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This is the blog for Sean Brennan and London After Midnight. For more information please see the LAM website at londonaftermidnight.com.

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Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Study: Conservatives and Bigots are Idiots • The Muppets • Iran and the War the US Wants • Poverty • Smiling Gorillas • Religious Republican Bigots • more

- Miss Piggy: Fox News Is Not News video
    Last month, Eric Bolling did a segment on his Fox Business show warning his audience about the dangerous liberal messages allegedly embedded in the new Muppets movie. A graphic shown during the segment asked, "Are Liberals Trying To Brainwash Your Kids Against Capitalism?":
    This resulted in widespread mockery of Fox. Bolling followed up with a series of embarrassing responses -- including challenging Kermit the Frog and Miss Piggy to a debate.Now, the Muppets have weighed in.
- Sanctions can only deepen the Iran crisis
    The way in which the growing confrontation with Iran is being sold by the US, Israel and West European leaders is deeply dishonest. The manipulation of the media and public opinion through systematic threat exaggeration is similar to the drum beat of propaganda and disinformation about Iraq's non-existent weapons of mass destruction that preceded the invasion in 2003.The supposed aim of imposing sanctions on Iran's oil exports and central bank, measures officially joined by the EU, is to force Iran to abandon its nuclear programme before it reaches the point where it could theoretically build a nuclear bomb. Even Israel now agrees that Iran has not yet decided to do so, but the Iranian nuclear programme is still being presented as a danger to Israel and the rest of the world.There are two other menacing parallels between the run-up to the Iraq war and what is happening now. The purported issue is the future of the Iranian nuclear programme, but, for part of the coalition mustering against Iran, the real purpose is the overthrow of the Iranian government....
    In reality, sanctions are likely to intensify the crisis, impoverish ordinary Iranians and psychologically prepare the ground for war because of the demonisation of Iran. The problem is that Israel and its right-wing American allies are more interested in regime change than Tehran's nuclear programme.
- Immobility Nation: The Fable of the 'Land of Opportunity'
    For most people facing poverty today in the United States, the concept of America as the land of opportunity is just a fable.Mazumder, the director of the Chicago Census Research Data Center, concludes that it would take an average of five generations for a family's offspring to rise from low income to middle income.This doesn't mean that all of a poor family's descendants will be poor for six generations, but it does illustrate just how slowly family incomes change in America.

    It wasn't always this way. Time was when opportunities for advancement in America were expanding, not contracting.Another study from the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago shows that intergenerational mobility increased continuously from 1940 to 1980. Only then did it start to fall.

    By 2000 (the final year of the study covered), mobility in America was lower than where it had started in 1940.
- Gorillas grin 'to reassure friends'
    Gorillas bare their teeth in a playful "grin" to reassure one another during play, scientists have discovered.
    This "flash of teeth" seems to let their playmate know that they do not intend to harm them.

    The researchers, from the University of Portsmouth, study the facial expressions of primates to uncover the evolutionary origins of human smiling and laughter.
- Gingrich Wants A Government That Respects ‘Our Religion,’ Not ‘Every Other Religion’ with video
    As TP’s Igor Volsky pointed out today, Newt Gingrich has been accusing President Obama of perpetrating a “war on religion,” saying the president has made it more difficult for people of faith to practice their beliefs. But at a campaign stop in Florida this afternoon, Gingrich made that not all religions are created equally:

      GINGRICH: Now, I think we need to have a government that respects our religions. I’m a little bit tired about respecting every religion on the planet. I’d like them to respect our religion.
- Gingrich, Purposely Tries to Hinder Progress
    "There is the assumption—pioneered by Newt Gingrich himself, as early as the 1970s—that the minority wins when Congress accomplishes less"...
- Feds list First Nations, green groups as 'adversaries' in oil sands PR strategy
    The federal government is distancing itself from its own lobbying and public relations campaign to polish the image of Alberta's oil sands, following revelations that an internal strategy document labelled First Nations and environmentalists as "adversaries," while describing the National Energy Board, an independent industry regulator, as an "ally."


Low IQ & Conservative Beliefs Linked to Prejudice
Stephanie Pappas, LiveScience Senior Writer
Published on LiveScience.com 26 January 2012

There's no gentle way to put it: People who give in to racism and prejudice may simply be dumb, according to a new study that is bound to stir public controversy.

The research finds that children with low intelligence are more likely to hold prejudiced attitudes as adults. These findings point to a vicious cycle, according to lead researcher Gordon Hodson, a psychologist at Brock University in Ontario. Low-intelligence adults tend to gravitate toward socially conservative ideologies, the study found. Those ideologies, in turn, stress hierarchy and resistance to change, attitudes that can contribute to prejudice, Hodson wrote in an email to LiveScience.

"Prejudice is extremely complex and multifaceted, making it critical that any factors contributing to bias are uncovered and understood," he said.

Controversy ahead
The findings combine three hot-button topics.

"They've pulled off the trifecta of controversial topics," said Brian Nosek, a social and cognitive psychologist at the University of Virginia who was not involved in the study. "When one selects intelligence, political ideology and racism and looks at any of the relationships between those three variables, it's bound to upset somebody."

