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marmar

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Member since: Fri Oct 29, 2004, 12:18 AM
Number of posts: 70,339

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Rob Lowe facepalm




In a tweet on Wednesday, actor Rob Lowe compared Sony's decision to cancel the scheduled Dec. 25 release of "The Interview" to the strategic mistake that is widely blamed for emboldening Nazi Germany just before World War II.

Lowe said the cancellation of the movie, which followed a massive hack on Sony studios, would have made former British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain "proud." The hackers posted messages indicating they objected to the film's mocking portrayal of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. Chamberlain was infamously blamed for the policy of appeasement in which Britain allowed Adolf Hitler to seize territories in Europe in the late 1930s.

Lowe also claimed he saw Seth Rogen, one of the film's stars, at an airport on Wednesday. Lowe says they were both stunned. .............(more}

Read more: http://www.businessinsider.com/rob-lowe-compares-the-interview-to-the-rise-of-nazism-2014-12#ixzz3MG7SkeJ



America's Addiction to Torture


America's Addiction to Torture

Wednesday, 17 December 2014 11:09
By Henry A. Giroux, Truthout | News Analysis


The United States is addicted to torture. Not only does this savage addiction run through its history like an overheated electric current, but it has become intensified as part of a broader national psychosis of fear, war and violence. A post 9/11 obsession with security and revenge has buttressed a militarized culture in which violence becomes a first principle, an essential need, whether in the guise of a national sport, mode of entertainment or celebrated ideal.

Foreign and domestic violence now mediate everyday relations and the United States' connection to the larger world. As such, terror, fear, war and torture, become normalized, and the work of dehumanization takes its toll on the US public as more and more people not only become numb to the horror of torture but begin to live in a state of moral stupor, a coma that relegates morality to the dustbin of history. How else to explain recent polls indicating that 58 percent of the US public believe that torture under certain circumstances can be justified, and that 59 percent think that the CIA's brutal torture methods produced crucial information that helped prevent future attacks?

There is more at stake here than manufactured ignorance and an unconscionable flight from the truth. There is also a dangerous escape from justice, morality and the most basic principles central to a democratic society. The celebration of brutality, spectacles of violence and the affirmation of torture suggests that in a market-driven society with its unchecked individualism, sheer Darwinism and refusal to think about social costs or, for that matter, any notion of the public good, the addiction to cruelty, violence and torture becomes less difficult and almost too easy. In the age of disposability and despicable gaps in wealth, income and power, modern terror becomes normalized and points to the onslaught of a mode of totalitarianism that is more than an ephemeral moment in history. Violence is no longer marginal to American life; it is the foundation that now drives it. As Lawrence Wittner recently observed:

When it comes to violence and preparations for violence, the United States is, indeed, No. 1. In 2013, according to a report by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, the U.S. government accounted for 37 percent of world military expenditures, putting it far ahead of all other nations. (The two closest competitors, China and Russia, accounted for 11 percent and 5 percent respectively.) From 2004 to 2013, the United States was also the No. 1 weapons exporter in the world. Moreover, given the U.S. government's almost continuous series of wars and acts of military intervention since 1941, it seems likely that it surpasses all rivals when it comes to international violence.


With the release of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence's report on the CIA's use of torture, it becomes clear that in the aftermath of the loathsome terrorist attacks of 9/11, the United States entered into a new and barbarous stage in its history, one in which acts of violence and moral depravity were not only embraced but celebrated. (1) Certainly, this is not to suggest that the United States had not engaged in criminal and lawless acts historically or committed acts of brutality that would rightly be labeled acts of torture. .....................(more)

The complete piece is at: http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/28055-torture-and-the-violence-of-organized-forgetting



Jeb Bush: The Forest Gump of Financial Improprieties?


Jeb Bush: The Forest Gump of Financial Improprieties?
Posted on December 18, 2014 by Yves Smith


The Financial Times has an unusual story featured prominently today. As Jeb Bush has made a soft launch of his presidential campaign, the pink paper has published a surprisingly long list of financial relationships that do not put the Florida governor in a particularly good light.

