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Member since: Fri Oct 29, 2004, 12:18 AM
Number of posts: 71,051

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Sometimes the simplest song lyrics are the best.......

The movie "Rush Hour" is on in the background as I sit here at my computer, and there's a scene where the song "War" by Edwin Starr is playing.

"War can't give life, it can only take it away." -- Simple and obvious, but at the same time haunting and profound when it goes into your ear and gets processed by your brain.

Fracking opponents win big in Pennsylvania


(Grist) Robinson Township in western Pennsylvania is home to a couple thousand residents and about 20 fracked wells. In a resounding victory for common sense and for local governments throughout the state, residents there and in six other towns won an epic court battle last week that will give them back the right to regulate or even evict the fracking operations in their midst.

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court on Thursday struck down elements of a state law that had prevented local governments from regulating fracking activities. The Philadelphia Inquirer reports:

The long-awaited decision is a blow to a 2012 law known as Act 13 that was promoted by [Gov. Tom Corbett (R)] and the Marcellus Shale natural gas industry as a means to create a uniform statewide standard for gas development.

By a 4-2 vote, the court ruled that the zoning provisions in the law were unconstitutional, though the court disagreed on the grounds for striking down the law.

“The bottom line is that the majority of the court agreed that Act 13 is unconstitutional, and that local governments can zone oil and gas drilling like they do other activities,” said Jordan B. Yeager, a Doylestown environmental lawyer who argued the case on behalf of several municipalities.

Cue bullshit bluster:

“We must not allow today’s ruling to send a negative message to job creators and families who depend on the energy industry,” Corbett said in a statement. “I will continue to work with members of the House and Senate to ensure that Pennsylvania’s thriving energy industry grows and provides jobs while balancing the interests of local communities.” …

“We are stunned that four justices would issue this ruling, which will so harshly impact the economic welfare of Pennsylvanians,” State Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati (R., Jefferson) and House Speaker Sam Smith (R., Jefferson) said in a joint statement. They said the ruling likely would increase natural gas prices and cost “a multitude” of jobs.

The claim that giving local governments the right to control drilling operations within their borders will “harshly impact the economic welfare” of the state’s residents is, of course, obnoxious and false. But, then, we have become depressingly accustomed to hearing such lies from frackers and from the politicians who promulgate their talking points about economic booms and jobs.

David Sirota: Why Edward Snowden Is the Definition of a Whistleblower

from In These Times:

Why Edward Snowden Is the Definition of a Whistleblower
The verdict on Snowden is in.

BY David Sirota

For months, a debate over Edward Snowden’s status has raged. In the back and forth, one question about this icon who disclosed NSA abuses has dominated: Is he or is he not a whistleblower with all the attendant protections that should come with such a designation?

As of this week's federal court ruling saying the NSA's data collection programs are probably unconstitutional, that debate is finally over. After all, if the most basic definition of a government whistleblower is one who uncovers illegal or unconstitutional acts, then the ruling proves Snowden is the dictionary definition of a whistleblower.

Of course, there still remains a cottage industry of tough-talking saber rattlers slamming Snowden not merely for being in a foreign country, but more revealingly, for the disclosures themselves. These demagogues often invoke the age-old law-and-order cliches about classified information. Yet, based on what we now know, their criticism of Snowden actually puts them on the side of those who are systemically violating the very laws and constitution, which they purport to love. .......................(more)

The complete piece is at: http://inthesetimes.com/article/16021/edward_snowden_whistleblower

American Futures: The Shortcomings of the Governing Class

from Dissent magazine:

American Futures: The Shortcomings of the Governing Class
By Jeff Faux - Fall 2013

The Future:
Six Drivers of Global Change

by Al Gore
Random House, 2013, 592 pp.

The Great Deformation:
The Corruption of Capitalism in America

by David Stockman
Public Affairs Books, 2013, 768 pp.

Americans’ perception of the future bounces between two contradictory visions. One is that the country is drifting toward decline. Polls report widespread belief that the younger generation of Americans will be worse off than their parents, that U.S. influence in the world is weakening, and that our governing institutions are incompetent and corrupt. At the same time, a majority thinks that although the country may be going to hell, they and their families will prosper.

According to a Pew survey, 63 percent of Americans think that forty years from now the standard of living of the average family will not improve, with 36 percent thinking it will get even worse. At the same time, 64 percent are optimistic that they personally and their families will be better off. Indeed, like the citizens of Lake Wobegon, over 70 percent of Americans believe that their income is above average. This perceived disconnect between one’s personal fate and one’s country’s surely helps explain the low level of public outrage in this post-crash era of high unemployment and falling wages.

