Friday, January 31, 2014

Billionaire Tom Perkins' Kristallnacht Fears: Isn't There a More Accurate Historical Parallel?

by Nomad

Recent remarks from one member of the super-wealthy class comparing the treatment of Jews to how the 1% is being treated by progressive stirred a lot of controversy. That should have been expected. The Nazi comparison was deeply flawed but another historical period- the time just before the French Revolution- might be a lot closer to the mark.

Recently venture capitalist Tom Perkins raised a bunch of eyebrows after comparing the so-called persecution of wealthy Americans to the Nazi campaigns against the Jews. As high level executive in many computer and technology related companies Perkins' net worth has been estimated at $8 billion. 
In an open letter to the (News Corporation-owned) Wall Street Journal, Perkins  said:
"Writing from the epicenter of progressive thought, San Francisco, I would call attention to the parallels of fascist Nazi Germany to its war on its 'one percent,' namely its Jews, to the progressive war on the American one percent, namely the 'rich.'
Progressive war? And he did not stop there.
"This is a very dangerous drift in our American thinking. Kristallnacht was unthinkable in 1930; is its descendent 'progressive' radicalism unthinkable now?"
Progressive radicalism descended from Nazism? Really?

Thursday, January 30, 2014

The State of the Union - 1944: FDR's Second Bill of Rights

by Nomad




On January 11, 1944, Franklin Roosevelt gave his State of the Union address. Here is an excerpt:

We have come to a clear realization of the fact that true individual freedom cannot exist without economic security and independence. “Necessitous men are not free men.” People who are hungry and out of a job are the stuff of which dictatorships are made.
In our day these economic truths have become accepted as self-evident. We have accepted, so to speak, a second Bill of Rights under which a new basis of security and prosperity can be established for all—regardless of station, race, or creed.
Among these are:
  • The right to a useful and remunerative job in the industries or shops or farms or mines of the nation;
  • The right to earn enough to provide adequate food and clothing and recreation;
  • The right of every farmer to raise and sell his products at a return which will give him and his family a decent living;
  • The right of every businessman, large and small, to trade in an atmosphere of freedom from unfair competition and domination by monopolies at home or abroad;
  • The right of every family to a decent home;
  • The right to adequate medical care and the opportunity to achieve and enjoy good health;
  • The right to adequate protection from the economic fears of old age, sickness, accident, and unemployment;
  • The right to a good education.
All of these rights spell security. And after this war is won we must be prepared to move forward, in the implementation of these rights, to new goals of human happiness and well-being.
America’s own rightful place in the world depends in large part upon how fully these and similar rights have been carried into practice for our citizens.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Why Does Texas Rep. Stockman's Sad Tale Reveal a Major Healthcare Hypocrisy?

by Nomad

Representative for Texas' 36th congressional district, Steve Stockman is desperate to unseat Republican Senator John Cornyn. Polls show Cornyn with a comfortable lead and plenty of cash reserves to wage an epic battle of the conservatives. 

There's another problem for Stockman. An episode from Stockman's past, bankruptcy which, he claims,  was a result of his father's medical bills, may not be easy to reconcile with his stand on Affordable Health Care for uninsured Texans.

When Rep. Steve Stockman's (R-TX) announced his decision to run against one of the most conservative members in the Senate, Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX), it didn't require a fortune-teller to predict there would be fireworks. If not a fireworks display, then it has turned out to be a Texas-sized pissing contest over who could be the most conservative.

Ask any Texan and he'll reckon that there's probably nobody on earth- including the residents of all insane asylums in the Longhorn state- who could possibly be more conservative than Stockman. 
But Cornyn comes pretty close.

In spite of Cornyn's lifelong American Conservative Union rating of a frightening 93 percent (which is 2 percent higher than Paul Ryan) Stockman has decided to label his opponent the worst epitaph he could think of- a liberal.
In many parts of Texas, calling people names like that will earn you a fat lower lip and a fractured snout.
Stockman launched his campaign by proclaiming:
I’m conservative Congressman Steve Stockman, and I am running for United States Senate against liberal John Cornyn...
So how does he figure that, you might ask? 
According to Stockman, Cornyn betrayed the cause to de-fund Obamacare and abandoned Republicans during the filibuster. You must remember that. It was the 21- hour filibuster that included a reading of Dr. Seuss, praises for White Castle hamburgers, and a Darth Vader imitation. Even Texas governor Rick Perry (whom Molly Ivans considered "not the sharpest knife in the drawer") derided Cruz's attention-getting ploy as "nonsensical."

