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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: 65,365

Journal Archives

Bill Moyers/Michael Winship: Dividing the Spoils

Dividing the Spoils

Friday, 21 November 2014 12:54
By Bill Moyers and Michael Winship, Moyers & Company | Op-Ed

We’ve been watching Congress since the mid-term elections and reading Zephyr Teachout’s terrific history book, Corruption in America: From Benjamin Franklin’s Snuff Box to Citizens United. That snuff box was a gift from King Louis XVI of France. His Majesty was a good friend of the American Revolution but when he gave Benjamin Franklin the gold box, featuring the monarch’s portrait surrounded with diamonds, some of our Founding Fathers objected. They worried that the gift would corrupt his judgment and unduly bias Franklin in France’s favor.

The framers debated the meaning of corruption at the Constitutional Convention in 1787, and Americans have been arguing about it ever since. Today, gifts to politicians that were once called graft or bribes are called contributions. The Supreme Court has granted corporations the rights our founders reserved for people, and told those corporations they can give just about anything they want to elect politicians favorable to their interests. Diamond and gold snuff boxes are as outmoded as the king’s powdered wig. Now we’re talking cash — millions upon millions of dollars. Quadrupled, quintupled and then some – and it’s not considered corruption.

Consider the new report from the watchdog Sunlight Foundation: From 2007 to 2012, the two hundred most politically active corporations in the United States spent almost $6 billion for lobbying and campaign contributions. And they received more than $4 trillion in US government contracts and other forms of assistance. That’s $760 for every dollar spent on influence, a stunning return on investment.


It’s not personal, Sonny, it’s strictly business. Our government has become a clearing house for corporations and plutocrats whose dollars grease the wheels for lucrative contracts and easy regulation. It’s all pay for play, and look the other way. Partisans of the system say, hey, it’s just business as usual, but that, of course, is the problem. We were struck by this headline in The Washington Post after the November elections: “Parties head back to Capitol to begin carving up spoils, remains from midterms.” Right: Not only leadership posts and committee chairmanships, but carving, dividing up the spoils also means divvying up the loot. And those contributions were not made for the sake of charity. ...................(more)

The complete piece is at: http://www.truth-out.org/opinion/item/27599-dividing-the-spoils

School of the Americas Morphs Into US Training Industrial Complex

School of the Americas Morphs Into US Training Industrial Complex

Friday, 21 November 2014 10:54
By JP Sottile, Truthout | News Analysis

In a long, 200-year history of US interventionism, covert action and troubling support for repressive regimes, the story of the US Army School of the Americas (SOA) at Ft. Benning, Georgia, stands out as a grotesque example of militarism run amok.

Since its inception in 1946, the SOA - or as critics often referred to it, "the School of Assassins" - has epitomized America's peculiar brand of "outsourced imperialism." The list of leaders dispatched by the SOA, the catalogue of criminal indictments and the not-insignificant death tolls tallied in SOA-linked civil wars and so-called "counter-insurgencies" is, for lack of a better word, impressive.

For the last 25 years, the school's critics - ranging from religious activists to members of Congress to indigenous rights' leaders - have regarded its programs, and the infamous training manuals made public in 1996, as uniquely responsible for the terrible consequences - unintended or otherwise - of America's long-standing policy of arming, training and dispatching generations of military leaders around Central and South America.

Simply put, the School of the Americas exemplifies everything wrong with US foreign policy after World War II. All too often, that policy favored vested interests in client states, assisted corporations coveting resources in so-called Banana Republics or simply allowed knee-jerk, anticommunism to trump the rights and democratic choices of those who invariably ended up on the receiving end of SOA training in places like Guatemala, El Salvador, Chile and Colombia. ...............(more)

The complete piece is at: http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/27563-the-new-school-of-the-americas

David Sirota: Journalists Aren’t Covering Local Elections. Our Democracy Is Suffering Because of It

from In These Times:

Journalists Aren’t Covering Local Elections. Our Democracy Is Suffering Because of It.
What if you held an election and nobody showed up to cover it? Americans now know the answer: elections with lots of paid ads but little journalism, context or objective facts.


