Sunday, June 30, 2013

Why Should I Respect the Bigoted Beliefs of Evangelicals and Other Assorted Fundamentalist Religious Fanatics?

I live in the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex an area as glutted with churches as it is with endless shopping malls.

I'm generally of the opinion that we have about 50% too many of both and would be far better off with more public schools and parks, even green fields with cattle, sheep, goats, alpacas and llamas grazing would be better.

I have to confess.  I don't get religion.

The same way I don't get crystal/aroma therapy along with a bunch of New Age quackery.

Religion has always struck me as sort of like Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny for adults.  Not just the big time desert religions but Buddhism and all the rest.

Salvation and or eternal punishment have always seemed to be akin to parental threats of punishment when daddy gets home.

Who do you fucking think you are kidding with that one?

I think therefore I do not blindly believe, especially when believing requires me to deny physical evidence to the contrary.

I was told I needed to read the Bible as it was the word of God ™.  I read it and it seemed a mishmash of ancient mythology. Gods, demons, floods and a creation myth clearly at odds with the scientific one.  Science had evidence.  The desert religion had a myth no more believable than the ones of the ancient Greeks or for that matter Shinto.

One does not need a Ph.D. in Marxist analysis of the class structure to note that one of the main purposes of religion is to keep the masses subservient and submissive to those in power.

Nor does one have to be a radical feminist to notice how all religions seem to have as part of their core ideology the inferiority of women, how they all seem to be geared to support male supremacy.

By the time I was fourteen I had some pretty serious doubts about the whole God™ and the church/religion thing.

I saw it as something unreal, like how ghost stories are used to scare kids who are too dumb and too naive to know any better.

Then I discovered to my amazement how many adult people actually believed all sorts of bizarre stuff.

Like vaccines causing autism. Or Feng Shui. Crystal Therapy, aroma therapy, hugging gurus touting mysteries of the east.

Television preachers pushing heavy metal imagery straight out of Dante or the paintings of Hieronymus Bosch.

Fantastic tales filled with apocalyptic visions of dystopian futures that would occur because some magic invisible guy in the sky.  Some magic invisible guy who was all powerful yet permitted Hitler.  A cosmic joker like the Norse god Loki who tricked people with talking serpents, fruit from the tree of knowledge and burning bushes.

The more I heard the more absurd it all sounded and eventually I came to believe that only ignorant people could really believe this crap.

I also came to believe those who peddled this crap were cynical manipulators who were using religion as both a con game and a power trip.

Lately I have come to view religion as a source of hatred of women and LGBT people.  I see gay friendly churches as being con artists milking LGBT people the same way the Rick Warrens of the world milk the homophobic bigots.

In high school, many years ago Upton Sinclair's book The Jungle used to be on recommended reading lists, but other books by him, including Profits of Religion were never mentioned much less given a place on lists of books we should read.

To make a long story short I stopped believing in God™ when I was fifteen or sixteen.

Being skeptical kept me out of the clutches of a lot of mind fuckers over the years including gurus, Scientology, EST, the Wicca and others too numerous to mention.

Fifty years later I am still amazed at how many people fall for the cons put forth in the name of some magic invisible guy in the sky.

More and more I see the truly evil side of religion.  The woman hating, the hatred of people who are born different be they gay, lesbian, bisexual or trans*.

I see religion used to stir hatred and the apologists making excuses for terrorism committed in the name of God™.  Of course on "real_____" would ever engage in genocide.(Hitler and the European genocide of Native Peoples in the Americas come to mind)  Islam is the "religion of peace" except when suicide bombers commit terrorist acts of murder in the name of Allah.  Buddhism is the religion of peace too except when they clash with Muslims.

Perhaps the world would be better off without all this God™ crap and more stress on ethical behavior rooted in secular humanism.

Science offers more in the way of verifiable theories regarding the evolution of humanity and our place in the universe than all the religions put together do.

Through out our history ethical advances towards a more human society have been the product of men and women who have put forth ideas aimed at ending injustice and promoting humanist values.

Glenn Greenwald Speaks Out


Exposing the Dark Forces Behind the Snowden Smears

From Alternet:  http://www.alternet.org/news-amp-politics/exposing-dark-forces-behind-snowden-smears

Who is planting anti-Snowden attacks with Buzzfeed, and why is the website playing along?

By Max Blumenthal June 28, 2013

Since journalist Glenn Greenwald revealed the existence of the National Security Agency’s PRISM domestic surveillance program, he and his source, the whistleblower Edward Snowden, have come in for a series of ugly attacks. On June 26, the day that the New York Daily News published a straightforward smear piece on Greenwald, the website Buzzfeed rolled out a remarkably similar article, a lengthy profile that focused on Greenwald’s personal life and supposed eccentricities. 

Both outlets attempted to make hay out of Greenwald’s involvement over a decade ago on the business end of a porn distribution company, an arcane detail that had little, if any, bearing on the domestic spying scandal he sparked. The coordinated nature of the smears prompted Reuters media columnist Jack Shafer to ask if an opposition research firm was behind them. “I wonder who commissioned the file,” he mused on Twitter. 

A day before the Greenwald attacks appeared, Buzzfeed published an anonymously sourced story about the government of Ecuador, which had reportedly offered asylum to Snowden (Ecuador has just revoked a temporary travel document issued to Snowden). Written by Rosie Gray and Adrian Carasquillo, the article relied on documents marked as “secret” that were passed to Buzzfeed by sources described as “activists who wished to call attention to the [Ecuadorian] government’s spying practices in the context of its new international role” as the possible future sanctuary of Snowden. 

