their parents, their siblings or spouses. In 1982, Chicago acted to stem the tide of gun-related violence when confronted with a disturbing rise in homicides. In fact, between 1980 and 2006, some 32,300 American died every year due to handgun violence, which is second only to car crashes in deaths by injury.I have wondered why we fail to feel that same sense of outrage when the culprit in a crime against innocents is not a gunman seeking cash, but a corporation seeking to improve its bottom line. Maybe the impacts of a company's misdeeds are of a scale so grand that it is difficult for us to imagine.

    Every year, the toxic pollution that spews from the smokestacks of America's coal-fired power plants kills between 13,000 and 34,000 people, according to studies by the Clean Air Task Force and Harvard University. That staggering figure doesn't include the carbon pollution -- one third of all US emissions -- that is driving the planet into runaway climate change.
- 'Drill, baby, drill' won't do it
    Conservation and a switch to renewable energy sources are the best hedges against rising oil prices.In other words, Americans can't continue using oil at current rates and expect to escape high prices. Over time, the development of alternative energy sources could go a long way toward reducing our dependence on oil. Right now, the best way to control oil prices is lowered demand, in the form of conservation; in the last couple of weeks, the used-car market for gas-thrifty vehicles has become hot again (though motorists will no doubt flock back to gas guzzlers as soon as prices drop). Corporations are only beginning to learn about the money they can save by reducing energy use in their buildings. In Washington, legislators should be talking about tax benefits for companies that permit telecommuting and flexible schedules that reduce car travel.

    Instead, Republicans in Congress want to continue the extraordinary subsidies that oil companies enjoy. An effort by Senate Democrats to end many of those subsidies was blocked last week.

Lecturing Americans To 'Reread' Constitution, Herman Cain [Republican presidential candidate]Confuses It With Declaration of Independence
By Ian Millhiser
Published May 23 2011 on

During GOP [Republican] presidential candidate Herman Cain’s campaign announcement on Saturday, the former pizza executive took a moment to lecture the country on its need to “reread the Constitution”:
CAIN: We don’t need to rewrite the Constitution of the United States of America, we need to reread the Constitution and enforce the Constitution. … And I know that there are some people that are not going to do that, so for the benefit of those who are not going to read it because they don’t want us to go by the Constitution, there’s a little section in there that talks about “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”
You know, those ideals that we live by, we believe in, your parents believed in, they instilled in you. When you get to the part about “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,” don’t stop there, keep reading. Cause that’s when it says “when any form of government becomes destructive of those ideals, it is the right of the people to alter or abolish it.” We’ve got some altering and some abolishing to do!
Watch it:

Cain really should have taken his own advice, however, before he decided to lecture the entire country about the Constitution. The phrase “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” does not appear anywhere in the Constitution’s text. Nor does the Constitution include a phrase about the right of the people to alter or abolish a government that is destructive of their ideals. Both of those phrases appear in the Declaration of Independence, which, in case Mr. Cain is not aware, is actually an entirely different document than the Constitution — written over ten years earlier.

Sadly, Cain’s Bachmannesque ignorance of the nation’s founding documents makes him well-suited to compete in a GOP presidential primary. Republicans invented an utterly meritless constitutional objection to the Affordable Care Act, they’ve called everything from Social Security to Medicare to child labor laws unconstitutional, and they’ve even pretended that the Constitution allows them to strip Americans of their citizenship. So Cain needs to look no further than his own party if he wants to find people who are more interested in rewriting the Constitution than in actually reading it.


Monday, May 23, 2011

Neighborhood Nukes?! - Right Wing Lunacy - 'Pro-Life' Killers - Resource Wars, Coming Soon! - More on Bin Laden from Chomsky - Most Abused Animal on Earth - Gay Bashing - Climate Change

- Osama bin Laden’s Death: There is Much More to Say by Noam Chomsky
    After the assassination of bin Laden I received such a deluge of requests for comment that I was unable to respond individually, and on May 4 and later I sent an unedited form response instead, not intending for it to be posted, and expecting to write it up more fully and carefully later on. But it was posted, then circulated.That was followed but a deluge of reactions from all over the world. It is far from a scientific sample of course, but nevertheless, the tendencies may be of some interest. Overwhelmingly, those from the “third world” were on the order of “thanks for saying what we think.”  There were similar ones from the US, but many others were infuriated, often virtually hysterical, with almost no relation to the actual content of the posted form letter.
- WikiLeaks: A Battle to 'Carve Up' the Arctic
    Resource wars are possible as global warming melts polar ice - opening new areas to oil exploitation, cables indicate. ... Sir David King, the UK government's former chief scientific adviser, called the invasion of Iraq "the first of [this century's] resource wars", warning that "powerful nations will secure resources for their own people at the expense of others".
    "The doomsday would be competitive resource wars. As climate change gets worse, people will be pushed to get more resources to run their air conditioners and so forth. My prediction is that we are still going to be addicted to oil [when the main icecaps melt] and these resources are going to be extracted by the most powerful lot - which would include Russia, the US and China."
- The Most Abused Animal on the Planet Is …
    Do you know one of those people who says, "I'm a vegetarian, but I still eat chicken"? Considering that chickens are arguably the most abused animals on the planet, they should be one of the first animals we remove from our plates—and there's no better time to do that than World Week for Abolition of Meat.... Chickens' cognitive skills rival those of cats, dogs, and, in some cases, primates....But the billions of chickens who are slaughtered for food or crammed into cages and used for eggs suffer horribly throughout their short lives.
- Media Matters Revisits Right-Wing Media Prophesies That Obama Is The Antichrist
    As attention turns to speculation that May 21, 2011, will be the Biblical day of rapture, Media Matters revisits a litany of fringe right-wing media figures who foretold that President Obama might just be the Antichrist - the latest in a long line of world leaders presaged as "the beast."
- No Such Thing As Liberal Media: Keith Olbermann (Former news host on MSNBC, soon to be on Current TV) tweets:
    "Presented without comment: Michael Moore named contributor to @Current. Michael Steele [former chairman of the Republican Party] named contributor to MSNBC"
- Going Backwards: Small 'Neighborhood Nukes' Envisioned
    Two U.S. representatives from Pennsylvania are advocating that the federal government back a new generation of miniature nuclear reactors that could power neighborhoods.
- Deadly Tornado Tears Through the US Midwest
    At least 89 people have died in Joplin, Missouri, and the toll is expected to climb as one of the deadliest tornadoes in state history roared through the small Midwestern city on Sunday, local officials said on Monday.
- The Answer Is (Artificially) Blowing in the Wind
    Only God can make a tree, the poem says. But scientists are working on making artificial leaves that can produce fuels directly from sunlight, water and carbon dioxide, just as real leaves do. One day, the new leaves could help people heat their homes and drive their cars.
- Suffer the Little Children
    Apparently harboring the time-honored illusion that if you don't talk about something that makes you uncomfortable then it will go away, Tennessee legislators have passed the country's first so-called "Don't Say Gay" law, wherein middle school teachers can only discuss sexuality in the context of "natural human reproduction science" - as in, you know, man plus woman equals baby. More on protests, the idiocy of the bill, background and petition by WeSayGay, and more corporate and Chamber gay-bashing.

The Right's Mirror-Image View of Life
Anti-abortion campaigners in the US fail to value life lost through war, or those taken by a punitive justice system.
By Cliff Schecter
Pubished May 2011 on Al Jazeera

Anti-abortion campaigners believe it is their right to choose the rights of others - while many 'pro-lifers' vocally support the death penalty and wars that kill innocents [GALLO/GETTY]

Yesterday, I pulled up to a drive-through ATM, and sitting in front of me in the line was a car with a license plate that simply stated, "Choose Life".

