Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Too Old to Work (The Social Security Song)


When Did it Become the Norm for Police to Crush Americans' Rights?

From Alternet: http://www.alternet.org/civil-liberties/when-did-it-become-norm-police-crush-americans-rights

Militarized weaponry is being used to trample constitutional rights.

By Alex Kane August 22, 2014

The militarized police force unleashed in Ferguson, Missouri over the past two weeks has crushed the civil liberties of black residents angry over the killing of 18-year-old Michael Brown. That law enforcement has shown utter disregard for the rights of protesters and the press is no surprise to many, especially black people, who have had to contend with pervasive surveillance and harassment in varied forms for much of American history. Yet what makes the situation in Ferguson look especially scary and dystopic are the militarized weapons being used to crush constitutional rights.

The first civil liberty to be trampled on by cops was the right to protest, or as the Constitution puts it, “the right of the people peaceably to assemble.” Protests have occurred almost daily since August 9, the day Brown was killed by Ferguson officer Darren Wilson. When demonstrations broke out over the shooting, police fired tear gas and rubber bullets and used vehicles that produce piercing sounds to disperse the crowd.

In the wake of these scenes, groups like Human Rights Watch have charged that the methods law enforcement used have intimidated peaceful demonstrators. “Ferguson police are compounding problems with threats and the use of unnecessary force against people peacefully protesting the police killing of Michael Brown,” Human Rights Watch’s U.S. researcher Alba Morales said in a statement. “They should be upholding basic rights to peaceful assembly and free speech, not undermining them.”

Slate’s Dahlia Lithwick, and Daria Roithmayr, a law professor, argue that excessive tear gas and rubber bullets also violate the constitutional right to due process. “The due process clause bans the police from using excessive force even when they are within their rights to control a crowd or arrest a suspect,” they write.

Despite this criticism, the police in Ferguson have not changed their tactics.

When citizens with camera phones and journalists have tried to document police tactics, officers have sought to prevent them from doing so. The American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit on behalf of a journalist who was told by police to stop recording with his camera. On August 15, the police and the ACLU reached an agreement that would allow the videotaping of police officers as long as officers are able to do their jobs.

Continue reading at:  http://www.alternet.org/civil-liberties/when-did-it-become-norm-police-crush-americans-rights

Ferguson brings the libertarians: Why a new coalition has everyone confused

From Salon: http://www.salon.com/2014/08/19/ferguson_brings_the_libertarians_why_a_new_coalition_has_everyone_confused/

After Mike Brown's shooting, an alliance of left and right emerged to demilitarize police. But here's what it's not

Heather Digby Parton Tuesday, Aug 19, 2014

One of the most misunderstood elements of American politics has to be the fact that legislative coalitions are very different from voting coalitions. The most obvious case in point is the erroneous assumption that the coalition that often forms around civil liberties, featuring elements of the most ideologically committed members of the left and the right, means that these groups are in agreement as to the goals they wish to obtain. It’s not essential that everyone who signs on to a bill is doing so for the same reason, but it’s vitally important that people not misinterpret the joint action as a sign that we are entering a moment of bipartisan kumbaya that will heal the nation’s wounds and bring us together once and for all.

In the wake of Michael Brown’s death and all that’s followed, we are seeing this play out in what Jim Newell accurately described as a potential coalition of right and left on the demilitarization of the police. In this case it’s the hardcore wingnuts at the Gun Owners of America joining in with the ACLU to demand an end to the Pentagon program that encourages police departments to buy surplus military equipment at bargain basement prices, both of whom have endorsed a bill by Democratic congressman Hank Johnson of Georgia to do just that. But it’s important that we distinguish that the liberty concerns driving this particular joint endorsement are not coming from the same place or seeking the same end.

Gun Owners of America president Larry Pratt is not concerned about the police harassing and shooting young African-American men or using military tactics and equipment against peaceful protesters exercising their rights under the Constitution.  He has never before expressed any concern for these issues in the past. What he is worried about is something else entirely.  Just a few weeks ago he appeared on Alex Jones’ conspiracy show and articulated exactly what it is he fears the most. Right Wing Watch captured the moment:

Jones asked Pratt about a Washington Times report about a 2010 Pentagon directive — an update to a series of similar directives crafted under previous administrations — outlining how and when the military can use force to quell domestic unrest “in extraordinary emergency circumstances where prior authorization by the president is impossible.”

Jones, of course, read this to mean that it is “official and has been confirmed” that the military is “training with tanks, armored vehicles, drones” to “take on the American people, mainly the Tea Party.”

