Friday, February 28, 2014

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Christo-Nazi Hate Monger Robert Jeffress On Texas Marriage Ruling: 'No Nation Can Survive That Condones What God Has Condemned'

Exxon CEO Comes Out Against Fracking Project Because It Will Affect His Property Values

From Think Progress:

By Rebecca Leber
on February 21, 2014

As ExxonMobil’s CEO, it’s Rex Tillerson’s job to promote the hydraulic fracturing enabling the recent oil and gas boom, and fight regulatory oversight. The oil company is the biggest natural gas producer in the U.S., relying on the controversial drilling technology to extract it. 

The exception is when Tillerson’s $5 million property value might be harmed. Tillerson has joined a lawsuit that cites fracking’s consequences in order to block the construction of a 160-foot water tower next to his and his wife’s Texas home. 

The Wall Street Journal reports the tower would supply water to a nearby fracking site, and the plaintiffs argue the project would cause too much noise and traffic from hauling the water from the tower to the drilling site. The water tower, owned by Cross Timbers Water Supply Corporation, “will sell water to oil and gas explorers for fracing [sic] shale formations leading to traffic with heavy trucks on FM 407, creating a noise nuisance and traffic hazards,” the suit says.

Though Tillerson’s name is on the lawsuit, a lawyer representing him said his concern is about the devaluation of his property, not fracking specifically. 

When he is acting as Exxon CEO, not a homeowner, Tillerson has lashed out at fracking critics and proponents of regulation. “This type of dysfunctional regulation is holding back the American economic recovery, growth, and global competitiveness,” he said in 2012. Natural gas production “is an old technology just being applied, integrated with some new technologies,” he said in another interview. “So the risks are very manageable.”

In shale regions, less wealthy residents have protested fracking development for impacts more consequential than noise, including water contamination and cancer risk. Exxon’s oil and gas operations and the resulting spills not only sinks property values, but the spills have leveled homes and destroyed regions.

Exxon, which pays Tillerson a total $40.3 million, is staying out of the legal tangle. A spokesperson told the WSJ it “has no involvement in the legal matter.”

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Spike Lee’s epic anti-gentrification speech

From Salon:

"You can’t just come in the neighborhood like you’re Columbus and kill off the Native Americans"

Wednesday, Feb 26, 2014

Filmmaker Spike Lee has never been one to hold back his feelings. This, after all, is a man who’s compared Tyler Perry to Amos n’ Andy and said that Clint Eastwood ought to have an encounter “with a .44 Bulldog.” And at an African American History Month lecture at Pratt Institute Tuesday evening, he had some strong words for the mostly local crowd, this time about “the other side” of gentrification. His response to an audience member who brought it up: “Let me just kill you right now.”

Lee, who’s been famed for his explorations of class tensions and community ever since his groundbreaking 1989 “Do the Right Thing,” went on to expound about “some bullshit article in the New York Times saying ‘the good of gentrification.’” As Joe Coscarelli reports Wednesday in New York, Spike told the crowd, “I don’t believe that” before launching into an expletive-laced seven-minute discourse on the G-word.

“I grew up here in Fort Greene,” he explained. “I grew up here in New York. It’s changed. And why does it take an influx of white New Yorkers in the south Bronx, in Harlem, in Bed-Stuy, in Crown Heights for the facilities to get better? The garbage wasn’t picked up every motherfuckin’ day when I was living in 165 Washington Park … The police weren’t around. When you see white mothers pushing their babies in strollers, three o’clock in the morning on 125th Street, that must tell you something.”