There's just one problem with Stockman's strategy against his opponent. In his attempt to portray himself as the true conservative, Stockman has had to ignore a whole chunk of  painful experience. 
Somebody should warn Republicans that victimhood invites closer scrutiny. 


Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Pete Seeger: The Passing of a Troubadour with a Conscience

by Nomad

At the age of 94 folk singer Pete Seeger has died. Many younger readers may not know who this man was. During the 1960s, Seeger harnessed the power of music to rally a nation. At that time, the relatively obscure folk music market suddenly became a tool of protest for causes such as  international disarmamentcivil rightscounterculture and environmental causes.

"Where have all the Flowers Gone?" written by Seeger with Joe Hickerson in 1955, is one of my personal favorites. It has been sung by a large number of artists from Vera LynnBobby DarinOlivia Newton-John to U2. Marlene Dietrich recorded her own version, Sag mir, wo die Blumen sind. (It's surprisingly good too!

This anti-war song has been translated in dozens of languages. In Turkish- Söyle Çiçekler nerde? In Russian- Где цветы, дай мне ответ? and even in Hebrew איפה הפרחים כולם

Let's listen to Seeger rendition.


If you are interested in learning more about the man, PBS produced a documentary saluting his life. It's worth your time.




Monday, January 27, 2014

Minnesota 6th District: An End to the Michele Bachmann Legacy of Lunacy?

by Nomad

For seven years, Michele Bachmann has held Minnesota's Sixth Congressional District seat. In that time she has unintentionally amused and often horrified the rest of the country with her antics. Since her announcement that she would not be seeking re-election this year, the field is now wide open now for the state's most conservative district. 
What chances do Democrats candidates like Jim Read, have?  A glance at the Republicans in the race tells us that it all depends on whether Minnesota voters are looking for a change or just Bachmann's clone. 

Reading Jim Read
On January 24th, Jim Read, 55, from Avon, Minnesota, declared his candidacy for Michele Bachmann's district. The district, the most Republican-leaning of Minnesota’s congressional districts, is up for grabs ever since Bachmann announced she would not be seeking re-election. For years, under the Bachmann, the district has been under Republican Tea Party control. (Some might call it a form of witchcraft.)
Jim Read is, without much exaggeration, Bachmann's polar opposite.  With a solid middle-class background, Jim Read wasn't born with a silver spoon in his mouth. In high school, Read worked as bus boy and dishwasher and later on a paving crew for the National Park Service in summer. That work record is the kind of thing that appeals to Minnesotans. 

On the other hand, his educational background is nothing to snicker at (unlike Bachmann's Oral Roberts University degree.) He then went on to graduate Phi Beta Kappa from the University of Chicago and then went on to earn a Ph. D. in political science from Harvard University.


Since that time, Read has taught political science at the College of St. Benedict and St. John’s University.
In addition to that, Read is the author of three books, including Doorstep Democracy: Face to Face Politics in the Heartland, an account of his door-to-door campaign for the Minnesota Legislature in 1992. 

The crux of that book reveals Read's idea that "conversations between citizens concerned about their communities can get us beyond the television ads, mass mailings, and sound bites to rejuvenate American democracy."

Professional campaign organizers might not agree. The verdict is out but it's a nice thought. Relying solely on the common sense and maturity of the voters of District 6 could be a risky proposition.  I mean, just look how they've voted in the past (an' stuff). 

Sunday, January 26, 2014

On Anniversary of His Death, New Documentary on Life of Aaron Swartz Premieres

by Nomad



This month marked the first anniversary of the tragic death of Aaron Swartz, internet activist and programming pioneer. Swartz ended his life, facing a possible prison sentence for downloading millions of academic articles from servers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology


The Justice Department had clearly made the decision to make an example of this activist. If he had been found guilty of the charges, Swartz might well have received  a cumulative maximum penalty of $1 million in fines, 35 years in prison, asset forfeiturerestitution and supervised release. 
With extensive cooperation from MIT, the case was pressed by federal prosecutors in Boston, who charged Swartz with computer and wire fraud. Swartz potentially faced seven years in prison if convicted at trial, though he rejected plea bargains of between four and six months in custody.
There is no question that the prosecution was the reason that Swartz decided to take his own life. After his death, federal prosecutors dropped the charges.

