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And, yes, I DO take it personally: 04/01/2012 - 04/08/2012
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"Everybody's worried about stopping terrorism. Well, there's a really easy way: stop participating in it."
- Noam Chomsky
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And, yes, I DO take it personally

Friday, April 06, 2012

The prison-industrial complex in the U.S.

from al jazeera via common dreams...
The United States has the highest incarceration rate in the world at 760 people per 100,000. Between 1999-2010 the use of private prisons increased by 40 percent at the state level and by 784 percent in the federal prison system. This rapid expansion of the private prison industry is the subject of much debate in the US, and has been termed the "Prison-Industrial Complex."

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Seymour Hersh reports on the U.S. trained terrorist group, the M.E.K.

from the new yorker...
[T]he Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) conducted training [at the Department of Energy’s Nevada National Security Site], beginning in 2005, for members of the Mujahideen-e-Khalq, a dissident Iranian opposition group known in the West as the M.E.K. The M.E.K. had its beginnings as a Marxist-Islamist student-led group and, in the nineteen-seventies, it was linked to the assassination of six American citizens. It was initially part of the broad-based revolution that led to the 1979 overthrow of the Shah of Iran. But, within a few years, the group was waging a bloody internal war with the ruling clerics, and, in 1997, it was listed as a foreign terrorist organization by the State Department.


The M.E.K.’s ties with Western intelligence deepened after the fall of the Iraqi regime in 2003, and JSOC began operating inside Iran in an effort to substantiate the Bush Administration’s fears that Iran was building the bomb at one or more secret underground locations.


Despite the growing ties, and a much-intensified lobbying effort organized by its advocates, M.E.K. has remained on the State Department’s list of foreign terrorist organizations—which meant that secrecy was essential in the Nevada training.


The sources I spoke to were unable to say whether the people trained in Nevada were now involved in operations in Iran or elsewhere. But they pointed to the general benefit of American support. “The M.E.K. was a total joke,” the senior Pentagon consultant said, “and now it’s a real network inside Iran. How did the M.E.K. get so much more efficient?” he asked rhetorically. “Part of it is the training in Nevada. Part of it is logistical support in Kurdistan, and part of it is inside Iran. M.E.K. now has a capacity for efficient operations than it never had before.”

glenn weighs in...

So let’s review what we have here. If this report is true, it means the U.S. Government actively trained a group that the U.S. Government itself legally categorizes as a “foreign terrorist organization,” a clear felony under U.S. law:

Whoever knowingly provides material support or resources to a foreign terrorist organization, or attempts or conspires to do so, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than 15 years, or both, and, if the death of any person results, shall be imprisoned for any term of years or for life.

That alone compels serious DOJ and Congressional investigations into these claims. Worse, this reportedly happened at the very same time that the U.S. aggressively prosecuted and imprisoned numerous Muslims for providing material support for groups on that list even though many of those prosecuted provided support that was far, far less than what the U.S. Government itself was providing to MEK. Meanwhile, right at this moment, America’s closest ally — Israel — is clearly a state sponsor of this designated Terrorist organization, providing training, funding and arms to it, and the U.S. may very well be as well (independent of all else, given that Israel is the largest recipient of U.S. aid, the U.S., at the very least, is financing a state sponsor of Terror).


Anyone in government, media and think tank circles who routinely and angrily accuse others of being “terrorists” or “supporters of terrorism” without recognizing that the U.S. and its closest allies are plainly and routinely guilty of that is just a rank propagandist. That the U.S., in the midst of its vaunted War on Terror, directly trained a group on its own Terrorist list — while its closest ally and Washington’s venerated former officials continue to provide ample support to that group even as it escalates its violent acts – is about as conclusive a demonstration of that fact as one could have conjured.

lies, manipulation of fact, hypocrisy... is this a great country or what...?

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Thursday, April 05, 2012

The movie, Thrive, is now available free online

THRIVE: What On Earth Will It Take?

THRIVE is an unconventional documentary that lifts the veil on what's REALLY going on in our world by following the money upstream -- uncovering the global consolidation of power in nearly every aspect of our lives. Weaving together breakthroughs in science, consciousness and activism, THRIVE offers real solutions, empowering us with unprecedented and bold strategies for reclaiming our lives and our future.

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When profiteers send gas prices soaring in Germany, all they have to do is press a button

what a concept...

from spiegel online...

Big Oil's Strategy for Jacking Up Gas Prices

Prices have never fluctuated as wildly as they have over the past few months. Last week, the price of premium gasoline reached €1.70 per liter ($8.41 per gallon) nationwide -- a new record for Germany. Sometimes, prices at the pump spike upwards by over 10 euro cents per liter in the space of just minutes, usually followed by a gradual decline.