The intriguing part isn’t so much a history of dubious-looking complicated money dealings. It’s the fact that many of them are live. Jeb apparently couldn’t be bothered to clean them up. That strategy didn’t work too well for Mitt Romney, who was forced effectively to admit that his wife Ann Romney’s Olympic horse Rafalca was not a business and hence not a permissible deduction on the Romney tax returns. There was also the consternation over his failure to release five years of tax returns as would have been customary. Some theorized that it was because Romney paid no taxes in those years, but the guess among tax experts was that Romney had declared a formerly secret Swiss bank account under an amnesty program. One of the conditions of getting amnesty was refiling prior year tax returns. Those returns would be “stapled,” as in they would clearly show that the returns had originally been filed not showing the Swiss bank account, and then had been amended to included it.

The issue revealed by the Romney tax return debate, as well as the consternation about his remarks at a supposedly closed-door speech where he derided the non-income-taxpaying 47% of the US (which includes the unemployed, students and people who make too little income to be subject to income taxes but nevertheless pay FICA and sales taxes) is that even rich Republicans are not immune from scrutiny as to their financial conduct and their implicit or explicit attitude towards the non-wealthy. Despite the stereotype, not all Republican voters are rich. For instance, evangelical Christians are not the power in the party that they once were but are still far more inclined to vote Republican than Democrat.

So the issue with Jeb isn’t who he’s been in bed with financially, per se, but that he couldn’t be bothered to tidy up his record.

For my money, the stunner comes late in the article: Jeb is currently an advisor to Barclays. These big misbehaving banks tend to become all of a muchness over time, so to refresh your memory, Barclays was a central actor in the Libor price-rigging scandal. Its efforts to defy the Bank of England and implicate Paul Tucker, the heir apparent to the Governor Mervyn King’s job, led the Bank of England to force the resignation of the top three officers at Barclays, its chairman, CEO, and president. The UK’s Serious Fraud Office has filed criminal charges against three Barclays officers; one of them has been indicted in the US. The SFO is also investigating a 2008 equity infusion from the Qatar sovereign wealth fund that Barclays used to just escape a taxpayer rescue. The allegation is that Barclays paid fees to Qatar that were really tantamount to bribes and that the sovereign wealth fund and Challenger, the prime minister’s investment company, worked with Barclays to misrepresent its financial condition to regulators and the public. ................(more)

The complete piece is at: http://www.nakedcapitalism.com/2014/12/jeb-bush-forest-gump-financial-improprieties.html



Amy Goodman: Obama and the Beginning of the End of the Cuban Embargo


from truthdig:



By Amy Goodman

The failed United States policy against Cuba, which has for more than half a century stifled relations between these neighboring countries and inflicted generations of harm upon the Cuban people, may finally be collapsing. On Wednesday morning, we learned that Alan Gross, a U.S. government contractor convicted in Cuba for spying, had been released after five years in prison. Another person, an unnamed Cuban imprisoned in Cuba for 20 years for spying for the U.S., was also released. This has made global headlines. Less well explained in the U.S. media are the three Cubans released from U.S. prisons. They are the three remaining jailed members of the Cuban Five. The Cuban Five were arrested in the late 1990s on espionage charges. But they were not spying on the United States government. They were in Miami, infiltrating Cuban-American paramilitary groups based there that were dedicated to the violent overthrow of the Cuban government.

By noon Wednesday, President Barack Obama made it official—this was not just a simple prisoner exchange: “Today, the United States of America is changing its relationship with the people of Cuba. ... I’ve instructed Secretary [of State John] Kerry to immediately begin discussions with Cuba to re-establish diplomatic relations that have been severed since January of 1961.”

It was President Dwight Eisenhower who severed relations with Cuba, on Jan. 3, 1961, two years after Fidel Castro took power. President John F. Kennedy then expanded the embargo. Months after Kennedy took office, the CIA invasion of the Bay of Pigs, intending to overthrow the government of Fidel Castro, went awry. It is universally considered one of the greatest military fiascos of the modern era. Scores were killed, and Cuba imprisoned more than 1,200 CIA mercenaries.