One of his greatest achievements was in leading the battle against attempts to place restriction on the free flow of information. Swartz had been instrumental in the protest to kill legislation in Congress, the infamous SOPA bill, which would have, critics said, spelled the end of open Internet. 

A new documentary by Brian Knappenberger "The Internet’s Own Boy: The Story of Aaron Swartz" debuted in the U.S. Documentary Competition at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival. Here is an excerpt from the film.

_______________________________

Friday, January 24, 2014

Buffalo Creek Flood of '72: Why Environmental Disasters are Nothing New In West Virginia

by Nomad

Next month marks the 42nd anniversary of one of West Virginia's worst man-made disaster, The Buffalo Creek Flood. We take a look back to learn what did and what did not happen and why it is important for the people of West Virginia in the aftermath of the recent chemical spill.


On an early Saturday morning on February 26th 1972, West Virginia was the scene of one of the worst man-made disasters in this country's history. Without warning, a retaining dam wall built by a local coal mining company to hold the immense coal-waste refuse pile gave way. The coal slurry rolled down from the nearby hill and thundered down into the long narrow Buffalo Creek Valley. 

The black wave of rainwater, black coal-waste water and sludge from a coal washing operation- an estimated 130 million gallons of it-  created a deadly a 20 to 30 foot tidal wave, catching the residents completely unaware. The tsunami traveled at a speed reaching 30 miles per hours and ended up devastating sixteen small communities. 
The slurry was deadly in another way too. Here is a list of the chemicals typically found in coal slurry and sludge. 
Chronic exposure to the metals found in coal slurry can damage virtually every part of the body. Health problems caused by these metals include intestinal lesions, neuropathy, kidney and liver failure, cancer, high blood pressure, brittle bones, miscarriages and birth defects among others. Studies of the effects of coal slurry on human cell tissues have found evidence that coal slurry causes cancerous proliferation, cell death and damage to kidney cells.
Of course, the victims had more to worry about than the long term effects of exposure to toxic waste. Over 125 people died immediately, of those most were women and children unable to extract themselves from the sludge and debris. There were over 4000 survivors and in the end, 1000 of their homes and all of their possessions were destroyed.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Washington District Court Judge Landmark Ruling: You Are Not Your IP Address

by Nomad

A Washington judge's ruling in a copyright infringement case may have profound implications on the ability to prosecute cybercrime and to issue surveillance warrants by the NSA.
According to Judge Robert Lasnik, a United States federal judge, on the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington, evidence made up purely of IP addresses does not meet the legal requirements of pleading standards for pursuing the case against online pirates. He has ruled that IP address alone do not provide a sufficient means of identification.  
The fact of the matter and the law is that it is almost impossible to associate piracy based on the IP address and the IP address alone. The actual culprit might have been a family member, guest, or even a hacker. At the very least, the subscriber with that IP address can be scolded for not safeguarding his or her home computer.
In other words, the evidence may show that a particular IP was used but that doesn't mean that the accused in the courtroom is the one who used that IP address. 
That's really not news. The big law firms who have made a fortune bounty hunting for large media giants, have been successful using this prosecutorial method for years. 
Courts have been not questioned it. But they are starting to wake up, it seems.


Wednesday, January 22, 2014

FATCA Repeal : Tax-Avoiding Super Wealthy with Secret Bank Accounts Find a Friend in GOP



Internal Revenue Service
by Nomad

Once again, the Republican Party has demonstrated which side it supports. Between the average taxpayer or the 1%, its call for a repeal of Obama's anti-tax haven law of 2009- before it has even had a chance to be put into effect- provides us with a clear answer.  