Gray and Carasquillo reported that Ecuador’s intelligence service had attempted to procure surveillance technology from two Israeli firms. Without firm proof that the system was ever put into use, the authors claimed the documents “suggest a commitment to domestic surveillance that rivals the practices by the United States’ National Security Agency.” ( Buzzfeed has never published a critical report on the $3 billion in aid the US provides to Israel each year, which is used to buy equipment explicitly designed for repressing, spying on and killing occupied Palestinians). 

Buzzfeed’s Ecuador expose supported a theme increasingly advanced by Snowden’s critics -- that the hero of civil libertarians and government transparency activists was, in fact, a self-interested hypocrite content to seek sanctuary from undemocratic regimes. Curiously, those who seized on the story had no problem with Buzzfeed’s reporters relying on leaked government documents marked as classified. For some Snowden detractors, the issue was apparently not his leaking, but which government his leaks embarrassed. 

Continue reading at:  http://www.alternet.org/news-amp-politics/exposing-dark-forces-behind-snowden-smears

Where Would We Be Without Social Security?

From OtherWords:  http://otherwords.org/where-would-we-be-without-social-security/

By  
June 26, 2013

Permission under Creative Commons

Nearly every single American is intimately connected with the earned benefits of Social Security and Medicare — as either a contributor, a recipient, or both.

In fact, a recent national poll indicated nearly 90 percent of us favor taking strong measures to preserve the long-term stability of both programs. So a recent report released by the trustees of Social Security and Medicare may have caused you to take notice and provoked you to think about — or tell — your stories. Here are a few I’d like to share:

Melissa M. of Stinson Beach, California, talked about her father-in-law, 60 years old, working for low wages six or seven days each week for 40 years as a manager of a nearby cattle ranch. “The one thing that keeps him going is the letter he gets from the Social Security Administration,” she said. It “tells him how much he has earned in Social Security.”

Allen J. of Portland, Oregon, remarked that he was “a liver transplant survivor because of Medicare.” Martin L. of Cortland, New York, said he was born with a heart defect that required open-heart surgery to replace it. Without Medicare, Martin writes, he “would have no life and no future.”

Alton S. of Lakeland, Florida, was planting a citrus tree when he felt a pain in his lower abdomen. That night, an emergency room doctor told him he had a ruptured diverticulum. Alton remembers overhearing someone say, “We better get this guy to surgery or he’s dead meat.” A combination of his private insurance and Medicare paid for a series of successful surgeries. Looking back, Alton believes Medicare is one of the most “humane and caring arms of our government.”

With a 33-year career as a nurse, Janet P. of Cotati, California, noted that she worked to keep her “clients stable enough to stay out of the hospital.” Every time Medicare or Social Security policy changes, her clients’ lives are affected. Even as she hustles for others, Janet is aware that she needs to think about her own future.

“My savings was in my house, but I lost that,” she said. “I’m older now…getting back that nest egg gets harder and harder, and I’m not confident that either Social Security or Medicare will be there for me when I’m not able to work full-time.”

These are Melissa, Allen, Martin, Alton, and Janet’s stories. Like millions of their neighbors, Social Security and Medicare keep them going, offering them a humane and caring future.

Congress must take sound action to ensure that the promise of both these programs remains fully funded for coming generations. If our elected officials do nothing, after 2026, the government will be able to pay approximately 87 percent of projected Medicare costs and, after 2033, roughly 75 percent of anticipated Social Security benefits.

The trustees offer us a sobering reminder, not a crazed alarm as some fear. Luckily there are many smart actions Congress can take in response, starting with raising the payroll tax cap and fully implementing the Affordable Care Act. These actions are within our reach and would have a dramatic and positive impact on the well-being of both programs.

Our elected officials need to hear from all of us today. It’s our budget and our future. Let’s weigh in.

Jo Comerford is the executive director of the National Priorities Project. You can find these stories and more by visiting the NPP's Faces of the Federal Budget website. NationalPriorities.org/us/
 

Distributed via OtherWords (OtherWords.org)

The Social Security and Medicare Cutters are Very Unhappy

From The Center for Economic and Policy Research:  http://www.cepr.net/index.php/blogs/beat-the-press/the-social-security-and-medicare-cutters-are-very-unhappy

Dean Baker
Friday, 28 June 2013


Who can blame them? The vast majority of people across the political spectrum oppose their plans to cut these programs. Furthermore, improved budget projections (partly because of cuts that are very bad news) have drastically reduced both current deficit projections and projections for longer term deficits. Finally, one of their main props for the urgency of deficit reduction turned out to be nothing more than a Harvard Excel spreadsheet error.

No, things have not gone well for those wishing to ax Social Security and Medicare, but they are not about to give up. And with the money and access to the media they enjoy, why should they?

Hence we have Jon Cowan and Jim Kessler from Third Way giving the Washington Post's house view in a column headlined, "the left needs to get real on Medicare, Social Security and the deficit." The proximate cause for Cowan and Kessler's ire is a column by Neera Tanden and Michael Linden from the Center for American Progress which argued that we should focus on fixing the economy's current problems by improving infrastructure and creating jobs. 

To their great credit, Tanden and Linden reversed their earlier concern with deficit reduction based on the evidence. The deficit has shrunk by more than had been projected and the downturn has been longer and deeper than they had expected. Faced with new facts, Tanden and Linden proposed different policies. This makes deficit dead-enders like Cowan and Kessler very unhappy. 

Let's see what they have to say.

Actually their main trick is pretty simple and right up front. They use the old whack them with a really big number trick. Cowan and Kessler tell us that in 2030 we are projected to have a deficit of $1.6 trillion. Got that, $1.6 TRILLION!!!!!! Yeah, that is lots of money and we're supposed to be really really scared.
Anyone know how big the economy will be in 2030? The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) projects that it will be just about $35 trillion. This means that this very scary $1.6 trillion projected deficit will be slightly less than 4.6 percent of GDP.

