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Gender: Male
Hometown: Detroit, Michigan
Home country: Citizen of the world whose address is in the U.S.
Current location: Detroit, Michigan
Member since: Fri Oct 29, 2004, 12:18 AM
Number of posts: 64,215

Journal Archives

Richard Wolff: Why No Sustained Protests (Yet)?

Why No Sustained Protests (Yet)?

Sunday, 13 April 2014 00:00
By Richard D Wolff, Truthout | Op-Ed

The organized post-1945 destruction of the New Deal coalition - unionists, socialists and communists - and the failure to replace those organizations help explain the muted reaction to the bailouts, austerity and other anti-democratic policies pursued by US governments at all levels.

The post-1945 destruction of the New Deal coalition - unionists, socialists and communists - keeps influencing Americans' lives. Today, its effects help explain why popular actions have been so muted against US economic changes since the 1970s and especially against the bailouts and austerity since the crash of 2008. Those effects also suggest what could reignite sustained protests and demands for change.

First to be destroyed after 1945 were the communists. Coordinated attacks came from business, conservatives, government and media. Most academics and liberals (including many who had supported the New Deal coalition) were complicit in that destruction. Once again we witnessed that old repressive tool: rebranding domestic social movements as mere agents of an evil foreign puppet-master. More important, demonizing the communists served to tar other social criticism that included the capitalist economic system with much the same brush.

Second went the socialists, largely destroyed by being rebranded as fronts, dupes or simply equivalents of communists. In many places, even liberals who rejected socialists and communists were nonetheless equated to them. The persistent purging of the New Deal coalition traumatized the next two generations. By treating criticism of the economic system as "un-American," the purges made blindly uncritical celebration of capitalism proof of one's loyalty. Obligatory for career advancement and personal safety, that celebration disciplined politicians, journalists, and academics alike for the last half-century.

Third to be destroyed were the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO) and unionism generally (later AFL-CIO etc.). They declined steadily for most of the post-war period. Unions had provided the mass base for the coalition and the New Deal. Union members' votes lay behind Roosevelt's turn toward taxing corporations and the rich to fund Social Security, unemployment compensation, the federal jobs programs and so on. Thus, for employers after 1945, attacking unions complemented their assaults on socialists and communists; all three coalition members had strengthened workers in conflicts with employers. ...................(more)

The complete piece is at: http://truth-out.org/opinion/item/23026-why-no-sustained-protests-yet

Insect Population Dwindling in Louisiana Marshlands Four Years After BP Blowout

from Desmogblog via Truthout:

Louisiana State University entomologist Linda Hooper-Bui has been studying the impact of the BP oil spill on insects and spiders for almost four years. She started her study shortly after the Macondo well blew out on April 20, 2010, before any oil washed up on shore. Her work documents the dwindling of the insect population in areas directly hit with the oil.

On April 9th, she returned to Bay Jimmy and Bay Baptiste, areas that were heavily impacted by the oil spill in Plaquemines Parish, Louisiana.

"Insects are the basis of the food chain. They are like nature's Twinkies," Hooper-Bui says.

Her studies also monitor fish and birds, since they eat insects. She sweeps areas designated for her study by walking back and forth waving a net, catching whatever insects are present. She then empties the net into alcohol, preserving the insects for testing. She takes note of the wind speed and temperature at each location and collects a sample of sediment to be tested for hydrocarbons. ...................(more)

The complete piece is at: http://truth-out.org/news/item/23182-insect-population-dwindling-in-louisiana-marshlands-four-years-after-bp-blowout

Truthdigger of the Week: The Pulitzer Prize Committee

from truthdig:

Truthdigger of the Week: The Pulitzer Prize Committee
Posted on Apr 19, 2014

By Alexander Reed Kelly

What splendid courage! The Pulitzer Prize committee honored the essence of justice by bestowing its most prestigious award—for public service—to The Guardian and The Washington Post for exposing one of the most important stories concerning civil liberties in the history of journalism.

—Truthdig Editor-in-Chief Robert Scheer

Caught in the whirl of our individual lives, it is easy to forget that history is being made every day. Think of the past. What comes to mind? Images of America’s golden age? The cartoons you saw on television as a child? The destruction of the World Trade Center?