Continue reading at:  http://www.salon.com/2014/08/19/ferguson_brings_the_libertarians_why_a_new_coalition_has_everyone_confused/

Cornel West: “He posed as a progressive and turned out to be counterfeit. We ended up with a Wall Street presidency, a drone presidency”

From Salon: http://www.salon.com/2014/08/24/cornel_west_he_posed_as_a_progressive_and_turned_out_to_be_counterfeit_we_ended_up_with_a_wall_street_presidency_a_drone_presidency/

Exclusive: Cornel West talks Ferguson, Hillary, MSNBC -- and unloads on the failed promise of Barack Obama

Sunday, Aug 24, 2014

Cornel West is a professor at Union Theological Seminary and one of my favorite public intellectuals, a man who deals in penetrating analyses of current events, expressed in a pithy and highly quotable way.

I first met him nearly six years ago, while the financial crisis and the presidential election were both under way, and I was much impressed by what he had to say. I got back in touch with him last week, to see how he assesses the nation’s progress since then.

The conversation ranged from Washington, D.C., to Ferguson, Missouri, and although the picture of the nation was sometimes bleak, our talk ended on a surprising note.

Last time we talked it was almost six years ago. It was a panel discussion The New Yorker magazine had set up, it was in the fall of 2008, so it was while the financial crisis was happening, while it was actually in progress. The economy was crumbling and everybody was panicking. I remember you  speaking about the financial crisis in a way that I thought made sense. There was a lot of confusion at the time. People didn’t know where to turn or what was going on. 


I also remember, and this is just me I’m talking about, being impressed by Barack Obama who was running for president at the time. I don’t know if you and I talked about him on that occasion. But at the time, I sometimes thought that he looked like he had what this country needed. 

So that’s my first question, it’s a lot of ground to cover but how do you feel things have worked out since then, both with the economy and with this president? That was a huge turning point, that moment in 2008, and my own feeling is that we didn’t turn.

No, the thing is he posed as a progressive and turned out to be counterfeit. We ended up with a Wall Street presidency, a drone presidency, a national security presidency. The torturers go free. The Wall Street executives go free. The war crimes in the Middle East, especially now in Gaza, the war criminals go free. And yet, you know, he acted as if he was both a progressive and as if he was concerned about the issues of serious injustice and inequality and it turned out that he’s just another neoliberal centrist with a smile and with a nice rhetorical flair. And that’s a very sad moment in the history of the nation because we are—we’re an empire in decline. Our culture is in increasing decay. Our school systems are in deep trouble. Our political system is dysfunctional. Our leaders are more and more bought off with legalized bribery and normalized corruption in Congress and too much of our civil life. You would think that we needed somebody—a Lincoln-like figure who could revive some democratic spirit and democratic possibility.

Continue reading at:  http://www.salon.com/2014/08/24/cornel_west_he_posed_as_a_progressive_and_turned_out_to_be_counterfeit_we_ended_up_with_a_wall_street_presidency_a_drone_presidency/

The Coming Race War Won’t Be About Race

From Time: http://time.com/3132635/ferguson-coming-race-war-class-warfare/

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Aug. 17, 2014 

Ferguson is not just about systemic racism — it's about class warfare and how America's poor are held back, says Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

Will the recent rioting in Ferguson, Missouri, be a tipping point in the struggle against racial injustice, or will it be a minor footnote in some future grad student’s thesis on Civil Unrest in the Early Twenty-First Century?

The answer can be found in May of 1970.

You probably have heard of the Kent State shootings: on May 4, 1970, the Ohio National Guard opened fire on student protesters at Kent State University. During those 13 seconds of gunfire, four students were killed and nine were wounded, one of whom was permanently paralyzed. The shock and outcry resulted in a nationwide strike of 4 million students that closed more than 450 campuses. Five days after the shooting, 100,000 protestors gathered in Washington, D.C. And the nation’s youth was energetically mobilized to end the Vietnam War, racism, sexism, and mindless faith in the political establishment.

You probably haven’t heard of the Jackson State shootings.

On May 14th, 10 days after Kent State ignited the nation, at the predominantly black Jackson State University in Mississippi, police killed two black students (one a high school senior, the other the father of an 18-month-old baby) with shotguns and wounded twelve others.

There was no national outcry. The nation was not mobilized to do anything. That heartless leviathan we call History swallowed that event whole, erasing it from the national memory.

And, unless we want the Ferguson atrocity to also be swallowed and become nothing more than an intestinal irritant to history, we have to address the situation not just as another act of systemic racism, but as what else it is: class warfare.