Who can argue with that? I support life, don't you?

The problem, of course, is the relationship between that phrase and the US right wing. You know, the ones who are petrified of everything from black presidents to black helicopters to Black Sabbath.

Yes, they piously claim to be "pro-life", but it is a simple platitude, for - to paraphrase Inigo Montoya from The Princess Bride - I do not think that word means what they think it means.

To those not steeped in US politics, being pro-life might seem like it means what one would expect - to oppose policies and endeavours that duly result in a loss of human life. But, in the US political arena, it means something quite different. Generally, it is a way of telling everyone that it's your business to give a woman her marching orders - that she must eventually carry a three-day-old embryo to term, even if it's the result of rape or incest.

Or its corollary, that you're some kind of Nietzschean Superman for ensuring that 91-year-old patients in terrible pain due to pancreatic cancer must stick a tube in any empty orifice to force themselves to stay alive and suffer, even against their own wishes.

The sad reality is that, to be pro-life in the US today, which is to be conservative in almost all cases, is to love thy enemy by supporting illegal wars - or just plain stupid ones - that kill hundreds of thousands of innocents, cutting health-care benefits and nutrition programs for children and the poor, and turning the other cheek … of the person you're torturing.

It is also to cut funding for bridges that are falling down to make room for slashing the tax on yacht shoes, make a best faith effort to ensure criminals, the mentally unbalanced and terrorists have access to assault weapons and C4 explosives, and to love thy neighbour - to love them so much as to give him or her a lethal injection if you think they killed someone.

"Think" is the operative word here, as it seems the conservative Governor of Ohio, John Kasich, may be about to put an innocent man to death. Shawn Hawkins, the man in question, is to be executed on June 14, 2011. This, even though there are serious enough concerns he may be innocent that on May 11, the Ohio Parole Board unanimously recommended that the governor grant him clemency due to increasing doubt over his guilt.

But hell, what's a little faulty eyewitness testimony, evidence destroyed before it could be DNA tested, and lack of placing the defendant in possession of the murder weapon between friends?

So, in other words, the morning-after pill is murder, but taking a guy who even Ken Blackwell, Republican candidate for Governor in 2006, thinks should be given clemency - and killing him - that is just so pro-life!

The truth is that those on the US right are about as "pro-life" as Arnold Schwarzenegger is pro-wife. Or Dominique Strauss Kahn is pro-maid.

It is an empty phrase they throw around to get a core demographic of lunatics who hate the very idea of a woman choosing to have sex and having any control over her body frothing at the mouth. Because presumably, Jesus, who talked about love and brotherhood, would have taken the time to stop walking on water and curing the infirm to publicly flog any woman contemplating a life of self-determination.

This is not to say there are not legitimate concerns with late-term abortions. I have these concerns. Or underage girls making this decision without adult guidance. I have those ones too.

But this is not what this particular battle's about. Because if it were, I probably wouldn't have once argued on a television show with a conservative, who in one sentence told me that abortion was murder, and in the next that we should eliminate the Environmental Protection Agency (the guys who, you know, make sure we can breathe) - and turn Iraq into a "glass factory" (See: sand and extreme heat).

Now maybe you're reading this and asking: "I already know all of this, why is he wasting my time?" Well, perhaps this is just my way of saying I'm tired of the platitudes, particularly on the licence plates of portly, pale, Rush Limbaugh-imbibers who take way-too-much time at the drive-through ATM because they're still working their way through fractions.

You can pick whatever political slogan you want. But pro-life is pro-life in any language.
And you're probably a bit closer to actually being pro-life if you care about how a pregnant woman will get healthcare, and not being the guy trying to cut it, while wearing your wife-beater t-shirt and holding up the Obama sign with the Hitler moustache.

Cliff Schecter is the President of Libertas, LLC, a progressive public relations firm, the author of the 2008 bestseller The Real McCain, and a regular contributor to The Huffington Post. You can follow him on Twitter: @cliffschecter


Friday, May 20, 2011

The War on the Poor and Middle Class - War and Profits more important than Killer Asteroids?! - Republicans Attack Cesar Chavez - Obama's Illegal War - Record Profits for Insurers as People Die from Unaffordable Healthcare - Unions!

- Three reasons why people who work for a living should support unions
    The current [Republican and Libertarian] assault on collective bargaining rights shows that ideology and smash-mouth politics can triumph over economic reality.
    There are three reasons why everyone who works for a living should want to rebuild the American labor movement.

    First, if you want a job with a living wage and decent benefits, then you want a strong labor movement. When unions decline, many workers — whether organized or not — see a drop in their standard of living. And driving wages down does not help the American economy, which is dependent on strong consumer spending.

    Second, if you like spending time on the weekends with your friends and family, then you want a strong labor movement. Unions struggled for many decades to get laws mandating an eight-hour day, a minimum wage and a ban on child labor. Given what is happening across the country today, with basic rights being heaved out the window, working people need unions to preserve the gains we have made.

    Finally, if you believe in a healthy democracy, then you want a strong labor movement. Many unions work for more than just good wages and benefits; organized labor has also campaigned for access to affordable health care and for protecting the human rights of immigrant workers.
- An Early Warning System for Killer Asteroids
    In 2009, a bus-sized asteroid roughly 10 meters long exploded over an isolated part of Indonesia, packing the equivalent of roughly 50,000 tons of TNT, more than three times the strength of the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima, he notes .... such 10-meter-long objects are expected once per decade, underscoring the need for an early warning system against cosmic impacts. 
    The problem: Although Tonry and his colleagues submitted a $3 million proposal for ATLAS to NASA to operate them for two years, the current budgetary problems the U.S. government faces meant the agency basically declined to fund any 2010 proposals, Tonry says. "I'll resubmit in June."
- Not Broke, Just Twisted
    "We're broke." Or so claim (Republican) governors and lawmakers all over the country. Our states and our nation can no longer afford, their plaint goes, the programs and services that Americans expect government to provide. We must do with less. We need "austerity."
    But we're not broke. Not even close. The United States of America is awash in wealth.

    Reversing tax giveaways to the super-rich and the nation's largest corporations could raise $4 trillion within a decade and avert possible government closures.
- Massey Put Profits Before Workers at Upper Big Branch Mine, Investigator Says
    The lead investigator examining the Upper Big Branch Mine tragedy lambasted coal company Massey Energy Thursday for failing to ensure the safety of the 29 workers who died in its West Virginia mine last year. [as if things aren't bad enough the Republicans and Libertarians like Ron and Rand Paul want to eliminate all regulations these mining companies operate under, which would cause MORE death and destruction].
- America’s Healthcare Crisis is Getting Worse
    Employers have successfully shifted a huge portion of costs to their workers, so working families face such a daunting barrier of high deductibles and co-pays that they have become reluctant to go to the doctor or the hospital or request a particular course of treatment.
    The New York Times’ Reed Abelson concisely captured the cruel reality that working families now confront while insurers rake in record profits and CEOs collect record salaries and bonuses: "The nation’s major health insurers are barreling into a third year of record profits, enriched in recent months by a lingering recessionary mind-set among Americans who are postponing or forgoing medical care."
- The illegal war in Libya
    "The President does not have power under the Constitution to unilaterally authorize a military attack in a situation that does not involve stopping an actual or imminent threat to the nation" -- candidate Barack Obama, December, 2007

(Republican) Duncan Hunter Slams Navy for Naming Ship after Cesar Chavez
By Beth Ford Roth
Published May 17, 2011 at Homepost/KPBS SanDiego

The United States Secretary of the Navy, Ray Mabus, is headed to San Diego tomorrow to announce that a ship will be named after labor leader Cesar Chavez. General Dynamics NASSCO spokesman James Gill told the Associated Press it’s a way to pay homage to the Latino workers who built the dry cargo ship, and the neighborhood (Barrio Logan) General Dynamics calls home.