Our national culture has long encouraged us to overattribute economic success to individual talents, rather than the state of the surrounding economy. The Great Depression was an important reality check, of course, and the New Deal’s Keynesian paradigm gave Americans a more balanced view of how the world actually worked. The lesson was that economic downturns were not Acts of God, like hurricanes, but more like plane crashes that could be prevented by government regulation. So your living standards depended on what you did at the polling place as well as what you did at the workplace. But the election of Ronald Reagan turned back the ideological clock. Government became the cause of your problems, not the solution. With a little effort, you could be an island of individual prosperity in a rising sea of economic turmoil.

The result has been to rationalize public complacency. Today, it is not simply conservative Republicans who have come to accept the limited role of the state but liberal Democrats as well. On every major issue that will affect the future of American living standards—health care, education, global competitiveness, income distribution—the proposals championed by the progressive part of our two-party system fall embarrassingly short of what is needed. If tomorrow the GOP agreed to everything in the agenda that Barack Obama laid out in his February State of the Union address, the progress in dealing with the dramatic changes in the economic prospects of most Americans would be close to zero. .....................(more)

The complete piece is at: http://www.dissentmagazine.org/article/american-futures-the-shortcomings-of-the-governing-class

Because air travel isn't miserable enough............

(NYT) Flying coach can be a bruising experience these days.

Rory Rowland said he was rudely rebuffed after he asked the person in front of him not to recline his seat on a red-eye flight. When he later got up to use the bathroom, and the other passenger had fallen asleep, “I hip-checked his seat like you wouldn’t believe,” Mr. Rowland, a speaker and consultant, said, then feigned innocence when the enraged passenger complained to a flight attendant.

With air travelers increasingly feeling like packed sardines, flying has become a contact sport, nowhere more than over the reclined seat.

Now, it is only getting worse, as airlines re-examine every millimeter of the cabin.

Over the last two decades, the space between seats — hardly roomy before — has fallen about 10 percent, from 34 inches to somewhere between 30 and 32 inches. Today, some airlines are pushing it even further, leaving only a knee-crunching 28 inches. ..........................(more)

The complete piece is at: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/12/23/business/on-jammed-jets-sardines-turn-on-one-another.html?hp&_r=0

Rudolph, the NSA reindeer (cartoon)


Chris Hedges: Food Behind Bars Isn’t Fit for Your Dog

from truthdig:

Food Behind Bars Isn’t Fit for Your Dog

Posted on Dec 22, 2013
By Chris Hedges

Shares in the Philadelphia-based Aramark Holdings Corp., which contracts through Aramark Correctional Services to provide the food to 600 correctional institutions across the United States, went public Thursday. The corporation, acquired in 2007 for $8.3 billion by investors that included Goldman Sachs, raised $725 million last week from the sale of the stock. It is one more sign that the business of locking up poor people in corporate America is booming.

Aramark, whose website says it provides 1 million meals a day to prisoners, does what corporations are doing throughout the society: It lavishes campaign donations on pliable politicians, who in turn hand out state and federal contracts to political contributors, as well as write laws and regulations to benefit their corporate sponsors at the expense of the poor. Aramark fires unionized workers inside prisons and jails and replaces them with underpaid, nonunionized employees. And it makes sure the food is low enough in both quality and portion to produce huge profits.

Aramark, often contracted to provide food to prisoners at about a dollar a meal, is one of numerous corporations, from phone companies to construction firms, that have found our grotesque system of mass incarceration to be very profitable. The bodies of the poor, when they are not captive, are worth little to corporations. But bodies behind bars can each generate $40,000 to $50,000 a year for corporate coffers. More than 2.2 million men and women are in prisons and jails in the U.S.

Crystal Jordan, who has spent 23 years as a corrections officer in New Jersey and who works at the Burlington County Jail, and another corrections officer at the jail, who did not want to be named, told me that the food doled out to prisoners by Aramark is not only substandard but often spoiled. For nearly a decade Jordan has filed complaints about the conditions in the jail, including persistent mold on walls and elsewhere, with the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and state and county officials. The results of her complaints have been negligible. ...................(more)

The complete piece is at: http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/food_behind_bars_isnt_fit_for_your_dog_20131222

100 Years Is Enough: Time to Make the Fed a Public Utility

100 Years Is Enough: Time to Make the Fed a Public Utility

Posted on Dec 22, 2013
By Ellen Brown, Web of Debt

December 23rd, 2013 marks the 100th anniversary of the Federal Reserve, warranting a review of its performance. Has it achieved the purposes for which it was designed?

The answer depends on whose purposes we are talking about. For the banks, the Fed has served quite well. For the laboring masses whose populist movement prompted it, not much has changed in a century.

Thwarting Populist Demands

The Federal Reserve Act was passed in 1913 in response to a wave of bank crises, which had hit on average every six years over a period of 80 years. The resulting economic depressions triggered a populist movement for monetary reform in the 1890s. Mary Ellen Lease, an early populist leader, said in a fiery speech that could have been written today:

Wall Street owns the country. It is no longer a government of the people, by the people, and for the people, but a government of Wall Street, by Wall Street, and for Wall Street. The great common people of this country are slaves, and monopoly is the master. . . . Money rules . . . .Our laws are the output of a system which clothes rascals in robes and honesty in rags. The parties lie to us and the political speakers mislead us. . . .

