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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.