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Member since: Sat Jun 23, 2012, 05:03 PM
Number of posts: 3,183

Journal Archives

A Trade Deal Read In Secret By Only Few (Or Maybe None)

Senate leaders were all smiles Wednesday after they broke a 24-hour impasse and announced they had reached a deal on how to move forward on a fast-track trade negotiating bill. That legislation would give the president expedited authority to enter into a trade agreement with Pacific Rim countries, otherwise known as the Trans-Pacific Partnership, or TPP.

But how senators will vote on this bill depends largely on how they feel about TPP. And there's one problem.

"I bet that none of my colleagues have read the entire document. I would bet that most of them haven't even spent a couple hours looking at it," said Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown of Ohio, who has acknowledged he has yet to read every single page of the trade agreement."

*To study the draft TPP language, senators have to go to the basement of the Capitol and enter a secured, sound-proof room. There, they surrender their cell phones and other mobile devices, and sit under the watchful gaze of an official from the U.S. Trade Representative's office while they peruse the pages. Any notes taken inside the room must be left in the room.

Only aides with high-level security clearances can accompany lawmakers. Members of Congress can't ask outside industry experts or lawyers to analyze the language. They can't talk to the public about what they read. And Brown says there's no computer inside the secret room to look something up when there's confusion. You just consult the USTR official.

"There is more access in most cases to CIA and Defense Department and Iran sanctions documents — better access to congressional staff and others — than for this trade agreement," said Brown."

Posted by damnedifIknow | Thu May 14, 2015, 08:22 AM (1 replies)

Prisons are a cash cow

Rampant privatization is wreaking havoc on our society.

Case in point: what’s happened over the past few decades with prison phone services.

It used to be that if you were incarcerated at, say, the state penitentiary or the local jail you could call your family collect for as little as $4 an hour.

But then, states began signing contracts with private phone companies like AT&T, who, in turn, began charging sky-high rates for phone calls between prisoners and their families.

A 15-minute phone call that used to cost just a few bucks soon started costing as much as $17, which is a lot to ask from people in jail and prison, who generally have little to no income or from their families, who often live in poverty.

Of course, while prisoners struggled to find a way to talk to their loved ones without breaking the bank, the phone companies got – and have stayed – very, very rich. The prison phone service industry now rakes in around $1.2 billion every year.

And it’s not just the phone companies that are getting rich off prisoners’ phone calls.

Thanks to so-called “commissions” that can account for as much as 94 percent of the cost of a call, prison phone contracts have become a major source of revenue for state and local governments all across the country."

*Luckily, though, the government is starting to take action against some of the worst excesses of the phone service-industrial complex."

*Law enforcement, though, is having none of it.

The National Sheriffs’ Association says that if the government cuts back on the kickbacks prisons get from prisoners’ phone calls, they could just stop providing phone call services altogether."

Posted by damnedifIknow | Tue May 12, 2015, 07:17 PM (7 replies)

Miley Cyrus pays tribute to late transgender teen Leelah Alcorn

Miley Cyrus paid tribute to the late transgender teenager Leelah Alcorn as she launched the Happy Hippie Foundation, a charity aimed at supporting homeless LBGT young people.

The singer uploaded a video of her singing at the launch of the foundation on her Instagram page, where she wrote: “Listened to this song a lot in December when Leelah passed away...These lyrics relate so perfectly to Happy Hippie & our message to the world! FREEDOM & LOVE!"

Leelah, 17, took her life after her parents allegedly refused to let her live as a woman. In a suicide note, the teenager urged society to treat transgender people “like humans”.

The Happy Hippie charity states its mission is to “rally young people to fight injustice facing homeless youth, LGBT youth and other vulnerable populations”.

Cyrus launched the charity with a series of fundraising performances in her own backyard called the “backyard sessions”. She was joined by singer Joan Jett for a duet of “Different”, a song taken from Jett’s most recent album Unvarnished.

The 22-year-old is a vocal supporter of LBGT and homeless rights and has an equal sign tattooed onto her ring finger in a gesture of support of same-sex marriage."

Posted by damnedifIknow | Sun May 10, 2015, 09:23 PM (8 replies)

The Quest for Transgender Equality

A generation ago, transgender Americans were widely regarded as deviants, unfit for dignified workplaces, a disgrace for families. Those who confided in relatives were, by and large, pitied and shunned. For most, transitioning on the job was tantamount to career suicide. Medical procedures to align a person’s body with that person’s gender identity — an internal sense of being male, female or something else — were a fringe specialty, available only to a few who paid out of pocket.

Coming out meant going through life as a pariah.

Being transgender today remains unreasonably and unnecessarily hard. But it is far from hopeless. More Americans who have wrestled with gender identity are transitioning openly, propelling a civil rights movement that has struggled even as gays and lesbians have reached irreversible momentum in their fight for equality. Those coming out now are doing so with trepidation, realizing that while pockets of tolerance are expanding, discriminatory policies and hostile, uninformed attitudes remain widespread."