Polling data and social and political science research do show that prejudice is more common in those who hold right-wing ideals that those of other political persuasions, Nosek told LiveScience. [7 Thoughts That Are Bad For You]

"The unique contribution here is trying to make some progress on the most challenging aspect of this," Nosek said, referring to the new study. "It's not that a relationship like that exists, but why it exists."

Brains and bias
Earlier studies have found links between low levels of education and higher levels of prejudice, Hodson said, so studying intelligence seemed a logical next step. The researchers turned to two studies of citizens in the United Kingdom, one that has followed babies since their births in March 1958, and another that did the same for babies born in April 1970. The children in the studies had their intelligence assessed at age 10 or 11; as adults ages 30 or 33, their levels of social conservatism and racism were measured. [Life's Extremes: Democrat vs. Republican]

In the first study, verbal and nonverbal intelligence was measured using tests that asked people to find similarities and differences between words, shapes and symbols. The second study measured cognitive abilities in four ways, including number recall, shape-drawing tasks, defining words and identifying patterns and similarities among words. Average IQ is set at 100.
Social conservatives were defined as people who agreed with a laundry list of statements such as "Family life suffers if mum is working full-time," and "Schools should teach children to obey authority." Attitudes toward other races were captured by measuring agreement with statements such as "I wouldn't mind working with people from other races." (These questions measured overt prejudiced attitudes, but most people, no matter how egalitarian, do hold unconscious racial biases; Hodson's work can't speak to this "underground" racism.)

As suspected, low intelligence in childhood corresponded with racism in adulthood. But the factor that explained the relationship between these two variables was political: When researchers included social conservatism in the analysis, those ideologies accounted for much of the link between brains and bias.

People with lower cognitive abilities also had less contact with people of other races.
"This finding is consistent with recent research demonstrating that intergroup contact is mentally challenging and cognitively draining, and consistent with findings that contact reduces prejudice," said Hodson, who along with his colleagues published these results online Jan. 5 in the journal Psychological Science.

A study of averages
Hodson was quick to note that the despite the link found between low intelligence and social conservatism, the researchers aren't implying that all liberals are brilliant and all conservatives stupid. The research is a study of averages over large groups, he said.

"There are multiple examples of very bright conservatives and not-so-bright liberals, and many examples of very principled conservatives and very intolerant liberals," Hodson said.
Nosek gave another example to illustrate the dangers of taking the findings too literally.
"We can say definitively men are taller than women on average," he said. "But you can't say if you take a random man and you take a random woman that the man is going to be taller. There's plenty of overlap."

Nonetheless, there is reason to believe that strict right-wing ideology might appeal to those who have trouble grasping the complexity of the world.

"Socially conservative ideologies tend to offer structure and order," Hodson said, explaining why these beliefs might draw those with low intelligence. "Unfortunately, many of these features can also contribute to prejudice."

In another study, this one in the United States, Hodson and Busseri compared 254 people with the same amount of education but different levels of ability in abstract reasoning. They found that what applies to racism may also apply to homophobia. People who were poorer at abstract reasoning were more likely to exhibit prejudice against gays. As in the U.K. citizens, a lack of contact with gays and more acceptance of right-wing authoritarianism explained the link. [5 Myths About Gay People Debunked]

Simple viewpoints
Hodson and Busseri's explanation of their findings is reasonable, Nosek said, but it is correlational. That means the researchers didn't conclusively prove that the low intelligence caused the later prejudice. To do that, you'd have to somehow randomly assign otherwise identical people to be smart or dumb, liberal or conservative. Those sorts of studies obviously aren't possible.

The researchers controlled for factors such as education and socioeconomic status, making their case stronger, Nosek said. But there are other possible explanations that fit the data. For example, Nosek said, a study of left-wing liberals with stereotypically naïve views like "every kid is a genius in his or her own way," might find that people who hold these attitudes are also less bright. In other words, it might not be a particular ideology that is linked to stupidity, but extremist views in general.

"My speculation is that it's not as simple as their model presents it," Nosek said. "I think that lower cognitive capacity can lead to multiple simple ways to represent the world, and one of those can be embodied in a right-wing ideology where 'People I don't know are threats' and 'The world is a dangerous place'. ... Another simple way would be to just assume everybody is wonderful."

Prejudice is of particular interest because understanding the roots of racism and bias could help eliminate them, Hodson said. For example, he said, many anti-prejudice programs encourage participants to see things from another group's point of view. That mental exercise may be too taxing for people of low IQ.

"There may be cognitive limits in the ability to take the perspective of others, particularly foreigners," Hodson said. "Much of the present research literature suggests that our prejudices are primarily emotional in origin rather than cognitive. These two pieces of information suggest that it might be particularly fruitful for researchers to consider strategies to change feelings toward outgroups," rather than thoughts.

