Monday, March 30, 2015

Con-Artist Conservatives and The Great Hoodwinking of America 1/3

by Nomad

When can having a positive attitude be a negative thing? What happens when voters prefer to ignore the evidence and continue to vote for the same party despite false promises? It seems as if Americans prefer to be victims of a party of professional grifters.

The idea that opportunity to succeed is open to all of us goes back deep in American history and deep into the soul of the average American. It is one thing that makes the struggle worth it all. Knowing that things will improve has always been a mainstay of life in the US. 

The Faith and the Evidence
One recent study suggests that American economic mobility is something most of us still believe in. The problem is, according to the evidence, that belief system is largely contradicted by the evidence.
The Cornell study polled more than 3,300 Americans in all economic quintiles (20 percent income increments), from the poorest to the richest, and reached a few interesting conclusions:
  • People believe there is more upward mobility than downward mobility. 
  • Americans overestimate the amount of upward mobility and underestimate the amount of downward mobility. 
  • Poorer individuals believe there is more mobility than richer individuals do. 
  • Political affiliation influences perceptions of economic mobility, with conservatives believing that the economic system is dynamic – with more people moving both up and down.
The harsh reality is that while the real income of the top 1% of the population has soared a staggering 86% over the last twenty years, for the rest of us, it has increased by a mere 6.6 %. Those are the figures cited in the report.
According to the source:
"This rise in inequality has been accompanied by increasing hardship among those at the bottom," they write, noting that in 2010 the United States had almost 650,000 homeless people. And an additional 9.5 million families (46 million people) lived below the poverty line, a 50 percent increase since 1980.
The implications of the study are fascinating. American by and large simply haven't woken up to the fact that decades of failed policies have made matters worse of the shrinking middle-class. They should be angry- furious, in fact- but they are not.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

The Iraq War and The Fine Art of Republican Revisionism

by Nomad

Anti-War MemeNo matter how intense the barrage of propaganda and how constant the lies, Americans owe it to the 4,486 U.S. soldiers that died in Iraq to remember. Remembering the lessons of the war might just prevent the nation from making the same disastrous mistakes.

Margaret Meiers, in an op-ed piece for the Pittsburgh Post-gazette, asks how Americans can possible be so forgetful of recent events. 
Responding to an earlier newspaper opinion post, she states:
While Fox News and Bush administration officials try to rewrite history, it is known that faulty intelligence was drummed up and cherry-picked to be used to convince the people of the United States, Congress and the United Nations into supporting war.
Intelligence and Something Else
In case,  you need some reminders, Meiers provides us with a short list.
Remember Joe Wilson and Valerie Plame? Judith Miller’s reporting in The New York Times about aluminum tubes? Colin Powell’s address to the United Nations based on lies? The Downing Street memo? Remember “mushroom clouds,” duct tape and Curveball? And let’s not forget the Project for a New American Century, which openly pushed for war against Iraq before 9/​11 (the architects of whom are now Jeb Bush’s election campaign committee to keep him informed on foreign policy). Great.
Ignorance of events that happened, say in your grandfather's time may be forgiven but these things happened in 2003. We have a duty to those who died not to allow lies to mask the truth. We owe them that much at least.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Unitary Executive Theory: How the GOP in Congress is Destroying Cheney's Life Work

 by Nomad

Former vice president Cheney must be watching in dismay as the Republicans in Congress are tearing apart a doctrine that he has spent his whole life promoting.

The now-infamous letter of the 47 Senators  may not be treasonous although some on the Left may think so. The  unsolicited advice to the Iranians may not be a violation of the Logan Act and some lawyers might disagreed.
Nevertheless, in one aspect, there is something distinctly peculiar about what Congress did and has been doing since President Obama took office.

This new activism is a reversal of policy that has been the long standing hallmark of conservative principles. That principle is known as the Unitary Executive Theory and one of its chief promoters has always been former Vice president Dick Cheney.

According to this doctrine, all executive authority must be in the President’s hands, "without exception." The President and other members of the executive branch have special rights and privileges that come with the office. And the legislative branch, according to the proponents, has no authority to question presidential power. The president as the head of state and  that preeminence required Congress to recognize its lesser position.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Monstrous Ideas: How Ayn Rand's Pernicious Philosophy Allowed Conservatives to Destroy the US

by Nomad

No philosopher stirs the conservative heart like Ayn Rand. Yet, her warped philosophy of selfishness and the glorification of greed is today a major cause of the American malaise.