But what, exactly, does it tell you? Earlier this month, the reliably rage-inducing Times Real Estate section ran a piece on the controversial “Case for and Against a Bed-Stuy Historic District,” a piece on what’s still one of the most dangerous, crime-riddled neighborhoods in New York City that came replete with dainty captions like “In Bed-Stuy, many a playful turret is to be found.” And New York magazine recently asked, “Is Gentrification All Bad?” in a story that focused heavily on the “Dickensian juxtapositions” of changing lower-class New York neighborhoods like Inwood, where I’ve lived for the past eight years. My family and I moved here when we were squeezed out of our old, insanely gentrifying neighborhood in – where else? – Brooklyn. Now Inwood has become the subject of much of the recent conversation around gentrification. The Wall Street Journal sat up and took notice last month when the mostly Dominican area got its very first Starbucks — where it naturally began offering overpriced, “exclusive” café con leche.

With his trademark passion and irritability, Lee made strong points Tuesday night about the exasperation felt by long-term residents when newcomers arrive with an inflated sense of entitlement. “The motherfuckin’ people moved in last year,” Lee said, “and called the cops on my father. He doesn’t even play electric bass! It’s acoustic!” And he certainly can’t be argued with regarding his questions over “Why did it take this great influx of white people to get the schools better? Why’s there more police protection in Bed-Stuy and Harlem now? Why’s the garbage getting picked up more regularly? We been here!”

Yet in Lee’s eagerness to be enraged, he glosses over the profound complexities of neighborhood flux. He rather dramatically announces that “You can’t just come in the neighborhood and start bogarting and say, like you’re motherfuckin’ Columbus and kill off the Native Americans. Or what they do in Brazil, what they did to the indigenous people.” The opening of a Connecticut Muffin shop is not now nor ever will be akin to genocide. And Lee can rail about “the white people” moving in, but that simplistic breakdown ignores issues of income and class.

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Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Texas Judge Strikes Down Marriage Ban

From The Advocate:

A federal judge today rules Texas's marriage ban unconstitutional.

BY Michelle Garcia February 26 2014

A federal judge today struck down Texas's law banning same-sex marriage.

District Judge Orlando Garcia ruled that the U.S. Supreme Court's rulings on marriage last summer trumps Texas's state constitutional amendment, which voters overwhelmingly approved in 2005.

“Today’s court decision is not made in defiance of the great people of Texas or the Texas Legislature, but in compliance with the U.S. Constitution and Supreme Court precedent,” he said in his order, The Dallas Morning News reports. “Without a rational relation to a legitimate governmental purpose, state-imposed inequality can find no refuge in our U.S. Constitution.” The ruling came in a lawsuit filed by two couples, Cleo DeLeon and Nicole Dimetman, and Victor Holmes and Mark Phariss.

Garcia stayed his ruling from taking effect until the case goes through the appeal process, so same-sex couples in Texas cannot being marrying immediately. He said the case would probably be one of 23 other pending state-level marriage cases that head would head to the Supreme Court for a ruling.  

According to the report, Texas attorney general and gubernatorial hopeful Greg Abbott is likely to appeal the ruling. Abbott strongly opposes marriage equality, as does the other four Republicans who are running against him in the primary election. 

The ruling is stayed, pending appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, so same-sex couples will still be unable to marry in Texas. But Rebecca L. Robertson, legal and policy director of the ACLU of Texas, says the ruling is still one step closer to the "inevitable end of official discrimination by the state of Texas. Gay and lesbian couples want the same thing as other loving couples -- to stand before family and friends and declare their lifetime commitment to each other, and to enjoy the same recognition and protection for their families that only marriage can bring. We applaud the judge’s preliminary ruling, but we also recognize that there is a great deal of hard work to do to bring full equality to every Texan.”

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Bigots Opposed To Same-Sex Marriage Take Discredited Bad-for-Children Argument to Court

From The New York Times:

As they reel from a succession of defeats in courtrooms and legislatures, opponents of same-sex marriage have a new chance this week to play one of their most emotional and, they hope, potent cards: the claim that having parents of the same sex is bad for children.

In a federal court in Detroit starting Tuesday, in the first trial of its kind in years, the social science research on family structure and child progress will be openly debated, with expert testimony and cross-examination, offering an unusual public dissection of the methods of sociology and the intersection of science and politics.

