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And, yes, I DO take it personally: 08/29/2010 - 09/05/2010
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Friday, September 03, 2010

Happy Labor Day, everybody...!

for all the working stiffs out there...

robert reich has a worthwhile opinion piece in today's nyt...

How to End the Great Recession

This promises to be the worst Labor Day in the memory of most Americans. Organized labor is down to about 7 percent of the private work force. Members of non-organized labor — most of the rest of us — are unemployed, underemployed or underwater. Friday’s jobs report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics will almost surely show fewer new jobs created in August than the 125,000 needed just to keep up with growth of the potential work force.

The national economy isn’t escaping the gravitational pull of the Great Recession. None of the standard booster rockets are working: near-zero short-term interest rates from the Fed, almost record-low borrowing costs in the bond market, a giant stimulus package and tax credits for small businesses that hire the long-term unemployed have all failed to do enough.

That’s because the real problem has to do with the structure of the economy, not the business cycle. No booster rocket can work unless consumers are able, at some point, to keep the economy moving on their own. But consumers no longer have the purchasing power to buy the goods and services they produce as workers; for some time now, their means haven’t kept up with what the growing economy could and should have been able to provide them.

This crisis began decades ago when a new wave of technology — things like satellite communications, container ships, computers and eventually the Internet — made it cheaper for American employers to use low-wage labor abroad or labor-replacing software here at home than to continue paying the typical worker a middle-class wage. Even though the American economy kept growing, hourly wages flattened. The median male worker earns less today, adjusted for inflation, than he did 30 years ago.


Now we’re left to deal with the underlying problem that we’ve avoided for decades. Even if nearly everyone was employed, the vast middle class still wouldn’t have enough money to buy what the economy is capable of producing.

Where have all the economic gains gone? Mostly to the top. The economists Emmanuel Saez and Thomas Piketty examined tax returns from 1913 to 2008. They discovered an interesting pattern. In the late 1970s, the richest 1 percent of American families took in about 9 percent of the nation’s total income; by 2007, the top 1 percent took in 23.5 percent of total income.

it's a long opinion piece but i would suggest reading it all... in the last half, reich sets out some very rational suggestions for real economic reform all of which, unfortunately in today's polarized climate, have about as much chance of being adopted as finding that proverbial pig with wings...

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BP blackmail

pure and simple...
BP Says Limits on Drilling Imperil Spill Payouts

BP is warning Congress that if lawmakers pass legislation
that bars the company from getting new offshore drilling
permits, it may not have the money to pay for all the damages
caused by its oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

The company says a ban would also imperil the ambitious Gulf
Coast restoration efforts that officials want the company to
voluntarily support.

their gall knows no bounds...

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Thursday, September 02, 2010

These people have a Ph.D in lying

very much in line with my own reactions at the despicable, implied declarations of "victory" in iraq, jeremy scahill and keith olbermann try offering up a little dose of reality...

if you don't watch it, you should know that they pull no punches...
Discussion centered around President Obama's address on the Iraq war and the ensuing criticism from neocons who complained Obama should've thanked and praised President George W. Bush for the 'success' of the surge in Iraq.

"These people have a Ph.D in lying and a master's degree in manipulating intelligence," Scahill says of the neocons, "And it is, it's really sobering to see this kind of brash historical revisionism happening in real time. The idea that these people want to post some kind of false flag of victory on the corpses of all who have died in Iraq because of their decisions. These people destabilized Iraq, they destabilized the Middle East, with their neo-con vision of redrawing maps, and they didn't even succeed in their own stated mission. This is a special kind of pathological sickness that these individuals are plagued with."

Scahill then begins to bust the 'surge' myth, "Pardon me for introducing a little bit of fact onto cable news over these 24 hours, but the reality is there was no success of the surge. The fact is that Bush's policy in Iraq caused massive destabilization, led to a civil war that killed upwards of a million Iraqis; there were ethnic cleansing campaigns. When the surge troops went in there, Baghdad was a walled-off city, the Sunnis had been pushed out and sided with the United States, Muqtada al Sadr responded to the announced timetable for withdrawal that the neocons so opposed by saying he considered it a truce with America and pulled his forces off the street... So, the entire surge myth permeates to this day, and its actually one big lie."

"Let's remember... that it was the Bush administration's policy in Iraq that created an al Qaeda presence in that country. It was their policies that destabilized that country and caused the deaths of so many Americans and so many Iraqi civilians. Stephen Hadley probably sees Osama bin Laden at his corner store or hiding in his bathroom somewhere, so... These people have ZERO credibility, and have no business in public life anymore." In conclusion the award-winning investigative journalist declares, "They shouldn't be able to leave their houses without being confronted with the death and destruction that their lives caused."

and these criminals are still walking around free...

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Our kleptocratic rulers know exactly what they are doing

i've said all along, there's nothing incompetent or unintentional about what's happening...

ismael hossein-zadeh in counterpunch via alternet...