Is this too big? It is probably larger than the deficit that we will want to be running 17 years from now, but it is not exactly a disastrous deficit. We ran deficits that were larger in every year from 1983 to 1986. We were also higher at 4.7 percent of GDP in 1992. Those deficits did not wreck the economy, even if they were arguably larger than would be desired.

Continue reading at:  http://www.cepr.net/index.php/blogs/beat-the-press/the-social-security-and-medicare-cutters-are-very-unhappy

Pushback Against Privatization Across the Country

From PR Watch:  http://www.prwatch.org/news/2013/06/12153/pushback-against-privatization-across-country



The decades-long effort to privatize public services and assets is hitting some bumps, with state and local governments reconsidering whether for-profit companies should be allowed to indiscriminately profit off of taxpayer dollars with limited accountability.


In New Jersey, legislation to ensure that public services won't be privatized unless it will result in actual savings for taxpayers has passed both chambers of the legislature. In Texas, a bipartisan coalition is fighting against a private prison in Montgomery County, and Kentucky is rejecting private prisons altogether. And in Fresno, California, voters rejected a proposal backed by the city's popular mayor to privatize trash collection services.

“The fact is, when taxpayers see what they lose by handing over control of their roads, prisons and other services, they don’t want anything to do with outsourcing," says Donald Cohen, chair of In The Public Interest, a resource center on privatization. "We hope that what we’re seeing in places like New Jersey, Texas, Kentucky and Fresno is part of a trend to restore control of services to American taxpayers.”

New Jersey Could Curb Privatization Abuses

The New Jersey bill, if signed by Governor Chris Christie, might be the first of its kind in the nation. The legislation would prohibit privatization contracts that achieve "cost savings" by cutting services or raising rates, and also require that the company provide its workers comparable wages and benefits. This would thwart efforts by corporate interests to provide the veneer of cost savings by replacing middle-class public employees with low-wage workers.

The bill would also require for-profit corporations to actually stand by their promises: their performance would be subject to audit, which could lead to penalties or the loss of a contract if they fail to produce the promised cost savings.

Not surprisingly, the bill is opposed by groups like the Chamber of Commerce, who will likely urge Christie to veto it. And Gov. Christie is no stranger to privatization: at the same time the bill was moving through the legislature, Gov. Christie entered a contract to privatize the state's lottery system. Whether he will sign this latest bill to guarantee accountability for privatizers remains to be seen.

Continue reading at:  http://www.prwatch.org/news/2013/06/12153/pushback-against-privatization-across-country

Frances Moore Lappe, Vandana Shiva Blast Award for GMO Scientists

From Common Dreams:  http://www.commondreams.org/headline/2013/06/28-8

The real future is "GMO-free food, patent-free food, seed freedom, food freedom."

Andrea Germanos


Frances Moore Lappé and Vandana Shiva, noted figures in the food sovereignty movement, added their voices to the chorus blasting the 2013 World Food Prize going to GMO scientists with the biotechnology giants Monsanto and Syngenta.

 The GMO scientists' work contributes to hunger and ecological devastation while not advancing nutrition, said the two Right Livelihood Laureates, also Councillors on the World Future Council, and noted the irony of Monsanto being awarded at a time of rising worldwide opposition to the seed giant.

Lappé and Shiva's remarks echo those of the U.S. Food Sovereignty Alliance, which stated that the prize going to the biotech giants “sends precisely the wrong message about sustainable solutions to hunger and poverty.”

"Never mind that Monsanto is a sponsor of the prize (and that the list of other backers reads like a who’s who of big ag and big food), or that we never get to know the names of either the nominees or the nominators," New York Times' Mark Bittman noted.

Still, the GMO work by the winning scientists "betrays the mandate of the very World Food Prize," explains Lappé, "which is all about focus on the importance of nutritious food and food for all, whereas GMO seeds, their design and the way they are spread to the world has nothing to do with better nutrition."

"In fact, to take advantage of these seeds, small farmers who are among the hungriest people in the world, have to take out loans to buy the costly products that are required—the seeds, the fertilizers... and the pesticides that are required" for the GMO seeds.

"So in fact the honorees ... are actually contributing the problems that keep us locked... in hundreds of millions of people in a world where there is plenty of food," concluded Lappe.

The World Food Prize explained that the GMO work by the new winners has "contributed significantly to increasing the quantity and availability of food."

Continue reading at:  http://www.commondreams.org/headline/2013/06/28-8

California temperatures could reach 130F as heat wave hits western US

From The Guardian UK:  http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2013/jun/29/california-temperatures-western-us-heatwave

Two hundred people were treated for heat problems at a concert in Las Vegas as temperatures soar in California and Nevada

Associated Press in Death Valley
guardian.co.uk, Saturday 29 June 2013

Dan Kail was vacationing in Las Vegas when he heard that the temperature at Death Valley could approach 130F (54C) this weekend. He didn't hesitate to make a trip to the desert location that is typically the hottest place on the planet.

"Coming to Death Valley in the summertime has always been on the top of my bucket list," the 67-year-old Pittsburgh man said. "When I found out it might set a record I rented a car and drove straight over. If it goes above 130F I will have something to brag about."

The forecast called for Death Valley to reach 128F Saturday as part of a heat wave that has caused large parts of the western US to suffer. Death Valley's record high of 134F, set a century ago, stands as the highest temperature ever recorded on earth.

"The wind out here is like being in front of a blast furnace," Kail said.

As temperatures soared in Las Vegas on Friday, 200 people were treated for heat problems at an outdoor concert, Clark County spokesman Erik Pappa said.

Thirty of them were hospitalized for heat-related injuries at Vans Warped Tour at Silverton Casino as temps reached 115F.
Most of the others "were essentially provided shade and water and a place to sit down," Pappa said.
It was expected to get even hotter in Las Vegas over the weekend.

