In the Belly of the Beast: 6/23/11: Feeding Resistance: Food Not Bombs Members Arrested in Orlando for Serving Meals Without a Permit

INDEX (full text of stories follow Democracy Now headlines)


“Fascism is the open terrorist dictatorship of the most reactionary sector of monopoly capital”

Hard Times?

from War Times blogs by Lynn Koh

AARP in “full damage-control mode” after reports they support Social Security benefit cuts

Poll: Americans worse off now than when Obama elected

Courts: the popular angle

from LBO News from Doug Henwood by Doug Henwood





Headlines for June 24, 2011


Michigan Residents File Lawsuit Challenging Emergency Law Installing Unelected City Managers

from Democracy Now! | Healthcare Reform by (Democracy Now!)

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Michigan_buttonA group of Michigan residents have filed a suit challenging a controversial new state law that allows the governor to appoint an unelected emergency manager or corporation to take over financially distressed towns and cities and effectively fire elected officials. The law empowers these unelected managers to sell off public property, shred union contracts, and privatize government services, without any input from local voters. Michigan now has unelected emergency managers running the schools in Detroit, as well as the cities of Pontiac, Ecorse and Benton Harbor. We speak to longtime Detroit resident, Edith Lee-Payne, one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit, and John Philo, legal director of the Maurice & Jane Sugar Law Center for Economic and Social Justice, which filed the lawsuit against the state of Michigan. [includes rush transcript]

Citing Domestic Economic Crisis, U.S. Mayors Back Resolution to Redirect War Funds Home

Kitty_piercy_buttonMayors from cities nationwide have endorsed a resolution calling on Congress to end funding for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and instead spend the money at home. The measure from the U.S. Conference of Mayors was drafted and pushed through by the activist group CodePink. We speak with the resolution’s sponsor, Kitty Piercy, mayor of Eugene, Oregon. [includes rush transcript]

Musings from a Communist Nerd: Sports: The new opiate of the people?

from PA Editors Blog by Political Affairs

“There’s no real objection to escapism, in the right places… We all want to escape occasionally. But science fiction is often very far from escapism, in fact you might say that science fiction is escape into reality… It’s a fiction which does concern itself with real issues: the origin of man; our future. In fact I can’t think of any form of literature which is more concerned with real issues, reality.”

– Arthur C Clarke

It’s no secret that I am not a big fan of sports, especially ones in the USA. I mean, FOOTBALL? No one hardly touches the weird shaped object with their feet. And its all talk, with 15 sec of play every 5 min! But, to each their own, right?

Then I hear about the Stanley Cup riots in Vancouver, BC. People are comparing them to football (real football mind you) riots in the UK and Ireland, etc. But the more and more I view sports from an outsiders’ perspective, the more I come to realize that sports today are just as distractive, if not more so, than in ancient Rome. As long as people are entertained and fed, they wont care about politics. I learned that in English class. So we have rioters over who won Stanley’s cup, but not over the cuts in the medical system there? How about here? Where are the people cheering on their representative in congress like they would at the Super Bowl? Oh, thats right. We DO have that here. Its all over the media.

In the US, and probably Canada too (but I cant vouch for that), politics is paraded as a game. Lets see who’s side will loose on this issue! We have to beat the other side so we can look good! Have you WATCHED MSNBC, CNN, etc and compared it to sports commentary? Its DISGUSTING! Im waiting for C-SPAN to do play by plays on the Senate floor or something. People who DO pay attention to politics can EASLY be corralled into that “fight fight fight” spirit, but at the end of the day, its treated as a sporting event. Actually, I would argue that it is treated like a KIDS sporting event: one that matters less than the pro games. And I think, if Marx were alive today, that he might change his famously misquoted text: “ SPORTS [are] the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people.”

Now, Im not bashing religion OR sports. I tend to like martial arts, and have attended my share of services. But in THAT CONTEXT, it is appropriate to say that sports have become an ESCAPE as Marx had said religion was. Add that to the fact that people don’t skip the sunday game to go to church, and the fact that people who DO follow sports are so immersed by it that they think they are part of the team (ever heard the term “my team” or someone say “I HAVE to watch or they wont do well”?) and RIOT when their team doesn’t win a GAME?

Of course, we know that the rioting, in any form, is aggression and frustration of the conditions of the working class (did YOU see any billionaires in that riot?) but why not FOCUS that into something more productive? Not that I am advocating violence, but a riot on Capitol Hill over spending cuts to health care, social security, etc would make a heck of a lot more sense than HOCKEY, foosball, curling, basketballs, or whatever CORPORATE-OWNED, CORPORATE-RUN DISTRACTION!

As a party, we need to be pushing more people in THAT direction. You sports fans need to be on your Final Fantasy Sports forums (lolz) and hinting at that. Until everyone in the world is working a living wage and is not starving, there are WAY more important things to riot over. And Im not saying nerds are BETTER about stupid arguments (if you don’t know what I mean, ask a friend or google search Star Trek vs Star Wars, or what a Parsec is and why Han Solo got it wrong) but you don’t see us rioting the Skywalker Ranch because JarJar Binks was in the Star Wars universe.

Enjoy your sports, but keep reality in mind too. And Survivor doesn’t count.

—–end of sports rant 1.0—-

—loading reality TV rant 1.0—

Jon Stewart on just how many times Fox has lied (hint: a lot)

from AMERICAblog: A great nation deserves the truth by John Aravosis (DC)

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SYNDICATED COLUMN: Sexual Freedom: The Next Frontier

from Ted Rall’s Rallblog by Ted Rall

No One Should Be Judged Because of How They Have Sex

If slavery was America’s original sin, Puritanism was its original curse.

In recent years the United States has made significant strides towards greater equality and freedom. Racism, sexism and other forms of bigotry have been significantly curtailed by new laws and cultural education. But we still have work to do. Four centuries after people so uptight they couldn’t get along with the British invaded the New World, however, the United States remains one of the most sexually repressed Western countries.

It is not good for us.

“If expression of sexuality is thwarted, Christopher Ryan wrote in Psychology Today last year, “the human psyche tends to grow twisted into grotesque, enraged perversions of desire. Unfortunately, the distorted rage resulting from sexual repression rarely takes the form of rebellion against the people and institutions behind the repression.”

In other words, mean parents, churches and right-wing politicians.

“Instead,” Ryan observed, “the rage is generally directed at helpless victims who are sacrificed to the sick gods of guilt, shame, and ignorant pride.”

Like, for example, gays. Fourteen states still had sodomy laws on the books by the time the Supreme Court invalidated them in 2003.

And the occasional politician.

Former New York Congressman Anthony Weiner is the most recent in a long line of elected representatives to step down because of a “sex scandal.”

I use scare quotes here for a simple reason: Sexual expression should never result in a scandal.

It’s been more than a week since Weiner resigned after getting caught sexting naughty pictures of himself to women via Twitter. Weiner was a liberal, so ideology wasn’t at issue.