But Congressman Duncan Hunter Jr. of East San Diego County, a veteran of wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, released a statement to the media today to complain about the naming:
    "This decision shows the direction the Navy is heading. Naming a ship after Cesar Chavez goes right along with other recent decisions by the Navy that appear to be more about making a political statement than upholding the Navy’s history and tradition."
Hunter suggests it would be more appropriate to honor Latinos by naming the ship after heroic Hispanics in the military, like Marine Corps Sergeant Rafael Peralta.

For the record, Cesar Chavez actually was in the military. He enlisted in the Navy in 1946 and spent two years in the service. He gained fame, though, for bringing to light farmworkers’ rights and organizing them into a union that still exists, the United Farm Workers.


Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Climate Change - Killing Innocent People Causes "Terrorism" - Legalizing Animal Cruelty - Obama Attacks Whistle Blowers - Nukes - End of the World - Diet - Ron Paul Doesn't Support Civil Rights Act

- Climate change bringing infection, hunger, illness
    Climate change threatens far more than our environment. It's already led to the spread of infectious diseases and respiratory ailments across the globe and contributed to thousands of deaths through heat waves and other extreme weather events. It's even fueled recent revolts in the Middle East and North Africa.
- They hate us for our freedoms?! Really?
    There's nothing much new to say here, but every now and then, it's worth highlighting not only what we're doing, but what the results are.  Just imagine the accumulated hatred from having things like this happen day after day, week after week, year after year, for a full decade now, with no end in sight -- broadcast all over the region.  It's literally impossible to convey in words the level of bloodthirsty fury and demands for vengeance that would arise if a foreign army were inside the U.S. killing innocent American children even a handful of times, let alone continuously for a full decade.
- Some Final Thoughts on the Death of Osama bin Laden
    I remember my parents telling me how, on the day it was announced that Hitler was dead, there was no rejoicing in the streets, just private relief and satisfaction. The real celebration came six days later at the announcement that the war in Europe was over. THAT'S what the people wanted to hear – not just the demise of one evil madman, but the end to all the killing.
- Indiana Attempts to Legalize Animal Cruelty- PETITION
    Hunters call it "training," animal protection groups call it a bloodsport. Coyote and fox penning is the practice where packs of dogs are set upon wild coyotes and foxes trapped in fenced enclosures. The dogs run the terrified captive animals to exhaustion, often tearing them apart once they have them cornered.
- Osama bin Laden's Guns Found 'Only After' US Navy Seals Killed Him
    The American soldiers who killed Osama bin Laden found his two guns only after he was dead, while they photographed his remains, according to a detailed new account of the al-Qaida leader's final moments.
    The Associated Press revelation will add further fuel for critics who say US forces acted illegally in killing the unarmed Saudi fugitive. The Obama administration insists the shooting was lawful.
- The Secret Sharer
    Mark Feldstein, a professor of media and public affairs at George Washington University, warns that, if whistle-blowers and other dissenters are singled out for prosecution, "this has gigantic repercussions. You choke off the information that the public needs to judge policy."
- The Rapture Is Coming! The World Is Ending! Lots Of Cheap Stuff For Sale!
    One Harold Camping, president of [bigoted Christian] Family Radio, warns WE CAN KNOW that Judgment Day is coming May 21, this Saturday, followed by five months of "chaos and tribulation" and, finally, the end of the world on Oct 21.
- Coal Curriculum Called Unfit for 4th Graders
    The cola industry starts spreading pro-coal propaganda to 4th graders! 
    "The United States of Energy’ is designed to paste a smiley face on the dirtiest form of energy in the world,” said Bill Bigelow, an editor of Rethinking Schools magazine. “These materials teach children only the story the coal industry has paid Scholastic to tell."
- Fukushima reactor has a hole, leading to leakage
    One of the reactors at Japan's crippled Fukushima nuclear power plant has a hole in its main vessel following a meltdown of fuel rods, leading to a leakage of radioactive water, its operator said on Thursday.
- TIME: More Damage Than Expected at Fukushima Reactor 1
    “Earlier readings of water levels, temperatures and pressure Fukushima Reactor 1 lead to assumptions by the authorities that reactors 1, 2 and 3 were stabilizing. What we are now seeing is that at least some water level readings were entirely wrong. As the fuel rods were fully exposed and subsequently melted, it is highly likely that the core’s integrity is compromised and that there is larger amount of melted fuel at the bottom of the reactor pressure vessel. The situation is clearly far more serious than previously reported, and could escalate rapidly if the lava melts through the reactor vessel. This is yet another reminder that nuclear technology is inherently unsafe, and that there are no practical means of limiting the scale of damage when crises like Fukushima occur.”
- Forks Over Knives
    "Forks Over Knives" is a documentary in which Lee Fulkerson enacts a mirror image of the journey taken by Morgan Spurlock in "Supersize Me." Instead of eating only at McDonald's for a month and nearly killing himself, he eats a plant-based whole food diet for six months, gets off all of his cholesterol and blood pressure medications, drops a lot of weight, sleeps better and has more energy.
- Too few fish in the sea
    ...concerns are emerging that draft plans from the European Commission do not go far enough or offer innovative solutions in a long-delayed push for sustainability.
- Libertarian/Republican Ron Paul says he would have opposed 1964 Civil Rights Act
    MSNBC anchor Chris Matthews pressed Paul during a TV appearance on whether he would have voted against the '64 law, a landmark piece of legislation that took strides toward ending segregation.
    "Yeah, but I wouldn't vote against getting rid of the Jim Crow laws," Paul said. He explained that he would have opposed the Civil Rights Act...

America's Climate Choices Are Narrowing
With every year of inaction the risks posed by climate change grow, according to a new report requested by Congress
By David Biello
Published May 15 2011 on Scientific American

In 1959 physicist Gilbert Plass warned in Scientific American that increasing concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere was causing climate change. In 1965 President Lyndon Johnson warned Congress of the risk. In 1979 the U.S. National Academy of Sciences warned against a wait-and-see attitude (pdf).

But we have waited. And now most of us see. Increasing concentrations of greenhouse gases are changing the climate. And a new report from the U.S. National Research Council argues—again—that we urgently need a national approach to reducing that pollution since its impacts will be with us for hundreds or even thousands of years.

One possibility is to make polluters pay for the cost of greenhouse gas emissions. For example, a tax on fossil fuel burned would spur investment in cleaner energy technologies, such as renewables or nuclear power.

Other nations will also have to reduce such pollution. But this latest report suggests that if the U.S. reduces its emissions, we're in a better position to influence others, such as China, to do the same. One thing remains clear—the time for waiting is over.