Phoenix reached 116F on Friday — 2F short of the expected high — in part because a light layer of smoke from wildfires in neighboring New Mexico shielded the blazing sun, the National Weather Service said. Phoenix was forecast to hit nearly 120. The record in Phoenix is 122.

Continue reading at:  http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2013/jun/29/california-temperatures-western-us-heatwave

See Also:

Huffington Post: Phoenix, Las Vegas Bake In Scorching Heat

Saturday, June 29, 2013

What Equality Means

From Huffington Post:  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/madeleine-m-kunin/what-equality-means_b_3517106.html


06/28/2013


June 26, 2013 will go down in history. The Supreme Court decisions on same-sex marriage have given those couples, who live in states which approved gay marriage, full citizenship under the constitution. 

The Defense of Marriage Act, or DOMA, which had denied federal benefits to gay couples, is dead. It was signed by President Bill Clinton in 1996. What a different time it was. No state had approved gay marriage. Men and women who openly declared their sexual preferences did so at great risk. Vermont was not to adopt its Civil Unions until the year two thousand. The controversy that followed caused the defeat of half a dozen legislators in the next election.

With the court's decision on California's Proposition 8, 13 states will have sanctioned same-sex marriage -- that amounts to thirty percent of the population. The latest polls show 55 percent of Americans approve of same-sex marriage; 44 percent oppose.

What is so stunning about the decision is that is was made by a conservative sharply divided court -- five to four in each case, but not the same coalition. Supreme Court Justices, it appears, also have gay friends and family members. 

The majority opinion n DOMA, written by Justice Kennedy stated that DOMA violates the equal protection clause, an argument similar to one made by the Vermont Supreme Court in 1999. 

What do these combined decisions mean to Americans? The opponents will not give up and it is their right to continue to uphold their beliefs. But the assumption that same-sex married couples destroy heterosexual marriages has been denied. The court found no evidence for that claim. 

The belief that same-sex couples have the civil right to be protected by the constitution has been affirmed. 

These landmark decisions have an impact far beyond the rights of married couples. It tells all gay and lesbian men and women, and their children that they have a legitimate place in society. They do not have to hide, as they once did in deep dark closets. Yes, 37 states have passed laws which prohibit same-sex marriage. Some will continue to do so, regardless of the court's decisions. 

Continue reading at:  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/madeleine-m-kunin/what-equality-means_b_3517106.html

Wendy Davis channels anger of millions as new Texas makes itself heard

From The Guardian UK:  http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2013/jun/28/wendy-davis-texas-abortion-bill

The dramatic events of Tuesday night brought to the surface tensions that had been building for years – in an increasingly diverse Texas where white Republican men still call the shots

Reported in partnership with the Texas Observer

Dave Mann and Forrest Wilder  
guardian.co.uk, Friday 28 June 2013

The moment was years in the making. It was 11.45pm Tuesday night, and the Texas Senate was poised to enact perhaps the most restrictive anti-abortion bill in the United States. State senator Wendy Davis had filibustered the bill for 11 hours in a remarkable attempt to run out a 30-day special legislative session.

Hundreds of thousands of people across the country began to follow Davis's dramatic filibuster on an internet livestream. They saw Republicans use procedural technicalities to cut her off, and with just 15 minutes left before a midnight deadline, Democrats finally seemed out of maneuvers.

Then state senator Leticia Van de Putte, a Democrat from San Antonio who had rushed back to the Texas Capitol from her father's funeral, asked to be recognized to speak. The Republican presiding officer at first ignored her. When she was finally given the floor for an inquiry, Van de Putte asked: "At what point must a female senator raise her hand or her voice to be recognized over the male colleagues in the room?"

The orange-clad abortion-rights supporters packed in the gallery burst into cheers. Their shouts grew louder and louder until they drowned out the final minutes of the session, preventing Republicans from passing the bill. No one in the Texas legislature had ever seen anything like it.

The day's dramatic events that captivated people across the country – the 11-hour filibuster, the dramatic fight over arcane Senate rules, and the decisive 15 minutes of ear-splitting whooping and hollering from the gallery – were the result of political tensions building in Texas for years.

There's a saying: "Texas is paradise for men and dogs, but hell for women and horses." That's a little outdated and not completely accurate: in fact, horses are treated pretty well here. Women in Texas have had a difficult time.

For two decades, since Ann Richards was governor, Texas politics has been dominated by a small group of mostly Anglo-Republican men, elected by a few hundred thousand GOP primary voters.

Continue reading at:  http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2013/jun/28/wendy-davis-texas-abortion-bill

Obama’s Dirty War on Journalism

From In These Times:  http://inthesetimes.com/article/15207/obamas_dirty_war_on_journalism/

Despite a facade of openness, the president has sought to crack down on “inconvenient” reporting.

BY David Sirota  
June 28, 2013

Out of all the harrowing storylines in journalist Jeremy Scahill's new film Dirty Wars, the one about Abdulelah Haider Shaye best spotlights the U.S. government's new assault against press freedom. 
Shaye is the Yemeni journalist who in 2009 exposed his government's coverup of a U.S. missile strike that, according to McClatchy’s newswire, ended up killing “dozens of civilians, including 14 women and 21 children.” McClatchy notes that for the supposed crime of committing journalism, Shaye was sentenced to five years in prison following a trial that “was widely condemned as a sham” by watchdog groups and experts who noted that the prosecution did not “offer any substantive evidence to support [its] charges.” 
What, you might ask, does this have to do with the American government's attitude toward press freedom? That's where Scahill's movie comes in. As the film shows, when international pressure moved the Yemeni government to finally consider pardoning Shaye, President Obama personally intervened, using a phone call with Yemen's leader to halt the journalist's release.

Had this been an isolated incident, it might be easy to write off. But the president's move to criminalize the reporting of inconvenient facts is sadly emblematic of his administration's larger war against journalism. And, mind you, the word “war” is no overstatement. 

