Friday, November 29, 2013

Friday Night Fun and Culture: Arlo Guthrie












Will Legal Pot Hurt the Booze Business? What Do You Think?

From Alternet:  http://www.alternet.org/drugs/will-legal-pot-hurt-booze-business-what-do-you-think

With marijuana law reform sweeping the nation, will consumers be driven to drink more or less alcohol?

By Jodie Gummow November 26, 2013

As the legalization of recreational marijuana gains momentum across the United States with public support at an all-time high, many advocates eagerly await to see what effect legalization will have on big alcohol.  Will it be forced to fight for market share? Or is alcohol so heavily ingrained in our society that pot legalization will barely create a ripple with booze consumption remaining unaffected?

In the cannabis reform movement, it is an article of faith that the more pot is legally accessible, the less booze will be consumed, but is there evidence to support that theory?   The answer to the overall question likely depends on how cannabis and alcohol interact in  our culture, that is, whether pot will complement booze and vice versa or whether people will choose pot as an alternative to drinking.

As Forbes explains, if the two substances are complements, then states legalizing marijuana would expect to see more consumption on both sides, which may increase competition and likely exacerbate pre-existing health concerns about over-consumption of alcohol, particularly in this era of mixing red bull and other highly caffeinated drinks with booze.   However, if pot truly becomes a substitute for alcohol, than legalizing marijuana may reduce alcohol consumption.

According to economists, D. Mark Anderson and Daniel Rees, co-authors of the most recent research on this topic published in the Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, marijuana and alcohol are substitutes rather than complementary substances.

The co-authors cite a number of prior studies ranging from 2001-2013, which illustrate that as marijuana becomes more readily available, adults respond by drinking less, not more, with pot legalization associated with a reduction in heavy drinking amongst 18 to 29-year-olds and a five percent decrease in beer sales.

Continue reading at:  http://www.alternet.org/drugs/will-legal-pot-hurt-booze-business-what-do-you-think

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Black Friday protests target retailers opening on Thanksgiving

End Scrooge Employer's Theft of Worker's Holidays

At the very least require them to pay triple time.  

As hard as it may be for these fucking soulless Corporate Douches to imagine, employees have real lives outside of work.  As much as these Libertarian assholes would like us to be slaves we too have families we love, entertainments we enjoy far more than killing all the joy in our lives so some fucking rich asshole can make a profit off of our lives and labor.
 
From The Guardian UK:  http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/nov/28/walmart-black-friday-protests-thanksgiving

Record numbers of workers plan to protest major retailers, with Walmart at centre of row over holiday wages and hours

in New York theguardian.com, Thursday 28 November 2013

Retail workers and union activists are preparing for a record day of action across the US on Friday, protesting wages and conditions on the busiest shopping day of the year.

Retailers, including Macy's, are opening their doors on Thanksgiving for the first time this year, joining other store giants including Target, Sears and Kmart. But it is Walmart, the nation's largest private employer, which has attracted the focus of protests.

Protests are planned at more than 1,500 of Walmart's 4,000 US stores on Black Friday, the day after the Thanksgiving holiday and traditionally the start of the festive shopping season. Last year similar protests attracted 30,000 workers and supporters. This year organisers said they expect even larger protests with retail workers angered by the decision of many more retailers to open on Thanksgiving, traditionally a national holiday.

Workers lobby group Our Walmart plans to lead protests by supporters and staff, many of whom will be working Thanksgiving for the first time this year. Church groups and civil rights, consumer and environmental organisations including the National Organization for Women, The Sierra Club, Color of Change and the National Consumers League have all pledged support.

Tiffany Beroid, who works at the stores Laurel, Maryland store, said she would be joining this year's protest. Beroid, 29, said she earned $12,000 last year working full time as a customer service manager for the company but had to go part-time this year because she could no longer afford her child care. "Even if I worked 40 hours a week, I wouldn't be able to afford child care," she said. "We need better wages and respect in the workplace. Walmart can afford to treat us better."

The company has said associates – as it calls its workers – who work over the holiday will receive an additional day's pay, a 25% discount off a Walmart purchase and will be served a Thanksgiving meal during the Black Friday shift. More than a million associates are expected to staff Walmart stores during the events.

A Walmart spokesman dismissed the protests as "a union orchestrated PR event" and said that the National Labor Relations Board had okayed unions to pay some protesters $50 to join the protests.

 "Very few of these people will be actual Walmart employees," she said. "We are really focussed on sales and serving our customers. We don't believe there will be any disruption at stores. It's business as usual at Walmart."

Continue reading at:  http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/nov/28/walmart-black-friday-protests-thanksgiving

Addams Family Thanksgiving


I'm tired of the Debunking of Thankgiving

Every year at this time politically correct people come out of the woodwork to debunk Thanksgiving.

Yes I realize the European Colonialists killed off the Indigenous People.  Genocidal wars are as old as the ancestors of modern humanity and not the invention of Europeans although they have waged more than their share.

While American kids are taught that the First Thanksgiving was to celebrate peace between the Pilgrims and the Indigenous Peoples of Massachusetts its origins like most origins is much older and found in harvest festivals around the world.

Harvest festivals as such usher in the Winter and mark the beginnings of a season of holidays and feasts that brighten what is the darkest part of the year in the northern hemisphere.