Sean

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

State of the Union Responses • Republican Racism • USA Ranks 47th in Free Press • Marines Who Murdered Civilians Walk Free • Climate Change • Vegan for a Day • more

- "He Says One Thing and Does Another": Ralph Nader Responds to Obama’s State of the Union Address
    Responding to President Obama’s State of the Union address, longtime consumer advocate and former presidential candidate Ralph Nader says Obama’s criticism of income inequality and Wall Street excess fail to live up to his record in office. "[Obama] says one thing and does another," Nader says. "Where has he been for over three years? He’s had the Justice Department. There are existing laws that could prosecute and convict Wall Street crooks. He hasn’t sent more than one or two to jail." On foreign policy, Nader says, "I think his lawless militarism, that started the speech and ended the speech, was truly astonishing. [Obama] was very committed to projecting the American empire"
- The Republican's Racism
    Today it seems as though Republicans who might be put off by racist rhetoric are in short supply, as though the presence of a black president has left them blind to their own sophism. No candidate’s polling numbers nose-dived after his [racist] remarks; there was precious little in the way of mainstream media frenzy—as recently as 2006, George Allen’s “Macaca moment” cost him his Senate seat. There is no parsing these statements. They are what they are. We are back to the days when conservatives feel comfortable calling a spade a spade. Some commentators have described it as a dog whistle: a call set to a tone that rallies some without disturbing others—a special frequency for the inducted. But this is no dog whistle. This is Wing Commander Gibson taking his mutt for a walk and calling him loudly and fondly by name ["Nigger"].
- Press Freedom Index 2011-2012
    The United States (47th) also owed its fall of 27 places to the many arrests of journalist covering Occupy Wall Street protests.
- Haditha residents outraged as Marine avoids jail
    Haditha residents and relatives of the 24 Iraqi civilians killed in 2005 in the town by US troops voiced disgust and shock over the light sentence meted out to a soldier involved in the massacre.
- Climate change skepticism seeps into science classrooms
    Some states have introduced [right-wing] education standards requiring teachers to defend the denial of man-made global warming. A national watchdog group says it will start monitoring classrooms.
- The Startling Effects of Going Vegetarian for Just One Day
    If everyone went vegetarian just for one day, the U.S. would save:
    — 100 billion gallons of water, enough to supply all the homes in New England for almost 4 months;
    — 1.5 billion pounds of crops otherwise fed to livestock, enough to feed the state of New Mexico for more than a year;
    — 70 million gallons of gas -- enough to fuel all the cars of Canada and Mexico combined with plenty to spare;
    — 3 million acres of land, an area more than twice the size of Delaware;
    — 33 tons of antibiotics.
    If everyone went vegetarian just for one day, the U.S. would prevent:
    — Greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to 1.2 million tons of CO2, as much as produced by all of France;
    — 3 million tons of soil erosion and $70 million in resulting economic damages;
    — 4.5 million tons of animal excrement;
    — Almost 7 tons of ammonia emissions, a major air pollutant.
    My favorite statistic is this: According to Environmental Defense, if every American skipped one meal of chicken per week and substituted vegetarian foods instead, the carbon dioxide savings would be the same as taking more than half a million cars off of U.S. roads. See how easy it is to make an impact?
- Mitt Romney pays lower taxes than average American
    [Republican presidential candidate] Mitt Romney paid taxes on his multimillion-dollar income at a rate far below that of the average American, his tax returns reveal.
- Rules of American justice: a tale of three cases
    What’s most notable here is that this is now the sixth prosecution by the Obama administration of an accused leaker, and all six have been charged under the draconian, World-War-I era Espionage Act. As EFF’s Trevor Timm put it yesterday: this is the “6th time under Obama someone is charged with Espionage for leaking to a journalist. Before Obama: only 3 cases in history.” This is all accomplished by characterizing disclosures in American newspapers about America’s wrongdoing as “aiding the enemy” (the alleged enemy being informed is Al Qaeda, but the actual concern is that the American people learn what their government is doing).

State of the Union: Will the US be saved by its military?
Obama's praise for the American military complex is misleading and potentially dangerous, writes the author.
by Mark LeVine
Published Jan 25 2012 on Al Jazeera

Irvine, CA - How do you judge a State of the Union speech that begins with a lie?
There was any number of anecdotes or stories with which President Obama could have begun his talk to the nation. But he decided to begin with the most overused trick in any leader's rhetorical arsenal - to celebrate the military.

"We gather tonight knowing that this generation of heroes has made the United States safer and more respected around the world."

Does the President really believe that the United States is more respected around the world because of its military activities? Did no one point out to him that the morning of his speech, the marine sergeant who led the 2005 assault on Haditha that killed 24 Iraqi civilians received no jail time for his action, same as the seven other American soldiers who were part of the raid? As the LA Times reported in the wake of the decision, "The lack of trial convictions in the Haditha case is likely to further inflame anti-US sentiment in Iraq, as well as fuel criticism by some legal analysts of the 6-year-long investigation and prosecution."

We can thank Obama for completing the withdrawal of most troops from Iraq - he carefully said that there were no troops "fighting in Iraq", but there are still thousands of Americans there, training Iraqis and otherwise engaged in security-related activities. But where is the apology for a war he owes his rise to power on condemning?

It's true the President was speaking to an American audience in an election year, but if there was ever a time to take stock of American actions and own up to the "blood and treasure" - not just American, but much more Iraqi - that was lost on an illegal war that permanently damaged the US' position and respect in the world, this was it.

Saviour of the nation?


The army as saviour of the nation. A claim that would sound familiar to most Egyptians. In fact, in both countries the military - or rather the conglomeration of forces tying the military to leading economic actors with whom they disproportionately control their country's political and economic life - is perhaps the single most important factor responsible for the lack of democratic accountability or sustainable and broadly distributed economic growth.