On a warm October night toward the end of the 2014 campaign, almost every politician running for a major office here in the swing state of Colorado appeared at a candidate forum in southeast Denver. The topics discussed were pressing: a potential war with ISIS, voting rights, a still-struggling economy. But one key element was in conspicuously short supply: the media.

This was increasingly the reality in much of the country, as campaigns played out in communities where the local press corps has been thinned by layoffs and newspaper closures. What if you held an election and nobody showed up to cover it? Americans have now discovered the answer: You get an election with lots of paid ads, but with little journalism, context or objective facts.

Between 2003 and 2012, the newspaper workforce decreased by 30 percent nationally, according to the American Society of Newspaper Editors. That has included a major reduction in the number of newspaper reporters assigned to cover state and local politics. Newspaper layoffs have ripple effects for the entire local news ecosystem, because, as the Congressional Research Service noted, television, radio and online outlets often “piggyback on reporting done by much larger newspaper staffs.” Meanwhile, recent studies from the University of Chicago and the Federal Reserve Bank suggest the closure of newspapers can ultimately depress voter turnout in local elections.

Colorado is a microcosm of the hollowing out of local media. In 2009, the state lost its second-largest newspaper with the shuttering of the 150-year-old Rocky Mountain News. The state's only remaining major daily, the Denver Post, has had rolling layoffs. ...................(more)

The complete piece is at: http://inthesetimes.com/article/17390/journalists_arent_covering_local_elections._our_democracy_is_suffering_beca

It's OK to tell your abortion story. Some women just don't want to be pregnant

from the Guardian UK:

It's OK to tell your abortion story. Some women just don't want to be pregnant

by Jessica Valenti

I know a woman in her 30s: she’s married, she has a toddler, and she desperately wants a second child – but a dangerous medical condition means that having another baby would be life-threatening. Despite being careful, she got pregnant. She had an abortion because she wasn’t willing to risk her life and leave her child motherless, but she still feels a deep sadness.

I know another woman, in her 20s, who had a shitty boyfriend (but no kids) when her birth control failed and she found herself with a pregnancy she knew she didn’t want – a pregnancy she wasn’t ready for. She was upset about the situation, but had no doubts about what she wanted to do and, after the abortion, no regrets. She rarely thinks about the pregnancy or the abortion anymore.

If you’re like a lot of people, you probably have much more sympathy for the first woman than the second. Though the majority of people in America and Northern Ireland and so many other places believe abortion should be legal, too many of us still think about reproductive rights as if there’s a hierarchy of good and bad abortions – the kind that women “deserve”, and the kind women should be ashamed of.

But those two women? They’re both me.

On Thursday, the 1 in 3 Campaign (a hat tip to the fact that 1 in 3 American women will have an abortion) launched a live-streamed, national abortion speak-out featuring people like Planned Parenthood president Cecile Richards, comedian Lizz Winstead and artist Favianna Rodriguez – and me. ..................(more)

The complete piece is at: http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/nov/20/abortion-story-women-dont-want-be-pregnant

Mexico’s Breaking Point

from truthdig:

Mexico’s Breaking Point

Posted on Nov 20, 2014
By Roisin Davis

This Friday marks the two-month anniversary of the apparent slaying of the Ayotzinapa students—an event that has triggered Mexico’s most serious political crisis in decades.

Outrage at the 43 students’ fate fills the Mexican streets on a daily basis. Over the last two weeks, demonstrators have occupied and burned down government offices, set fire to the door of the presidential palace in Mexico City, and blocked access to the airport in Acapulco along with many major roads across the country. Last month, over 50,000 people marched by candlelight onto Mexico City’s central plaza chanting, “Alive they were taken. Alive we want them back!”

Thursday’s protests, expected to be the biggest yet, are taking place throughout Mexico and across the globe.