Christianity laid claim to those holidays and assigned Christian significance to them.

Yet with things like Christmas trees and yule logs it is hard to escape the pre-Christian origins of many of these seasonal rituals.

Today Robert Jensen has a piece on Alternet titled: No Thanks to Thanksgiving. Seems he expects us to all atone for events over which we had no control.

I will stipulate that colonialists did terrible things in the 1620s.  From the time the Spanish first came to the Americas they waged a genocidal war against the Native Peoples.

History is filled with campaigns of genocide.  No doubt there will be campaigns of genocide in the future as we run out of resources for the ever increasing billions of people.

At times like this I feel I have the right to invoke the Serenity Prayer.  Especially since in it one asks for the strength to change those things one can change, the serenity to accept those things I'm powerless to change and the wisdom to know the difference.

As I have gotten older I have come to realize I am powerless to change the past.

I barely have control over the events that immediately shape my life conditions and my ability to survive can be dependent upon the whims of a fickle employer with a bad temper.

The short version of the serenity prayer is this: Fuck it! 

I'm thankful I am nearly 13 years sober.

I'm thankful for my relationship with Tina, we have been together longer than I've ever been together with another person.

I'm thankful for the pittance I get from Social Security, for Medicare and for e-Bay and swap-meets.
I'm thankful I currently don't have to kiss the ass of some fickle boss who has a mean streak.

I'm thankful that I am an American.  I've had the opportunity to live in a number of incredible places in this beautiful country and have enjoyed the weirdness, craziness and beauty of all those places.
As angry as I am with too many things  I still have a glimmer of optimism.

Thanksgiving isn't about shopping.  It isn't about wars or remembering veterans. It isn't about the long dead Pilgrims and Native People.

It's a harvest festival, a time of giving thanks and feasting to celebrate the past year.  It is the first of a series of holidays that carry us through to after the start of the New Year.

The Pope Slams "Tyranny" of Capitalism and "Idolatry of Money," But Opposes Shift on Women, Abortion


Sorry, Pope Francis: Reproductive justice and LGBTQ rights are economic issues, too

From Salon:  http://www.salon.com/2013/11/27/sorry_pope_francis_reproductive_justice_and_lgbtq_rights_are_economic_issues_too/

The new pope's economic justice platform will continue to fall short if it ignores women's and LGBTQ rights

Wednesday, Nov 27, 2013

Pope Francis issued a mission statement for his papacy on Tuesday that features an incredibly direct indictment of free market economics and growing global inequality. Agnostic or religiously indeterminate progressives of the Internet were suitably excited, as they have been before about the new pope.

Francis doesn’t pull any punches when laying into those who preach the gospel of trickle down, noting in the 84-page document that, “This opinion [about trickle down theories], which has never been confirmed by the facts, expresses a crude and na├»ve trust in the goodness of those wielding economic power and in the sacralized workings of the prevailing economic system.”
His critique grows more explicit in the next paragraph, continuing:
While the earnings of a minority are growing exponentially, so too is the gap separating the majority from the prosperity enjoyed by those happy few. This imbalance is the result of ideologies which defend the absolute autonomy of the marketplace and financial speculation. Consequently, they reject the right of states, charged with vigilance for the common good, to exercise any form of control. A new tyranny is thus born, invisible and often virtual, which unilaterally and relentlessly imposes its own laws and rules.
Francis, to his great credit, is taking his religiously-grounded critique of capitalism well beyond the bland reassurances of his predecessors (and his many contemporaries in church leadership) that “the poor will inherit the earth,” and into a far more radical, policy-oriented place. He is using the heft of his position to pressure leaders to reform a global system that actively marginalizes billions of people across the globe.

Having the leader of 1.2 billion global Catholics get explicit about holding corporate heads and global leaders accountable for causing widespread poverty and all of its resultant suffering is no small thing. And his recent remarks have made all of the right people angry, which is also worth noting.

Continue reading at:  http://www.salon.com/2013/11/27/sorry_pope_francis_reproductive_justice_and_lgbtq_rights_are_economic_issues_too/

Pope Francis 'Evangelii Gaudium' Calls For Renewal Of Roman Catholic Church, Attacks 'Idolatry Of Money'

From Huffington Post:  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/11/26/pope-francis-evangelii-gaudium_n_4342964.html

By Naomi O'Leary Posted:
(Reuters) - Pope Francis called for renewal of the Roman Catholic Church and attacked unfettered capitalism as "a new tyranny", urging global leaders to fight poverty and growing inequality in the first major work he has authored alone as pontiff.

The 84-page document, known as an apostolic exhortation, amounted to an official platform for his papacy, building on views he has aired in sermons and remarks since he became the first non-European pontiff in 1,300 years in March.

In it, Francis went further than previous comments criticizing the global economic system, attacking the "idolatry of money" and beseeching politicians to guarantee all citizens "dignified work, education and healthcare".

He also called on rich people to share their wealth. "Just as the commandment 'Thou shalt not kill' sets a clear limit in order to safeguard the value of human life, today we also have to say 'thou shalt not' to an economy of exclusion and inequality. Such an economy kills," Francis wrote in the document issued on Tuesday.

"How can it be that it is not a news item when an elderly homeless person dies of exposure, but it is news when the stock market loses 2 points?"