Cuba became a flash point, most notably as the Soviet Union attempted to place short-range nuclear missiles on the island, precipitating the Cuban missile crisis in October 1962. This episode is widely considered the closest that nations have come to all-out nuclear war. The U.S. also tried to assassinate Castro. While the U.S. Senate’s Church Committee identified eight such attempts, Fabian Escalante, the former head of Cuban counterintelligence, uncovered at least 638 assassination attempts. ..................(more)

The complete piece is at: http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/obama_and_the_beginning_of_the_end_of_the_cuban_embargo_20141217



America's Addiction to Torture


America's Addiction to Torture

Wednesday, 17 December 2014 11:09
By Henry A. Giroux, Truthout | News Analysis


The United States is addicted to torture. Not only does this savage addiction run through its history like an overheated electric current, but it has become intensified as part of a broader national psychosis of fear, war and violence. A post 9/11 obsession with security and revenge has buttressed a militarized culture in which violence becomes a first principle, an essential need, whether in the guise of a national sport, mode of entertainment or celebrated ideal.

Foreign and domestic violence now mediate everyday relations and the United States' connection to the larger world. As such, terror, fear, war and torture, become normalized, and the work of dehumanization takes its toll on the US public as more and more people not only become numb to the horror of torture but begin to live in a state of moral stupor, a coma that relegates morality to the dustbin of history. How else to explain recent polls indicating that 58 percent of the US public believe that torture under certain circumstances can be justified, and that 59 percent think that the CIA's brutal torture methods produced crucial information that helped prevent future attacks?

There is more at stake here than manufactured ignorance and an unconscionable flight from the truth. There is also a dangerous escape from justice, morality and the most basic principles central to a democratic society. The celebration of brutality, spectacles of violence and the affirmation of torture suggests that in a market-driven society with its unchecked individualism, sheer Darwinism and refusal to think about social costs or, for that matter, any notion of the public good, the addiction to cruelty, violence and torture becomes less difficult and almost too easy. In the age of disposability and despicable gaps in wealth, income and power, modern terror becomes normalized and points to the onslaught of a mode of totalitarianism that is more than an ephemeral moment in history. Violence is no longer marginal to American life; it is the foundation that now drives it. As Lawrence Wittner recently observed:

When it comes to violence and preparations for violence, the United States is, indeed, No. 1. In 2013, according to a report by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, the U.S. government accounted for 37 percent of world military expenditures, putting it far ahead of all other nations. (The two closest competitors, China and Russia, accounted for 11 percent and 5 percent respectively.) From 2004 to 2013, the United States was also the No. 1 weapons exporter in the world. Moreover, given the U.S. government's almost continuous series of wars and acts of military intervention since 1941, it seems likely that it surpasses all rivals when it comes to international violence.


With the release of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence's report on the CIA's use of torture, it becomes clear that in the aftermath of the loathsome terrorist attacks of 9/11, the United States entered into a new and barbarous stage in its history, one in which acts of violence and moral depravity were not only embraced but celebrated. (1) Certainly, this is not to suggest that the United States had not engaged in criminal and lawless acts historically or committed acts of brutality that would rightly be labeled acts of torture. .....................(more)

The complete piece is at: http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/28055-torture-and-the-violence-of-organized-forgetting



Greed Is a Paywall Blocking Human Knowledge


from truthdig:


Greed Is a Paywall Blocking Human Knowledge

Posted on Dec 17, 2014
By Thor Benson


One of the most widely read academic journals, Nature, just became accessible without a paid subscription. Macmillan, its publisher, announced Dec. 2 that it would be making 49 of its journals, including Nature, available to read on the PDF viewing service ReadCube. That said, readers cannot simply go to ReadCube and view any journal they want; they have to get a link to the journal from an existing subscriber in order to read it for free.