[T]he kleptocratic rulers in the US, EU, and other debt-burdened countries know exactly what they are doing: to let the recession drag on, to take advantage of the crushing recession in order to extract “enough” concessions from the working people until welfare states are dismantled and labor costs in the more developed capitalist countries are made competitive with those of the less-developed countries. This explains why despite new signs of further global economic contraction, the reigning governments in these countries (whether they are nominally headed by Socialist, Social-Democratic, Labor, Democratic, Conservative or other parties) are maintaining their coordinated abstention from expansive or stimulating fiscal policies while continuing their brutal spending cuts on health, education, wages, pensions, and the like.

This is not to say that these governments do not want to have economic growth or job-creation—they do—but that they want them on their own (Neoliberal) terms, that is, through Neoliberal policies that would create jobs that would pay wages on a par with those of workers in less-developed countries. In other words, they prefer the kind of lopsided economic growth whose fruits would be reaped mostly by the wealthy—the so-called trickle-down or supply-side economic growth. As writer/reporter Patrick O’Connor points out, “In the US, Europe and other advanced capitalist economies, the aim is permanently reducing the living standards of working people.

It is not surprising then that, instead of calling for bold expansionary policies of growth promotion and job creation, US and European government heads, their economic policy makers and the collusive corporate media are frequently calling for “tolerance” and “endurance” in the face of economic hardship, exhorting the unemployed and economically distressed that they “need to be patient” because, as President Obama has occasionally put it, “the road to economic recovery does not follow a straight line,” and that “it's going to take some time to fix it." (The President made this statement on ABC News' "This Week with George Stephanopoulos." Mr. Stephanopoulos obligingly spared the President the obvious question: “why is it, Mr. President, that fixing the enormously expensive problem of Wall Street gamblers did not take much time, but reviving the economy and creating jobs, which would take only a fraction of the cost of the Wall Street bailout, would take a long time?”)

yes, mr. president... why IS it...?

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Tuesday, August 31, 2010

The Speech President Obama Should Give about the Iraq War (But Won’t)

an excellent, sobering and very sad piece by juan cole...

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Targeted killing

there's a lot of very disturbing stuff going on out there but i think targeted killing and extrajudicial assassinations are right at the top of the list...
This video from the American Civil Liberties Union condemns the U.S. government practice of issuing death sentences without due process as part of its targeted killing policy. "Targeted Killing" is being released to coincide with the filing today of an unprecedented lawsuit by the ACLU and the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) challenging the government's asserted authority to use lethal force against U.S. citizens located far from any battlefield without judicial process, and without disclosing the standards it uses to target individuals for death.

needless to say, glenn also has a few thoughts to ponder...

What I've found most disturbing about this controversy from the start is how many Americans are willing to blindly believe the Government's accusations of Terrorism against their fellow citizens -- provided they're Muslims with foreign-sounding names -- without needing to see any evidence at all. All government officials have to do is anonymously leak to the media extremely vague accusations against someone without any evidence presented (Awlaki is involved in multiple plots!!), and a substantial number of people will then immediately run around yelling: Kill that Terrorist!!

It's an authoritarian scene out of some near-future dystopian novel, yet it's exactly what is happening. This is precisely the reaction of a substantial portion of the population which has been trained to believe every unproven government accusation of Terrorism. The mere utterance of the accusation -- Terrorist -- sends them into mindless, fear-driven submission, so extreme that they're willing even to endorse a Presidential-imposed death penalty on American citizens with no due process: about the most tyrannical power that can be imagined, literally. The fact that this very same Government is continuously and repeatedly wrong when it makes those accusations does not seem to be even a cause for hesitation among this faction. They just keep dutifully reciting the ultimate authoritarian anthem: if my Government says it, it must be true, and I don't need to see any evidence or indulge any of this bothersome process stuff -- trials and courts or whatever -- before punishment is meted out, including the death penalty.

So now Barack Obama is being sued by an American citizen who is forced to plead with a court to protect him from due-process-free, state-sanctioned murder. There are multiple reasons why this lawsuit may not succeed, beginning with the demonstrated reluctance of federal judges to "interfere with" war-related decisions of the President, particularly when the specter of Terrorism is raised. The power-revering factions on the Right have joined with some Democratic loyalists who are comfortable with any power now that their Party controls the White House. But if the Obama administration succeeds in vesting itself with the power to order American citizens killed far from any battlefield, with no evidence of violent resistance to arrest and no due process whatsoever to contest the accusations, that is a power that will endure with future Presidents as well.

as usually happens when i'm engaged with non-u.s. citizens during my many travels, i get the opportunity to hear what they think about current events and i'm particularly interested in hearing what they think about my country from their respective vantage points... it isn't in the least bit comforting to hear them worrying about what kind of message the u.s. is sending to the budding despots in their own countries who justify increasingly harsh measures by saying, "well, the u.s. does it, why shouldn't we...?"

the u.s. dearly loves to paint itself as the positive role model for the rest of the world but seems to be very nearly blind, either through ignorance or by choice, to just how true that is as well as to the fact that, throughout the history of humankind, actions ALWAYS speak louder than words...

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Monday, August 30, 2010

Idiocracy - a mash-up, "Best of..." and the trailer

in the spirit of the idiocy that seems to be all-consuming these days...