The pope said renewal of the Church could not be put off and said the Vatican and its entrenched hierarchy "also need to hear the call to pastoral conversion".

"I prefer a Church which is bruised, hurting and dirty because it has been out on the streets, rather than a Church which is unhealthy from being confined and from clinging to its own security," he wrote.

Continue reading at:  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/11/26/pope-francis-evangelii-gaudium_n_4342964.html

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Meet America's Biggest Welfare Queens


One ‘Entitlement’ Really Does Need Trimming

From Common Dreams:  http://www.commondreams.org/view/2013/11/24-4

America’s corporate CEOs feel entitled to pensions that pay out $86,000 monthly. To protect their entitlement, they’re attacking ours: Social Security

by Sam Pizzigati

Deck the halls, this holiday season, with scenes of hunger.


Struggling families all across America now have less food on their tables. Budget cuts that kicked into effect November 1 have lowered the nation’s average federal food stamp benefit to less than $1.40 per person per meal.

Austerity American-style is squeezing elsewhere as well. Seventy percent of local agencies that service seniors have had to cut back on Meals on Wheels deliveries. The “sequestration” federal budget cuts that began this past March have also shut out 57,000 preschoolers from Head Start.

More cuts are looming, as lawmakers on Capitol Hill near still another budget deliberation deadline, this one midway through December. The next federal program in the cross-hairs? Maybe the biggest of them all: Social Security.

Average Americans, of course, don’t want Social Security cut. Over three-quarters of Americans, polling shows, oppose any Social Security cutbacks.

If anything, average Americans have become even more committed to keeping Social Security whole — and for good reason. Social Security currently stands as America’s only retirement bedrock.
Not too long ago, pensions also used to deliver real retirement security. But the nation’s biggest corporations have cut back on traditional pensions. In 1980, 89 percent of Fortune 100 companies guaranteed workers a “defined benefit” at retirement. By last year, only 12 percent offered that level of security.

Companies have replaced traditional pensions with 401(k)s, and many giant firms — like Walmart — don’t even offer a guaranteed match on employee 401(k) contributions. The predictable result? Among Americans between 50 and 64, the bottom 75 percent by wealth average just $26,395 in retirement assets.

Continue reading at:  http://www.commondreams.org/view/2013/11/24-4

Obama Approves Major Border-Crossing Fracked Gas Pipeline Used to Dilute Tar Sands

From Desmog Blog:   http://www.desmogblog.com/2013/11/26/obama-approves-border-crossing-fracked-gas-pipeline-used-dilute-tar-sands

Steve Horn
Nov. 26, 2013

Although TransCanada's
Keystone XL tar sands pipeline has received the lion's share of media attention, another key border-crossing pipeline benefitting tar sands producers was approved on November 19 by the U.S. State Department.
Enter Cochin, Kinder Morgan's 1,900-mile proposed pipeline to transport gas produced via the controversial hydraulic fracturing ("fracking") of the Eagle Ford Shale basin in Texas north through Kankakee, Illinois, and eventually into Alberta, Canada, the home of the tar sands. 
Like Keystone XL, the pipeline proposal requires U.S. State Department approval because it crosses the U.S.-Canada border. Unlike Keystone XL - which would carry diluted tar sands diluted bitumen ("dilbit") south to the Gulf Coast - Kinder Morgan's Cochin pipeline would carry the gas condensate (diluent) used to dilute the bitumen north to the tar sands.

"The decision allows Kinder Morgan Cochin LLC to proceed with a $260 million plan to reverse and expand an existing pipeline to carry an initial 95,000 barrels a day of condensate," the Financial Post wrote.

"The extra-thick oil is typically cut with 30% condensate so it can move in pipelines. By 2035, producers could require 893,000 barrels a day of the ultra-light oil, with imports making up 786,000 barrels of the total."

Increased demand for diluent among Alberta's tar sands producers has created a growing market for U.S. producers of natural gas liquids, particularly for fracked gas producers.

"Total US natural gasoline exports reached a record volume of 179,000 barrels per day in February as Canada's thirst for oil sand diluent ramped up," explained a May 2013 article appearing in Platts. "US natural gasoline production is forecast to increase to roughly 450,000 b/d by 2020."

Continue reading at:  http://www.desmogblog.com/2013/11/26/obama-approves-border-crossing-fracked-gas-pipeline-used-dilute-tar-sands

A Better Grip on Climate Change: There's plenty that you can do about it.

From Other Words:  http://otherwords.org/betterer-grip-climate-change/

By and November 27, 2013

Reposted with Creative Commons permission

Earth to climate change deniers: The vast majority of Americans are worried enough about global warming to want our government to help stop this scourge.

This good news for people who believe science should drive our climate policy comes from a series of surveys conducted by Stanford University. Even in so-called “red states,” a clear majority of Americans said government action was needed to stop man-made climate change — regardless of what other countries might do about it.

Another poll, which contrasted responses from Democrats, Republicans, and Independents, found that two-thirds of Americans believe in climate change. That includes half of Republicans, up from only one-third of them in 2009.

It’s about time. Several of the worst wildfires in U.S. history have ravaged swathes of California, Colorado, Arizona, and New Mexico since 2011, stressing out those super-bad climate radicals: insurance companies.