As New York Times media correspondent David Carr put it: “If you add up the pulling of news organization phone records (The Associated Press), the tracking of individual reporters (Fox News), and the effort by the current administration to go after sources (seven instances and counting in which a government official has been criminally charged with leaking classified information to the news media), suggesting that there is a war on the press is less hyperbole than simple math.” 

In this unprecedented global war, President Obama has been backed by the combined power of Justice Department prosecutors, FBI surveillance agents, State Department diplomats and, perhaps most troubling of all, a cadre of high-profile Benedict Arnolds within the media itself.

Continue reading at:  http://inthesetimes.com/article/15207/obamas_dirty_war_on_journalism/

The Naked Empire

From Common Dreams:  http://www.commondreams.org/view/2013/06/28-0

by Robert C. Koehler


Certainly Edward Snowden’s crime is one of public relations. In this day and age, power ain’t just jackboots, tanks and missiles. What he did by outing the NSA and its gargantuan surveillance operation was mess hugely with the American image — the American brand — with its irresistible combination of might and right.

That’s the nature of his “treason.” The secret he gave away was pretty much the same one the little boy blurted out in Hans Christian Andersen’s tale: “The emperor has no clothes!” That is, the government’s security industry isn’t devoted, with benevolent righteousness, to protecting the American public. Instead, it’s obsessively irrational, bent on accumulating data on every phone call we make. It’s a berserk spy machine, seemingly to no sane end. How awkward.

For instance, the government of Hong Kong, in refusing to extradite Snowden as per the Obama administration’s request, explained in its refusal letter that it has “formally written to the U.S. Government requesting clarification on reports about the hacking of computer systems in Hong Kong by U.S. government agencies. It will follow up on the matter, to protect the legal rights of people of Hong Kong.”

In other words, sorry, Naked Empire. We’re not going to do what you ask, and by the way, we have some issues with your behavior we’d like to discuss.

This is not the sort of insolence the world’s only superpower wants to hear, and it’s Snowden’s fault, along with other whistleblowers who preceded him, some of whom, such as Bradley Manning, are enduring harsh consequences for their truth-telling. Traitors, all of them — at least as far as the government is concerned, because, when you strip away the public relations mask, the primary interest of government is the perpetuation of power. And anyone who interferes with that perpetuation, even, or especially, in the name of principle, is a “security risk.”

Incredibly, so much of the Fourth Estate goes along with this, aligning itself with the raw, unarticulated interests of power — with the idea that security equals the status quo. Mainstream coverage of the Snowden affair assumes that a crime has been committed and has no further interest in that aspect of the story: a crime is a crime. The unspoken assumption is that the government protects us by doing whatever it does, and we don’t really need to know the details. We just need to round up the transgressors and bring them to justice, because this, rather than the upholding of some sort of principle independent of raw power, is what constitutes the “national interest.”

Continue reading at:  http://www.commondreams.org/view/2013/06/28-0

Obama retreats on Snowden

From Al Jazeera:  http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2013/06/20136289750269657.html

Even the world’s most powerful media and Intelligence apparatus can’t always control public opinion, writes Weisbrot.

28 Jun 2013
In his videotaped interview with journalist Glenn Greenwald, Edward Snowden said that “the world’s most powerful intelligence agencies” (like the CIA) were so formidable that “[n]o one can meaningfully oppose them. If they want to get you, they'll get you in time.”

That remains to be seen. On Wednesday President Obama beat a hasty retreat from his global public relations and diplomatic, and political campaign against Snowden. It was quite an amazing, if implicit, admission of defeat. Here was the president of the world’s most powerful nation, with the world’s most influential media outlets having rallied to his cause, now quietly trying to lower the profile of an issue that his own government had elevated to one of the biggest stories in the world.  

He didn’t talk to the presidents of China or Russia, he said, because “I shouldn't have to. This is something that routinely is dealt with between law enforcement officials in various countries.” Except that it has been dealt with by these other governments in the same way that Americans deal with annoying telemarketing phone calls. Hong Kong casually hung up on the Obama Administration’s extradition request. President Putin provided a jovial “buzz off” response on Wednesday, saying that Snowden was a “free man,” and with an analogy to shearing a piglet, made it clear that he had more important things to think about than helping an unfriendly arrogant power get its hands on a pesky whistleblower. US Secretary of State John Kerry’s threats that a failure to follow Washington’s directives would “have consequences” turned out to be nothing more than bluff and bluster.

“I'm not going to be scrambling jets to get a 29-year-old hacker,” said Obama in response to a question as to whether he would try to force down a plane carrying Snowden away from Russia. That was the best news of the week for Snowden, because that scenario was quite possibly one of his biggest obstacles to his freedom. He could conceivably get to Latin America without flying through US air space or stopping in countries that take orders from the United States, but what would stop the US government from forcing his plane down almost anywhere along the way? International law, you might say, but I can already hear the snickering from the White House and the Pentagon. 

It was a humbling episode for the POTUS and his State Department. Little Ecuador, dismissed by right-wing pundits as a “banana republic,” stood defiant and one-upped Washington’s threat to cut off its preferential access to US markets if it offered asylum to Snowden. “We don’t need no stinking trade preferences,” was the non-literal English translation.

Continue reading at:  http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2013/06/20136289750269657.html

The Wonderful American World of Informers and Agents Provocateurs

From Tom Dispatch:  http://www.tomdispatch.com/blog/175718/

Close Encounters of the Lower-Tech Kind

By Todd Gitlin
June 27, 2013


Only Martians, by now, are unaware of the phone and online data scooped up by the National Security Agency (though if it turns out that they are aware, the NSA has surely picked up their signals and crunched their metadata).  American high-tech surveillance is not, however, the only kind around.  There’s also the lower tech, up-close-and-personal kind that involves informers and sometimes government-instigated violence.