By focusing on just the racial aspect, the discussion becomes about whether Michael Brown’s death—or that of the other three unarmed black men who were killed by police in the U.S. within that month—is about discrimination or about police justification. Then we’ll argue about whether there isn’t just as much black-against-white racism in the U.S. as there is white-against-black. (Yes, there is. But, in general, white-against-black economically impacts the future of the black community. Black-against-white has almost no measurable social impact.)

Continue reading at:  http://time.com/3132635/ferguson-coming-race-war-class-warfare/

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Shocking Picture of What Life Will Look Like When You Can't Afford to Retire

From Alternet: http://www.alternet.org/economy/shocking-picture-what-life-will-look-when-you-cant-afford-retire

Will you be ready for the life of a nomad, permanently in search of temporary work?

By Lynn Stuart Parramore August 25, 2014

In a must-read article in the current issue of Harper's magazine, journalist Jessica Bruder, adjunct professor at Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, adds a new phrase to America's vocabulary: "Elderly migrant worker." She documents a growing trend of older Americans for whom the reality of unaffordable housing and scarcity of work has driven them from their homes and onto the road in search of seasonal and temporary employment across the country. Packed into RVs, detached from their communities, these "Okies" of the Great Recession put in time at Amazon warehouses, farms and amusement parks, popping free over-the-counter pain reliever to mask the agony of strained muscles and sore backs. And when they can't hold up any longer? The RV sometimes becomes a coffin.

Since the financial crisis ripped the security out from under millions of people, the bulk of our politicians, including President Obama, actually tried to reduce, rather than increase, Social Security. The absence of pensions, along with the inadequacy of 401(k)s, skyrocketing healthcare and job insecurity and unemployment, are sending more and more people scrambling to figure out a way to keep body and soul together. Even grandparents are joining the ranks of those for whom life has become a game of Survivor. In an email interview, I asked Bruder about this alarming trend and what it means for the country, now and in the future.

Lynn Parramore: In your recent article in Harper’s, you describe a trend of downwardly mobile elderly folks traveling the country in RVs in search of temporary and seasonal work. How many people are we talking about? How fast has this trend been emerging?

Jessica Bruder: Though no one keeps an official tally of how many older Americans are doing this kind of work, their ranks appear to be growing rapidly in the wake of the housing bust and market crashes.

Amazon first hired a handful of migrant full-time RVers in 2008 through a program the company later named “CamperForce.” As of 2014, it had expanded to employ some 2,000 workers, according to a recruiter I met in Quartzsite, Arizona. The American Crystal Sugar Company taps the same labor pool each fall to staff its annual sugar beet harvest, and their recruitment numbers are up, too. This year, they’re hoping to recruit 600 " workampers," up from 450 the year before.

LP: What’s the gender breakdown among these traveling workers? What kinds of work are men and women doing?

JB: I was impressed by how many older, single women I met among the working nomads, from a tarot reader living in a former convict labor van she’d transformed into a roving gypsy boudoir, to an ex-medical technician who managed to fit her whole life—along with a Shih-Tzu, a lovebird and a loquacious African Grey parrot—into a 10.5-foot Carson Kalispell sport trailer.

The gender breakdown was roughly even. Employers don’t discriminate when doling out hard or dirty work, whether it’s scrubbing campsite toilets or walking 15 miles a day on a concrete warehouse floor to pack Amazon’s holiday orders.

Continue reading at:  http://www.alternet.org/economy/shocking-picture-what-life-will-look-when-you-cant-afford-retire

Monday, August 25, 2014

Sick of this market-driven world? You should be

From The Guardian UK: http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/aug/05/neoliberalism-mental-health-rich-poverty-economy

The self-serving con of neoliberalism is that it has eroded the human values the market was supposed to emancipate

• Leo Panitch: Responsible capitalism is nonsense

The Guardian, Tuesday 5 August 2014

To be at peace with a troubled world: this is not a reasonable aim. It can be achieved only through a disavowal of what surrounds you. To be at peace with yourself within a troubled world: that, by contrast, is an honourable aspiration. This column is for those who feel at odds with life. It calls on you not to be ashamed.

I was prompted to write it by a remarkable book, just published in English, by a Belgian professor of psychoanalysis, Paul Verhaeghe. What About Me? The Struggle for Identity in a Market-Based Society is one of those books that, by making connections between apparently distinct phenomena, permits sudden new insights into what is happening to us and why.

We are social animals, Verhaeghe argues, and our identities are shaped by the norms and values we absorb from other people. Every society defines and shapes its own normality – and its own abnormality – according to dominant narratives, and seeks either to make people comply or to exclude them if they don’t.