Egypt's young revolutionaries have risked arrest, torture and death to force the army "back to the barracks". But in the US, the uncritical celebration of the military is so strong that it clouds over its role in draining a huge share of the country's economic lifeblood away from areas where it's desperately needed or in fomenting precisely the kinds of wars and violence that have permanently eroded the view of the US around the world. How Egypt's generals must envy the ease with which their American comrades ensure their continued grip on a huge share of the country's power and wealth.

"Egypt's young revolutionaries have risked arrest, torture and death to force the army 'back to the barracks'. But in the US, the uncritical celebration of the military is so strong that it clouds over its role in draining a huge share of the country's economic lifeblood."
Sure, a State of the Union address, with the entire military leadership staring at you from the floor of the Congress, is not the easiest place for a President to speak truth to power. But at least he doesn't have to provide even more cover for an institution that already holds far too much sway over the country's politics and plays a crucial role in perpetuating the growing inequality that the President listed as among the most pressing problems facing the United States.

And yet, rather than at least beginning to talk about the need to build a post-military society, President Obama declared that "at a time when too many of our institutions have let us down, they exceed all expectations. They're not consumed with personal ambition. They don't obsess over their differences. They focus on the mission at hand. They work together."

"Imagine what we could accomplish if we followed their example."

Yes, imagine - a country that takes hundreds of thousands of its young men and women, puts them in harm's way for the benefit of a small elite, doesn't provide them with an economy that can absorb them when they've completed their service, doesn't provide them with adequate healthcare, doesn't deal with the emotional and physical costs of the violence it asks them to unleash and suffer, and thinks not a whit about the people on whom that violence is exercised.

Imagine if the US as a whole behaved even more like its military. Or, moving to the seemingly opposite end of the spectrum, think if American corporations all followed the example of Apple, today among the most profitable and powerful corporations in the world, which even as its profits have soared has squeezed its suppliers to charge even less for the products and labour they provide, and in so doing ensure that hundreds of thousands of poor workers in China continue to work for ludicrously low wages in suicide-inducing jobs all so that more Americans can buy iPhones or iPads for $5 less than they'd otherwise pay.

Whether it's the Pentagon, Cupertino (Apple's headquarters), or Wall Street, this kind of rapacious and often mafia-like capitalism is precisely what created, in Obama's words, the "house of cards" that "collapsed" in 2008.
Moreover, the military in particular is characterised by the "outsourcing, bad debt and phony financial profits" (in the form of exorbitant and wasteful expenditures that funnel tens of billions of dollars to defence contractors for weapons and services the US doesn't need in the first place) that the President blames for ruining the American economy.

Finding another role model


This is not to say that President Obama has not outlined many worthy goals in the State of the Union, from developing clean energy to making college educations more affordable and prosecuting financial crimes more aggressively. But the reality is that if he hopes to build a fairer, more just, equalitarian, sustainable and healthy society, the military is just about the worst model the President could follow.

Whether in Caesar's day or our own, militaries do three things well - they kill large numbers of people, including (and often disproportionately) civilians; they arrogate an ever-increasing share of a society's wealth to themselves and their allies; and they weaken the dynamics of accountability between rulers and ruled without which democracy cannot survive.

"If Obama can't talk openly to the American people about the reality of its military's role in the world, there is almost no chance he'll be able to shepherd the kind of transofmration in the US' political economy that he outlined."
If Obama can't talk openly to the American people about the reality of its military's role in the world, both historically and today, there is almost no chance he'll be able to shepherd the kind of transformation in the US' political economy that he outlined, because the military has always been intimately tied to the worst excesses of capitalism and nationalism that produced precisely the collapse from which the US has yet to recover.

The reality is that the society Obama hopes to build cannot come into being without a major transformation in the role and power of its armed forces and security establishment. And if his State of the Union speech is any guide, it seems that, tragically, the President is not up to the job. And judging by the response his speech has received, it seems neither is anyone else.

Sean

Monday, January 16, 2012

Martin Luther King Jr

- The Martin Luther King You Don't See on TV
    The remarkable thing about this annual review of King's life is that several years — his last years — are totally missing, as if flushed down a memory hole.

    Why? It's because national news media have never come to terms with what Martin Luther King Jr. stood for during his final years.

    But after passage of civil rights acts in 1964 and 1965, King began challenging the nation's fundamental priorities. He maintained that civil rights laws were empty without "human rights" — including economic rights. For people too poor to eat at a restaurant or afford a decent home, King said, anti-discrimination laws were hollow.

    By 1967, King had also become the country's most prominent opponent of the Vietnam War, and a staunch critic of overall U.S. foreign policy, which he deemed militaristic. In his "Beyond Vietnam" speech delivered at New York's Riverside Church on April 4, 1967 — a year to the day before he was murdered — King called the United States "the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today."

    From Vietnam to South Africa to Latin America, King said, the U.S. was "on the wrong side of a world revolution." King questioned "our alliance with the landed gentry of Latin America," and asked why the U.S. was suppressing revolutions "of the shirtless and barefoot people" in the Third World, instead of supporting them.

    In foreign policy, King also offered an economic critique, complaining about "capitalists of the West investing huge sums of money in Asia, Africa and South America, only to take the profits out with no concern for the social betterment of the countries."