Scholars testifying in defense of Michigan’s constitutional ban on same-sex marriage aim to sow doubt about the wisdom of change. They brandish a few sharply disputed recent studies — the fruits of a concerted and expensive effort by conservatives to sponsor research by sympathetic scholars — to suggest that children of same-sex couples do not fare as well as those raised by married heterosexuals.

That view will be challenged in court by longtime scholars in the field, backed by major professional organizations, who call those studies fatally flawed. These scholars will describe a near consensus that, other factors like income and stability being equal, children of same-sex couples do just as well as those of heterosexual couples.

“The overwhelming evidence so far is that there’s not much difference between children raised by heterosexual or same-sex parents,” Andrew J. Cherlin, a prominent sociologist of family issues at Johns Hopkins University who is not involved in the case, said in an interview.

The last time these issues were debated in a federal court, in California nearly four years ago, social science opponents of same-sex marriage underwent withering challenges in pretrial depositions and did not even appear in court.

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Climate change is not debatable

Vietnam whitewash! How the Pentagon is trying to water down history

From Salon:

An initiative to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the war is selectively choosing which facts to tell

Wednesday, Feb 19, 2014
This piece originally appeared on TomDispatch
It’s 2053 — 20 years since you needed a computer, tablet, or smart phone to go online.  At least, that’s true in the developed world: you know, China, India, Brazil, and even some parts of the United States.  Cybernetic eye implants allow you to see everything with a digital overlay.  And once facial recognition software was linked to high-speed records searches, you had the lowdown on every person standing around you.  Of course, in polite society you still introduce yourself as if you don’t instantly know another person’s net worth, arrest record, and Amazooglebook search history.  (Yes, the fading old-tech firms Amazon, Google, and Facebook merged in 2033.) You also get a tax break these days if you log into one of the government’s immersive propaganda portals.  (Nope, “propaganda” doesn’t have negative connotations anymore.)  So you choose the Iraq War 50th Anniversary Commemoration Experience and take a stroll through the virtual interactive timeline.

Look to your right, and you see happy Iraqis pulling down Saddam’s statue and showering U.S. Marines with flowers and candy.  Was that exactly how it happened?  Who really remembers?  Now, you’re walking on the flight deck of what they used to call an aircraft carrier behind a flight-suit-clad President George W. Bush. He turns and shoots you a thumbs-up under a “mission accomplished” banner.  A voice beamed into your head says that Bush proclaimed victory that day, but that for years afterward, valiant U.S. troops would have to re-win the war again and again.  Sounds a little strange, but okay.

A few more paces down the digital road and you encounter a sullen looking woman holding a dog leash, the collar attached to a man lying nude on the floor of a prison.  Your digital tour guide explains: “An unfortunate picture was taken.  Luckily, the bad apple was punished and military honor was restored.”  Fair enough.  Soon, a digital General David Petraeus strides forward and shoots you another thumbs-up.  (It looks as if they just put a new cyber-skin over the President Bush avatar to save money.)  “He surged his way to victory and the mission was accomplished again,” you hear over strains of the National Anthem and a chorus of “hooahs.”

Past is Prologue

Admittedly, we humans are lousy at predicting the future, so don’t count on any of this coming to pass: no eye implants, no voices beamed into your head, no Amazooglebook.  None of it.  Except, maybe, that Iraq War timeline.  If the present is any guide, government-sanctioned, counterfeit history is in your future.

Let me explain…

In 2012, the Pentagon kicked off a 13-year program to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Vietnam War, complete with a sprawling website that includes a “history and education” component. Billed as a “public service” provided by the Department of Defense, the United States of America Vietnam War Commemoration site boasts of its “resources for teachers and students in the grades 7-12” and includes a selection of official government documents, all of them produced from 1943-1954; that is, only during the earliest stages of modern U.S. involvement in what was then called Indochina.

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Tuesday, February 25, 2014

‘The Internet Is Fucked’

From Truth Dig:

by Peter Z. Scheer
Feb 25, 2014

Even if someone printed this out and mailed it to you, you get your information from the Internet, a magical place that is increasingly controlled and manipulated by greedy, lazy corporations. Free speech, as we know it, is gone.