In early October, India was forced to evacuate 900,000 for Cyclone Phailin, which devastated that country’s whole east coast. A month later, the worst tropical storm in recorded history struck the Philippines. Then, 200-mile-an-hour winds leveled Washington, Illinois as fierce tornadoes killed eight people in the Midwest.

No single extreme weather event can be tied to climate change, but unless we stop climate change, it’s pretty clear that devastating storms and wildfires will become increasingly common. Yet less than 5 percent of TV or newspaper coverage in the six days following Super Typhoon Haiyan made a serious connection between the Philippines’ true climate catastrophe and the world’s belching power plants, swarming autos, leaking gas wells, or clear-cut forests.

Many politicians are trying hard not to connect the dots either. Lawmakers representing fossil fuel states seem to think that they risk all if they call for the kinds of changes that would shrink our carbon footprint.

If the latest polls aren’t evidence enough that voters may actually reward action to avert a climate crisis, maybe it’s time they got organized.
You know, the West Virginians would seek to limit natural gas, the Pennsylvanians would demean oil, and the Texans would clobber coal. But that’s not how it works.
So now President Barack Obama and the EPA are stuck trying to reduce emissions without any help from Congress. But they’ll need a hand from the courts too. Tons of lawsuits have been ambling through the system to the Supreme Court, which in October issues a mixed ruling that gave the fossil fuel boosters another shot.
What can you do? Some options are obvious: Use less energy. Walk more. Start a carpool if you can. Recycle. Compost. Choose more energy-efficient light bulbs, refrigerators, and vehicles.
You can take action that goes deeper, too. Do you have any savings invested in stocks and bonds? Clean up your portfolio by divesting any oil, gas, and coal assets you might own. Even if you aren’t an investor, you can join the fossil fuel divestment movement and encourage your university or town to get out of that dirty business and invest in renewable alternatives instead.
So far, Seattle, San Francisco, Santa Fe, and at least 18 other cities have announced that they’re going this route. Student campaigns at hundreds of colleges and universities are gaining steam too, as counties, foundations, religious institutions and other organizations join the movement to make their investments fossil-fuel free.

Monsanto, the TPP, and Global Food Dominance

From LA Progressive:  http://www.laprogressive.com/trans-pacific-partnership-trade-agreement/

By
Nov. 27, 2013


Control oil and you control nations,” said US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger in the 1970s.  “Control food and you control the people.”

Global food control has nearly been achieved, by reducing seed diversity with GMO (genetically modified) seeds that are distributed by only a few transnational corporations. But this agenda has been implemented at grave cost to our health; and if the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) passes, control over not just our food but our health, our environment and our financial system will be in the hands of transnational corporations.

Profits Before Populations

Genetic engineering has made proprietary control possible over the seeds on which the world’s food supply depends. Terminator” genes enable the production of sterile seeds, using a synthetic chemical catalyst appropriately called “Traitor” to induce seed sterility. Farmers must therefore buy seeds from their patent owners year after year. To cover these costs, food prices are raised; but the harm is far greater than to our pocketbooks.

According to an Acres USA interview of plant pathologist Don Huber, Professor Emeritus at Purdue University, two modified traits account for practically all of the genetically modified crops grown in the world today. One involves insect resistance. The other, more disturbing modification involves insensitivity to glyphosate-based herbicides (plant-killing chemicals). Often known as Roundup after the best-selling Monsanto product of that name, glyphosate poisons everything in its path except plants genetically modified to resist it.

Glyphosate-based herbicides are now the most commonly used herbicides in the world. Glyphosate is an essential partner to the GMOs that are the principal business of the burgeoning biotech industry. Glyphosate is a “broad-spectrum” herbicide that destroys indiscriminately, not by killing unwanted plants directly but by tying up access to critical nutrients.

Because of the insidious way in which it works, it has been sold as a relatively benign replacement for the devastating earlier dioxin-based herbicides. But a barrage of experimental data has now shown glyphosate and the GMO foods incorporating it to pose serious dangers to health. Compounding the risk is the toxicity of “inert” ingredients used to make glyphosate more potent. Researchers have found, for example, that the surfactant POEA can kill human cells, particularly embryonic, placental and umbilical cord cells. But these risks have been conveniently ignored.

The widespread use of GMO foods and glyphosate herbicides helps explain the anomaly that the US spends over twice as much per capita on healthcare as the average developed country, yet it is rated far down the scale of the world’s healthiest populations. The World Health Organization has ranked the US LAST out of 17 developed nations for overall health.

Continue reading at:  http://www.laprogressive.com/trans-pacific-partnership-trade-agreement/

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

New Rules Would Rein In Nonprofits’ Political Role

From The New York Times:  http://www.nytimes.com/2013/11/27/us/politics/new-campaign-rules-proposed-for-tax-exempt-nonprofits.html?hp&_r=0

By Published: November 26, 2013

he Obama administration on Tuesday moved to curb political activity by tax-exempt nonprofit organizations, with potentially major ramifications for some of the biggest and most secretive spenders in American politics. 

New rules proposed by the Treasury Department and the Internal Revenue Service would clarify both how the I.R.S. defines political activity and how much nonprofits are allowed to spend on it. The proposal covers not just television advertising, but bread-and-butter political work like candidate forums and get-out-the-vote drives. 