Most of the Democrats I talked to had the same weird take on Weiner. They weren’t offended. Not personally. They themselves didn’t think he had done anything immoral, or illegal, or that he had betrayed his constituents. They didn’t care.

They questioned Rep. Weiner’s judgment. Didn’t he know he might get caught, and what would happen if he did?

What Weiner did wasn’t bad, at least not bad enough to warrant resignation or impeachment. To most Democrats, including the House leadership, Weiner’s mistake was tactical—his failure to anticipate the outrage of other people that reflected lousy judgment—a personality flaw that required him to fall on his (much photographed) sword.

They didn’t care what he did. They didn’t like Weiner’s failure to be discreet.

It is time—well past time—that we Americans grew up.

No one, not even a politician, should be pressured to resign because of sex.

Even when they’re a hypocrite.

Perhaps like you, I snorted when Larry Craig, the anti-gay Idaho senator was arrested (and plead guilty to) cruising a men’s room with his “wide stance.” Here was a right-wing Republican who opposed gay marriage, allowing gays to get domestic-partner benefits, or even banning employment discrimination against gays, cruising for hunky tail at the Minneapolis airport.

“Let me be clear: I am not gay. I never have been gay,” he told a press conference.

Fun stuff. And hardly the first time a gaybasher got caught with his, um, you know, in a, well, um, nevermind.

Miraculously, Craig got to finish his term. But his political career is over.

Looking back on Senator Craig now, however, I think we progressives missed a teachable moment.

Rather than ridicule the man, we ought to have defended him as a victim of an unjust law. In the 21st century, why should anyone go to jail for soliciting consensual sex?

Also, we should have exploited Craig’s predicament as an opportunity to create a dialogue with him, to ask that, given his own status as a gay or bisexual (he was married) American, he reconsider his antigay politics.

One day, I hope, we will live in a nation where another person’s sexual expression is no one’s business but theirs and their sexual partners. We will be allowed to do whatever we want with whomever we want, as long as what we do is with a consenting adult.

Even if we take pictures and post them online.

(Ted Rall is the author of “The Anti-American Manifesto.” His website is


Taibbi on Bachmann: A “six-faced Machiavellian prevaricator” with “Divine Wind” delusions

Michele Bachmann is a fascinating figure, in my view. To all appearances, she’s smart, focused, driven, and full-on nuts. Quite the combo.

A taste of Taibbi’s prose from his feature Rolling Stone article on her: she’s “a religious zealot whose brain is a raging electrical storm of divine visions and paranoid delusions.” He documents that, but it’s not his main point. There’s no way to do justice to the full piece; you’ll have to dive into the deep end and read the whole thing.

Many write-ups on his article are quoting the Bachmann-Palin comparison. My teaser slice is this one (my emphasis):

Bachmann’s story, to hear her tell it, is about a suburban homemaker who is chosen by God to become a politician who will restore faith and family values to public life and do battle with secular humanism. But by the time you’ve finished reviewing her record of lies and embellishments and contradictions, you’ll have no idea if she actually believes in her own divine inspiration, or whether it’s a big con job. Or maybe both are true — in which case this hard-charging challenger for the GOP nomination is a rare breed of political psychopath, equal parts crazed Divine Wind kamikaze-for-Jesus and calculating, six-faced Machiavellian prevaricator. Whatever she is, she’s no joke.

Most Bachmann commenters focus on her children, her poll numbers, her crazed crisco-like self-anointing, or her neo-Palin looks. It’s the psychopath part that’s new in Taibbi’s analysis, based on his documentation of her promiscuous lying. For example:

Bachmann’s anti-standards crusade led her to her first political run. In 1999, she joined four other Republicans in Stillwater in an attempt to seize control of the school board. The “Slate of Five” proved unpopular: The GOP candidates finished dead last. … The slate of five had been put together by a local Republican kingpin named Bill Pulkrabek, who this spring was jailed for domestic assault after he allegedly pulled his mistress down a set of stairs by her hair. According to Pulkrabek, Bachmann initially came to him asking for advice on how to defeat Gary Laidig, a moderate Republican state senator, but he advised her to run for the school board first. … In her later telling of the story, however, Bachmann substituted a higher authority than Bill Pulkrabek. It was God, she insisted, not a girlfriend-abusing politician, who instructed her to get involved in politics. “As if we didn’t have enough to do, He called me to run for the Minnesota State Senate,” she said in 2006. “I had no idea, no desire to be in politics. None.”

In another version of the story told by Bachmann, she ran against Laidig only because a GOP endorsing convention in April of that year spontaneously selected her, prompting yet another Home Alone extreme-surprise moment. “I came in wearing jeans, a sweatshirt and moccasins, and I had no makeup on at all,” she said. “I had made not one phone call, and spent not five cents, and I did not solicit a vote.” Laidig, who calls Bachmann a “cold and calculating” person, didn’t buy it. “Absolute bullshit,” he told reporters. “She planned this all along.”

Taibbi calls this a kind of lies-for-the-Lord syndrome, where intentions bless deeds. Similar to when former Attorney General John Mitchell was asked by the Watergate committee if he’d kill to get Nixon re-elected, and he answered, “Senator, you ask a hard question.” (My paraphrase, but very close.)

Again, a fun read; do check it out.

For my money, Bachmann is positioning herself to be a rinsed-in-Jesus VP handmaiden to the magic-underwear headliner, Mitt Romney, who looks more and more like the only viable GOP candidate in 2012.

They would both benefit, he by the right-wing version of green-washing, which he desperately needs. And she by the obvious leg up.

Again, she’s not dumb, just crazy-for-Christ. (Sam Seder shares this view of her target, by the way, as sometimes expressed on his podcast. If nothing else, it makes great political sense.)

As Prosecutors Unseal Indictments in CityTime Scandal, Will Bloomberg Officials Be Next?

Citytime_buttonProsecutors have unsealed indictments against the company TechnoDyne and its founders in the CityTime payroll scandal in New York City, which was first exposed by Democracy Now!’s co-host Juan Gonzalez in his column for the New York Daily News. TechnoDyne executives face charges of paying millions in kickbacks to get CityTime work, and money laundering. Meanwhile, the founders of the company, Reddy Allen and his wife Padma, are now fugitives after fleeing to India. Prosecutors described CityTime as “one of the largest and most brazen frauds ever committed against the city.” Following the indictments, Gonzalez says the question remains whether top officials in the administration of New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg will also be charged. [includes rush transcript]

Chris Hayes to get his own show at MSNBC

Here’s Huffington Post on the news:

The New York Times reported Monday that the network is developing a show for Chris Hayes, the Washington correspondent for The Nation. Hayes is a frequent guest host for both Rachel Maddow and Lawrence O’Donnell. The two of them got their shows by… being frequent guest hosts.