Thursday, May 12, 2011

Even Liar McCain Fed Up with Republican Lies about Torture - Bin Laden and Assassinations - Civilian Deaths - Climate Change and Going Vegan - Pet Food and Climate Change

- John McCain to Bush apologists: Stop lying about Bin Laden and torture
    This is getting really good. As noted below, John McCain in an Op ed this morning skewered the claim that the killing of Bin Laden vindicates torture. But just now, on the Senate floor, he uncorked a new broadside that is quite remarkable, taking direct aim at Bush apologists who are reviving this debate in order to claim Bin Laden’s death as part of the Bush legacy.
- Fight Global Warming by Going Vegetarian
    Global warming has been called humankind's "greatest challenge" and the world's most grave environmental threat. Many conscientious people are trying to help reduce global warming by driving more fuel-efficient cars and using energy-saving light bulbs. Although this helps, science shows that going vegan is one of the most effective ways to fight global warming.
- Vegetarian is the New Prius
    Last month, the United Nations published a report on livestock and the environment with a stunning conclusion: "The livestock sector emerges as one of the top two or three most significant contributors to the most serious environmental problems, at every scale from local to global." It turns out that raising animals for food is a primary cause of land degradation, air pollution, water shortage, water pollution, loss of biodiversity, and not least of all, global warming.
- Equivalent emissions savings from weekly dietary changes
    If every American had one meat-free meal per week, it would be the same as taking more than 5 million cars off our roads. Having one meat-free day per week would be the same as taking 8 million cars off American roads.
- Livestock impacts on the environment
    A new report from FAO says livestock production is one of the major causes of the world's most pressing environmental problems, including global warming, land degradation, air and water pollution, and loss of biodiversity
- UK animal feed helping to destroy Asian rainforest, study shows
    British cats, dogs, cows, pigs and even goldfish are helping destroy the rainforests of south-east Asia. A new study for the government finds that more than a tenth of all the world's palm kernel meal – a lucrative by-product of the production of palm oil – is fed to British animals.
- Analyzing the ‘900 papers supporting climate scepticism’: 9 out of top 10 authors linked to ExxonMobil
    '900+ Peer-Reviewed Papers Supporting Skepticism Of "Man-Made" Global Warming (AGW) Alarm' announces the headline on the Global Warming Policy Foundation's website [a group that denies Climate Change and is associated with the oil industry].
    The article references a blog linking to more than 900 papers which, according to the GWPF, refute "concern relating to a negative environmental or socio-economic effect of AGW, usually exaggerated as catastrophic."However, a preliminary data analysis by the Carbon Brief has revealed that nine of the ten most prolific authors cited have links to organisations funded by ExxonMobil, and the tenth has co-authored several papers with Exxon-funded contributors.
- Don't Apologize, Greenwald. Don't Back Down
    In case you hadn't heard, GG's run into some trouble here (elsewhere, too, I assume) for suggesting that if the U.S. assumes the right to assassinate anyone it so chooses, then our enemies could choose to do the same to President Obama.
    Some people here have responded with Have-You-No-Shame horror, and others, while acknowledging that he has a point, argue that he should have chosen his words more carefully.

    But I think he chose his words with utmost care. They were designed to expose in stark terms the shaky moral and legal footing of the U.S's claim that it can basically do whatever the hell it wants in the name of FIGHTINGEVIL.
- After, not during
    Amid some inconsistencies in early Administration and media accounts of Osama bin Laden's death, a reader points out that President Obama himself was always -- if very subtly -- clear that the terrorist was not killed in a shootout. Indeed, two  pieces of language that seem more consistent with Bin Laden's being shot and killed deliberately -- as, in some reports, was the goal of the mission -- than in his being shot "resisting," as if in some kind of police action.

Intelligence Failures 'Led to Deaths of Afghan Civilians'
by Julius Cavendish in Kabul
Published on Thursday, May 12, 2011 by The Independent/UK

Amid growing calls for US Special Operations Forces to take the lead in Afghanistan after the successful strike against Osama bin Laden, a new report has warned that systemic failures in gathering military intelligence are leading to civilian casualties during raids.

File picture shows soldiers parading at Kabul airport. A new report has warned that systemic failures in gathering military intelligence are leading to civilian casualties during raids. 
 (AFP/File/Joel Saget) 

The study focuses on an air strike called in last September by US Special Forces which local villagers, the Afghan government and Western researchers believe killed 10 civilians, including the agent of a parliamentary candidate. But Nato says it hit a Taliban commander in the attack.

"Afghans, including senior government officials, have been incredulous that anyone might have thought Zabet Amanullah [the parliamentary candidate's agent] and the others were anything but civilians, while [Nato] and the US Special Forces unit that conducted the operation [are] adamant they hit the correct target," the report, called The Takhar Attack, says.

The crucial failure, according to author Kate Clark, was the military's inability to cross-reference its signals intelligence with human intelligence – which, in this case, could have been gleaned by nothing more complicated than watching election coverage on national television or talking to locals.

Instead, the Special Forces believed a mobile phone their Taliban target had once called was now in his possession and that he was using the alias "Zabet Amanullah". Ms Clark said: "Yet Zabet Amanullah was not an alias; it was the name of an actual person. When the two men's identities were mixed up, it was Zabet Amanullah who appeared in the crosshairs of the US military."

Having met Mr Amanullah, who was known as the "ant" because he was so short, in 2008, Ms Clark said it was "implausible" a man living openly in Kabul, where he studied English and computing and had a stake in a pharmacy, had a double life as a battlefield commander. At the time intelligence gatherers believed their man was running operations in northern Afghanistan, passport stamps put Mr Amanullah in India, where he was receiving medical treatment.

When the Special Forces unit continued to insist in the face of mounting evidence that it had bombed the right man, Ms Clark tracked down the Taliban commander they claimed to have hit. "He is alive and well and has been interviewed in Pakistan," she wrote.
The case study points to the worrying lack of scepticism Nato brings to investigations of civilian casualties and its frequent detachment from its immediate surroundings. Previous intelligence chiefs have slammed the organisation's intelligence-gathering operations and US General David Petraeus has spoken about the lack of "granular understanding of local circumstances".

In March, The Independent revealed that a US-sponsored warlord is accused of raping, torturing and killing villagers who were not part of his interest group. Despite being notified over a year ago by UN officials of the numerous complaints pouring in about Commander Azizullah, Nato has yet to investigate the claims.

In a separate investigation by this newspaper, the former commander of a secret CIA-backed strike force said his men might have killed civilians based on faulty tips. "If the jungle catches fire, even the green trees burn," Atal Afghanzai, of the Kandahar Strike Force, said. "It may have been that we killed civilians but that was not our fault. It was the source who got it wrong." In 2009, he was convicted of murder.

Ms Clark worries that after the successful raid on Bin Laden, US Special Forces and the CIA will have far more licence to carry out targeted killings.

Wave of violence expected in Afghanistan

Nato and the Afghan government say they are bracing for a wave of al-Qa'ida-inspired attacks, in what analysts and diplomats say is an attempt to deflect criticism for security failings as the annual fighting season begins.

Following a 30-hour gun battle at the weekend in Kandahar, Afghanistan's second city, President Hamid Karzai tried to shift blame away from his government and security forces by blaming al-Qa'ida, even though the Taliban was responsible. "They're trying to be clever to pin this Kandahar thing on al-Qa'ida because otherwise it's really embarrassing," one Western diplomat said.

"It shows the Afghan National Security Forces can't handle it."


Thursday, May 5, 2011

More Tax Cuts for Corporations - Cuts to Green Energy programs Due to Right-wing corporate pressure - Right-wing Assault on Labor - Fish Cruelty - Jesus Rewritten by Republicans

- Fish Say: Flush This!
    Fish are not decorations or toys. They have cognitive skills that rival those of primates, use tools, maintain complex social relationships, and communicate with each other using low-frequency sounds that humans can't even hear. Confining fish to a cramped tank or bowl, forcing them to swim in endless circles through the same few cubic inches of (often filthy) water, is just as cruel as chaining or crating a dog 24 hours a day.
- Are Insurers Writing the Health Reform Regulations?
    ...surprise, insurers don't like being told what to do by regulators. So they're pushing back hard. Consumer advocates who have been in meetings at the White House in recent weeks say they believe the administration is bending over backward to accommodate the insurers.
- Jesus Opposed the Minimum Wage and Other "Truths" of the Religious Right
    Nothing shows the unholy tilt of the fringe right into the mainstream more than the growing influence of David Barton, right-wing GOP activist, minister, historian and guiding spirit to aspiring presidential souls from Gingrich to Huckabee. Using his for-profit evangelical WallBuilders as a springboard, Barton makes 400 speeches a year proclaiming that Thomas Jefferson didn't really believe in separating church and state, the Bible proves God hates socialism, and we can save ourselves if we "rebuild our nation's godly heritage" - and we all know whose god he means. Is anything as scary as fervent certitude based on half-truths? May all the gods save us all.
- Dirty Corporate Tax Dodgers INFOGRAPHIC
    This is what you get if you vote Republican or Libertarian (or for any conservative candidate).
- The International Assault on Labor
    The state-corporate war [carried out by Republicans in the USA] against unions has recently extended to the public sector, with legislation to ban collective bargaining and other elementary rights. Even in pro-labor Massachusetts, the House of Representatives voted right before May Day to sharply restrict the rights of police officers, teachers, and other municipal employees to bargain over health care – essential matters in the U.S., with its dysfunctional and highly inefficient privatized health-care system.