Back in 1979, Phil Donahue interviewed Ayn Rand, a person who was later to become "a major inspiration for the Tea Party movement."
If, for that reason alone, the oft-quoted Rand deserves a little of our attention. The interview came at a key moment in American political history, It was when the American voter rejected Carter and instead chose the conservative Ronald Reagan to lead us on a new path. 
In 1966, Ronald Reagan was, in fact, a fan and had written in a personal letter, "Am an admirer of Ayn Rand."

Born in St. Petersburg, Russia, on February 2, 1905, Alisa Zinov'yevna Rosenbaum was a novelist, playwright, screenwriter and a philosopher beloved by the free-market conservatives. Her brand of philosopher was called Objectivism. Among its other tenets. this philosophic system supports the idea that the proper moral purpose of one's life is the pursuit of one's own happiness (rational self-interest).  Thinking of others is something that should be avoided. It is, she said, a dangerous thing to do.
No wonder it became a founding principle of the conservative movement. 

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Why Being an Atheist in Egypt Can be Dangerous for your Health

 by Nomad

Egypt provides us with an example of why blasphemy laws make a mockery of the war on terrorism and extremist ideologies. 

The right to question authority, in the Western-styled liberal democracies,to challenge the established view or to reject religious dogma is just something we all take for granted.
It comes with living in a free society. It's a fundamental liberty for all human beings that, when it comes for example to religious beliefs we are free to obey the dictates of our own consciences.
In Egypt, however, those who dare to openly express doubts about their faith risk  the threat of state-approved violence and legal prosecution.

The Gaber Case
If the reports are true, then the October 2013 arrest of Sherif Gaber, a student at Suez Canal University in the northeastern city of Ismailiya, was utterly surreal. 
It involved armored cars surrounding his home in the middle of the night. Was he, you might ask, some kind of religious extremist plotting an attack? Was he a jihadist ready to blow himself up for a distort interpretation of his faith?
His crime was only that he was a non-believer, an atheist. For expressing his skepticism, he was charged "for insulting Islam and promoting atheism."

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Why Iran's Internal Politics May Soon Make Nuclear Negotiations Impossible

by Nomad

The hopes for some kind of equitable resolution of the Iranian nuclear issue are further complicated by the declining health of the Iranian Supreme Leader, Khamenei. We examine how his death could make any kind of breakthrough next to impossible.

Death as a Catalyst for Change
There's no question about it. Time is running out.
If reports are true, the health of the Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei is in decline. Western intelligence, as reported by the French paper Le Figaro, says that the 76-year-old has been diagnosed with stage four prostate cancer which has spread to other parts of his body. At most, he has two more years. 
 As Al Jezeera reported last September:
The image of the aging Khamenei recuperating in a hospital bed and being kissed by President Hassan Rouhani has led to speculation about janesheen, or succession, by Iran observers and probably by people at the higher echelons of Iranian politics.
This news is not such a well-kept secret. Concerns about the Supreme Leader's health- as well as, who his successor might be- have been the source of much speculation for the last few years. For all parties concerned, the timing could not possibly be any worse. 

Monday, March 9, 2015

On the Passing of Albert Maysles

by Nomad

Filmmaker Albert Maysles died the other day at the age of 88. You may not have heard of him. I know I hadn't until- thanks to the Internet- I finally stumbled across one of his films.

Albert and his brother, David, became famous in the art house circles for making slightly unconventional (at that time) documentaries.

The jarring film, Gimme Shelter (1970) was one of their most famous films.The subject was the final leg of t The Rolling Stones' 1969 US tour and culminated in the disastrous Altamont Free Concert, in which a member of the audience was murdered. Although the film has been deemed "the greatest rock film ever made," some also have seen the film as an indictment of the hippie culture and the chaos of a world without rules or, as one reviewer said,  a snapshot of a "counterculture experience in its decline."

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Unintended Pregnancies, Contraception and The High Cost of Right Wing Ignorance

 by Nomad

The Republican Congress may be hell-bent on restricting abortive services for women but in the end, all of their misguided efforts are going to end up. in real terms, costing the nation a lot more.