It couldn’t happen to a better writer. This is Digby on Chris’s work, well worth clicking through to read. (This oneis a good place to start.) And here’s a great profile of Chris by Adele Stan at Alternet.

Interestingly, the Huff Post article offers this tidbit:

The Times writes that Hayes is one of a number of people who MSNBC has preemptively signed to new, long-term contracts to prevent them from making any deals with Current TV in the wake of Keith Olbermann’s move there. Olbermann, whose new show starts Monday night, has already announced his own line of regular contributors, including Michael Moore and Markos Moulitsas[.]

“Fascism is the open terrorist dictatorship of the most reactionary sector of monopoly capital”

Climate of Fear: Jim Risen v. the Obama administration

Climate of Fear: Jim Risen v. the Obama administration

James Risen and President Barack Obama

[Barring unforeseen events, I’m going to leave this post at the top of the page for today and tomorrow, as I think the events it examines, rather in detail and at length, are vitally important and merit much more attention than they’ve received]


The Obama DOJ’s effort to force New York Times investigative journalist Jim Risen to testify in a whistleblower prosecution and reveal his source is really remarkable and revealing in several ways; it should be receiving much more attention than it is.  On its own, the whistleblower prosecution and accompanying targeting of Risen are pernicious, but more importantly, it underscores the menacing attempt by the Obama administration — as Risen yesterday pointed out — to threaten and intimidate whistleblowers, journalists and activists who meaningfully challenge what the government does in secret.

The subpoena to Risen was originally issued but then abandoned by the Bush administration, and then revitalized by Obama lawyers.  It is part of the prosecution of Jeffrey Sterling, a former CIA agent whom the DOJ accuses of leaking to Risen the story of a severely botched agency plot — from 11 years ago — to infiltrate Iran’s nuclear program, a story Risen wrote about six years after the fact in his 2006 best-selling book, State of War.  The DOJ wants to force Risen to testify under oath about whether Sterling was his source.

Like any good reporter would, Risen is categorically refusing to testify and, if it comes to that (meaning if the court orders him to testify), he appears prepared to go to prison in defense of press freedoms and to protect his source (just as some young WikiLeaks supporters arecourageously prepared to do rather than cooperate with the Obama DOJ’s repellent persecution of the whistleblowing site).  Yesterday, Risen filed a Motion asking the Court to quash the government’s subpoena on the ground that it violates the First Amendment’s free press guarantee, and as part of the Motion, filed a lengthy Affidavit that is amazing in several respects.

During the Bush years, Risen was one of the few investigative journalists exposing the excesses and lawbreaking that was the War on Terror — causing him to be literally hated by officials of the National Security State.  Along with Eric Lichtblau, Risen most famously revealed, in 2005, that the NSA was secretly spying on Americans without warrants which — as he put it in his Affidavit — “in all likelihood, violated the law and the United States Constitution.”  In 2006, he revealed that the Bush administration had been obtaining huge amounts of financial and banking information about American citizens from the SWIFT system, all without oversight or Congressional authorization.  And here’s how he summarized the multiple revelations in State of War, the book for which the Obama DOJ is now seeking to force him to reveal his source upon pain of imprisonment:

State of War included explosive revelations about a series of illegal or potentially illegal actions taken by President Bush, including the domestic wiretapping program. It also disclosed how President Bush secretly pressured the CIA to use torture on detainees in secret prisons around the world; how the White House and CIA leadership ignored information before the 2003 invasion of Iraq that showed that Iraq did not have weapons of mass destruction; documented how, in the aftermath of the invasion, the Bush Administration punished CIA professionals who warned that the war in Iraq was going badly; showed how the Bush Administration turned a blind eye to Saudi involvement in terrorism; and revealed that the CIA’s intelligence operations on weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, Iran and other countries were completely dysfunctional, and even reckless.

(To understand the function of the American media and American political culture: please re-read that paragraph — describing revelations of pervasive lawbreaking and corruption at the highest levels of government from one reporter in one book — and compare the media’s indifferent and/or supportive treatment of that revealed conduct to the orgy of intense, obsessive condemnation directed at Anthony Weiner; or compare how the perpetrators of that conduct revealed by Risen are treated with great respect to the universal scorn heaped on Weiner).

Particularly because of the NSA revelation, Risen was despised by Bush officials and was the target of a right-wing hate campaign (including suggestions — from administration officials and prominent others — that he be prosecuted for espionage).  Risen compiles ample evidence in his Affidavit to argue that the Subpoena issued to him in the Sterling case was a by-product of the administration’s efforts to harm him; he writes: “the administration was embarrassed by the disclosures I made in the course of my reporting for State of War as well as in The New York Times, and eventually singled me out as a target for political harassment.”  Indeed, Risen argues — persuasively — that the investigation to unmask his source, and the prosecution of Sterling itself, is little more than a means of punishing him for his reporting and for intimidating similar disclosures in the future:

I believe that the investigation that led to this prosecution started because of my reporting on the National Security Agency’s warrantless wiretapping program. The Bush White House was furious over that story. I believe that this investigation started as part of an effort by the Bush Administration to punish me and silence me, following the publication of the NSA wiretapping story. I was told by a reliable source that Vice President Dick Cheney pressured the Justice Department to personally target me because he was unhappy with my reporting and wanted to see me in jail.

As it has in so many other instances, the Obama administration appears on the verge of fulfilling Dick Cheney’s nefarious wish beyond what even Cheney could achieve.

* * * * * *

There are two aspects to Risen’s Affidavit which merit particular attention.  First, Risen cites a 2006 ABC News report from Brian Ross and others that claimed the Bush administration was, without warrants, spying on the communications of reporters (including Ross) in order to discover the identity of their sources.  I personally never attached much credence to that story because of how unreliable I find Brian Ross to be, but in his Affidavit, Risen states (under oath) that he “has reason to believe that the story . . . is true” because he “learned from an individual who testified before a grand jury in this District that was examining my reporting about the domestic wiretapping program that the Government had shown this individual copies of telephone records relating to calls made to and from me.”

The fact that Bush officials were spying on reporters is extraordinary.  Instead of pursuing Cheneyite vendettas by persecuting whistleblowers who exposed newsworthy ineptitude from long-irrelevant CIA plots, the Obama DOJ ought to be investigating that allegation; that it isn’t and wouldn’t speaks volumes.

Second, Risen links the Obama administration’s pursuit of the Sterling case and of Risen to the current President’s broader (andunprecedented) war on whistleblowers and investigative journalism.  He writes:

[I believe that the efforts to target me have continued under the Obama Administration, which has been aggressively investigating whistleblowers and reporters in a way that will have a chilling effect on the freedom of the press in the United States.]