    The rest of the world may associate May 1 to the struggle of American workers for basic rights but in the U.S. that solidarity is suppressed in favor of a jingoist holiday. May 1 is "Loyalty Day," designated by Congress in 1958 for "the reaffirmation of loyalty to the United States and for the recognition of the heritage of American freedom."
- Is An Early Spring Making You Sneeze?
    So what does an early spring mean? Although its appearance may make a welcome sight at the end of winter, premature spring can seriously disrupt an ecosystem. Early blooming flowers can be damaged by subsequent cold snaps, which means that the plant produces fewer seeds. And when an animal reacts to shifts in spring differently than its food source, that animal can be harmed. For example, in Europe, unusually warm springs are causing caterpillars to emerge too early. This, in turn, means that the caterpillars transform into moths before some species of birds return from their winter migration, and then those birds struggle to feed their newborn chicks.
- Cutbacks in solar rebates cast shadow over green power
    The municipal utility announced recently that it was suspending its program to encourage use of solar power for at least 90 days because of a lack of funds to meet demand from interested homeowners.
- Federal officials reduce Mass. area set aside for offshore wind development
    Federal officials are reducing the area they have set aside for developers to build offshore wind farms in rich fishing grounds about 14 miles off Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard.

    The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement had originally set aside a 2,900 square mile-area for commercial wind energy leasing. The region has strong winds and is close to heavily populated coastal areas with high demand for power...

    But the agency said on Monday that feedback from Massachusetts commercial fishermen, Gov. Deval Patrick’s office and the congressional delegation convinced it to reduce the area under consideration.
- Disaster Needed for U.S. to Act on Climate Change, Harvard’s Stavins Says
    "It's unlikely that the U.S. is going to take serious action on climate change until there are observable, dramatic events, almost catastrophic in nature, that drive public opinion and drive the political process in that direction," Stavins, director of Harvard’s Environmental Economics Program in Cambridge, Massachusetts, said today in an interview in Bloomberg’s Boston office.

    U.S. concern about climate change has declined in recent years, according to polls. Americans who agree the Earth is warming because of man-made activity dropped to 34 percent in October, from 50 percent in July 2006, according to a survey by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press.

    Almost four dozen lawmakers who have questioned global warming were elected to Congress in November’s midterm elections. [all republicans]
- Making A Killing: New Report Exposes Private Prison Industry's Strategy Of Pay-To-Play [Republicans and Libertarians want to Privatize EVERYTHING]
    “Private prison companies have one goal, and that’s to maximize profits,” said Ken Kopczynski, Executive Director of the Private Corrections Working Group.  “States considering privatization should be clear about the problems associated with these corporate facilities—high rates of violence, high staff turnover, lax security, and routine mismanagement.  We should be securing our prisons, not selling them off to the highest bidder.”

Obama Administration Plans Corporate Tax Cut In Year Of Record Profits
by Allison Kilkenny
Published on Thursday, May 5, 2011 by The Nation

As nationwide budget protests continue this week, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner is prepared to unveil the Obama administration’s plan to lower the top corporate tax rate from the current 35 percent to less than 30 percent, and as low as 26 percent.
In order to pay for the cuts, the proposal calls for closing loopholes and slashing exemptions. Politico reports that Geithner has already begun meeting privately with CEOs, academics, labor unions, and liberal and conservative think tanks, and his aides say he is “encouraged by the response.”
Part of that optimism stems from the fact that Democrats and Republicans are both allies of the business world.
One top business lobbyist, speaking on condition of anonymity, said corporate tax reform should be “the easiest piece” of a complex fiscal bargain “because you have people in both parties in the business community.”
Meanwhile, the number of people who filed new applications for jobless benefits leaped 43,000 last week to 474,000, the highest level in almost nine months.
The surge in unemployment comes at a time when U.S. corporations are more profitable than ever. The end of 2010 saw some of the biggest gains in the business world, according to data from the federal Bureau of Economic Analysis. Corporations reported an annualized profit of $1.68 trillion in the fourth quarter, up from the previous record of $1.65 trillion in the third quarter of 2006.

In the first quarter of 2011, Exxon-Mobil, the world’s biggest and most profitable corporation, raked in $10.7 billion. That’s a 69 percent increase over the same quarter last year, and the highest quarterly profit since 2008. This is happening during a time when citizens are searching underneath the couch cushions to scrape together enough change in order to fill their gas tanks so they can go file for unemployment benefits.

Exxon also happens to be one of US Uncut’s top targets. The oil giant uses offshore subsidiaries in the Caribbean to avoid paying taxes in the United States. The company paid zero U.S. income tax in 2009, while enjoying billions in taxpayer-funded subsidies and its CEO’s total compensation reached over $29 million.

Now, in addition to raking in record profits by sheltering revenue in foreign tax havens, Exxon and its Fortune 500 comrades, rest on the brink of enjoying more sweeteners in the form of tax breaks.

Of course, tax havens are only one part of a rigged system that allows corporations to make bank during economic recession. There are also the practices of government subsidies, (read: taxpayer subsidies) outsourcing jobs, and buying off politicians that allow top corporations and their CEOs to flourish while one in four American children survives on food stamps.

While I was watching CNN this morning, a talking head made the comment that the corporations were forced to “go lean” during the recession, but now that the economy is recovering, they refuse to hire simply because they like being lean! Why wouldn’t they? Corporate America is enjoying record profits, so there are no incentives to hire an expensive American worker (with their pesky unions’ minimum wage demands, rational work schedule, and health benefits) when they can outsource the same job for cheap labor overseas.

Another alternative is to just bust unions and treat workers like they’re employed in the third world, a path chosen by Wal-mart, which secured a spot at the top of the Fortune 500 list released today.

Then there’s the problem of corporate lobbying and bribery. Corporate America dominated Washington’s lobbying spending in the first quarter of 2011, according to a report from the Center for Responsive Politics. The US Chamber of Commerce spent just over $17 million in the three-month period. Next was General Electric (the “King of Tax Dodgers”) with just over $9 million, and AT&T with spending just over $6.8 million.

Corporations learn to grease the wheels early, which is why their financial support of political candidates is so bipartisan. Before the presidential election, John McCain received three times more money from the oil industry than President Obama. However, Obama received more in campaign cash than McCain from the employees of some of the biggest oil companies: Exxon, Chevron, and BP, three companies that routinely grace the top echelons of the Fortune 500 list.

It’s no wonder that the big companies with the most money buy the most access and win the most favorable pieces of legislation.

The Obama administration is considering these corporate tax cuts during a time when almost every state is experiencing some kind of budget cut protest. Teachers, police, fire-fighters, unions, students, and their supporters have occupied state Capitols and campuses to demand a one-tier America where everyone (citizens and corporations, alike) sacrifice during times of fiscal crisis.


Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Bin Laden's Death - Bin Laden's Reasons - Torture Does Not Work - Climate Change and Whales - The Awful Libertarian/Republican Hero Ayn Rand - Donald Trump and Racism - STUDY: Pot Causes Psychosis, more

- Wayward whale not a fluke- Warming Arctic cited as likely cause of freak migration
    The sighting of a lone grey whale (Eschrichtius robustus) last year off the beaches of Israel, and then again near Spain, came as a surprise to many. How did a creature normally found in Pacific waters come to be in the Mediterranean Sea?...a group of researchers now suggests that the sighting might indicate a wider trend: the mixing of northern Atlantic and Pacific marine ecosystems, made possible by the climate-driven depletion of Arctic sea ice.
- Osama bin Laden hideout 'worth far less than US claimed'
    Osama bin Laden's house, described by the US government as a $1m (£605,000) mansion, is in fact worth no more than $250,000 say property professionals in Abbottabad, the town where he was killed. 
    The revelation is the latest of several erroneous descriptions about the nature of Bin Laden's hideout – and the manner of his death – which have dogged the White House in recent days.

    On Tuesday US officials retracted claims that Bin Laden was armed when killed, and that he had used one of his wives as a human shield.
- Daughter, 12, saw killing of unarmed bin Laden
    OSAMA bin Laden was unarmed and with members of his family - including his 12-year-old daughter - when he was shot dead by US special forces on Monday, according to new details that emerged yesterday. 
    The daughter has claimed that she watched as her father was captured alive and shot before being dragged to a US military helicopter, Arabic news network al-Arabiya quoted Pakistani officials as saying.
- I, Consumer?
    As consumers, we live today in a perpetual now, ingesting and eliminating. But our ancestors understood the importance of being conservative, of conserving. They saw the value of building infrastructure of lasting value - not thinking only of themselves - but building also for their children and progeny yet to be. They understood, as did Oliver Wendell Holmes, that the taxes they paid were the price of admission to life in a civilized society. They understood that to live in a civil society required providing real nourishment, including the best education possible, for everyone.
- Confronting the Coded Racism of Donald Trump
    If there were any doubts about the racial animus driving Donald Trump's attacks on Barack Obama, the billionaire reality-show star exposed himself with his latest conspiracy. On Monday night, Trump questioned how Obama could possibly have been admitted to Ivy League schools, since Trump "heard" Obama was a "terrible student." Trump told the AP that he was investigating the issue, whatever that means, just as he claims to have dispatched investigators to Hawaii in order to find the president’s famous birth certificate.
- VIDEO INTERVIEW WITH GOVERNMENT INTERROGATOR: Former Military Interrogator Matthew Alexander: Despite GOP Claims, "Immoral" Torture "Slowed Down" Effort to Find Osama bin Laden
    when you look at the use of waterboarding and enhanced interrogation techniques in the case of the trail of evidence that leads to Osama bin Laden, what you find is, time and time again, it slows down the chase.
- Cannabis Use Precedes the Onset of Psychotic Symptoms in Young People, Study Finds
    Cannabis use during adolescence and young adulthood increases the risk of psychotic symptoms, while continued cannabis use may increase the risk for psychotic disorder in later life, concludes a new study published online in the British Medical Journal.
- Army of Fake Social Media Friends to Promote Propaganda
    It's recently been revealed that the U.S. government contracted HBGary Federal for the development of software which could create multiple fake social media profiles to manipulate and sway public opinion on controversial issues by promoting propaganda. It could also be used as surveillance to find public opinions with points of view the powers-that-be didn't like. It could then potentially have their "fake" people run smear campaigns against those "real" people. As disturbing as this is, it's not really new for U.S. intelligence or private intelligence firms to do the dirty work behind closed doors.
- The Story of Citizens United v. FEC [NOTE: the Republicans are the ones responsible for this Citizen United ruling, and they are, more-so than any other party, controlled by the corporations. This video is good, but in an effort to appeal to wide audiences and to be seen as non-paritsen dances around the fact that the Republicans and conservative policy is what is fault here rather than "government"]
- The Truth About the Awful Republican Hero Ayn Rand

Osama Bin Laden -- Everyone's Missing the Point

Published 05/2/11 on Huffington Post

The jubilation of Americans and Western leaders at the death of Osama bin Laden, though understandable, misses the point. In many ways, the figure gunned down in Pakistan was already irrelevant -- more a symbol of past dangers than a real threat for the future.

Indeed, from the point of view of America and many of its allies, the most menacing symbol in the Arab World today is not Osama bin Laden but another Arab who recently met a violent death -- Mohamed Bouazizi, the 26-year-old Tunisian fruit vendor who chose to set himself on fire after being harassed by corrupt local police.

His act, of course, ignited the storm that has spread across the Arab World and proven a much more serious threat to America's allies in the region than al Qaeda ever was. Ironically, his sacrifice probably also dealt a far more devastating blow to al Qaeda's fortunes than the assassination of Osama bin Laden.

The Arab world today bears no relationship to the situation a decade ago after 9/11. Obsessed with bin Laden and al Qaeda, the U.S. has been sucked into a vast quagmire -- a disaster for the Americans, their economy, and their standing in the Arab World.

What particularly provoked Osama bin Laden -- a Saudi -- was the decision of Saudi rulers to accept the presence of more than a hundred thousand "infidel" U.S. troops and their allies in Saudi Arabia following Saddam Hussein's invasion of Kuwait. In general, he and his followers were outraged by U.S. support for corrupt, repressive regimes from Saudi Arabia to Egypt to Yemen, as well, of course, for America's backing of Israel.

As Osama himself told CNN in 1997, "the U.S. wants to occupy our countries, steal our resources, impose agents on us to rule us and then wants us to agree to all this. If we refuse to do so, it says we are terrorists... Wherever we look, we find the U.S. as the leader of terrorism and crime in the world."

Bin Laden's message resonated throughout the Muslim world. But U.S. officials remained deaf to its meaning, and continued obsessed with al Qaeda and its Taliban allies. The upshot -- U.S. policy was the best recruiter Osama could have asked for. Over the past decade, hundreds of thousands of American soldiers, CIA killer teams, mercenaries, predators, and "diplomats" swarmed across the region from Iraq to Afghanistan to Pakistan to Yemen and Somalia, supported by sprawling new bases and pharaonic embassies.
The bill for all this -- for an America crippled by cutbacks in health, infrastructure. and education -- will be in the trillions of dollars. But despite this massive effort, none of those targeted Arab countries could by any stretch of the imagination be considered a success story. Hostility to the U.S. is high throughout the region. In polls, the majority of those Arabs queried consider the United States a greater threat than al Qaeda.

In Pakistan, despite the U.S. lavishing tens of billions of dollars on that country's military, it turns out that Osama bin Laden, rather than groveling as an outlaw in the isolated tribal regions, has been living in a fortified villa near the country's major military academy and a large army base, just a few miles away from the capital city.

America had also launched an ambitious civilian aid program: $7.5 billion over five years, designed to win Pakistani hearts and minds and bolster the civilian government. But, corruption is so rife throughout the Pakistani government, and its officials so incompetent, that the U.S. has been unable to disburse most of the aid. As the New York Times reports:

Instead of polishing the tarnished image of America with a suspicious, even hostile, Pakistani public and government, the plan has resulted in bitterness and a sense of broken promises...
The economy is failing. Education, health care and other services are almost nonexistent, while civilian leaders from the landed and industrialist classes pay hardly any taxes.
Pakistanis see the aid as a crude attempt to buy friendship and an effort to alleviate antipathy toward United States drone attacks against militants in the tribal areas.