Long demanded by government watchdogs and Democrats who say the flow of money through tax-exempt groups is corrupting the political system, the changes would be the first wholesale shift in a generation in the regulations governing political activity by nonprofits. 

The move follows years of legal and regulatory shifts, including the Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling in 2010, that have steadily loosened the rules governing political spending, particularly by those with the biggest bank accounts: corporations, unions and wealthy individuals. 

But the proposal also thrusts the I.R.S. into what is sure to be a polarizing regulatory battle, with some Republicans immediately criticizing the proposal on Tuesday as an attack on free speech and a ploy to undermine congressional investigations into the agency’s handling of applications from Tea Party groups. 

“Before rushing forward with new rules, especially ones that appear to make it harder to engage in public debate, I would hope Treasury would let all the facts come out first,” said Representative David Camp of Michigan, the chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee. 

Political spending by tax-exempt groups — from Crossroads Grassroots Policy Strategies, co-founded by the Republican strategist Karl Rove, to the League of Conservation Voters — skyrocketed to more than $300 million in 2012 from less than $5.2 million in 2006, according to the Center for Responsive Politics

Much of the money has been funneled through chains of interlinked nonprofit groups, making it even harder to determine the original source. 

And unlike political parties and “super PACs,” political nonprofits are permitted to keep the names of donors confidential, making them the vehicle of choice for deep-pocketed donors seeking to influence campaigns in secret

The new rules would not prohibit political activity by nonprofits. 

Conservative think tank appalled when guys with MBAs take over

From Salon:  http://www.salon.com/2013/11/26/conservative_think_tank_appalled_when_guys_with_mbas_take_over/

Heritage staffers for some reason don't like their organization being treated like a common school or corporation

Tuesday, Nov 26, 2013

Julia Ioffe has a piece in the New Republic explaining the recent history of the Heritage Foundation, once the most influential conservative think tank in Washington, D.C. — perhaps the most influential think tank of any kind anywhere, for a few years — and now essentially a very large email list and activist PAC/pressure group.

Many people noticed how much the organization had changed during the recent government shutdown/”defund Obamacare” fight, a giant waste of everyone’s time and general self-inflicted disaster engineered and designed by Heritage Action, the 501(c)(4) “pressure group” Heritage launched in 2010. On the right, there was much consternation over the direction this once-respected think tank had taken. Truth be told, Heritage was always mostly political hacks, they just used to be effective political hacks with a realistic agenda. What was different now was the cheerful absense of any coherent and/or achievable goal — beyond fundraising and image-boosting for Heritage Action itself. Many blamed this on new Heritage president Jim DeMint, a former congressman not particularly known for his intellect, but Ioffe says the new tone at Heritage, and the tactics of Heritage Action, were both largely directed by Michael Needham, a 31-year-old former Giuliani staffer brought on to be the CEO of Heritage Action when it launched.

Needham is a child of privilege, the Manhattan-raised son of a banker and a Saks executive. Basically the minute he was hired to run Heritage Action, he began acting like any up-jumped MBA with an executive position. He and his lieutenant, “a 31-year-old evangelical named Tim Chapman who had a few years experience working on the Hill,” promptly took over the organization, assisted by DeMint, who took over as president when his kindly old predecessor retired.
“I was always struck at how they felt absolutely no intellectual modesty,” says the former veteran Heritage staffer. “They felt totally on par with people who had spent thirty years in the field and had Ph.D.s.”
Hmm. Why shouldn’t they? What good is a Ph.D. compared to the education received by an MBA with a useful business degree?

Continue reading at:  http://www.salon.com/2013/11/26/conservative_think_tank_appalled_when_guys_with_mbas_take_over/

A Basic Income is Not a Crazy Idea


How Wall Street Turned America Into Incarceration Nation

From Alternet:  http://www.alternet.org/corporate-accountability-and-workplace/how-wall-st-turned-america-incarceration-nation

Transforming poorer neighborhoods into desirable real estate for the new elites often requires getting rid of the poor: jail becomes the new home for many.

By Les Leopold
November 25, 2013

The U.S. leads the world in prisoners with 2.27 million in jail and more than 4.8 million on parole. Minorities have been especially hard hit, forming 39.4% of the prison population, with one in three black men expected to serve time during their lifetimes. 

How is it that our land, supposedly the beacon of freedom and democracy for the rest of the world, puts so many of its own people into prison? 

We usually attribute the prisoner increase to a combination of overt racism and Nixon's war on drugs, followed by Rockefeller's "three strikes" legislation in New York, and then the 1984 Sentencing Reform Act with its mandatory sentences. While racism and these laws certainly provide ample opportunity to incarcerate millions for violating senseless prohibition laws, they do not tell the whole story. 

Racism was just as virulent, if not more so, long before the dramatic rise in prisoners set in during the 1980s and 1990s. Just because there are draconian laws on the books, it doesn't explain why they are so dutifully enforced. It also doesn't explain why so many are willing to risk prison, knowing the increasing odds of getting caught.  

If we dig deeper, we'll see that the rise in incarceration corresponds with the rise of financialization and the dramatic increase in Wall Street incomes. Of course, just because trend lines on charts rise and fall together doesn't mean one causes the other. But this correspondence is much more than coincidence. 