This method is a way of imitating open access without actually instating it. Although being able to link directly to scientific documents in an online article is useful for letting a reader see the exact source of what the article is reporting, relying on direct links leaves behind the academics and the researchers who want to search for specific journals and may not have a subscription. Those without a subscription will be relegated to “beggar access,” as Scientific American put it, where they can read something only if they ask subscribers to share it with them.

The issue with hiding academic articles behind paywalls is that the research featured in these kinds of journals is often paid for with government grants or through public university funding. To ask the public to pay for a subscription is thus a kind of double tax, in that would-be readers pay taxes that fund the studies that provide the basis for the journal articles and then pay again to read the finished product. The authors of the research do not receive a payment from the journals when the article is accepted or when it is published, and the money from subscribers instead goes directly to the publisher.

“The world’s entire scientific and cultural heritage, published over centuries in books and journals, is increasingly being digitized and locked up by a handful of private corporations,” the late Internet activist Aaron Swartz wrote in 2008 in the Guerilla Open Access Manifesto. He fought against the privatization of knowledge, becoming a warrior for the open access movement. .............(more)

The complete piece is at: http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/greed_is_a_paywall_blocking_human_knowledge_20141217



Police State Bulletin


Thanksgiving morning began sweetly for Cesar Baldelomar. No work. Beautiful weather. And good tunes thumping from his car stereo. As the 26-year-old cruised through Hialeah toward his parents' house, he could practically smell his mother's cooking wafting down 24th Avenue.

But when Baldelomar pulled up to the stoplight at West 60th Street, Hialeah Police Officer Harold Garzon was standing nearby, filling out some paperwork from a traffic accident. At that moment, another song came on Baldelomar's stereo. "Fuck tha police/Comin' straight from the underground," N.W.A. rapped. "A young n**** got it bad cause I'm brown / And not the other color so police think / they have the authority to kill a minority."

Then came the song's eponymous refrain -- "Fuck tha police!" -- four times in a row.

"Really?" Garzon said to Baldelomar through his open car window. "You're really playing that song? Pull over."

Garzon is a buzzcutted cop with sleeve tattoos and sunglasses. He's also a 17-year veteran with 16 internal affairs cases against him, according to records. (It's unclear how many were sustained; Hialeah PD didn't respond to New Times' requests for comment.) .............(more)

The complete piece is at: http://blogs.miaminewtimes.com/riptide/2014/12/hialeah_cop_pulls_over_harvard_grad_for_playing_nwa_song_f_tha_police.php



From Occupy to Ferguson: The two movements are more connected than you think


from In These Times:


From Occupy to Ferguson
The two movements are more connected than you think.

BY JESSICA STITES


[font size="1"]The shooting and death of Michael Brown, an unarmed teenager from Ferguson, Missouri, ignited protests, rallies and vigils from Washington D.C. (left) to New York City. The movement served as a platform to get justice for Brown, as well as to expose issues of police brutality and racism. (Ep_Jhu / Flickr)[/font]

Early in the Occupy movement, Frances Fox Piven predicted, “We may be on the cusp, at the beginning of another period of social protest.” Months later, in September 2012, long after the last tent had folded, Piven questioned the “ready conclusion that the protests have fizzled.” As she and Richard Cloward noted 35 years earlier in their pivotal study, Poor People’s Movements: Why They Succeed, How They Fail, the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 1960s and the labor movement of the 1920s and 1930s took years to win substantial victories.

As the nation erupts in protests, her words ring prophetic. The killing of unarmed teenager Michael Brown by police officer Darren Wilson in Ferguson, Missouri, has put a match to years of simmering fury over police brutality. Ferguson may seem a far cry from Occupy. These protests aren’t about inequality; they’re about policing. Yet many of the 1960s civil rights riots were set off by police brutality. For people in poor communities, overpolicing is the most palpable manifestation of economic and political oppression.

Piven is heartened by the Ferguson protests. “Occupy was brilliant in getting a message across, but these protests are disruptive. They (are) specifically, deliberately, planfully setting out to disrupt the functioning of the city until attention is paid to the grievance they have,” she tells In These Times. “Protesters have to bring things to a halt in order to have an impact.”