What’s particularly striking about this prosecution is that it involves digging deep into the ancient past (the Iran operation in question was begun under the Clinton administration): this from a President who insisted that Bush officials not be investigated for their crimes on the ground that we must “Look Forward, Not Backward.”  But it’s not hard to see why Obama officials are so intent on doing so: few things are more effective in creating a Climate of Fear — one that deters investigation and disclosure and stifles the exercise of basic rights — than prosecuting prominent people for having challenged and undermined the government’s agenda.  As Risen documents, that — plainly — is what this prosecution and the Obama administration’s broader anti-whistleblower war is about: chilling the exercise of basic rights and the ability to challenge government actions.

* * * * *

While there is no good faith claim that Risen’s revelation six years after the fact harmed U.S. national security, Risen’s story was unquestionably newsworthy because it revealed how inept and ignorant American intelligence agencies are when it comes to Iran.  Indeed, Risen claims vindication for his story “given subsequent reports about theunreliability of our intelligence about Iran’s nuclear capabilities and about our government’s tendency to overstate the threat in a way that is not entirely consistent with the intelligence actually gathered.”

That Iran is developing nuclear weapons is one of the Obama administration’s most cherished orthodoxies.  Anything that challenges that is attacked.  Recall how cowardly Obama officials ran to Politico to anonymously malign Seymour Hersh’s recent New Yorker piece arguing that there is little credible evidence of Iran’s nuclear activities.  As Risen says:  “Whether one agrees with Mr. Hersh’s article or not, it is clear that, five years after I wrote State of War, there is still a serious national debate about Iran’s nuclear ambitions and about whether the current administration has incentives to exaggerate intelligence related to this topic.”

What the Obama administration is doing, above all else, is bolstering the Climate of Fear that prevents any challenges to its pronouncements of this sort.   I wrote about that joint White-House/Politico attack on Hersh to mock the gross hypocrisy of criticizing Hersh for his use of anonymous sources in the very same article where Politico granted anonymity to Obama officials to attack him; but the more substantive point is that of course Hersh has to use anonymous sources.  In the Climate of Fear being deliberately fortified by the Obama administration, what person in their right mind would openly challenge their national security decrees on classified matters or call their veracity into question?  As the Sterling/Risen case and numerous others have intentionally conveyed:  imprisonment is the likely outcome for those who do that.

* * * * *

This Climate of Fear is being strengthened by more than just whistleblowing prosecutions and the targeting of journalists.  So many Obama policies are devoted to its fortification.

Today in The New York Times, former NYT reporter David Shiplerchronicles the multiple ways the current President, in conjunction with Congress and the Supreme Court, have intensified the decades-long assault on the Fourth Amendment’s guarantee against unreasonable searches and seizures:  “The Obama administration petitioned the Supreme Court to allow GPS tracking of vehicles without judicial permission. The Supreme Court ruled that the police could break into a house without a search warrant if, after knocking and announcing themselves, they heard what sounded like evidence being destroyed. Then it refused to see a Fourth Amendment violation where a citizen was jailed for 16 days on the false pretext that he was being held as a material witness to a crime. Congress renewed Patriot Act provisions on enhanced surveillance powers until 2015, and the F.B.I. expanded agents’ authority to comb databases, follow people and rummage through their trash even if they are not suspected of a crime.”  In his last paragraph, Shipler describes why this matters so much:

The Fourth Amendment is weaker than it was 50 years ago, and this should worry everyone. “Uncontrolled search and seizure is one of the first and most effective weapons in the arsenal of every arbitrary government,” Justice Robert H. Jackson, the former chief United States prosecutor at the Nuremberg trials, wrote in 1949. “Among deprivations of rights, none is so effective in cowing a population, crushing the spirit of the individual and putting terror in every heart.”

Beyond the numerous actions described by Shipler, the Obama adminstration has pursued multiple actions perfectly described by that passage, certain to achieve that very outcome.  It has continuously harassed numerous WikiLeaks supporters, repeatedly detaining them at airports and seizing and copying their laptops, all without warrants, andsubpoeaned their social networking records.   It is seeking (and is likely to obtain) dramatically expanded domestic surveillance powers,physically and over the Internet.  It has seized the power to target American citizens for assassination without a whiff of due process.  It succeeded in convincing the Supreme Court to declare that one can “materially support Terrorism” — a felony — merely by talking to, or advocating on behalf of, designated Terrorist groups.  In one of the most important stories I haven’t written about (but should have), it hasinvasively investigated and threatened with prosecution a slew of domestic peace activists and those sympathetic to the Palestinian cause.  And now the precedent has been bolstered that the prime circumstance that fuels and justifies all of these powers — war — can be unilaterally commenced by the President for any reason, for any length of time, without a pretense of democratic consent.

For someone who has no real interest in challenging government claims or undermining official actions, these policies will have no direct, perceptible effect.  It’s always true that those who are supportive of institutions of authority or who otherwise have no interest in challenging them are never targeted by measures of this sort; why would they be?  That’s why supporters of all Presidents — Republicans during the Bush years and now Democratic loyalists under Obama — are rarely disturbed by such developments.

Along with the apathetic, who by definition pose no threat to anyone, prominent cheerleaders for the President and his party, who labor every day to keep them in power, are the last ones who will be subjected to such programs.  Obviously, nobody in the Obama administration is monitoring the phone calls at the Center for American Progress or ones placed to the large stable of columnists, bloggers and TV stars who daily spout White House talking points or devote each day to attacking the President’s political opponents.  That’s why purported civil liberties concerns manifest only when the other party is in power, but vanish when their own is.  Partisan loyalists are indifferent to their leader’s ability to deter dissent; if anything, they’re happy that their party’s leader wields such power and can use it against political adversaries.

But for anyone who is engaged in meaningful dissent from and challenge to government officials — the Jim Risens and other real investigative reporters, the Thomas Drakes and other whistleblowers, the WikiLeaks supporters, the Midwest peace activists — these prosecutions and these ever-expanding surveillance, detention and even assassination powers are inevitably intimidating.  Regardless of how those powers are used or even whether they are, they will, as Risen put it, have “a chilling effect” on the exercise of core freedoms.  As Risen explained in his Affidavit, even if Brian Ross’ story turned out to be false, the mere claim by anonymous officials that the phone records of journalists are being monitored — combined with threats of prison for their sources and even for reporters who are subpoenaed — means “the Government further contributed to creating an atmosphere of fear for journalists who publish stories about national security and intelligence issues.”

The most odious aspect of this Climate of Fear is that it fundamentally changes how the citizenry thinks of itself and its relationship to the Government.  A state can offer all the theoretical guarantees of freedom in the world, but those become meaningless if citizens are afraid to exercise them.  In that climate, the Government need not even act to abridge rights; a fearful populace will voluntarily refrain on its own from exercising those rights.