A vegan lifestyle honors Martin Luther King, Jr.

by Virginia Messina
Published Jan 16 2012 at examiner.com

In 1843, Bronson Alcott, father of Little Women author Louisa May Alcott, moved his family to a country farm and set out to build a utopian community. Alcott was an avid anti-slavery abolitionist and a vegan. The family wore only linen because cotton was the product of human slavery and wool was stolen from sheep.

The experiment was a dismal failure, later parodied in Louisa’s novelette Transcendental Wild Oats. But Bronson Alcott is remembered by many as one who recognized the wide scope of injustice in his world. It made no sense to him to campaign against human slavery while consuming the meat or milk of enslaved animals.

Alcott was just one of the scores of people who have spoken out in big and small ways against injustice over the centuries. And today we honor a man whose voice for justice was the most courageous and insightful of the 20th century.

We can’t help but wonder: Would the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. have become a vegan at some point in his life? It’s certainly conceivable that he would have. His son Dexter Scott King, who is president of the Martin Luther King Jr. Center for Non-violent Social Change, has been vegan for more than 20 years. He once said that vegetarianism is the logical extension of his father’s philosophy regarding non-violence. Coretta Scott King, a tireless activist for social justice, was also a vegan for more than ten years before her death in 2006.

If his wife and son saw the link between animal foods and violence, it’s not hard to imagine that Dr. King would have perceived this connection as well. Writing from the Birmingham jail in 1963, he said “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

On the King Center website, Coretta Scott King wrote that, while we remember Dr. King himself today, it is also a day that commemorates “the timeless values he taught us through his example—the values of courage, truth, justice, compassion, dignity, humility and service…”

A commitment to veganism honors the principles that were at the core of Dr. King’s work.

Sean

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Selling the Next War- Iran • Matt Damon on Obama • US Military Massacres • Creating Terrorism • Iraqis Say They are Worse Off After War • Bradley Manning • Ron Paul the Racist • Libertarianism is a Fraud • Climate Change • Mitt Romney and War • more

- Iran and the Terrorism game By Glenn Greenwald
    In the few venues which yesterday denounced as “Terrorism” the ongoing assassinations of Iranian scientists, there was intense backlash against the invocation of that term. That always happens whenever “Terrorism” is applied to acts likely undertaken by Israel, the U.S. or its allies — rather than its traditional use: violence by Muslims against the U.S. and its allies — because accusing Israel and/or the U.S. of Terrorism remains one of the greatest political taboos (even when the acts in question involve not only assassinations but also explosions which kill numerous victims whose identities could not have been known in advance).
- Courage in high places in short supply
    Look at the President, Barrack Obama, who rode the demand for change into the White House and then neutered his own promises while never encountering a demoralising compromise he wouldn't embrace for political purposes. And what about the Supreme Court - they will show you why we have reverted to corporations ruling the land. Will they bring back formal slavery next? It’s already returned to the economy in the form of debtor prisons.
- Matt Damon Slams Obama, Democrats: 'One Term President With Some Balls Would Have Been Better'
    "I've talked to a lot of people who worked for Obama at the grassroots level. One of them said to me, 'Never again. I will never be fooled again by a politician,'" Damon tells the magazine. "You know, a one-term president with some balls who actually got stuff done would have been, in the long run of the country, much better."Referring to the Occupy Wall Street movement, Damon continued: "If the Democrats think that they didn't have a mandate -- people are literally without any focus or leadership, just wandering out into the streets to yell right now because they are so pissed off ... Imagine if they had a leader."
- Politics Over Principle
    The trauma of Sept. 11, 2001, gave rise to a dangerous myth that, to be safe, America had to give up basic rights and restructure its legal system. The United States was now in a perpetual state of war, the argument went, and the criminal approach to fighting terrorism — and the due process that goes along with it — wasn’t tough enough. President George W. Bush used this insidious formula to claim that his office had the inherent power to detain anyone he chose, for as long as he chose, without a trial; to authorize the torture of prisoners; and to spy on Americans without a warrant. President Obama came into office pledging his dedication to the rule of law and to reversing the Bush-era policies. He has fallen far short.

