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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.