The price fluctuations are erratic and apparently without any deeper meaning. But there's no doubt that the oil companies know exactly what they are doing.

The market leaders can only pursue this strategy, though, because they have sophisticated computer systems that allow them to precisely control, right down to the minute, when they increase their prices nationwide, and by how many cents. The prices are not set by the individual franchise holders. Instead, they are centrally controlled -- for example, in the town of Bochum, at headquarters of Aral, a BP subsidiary that is the market leader in Germany.

The price manager merely presses a button and price signs immediately change at all 2,391 Aral service stations in Germany. All filling stations are electronically linked with Bochum via a dedicated network called Rosi. After each price increase, they watch closely to see how the competition reacts and whether they follow suit.

coming soon to a u.s. service station near you...

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Speaking of the greed of the 1%, let's hear it for Jamie Dimon and his fellow bailed out banksters

hard on the heels of the story about bank of america ceo brian moynihan's $8.1M pay...
Dimon’s $23m trumps pay of US bank rivals

Jamie Dimon, chief executive of JPMorgan Chase, earned $23.1m in total compensation last year, an 11 per cent increase over 2011, a higher level than the heads of the other large US banks.

In its annual report, JPMorgan said Mr Dimon received $1.4m in salary, a bonus of $4.5m and $17m in stock and options. John Stumpf, chief executive of Wells Fargo, earned $19.8m, while Citigroup’s Vikram Pandit earned $14.9m.

untrammeled greed... ya gotta love it...
Big Bank Profile: JPMorgan Chase

Federal taxpayer bailout received: $94.7 billion
Lobbying fees in 9 months after bailout: $4.2 million
Campaign contributions in 2008 federal elections: $6.0 million
Profits for 1998-2008: $97.6 billion
Profits for the first half of 2009: $4.86 billion
Bank fees for first half of 2009: $3.45 billion
Change in bank account fees (2003-08): +249.5%
Percent of first half 2009 profit from fees: 71%
Credit card income for first half of 2009: $3.56 billion
Median JPMorgan Chase bank teller wage: $10.58/hour or $22,006 annually
2008 CEO Jamie Dimon pay: $19.7 million (893 times median teller wage)
2008 bonus pool: $8.7 billion
First half 2009 bonus and compensation pool: $14.5 billion
Cash bonuses (top 5 execs) last 10 years: $254.9 million
Effective tax rate in 2008: -33.4%
Offshore subsidiaries in tax havens: 53

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The 1% is a social darwinist force bent on destroying the essential social contract

i've said since i started posting on this blog back in 2005 that there is nothing our 1% desires more fervently than to drive a stake through the heart of any explicit or implied social contract... they are truly the champions of the "you're on your own" society, a dystopian, randian, survivalist nightmare that would turn a blind eye to any effort to support the common good...

robert scheer
equates the 1% with the republicans, an equivalency i believe is less than accurate, particularly given the lack of any discernible daylight between the repubs and the dems...

It is with chilling certainty that one can predict that a single Romney appointee to the Supreme Court would seal the coup of the 1 percent that already is well on its way toward purchasing the nation’s political soul. Romney is the quintessential Citizens United super PAC candidate, a man who has turned avarice into virtue and comes to us now as a once-moderate politician transformed into the ultimate prophet of imperial hubris, blaming everyone from the Chinese to laid-off American workers for our problems. Everyone, that is, except the Wall Street-dominated GOP, which midwifed the Great Recession under George W. Bush and now seeks to blame Obama for the enormous deficit spawned by the party’s wanton behavior.


[T]he Republicans refuse to take ownership of the collapse resulting from their longstanding advocacy of radical financial deregulation that led to the derivatives bubble, hundreds of trillions of dollars of toxic junk, now a permanent, nightmarish feature of the world’s economy. Romney, who made his fortune through such financial finagling, even has the effrontery to call for more of the same and blame Obama’s tepid efforts at establishing some sane speed limits for the financial highway as a cause of our ongoing crisis.

scheer's conclusion is that we have no choice but to re-elect obama...
The Republicans are a sick joke, and their narrow ideological stupidity has left rational voters no choice in the coming presidential election but Barack Obama.

it was good to hear obama use the term "social darwinism" in his speech the other day... it's about damn time somebody in our national leadership dared to say it... unfortunately, however, even though i've used the term a million times myself, it's somewhat misapplied... darwinian theory claims that only the fittest survive, but in our current context, the 1% is massively underwritten by national policies designed to benefit them and their interests, the most egregious example being the massive bankster bailout...

predictably, obama's use of the term has spawned controversy...

the huffpo takes issue with obama's use of social darwinism...

For language expert Kathleen Hall Jamieson, social Darwinism seems like a risky term to use for political ammunition.

She says most people are familiar with Charles Darwin and his theory of evolution by natural selection – survival of the fittest.