*Gays and lesbians are visible in all walks of life today, and many are celebrities and role models. Transgender Americans, meanwhile, remained largely unseen until fairly recently."


Posted by damnedifIknow | Wed May 6, 2015, 08:40 PM (2 replies)

Pointed 'Key & Peele' sketch slams police brutality


This might be Key and Peele's most political sketch yet.

In "Negrotown," main characters Jordan Peele and Keegan-Michael Key imagine a utopia for black people where "you can walk the street without getting stopped, harassed or beat." It starts off with Key getting arrested for no reason by a police officer who slams his head on a car door, thus kicking off his hallucinatory pipe dream of "Negrotown."

The Comedy Central series is well-known for tackling serious topics with clever punchlines. However, "Negrotown" is the most pointed, politically combative sketch the show has produced thus far. It's a no-holds-barred bit that underlines some of the macabre experiences of being black in America, making allusions to police brutality, Trayvon Martin's death and cultural appropriation.

Just read these lyrics: "You won’t get followed when you try to shop/You can wear your hoodie and not get shot/No white folks to cross the street in fear/No trigger-happy cops or scared cashiers."

Considering the ongoing Freddie Gray trial (an unarmed black man who was killed in Baltimore by police officers), this Key and Peele sketch is unfortunately quite timely.

Posted by damnedifIknow | Wed May 6, 2015, 07:58 PM (5 replies)

Funny Or Die's Reusable Police Brutality Reaction Videos Are Funny ... And Sadly True

Truth in comedy.

It's so hard these days to keep track of all the police brutality incidents happening in the country. I mean, when do reporters find the time to document reactions from the community?

Well, Funny Or Die News has you covered. With these handy police brutality reaction video templates, you can be prepared whenever and wherever you are!


A little too true, unfortunately.

Posted by damnedifIknow | Wed May 6, 2015, 09:37 AM (0 replies)

Punishment for profit: The economics of mass incarceration

The excessive arrests and unjustified long-term imprisonments of mostly people of color, and the devastating effects these measures have on whole communities, have been exposed and denounced by community, religious, human rights, legal and advocacy organizations, and individual researchers.

Then why is it so hard to stop?

Because for a very powerful few, mass incarceration is not a bad thing at all. It is the source of fabulous profits. For them, prison equals profits.

The total cost to government of incarceration is $70 billion a year. The privately run prison industry, which feeds on mass incarceration, is one of the fastest growing and widest reaching of U.S. industries. In 2009 alone, when most industries were in a slump, the prison industry brought in $34.4 billion in revenues. "

*That’s why the judiciary, the courts, the police, the legislatures and even whole federal agencies have become apologists for, encouragers of and accomplices in punishment for profit, having had their palms amply greased by its main corporate players.

Legislation that enables financial gain from prisons, such as mandated harsh sentences for nonviolent crime, were actually written by the prison profiteers, then passed by legislatures in their pay."

Posted by damnedifIknow | Wed May 6, 2015, 12:06 AM (3 replies)

I'm going to hate to see him go

Come on, he's just cool.
Posted by damnedifIknow | Tue May 5, 2015, 01:06 PM (5 replies)

The 2016 Results We Can Already Predict

For the Democrats, a victory in 2016 entails zero expansion of the blue map, merely the limiting of blue-to-red transformations. Assuming the lean, likely, and safe Democratic states remain loyal to the party, the nominee need only win 23 of the 85 toss-up electoral votes. And if a lean Democratic state such as Wisconsin turns red, it is relatively easy to replace those votes with one or two toss-ups.


Posted by damnedifIknow | Mon May 4, 2015, 10:38 PM (6 replies)

Freddie Gray: Don't let the 1% determine police reform for the 99%

The history of policing in the US has been one of protecting private property, money and lives of the affluent and politically powerful, at least since the NYPD’s founding in 1845. Any new efforts at police reform – calls for which are growing stronger with each new death of an unarmed person of color at the hands of the police – will be unsuccessful if they exclude revisions to this most basic of reasons for the existence of modern law enforcement."

*We should never expect expert panels led by technocrats who are far removed from the poor and communities of color to address deep flaws in the police system. For one, their socioeconomic and racial distance would make it next to impossible for them to develop evaluations and other reforms responsive to the needs of such communities. The heavy influence from America’s rich and powerful on law enforcement means that any reform efforts at making police less militarized will conflict with the charge to protect private property – especially businesses – and those who wield the most money and political influence.

To even begin to make inroads on police reform, we need trusted representatives of the interest of the poor and communities of color to be involved. Organizations like the ACLU, the Center for Social Inclusion, The Sentencing Project and Dream Defenders – along with individuals like Maya Wiley, Deeray McKesson and Michelle Alexander – would be a place to start."

*It has often taken a series of major riots for law enforcement and affluent whites to get the message that police are not only there to serve them and their interests. Everyone deserves fair protection. Let’s hope that it doesn’t take more bloodshed for all of us to realize that."

Posted by damnedifIknow | Fri May 1, 2015, 12:47 PM (1 replies)
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