Today the dominant narrative is that of market fundamentalism, widely known in Europe as neoliberalism. The story it tells is that the market can resolve almost all social, economic and political problems. The less the state regulates and taxes us, the better off we will be. Public services should be privatised, public spending should be cut, and business should be freed from social control. In countries such as the UK and the US, this story has shaped our norms and values for around 35 years: since Thatcher and Reagan came to power. It is rapidly colonising the rest of the world.

Verhaeghe points out that neoliberalism draws on the ancient Greek idea that our ethics are innate (and governed by a state of nature it calls the market) and on the Christian idea that humankind is inherently selfish and acquisitive. Rather than seeking to suppress these characteristics, neoliberalism celebrates them: it claims that unrestricted competition, driven by self-interest, leads to innovation and economic growth, enhancing the welfare of all.

At the heart of this story is the notion of merit. Untrammelled competition rewards people who have talent, work hard, and innovate. It breaks down hierarchies and creates a world of opportunity and mobility.

The reality is rather different. Even at the beginning of the process, when markets are first deregulated, we do not start with equal opportunities. Some people are a long way down the track before the starting gun is fired. This is how the Russian oligarchs managed to acquire such wealth when the Soviet Union broke up. They weren’t, on the whole, the most talented, hardworking or innovative people, but those with the fewest scruples, the most thugs, and the best contacts – often in the KGB.

Continue reading at:  http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/aug/05/neoliberalism-mental-health-rich-poverty-economy

Friday, August 22, 2014

Gazans Suspected of Collaborating With Israel Are Executed

From The New York Times: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/08/23/world/middleeast/israel-gaza.html?_r=0

GAZA CITY — One day after an intelligence coup enabled Israel to kill three top commanders of Hamas’s armed wing, as many as 18 Palestinians suspected of collaboration with Israel were summarily executed in public on Friday, in what was seen as a warning to the people of the Gaza Strip.

Masked gunmen in matching black T-shirts and pants paraded seven of the suspected collaborators, handcuffed and hooded, to their deaths before a boisterous crowd outside a downtown mosque after noon prayers, in a highly theatrical presentation. Photographs showed a pair of militants leaning over a doomed man on his knees against a wall, and masses of men and boys cheering and clamoring for a better view.

The Palestinians killed on Friday were not identified, but they were reported to have been arrested for or convicted of collaboration, a crime punishable by death under Palestinian law, before this summer’s bloody battles between Israel and Hamas, the militant Islamist movement that dominates Gaza.

“I think this has provoked, and let’s say triggered, this process,” said Hamdi Shaqqura, deputy director of the Palestinian Center for Human Rights, a Gaza group that has long monitored and condemned such extrajudicial killings. “If you speak to any regular citizen in Gaza, nobody is looking with mercy on these people. Why? Because people are being bombarded. A lot of the blame for bombardment of specific places is being put on collaborators.”

Al Majd, a website managed by the Internal Security Service of the Hamas government that ran Gaza until June, warned that future collaborators would be dealt with in the field, not in courthouses, to create deterrence.

Continue reading at:  http://www.nytimes.com/2014/08/23/world/middleeast/israel-gaza.html?_r=0

Friday Night Fun and Culture: Roots
















Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Is the Omnipresent Push for Self-Esteem Destructive?

From Alternet: http://www.alternet.org/books/omnipresent-push-self-esteem-destructive

"An uncritical endorsement of high self-esteem may be counterproductive and even dangerous."

By Anneli Rufus August 13, 2014
Adapted from "Unworthy: How to Stop Hating Yourself" by Anneli Rufus
“The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, and wiser people so full of doubts.” —Bertrand Russell
Is low self-esteem all that bad? Self-loathing is. But between self-loathing and narcissism is a vast spectrum comprising infinitely various degrees of self-regard. Neither extreme is good. If only we could just reach medium.

In 1986, California state assembly member John Vasconcellos proposed the State Task Force to Promote Self-Esteem. This ignited a new movement: Based on the notion that low self-esteem caused every kind of social woe from teenage pregnancy to low test scores and high dropout rates, school curricula and parenting techniques were radically transformed, their main objective now being to cultivate high self-esteem among the young, which activists proclaimed would cure those social woes and make America a safer, happier, and better place. A multibillion-dollar industry surged around self-esteem. Kids were taught to make “me” flags of their putative “me” nations, to view history and fiction through the filter of their feelings, and to start schooldays with affirmations such as I always make good choices and Everyone is happy to see me.