So deeply has this incident shaken the country that, as author Ruben Martinez describes it, “To understand the historical significance—and the moral and political gravity—of what is occurring, think of 9/11, of Sandy Hook, of the day JFK was assassinated.” ...................(more)

The complete piece is at: http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/mexicos_breaking_point_20141120

Some of America’s Biggest Corporations Pay Their CEOs More Than They Owe in Taxes

via truthdig:

How does a company like Ford, which did $139.4 billion in business last year, qualify for a tax refund?

In an effort to highlight the inequities of the corporate tax code, the Center for Effective Government and the Institute for Policy Studies did a study and found that seven of the 30 biggest corporations in the country paid less in taxes than they did to their top executives.

Ford’s Alan Mulally, for example, took home $23.2 million in the same year that his company got a refund of $19 million from Uncle Sam. ....................(more)

The complete piece is at: http://www.truthdig.com/eartotheground/item/some_of_americas_biggest_corporations_pay_their_ceos_more_than_they_owe_in_

When a Bank Owns 100 Oil Tankers, It Can Mess With the Price of Gas

via truthdig:

A two-year Senate investigation of the financial sector has found that banks can meddle with the economy in new and frightening ways.

The investigation was led by Carl Levin, D-Mich., and looked specifically at the impact of investments on the prices of certain commodities—things like oil and uranium.

Deregulation made it possible for firms such as Goldman Sachs to outright buy commodities and commodity suppliers. For instance, Goldman owns a coal mine in Colombia. And that fleet of 100 oil tankers? It belonged at one time to Morgan Stanley, which also held 55 million barrels of oil storage. JPMorgan Chase, according to The New York Times, once owned 31 power plants.

These are some of the same institutions that profit from your credit card debt when the price of oil goes up. ..............(more)

The complete piece is at: http://www.truthdig.com/eartotheground/item/when_a_bank_owns_100_oil_tankers_it_can_mess_with_the_price_of_gas_20141119

German Town Plays Charitable Prank on Neo-Nazis

via truthdig:

If you can’t beat ’em, make ’em raise money against their own cause.

That was the clever, and classy, approach that locals from the small German town of Wunsiedel took when confronted yet again with an annual spectacle that they didn’t ask for and can’t yet do away with altogether: the yearly march of neo-Nazis through their home turf, which happens to be the initial resting place of Adolf Hitler’s right-hand man Rudolf Hess.

As The Independent reported Tuesday, Hess doesn’t rest there anymore, but that still hasn’t fully resolved the issue for residents, so they resorted to creative measures this year:

In 2011, the roughly 1,000 inhabitants of the town managed - with the agreement of family members - to get Hess’ remains exhumed and his gravestone destroyed. However, marchers still flock to the town, albeit in smaller numbers.

So this year, come the march on November 15, a campaign called “Rechts gegen Rechts” (Right against Right) decided to turn the neo-Nazi rally into a charity walk.

Instead of protesting against the demonstration, shop owners and residents in Wunsiedel pledged to donate 10 euro for each metre the neo-Nazis marched.

They managed to raise 10,000 euros. The money went towards EXIT-Deutschland, a charity that helps people leave neo-Nazi groups.

The neo-Nazi visitors were made aware of the reason why their Wunsiedel hosts were acting so accommodating only at the end of the march, when they were informed about where the funds they raised would be sent. ...............(more)

The complete piece is at: http://www.truthdig.com/eartotheground/item/german_town_plays_charitable_prank_on_neo-nazis_video_20141118

It's Time for an Honest Conversation About Why People Don't Vote

It's Time for an Honest Conversation About Why People Don't Vote

Tuesday, 18 November 2014 10:22
By Joe Brewer, Truthout | Op-Ed

The recent US election had the lowest voter turnout since World War II. Only 36 percent of eligible voters showed up to cast their vote - giving the Republicans a "grand majority" of garnered support that adds up to a measly one-sixth of the adult population. The will of the people is a resounding vote of no confidence in our broken political system. Two out of three of us were uninspired with their limited choice between the Party of Financial Elites and the Party of Financial Elites Lite.

Looked at another way, the jaw-dropping $3.6 billion spent to buy this election has only further distanced the majority of people from participating in a rigged system. Many of us already know about the flood of "dark money" that routinely distorts the electoral process. Most Americans know full well that our democracy is a farce. We live in a plutocracy where money buys elections and wealth rules supreme. We didn't need political science scholars to do a massive study to show us this.