Just how much of this is going on and in how coordinated a way no one out here in the spied-upon world knows.  The lower-tech stuff gets reported, if at all, only one singular, isolated event at a time -- look over here, look over there, now you see it, now you don’t.  What is known about such surveillance as well as the suborning of illegal acts by government agencies, including the FBI, in the name of counterterrorism has not been put together by major news organizations in a way that would give us an overview of the phenomenon.  (The ACLU has done by far the best job of compiling reports on spying on Americans of this sort.)

Some intriguing bits about informers and agents provocateurs briefly made it into the public spotlight when Occupy Wall Street was riding high.  But as always, dots need connecting.  Here is a preliminary attempt to sort out some patterns behind what could be the next big story about government surveillance and provocation in America.

Two Stories from Occupy Wall Street
The first is about surveillance. The second is about provocation.

On September 17, 2011, Plan A for the New York activists who came to be known as Occupy Wall Street was to march to the territory outside the bank headquarters of JPMorgan Chase.  Once there, they discovered that the block was entirely fenced in.  Many activists came to believe that the police had learned their initial destination from e-mail circulating beforehand.  Whereupon they headed for nearby Zuccotti Park and a movement was born.

Continue reading at:  http://www.tomdispatch.com/blog/175718/

The Expendables: How the Temps Who Power Corporate Giants Are Getting Crushed

From Pro Publica: http://www.propublica.org/article/the-expendables-how-the-temps-who-power-corporate-giants-are-getting-crushe

by Michael Grabell
ProPublica, June 27, 2013


It’s 4:18 a.m. and the strip mall is deserted. But tucked in back, next to a closed-down video store, an employment agency is already filling up. Rosa Ramirez walks in, as she has done nearly every morning for the past six months. She signs in and sits down in one of the 100 or so blue plastic chairs that fill the office. Over the next three hours, dispatchers will bark out the names of who will work today. Rosa waits, wondering if she will make her rent. 

In cities all across the country, workers stand on street corners, line up in alleys or wait in a neon-lit beauty salon for rickety vans to whisk them off to warehouses miles away. Some vans are so packed that to get to work, people must squat on milk crates, sit on the laps of passengers they do not know or sometimes lie on the floor, the other workers’ feet on top of them.

This is not Mexico. It is not Guatemala or Honduras. This is Chicago, New Jersey, Boston. 

The people here are not day laborers looking for an odd job from a passing contractor. They are regular employees of temp agencies working in the supply chain of many of America’s largest companies – Walmart, Macy’s, Nike, Frito-Lay. They make our frozen pizzas, sort the recycling from our trash, cut our vegetables and clean our imported fish. They unload clothing and toys made overseas and pack them to fill our store shelves. They are as important to the global economy as shipping containers and Asian garment workers.
Many get by on minimum wage, renting rooms in rundown houses, eating dinners of beans and potatoes, and surviving on food banks and taxpayer-funded health care. They almost never get benefits and have little opportunity for advancement. 

Across America, temporary work has become a mainstay of the economy, leading to the proliferation of what researchers have begun to call “temp towns.” They are often dense Latino neighborhoods teeming with temp agencies. Or they are cities where it has become nearly impossible even for whites and African-Americans with vocational training to find factory and warehouse work without first being directed to a temp firm. 

In June, the Labor Department reported that the nation had more temp workers than ever before: 2.7 million. Overall, almost one-fifth of the total job growth since the recession ended in mid-2009 has been in the temp sector, federal data shows. But according to the American Staffing Association, the temp industry’s trade group, the pool is even larger: Every year, a tenth of all U.S. workers finds a job at a staffing agency. 

Continue reading at:  http://www.propublica.org/article/the-expendables-how-the-temps-who-power-corporate-giants-are-getting-crushe

The Reagan Revolution is an Utter Failure


TD Bank Gets Punked: Tar Sands Blockade Highlights Bank's Tar Sands Support

From Common Dreams:  http://www.commondreams.org/headline/2013/06/28-2

The bank "should be held accountable" for bankrolling "the most dangerous and ecologically devastating practice on earth," says group

Andrea Germanos


Tar Sands Blockade pulled a prank on TD Bank on Friday in an action to highlight the bank's support for the Keystone XL pipeline and the tar sands, which the group described as "the most dangerous and ecologically devastating practice on earth."

"The bank should be held accountable" Ron Seifert, a spokesperson with Tar Sands Blockade, told Common Dreams Friday afternoon, confirming that the group was responsible for the action.

-Tar Sands Blockadepress release issued Friday, purportedly from the bank, said that the institution was going to begin selling its $1.6 billion stake in the tar sands carrying pipeline and "other oil sands related ventures" following President Obama's recent climate speech and "increasing controversies and economic difficulties for Alberta's oil sands."  It continued:
"Divesting from Keystone XL not only makes financial sense given the uncertainties surrounding the project, but it fits with out pledge to be 'As Green As Our Logo'," says TD Bank Environmental Director Diana Glassman.
"The short term dictates of the market and the concerns of our shareholders are of course the primary motivation behind the move away from oil sands, but thankfully, doing so will serve to protect other investments in the long term." says TD Chief Economist Craig Alexander, "Climate change is bad for business and economic stability in general, and the scientific community has been very clear about the climate change impacts of Alberta's oil sands."
The release was sent out and posted to yourtdbank.com, a site that appears to mirror the actual tdbank.com site.

Obviously getting some attention—perhaps including some praise for the recognizing the climate change impacts of the tar sands—TD Bank tweeted this morning:

Continue reading at:  http://www.commondreams.org/headline/2013/06/28-2

Friday, June 28, 2013

Friday Night Fun and Culture: Eliza Gilkyson

Tonight Eliza Gilkyson is playing Uncle Calvin's here in Dallas, unfortunately we have a friend arriving tomorrow and decided to clean house instead of seeing her.