The aftermath has not worked out as planned. Since 1986, self-esteem among young people has increased. Studies show that students hold themselves in higher regard than students in decades past. But to the shock and horror of the self-esteem movement’s boosters, soaring self-esteem has done nothing to stem crime, addiction and those other ills the boosters claimed high self-esteem would stem. In fact, ambient sky-high self-esteem might present new problems of its own: One long-term study found that college students are now twice as narcissistic as college students were in 1982; other studies link high self-esteem with high rates of aggression, territorialism, elitism, racism, and other negative qualities.

And other studies show that the so-called Millennial Generation – young adults born after the self-esteem movement began — are demonstrably less likely than Baby Boomers and Generation Xers to care about social problems, current events or energy conservation. Millennials are also less likely to have jobs whose main purpose is to help other people. In one study, three times as many Millennials as Boomers said they made no personal effort to help the environment.

“Certain forms of high self-esteem seem to increase one’s proneness to violence,” reads one report published in the journal of the American Psychological Association. “An uncritical endorsement of the cultural value of high self-esteem may therefore be counterproductive and even dangerous. The societal pursuit of high self-esteem for everyone may literally end up doing considerable harm.”

Continue reading at:  http://www.alternet.org/books/omnipresent-push-self-esteem-destructive

Friday, August 15, 2014

Friday Night Fun and Culture: Paul Butterfield












Non-Jewish spouses of Israeli gays can get nationality

From Raw Story: http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2014/08/13/non-jewish-spouses-of-israeli-gays-can-get-nationality/

By Agence France-Presse
Wednesday, August 13, 2014


Non-Jewish spouses of Israeli homosexuals can now obtain citizenship under an interior ministry decision applicable since Tuesday.

“The same-sex partner of a person eligible for the law of return, and who does not live in Israel, may also become Israeli,” a ministry statement said, adding that the ruling applies only to married same-sex couples.

Under the law of return, any Jew has the right to ask for, and to be granted, Israeli citizenship.
That right also extends to the partner of the applicant, but had previously been granted only to heterosexual couples.

“Israel’s doors are now open to any Jew and his family, without discrimination based on lifestyle,” Interior Minister Gideon Saar said in a statement.

The Jewish state is considered a trailblazer in the promotion of and respect for gay rights, especially in terms of adoption for same-sex couples.

However, civil marriage does not exist in Israel, where the solemnisation of marriage is entirely controlled by the state rabbinate, and homosexual unions are not in themselves recognised.

Continue reading at:  http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2014/08/13/non-jewish-spouses-of-israeli-gays-can-get-nationality/

Women Stoned To Death In Syria For Adultery

Tell me again how wonderful Islam is.

From Huffington Post: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/08/09/women-stoned-adultery-syria_n_5664828.html?utm_hp_ref=tw

By Bassem Mroue
08/09/2014

 
BEIRUT (AP) — A cleric read the verdict before the truck came and dumped a large pile of stones near the municipal garden. Jihadi fighters then brought in the woman, clad head to toe in black, and put her in a small hole in the ground. When residents gathered, the fighters told them to carry out the sentence: Stoning to death for the alleged adulteress.

None in the crowd stepped forward, said a witness to the event in a northern Syrian city. So the jihadi fighters, mostly foreign extremists, did it themselves, pelting Faddah Ahmad with stones until her body was dragged away.

"Even when she was hit with stones she did not scream or move," said an opposition activist who said he witnessed the stoning near the football stadium and the Bajaa garden in the city of Raqqa, the main Syrian stronghold of the Islamic State group.

The July 18 stoning was the second in a span of 24 hours. A day earlier, 26-year-old Shamseh Abdullah was killed in a similar way in the nearby town of Tabqa by Islamic State fighters. Both were accused of having sex outside marriage.

The killings were the first of their kind in rebel-held northern Syria, where jihadis from the Islamic State group have seized large swaths of territory, terrorizing residents with their strict interpretation of Islamic law, including beheadings and cutting off the hands of thieves. The jihadis recently tied a 14-year-old boy to a cross-like structure and left him for several hours in the scorching summer sun before bringing him down -- punishment for not fasting during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.
The group has also brutalized Shiite Muslims and others whom it views as apostates. In neighboring Iraq, Islamic State militants have driven members of the Yazidi religious minority out of a string of towns and villages. Thousands of the fleeing Yazidis have been stranded on a mountaintop for days, a humanitarian crisis that prompted the U.S. to airlift aid to them this week.

Continue reading at:  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/08/09/women-stoned-adultery-syria_n_5664828.html?utm_hp_ref=tw