The Washington Post recently reported on the taxpayer costs  of blindly following Republican policies when it comes to women's health and sex education.  
According to a new analysis released by the Guttmacher Institute, unintended  pregnancies cost American taxpayers $21 billion each year.
That averages out to a cost of about $366 per every woman of childbearing age in the U.S. Overall, more than half of U.S. pregnancies are unintended, and roughly 1-in-20 American women of reproductive age have an unplanned pregnancy each year.
A full 68 percent of the million unplanned births are paid for by public insurance programs like Medicaid.  

These costs cover prenatal care, labor, delivery post-partum care and infant care for the first year. All those medical costs can quickly add up to something in the range of $21,000 per child. 

How many of those children end up in foster homes- costing the state even more- or are raised in households requiring government assistance is yet another problem without a solution. 

A Southern Problem
And there is a real North-South divide between the states when it comes to unplanned births. 
The lowest rates could be found in New England and the West, while the highest rates of unplanned pregnancy were found in Southern States. More than half of all births in Mississippi (56%) were unplanned.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Tomorrow's Headlines? Congressional Investigation Panel Demands Hillary's Letters to Grandmother

 by Nomad

Sometimes the real news needs no parody, but that didn't stop me for posting this.

Okay so this isn't real news but would you really be shocked if you heard this on the news tomorrow?

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Here's Why Scott Walker's Lack of a College Degree Really is a Big Deal

by Nomad

Ever since Wisconsin governor Scott Walker hinted that he might be interested in running for president in 2016, his critics have questioned his qualifications.
One point that keeps coming up is Scott's lack of a college degree. Is this such a big deal? You can decide.

Walker Running
Back in January, Walker made it clear that he was interested in running for president.
“We need someone who hopefully has the backing and the track record of success, of showing that common sense conservative reforms can work not just in Wisconsin, but they can work all across America.”
The results have been lackluster at best. Wisconsin job growth has ranked at or near the bottom of the Midwest, personal income growth has been last in the Midwest and 44th nationally, and the budget is in shambles.
A measure of Walker's failure becomes apparent when one compare Wisconsin to its neighbor, Minnesota. That state did not install those common sense reforms that Walker mentioned and what was the result? 
Well, only if you listen to conservatives. 
The truth is that by raising taxes on the wealthy, increasing spending, boosting the minimum wage, and implementing Obamacare, Minnesota has, as one writer puts it, "blown Wisconsin out of the water" when it comes to job growth and budget balancing. In fact, the law of Land of 10,000 Lakes ended up with a $1.2 billion surplus.

Walker's reforms have left his own state with a budget deficit in the billions. Today Wisconsin reportedly trails behind Minnesota in job growth, unemployment, and wages. Not very impressive.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

JFK's Reply to Netanyahu: War Need Not Be Inevitable

by Nomad

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will today address the US Congress in an attempt to influence foreign policy with regards to ongoing Iranian nuclear negotiations.

The search for a lasting peace in the Middle East sometimes seems a waste of time. Perhaps, as Kennedy once said, we need to define what we really mean when we think of peace.

In June 1963, President Kennedy gave one of his finest speeches of his presidency. It is known as his American University speech

Set against the most dangerous era of the Cold War when the Far Right demanded a tough line against the Communists, Kennedy chose to talk about the path to a lasting peace. At that time, it seemed so far-fetched.

Yet that fact did not stop the president from presenting his thoughts about peace with the Soviet Union: what it entailed, how it could be achieved and why it was a worthy and realistic goal to pursue.

Monday, March 2, 2015

The Story of Cass: When Homeless isn't Helpless

 by Nomad

Homeless Anthony Castelow defied the odds and turned his life around.  Once he had changed his life, he committed himself to helping others get the help they needed. 

Last Sunday a man you've probably never heard of died of a heart attack in his own home in Redford Michigan. I stresss the words "in his own home." As Detroit Free Press' Mitch Albom explains, a place called home, a place in which to live and to die was not something 55-year-old Anthony Castelow took for granted.
 On his final day, writes Albom, Castelow preached at the church, the subject of that last sermon was about "new beginnings."