This understanding is the common thread that weaves disgruntled Tea Partiers, marginalized progressives, and frustrated libertarians into one American quilt. It is what brought millions together in shared sympathy during the Occupy protests back in 2011. We already know that elections have become an inadequate instrument for democracy on their own. What has yet to be said is what to do about it - how do people with such diverse ideological views (famous for making us interpret the facts differently) come together and replace the system with one that is more democratic, more pluralistic and more effective at solving the problems we all care about?

First off, we have to acknowledge that old political labels conceal more than they reveal. It's not about Republicans versus Democrats, or even liberals versus conservatives. Yes, there are real ideological differences between these groups. And yet - when it comes to macro economics and regulation of the financial sector - a singular ideology permeates the upper echelons of power for both sides. Call it neoliberalism, or free market ideology, or the Washington Consensus. Regardless of the label used, this internally consistent approach to corporate rule goes unchallenged by either political party. ...................(more)

The complete piece is at: http://truth-out.org/opinion/item/27509-it-s-time-for-honest-conversation-about-why-people-don-t-vote

Academic Madness and the Politics of Exile

Academic Madness and the Politics of Exile

Tuesday, 18 November 2014 09:51
By Henry A. Giroux, Truthout | Op-Ed

Ideological fundamentalism and political purity appear to have a strong grip on US and Canadian societies as can be seen in the endless attacks on reason, truth, critical thinking and informed exchange. In Canada, Prime Minister Stephen Harper decries what he derisively attacks as intellectuals and journalists who are "committing sociology" by which he means holding power accountable. For Harper, the attack on "committing sociology" becomes synonymous with removing critical thought from both the university and public discourse.

In one instance of ideological suppression, the Harper government has been accused by a number of scientists and academics of "a pattern that has seen the . . . government reduce media access to scientists and cut funding and programs" because the latter have provided evidence for the destructive effects of climate change. (1) Of course, in the United States, political illiteracy seems to be the one qualification, besides great wealth, that gets one elected to political office. At the same time, celebrity culture smothers the US public with a rampant idiocy that practically ensures that violence is largely experienced as entertainment further reinforced by an anti-intellectualism that provides the foundation for paralyzing most forms of critical and engaged agency.

This type of fundamentalism might be expected in a society that has become increasingly anti-intellectual, given its commitment to commodities, violence, privatization, the death of the social and the bare bones relations of commerce. But it is more surprising when it appears in universities, especially among so-called liberals and progressives. In this instance, political fragmentation, desperation and the fog of insularity appear to be producing a form of ideological fundamentalism fueled by a take-no-prisoners version of political purity that is wrapped in a kind of self-righteous moralism. This is a moralism marked by an inability or reluctance to imagine what others are thinking. Or as Kant once said, "to think in the place of the other person." This type of ideological self-righteousness by so-called progressives, and sometimes elements of the orthodox left, is especially dispiriting because it makes a mockery of academic freedom, and often condemns other positions even before they are heard or are available to be discussed and analyzed.

Rather than open up conversations, this type of pedagogical terrorism closes them down and then collapses into a kind of comedy of intellectual boasting while assuming the moral high ground. Hubris becomes more than shameful in this instance; it becomes toxic, blinding the ideological warriors to their own militant ignorance and anti-democratic rhetoric while shutting down any notion of the university as a democratic public sphere. What is lost here is how a pedagogy of repression assumes a revolutionary stance when in fact everything about it is counterrevolutionary. In the end this suggests a kind of theoretical helplessness, a replacing of the inability to think with the discourse of denunciation and a language overflowing with binarisms of good and evil. What is at risk here is both the moral collapse of politics and the undermining of the very nature of critical thought and agency. Of course, this raises the question of how one survives in the university without being in exile, or at the very best existing with one foot in and one foot out. ...............(more)

The complete piece is at: http://truth-out.org/opinion/item/27501-henry-a-giroux-academic-madness-and-the-politics-of-exile

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