In fact, we could show you a dozen other trends lines about financialization, wealth and the rising incomes of America's elites that follow the same patterns over similar years as the incarceration rate. What is the connection? 

 'Unleashing' Wall Street destroys manufacturing, older urban areas and black America's upward mobility 

By the end of the 1970s, our policy establishment embarked upon a new experiment to shock the nation out of stagflation (the crushing combination of high unemployment and high inflation). To do so, neo-liberal economists successfully argued that Wall Street should be deregulated and that taxes on the wealthy should be cut to spur new entrepreneurial activity that would enrich us all. 

Continue reading at:  http://www.alternet.org/corporate-accountability-and-workplace/how-wall-st-turned-america-incarceration-nation

Tackling Violence Against Women and Girls: An Urgent Priority

From Huffington Post:  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/helen-clark/tackling-violence-against-women-and-girls_b_4338056.html

11/25/2013

Today is the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women -- a day which reminds us that violence against women continues to be destructive and pervasive. Ranging from domestic violence and child marriages to the use of rape as a tactic of war, violence against women kills as many women between the ages of 15 and 44 as cancer, is a grave assault on many more women and girls and imposes high economic and social costs on societies.

In responding to gender-based violence, the financial costs to health systems, social services, the justice sector and indirect costs, such as those of lost productivity, burden countries around the world. From Chile, where intimate partner violence is estimated to drain as much as two percent of the country's GDP, to the United States, where the cost of domestic violence is estimated to exceed $12.6 billion per year, violence against women imposes high costs on both its victims and society.
Yet, when women are able to live in a safe and secure environment, they can participate effectively in the economy and society. This helps overcome poverty, reduces inequalities and is beneficial for children's nutrition, health and school attendance. Every woman and girl has the right to live in safety in her home and community.

At UNDP, we address the problem of gender-based violence in partnership with other organizations, including NGOs and civil society. We aim to contribute to reducing violence and to promote women's economic, legal, social and political empowerment. Through our programs, we provide legal and psychological support to victims, and we target the underlying causes of violence.

Improving women's access to the justice system and to legal aid is vital. In conflict and post-conflict countries where justice systems, security and the rule of law have broken down, women are particularly at risk. To counter this, in countries such as the Democratic Republic of the Congo, we are helping to strengthen the justice sector so that the many cases of rape and violence committed by combatants can be addressed. Impunity for perpetrators must end.

In addressing sexual and gender-based violence, it is important to know more about the entrenched attitudes and values which perpetrate it. A recent joint report by UNDP, UN Women, UN Population Fund and UN Volunteers surveyed 10,000 men in Asia and the Pacific. It found that 80 percent of men who admitted to committing rape in rural Bangladesh and China cited a sense of sexual entitlement as their motivation. Of those who perpetrated the violence in those countries, the vast majority never faced any legal consequences.

Continue reading at:  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/helen-clark/tackling-violence-against-women-and-girls_b_4338056.html

Op-ed: A Loophole for Discrimination

From The Advocate:  http://www.advocate.com/commentary/2013/11/19/op-ed-loophole-discrimination

Can religious exemptions still knock the wind out of ENDA's sails?

BY Ian Thompson November 19 2013

As is now well known, history was recently made in the U.S. Senate with the 64-32 vote to pass the Employment Non-Discrimination Act. In the hours leading up to this landmark moment for LGBT Americans, senators by a vote of 55-43 rightly rejected an attempt to expand ENDA’s religious exemption.  The amendment, proposed by Republican Patrick Toomey of Pennsylvania, would have created an entirely new rule that it isn’t a part of any other federal or state law barring workplace discrimination. It could have allowed even for-profit companies (your friendly neighborhood Chick-fil-A, for example) to discriminate against LGBT workers and applicants if the owners claimed the business was “affiliated” with a particular religion.

The bipartisan rejection of the Toomey Amendment was a critical victory against efforts to misuse religious liberty as a license to discriminate against LGBT people. However, before we engage in too much self-congratulation, it is important to remember that ENDA’s existing religious exemption remains cause for concern.

In an op-ed I wrote for The Advocate in May, I explained that ENDA’s religious exemption could provide religiously affiliated organizations — far beyond houses of worship — with a blank check to engage in employment discrimination against LGBT people. It would allow these organizations to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity under ENDA — in any job and for any reason. Right now these organizations are allowed to prefer people of their own faith so that the organizations can require those who carry out their work to share their faith. But the organizations are not allowed to discriminate based on sex, race, or national origin under existing law. So the ENDA exemption essentially says that anti-LGBT discrimination is different — more legitimate — than discrimination against individuals based on their race or sex. 

Magnifying these concerns is the reality that some courts have, for example, said that religiously affiliated hospitals count as “religious organizations” that would be eligible for the exemption. The implications for LGBT workers at these hospitals are stark. A hospital often employs hundreds, if not thousands, of workers, and may be one of the largest employers in a particular city or town. Should ENDA exclude from its protections LGBT doctors, nurses, clerical staff, janitors, and cafeteria employees simply because they work at a hospital with a religious affiliation? 

Continue reading at:  http://www.advocate.com/commentary/2013/11/19/op-ed-loophole-discrimination

Bernie Sanders Might Just Have to Run for President

From The Nation:  http://www.thenation.com/blog/177247/bernie-sanders-might-just-have-run-president#

John Nichols on November 19, 2013

Bernie Sanders is not burning with presidential ambition. He doubts that he would consider bidding for the nation’s top job if another prominent progressive was gearing up for a 2016 run that would provide a seriously-focused and seriously competitive populist alternative to politics as usual.