    Mr. Obama refused to entertain any investigation of the abuses of power under his predecessor, and he has been far too willing to adopt Mr. Bush’s extravagant claims of national secrets to prevent any courthouse accountability for those abuses. This week, he is poised to sign into law terrible new measures that will make indefinite detention and military trials a permanent part of American law.
- Video Brings Accusations of War Crimes: Marines Urinating on Corpses
    A video posted online Wednesday shows four U.S. Marines urinating on three corpses in Afghanistan.... If verified, the marines could face war crimes charges.
- Junkyard Gives Up Secret Accounts of Massacre in Iraq
    The documents — many marked secret — form part of the military’s internal investigation, and confirm much of what happened at Haditha, a Euphrates River town where Marines killed 24 Iraqis, including a 76-year-old man in a wheelchair, women and children, some just toddlers.
    Haditha became a defining moment of the war, helping cement an enduring Iraqi distrust of the United States and a resentment that not one Marine has been convicted.
- POLL: Iraqis Say They’re Worse Off After War, View Iran Unfavorably
    Iraqis, overall, feel that their country is “worse off” because of the U.S.-led war there...So, if not themselves, who do Iraqis think became better situated vis-à-vis their country?   
      When asked who benefited the most from the war in Iraq, Iraqis most frequently point to Iran (54%), the United States (48%), and Iraqi elites (40%). Additionally, more than one-quarter of Iraqis see al-Qaeda as a chief beneficiary of the war. Only 4% think the Iraqi people benefited the most from the war.
    Majorities in five of the six other countries surveyed — “Egypt (88%), Lebanon (86%), Tunisia (81%), Jordan (66%), Saudi Arabia (58%), and Iran (50%)” — agreed with the plurality of Iraqis who saw the U.S. benefiting the most, with nearly half (47%) of respondents from the United Arab Emirates sharing this view.
- The Forgotten Wages of War
    More than 10 years after the war in Afghanistan began, we have only the sketchiest notion of how many people have died as a consequence of the conflict. The United Nations office in Kabul assembles some figures from morgues and other sources, but they are incomplete. The same has been true for Iraq, although a number of independent efforts have been made there to account for the dead.
    But such numbers, which run into the hundreds of thousands, gain scant attention. American political and military leaders, like the public, show little interest in non-American casualties.
- Fallujah residents blame US for birth defects Al Jazeera news video
    The United States has fully withdrawn all combats troops from Iraq, ending its occupation after nearly nine years. The chemical effects of US bombardments, however, continue to harm people living in some areas of Iraq.
- Western oil firms remain as US exits Iraq
    While the US military has formally ended its occupation of Iraq, some of the largest western oil companies, ExxonMobil, BP and Shell, remain.
- US drone strikes in Pakistan claiming many civilian victims [and creating MORE anti-American sentiment]
    For the past three years, Noor Behram has hurried to the site of drone strikes in his native Waziristan. His purpose: to photograph and document the impact of missiles controlled by a joystick thousands of miles away, on US air force bases in Nevada and elsewhere. The drones are America's only weapon for hunting al-Qaida and the Taliban in what is supposed to be the most dangerous place in the world.
- Why US soldier Bradley Manning is my Man of the Year
    If US soldier Bradley Manning had committed war crimes rather that exposing them, he wouldn't be in so much bother.
    He might even be hailed as an American hero. Instead, he's held at a Marine Corps prison in Virginia, facing 22 charges, including aiding the enemy and violating the US Espionage Act.

    Manning is the private who leaked sheaves of classified material to WikiLeaks while working as an army intelligence analyst in Iraq.

    The information included documents revealing details of crimes committed by US soldiers in Iraq and State Department cables showing that, far from promoting peace and democracy in the world, the Bush and Obama administrations, when it suited their interests, encouraged war and supported dictatorship.
- Ron Paul’s flaws show up in the fish bowl
    Paul may be the most entertainingly embarrassing candidate to receive airtime since George Wallace in 1968. Like Wallace, Paul’s base consists of millions of disaffected whites who see Paul as their savior.Apparently, many of his supporters are not offended by the file-cabinet load of ridiculous statements published in the Ron Paul Political Report. These include saying that 95 percent of black Washingtonians were criminally inclined, referring to Martin Luther King Jr. as a pedophile and the national holiday honoring him as “The Hate Whitey Day” and calling the great Congresswoman Barbara Jordan a “half-educated victimologist.”His first inclination was to say that things had been taken out of context. In what context could any of this sound even remotely intelligent, factual and above reproach?
- This Bastardized Libertarianism Makes 'Freedom' an Instrument of Oppression
    Freedom: who could object? Yet this word is now used to justify a thousand forms of exploitation. Throughout the right-wing press and blogosphere, among thinktanks and governments, the word excuses every assault on the lives of the poor, every form of inequality and intrusion to which the 1% subject us. How did libertarianism, once a noble impulse, become synonymous with injustice?
    In the name of freedom – freedom from regulation – the banks were permitted to wreck the economy. In the name of freedom, taxes for the super-rich are cut. In the name of freedom, companies lobby to drop the minimum wage and raise working hours. In the same cause, US insurers lobby Congress to thwart effective public healthcare; the government rips up our planning laws; big business trashes the biosphere. This is the freedom of the powerful to exploit the weak, the rich to exploit the poor.

    Right-wing libertarianism recognizes few legitimate constraints on the power to act, regardless of the impact on the lives of others. In the UK it is forcefully promoted by groups like the TaxPayers' Alliance, the Adam Smith Institute, the Institute of Economic Affairs, and Policy Exchange. Their concept of freedom looks to me like nothing but a justification for greed.

    Modern libertarianism is the disguise adopted by those who wish to exploit without restraint.
- Iraq War Officially Ends, Leaving Thousands Dead, Millions Displaced, Strong Contractor Presence
    Al Jazeera notes that "the withdrawal ends a war that left tens of thousands of Iraqis and nearly 4,500 American soldiers dead [true numbers are much higher], many more wounded, and 1.75 million Iraqis displaced, after the US-led invasion unleashed brutal sectarian killing."
    Yet is this a full withdrawal? And is the war really over?