Some Facts on FATCA
Reuters is reporting that the Republican Party is expected to approve a resolution this week, calling for repeal of an Obama administration law that is designed to crack down on offshore tax dodging.
The law, Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA) requires foreign banks to find any American account holders and disclose their balances, receipts, and withdrawals to the US Internal Revenue Service (IRS), or be subject to a 30-percent withholding tax on income from US financial assets held by the banks. Owners of these foreign-held assets must report them on US tax returns if they are worth more than $50,000.

It was always going to be controversial and not beloved by banks, libertarians and some Americans living abroad. Another example of Big Government overreach, they howled. Lobbyists have been successful at delaying the law in operation. Its effective date has been pushed back repeatedly, with enforcement now set to start on July 1. 
If the Republicans have their way- and there doesn't seem to be much chance they will- FATCA would never start at all.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Why Rand Paul's Lawsuit against Obama Administration on Spying Could Backfire on the GOP

by Nomad

Exclusive: Rand Paul's latest gimmick about suing the Obama administration over NSA surveillance operations, like PRISM might just backfire.  A thorough review of the legislation of Congress during the Bush era and the mixed messages from the Republican conservatives ever since 2001 could be a major humiliation in the 2014 election year.  But only if American citizens genuinely care about the truth.

The other day Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky announced that he was planning to open a class-action lawsuit against the Obama Administration over the NSA data-collection policies. Never one to miss an opportunity to make an issue into a spectacle, Rand told reporters that people needed to tell the government that it can't have access to emails and phone records without permission or without a specific warrant.  The folks at Brietbart.com and Fox News went all starry-eyed at the news:
This allows the American people to join together in a grassroots manner against President Obama’s NSA for the first time in the legal system, as all other lawsuits have been individuals suing against the agency.
The irony about it is that a quick glance at history will show us that Rand really needs to turn his attention to his own party -even to his own state. The answer to who relaxed the existing (though inadequate) oversight over the NSA is right under Rand's nose.

The Patriot Act and FISA
In the hysteria that followed the terror attacks on New York and Washington in 2001, Americans were more than ready to accept radical measures to thwart further attacks. What resulted was The Patriot Act. How this constitutionally-questionable legislation was ever passed into law reveals so much about how the Bush administration was able to achieve its goals. The techniques used would be used time and time again, right up until the end with the emergency Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) bailout.

On October 23, 2001, just over a month after the September 11th attacks, (actually only 25 working days) Republican Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner introduced H.R. 3162 (later to be known as The Patriot Act ) on the House floor. 
In just two days, the bill passed both the House (357 to 66) and the Senate (98 to 1) and was signed into law by President Bush on October 26, 2001.  Thus, one of the most controversial pieces of legislation, one that gave unheard of powers to the executive branch and one that effectively shredded long cherished rights in the Constitution, was passed into law in just three days. 

Monday, January 20, 2014

Christian Family's Special Message: We aren't ALL like that!

by Nomad

We interrupt our normal broadcasting to bring you this message from the Lord family from Memphis, Tennessee. 


Of course, the sad truth of the matter is that as long as Christians like this remain silent, it's only natural to think that the Westboro Church,  Tony Perkins, Pat Robertson and groups like Focus on the Family and American Family Association are the actual representatives of the Christian faith. Of course, I have met a lot of Christians in my life and the majority were quiet, down-to-earth types, wishing no harm on anybody as far as I could see. It's the loud ones you have to be wary of, I guess.


__________________________

Friday, January 17, 2014

Sequester Cuts and Killing Unemployment Benefit Extensions: When GOP Values Make no Sense

by Nomad


This week the Republicans appeared to be sticking to its tried and true conservative principles by blocking a vote on extending unemployment benefits. 
Add to that the impact of sequester cuts to state jobs training programs and you have a campaign issue nightmare. The question is: can any party get elected by hurting its most vulnerable voters? 
Not once but twice?