The Limited Reach of the Supreme Court’s Gay Marriage Rulings

From Truth Dighttp://www.truthdig.com/report/item/the_limited_reach_of_the_supreme_courts_gay_marriage_rulings_20130627/

By Bill Blum Jun 27, 2013

From Greenwich Village in New York to West Hollywood and the Castro District in California, the LGBT community is celebrating, and for good reason. In two landmark rulings handed down Wednesday, the Supreme Court overturned a key section of the Defense of Marriage Act in the case of United States v. Windsor and paved the way for same-sex marriages to resume in California in Hollingsworth v. Perry.

But as the parades, rallies and public displays of pure giddiness wind down, let’s hope that a more sobering realization sets in that despite Wednesday’s triumphs, the court’s decisions fall far short of establishing marriage equality as a federal constitutional right. The decisions may have advanced the ball significantly in that direction, but they were, in fact, narrow and bitterly divided 5-4 rulings issued by a deeply conservative tribunal that erect stiff barriers to further progress, both for the cause of marriage equality and the broader goals of social justice extending beyond the issue.

How proponents of marriage equality and progressives generally proceed from this point depends on understanding exactly what Wednesday’s decisions said and didn’t say. To do that, we must look beyond the headlines.

Of the two rulings, Windsor has the wider nationwide application. Authored by Justice Anthony Kennedy and joined by the court’s four liberals, the majority opinion held that Section 3 of DOMA, which defines marriage for purposes of more than a thousand federal laws and benefit programs as the union of one man and one woman, violated the basic principles of due process and equal protection of the U.S. Constitution’s Fifth Amendment. In heartfelt prose that spoke of the sanctity and dignity of same-sex unions, Kennedy reasoned that the section’s only purpose was to impose a “separate status and so a stigma” upon same-sex couples, and that such purpose was unconstitutional.

Threaded within Kennedy’s heartfelt prose, however, was a narrative of states-rights and old-fashioned federalism, whereby he and the majority recognized that with few constitutional exceptions (pertaining, for example, to now-defunct state laws prohibiting interracial unions), the definition of marriage is by historical tradition and the weight of constitutional law left to the states. The majority opinion did not alter that tradition with regard to gay marriage. To the contrary, the opinion ends with the stark admonition that “its holding [is] confined to those lawful marriages” in states that have opted to recognize same-sex unions.

Continue reading at:  http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/the_limited_reach_of_the_supreme_courts_gay_marriage_rulings_20130627/

The Long Road to Marriage Equality

From The New York Times:  http://www.nytimes.com/2013/06/27/opinion/the-long-road-to-marriage-equality.html?ref=opinion&_r=0

By GEORGE CHAUNCEY Published: June 26, 2013

NEW HAVEN — THE Supreme Court’s soaring decision to strike down the core of the Defense of Marriage Act as unconstitutional is a civil rights landmark, but the history leading up to it is poorly understood. Marriage equality was neither inevitable nor, until recently, even conceivable. And the struggle for it was not, as is commonly believed, a natural consequence of the gay liberation movement that gained steam in the late 1960s. 

It was not until the 1980s that securing legal recognition for same-sex relationships became an urgent concern of lesbians and gay men. Decades earlier, such recognition was almost unimaginable. In the 1950s, most states criminalized gay people’s sexual intimacy. Newspaper headlines blared the State Department’s purge of homosexual employees during the McCarthy-era “lavender scare.” Police cracked down on lesbian and gay bars and other alleged “breeding grounds” of homosexuality. 

The lesbian and gay liberation movements of the early 1970s did not make marriage a priority — quite the opposite. Activists fought police raids, job discrimination and families’ rejection of their queer children. Most radical activists scorned the very idea of marriage. But a handful walked into clerks’ offices across the country to request marriage licenses. State officials suddenly realized that their laws failed to limit marriage to a man and a woman; no other arrangement had been imagined. By 1978, 15 states had written this limitation into law. 

A “traditional family values” movement arose to oppose gay rights and feminism. Anita Bryant and other activists took aim at some of the earliest local anti-discrimination laws, and by 1979 they had persuaded voters in several cities to repeal them. Subsequently, in more than 100 state and local referendums, gay-rights activists had to defend hard-won protections. This, not marriage, consumed much of their energy. 

It was the ’80s that changed things. The AIDS epidemic and what came to be known as the “lesbian baby boom” compelled even those couples whose friends and family fully embraced them to deal with powerful institutions — family and probate courts, hospitals, adoption agencies and funeral homes — that treated them as legal strangers. 

Hospitals could deny the gay partner of someone with AIDS visitation privileges, not to mention consultation over treatment. He couldn’t use his health insurance to cover his partner. He risked losing his home after his partner died, if his name wasn’t on the lease or if he couldn’t pay inheritance taxes on his partner’s share (which would not have been required of a surviving spouse). 

When two women shared parenting and the biological mother died, the courts often felt obliged to grant custody to her legal next of kin — even if the child wished to remain with the nonbiological mother. If the women separated, the biological mother could unilaterally deny her ex the right to see their children. 

Christo-Nazi Tony Perkins: Gay Marriage Threatens Freedom, SCOTUS Legitimacy


Wendy and the Boys

From The New York Times:  http://www.nytimes.com/2013/06/27/opinion/collins-wendy-and-the-boys.html?hp&_r=0

By Published: June 26, 2013

There is an old saying that Texas is “heaven for men and dogs, but hell for women and oxen.” But the state’s history is chock-full of stories of female role models. Barbara Jordan. Ann Richards. In downtown Austin, there’s a statue of Angelina Eberly, heroine of the Texas Archives War of 1842, firing a cannon and looking about 7 feet tall. 