But if the fundamental issues that are of concern to the great mass of Americans—“the collapse of the middle class, growing wealth and income inequality, growth in poverty, global warming”—are not being discussed by the 2016 candidates, Sanders says, “Well, then maybe I have to do it.”

This calculation brings the independent senator from Vermont a step closer to presidential politics than he has ever been before. With a larger social-media following than most members of Congress, a regular presence on left-leaning television and talk radio programs—syndicated radio host Bill Press greeted the Sanders speculation with a Tuesday morning “Go, Bernie, Go!” cheer—and a new “Progressive Voters of America” political action committee, Sanders has many of the elements of an insurgent candidacy in place.

But the senator is still a long way from running.

In interviews over the past several days, Sanders has argued with increasing force that the times demand that there be a progressive contender in 2016.

“Under normal times, it’s fine, if you have a moderate Democrat running, a moderate Republican running,” the senator told his hometown paper, the Burlington Free Press. “These are not normal times. The United States right now is in the middle of a severe crisis and you have to call it what it is.”

So, says Sanders, there must be a progressive alternative to the conservative Republican politics of cruelty and cuts and the centrist Democratic politics of compromise with the conservatives.

“[The] major issues of this country that impact millions of people cannot continue to be swept under the rug,” Sanders told Politico on Monday. “And if nobody else is talking about it, well, then maybe I have to do it. But I do not believe that I am the only person that is capable of doing this.”

The independent senator has high praise for Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren, who has recently been talked up by some progressives as a prospective primary challenger to the front-runner for the party’s 2016 presidential nomination, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Unlike Clinton, Warren has a reputation for taking on Wall Street, big banks and corporate CEOs, and Sanders hails the Massachusetts senator as a “real progressive.” But Warren says she is not running.

Continue reading at:  http://www.thenation.com/blog/177247/bernie-sanders-might-just-have-run-president#

Noam Chomsky: America Is a Terrified Country

From Alternet:  http://www.alternet.org/noam-chomsky-america-terrified-country

Noam Chomsky discusses American terror abroad, dire income inequality at home, and what to do next.

By Catherine Komp November 20, 2013

This is an excerpt from the just released 2nd edition of Noam Chomsky’s  OCCUPY: Class War, Rebellion and Solidarity published by  Zuccotti Park Press. Reprinted from Truthout.org. with permission.

Free Speech Radio News producer Catherine Komp interviews Noam Chomsky.
Noam Chomsky is amongst the world’s most cited living scholars. Voted the “world’s top public intellectual” in 2005, he is perhaps best known as a critic of all forms of social control and a relentless advocate for community-centered approaches to democracy and freedom. Over the last several decades, Chomsky has championed a wide range of dissident actions, organizations and social movements. In this excerpt from the just-released expanded edition of the  Zuccotti Park Press book, Occupy: Class War, Rebellion and Solidarity, Chomsky speaks with Free Speech Radio News about media control, fear, indoctrination and the importance of solidarity.

Catherine Komp: It’s been twenty- five years since the publication of your and Edward Herman’s acclaimed book Manufacturing Consent. How much do you think has changed with the propaganda model, and where do you see it playing out most prominently today?

Noam Chomsky: Well, ten years ago we had a re-edition and we talked about some of the changes. One change is that we were too narrow. There are a number of filters that determine the framework of reporting, and one of the filters was too narrow. Instead of “anti-communism,” which was too narrow, it should have been “fear of the concocted enemy.” So yes, it could be anti-communism—most of that is concocted. So take Cuba again. It’s hard to believe, but for the Pentagon, Cuba was listed as one of the military threats to the United States until a couple of years ago. This is so ludicrous; you don’t even know whether to laugh or cry. It’s as if the Soviet Union had listed Luxembourg as a threat to its security. But here it kind of passes. 

The United States is a very frightened country. And there are all kinds of things concocted for you to be frightened about. So that should have been the filter, and [there were] a few other things, but I think it’s basically the same. 

There is change. Free Speech Radio didn’t exist when we wrote the book, and there are somethings on the Internet which break the bonds, as do independent work and things like the book I was just talking about when we came in, Jeremy Scahill’s Dirty Wars, which is a fantastic piece of investigative reporting on the ground of what actually happens in the countries where we’re carrying out these terror campaigns. And there’s a lot of talk about drones, but not much about the fact that they are terror weapons. 

Republicans will keep heading right!: What the media doesn’t comprehend

From Salon:  http://www.salon.com/2013/11/19/republicans_will_keep_heading_right_what_the_media_doesnt_comprehend/

Chattering classes are convinced Chris Christie will move GOP to the center. This totally misunderstands history

Tuesday, Nov 19, 2013

Chris Christie’s recent reelection victory has touched off a round of predictable nonsense in the chattering classes. Just as surely as it was obvious that groupthinking Democrats were foolishly giving Christie a pass in advance of the election, groupthinking elites across the spectrum are now touting variations on the idea that Christie — a supposed “moderate” — is just what the GOP needs to steer it back to the center, restoring its political relevance and winning the White House, just like Clinton did with the Democrats in 1992.  Of course, the notion that Christie’s a moderate is absurd, as Elias Isquith quickly pointed out here at Salon the day after the election.