The same reports come from Afghanistan. A decade after the U.S. invaded, tens of thousands of American troops are still fighting what seems to be, at best, a see-saw battle against the Taliban. There also, according to another report in the New York Times , the U.S. is backing incompetent, corrupt, unpopular leaders. Millions of dollars of U.S. funds actually get diverted as payoffs to the Taliban and their allies -- bribing them not to attack U.S. projects, such as $65 million highway that may never be completed in Eastern Afghanistan.
The vast expenses and unsavory alliances surrounding the highway have become a parable of the corruption and mismanagement that turns so many well-intended development efforts in Afghanistan into sinkholes for the money of American taxpayers, even nine years into the war.

Now back to Mohamed Bouazizi the Tunisian fruit vendor whose death unleashed the Arab Spring that is still roiling the region.

Though Osama Bin Laden and Al Qaeda have yet to be credited with overthrowing an Arab regime, the spark provided by Bouazizi has already led to the downfall of American-backed tyrants in Tunisia and Egypt, and continues to threaten other despots in Libya, Yemen, Syria and Bahrain.

Ironically, most of the leaders overthrown or desperately trying to hang on to power had declared themselves implacable enemies of al Qaeda. Yet, again, it was not bin Laden, but Bouazizi, who turned out to be a far greater menace.

Precisely for that reason, it is Bouazizi's Arab Spring, not sophisticated U.S. killer teams, that most threaten al Qaeda and its allies. By demonstrating that secular uprisings can succeed in toppling the aged, crusty tyrannies, young Arabs across the region have -- so far -- undercut the appeal of the Islamic radicals.

So far, because despite the early successes in Tunisia and Egypt, the future of the Arab Spring is far from clear. The current process will take decades to play out. The political and economic establishments have been decapitated in Egypt and Tunisia, but not decimated. In the rest of the region, though seriously shaken, the old order still reigns supreme.

The same corrupt Saudi regime that fueled bin Laden's outrage is still in power, still backed by the United States. Indeed, they have been doing their utmost to tamp the spreading revolt, spending millions to bribe Yemen's tribal leaders, dispatching their troops to Bahrain to help crush the uprising of the Shiite majority in that country.

Indeed, that brutal repression may radicalize thousands of young Shiites, generating hosts of new recruits for al Qaeda or other extremists Islamic groups -- even as the corpse of Osama bin Laden lies somewhere at the bottom of the sea.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Bin Laden - Nukes - Racism & Animal Cruelty Thanks to Republicans - Why We Need to Stop Eating Fish - Insurance Rips Off Customers - more

- The Ability to Kill Osama Bin Laden Does Not Make America Great
    The gap between rhetoric and reality has long been a defining trait of American life. Lies about our values have shielded us from the brutal facts of our nation ever since we built it on the back of genocide and slavery. But it is in times like these that the dissonance becomes unbearable.
- The High Cost of Low Teacher Salaries
    At the moment, the average teacher’s pay is on par with that of a toll taker or bartender. Teachers make 14 percent less than professionals in other occupations that require similar levels of education. 
    When we don’t get the results we want in our military endeavors, we don’t blame the soldiers. We don’t say, “It’s these lazy soldiers and their bloated benefits plans! That’s why we haven’t done better in Afghanistan!” No, if the results aren’t there, we blame the planners. We blame the generals, the secretary of defense, the Joint Chiefs of Staff. No one contemplates blaming the men and women fighting every day in the trenches for little pay and scant recognition.

    And yet in education we do just that. When we don’t like the way our students score on international standardized tests, we blame the teachers. When we don’t like the way particular schools perform, we blame the teachers and restrict their resources.
    Compare this with our approach to our military: when results on the ground are not what we hoped, we think of ways to better support soldiers. We try to give them better tools, better weapons, better protection, better training. And when recruiting is down, we offer incentives.
- Aide to Japan PM quits over radiation limits
    A senior nuclear adviser to Naoto Kan, the Japanese prime minister, has submitted his resignation, alleging the government had ignored his advice on radiation limits and failed to follow the law.
    Toshiso Kosako, a Tokyo University professor, who was named last month as an aide to Kan, said the government had only taken ad-hoc measures to contain the crisis at the crippled Fukushima nuclear power plant.
- Same Old from the Nuclear Gang after Fukushima
    Wishful thinking about energy generation has apparently induced both temporary blindness and long-term amnesia about the history of nuclear "mishaps."
- Storms in US cause loss of external power at three nuclear reactors
    According to an incident report submitted to the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission last night, an emergency was declared at the plant following a loss of external power at 16:35 CDT. Backup diesel generators kicked into action to keep the reactors' cooling systems operational, and although some power has been restored to the plant since, they will continue to operate until full power is restored, according to updates on the TVA website. The reactors at Browns Ferry are of a similar design to those at Fukushima-Daichii.
- US reels from deadly storms
    The death toll from Wednesday's storms reached 337 across seven states, including 238 in Alabama, making it the deadliest US tornado outbreak since March 1932, when another Alabama storm killed 332 people.
- Donald Trump's Lunacy Reveals Core Truth About the Republicans
    Since the election of Barack Obama, the Republican Party has proved that one of its central intellectual arguments was right all along. It has long claimed that evolution is a myth believed in only by whiny liberals – and it turns out it was on to something. Every six months, the party venerates a new hero, and each time it is somebody further back on the evolutionary scale.
- Big Brothers: Thought Control at Koch
    On the eve of the November midterm elections, Koch Industries [run by oil billionaire Republican climate change deniers] sent an urgent letter to most of its 50,000 employees advising them on whom to vote for and warning them about the dire consequences to their families, their jobs and their country should they choose to vote otherwise.
- Why The Planet and Your Body Need You to Stop Eating Fish ASAP
    Believe it or not, fish are on the brink of extinction. A report released today found that 40 species of fish that live in the Mediterranean could disappear in just a few years due to overfishing, pollution, and habitat deterioration. It goes without saying that this is very serious. Some of the most popular fish are in danger, including bluefin tuna, dusky grouper, sea bass and hake. Many consider blue fish to be the best tasting tuna and it is often used in sushi (distinguished as maguro or toro). Almost half the species of Mediterranean sharks and rays are endangered.
    Nearly all fish and shellfish contain traces of mercury, which can cause major harm to your nervous system
- Don't Cover-Up Animal Cruelty
    [Republican supported law] would make it illegal to photograph farmed animals without first getting permission from the farmer. What are they trying to hide? Do Iowa farms house really famous animals like Miss Piggy and Babe and this law just seeks to protect them from paparazzi?
    If only. What they are trying to hide are the routine violations of state and federal anti-cruelty laws that have been documented in Iowa and across the country.
- Including Animals in Our Circle of Concern
    ...too little has changed, and animal protection is still not embraced by most progressives as integral to the important work of creating a just and healthy world.
- Eye-Opening Study Reveals New Health Benefit of a Vegan Diet
    There seems to be no end to the number of health benefits associated with a vegan diet. We already know that vegans tend to have slimmer waistlines,  fewer arthritis symptoms,  and longer life spans and that vegans are less likely to suffer from heart disease, strokes, and even cancer—but now researchers suspect that vegans may also have a "significantly lower risk of developing cataracts."
- Who Covereth the Heaven With Clouds, Who Prepareth Rain For the Earth, Who Hasn'teth A Clue
    Fear not the extreme weather threatening us all, the tornados in the South, the drought and fire ravaging Texas. GOP Gov. Rick Perry - he who has called climate change “one contrived phony mess" and whose state is the biggest carbon polluter in the country - will save us with prayer.
- Birthers, Royals and Crocks
    It’s been a week—or an eternity—of embarrassments for the human race, though for once fate’s sense of humor was as well-timed as a Johnny Carson joke: the running gag over Barack Obama’s birth certificate culminated at the same time as that other gag known as the British monarchy. Unfortunately, neither Obama releasing proof of his whereabouts on his first day of Genesis nor the marriage of William and Kate plus 8,000 television anchors is likely to put an end to either charade.
- White House Threatens to Blacklist Paper for Covering Protest
    The San Francisco Chronicle is apparently in trouble with the White House for posting video of a protest against the White House's treatment of suspected WikiLeaks source Bradley Manning.
- Petraeus' CIA Move Raises Awkward Questions
    While political Washington is cheering General David Petraeus' nomination to head the CIA, the mood at the agency's headquarters and in Pakistan's intelligence service is less celebratory.
    Petraeus, the architect of the current U.S. strategy in Afghanistan, is expected as CIA director to embrace the campaign of drone strikes in Pakistan, a nominally covert CIA operation that has fueled anti-American sentiment but put heavy pressure on militant safe havens.
- 'Uncut' Activists Claim Purge of Facebook Pages
    Protest groups claim Facebook has taken down dozens of pages in a purge of activists' accounts
- Venezuela Institutes Windfall Oil Tax to Support Social Programs, Education
    Ramirez said revenue from the tax will not used for investment in the oil industry, but rather will be funneled into the government's social programs and projects aimed at improving health care, education, housing, agriculture and infrastructure.
- Insurers Getting Rich By Not Paying for Care
    I'm betting that just about every executive of a for-profit health insurance company, whose total compensation ultimately depends on the value of their stock options, woke up on Good Friday considerably wealthier than they were 24 hours earlier. Why? Because of the spectacular profits that one of those companies reported Thursday morning.
    Among those suddenly wealthier executives, by the way, are the corporate medical directors who decide whether or not patients will get coverage for treatments their doctors believe might save their lives.
- Health Execs Getting Richer As Some Americans Beg for Help to Pay for Care
    To make this kind of money, insurance companies have to spend far less paying their policyholders' medical claims than anyone thought possible.
    They've been able to do that so far this year, despite the new health care reform law, by shifting many policyholders into plans that force them to spend more from their own pockets before coverage kicks in. Insurance firms also fatten their bottom lines by denying more claims.
- Increasing Calls for Iraq War Probe of Bush Administration
    In his just published memoirs, The Age of Deception, former chief United Nations nuclear inspector Mohamed ElBaradei asks that George W. Bush and officials in his administration face international criminal investigation for the war in Iraq. One thing he learned from the Iraq war, he says, is that deliberate deception is not limited to small countries ruled by ruthless dictators.
- Republican Paul Ryan's "Spinal Tap" Tour Packs the Halls, But The Crowds Aren't Cheering
    When Ryan claimed that taxes needed to be cut for corporations and the wealthy in order to create jobs, he was greeted with a collective groan from hundreds of workers in a town that just lost a major auto factory. One man yelled: “We’ve been cutting their taxes for 30 years and what did it get us? Outsourcing and layoff notices.”