I do not have nearly enough time to explain to you about the Archives War, although it’s an extremely interesting story. Right now we need to move on to State Senator Wendy Davis, whose 11-hour filibuster this week turned her into a national name brand. 

“It was like a made-for-TV movie. I’ve been around the block, but I’ve never seen anything like this,” said Cecile Richards, the president of Planned Parenthood and the daughter of the former governor. 

Texas is a state with one of the nation’s highest teenage motherhood rates, where a majority of women who give birth are poor enough to qualify for Medicaid. So, naturally, its political leaders have declared war against the right of women to choose whether or not they want to be pregnant. Funding for family planning has been slashed. This month, Gov. Rick Perry tried to pass a new law that would have shut down almost all the abortion clinics in the state, under the guise of expanded health and safety requirements. 

Huge crowds showed up to protest! This was pretty remarkable because Texas is not currently known as a place where people pay intense attention to what goes on in its State Capitol. (A recent study at the University of Texas at Austin found that it has “one of the nation’s lowest political and civic participation rates.”) Also, the conventional wisdom is that when things get politically rowdy, it’s because of a visitation from the right. 

The People's Filibuster: Texas Governor Revives Anti-Abortion Bill Defeated by Protesters, Lawmakers


Wendy Davis, feminist superhero

From Salon:  http://www.salon.com/2013/06/26/wendy_davis_feminist_super_hero/

The filibustering pro-choice Texas state senator is helping turn her state blue. Ann Richards is smiling




After much confusion, the Statesman reports that Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst announced on the Senate floor at 3:01 a.m that the bill had, in fact, not passed.

Original post: 

In a better world, the discussion of sonograms would not be at all germane to proposed new antiabortion legislation, because the two issues would have nothing to do with one another. But since Texas, like many other states, recently passed a requirement that women get a sonogram before obtaining an abortion, it made perfect sense that state Sen. Wendy Davis would talk about the way SB 5, the state’s proposed new abortion restrictions, might relate to the earlier sonogram law.

Davis was 11 hours into an effort to filibuster that draconian antiabortion legislation when she turned to its relationship with the sonogram law, and Republican Sen. Donna Campbell stood up and claimed the Democrat’s sonogram discussion wasn’t germane to the legislation Davis was filibustering. If Campbell was right, that was Davis’ third “strike” – a violation of Senate rules that would end the filibuster. After a long break, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst agreed that Davis’ discussion of the sonogram law wasn’t germane to the abortion law debate, and moved to end the filibuster. There followed amazing parliamentary wrangling that had Roberts Rules of Order trending on Twitter in some areas, but in the end, the Senate seemed to pass SB 5 in a shady way (more on that later) that will make an already suspect, poorly written bill even more likely to be overturned by the courts.

That outcome aside: Wendy Davis is a badass.

The funny, feisty state senator is already a star on the national feminist circuit. Raised by a single mother, Davis herself became a single mom at 19. She started out at Tarrant Community College, went on to Texas Christian University and got her law degree from Harvard. She moved from the Fort Worth City Council to the Texas House to the Senate with impressive momentum. This isn’t her first filibuster: In 2011 she filibustered $4 billion in education cuts, making Gov. Rick Perry call a special session to push them through anyway. I got to meet her when I last visited Texas, as a guest of the wonderful feminist group Annie’s List, and everyone I talked to thought she’d get to be Texas governor someday – at least governor. Alongside the Castro brothers, Mayor Julian and congressman Joaquin, she’s one of the best reasons why Texas will turn blue in our lifetimes.

Continue reading at:  http://www.salon.com/2013/06/26/wendy_davis_feminist_super_hero/

Mainstream Media MIA for Texas Abortion Bill Filibuster

From Truth Out:  http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/17228-mainstream-media-mia-for-texas-abortion-bill-filibuster

By Martha Sorren
Wednesday, 26 June 2013


On Tuesday night, 180,000 people tuned in to watch Wendy Davis' filibuster on Senate Bill 5 in Texas. The bill proposed closing all but five abortion clinics in Texas, including all of those in the poorest, most rural regions, and would have banned abortions after 20 weeks. 

It was an issue that affected thousands in Texas, and more, across the nation, as women's reproductive rights continue to be debated. So it wasn't surprising that 180,000 people wanted to witness the outcome of Davis' filibuster which began at 11:18 AM and lasted more than 11 hours.

But where did these people watch the proceedings? Not on CNN, or MSNBC or even FOX News. None of those - or any mainstream media channel - was talking about it. Instead, these people flocked to a YouTube livestream hosted by the Texas Senate. 

Without a news station commentary, viewers took to popular social media sites like Twitter to create their own dialogue using the hashtag #standwithwendy. The final minute before the crucial midnight deadline resulted in 4,900 tweets a minute, which was 4,900 more tweets than from any mainstream media source.
The political jargon used on the floor could be confusing to many. Without a journalist explaining what some of the rules, regulations and terms were, many viewers became confused. In fact, confusion was so rampant that even Sen. Judith Zaffirini (D-Laredo) asked for clarification.

Fortunately, both people outside the Texas Senate building and those watching from their homes used social media to disseminate information about what was happening to help other viewers understand everything from what Robert's Rules were to why so many parliamentary inquiries were occurring. It was truly an example of citizen journalism at its finest.

The mainstream media and their investigative journalists failed again when chaos erupted in the final minutes of the filibuster. A vote was called for and questions arose regarding when, exactly, it was taken. Some claimed it happened before the midnight deadline while others said it took place after 12 AM. It was then when Americans and those watching internationally most needed someone to step in and find the answers. But the media stayed quiet on the subject, with large media outlets such as the Associated Press preferring to report on Channing Tatum and his new baby and CNN hosting a segment on the caloric dangers of muffins.

Continue reading at:  http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/17228-mainstream-media-mia-for-texas-abortion-bill-filibuster