The Federal Communications Commission has refused to classify the dumb pipes that bring the Internet to your front door as dumb pipes, what’s known as “common carrier.” Instead, the regulator treats broadband Internet providers as information services, like AOL or, because they give you email and ugly home pages to look at. But really because powerful, anti-competitive companies like Comcast have spent tremendous amounts of money to keep it that way. A judge said the FCC can’t impose net neutrality rules on broadband until it correctly identifies ISPs as common carriers, and so right now it’s absolute mayhem.

Nilay Patel of The Verge is a lawyer and tech writer who has written a must-read document for anyone who cares about free speech on the Internet.
Here’s an excerpt:
In the meantime, the companies that control the internet have continued down a dark path, free of any oversight or meaningful competition to check their behavior. In January, AT&T announced a new “sponsored data” plan that would dramatically alter the fierce one-click-away competition that’s thus far characterized the internet. Earlier this month, Comcast announced plans to merge with Time Warner Cable, creating an internet service behemoth that will serve 40 percent of Americans in 19 of the 20 biggest markets with virtually no rivals.

And after months of declining Netflix performance on Comcast’s network, the two companies announced a new “paid peering” arrangement on Sunday, which will see Netflix pay Comcast for better access to its customers, a capitulation Netflix has been trying to avoid for years. Paid peering arrangements are common among the network companies that connect the backbones of the internet, but consumer companies like Netflix have traditionally remained out of the fray — and since there’s no oversight or transparency into the terms of the deal, it’s impossible to know what kind of precedent it sets. Broadband industry insiders insist loudly that the deal is just business as usual, while outside observers are full of concerns about the loss of competition and the increasing power of consolidated network companies. Either way, it’s clear that Netflix has decided to take matters — and costs — into its own hands, instead of relying on rational policy to create an effective and fair marketplace.

In a perfect storm of corporate greed and broken government, the internet has gone from vibrant center of the new economy to burgeoning tool of economic control. Where America once had Rockefeller and Carnegie, it now has Comcast’s Brian Roberts, AT&T’s Randall Stephenson, and Verizon’s Lowell McAdam, robber barons for a new age of infrastructure monopoly built on fiber optics and kitty GIFs.
There is so much more, and even some hope, but you’ll have to go to The Verge to read the whole story.

One point worth underlining: As Todd O’Boyle of Common Cause recently told us on Truthdig Radio, this is fundamentally a free speech issue. A handful of companies with nothing but dollar signs in their eyes have unprecedented control over all American communication. Think about these questions: Where do you get your news? Does that site pay to gain access to you? Comcast owns NBC and NBC News and it’s trying to buy Time Warner so it can be the only truly broadband Internet provider in 19 of the 20 biggest metro areas. In the absence of any regulation, does Comcast have any incentive to let you visit CBS News? Or Truthdig?

Facebook just spent $19 billion on a private text messaging service, because owning communication is incredibly valuable.

The United States is entering a strange new world, where Comcast is our politburo and Verizon is big brother. And the NSA? Well that’s a whole other horrifying blog post. You may have to read about it through the postal service, because the Internet is fucked.

Alcoholics Anonymous, Without the Religion

From The New York Times:

Three floors above a Manhattan street of loading docks and coffee shops, in a functional room of folding chairs and linoleum tile, a man who introduced himself as Vic began to speak. “Today is my 35th anniversary,” he said. The dozen people seated around him applauded, and several even whooped in support.

By most overt measures, this gathering two weeks ago was just another meeting of Alcoholics Anonymous, one of its multitude of meetings worldwide. At the session’s end an hour later, however, as the participants clasped hands, instead of reciting the Lord’s Prayer in usual A.A. fashion, they said together, “Live and let live.”