Nobody wants to believe that they have been put in a state of fear, that they are intimidated, so rationalizations are often contrived: I don’t perceive any violations of my rights because there’s nothing I want to do that I’m not able to do.   Inducing a fearful population to refrain from exercising rights — as it convinces itself no such thing is happening — is a far more effective, and far more pernicious, means of suppressing freedoms.  That’s what a Climate of Fear uniquely enables.  The vast National Security and Surveillance State has for decades been compiling powers — and eroding safeguards and checks — devoted to the strengthening of this climate, and the past two-and-a-half years have seen as rapid and concerted intensification as any other period one can recall.  Read Jim Risen’s Affidavit if you doubt that.

LulzSec hackers vs. Arizona anti-immigrant law enforcement

The war against the corps and their minions (yes, corps, as persons under the law, can have minions) is moving fully into the first phase — guerrilla skirmishes.

Here’s Maddow on the attack by LulzSecurity (LulzSec) against the Government–Movement Conservative nexusin Arizona. Watch:

For print news, here’s AZ Central:

Computer experts are trying to determine how an international group of hackers broke into the Arizona Department of Public Safety’s computers on Thursday and downloaded and released hundreds of law-enforcement files.

The hacking group LulzSec, which has taken responsibility for breaching the websites of the CIA and the U.S. Senate, said in a bulletin that it targeted the DPS because LulzSec opposes Senate Bill 1070, a law the Arizona Legislature passed that widened law-enforcement officers’ ability to apprehend illegal immigrants. The law is largely on hold pending a review by the U.S. Supreme Court.

The DPS files, posted on LulzSec’s website, include personal information about officers and numerous documents ranging from routine alerts from out-of-state police agencies to videos and photos about the hazards of police work and operations of drug gangs. … In its Web posting, the group said the files were primarily related to U.S. Border Patrol and counterterrorism operations.

The article contains much about what kind of info was grabbed.

And here’s the LulzSec release itself, and what they say about their goals (my emphasis):

Hackers of the world are uniting and taking direct action against our common oppressors – thegovernment, corporations, police, and militaries of the world.

Digital Trends has more, including useful links. And in some quarters, they’re already calling it “terrorism.”

This is not to endorse or encourage. This is to document. The corp war has entered the guerrilla phase, in my opinion (reread the LulzSec quote above). And before you cheer (should you trend that way), keep in mind thatno war is pretty. The guy who said “war is hell” was being literal.

And count on it — the cops will up their game to match or exceed the perceived threat. It’s what they do. This is truly a world-wide battlefield fought with digi-guns in cyberspace.

And also in airport “security” checks (h/t Darcy Burner). I don’t even want to imagine the level of intrusion we’re in for.

Feeding Resistance: Food Not Bombs Members Arrested in Orlando for Serving Meals Without a Permit

from Democracy Now! | Healthcare Reform by (Democracy Now!)

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Button_4The City of Orlando, the home of Disney World in Florida, is being sued in court today over a city law that has effectively made it illegal for any group to feed more than 25 people at a time in downtown parks without a permit. It also limits groups to no more than two permits per park, per year. The group Food Not Bombs has refused to obey the new law—saying food is a right, not a privilege—and has continued to serve free meals to the poor and homeless. However, over the past month more than 20 members of the organization have been arrested. Keith McHenry, who helped found Food Not Bombs over 30 years ago, was arrested Wednesday and remains in jail. We speak with Benjamin Markeson, an activist involved with Food Not Bombs for several years who was arrested earlier this month, and the group’s attorney, Shayan Elahi. [includes rush transcript]

Pulitzer winning writer comes out as undocumented immigrant

from AMERICAblog: A great nation deserves the truth by John Aravosis (DC)

I know Jose Antonio Vargas, professionally – but who knew? Fascinating story, really well written, worth a read.From the NYT:

One day when I was 16, I rode my bike to the nearby D.M.V. office to get my driver’s permit. Some of my friends already had their licenses, so I figured it was time. But when I handed the clerk my green card as proof of U.S. residency, she flipped it around, examining it. “This is fake,” she whispered. “Don’t come back here again.”

Confused and scared, I pedaled home and confronted Lolo. I remember him sitting in the garage, cutting coupons. I dropped my bike and ran over to him, showing him the green card. “Peke ba ito?” I asked in Tagalog. (“Is this fake?”) My grandparents were naturalized American citizens — he worked as a security guard, she as a food server — and they had begun supporting my mother and me financially when I was 3, after my father’s wandering eye and inability to properly provide for us led to my parents’ separation. Lolo was a proud man, and I saw the shame on his face as he told me he purchased the card, along with other fake documents, for me. “Don’t show it to other people,” he warned.

I decided then that I could never give anyone reason to doubt I was an American. I convinced myself that if I worked enough, if I achieved enough, I would be rewarded with citizenship. I felt I could earn it.

Marriage vote possible in Albany as Obama raises LGBT money in Manhattan (Evolve Already, btw)

Lots of LGBT news today. We think there will be a vote on marriage in the New York Senate tonight. But, Albany being Albany, anything can happen. The GOP Senate conference is meeting to discuss whether to bring the bill to the floor for a vote. The pressure for a vote is intense.

Greg Sargent thinks the anti-marriage side has run out of arguments. And, he’s right.

Also, the President is attending an LGBT fundraiser in New York City tonight. Amazing timing, huh? There will be a protest asking Obama to evolve already. That’s the new message to the President: Evolve Already.

We’re not the only ones asking the President to evolve. The Advocate’s Andrew Harmon spoke to several Democratic Senators who urged the President to finally support marriage (while Feinstein wants him to support her DOMA repeal bill.)

And, finally, I want to share something I wrote yesterday at AMERICAblog Gay. 2012 is not 2004. It’s good politics for Obama to evolve. He’s already behind public opinion:

Every time I see another article where [Campaign Manager Jim] Messina claims the campaign is going after the youth vote, I wonder how’ll they’ll do that if Obama is opposed to marriage. For example, in Virginia (one of the 2012 battleground states and not a liberal bastion in any way),73% of 18-29 year old voters support marriage. Not saying all young voters make their choice for President on marriage equality, but it could influence whether some of them actually vote. The current position of the President is dated and looks way out-of-touch — and it doesn’t inspire the base.

When Kerry Eleveld and I hosted Mike Signorile’s show on May 3, 2011, one of our guests was Nate Silver who had just written a post titled, “Gay Marriage Opponents Now in Minority.” He told us that Obama was already behind the trend of public opinion, “It’s too late for [Obama] to get ahead of the trend.” But, it’s not too late for him to get on the right side of history.

Evolve already, Mr. President. It’s the right thing to do on so many levels, including politically.

Now, if only the donors attending the big LGBT fundraiser in NYC tomorrow would convey the same message…..

Really, it’s for his own good.