9/11 remains fresh in the mind because it was the beginning of a series of events that continue today, 13 years later. In the days that followed, the prioritization by our political leaders of so-called national security over all kinds of personal liberties followed swiftly, but few Americans noticed the deep consequences of the changes being made in the laws laid over them. As a nation, Americans may as well have been like children asleep in bed while the parents worked through the night, planning the days ahead.

Tony Benn, the British Labour politician who died in March, characterized the struggle for a better world as follows: “Every generation has to do it for themselves again; there is no railway station called justice that if you catch the right train you get there. Every generation has to fight for their rights because rights are taken away.”

As rotten as things currently are, the present generation of Americans has been graced with such champions. The most conspicuous among them is former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden, but they include all those who have worked in the halls of power and understood that their obligation is ultimately to society, not the institution that sets their schedules and signs their paychecks. They are Pfc. Chelsea Manning, former State Department adviser Jesselyn Radack and retired NSA officers Thomas Drake and William Binney. Their predecessors include Daniel Ellsberg and yes, founding father Benjamin Franklin. ................(more)

The complete piece is at: http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/truthdigger_of_the_week_the_pulitzer_prize_committee_20140418

CNN (cartoon)


Chris Hedges: "DEATH of the Middle Class"

Putting Heroin Users in Jail Won't Help Louisiana's Crime Rate

(Brennan Center for Justice, via Truthout) Louisiana - and our nation - has seen a surge in heroin crime. According to the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, heroin use has climbed steadily since 2007. Law enforcement officials across the nation are reporting an increase of high-purity heroin available at the street level. In Louisiana, East Baton Rouge Parish Coroner Dr. William "Beau" Clark has testified that from 2012 to 2013 heroin deaths jumped seven-fold, from 5 to 35. So far this year he's confirmed seven opiate overdoses with two more pending, a pace equivalent to last year's.

Louisiana is hardly alone. Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick has declared the opioid addiction epidemic a public health emergency. Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin devoted his entire State of the State address in January to heroin, calling it "a public health crisis."

Note the language. Policymakers are speaking about addiction as a public health problem, not a law enforcement one. Indeed, even U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder has said that strict, mandatory minimum drug sentences should be reserved only for "high-level or violent drug traffickers."

For better or worse, we now know what works in the "war on drugs," a war that even tough-minded former prosecutors such as New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, a Republican, have called a "failure." It is not draconian prison sentences for drug offenders that "win" the "war," but addiction treatment. Not only is it cheaper, it reduces recidivism. It also takes less of a toll on the community. One in 28 children currently has a parent behind bars, and one in every five state prisoners nationwide is serving time for a drug offense, which, Holder points out, "is not just financially unsustainable, it comes with human and moral costs that are impossible to calculate." ...............(more)

The complete piece is at: http://truth-out.org/news/item/23125-putting-heroin-users-in-jail-wont-help-louisianas-crime-rate

The U.S. Government: Paying to Undermine Internet Security, Not to Fix It

from ProPublica:

The U.S. Government: Paying to Undermine Internet Security, Not to Fix It
One lesson of the Heartbleed bug is that the U.S. needs to stop running Internet security like a Wikipedia volunteer project.

by Julia Angwin
ProPublica, April 15, 2014, 12:50 p.m.

The Heartbleed computer security bug is many things: a catastrophic tech failure, an open invitation to criminal hackers and yet another reason to upgrade our passwords on dozens of websites. But more than anything else, Heartbleed reveals our neglect of Internet security.

The United States spends more than $50 billion a year on spying and intelligence, while the folks who build important defense software — in this case a program called OpenSSL that ensures that your connection to a website is encrypted — are four core programmers, only one of whom calls it a full-time job.

In a typical year, the foundation that supports OpenSSL receives just $2,000 in donations. The programmers have to rely on consulting gigs to pay for their work. "There should be at least a half dozen full time OpenSSL team members, not just one, able to concentrate on the care and feeding of OpenSSL without having to hustle commercial work," says Steve Marquess, who raises money for the project.