This meeting, as the parting phrase suggests, is one of a growing number within A.A. that appeal to nonreligious people in recovery, who might variously describe themselves as agnostics, atheists, humanists or freethinkers. While such groups were rare even a decade ago, now they number about 150 nationally. A first-ever convention will be held in November in Santa Monica, Calif.

The boom in nonreligious A.A. represents another manifestation of a more visible and confident humanist movement in the United States, one that has featured public figures such as Bill Maher, Sam Harris and the late Christopher Hitchens. Yet this recent trend within A.A. also marks a departure from the organization’s traditional emphasis on religion.

“A.A. starts at its core with honesty,” said Dorothy, 39, who heads the steering committee for the We Agnostics and Freethinkers International A.A. Convention. “And how can you be honest in recovery if you’re not honest in your own beliefs? If you don’t believe in the God they’re praying to, that’s not honest practice.”

(A.A. members hold to a tradition of not being identified by full name. I sat in on a portion of one secular A.A. meeting with the advance consent of the attendees.)

Seven of A.A.’s famous 12 steps refer either to a deity — “God,” “Him” or “a Power greater than ourselves” — or to religious practices such as prayer. The ultimate goal of sobriety, as the final step states, is to achieve a “spiritual awakening.” Besides the Lord’s Prayer, the Serenity Prayer is a staple of A.A. meetings.

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The GOP's Ted Nugent Problem

From Huffington Post:

Michael Keegan02/25/2014
The Republican Party in the era of the Tea Party and the "autopsy" can't make up its mind. Torn between expanding its base so that it can survive in the long term and appeasing its loyalists so it can survive in the short term, the party doesn't know where to go. The choice boils down to winning a few more seats in November and writing off the future of the party. Oddly, November seems to be winning every time. 

For Texas gubernatorial candidate Greg Abbott the choice seems easy. He chose Ted Nugent, the physical embodiment of the off-the-rails toxicity that Republicans just don't know how to quit. Abbott certainly had to know the stir he'd cause when he invited Nugent to join him on the campaign trail last week. 

Ted Nugent is not just a former rocker who happens to be a Republican. Nugent's infamous "subhuman mongrel" slur is just a representative sample of the bile he produces on a regular basis. He has threatened the president, saying, "Obama, he's a piece of shit, and I told him to suck on my machine gun," told an audience to "keep a fucking gun in your hand, boys" in response to the Obama administration, implied the president is like a coyote who needs to be shot, and said before the 2012 election that if the "vile, evil America-hating" Obama were to be reelected, Nugent would be "either dead or in jail by this time next year."(For the record, Nugent is still very much alive and free to make statements like the above.) 

Why listen to Nugent (as People For the American Way's Right Wing Watch does more often than they would probably like)? Because he doesn't just shout his rants from the stage at his concerts. He shares the stage with people like Greg Abbott. 

In a time when many Republicans are trying to moderate the rhetoric they use to explain their extreme policies, Greg Abbott is just the latest who apparently has no such concerns. He 's more than happy to provide a platform for Nugent, an unabashedly violent, and unapologetic racist spokesperson who exults in attacking the president- - when the president is Barack Obama, that is.
Nugent has speculated whether "it would have been best had the South won the Civil War"; suggested banning people who owe no federal income tax from voting; lashed out at "those well-fed motherfucker food stamp cocksuckers"; and blamed Trayvon Martin's death on the "mindless tendency to violence we see in black communities across America." 

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Freedom Hating Anti-Americans, Schlafly and Solomon Call For Ukraine-Style Uprising

Reagan’s Christian revolt: How conservatives hijacked American religion

From Salon:

Once upon a time, America's religious communities were politically moderate. Then along came the evangelicals