Two days ago, Republican conservatives used the power of the filibuster to block a Democratic bill to restore unemployment benefits to over a million Americans, hit hard by the recession. According to an announcement of this decision, the lawmakers declared they were standing on conservative principle.
Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) stated:
"People, if you pay 'em for years and years, they won't look for a job." 
Who is the "'em" and who are the "they"? What happened to "us" and "we"? 
Extending unemployment benefits, he added, creates no jobs. At a cost of $6.4 billion, the cost of the extension could not be justified, according to the Republicans. Shelby told an interviewer,
"That is a huge expenditure. What we need to do is spend that money on retraining these people that are unemployed -- help them for a few months and get them retrained and get them back in the job market. That's the problem."
As we shall see, there is a major problem with that idea. 
Other Republicans cited their conservative principles to support the filibuster. Senator Ron Johnson of Wisconsin said:
"I certainly ran because we're mortgaging our children's future. We're bankrupting this nation."
It's not hard to imagine the possible fallout from this decision come election time. With more than.1.3 million people Americans left without any kind of safety net nationwide, it could make a difference who controls the houses of Congress.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Oklahoma Federal Judge Delivers Yet Another Blow against Same-Sex Marriage Bans

by Nomad

Across the nation, state-by-state same-sex marriage bans are being overturned by federal justices. Yesterday it was Oklahoma's turn. The governor of that state has invested a lot of political capital in attempting to stop marriage equality for gay Oklahoma couples. Has Conservative governor Mary Fallin's crusade finally come to the end? 

In what campaigners for marriage equality will see as a victory a federal judge ruled on Tuesday that an Oklahoma law limiting marriage to heterosexual couples violates the U.S. Constitution. The judge ruled that Oklahoma’s constitutional amendment violates the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The Fourteenth Amendment has been the basis for most civil rights legislation since it provides that no state shall deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws. (This is, incidentally, the basis for corporate personhood.)

Oklahoma now joins California, Connecticut, Iowa Massachusetts), New Jersey, Utah and New Mexico where courts have ruled against same-sex marriage bans. A further 8 states have voted for recognition by legislative action and 3 more by popular vote.
By any measure, it has been a political disaster for conservatives. 

Governor Fallin
And a costly one for political groups. Millions of dollars have been spent by conservative Christian organizations like The Arlington Group to pass same-sex marriage bans in 13 states. Today there are 17 states that legally recognize same-sex marriages and that number will undoubtedly continue to rise.

Oklahoma Governor Fallin: Flailing and Failing 
This will come as a blow to many conservatives in the state who have politicized the issue. For example, Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin had taken an active role in the matter since taking office. As if Oklahoma has absolutely nothing else to worry about.

In November, in order to stop same-sex couples from receiving benefits, she ordered the Oklahoma National Guard to stop processing benefits for all service members regardless of whether they are same-sex or opposite-sex. She told reporters that the reason for this was purely legislative. 

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Recess Appointments and Partisan Obstructionism: Two Sides of the Same Coin

Courtsby Nomad

This week the Supreme Court is reviewing a lower court's decision which declared unconstitutional President Obama's use of recess appointments.

The ramifications of a Supreme Court decision upholding the lower decision could be disastrous for Obama. Why? Should the Senate fall into the hands of the obstructionist Republicans, Obama's chances of getting any nominations may be impossible. How the justices decide in this case could play a crucial factor not only in the remainder of this administration but in future presidencies.


Recess Appointments
Like a lot of cases before the Supreme Court, the actual importance and impact is buried beneath mounds of mundane details. Such is the case of the constitutionality of recess appointments. For instance, strictly speaking, the case is straight-forward. It revolves around the president's ability to make appointments while the Senate is at recess. What are the limits to this presidential power according to the constitution? 

There is no reason question whether the US constitution gives Presidents the right to fill vacant position if the Senate is in recess. Wikipedia describes recess appointments this way:
The U.S. Constitution requires that the most senior federal officers must be confirmed by the Senate before assuming office, but while the Senate is in recess the President may act alone by making a recess appointment to fill "Vacancies that may happen during the Recess of the Senate."   
In a happier world in which all of the branches of government work together and make nice to one another, this could be seen as merely a way to smooth the confirmation process along. But of course, that's not the world in which we live and Washington has never a happy place for long. 

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Waiting for America's Bhopal: How Budget Cuts and De-Regulation Are Making the Unimaginable Inevitable

fatalities at Bhopal Indiaby Nomad

Last year's West, Texas explosion and this week's West Virginia chemical leak could just be a wake up call to the nation. De-regulation and budget cutting may make us more competitive but at what cost?