    Spencer Ackerman observes that while Panetta may have signed the official order, this is not a finale to the US presence in Iraq.
- NASA: Climate Change May Flip 40% of Earth’s Major Ecosystems This Century
    “While warnings of melting glaciers, rising sea levels and other environmental changes are illustrative and important, ultimately, it’s the ecological consequences that matter most,” says John Bergengren from Caltech, who led the study.It is not just species that have slowly evolved around specific climatic values, the same goes for ecosystems.
- Floods, heat, migration: How extreme weather will transform cities
    The report, "Climate: Observations, projections and impacts," examined how climate change will modify the weather in 24 countries around the world.While findings vary from region to region, it forecasts an overall increase in this century of coastal and river floods, extreme weather events and a global temperature rise of between 3-5C, if emissions are left unchecked.

    According to climate change experts, cities from New York in the U.S. to Dhaka in Bangladesh are likely to be heavily affected.
- Texas Tops 10 States Ravaged by Extreme Weather in 2011
    Severe weather across much of the nation has raised the question of whether global warming has already begun to influence shorter-term weather patterns, and the specter of even more extreme years to come as global temperatures continue to rise. According to climate studies, the short answer is yes: the new climate environment created by global warming is more conducive to some extreme events, particularly heat waves and heavy precipitation events: these are now more likely to occur and be more intense when they do take place.
- Mitt Romney embraces the Neocons
    Mitt Romney's newfound relations with the neocons could spell disaster for the United States, as the war drums begin.
- Tar Sands Pipeline Critics Hit Back at 'Radical' Claims
    In an open letter on Monday, Canada's Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver railed against "radical" groups for trying to stop Enbridge's Northern Gateway pipeline, which would deliver tar sands oil from Alberta to Kitimat, British Columbia, for shipment to Asia.... John Bennett, Sierra Club Canada Executive Director, scoffed at the charges of radicalism.


Herding Americans to War with Iran
Published on Friday, January 13, 2012 by Consortiumnews.com
by Robert Parry


For many Americans the progression toward war with Iran has the feel of cattle being herded from the stockyard into the slaughterhouse, pressed steadily forward with no turning back, until some guy shoots a bolt into your head.

Any suggestion of give-and-take negotiations with Iran is mocked, while alarmist propaganda, a ratcheting up of sanctions, and provocative actions – like Wednesday’s assassination of yet another Iranian scientist – push Americans closer to what seems like an inevitable bloodletting.


Even the New York Times now acknowledges that Israel, with some help from the United States, appears to be conducting a covert war of sabotage and assassination inside Iran. “The campaign, which experts believe is being carried out mainly by Israel, apparently claimed its latest victim on Wednesday when a bomb killed a 32-year-old nuclear scientist in Tehran’s morning rush hour,” Times reporter Scott Shane wrote in Thursday’s editions.

Though U.S. officials emphatically denied any role in the murder, Israeli officials did little to discourage rumors of an Israeli hand in the bombing. Some even expressed approval. Brig. Gen. Yoav Mordechai said he didn’t know who killed the scientist but added: “I am definitely not shedding a tear.”

The latest victim, Mostafa Ahmadi Roshan, was the fifth scientist associated with Iran’s nuclear program to be killed in the past four years, with a sixth scientist narrowly escaping death in 2010, Fereydoon Abbasi, who is now head of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization.
As might be expected, Iran has denounced the murders as acts of terrorism. They have been accompanied by cyber-attacks on Iranian centrifuges and an explosion at a missile facility late last year killing a senior general and 16 others.

While this campaign has slowed Iran’s nuclear progress, it also appears to have hardened its resolve to continue work on a nuclear capability, which Iran says is for peaceful purposes only. Iranian authorities also have responded to tightening economic sanctions from Europe and the United States with threats of their own, such as warnings about closing the oil routes through the Strait of Hormuz and thus damaging the West’s economies.

Target: USA


Another front in Israel’s cold war against Iran appears to be the propaganda war being fought inside the United States, where the still-influential neoconservatives are deploying their extensive political and media resources to shut off possible routes toward a peaceful settlement, while building support for future military strikes against Iran.

Fitting with that propaganda strategy, the Washington Post’s editorial page, which is essentially the neocons’ media flagship, published a lead editorial on Wednesday urging harsher and harsher sanctions against Iran and ridiculing anyone who favored reduced tensions.

Noting Iran’s announcement that it had opened a better-protected uranium enrichment plant near Qom, the Post wrote: “In short, the new Fordow operation crosses another important line in Iran’s advance toward a nuclear weapons capability.

“Was it a red line for Israel or the United States? Apparently not, for the Obama administration at least. In a television interview Sunday, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said: ‘Our red line to Iran is: do not develop a nuclear weapon.’ He asserted that Tehran was not trying to develop a weapon now, only ‘a nuclear capability.’ The Revolutionary Guard, which controls the nuclear program, might well take that as a green light for the new enrichment operation.”

While portraying Panetta as an Iranian tool, the Post suggested that anyone who wanted to turn back from an Iran confrontation was an Iranian useful fool. The Post wrote:
“The recent flurry of Iranian threats has had the intended effect of prompting a new chorus of demands in Washington that the United States and its allies stop tightening sanctions and instead make another attempt at ‘engagement’ with the regime. The Ahmadinejad government itself reportedly has proposed new negotiations, and Turkey has stepped forward as a host.