Justice or Vengeance?
In the midst of the Arab Spring, which directly rejects al-Qaeda-style small-group violence in favor of mass-based, society-wide mobilization and non-violent protest to challenge dictatorship and corruption, does the killing of Osama bin Laden represent ultimate justice, or even an end to the "unfinished business" of 9/11?
by Phyllis Bennis
Published on Monday, May 2, 2011 by OtherWords

AMMAN, Jordan — U.S. agents killed Osama bin Laden in Pakistan, apparently without cooperation from the government in Islamabad. The al-Qaeda leader was responsible for great suffering; I do not mourn his death. But every action has causes and consequences, and in the current moment all are dangerous. It's unlikely that bin Laden's killing will have much impact on the already weakened capacity of al-Qaeda, which is widely believed to be made up of only a couple hundred fighters between Afghanistan and Pakistan — though its effect on other terrorist forces is uncertain. Pakistan itself may pay a particularly high price.

As President Barack Obama described it, "After a firefight, they killed Osama bin Laden." Assuming that was indeed the case, this raid reflects the brutal reality of the deadly wars in Afghanistan and Iraq that preceded it and that continue today, 10 years later — it wasn't about bringing anyone to justice, it was about vengeance.

And given the enormous human costs still being paid by Afghans, Iraqis, Pakistanis, and others in the U.S. wars waged in the name of capturing bin Laden, it's particularly ironic that in the end it wasn't the shock-and-awe airstrikes or invasions of ground troops, but rather painstaking police work — careful investigation, cultivating intelligence sources — that made possible the realization of that goal.
President Obama acknowledged that the post-9/11 unity of the people of the United States "has at times frayed." But he didn't mention that that unity had actually collapsed completely within 24 hours of the horrifying attacks on the twin towers. September 11, 2001 didn't "change the world;" the world was changed on September 12, when George W. Bush announced his intention to take the world to war in response. That was the moment that the actual events of 9/11, a crime against humanity that killed nearly 3,000 people, were left behind and the "global war on terror" began. That GWOT war has brought years of war, devastation and destruction to hundreds of thousands around the world, in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and beyond.

There was an unprecedented surge of unity, of human solidarity, in response to the crime of 9/11. In the United States much of that response immediately took on a jingoistic and xenophobic frame (some of which showed up again last night in the aggressive chants of "USA, USA!!" from flag-waving, cheering crowds outside the White House following President Obama's speech). Some of it was overtly militaristic, racist and Islamophobic. But some really did reflect a level of human unity unexpected and rare in U.S. history. Even internationally, solidarity with the U.S. people for a brief moment replaced the well-deserved global anger at U.S. arrogance, wars, and drive towards empire. In France, headlines proclaimed "nous sommes tous Américaines maintenant." We are all Americans now.

But that human solidarity was short-lived. It was destroyed by the illegal wars that shaped the U.S. response to the 9/11 crime. Those wars quickly created numbers of victims far surpassing the 3,000 killed on September 11. The lives of millions more around the world were transformed in the face of U.S. aggression — in Pakistan alone, where a U.S. military team assassinated bin Laden, thousands of people have been killed and maimed by U.S. drone strikes and the suicide bombs that are part of the continuing legacy of the U.S. war.

These wars have brought too much death and destruction. Too many people have died and too many children have been orphaned for the United States to claim, as President Obama's triumphantly did, that "justice has been done" because one man, however symbolically important, has been killed. However one calculates when and how "this fight" actually began, the U.S. government chose how to respond to 9/11. And that response, from the beginning, was one of war and vengeance — not of justice.

The president's speech last night could have aimed to put an end to the triumphalism of the "global war on terror" that George W. Bush began and Barack Obama claimed as his own. It could have announced a new U.S. foreign policy based on justice, equality, and respect for other nations. But it did not. It declared instead that the U.S. war in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, and beyond will continue.
In that reaffirmation of war, President Obama reasserted the American exceptionalism that has been a hallmark of his recent speeches, claiming that "America can do whatever we set our mind to." He equated the U.S. ability and willingness to continue waging ferocious wars, with earlier accomplishments of the U.S. — including, without any trace of irony, the "struggle for equality for all our citizens." In President Obama's iteration, the Global War on Terror apparently equals the anti-slavery and civil rights movements.

Today, the Arab Spring is on the rise across the Middle East and North Africa. It's ineffably sad that President Obama, in his claim that bin Laden's death means justice, didn't use the opportunity to announce the end of the deadly U.S. wars that answered the attacks of 9/11. This could have been a moment to replace vengeance with cooperation, replace war with justice.

But it was not. Regardless of bin Laden's death, as long as those deadly U.S. wars continue in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, and beyond, justice has not been done.