A single environmental disaster could affect the lives of millions of people, cost the state billions and make entire areas uninhabitable. And that  could make the discussion of de-regulation and budget-cuts completely null and void.

Not long ago I read the book Five Past Midnight in Bhopal: The Epic Story of the World's Deadliest Industrial Disaster. It's the kind of book that you know you should read but dread to begin. It's an exceedingly thoroughly-researched book and at times, slow going. In spite of that,  in these days when environmental regulations are under attack by the conservative Republicans, it should be on every American's reading list.
Most people, I suppose, have heard of the industrial disaster at Bhopal but here's a little refresher.

The Bhopal Event
In the early hours of December 3, 1984, in the town of Bhopal, India, a nearby Union Carbide plant, which manufactured insecticides, accidentally released a heavy toxic cloud of chemicals into the surrounding residential area. The heavy cloud hovered over the area, which was comprised mostly of crowded slums. It literally fumigated the unsuspecting village, mercilessly killing the people that lived there.
Within hours, things quickly collapsed. Panic and confusion spread and any kind of coordinated response was impossible. The local government was totally ill-equipped to handle the emergency. (The very idea that it could happen at all seems never to have crossed their minds.)


Saturday, January 11, 2014

The Shocking Truth about Freedom Fries, the French Boycott and Fox News

Iraq invasion US soldiersby Nomad


An exclusive look back at the Conservative retribution against the French for not joining its coalition of the willing. The crusade of the Freedom Fries and the boycott of French products, promoted by Fox News.
On February 14 2003, Dominique de Villepin, French Minister of Foreign Affairs, addressed the UN to state his nation's opposition to the invasion of Iraq.
Ten days ago, the US Secretary of State, Mr. Powell, reported the alleged links between al-Qaeda and the regime in Baghdad. Given the present state of our research and intelligence, in liaison with our allies, nothing allows us to establish such links. On the other hand, we must assess the impact that disputed military action would have on this plan. Would not such intervention today be liable to exacerbate the divisions between societies, cultures and peoples, divisions that nurture terrorism?
UN Dominique de Villepin
His tone was that of an old friend giving advice to a headstrong impulsive youth:
This message comes to you today from an old country, France, from a continent like mine, Europe, that has known wars, occupation and barbarity. An old country that does not forget and knows everything it owes to the freedom-fighters who came from America and elsewhere. And yet has never ceased to stand upright in the face of history and before mankind.
The response from the member nations was unprecedented. His speech received a ovation from the normally circumspect crowd. Villepin's remarks came on the heels of speeches by  chief UN weapons inspectors Hans Blix and Mohamed ElBaradei who had both cautioned against taking a fatal misstep. Instead they called for a "steady as she goes" policy with regards to the inspections.

The Bush administration was, to put it mildly, less than pleased. It was a critical time in the coalition forming and the prospects of forming any kind of international consences were growing dim. This was not your daddy's coalition, critics might have told George Bush. 
Government officials were already well aware of the European opposition to any military action against Saddam Hussein. Opinion polls showed the population was against the war, with opposition as high as 90% in Spain and Italy, and also widespread in Eastern Europe. Key allies like France and Germany both advocated a continuation of the inspections.
The Bush officials and the conservatives in Washington saw all this as nothing short of a European betrayal, led by the weak-willed French.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Of Coaches and Presidents: How the Corporatization of Universities Destroys Higher Education

by Nomad

Here's an info-graphic that blew my mind- which isn't all that easy to blow anymore.


The accompanying article explains:
Based on data drawn from media reports and state salary databases, the ranks of the highest-paid active public employees include 27 football coaches, 13 basketball coaches, one hockey coach, and 10 dorks who aren't even in charge of a team.
However, the writer cautions about jumping to conclusions. The salaries are generally drawn from money made from sporting events, rather than from the taxpayers. The rebuttal often heard when it comes to coaching salaries is that the system pays for itself.
Nevertheless, you should still be concerned.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Has Television Become the Propaganda Machine for Conservative Values?

by Nomad

Sometimes it's hard to realize how compliant commercial television is compliant when it comes to lowering our sense of compassion for the poor. I'm not talking about its overall narcotic effect. 
It's what TV shows don't reveal about reality that's important.