Idiocracy Mash-up

Best of Idiocracy - Welcome to Costco

Idiocracy - Trailer

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Sunday, August 29, 2010

The Constitution is not subject to opinion polling [UPDATE]

among so many other disgraces, what's happening in the u.s. regarding religious tolerance is a true national disgrace...

keith olbermann...


glenn zooms in on the islamophobia touched on above by keith... it's worth posting in full because it also touches on our ever-expanding surveillance state...

One of the most under-reported political stories is the increasingly vehement, nationwide movement -- far from Ground Zero -- to oppose new mosques and Islamic community centers. These ugly campaigns are found across the country, in every region, and extend far beyond the warped extremists who are doing things such as sponsoring "Burn a Quran Day." And now, from CBS News last night, we have this:

Fire at Tenn. Mosque Building Site Ruled Arson

Federal officials are investigating a fire that started overnight at the site of a new Islamic center in a Nashville suburb.

Ben Goodwin of the Rutherford County Sheriff's Department confirmed to CBS Affiliate WTVF that the fire, which burned construction equipment at the future site of the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro, is being ruled as arson. . . .

The chair of the center's planning committee, Essim Fathy, said he drove to the site at around 5:30 a.m. Saturday morning after he was contacted by the sheriff's department.

"Our people and community are so worried of what else can happen," said Fathy. "They are so scared" . . .

Opponents of a new Islamic center say they believe the mosque will be more than a place of prayer; they are afraid the 15-acre site that was once farmland will be turned into a terrorist training ground for Muslim militants bent on overthrowing the U.S. government.

"They are not a religion. They are a political, militaristic group," Bob Shelton, a 76-year-old retiree who lives in the area, told The Associated Press.

Shelton was among several hundred demonstrators who recently wore "Vote for Jesus" T-shirts and carried signs that said "No Sharia law for USA!," referring to the Islamic code of law.

Others took their opposition further, spray painting a sign announcing the "Future site of the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro" and tearing it up.

Earlier this summer opponents criticized the planned mosque at hearings held by the Rutherford County Commission, as supporters held prayer vigils.

At one such prayer vigil, WTVF reported opponents speaking out against construction.

"No mosque in Murfreesboro. I don't want it. I don't want them here," Evy Summers said to WTVF. "Go start their own country overseas somewhere. This is a Christian country. It was based on Christianity."

The arsonists undoubtedly will be happy to tell you how much they hate Terrorism. And how there's a War on Christianity underway in the U.S. The harm from these actions are not merely the physical damage they cause, but also the well-grounded fear it imposes on a minority of the American population. If you launch a nationwide, anti-Islamic campaign in Lower Manhattan based on the toxic premise that Muslims generally are responsible for 9/11 -- and spend a decade expanding American wars on one Muslim country after the next -- this is the inevitable, and obviously dangerous, outcome.

* * * * *

Three other items worth noting:

(1) Kudos to The New York Times for publishing this Op-Ed by Palestinian-American journalist Ali Abunimah, with views on the Israeli/Palestinian conflict -- and the role played by the U.S. -- which are typically excluded from the American debate on those issues.

(2) Reflecting the fact that primitive fundamentalism is found in all religions and is by no means unique to Islam, this Jerusalem Post article details how an Israel singer was sentenced by a rabbinical panel to receive 39 lashes for the crime of singing in front of an audience mixed with men and women. That article rather substantially exaggerates the punishment -- the video reflects that the "lashes" were essentially symbolic and undertaken voluntarily, fundamentally distinguishing it from involuntary, genuine punishment for moral "sins" -- but the notion that such an act merits punishment is nonetheless instructive.

(3) This short though important post documents how children are being trained to give up all privacy, and to be good, dutiful Surveillance State citizens, through constant, pervasive surveillance in schools. As I wrote recently here, what is lost from the societal elimination of privacy is difficult to describe but of incomparable value:

Many people are indifferent to the disappearance of privacy -- even with regard to government officials -- because they don't perceive any real value to it. The ways in which the loss of privacy destroys a society are somewhat abstract and difficult to articulate, though very real. A society in which people know they are constantly being monitored is one that breeds conformism and submission, and which squashes innovation, deviation, and real dissent.

The old cliché is often mocked though basically true: there's no reason to worry about surveillance if you have nothing to hide. That mindset creates the incentive to be as compliant and inconspicuous as possible: those who think that way decide it's in their best interests to provide authorities with as little reason as possible to care about them. That's accomplished by never stepping out of line. Those willing to live their lives that way will be indifferent to the loss of privacy because they feel that they lose nothing from it. Above all else, that's what a Surveillance State does: it breeds fear of doing anything out of the ordinary by creating a class of meek citizens who know they are being constantly watched.

Training children from an early age to have no expectation of privacy -- to live on the assumption that their every move and even thought (which is what Internet activity is) will be monitored and recorded by authority figures -- exacerbates these harms quite substantially.

ya know, sitting here in a struggling little country like kosovo and reading about the insanity that's going on back in the u.s. isn't a particularly pleasant experience...

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