Those in power seem nervous. In a speech following a grand jury’s decision not to indict Wilson, Barack Obama sounded less like the man who, after the Trayvon Martin verdict, spoke candidly and movingly of his personal experiences of racial profiling by police, and more like the lord of the manor with the mob at the door. “First and foremost, we are a nation built on the rule of law,” he stressed. ......................(more)

The complete piece is at: http://inthesetimes.com/article/17421/from_occupy_to_ferguson



From Occupy to Ferguson: The two movements are more connected than you think


from In These Times:


From Occupy to Ferguson
The two movements are more connected than you think.

BY JESSICA STITES


[font size="1"]The shooting and death of Michael Brown, an unarmed teenager from Ferguson, Missouri, ignited protests, rallies and vigils from Washington D.C. (left) to New York City. The movement served as a platform to get justice for Brown, as well as to expose issues of police brutality and racism. (Ep_Jhu / Flickr)[/font]

Early in the Occupy movement, Frances Fox Piven predicted, “We may be on the cusp, at the beginning of another period of social protest.” Months later, in September 2012, long after the last tent had folded, Piven questioned the “ready conclusion that the protests have fizzled.” As she and Richard Cloward noted 35 years earlier in their pivotal study, Poor People’s Movements: Why They Succeed, How They Fail, the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 1960s and the labor movement of the 1920s and 1930s took years to win substantial victories.

As the nation erupts in protests, her words ring prophetic. The killing of unarmed teenager Michael Brown by police officer Darren Wilson in Ferguson, Missouri, has put a match to years of simmering fury over police brutality. Ferguson may seem a far cry from Occupy. These protests aren’t about inequality; they’re about policing. Yet many of the 1960s civil rights riots were set off by police brutality. For people in poor communities, overpolicing is the most palpable manifestation of economic and political oppression.

Piven is heartened by the Ferguson protests. “Occupy was brilliant in getting a message across, but these protests are disruptive. They (are) specifically, deliberately, planfully setting out to disrupt the functioning of the city until attention is paid to the grievance they have,” she tells In These Times. “Protesters have to bring things to a halt in order to have an impact.”

Those in power seem nervous. In a speech following a grand jury’s decision not to indict Wilson, Barack Obama sounded less like the man who, after the Trayvon Martin verdict, spoke candidly and movingly of his personal experiences of racial profiling by police, and more like the lord of the manor with the mob at the door. “First and foremost, we are a nation built on the rule of law,” he stressed. ......................(more)

The complete piece is at: http://inthesetimes.com/article/17421/from_occupy_to_ferguson



NY State Official Raises Alarm on Charter Schools — And Gets Ignored


NY State Official Raises Alarm on Charter Schools — And Gets Ignored
A top official in the New York State Comptroller’s Office has urged regulators to require more transparency on charter-school finances. The response has been, well, nonexistent.

by Marian Wang
ProPublica, Dec. 16, 2014, 3:13 p.m.


Add another voice to those warning about the lack of financial oversight for charter schools. One of New York state's top fiscal monitors told ProPublica that audits by his office have found "practices that are questionable at best, illegal at worst" at some charter schools.

Pete Grannis, New York State's First Deputy Comptroller, contacted ProPublica after reading our story last week about how some charter schools have turned over nearly all their public funds and significant control to private, often for-profit firms that handle their day-to-day operations. The arrangements can limit the ability of auditors and charter-school regulators to follow how public money is spent – especially when the firms refuse to divulge financial details when asked.

Such setups are a real problem, Grannis said. And the way he sees it, there's a very simple solution. As a condition for agreeing to approve a new charter school or renew an existing one, charter regulators could require schools and their management companies to agree to provide any and all financial records related to the school.

"Clearly, the need for fiscal oversight of charter schools has intensified," he wrote in a letter to New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio last week. "Put schools on notice that relevant financial records cannot be shielded from oversight bodies of state and local governmental entities." ..................(more)

The complete piece is at: http://www.propublica.org/article/ny-state-official-raises-alarm-on-charter-schools-and-gets-ignored



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