TSA spreads coverage including NY subway

The security theater continues. There’s no question that there is a threat out there but these policies sound like they’re overboard. Americans sound much more paralyzed with fear than other countries who have faced terrorism. MotherJones:

As part of the TSA’s request for FY 2012 funding, TSA Administrator John Pistole told Congress last week that the TSA conducts 8,000 unannounced security screenings every year. These screenings, conducted with local law enforcement agencies as well as immigration, can be as simple as checking out cargo at a busy seaport. But more and more, they seem to involve giving airport-style pat-downs and screenings of unsuspecting passengers at bus terminals, ferries, and even subways.

These surprise visits are part of the TSA’s VIPR program: Visible Intermodal Prevention and Response. The VIPR program first started doing searches in 2007, and has grown since then. Currently, the TSA only has 25 VIPR teams doing these impromptu searches: in 2012, it wants to get 12 more.

The searches are in the name of passenger security, and the TSA says it wants to prevent incidents like the 2004 Madrid train bombings. But if the airports’ TSA searches miss security risks like large knives, loaded guns, and explosives, there’s certainly the chance that screenings at train stations would be similarly flawed.


Hard Times?

from War Times blogs by Lynn Koh

Not if you’re a Silicon Valley CEO. According to the San Jose Mercury News, which does an annual survey of CEO compensation called ‘What the Boss Makes,’ CEO compensation increased 37 percent, while the median worker pay increased 1.6 percent.  Median profit for companies surveyed was $35 million.

read more

Corporate America sitting on $800 billion

If the financial incentive is there to sit on cash rather than hire, someone in Washington needs to think about how to turn that around and make it worth their while to start hiring again. CNBC:

The current members of the S&P 500 are sitting on about $800 billion in cash and cash equivalents, the most ever, according to data by Birinyi Associates, even as the unemployment rate has ticked back above 9 percent. Most of this cash and cash equivalents are likely yielding at or below the current 3.6 percent annual rate of inflation, giving it a negative real return.

“Companies are still gun shy from the credit crunch,” said Dave Lutz, managing director of trading at Stifel Nicolaus. “And why hire if there is no demand? Stay variable with temporary workers.”

This ultra-conservative outlook runs contrary to what the Federal Reserve said about the economy Wednesday. In its monetary policy statement, the Fed said that it expects energy and other rising costs to abate, causing companies to hire and the economy to recover from its current soft patch.

AARP in “full damage-control mode” after reports they support Social Security benefit cuts

And well they should be. The question is, who’s lying, the AARP or the AARP?

It started with this report in the Wall Street Journal (the cached version is here):

AARP, the powerful lobbying group for older Americans, is dropping its longstanding opposition to cutting Social Security benefits, a move that could rock Washington’s debate over how to revamp the nation’s entitlement programs.

The decision, which AARP hasn’t discussed publicly, came after a wrenching debate inside the organization. In 2005, the last time Social Security was debated, AARP led the effort to kill President George W. Bush’s plan for partial privatization. AARP now has concluded that change is inevitable, and it wants to be at the table to try to minimize the pain.

“The ship was sailing. I wanted to be at the wheel when that happens,” said John Rother, AARP’s long-time policy chief and a prime mover behind its change of heart.

And deeper in the article, there’s this:

In an early sign of its new approach, AARP declined to join a coalition of about 300 unions, women’s groups and liberal advocacy organizations created to fight Social Security benefit cuts. “The coalition’s role was to kind of anchor the left, and our role is going to be to actually get something done,” said Mr. Rother.

Can you feel the macho thrill in that last phrase?

Well, that was so June 17th. The next day they were “hammered” for their position. Suddenly it’s June 21, andaccording to Politico, the AARP sun now rises in the west:

The phones rang in Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s office just hours after news reports surfaced late last week, asserting that the powerful seniors lobby, AARP, is open to cuts in Social Security benefits.

It was AARP calling — in full damage-control mode — assuring Reid’s office that nothing had changed and that the group remains fully dedicated to protecting Social Security. Hours later, the group issued a statement from its CEO to members of Congress, disputing the reports as “misleading” and saying that the entitlement program should not be used as a “piggy bank” to solve the nation’s fiscal woes.

They have always been at war with Eastasia.

Not much to add to this report. Note the nondenial — the Journal piece was not wrong, but “misleading”. Of course it was; it mislead people toward the actual positions held by the AARP leadership. Bummer that.

The AARP has looked like a suspect organization ever since supporting Bush II’s drug “benefit” plan. The AP in 2003:

AARP threw the weight of its 35 million members behind a planned Medicare prescription drug benefit on Monday, handing Republicans a pivotal endorsement as they fight Democratic critics.

And they have not been covered in glory since (see Jon Walker’s walk through the history of AARP and SS benefit cuts for more).

As someone suggested (sorry, forgot who), it would be wonderfully fitting if the Boomer generation, which cut its teeth burning draft cards, would cap its last years burning AARP cards.

For those who are action-oriented, here’s the mailing address from their contact page. Be firm but polite; and the more you show effort, the more effect you have, so handwritten wins over MS Word, and so on.

601 E Street, NW
Washington DC 20049

(Oh, and it’s easier to mail torn card than burnt ones — in case you trend that way.)

Latest on Social Security

from LBO News from Doug Henwood by Doug Henwood

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Following on the NYT quote, I thought it’d be good to post LBO’s most recent take on Social Security:

Is the real problem Social Security?

Also, this is from my radio commentary for tomorrow:

Speaking of austerity, the Wall Street Journal reported on Friday that the AARP, nominally an interest group fighting on behalf of older Americans, has decided to stop resisting calls for cuts to Social Security benefits, reversing its long opposition to such a cruel move. The group’s policy chief, John Rother, said, “The ship was sailing. I wanted to be at the wheel when that happens.” But of course he’s not going to be at the wheel. His turn is going to make it a lot easier for bad people to take the wheel. He’s already emboldened such types, within hours of the publication of the Journal’s story.

Rother was apparently inspired to make this change by the news that Obama is planning to tackle Social Security sometime in his first, and perhaps only, term as president. I’ve long thought that it’s going to take a Democrat to cut Social Security (and, along with it, Medicare), since Republicans would attract too much opposition.

Social Security is not a serious problem. Talk of its imminent bankruptcy is way overblown, and is based on extremely gloomy economic and demographic assumptions. But even if those come to pass, the numbers are actually quite small by the standards of the federal budget. For example, if you just removed the cap on the Social Security tax—wage and salary income above $106,800 is now exempt from the tax, as is investment income—then Social Security would be solvent as far as they eye can see, even given the bearish underlying assumptions. So this is a non-problem.

AARP has essentially become an insurance company. It opposed single-payer because it sells health insurance (though they’ll give you a lot of nonsensical policy justifications for their self-interested stance). I wouldn’t be surprised at all if it’s now looking to expand into the retirement annuity business. But if Social Security cuts go through, catfood might be a more promising line of business.