Is it any wonder that this Heartbleed bug slipped through the cracks? ...................(more)

The complete piece is at: http://www.propublica.org/article/the-u.s.-government-paying-to-undermine-internet-security-not-to-fix-it

Who Goes To Jail? Matt Taibbi on American Injustice Gap From Wall Street to Main Street

pt. I

pt. II

Award-winning journalist Matt Taibbi is out with an explosive new book that asks why the vast majority of white-collar criminals have avoided prison since the financial crisis began, while an unequal justice system imprisons the poor and people of color on a mass scale. In The Divide: American Injustice in the Age of the Wealth Gap, Taibbi explores how the Depression-level income gap between the wealthy and the poor is mirrored by a "justice" gap in who is targeted for prosecution and imprisonment. "It is much more grotesque to consider the non-enforcement of white-collar criminals when you do consider how incredibly aggressive law enforcement is with regard to everybody else," Taibbi says.


AMY GOODMAN: —in this day and age. Talk about the thesis. What is the divide?

MATT TAIBBI: Well, this book grew out of my experience covering Wall Street. I’ve obviously been doing it since the crash in 2008. And over and over again, I would cover these very complex and often very socially destructive capers committed by white-collar criminals. And the punchline to all of the stories were basically the same: Nobody would get indicted; nobody went to jail. And after a while, I started to become interested specifically in that phenomenon. Why was there no enforcement of any of this? And around the time of the Occupy protest, I decided to write this book, and then I shifted my focus to try to learn a lot more for myself about who does go to jail in this country, because I thought you really can’t make this comparison accurately until you learn about both sides of the equation, because it’s actually much more grotesque to consider the non-enforcement of white-collar criminals when you do consider how incredibly aggressive law enforcement is with regard to everybody else.


AARON MATÉ: But back to this doctrine that you can’t punish an entire company for the misdeeds of a few because you might hurt the economy, you might hurt shareholders, you know, some of which are pension holders and—pension funds and so forth, how do you get from hurting a—how do you equate hurting an entire company to just not jailing a couple of executives?

MATT TAIBBI: Well, that’s the whole point. They’ve conflated the two things. Originally—so, this—to answer the second part of your original question, "Where does this come from? Where does this doctrine come from?" way back in 1999, when Eric Holder was a deputy attorney general in the—in Clinton’s administration, he wrote a memo that has now come to be known as "the Holder Memo." And in it, he outlined a number of things. Actually, it was originally considered a get-tough-on-corporate-crime memo, because it gave prosecutors a number of new tools with which they could go after corporate criminals. But at the bottom of it, there was this thing that he laid out called the "collateral consequences doctrine." And what "collateral consequences" meant was that if you’re a prosecutor and you’re targeting one of these big corporate offenders and you’re worried that you may affect innocent victims, that shareholders or innocent executives may lose their jobs, you may consider other alternatives, other remedies besides criminal prosecutions—in other words, fines, nonprosecution agreements, deferred prosecution agreements. And again, at the time, it was a completely sensible thing to lay out. Of course it makes sense to not always destroy a company if you can avoid it. But what they’ve done is they’ve conflated that sometimes-sensible policy with a policy of not going after any individuals for any crimes. And that’s just totally unacceptable. .......................(more)

The complete piece is at: http://truth-out.org/news/item/23115-who-goes-to-jail-matt-taibbi-on-american-injustice-gap-from-wall-street-to-main-street

Chris Hedges: The Myth of Human Progress and the Collapse of Complex Societies

from truthdig:

The Myth of Human Progress and the Collapse of Complex Societies (VIDEO)

Posted on Apr 13, 2014
By Chris Hedges


Editor’s note: The following is the transcript of a speech that Chris Hedges gave in Santa Monica, Calif., on Oct. 13, 2013.

The most prescient portrait of the American character and our ultimate fate as a species is found in Herman Melville’s “Moby Dick.” Melville makes our murderous obsessions, our hubris, violent impulses, moral weakness and inevitable self-destruction visible in his chronicle of a whaling voyage. He is our foremost oracle. He is to us what William Shakespeare was to Elizabethan England or Fyodor Dostoyevsky to czarist Russia.