We want money, land and transportation. We want the abolition of the National Banks, and we want the power to make loans direct from the government. We want the foreclosure system wiped out.

That was what they wanted, but the Federal Reserve Act that they got was not what the populists had fought for, or what their leader William Jennings Bryan thought he was approving when he voted for it in 1913. ..................(more)

The complete piece is at: http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/100_years_is_enough_time_to_make_the_fed_a_public_utility_20131222

Frida Berrigan: How Can We Reclaim the Holiday Season From Corporations?

How Can We Reclaim the Holiday Season From Corporations?

Sunday, 22 December 2013 14:33
By Frida Berrigan, Waging Nonviolence | Opinion

Seamus is covered in peanut butter and dragging a cell phone charger around while he carries a box of tampons in the crook of his arm. Not exactly photo-finish perfect parenting, but okay. He is fully occupied for the moment, and nothing he is holding can do him harm, right?

He is headed for the bathroom. My one concern is that he will decide to store his now-precious items in his favorite place — the toilet. Is the lid on? I think so, but the little genius can open it, no problem. I am listening for the splash. I think the charger would be okay, the tampons not so much. I am not even sure where he found them; I am almost seven months pregnant and haven’t had much use for them recently. But I don’t want to see them wasted either — they are too expensive to get waterlogged in an open toilet by a 16-month-old. I am encouraging his independence and curiosity, so I don’t get up to check on him.

But as I listen to him noisily exploring the second floor of our house — door knobs, rugs, dust bunnies, the basket of neatly folded laundry outside of his sister’s room — I think about his room full of toys. There is almost not enough room to play because there are so many toys — blocks, cars, stuffed animals, board books galore, musical instruments, and plastic things that talk, squeak and moan. But here he is, in the bathroom, happy as a little, nosy, box-emptying, stuff-strewing clam. Every corner of the second floor — except his room full of toys — entices, beckons, tempts.

It makes me think: “This kid doesn’t need any toys.”

That notion is three quarters of the way to heresy, especially this time of year. Americans spend more than $20 billion a year on toys for kids — with most of that green leaving their pockets between now and the end of December. Please do not spend any of that on toys for our Seamus. ..............(more)

The complete piece is at: http://truth-out.org/opinion/item/20791-how-can-we-reclaim-the-holiday-season-from-corporations

Professor Richard Wolff: Capitalism and Democracy: Year-End Lessons

Capitalism and Democracy: Year-End Lessons

Wednesday, 18 December 2013 09:12
By Richard D Wolff, Truthout | News

2013 drove home a basic lesson: US capitalism's economic leaders and their politicians now regularly ignore majority opinions and preferences. For example, polls showed overwhelming popular support for higher taxes on the rich with lower taxes on the rest of us and for reversing the nation's deepening economic inequalities. Yet Republicans and Democrats, including President Obama, raised payroll taxes sharply on January 1, 2013. Those taxes are regressive; they take a smaller percentage of your income the higher your income is above $113,700 per year. Raising the payroll tax increased economic inequality across 2013.

For another example, many American cities and towns want to use eminent domain laws to help residents keep their homes and avoid foreclosure. Eminent domain is a hallmark democratic right as well as US law. It enables municipal governments to buy individual properties (at market prices) when doing so benefits the community as a whole. Using eminent domain, local leaders want to compel lenders (e.g., banks, etc.) to sell them homes whose market prices have fallen below the mortgage debts of their occupants. They would then resell those homes at their market prices to their occupants. With their mortgages thus reduced to their homes' actual prices, occupants could stay in them. They still suffer their homes' fallen values but avoid homelessness. Communities benefit because decreased homelessness reduces the fall of other property values, reduces the number of abandoned homes (and thus risks of fire, crime, etc.), reduces the number of customers lost to local stores, sustains property tax flows to local governments and so on.

Used this way, eminent domain forces lenders - chiefly banks - to share more of the pains produced by capitalism's crisis. Most Americans support that, believing it will help reverse income and wealth inequalities and also that banks bear major responsibility for the economic crisis.

Yet the country's biggest banks are using "their" money and laws (that they often wrote) to block municipalities' use of eminent domain. "Their" money includes the massive bailouts Washington provided to them since 2007. Big bank directors and major shareholders - a tiny minority - fund the politicians, parties and think-tanks that oppose municipalities' use of eminent domain. In these ways, capitalism systematically undermines democratic decision-making about economic affairs. ........................(more)

The complete piece is at: http://truth-out.org/news/item/20550-capitalism-and-democracy-year-end-lessons

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