AARP: your nose is growing

from LBO News from Doug Henwood by Doug Henwood

In response to press reports that the AARP has given in to the elite consensus on the need for benefit cuts to Social Security, the organization released this statement: AARP Has Not Changed Its Position on Social Security. After loudly proclaiming its continuing devotion to protecting the program, the statement moves on to this disclosure:

It has long been AARP’s policy that Social Security should be strengthened to provide adequate benefits and that it is sufficiently financed to ensure solvency with a stable trust fund for the next 75 years.  It has also been a long held position that any changes would be phased in slowly, over time, and would not affect any current or near term beneficiaries.

In other words, protect current retirees and those near retirement, but apply the cuts to younger workers, who presumably either aren’t paying attention or don’t expect anything from the system anyway. In mainstream discourse, this is called “strengthening” Social Security.

McKinsey: more right than wrong

from LBO News from Doug Henwood by Doug Henwood

Administration apologists, from the White House official blog to Paul Krugman (“McKinseyGate”), have all lined up to denounce the McKinsey survey I wrote up here the other day (“Bye-bye employer health insurance”). McKinsey found that a large share of employers who now offer health insurance benefits will drop them once ObamaCare comes into effect in 2014. At first, McKinsey didn’t release the questions or the methodology, prompting reactions like Krugman’s:

It’s hard to escape the conclusion that the study was embarrassingly bad — maybe it was a skewed sample, maybe the questions were leading, maybe there was no real data at all. Whatever [sic].

A few days of criticism of this sort was more than the consulting firm could take, so it released the full survey and the underlying data. Turns out the sample was not skewed, the questions were entirely reasonable and factual, and there’s plenty of data.

At the core of it is this: McKinsey gave the surveyed employers details on what would happen if they dropped coverage—how much it would cost their employees, after government subsidies, to buy insurance on the new exchanges (e.g., $4,437 for a family of four with an income of $55,125), and what it would cost them in penalties for not insuring employees ($2,000 per worker after the first 30 workers). McKinsey presumably did not have to tell employers what their present coverage cost them, but the numbers are stunning. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, typical coverage costs almost $14,000 a year, with employers paying about $10,000 and employees about $4,000. No wonder a third to half of employers would seriously contemplate dropping coverage—their cost savings would be enormous. And their workers might not have to spend all that much more than they’re contributing today. But their coverage is likely to be a lot crummier than what they’ve got now.

Forbes blogger Avit Roy—who appears to be rather conservative, but also smart and serious—has written some convincing defenses of the McKinsey survey (like“The McKinsey Health Insurance Survey Was Rigorous, After All”). One of his commenters, Heritage Foundation economist Paul Winfree, notes that studies like the Congressional Budget Office’s, which show many fewer employers likely to drop coverage than McKinsey does, are based on extrapolations from minor, year-to-year changes in the cost of health insurance that may not be relevant to an enormous transformation of the sort that ObamaCare represents. This seems like a sound point: a massive institutional change like this is more likely to produce a major rethink than minor twiddling.

Single-payer advocates should be embracing the McKinsey results, not jumping on the Democrats’ apologetics bandwagon.

Krugman’s lazy apologia

from LBO News from Doug Henwood by Doug Henwood

Paul Krugman can’t stop attacking the McKinsey survey. His filed his latest apologia this morning (“McKinsey Pulls Back the Curtain”). It’s not his finest moment.

He dismisses the report as a mere “poll,” which is presumably a less reliable thing than the economic models that everyone else has been using. But why should a detailed survey—over 50 questions asked of over 1,300 respondents, mostly decision-makers—be less reliable than statistical extrapolations from not very comparable historical data?

Krugman quotes a stat from a Time reporter, Kate Pickert—not from the original document, curiously—with what he thinks is a clincher. The respondents didn’t know what they were talking about!

When asked how much their companies spend on medical and prescription drug benefits per full-time employee – something you might expect a health benefit pro to be intimately familiar with – 58.3% said they didn’t know.

Yes, that’s in the survey (question 15, for those scoring at home). The full question is actually more complicated, and might require a little spreadsheet work to figure out precisely:

Approximately what did your company spend on medical and prescription drug benefits last year per each active, full-time employee (averaged across both single employees and employees with spouses/families)?

I think it’s certain that the “don’t knows” know that they’re spending more than $2,000.

And the respondents weren’t just “health benefit pros.” Only about 10% were human resources execs; far more were owners and CEOs (question 2).

That aside, Krugman forgot to quote this observation from Pickert, from the same article:

Its poll of employers was not a GOP-funded shoddy survey meant to gin up criticism of Obamacare. Rather, the poll was long, complicated, conducted by a well-established polling firm and weighted to reflect the American business community as a whole. (This weighting helps compensate for the fact that the survey was conducted online, which can lead to problematic self-selection.) There are more than 50 questions in the survey, many of them multi-part questions, and the data collected is organized into easy to read cross tabs and breakdowns….That McKinsey initially seemed to release only the most headline-grabbing data subset is disappointing – the full results are full of all sorts of interesting nuggets like that, compared to very small businesses, about half as many large businesses would probably or definitely drop coverage post-reform. But its initial decision to keep its full data trove secret doesn’t mean the company’s motives were evil or partisan.

By contrast, Krugman’s motives, though not evil, sure look partisan.

Poll: Americans worse off now than when Obama elected

This is a seriously big problem for Obama and 2012. Not that Romney or any of the Republicans have a great story but for them, they are not Obama. Romney may have one of the worst backgrounds for troubled times – a VC guy who profited while throwing workers out on the street – but some could ignore that and only focus on his slick sales pitch that he knows how to run a business. Obama is going to have to dig in a fight to change the current dynamics but we have not seen much of that since the 2008 campaign. Bloomberg:

Fewer than a quarter of people see signs of improvement in the economy, and two-thirds say they believe the country is on the wrong track overall, according to a Bloomberg National Poll conducted June 17-20.

“Gas prices are higher, grocery prices are higher, transportation prices are higher,” says poll respondent Ronda Brockway, 54, an insurance company manager and political independent who lives in a suburb of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. “The jobs situation nationwide is very poor.”

By a 44 percent to 34 percent margin, Americans say they believe they are worse off than when President Barack Obama took office in early 2009, when the U.S. was in the depths of a recession compounded by the September 2008 financial crisis and the economy was losing as many as 820,000 jobs a month.

Breaking news: robed ghouls act in character

from LBO News from Doug Henwood by Doug Henwood

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So the Supreme Court handed down its decision on the Walmart (né Wal-Mart) sex discrimination case. It can be summarized in three words of Brooklyn dialect: “get outta here.” I will defer to my wife, Liza Featherstone, who wrote the book on the case, for detailed analysis. But I am overcome with the need to denounce, so please indulge me.

Liberals will anguish endlessly over this decision, parsing it in that tediously fetishistic way that has become all too familiar. But really, the Supreme Court is a fundamentally reactionary tool of bourgeois power. Liberal opinion still seems to think that the Warren court was something other than a 15-year anomaly in its mostly awful history.