“Almost certainly, any talks will reveal that Iran is unwilling to stop its nuclear activities or even to make significant concessions. But they may serve to stop or greatly delay a European oil embargo or the implementation of sanctions on the [Iranian] central bank — and buy time for the Fordow centrifuges to do their work.”

The Post’s recommended instead “that every effort must be made to intensify sanctions” and to stop Iranian sale of oil anywhere in the world. In other words, continue to ratchet up the tensions and cut off hopes for genuine negotiations.

A Vulnerable Obama


The escalating neocon demands for an ever-harder U.S. line against Iran — and Israel’s apparent campaign of killings and sabotage inside Iran — come at a time when President Barack Obama and some of his inner circle appear to be looking again for ways to defuse tensions. But the Post’s editorial – and similar neocon propaganda – have made clear that any move toward reconciliation will come with a high political price tag.

Already, a recurring Republican talking point is that Obama’s earlier efforts to open channels of negotiation with Iran and other foreign adversaries proved his naivete and amounted to “apologizing” for America. Obama also has faced resistance within his own administration, especially from neocon-lites such as Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

For instance, in spring 2010, a promising effort – led by Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Brazil’s then-President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva – got Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to agree to relinquish Iranian control of nearly half the country’s supply of low-enriched uranium in exchange for isotopes for medical research.

The Turkish-Brazilian initiative revived a plan first advanced by Obama in 2009 – and the effort had the President’s private encouragement. But after Ahmadinejad accepted the deal, Secretary Clinton and other U.S. hardliners switched into overdrive to kill the swap and insist instead on imposing harsher sanctions against Iran.

At the time, Clinton’s position was endorsed by editors at the Washington Post and the New York Times, who mocked Erdogan and Lula da Silva as inept understudies on the international stage. If anything, the Post and Times argued, the United States should take an even more belligerent approach toward Iran, i.e. seeking “regime change.” [See Consortiumnews.com’s “WPost, NYT Show Tough-Guy Swagger.”]

As Clinton undercut the uranium swap and pushed instead for a new round of United Nations’ sanctions, Lula da Silva released a private letter from Obama who had urged the Brazilians to press forward with the swap arrangement. However, with Washington’s political momentum favoring another confrontation with a Muslim adversary, Obama retreated and lined up behind the sanctions.

Over the next nearly two years, the sanctions have failed to stop Iran’s work on enriched uranium which it claims is needed for medical research. Israel, the neocons and other American hardliners have responded by demanding still more draconian sanctions, while promoting anti-Iran propaganda inside the United States and winking at the murder of Iranian scientists inside Iran.

In this U.S. election year, Israel and the neocons may understand that their political leverage on Obama is at its apex. So, if he again searches for openings to negotiate with Iran, he can expect the same kind of nasty disdain that the Washington Post heaped on Panetta on Wednesday.

The Carter-Begin Precedent


Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other Likud leaders appear to fear a second Obama term – when he’d be freed from the need to seek reelection – much as their predecessors feared a second term for President Jimmy Carter in 1980. Then, Prime Minister Menachem Begin thought that Carter in a second term would team up with Egyptian President Anwar Sadat in forcing Israel to accept a Palestinian state.

Begin’s alarm about that prospect was described by Israeli intelligence and foreign affairs official David Kimche in his 1991 book, The Last Option. Kimche wrote that Begin’s government believed that Carter was overly sympathetic to the Palestinians.

“Begin was being set up for diplomatic slaughter by the master butchers in Washington,” Kimche wrote. “They had, moreover, the apparent blessing of the two presidents, Carter and Sadat, for this bizarre and clumsy attempt at collusion designed to force Israel to abandon her refusal to withdraw from territories occupied in 1967, including Jerusalem, and to agree to the establishment of a Palestinian state.”

Extensive evidence now exists that Begin’s preference for Ronald Reagan led Israelis to join in a covert operation with Republicans to contact Iranian leaders behind Carter’s back and delay release of the 52 American hostages then being held in Iran until after Reagan defeated Carter in November 1980. [For details, see Robert Parry’s Secrecy & Privilege or Consortiumnews.com’s “The Back Story on Iran’s Clashes.”]

Today, Obama’s relationship with Netanyahu seems as strained as Carter’s relationship with Begin was three decades ago. And already many American neocons have signed up with Obama’s Republican rivals, including with GOP frontrunner Mitt Romney whose foreign policy white paper was written by prominent neocons.

So the question now is: Will the President of the United States take his place amid the herd of cattle getting steered into the slaughterhouse of another war?
Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories in the 1980s for the Associated Press and Newsweek. His latest book, Neck Deep: The Disastrous Presidency of George W. Bush, was written with two of his sons, Sam and Nat. His two previous books are Secrecy & Privilege: The Rise of the Bush Dynasty from Watergate to Iraq and Lost History: Contras, Cocaine, the Press & 'Project Truth'.

Sean

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

People Rarely Stop to Think Where Their "Meat" Comes From

Fake Butcher Shocks Supermarket Shoppers
Published at Peta.com
Written by Michelle Sherrow

As it turns out, people are genuinely taken by surprise when they find out where sausage meat comes from, as evidenced by this amusing Spanish video showing what happens when a fake butcher pretends to make sausage from scratch.

Sean (go vegan!)