It wouldn't be the first time that critics have accused television of being a corporate propaganda machine, of course. But what seems to be happening today is a little more devious. 

Selling products is one thing but the problem goes way beyond using TV to sell detergent and watches. It has become a effective tool of selling a philosophy of greed and intolerance.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

The Conservative Roll-Back: "Restoring America" to A Not-So-Great Society

by Nomad

Former Vice-Presidential candidate, half-term Alaska governor and Fox News talking head Sarah Palin likes to tell  her audiences, 
"We don't need to fundamentally transform America. We need to restore America."
Like a lot of things she says-  which are always subject to revision, erasure, re-clarification or complete reversal- these words sound terrific until you think about them.
Palin apparently believes that America was once a perfect fairyland and all we need to do is to return to the past.
The question is: Restore it when exactly and back to what? 

In the photo above, taken in 1957, the man posing is Klans Imperial Wizard Eldon Edwards in his fancy duds. Edwards once said, "We white people are the inheritors of this country. We do not intend to surrender it."

Of course, it would be an exaggeration to claim that all Republicans (or Tea Party voters) are racists. On the other hand,  it is hard for many on the Left not to believe that the harsh judgement on most anything President Obama says or does is not in some way motivated by prejudice. In a recent editorial,
The majority of Americans are sick to death of the racial animus Republicans, former Confederate states, and particularly teabaggers are polluting this nation with. Many Americans believed, errantly, that the election of the first African American as President was a major turning point in this country’s long history of racism, particularly towards African Americans, but the only turning point was bringing the lingering hatred toward African Americans back to life.
The writer blames hate radio for stoking the white anger. But the problem goes straight to the heart of the two party system.
Republicans in Congress, particularly the leadership, are just as guilty as any white supremacist because their obstruction, even of their own ideas, is based on little else than opposing, at any cost, the African American sitting in the Oval Office.
In the year 1957, the very idea that a black man would ever hold the highest office was unimaginable. After all, for many in the South, the attitude was that blacks should know their place. And one place that a black person would never know, except as a guard or butler, was the White House. At one time, there was not even a question about that.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

The Truth about Reducing Unemployment: Washington's Silver Line Metro Extension

by Nomad



Exclusive: In theory, there are practical ways to reduce unemployment. In this post we look at the long-awaited Silver Line Metro extension in Washington D.C shows to see if there can be any lessons to learn about the ways the solutions can get de-railed. 

_____________
Back in 1922, a British Labour politician by the delightful name of Frederick William Pethick-Lawrence wrote a small book named Unemployment, in which he laid out the causes for unemployment and possible solutions. He writes:
What is to be done about the unemployable, the lazy and inefficient workers? Punishment is the device to which large numbers of people fly when they are confronted with a human problem for which they can see no other easy solution ; and punishment sometimes active in the form of imprisonment or chastisement, and some times passive in the form of destitution, has been inflicted on bad workers all down history with the avowed object of making them into useful citizens. It has failed, as punishment usually fails, except as an expression of the vengeance of an outraged society.
Punishment and blaming the victim was not a remedy.  Though millions of Americans will see their unemployment benefits run out this month, few people in their right minds think it would do anything to reduce unemployment. It is merely a irrational way to punish people asking for the minimal assistance from the government.

Among the many points he makes, Lawrence concludes there are no easy answers to the problem of unemployment. Preventive measures require a degree of forward thinking not found in most governments. By the time an unemployment problem becomes prevalent, it is, he says, usually too late. As long as nations have booms and busts, there will be cycles of unemployment.

However he does suggest that when unemployment is widespread, it should be seen as an opportunity to overhaul the infrastructure of the country. The costs, Lawrence suggests, would "probably be borne partly by loans to be repaid out of receipts and partly by increased taxation spread over a period of years." 

In other words- gasp!- deficient spending and taxation. And so what, Lawrence says. This kind of relief work shouldn't be considered be wasteful since it would, if well-considered, become part of a larger investment in the nation itself. In both the long term and short term, there would be winners.

So let's take a look at what happened in the US when this solution was attempted. When we look at the one of the largest infrastructure projects - the Dulles Metro Extension- in the nation - the Dulles Metro Extension- we can make some interesting observations.

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