Our country is given shape in the form of the ship, the Pequod, named after the Indian tribe exterminated in 1638 by the Puritans and their Native American allies. The ship’s 30-man crew—there were 30 states in the Union when Melville wrote the novel—is a mixture of races and creeds. The object of the hunt is a massive white whale, Moby Dick, which in a previous encounter maimed the ship’s captain, Ahab, by dismembering one of his legs. The self-destructive fury of the quest, much like that of the one we are on, assures the Pequod’s destruction. And those on the ship, on some level, know they are doomed—just as many of us know that a consumer culture based on corporate profit, limitless exploitation and the continued extraction of fossil fuels is doomed.

“If I had been downright honest with myself,” Ishmael admits, “I would have seen very plainly in my heart that I did but half fancy being committed this way to so long a voyage, without once laying my eyes on the man who was to be the absolute dictator of it, so soon as the ship sailed out upon the open sea. But when a man suspects any wrong, it sometimes happens that if he be already involved in the matter, he insensibly strives to cover up his suspicions even from himself. And much this way it was with me. I said nothing, and tried to think nothing.”

Our financial system—like our participatory democracy—is a mirage. The Federal Reserve purchases $85 billion in U.S. Treasury bonds—much of it worthless subprime mortgages—each month. It has been artificially propping up the government and Wall Street like this for five years. It has loaned trillions of dollars at virtually no interest to banks and firms that make money—because wages are kept low—by lending it to us at staggering interest rates that can climb to as high as 30 percent. ... Or our corporate oligarchs hoard the money or gamble with it in an overinflated stock market. Estimates put the looting by banks and investment firms of the U.S. Treasury at between $15 trillion and $20 trillion. But none of us know. The figures are not public. And the reason this systematic looting will continue until collapse is that our economy go into a tailspin without this giddy infusion of free cash. .........................(more)

The complete piece is at: http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/the_myth_of_human_progress_and_the_collapse_of_complex_societies_video_2014

Paul Robeson: A Life

from truthdig:

By Paul Von Blum

“Paul Robeson: A Watched Man”
A book by Jordan Goodman

“Paul Robeson,” historian Joseph Dorinson ruefully wrote in the 2002 introduction to his co-edited collection of essays about him, “is the greatest legend nobody knows.” When the man who was one of the most striking Renaissance people in American history died in 1976, in loneliness and obscurity, his magnificent athletic, scholarly, artistic and political accomplishments were largely erased from national consciousness, stricken from the media and from history books. This tragic void, eerily reminiscent of Stalin-era removal of enemies from photographs and other Soviet documents, was a deep stain on American history, resulting from the worst excesses of McCarthyism from the late 1940s through much of the 1960s.

The long overdue restoration of Robeson’s stellar reputation, fortunately, began shortly after his death, slowly propelling him back to some public recognition. Several books, plays, films and conferences, especially after the 1998 centenary of his birth, highlighting his life and multifaceted activities, complemented such awards and honors as his posthumous election to the College Football Hall of Fame, the Grammy Hall of Fame and the Hollywood Walk of Fame. The belated issuance of a Robeson United States postage stamp constituted an oblique government apology and encouraged people to explore his diverse artistic and political contributions.

The growing literature about Robeson encompasses every feature of his life. Some books and articles are overviews, giving readers an opportunity to understand and gauge the full range of his life and work. Others address particular areas such as his films, music, theater or politics. Jordan Goodman’s new book, “Paul Robeson: A Watched Man,” is an effective and informative treatment of Robeson’s political awakening in the United States and England, and the disgraceful pattern of persecution he suffered, especially during the Cold War years after 1945. Readers who are already familiar with Robeson and seek greater detail about the complex political activities that increasingly became the major focus of his life will find the book especially valuable, though it is also useful for general readers.

Goodman is a British academic who is particularly well positioned to address Robeson‘s political activities in the U.K., especially in the postwar era. He provides informative detail about Robeson’s close associates and contacts in Britain as he worked publicly for peace with the Soviet Union, which resulted in increased surveillance by both British and U.S. intelligence agencies. ...............(more)

The complete piece is at: http://www.truthdig.com/arts_culture/item/paul_robeson_a_life_20140411

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