Why this boring and annoying obsession with The Court? Is it because liberals think that the people are fundamentally dolts, and turn to unelected judges to accomplish what democratic agitation can’t? This seems to be the strategy of the reproductive rights movement, which does little but litigate and lobby while access to abortion dwindles, and popular opinion moves in unpleasant directions. And the labor movement looks to have been doing similar things: when you can’t organize, file suits. But for most of American history, judges have done the work of elites—which isn’t surprising, given their social origins and professional training.

Give up on the courts. They’re hopeless.

Courts: the popular angle

from LBO News from Doug Henwood by Doug Henwood

My pal Elise Hendrick posted this excellent comment on the “robed ghouls act in character” post to Facebook:

I’d say that part of the obsession, outside of élite circles, is due to a combination of : a) An educational system that hammers into people’s heads the notion that The Constitution and the Supreme Court are the representatives and defenders, respectively, of all that is good and right in society; b) A general lack of understanding of the history of the Warren (and early Burger) courts. People look at the decisions of the day – Brown v. Bd. of Ed., Brandenburg v. Ohio, etc. etc. etc. – and not at the social context. The Warren court was operating in an atmosphere of mass popular upheaval, and followed – not led – the public’s demands for change. The difference between Plessy and Brown is not so much the court’s composition as the public mood – segregation was already highly unpopular, particularly in the north, by the time the Brown decision was issued. The free speech cases that actually created the free speech rights that people now falsely believe have been applied since 1776 were handed down in the face of an insurgent public that was going well beyond the long-established limits of its accepted sphere (spectators, not protagonists).

Wisconsin: game over?

from LBO News from Doug Henwood by Doug Henwood

I wish sometime that I’d be proven wrong in my pessimism. But it looks like the great upsurge in Wisconsin has petered out. Listen to my interview with Abe Sauer in the June 25 radio show I just posted. Or read Progressiveeditor Matt Rothschild’s gloomy assessment from a week ago: Wisconsin Demoralized, Demobilized.

It’s the same damn story over and over. The state AFL-CIO chooses litigation and electoral politics over popular action, which dissolves everything into mush. Meanwhile, the right is vicious, crafty, and uncompromising. Guess who wins that sort of confrontation?

Please prove me wrong someday, you sad American “left.”


Supreme Court rules in favor of Big Pharma data-mining your medical records for advertising purposes

from AMERICAblog: A great nation deserves the truth by John Aravosis (DC)

Incredible. Big Pharma’s right to advertise drugs to you based on your own private medical records is more important than your right to privacy for your own medical records. Simply astounding.

House Republicans stop pesky food safety regs

from AMERICAblog: A great nation deserves the truth by John Aravosis (DC)

From Anson Kaye at USNews:

Folks, it’s with great pleasure that I report more good news from the House of Representatives. I know, it’s hard to imagine the House getting any better, but a few days ago they did something that can only be described as delicious: They stopped the government from getting all mixed up in food safety.

You see, in December, the president signed into law the first significant food safety reforms in over 70 years. But House Republicans are trying to send those laws back to the kitchen (pun!) by cutting the FDA’s implementation budget. That means that while the laws remain on the books, the FDA won’t have the money to execute them.

And our food safety system has never, ever broken down. Ok, so a long, long time ago some foods did make Americans sick. But that was way back in 2010 and 2009 and 2007… That’s like 525,000 minutes ago, people. Check my math, but I’m pretty sure I wasn’t even born then. And anyway, the tainted foods were pretty exotic. Eggs and spinach. Some kind of mysterious butter made of peanuts.

Is genetically modified food causing increased food allergies in children?

Way back when (OK, last May) I wrote about the Obama administration’s decision to allow (and in some ways, encourage) the use of genetically modified alfalfa and other crops. That ruling was reportedly made by the USDA after the direct intervention of the White House in the Dept. of Agriculture decision process.

Why do I say “encourage”? Because, as I noted then, Monsanto:

Can go into the fields of organic farmers, collect samples, and sue farmers if the fields contain any of Monsanto’s patented products.

That makes the bank robber the sheriff, it seems to me.

As a follow-up, here’s Jennifer Grayson at Huffington Post writing about something close to every parent’s heart: the appalling increase in children’s food allergies and the possible ties to GM (genetically modified) food. Ms. Grayson (my emphasis):

The latest research regarding children’s food allergies came out earlier this week, and it’s a jaw-dropper: Food-related allergies are now twice as common as was once thought, with 1 in 12 American children possibly affected.

Of those with allergies, 40 percent have had reactions severe enough to land them in the hospital, or worse. Prescriptions for the life-saving EpiPen increased 36 percent from 2004 to 2007 alone; that number is likely to be higher in light of the latest study.

Excuse my language, but what the hell is going on? … Curiously, one thing that may indeed be responsible for the increase in food-related allergies is not getting a lot of press: food itself.

I’ve long argued that American’s don’t eat differently (less “morally”) than we used to; since WWII we’ve always filled ourselves to the brim. But what we fill up with is vastly different, despite being eerily (and deceptively) identical in taste to 1950’s cooking.

Grayson quotes Robyn O’Brien, a food activist and mother, on the relationship between food allergies and GM-laced products:

[A]s O’Brien explains, the body of a child with food allergies recognizes [CORR: may recognize (my error)] these [genetically modified] foreign proteins as “invaders,” launching an inflammatory attack that manifests as an allergic — sometimes deadly anaphylactic — reaction.

The statistics are alarming — for example, 265% increase in food allergy hospitalizations in this brave new post-GM world. Read the article for more; it’s not good news, and the source is the CDC.

Obviously nothing is proven (hence the question in the headline of this piece). But the data is piling up, in that “why do I cough when I smoke?” kind of way. I’m keeping my eye on this issue, as should we all.

If you’d like more information about Robyn O’Brien, check here. And for those who like to act, you can sign her petition at by clicking here.


New Exposé Reveals Nuclear Regulatory Commission Colluded with Industry to Weaken Safety Standards

Button_1Three U.S. senators have called for a congressional probe on safety issues at the nation’s aging nuclear plants following a pair of new exposés. In a special series called “Aging Nukes,” the Associated Press revealed that the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission and the nuclear power industry have been working in tandem to weaken safety standards to keep aging reactors within the rules. Just last year, the NRCweakened the safety margin for acceptable radiation damage to reactor vessels. The AP report also revealed radioactive tritium has leaked from 48 of the 65 U.S. commercial nuclear power sites, often into groundwater from corroded, buried piping. Leaks from at least 37 of those facilities contained concentrations exceeding the federal drinking water standard—sometimes at hundreds of times the limit. We speak with AP investigative journalist Jeff Donn. [includes rush transcript]

This entry was posted in Background & Analysis, Civil Liberties, Corporations, Corruption, Environement, Events, Nuclear Power, Obama, US Electoral Politics. Bookmark the permalink.

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