The media may eventually fall back to a more plausible take: that Christie, like George W. Bush before him, is a governing conservative, not a burn everything down conservative. It’s a distinction that’s not always easy to make when you look too closely at results (“Heckuva job, Brownie!”), and it’s definitely situational in the long view, in light of Corey Robin’s devastating demolition of the myth of “Burkean Conservatism” in “The Reactionary Mind,” where he dwells and expands upon just how un-Burkean Burke himself became in “Letters on a Regicide Peace.” But in the here-and-now, that difference certainly may register in terms of ability to soothe big business as a whole, and appeal beyond the base — especially when the media helps out, as it did during 1999 and 2000, painting Bush as a bipartisan Washington outsider (ignoring both President Pa, and Senator Grandpa) while falsely smearing Al Gore as a liar.

But it’s a good deal harder to remake the other half of the narrative into anything close to reality.  Clinton definitely helped move the Democratic Party right (passing NAFTA, diminishing labor’s influence in favor of Wall Street, signing onto Gingrich’s version of “welfare reform”), no question about that — although his populist campaign, “putting people first,” sent a rather different message. But to the center? That’s a mighty hard claim to square with the massive defeat the Democrats suffered two years later — losing the House for the first time since 1954, losing a majority of state governors for the first time since 1970 and losing control of a plurality of state legislatures for the first time since a 20-20 split in 1969 — losses that took more than a decade to fully recover from.  The Democrat’s 1994 landslide losses ought to be enough to disrupt, if not refute the “move to the center” narrative. But for various reasons it’s like catnip to the chattering classes. They just can’t let go of it. Considering its attractiveness as a mirror-image narrative for what the GOP is facing now, a more critical look at what actually happened with the Democrats in the ’80s and ’90s is something that’s long overdue.

To begin with, the “move to the center” narrative is implicitly based on the “median voter” school of political science analysis, which paradoxically assumes that low-information median voters are the crucial drivers in U.S. politics, while at the same time assuming they’re sophisticated enough to move incrementally left or right, in careful calibration to how parties and candidate present themselves. The most potent, coherent counter theory comes from political scientist Thomas Ferguson, laid out in his 1995 book, “Golden Rule: The Investment Theory of Party Competition and the Logic of Money-Driven Political Systems.” Ferguson builds on Mancur Olson’s insight in “The Logic of Collective Action” that small groups with specific self-interested goals are more readily organized for political action than large groups representing broader, common interests.

Continue reading at:  http://www.salon.com/2013/11/19/republicans_will_keep_heading_right_what_the_media_doesnt_comprehend/

Singapore-sized chunk of ice breaks away from Antarctica and is now adrift

From Raw Story:  http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2013/11/23/singapore-sized-chunk-of-ice-breaks-away-from-antarctica-and-is-now-adrift/

By David Ferguson
Saturday, November 23, 2013


A chunk of ice the size of the island nation of Singapore broke off of the continent of Antarctica late last month and is currently adrift at sea.

NASA satellite images taken on Oct. 28 and Nov. 13 show the before and after images of the break.
A crack was first detected in the pine island glacier years ago. Gradually it deepened into a rift and now, a full detachment from the continental mass. 

Scientists say the city-sized iceberg measures roughly 35 by 20 km. (22 by 12 mi.) and that it is anybody’s guess whether the iceberg will stay trapped in Pine Island bay or get set adrift in the Southern Ocean. 

U.S. Methane Study Says Emissions 50 Percent Higher Than EPA Estimates

From Huffington Post:  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/11/25/us-methane-study-emissions_n_4339308.html

By SETH BORENSTEIN
11/25/13

 
WASHINGTON (AP) — The United States is spewing 50 percent more methane — a potent heat-trapping gas — than the federal government estimates, a new comprehensive scientific study says. Much of it is coming from just three states: Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas.

That means methane may be a bigger global warming issue than thought, scientists say. Methane is 21 times more potent at trapping heat than carbon dioxide, the most abundant global warming gas, although it doesn't stay in the air as long.

Much of that extra methane, also called natural gas, seems to be coming from livestock, including manure, belches, and flatulence, as well as leaks from refining and drilling for oil and gas, the study says. It was published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science.

The study estimates that in 2008, the U.S. poured 49 million tons of methane into the air. That means U.S. methane emissions trapped about as much heat as all the carbon dioxide pollution coming from cars, trucks, and planes in the country in six months.

That's more than the 32 million tons estimated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Administration or the nearly 29 million tons reckoned by the European Commission.

"Something is very much off in the inventories," said study co-author Anna Michalak, an Earth scientist at the Carnegie Institution for Science in Stanford, Calif. "The total U.S. impact on the world's energy budget is different than we thought, and it's worse."

EPA spokeswoman Alisha Johnson said her agency hasn't had time to go through the study yet, but hopes it will help "refine our estimates going forward."

While the world has a good handle on how much carbon dioxide is pumped into the air, scientists have been more baffled by methane emissions. They have had to use computer models to estimate how much methane is going into that air.

Continue reading at:  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/11/25/us-methane-study-emissions_n_4339308.html