But Jamieson, a political communication authority at the University of Pennsylvania's Annenberg Center, explains that social Darwinism is a concept, an extension of Darwinism, that essentially says that those who are innately superior, often biologically superior, are advantaged in the conflict among or between groups.

She doesn't think that is what Obama is suggesting when he uses the term. Instead, what he is probably trying to convey is that he thinks Republicans subscribe to a theory that each person is on his own – no help from others, no government help.

The term is loaded with all sorts of negative historical associations. It has ties in the past to the rationalization of inequality, says Jamieson, as well as to the eugenics movement and the idea that those who are unfit should not be allowed to propagate.

And that's probably not what the president intends to suggest.

jonathan chait has a different take...
I happen to think "social Darwinist" captures the prevailing Republican philosophy pretty well. The point of the label, created by historian Richard Hoftsadter, is that a species of laissez-faire economics treated the market the way Darwinians treat natural selection — as the sole natural and correct mechanism for distributing rewards. You do not have to venture into the Republican fever swamps to find evidence of this belief. Greg Mankiw, an economist, adviser to Mitt Romney, and relative moderate within the party, has written:
People should get what they deserve. A person who contributes more to society deserves a higher income that reflects those greater contributions. Society permits him that higher income not just to incentivize him, as it does according to utilitarian theory, but because that income is rightfully his.

Now, I suspect that right-wingers object to the term "social Darwinist" because it can be understood to imply a more literal application of Darwinism — that the poor should be killed off so they cannot reproduce. Almost none of them would take the theory quite so far. But the more symbolic application of Darwinism to the market, as a morally optimal tool for allocating rewards, seems appropriate. Republicans may prefer a more positive-sounding label, but in politics you don't always get to pick your label.

the biggest piece of work that needs to be done in this country is for all of us to wake up to the fact that we are ALL in this goddam boat together and that it takes ALL of us to make it work... and that realization will never come about as long as the 1% insists they are at the top of the economic ladder as a result of their own inherent self-worth... such a misbegotten notion is at the fetid, rotting core of what we so proudly extol as our "capitalist free market" while completely ignoring the dynamics of a system specifically built to empower the rich...

p.s. it's interesting to see both commentators eschew eugenics... believe me, even though - thankfully - it's not part of the national dialogue, for those who are convinced that they have achieved their lofty status in society as a result of their superior genetic attributes, the concept of eugenics is only a small step away...

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Wednesday, April 04, 2012

Obama DOJ argued for the SCOTUS strip search ruling

The 5-judge conservative faction held that prison officials may strip-search anyone arrested even for the most minor offenses before admitting them to the general population of a jail or prison, even in the absence of a shred of suspicion that they are carrying weapons or contraband.

i'd been reading about this development since it was announced but if i hadn't read glenn this morning, i would have continued to labor under the misconception that the recent supreme court ruling allowing strip searches was strictly an outcome of the court itself... however, as glenn points out, "the Obama DOJ formally urged the Court to reach the conclusion it reached"...

another thing i didn't know is this...

The procedures endorsed by the majority are forbidden by statute in at least 10 states and are at odds with the policies of federal authorities. According to a supporting brief filed by the American Bar Association, international human rights treaties also ban the procedures.

glenn concludes...
What is needed most — a strong countervailing force to these policies coming from a place other than the neoconservative Right and corporatist oligarchs — is exactly what is missing. That there is such vehement condemnation over this strip-search ruling, almost all of which ignores the fact that the Obama administration was fully on board with it and helped to bring it about, is — as this VastLeft cartoon suggests — a microcosm for how and why that has happened.

here's the cartoon...


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Tuesday, April 03, 2012


and we all know what that means...

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Monday, April 02, 2012

DHS orders 450 MILLION high-performance, hollow-point bullets


from rt america...

The US Department of Homeland Security and the Immigrations and Customs Enforcement Office have placed a massive order for ammunition. The two departments are asking for 450 million rounds of bullets to be delivered in a time-frame of five years. The contractor, Alliant Techsystems, was awarded the contract and will produce .40 caliber high-performance bullets to the agencies. The order has many wondering why would DHS and ICE need so many bullets.

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Sunday, April 01, 2012

More on worker-owned businesses

as a follow-up to my post from last tuesday, here's a preview of a documentary to be released in july this year...
SHIFT CHANGE - Putting Democracy to Work - preview

At a time when many are disillusioned with big banks and big business, the economic crisis and growing inequality in our country, employee ownership offers a real solution for workers and communities. Shift Change: Putting Democracy to Work is a new documentary (to be released in July, 2012) that highlights worker-owned enterprises in North America and in Mondragon, Spain. The film couldn’t be more timely, as 2012 has been declared by the U.N. as the “International Year of the Cooperative.”

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