As late as 1976, the political sensibilities of revivalist evangelicals were still unformed when many of them voted Democratic for Jimmy Carter, largely on the basis that he had declared himself “born again.” Prior to 1976, “born again” was not a familiar phrase in mainstream public discourse. Moreover, the term “evangelical” was seldom used, at least not in connection to politics. When Newsweek declared 1976 to be “The Year of the Evangelical,” the publicity helped to create a sense of potential among evangelicals, who began to think of themselves as a political force. Conservative evangelical and Catholic leaders, however, soon became disillusioned with President Carter. He supported the Equal Rights Amendment, he did not take a stand against abortion, and he was friendly to the Democratic Party agenda to guarantee rights for homosexuals and to broaden the definition of the family. In that context, in 1979 fundamentalist Jerry Falwell founded the Moral Majority, a political-action organization to mobilize religious conservatives. Revivalist evangelicalism had suddenly emerged as a conspicuous player in national politics.

The government was not, of course, the only force in furthering the sexual revolution. Rather, the courts and governmental agencies were responding to much larger social trends and agendas that were energized by vigorous movements and lobbies and supported by most of the media and the intellectual community. The mainstream media and commercial interests often supported the new permissiveness. Nonetheless, for those alarmed by the sexual revolution, the government’s role in permitting and promoting it was sufficient to provoke a political response, even among evangelicals who traditionally had warned against political involvements.

One of the factors evident in the support for Ronald Reagan in 1980 was nostalgia for the 1950s. Many conservative Americans had been alarmed by the cultural changes unleashed by the counterculture and antiwar movements of the 1960s and felt that something essential about the culture was fast slipping away. Reagan himself cultivated his image as a champion of traditional values. Just one of many examples was a “Morning in America” series of TV ads in his 1984 campaign depicting the small-town America of more peaceful and ordered days. Unquestionably, Reagan’s staunch anticommunism also evoked an image of the 1950s, a time when Americans were proud to be united by their flag-waving patriotism. Newly politicized revivalist evangelicals were no doubt attracted by this nostalgia, as were many other Republican voters, but they added their own variation on the theme. They were not simply proposing to bring America back to a time when traditional family values, respect for authority, and unquestioning love of nation were intact. Rather, they were blending such Reaganesque images with something more basic: America, they said, needed to return to its “Christian foundations.” And understanding what revivalist evangelicals had in mind by such rhetoric is one key to understanding the cultural wars and revivalist evangelicalism’s part in them.

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Monday, February 24, 2014

Nixon still runs the GOP: How the white South dominates the party

From Salon:

Many believe that Reagan or Goldwater founded modern conservatism. But it's Nixon whose legacy truly lives on

Tuesday, Feb 18, 2014

The issue of who founded modern conservatism is important not just to the historical community, which lives to debate the origins of anything and everything. It has deep significance for any politician who seeks to invest himself with such august symbolism, as with anyone who tries to fathom American politics today.

Barry Goldwater is a logical candidate. Despite his failure in the presidential lists, he advocated conservative principles long before any other national political figure, making him a prophet before his time. Pat Buchanan dubbed him no less than “the father of us all.” Daniel McCarthy, in The American Conservative, believed that “his place in conservative history, and conservatives’ hearts, is settled … each branch of the conservative movement can plausibly trace itself back to some tendency… in the Goldwater effort.” And Phyllis Schafly called the Arizona senator “the undisputed original leader of the modern conservative movement … It is hard to overestimate the importance of Barry Goldwater.”

Ronald Reagan is the current favorite. Fox Nation quoted Nile Gardiner of Britain’s conservative paper the Telegraph that the former actor created “the greatest U. S. presidency of the 20th century.”  The Heritage Foundation pronounced Reagan “the second most popular and consequential Republican president after Abraham Lincoln … he is credited with reviving the national economy, recovering the nation’s optimism about the future, and taking the pivotal steps to end the Cold War struggle with the Soviet Union.” The social conservative champion Family Research Council noted that, “Every Republican presidential candidate claims the mantle of Ronald Reagan … As they jockey for the … presidential nomination, they invoke Ronald Reagan:  ‘I believe as Ronald Reagan believed …’”

An unlikely candidate, however, would be Richard Nixon. Despised by liberals for his early red-baiting, his presidential record remains shocking by modern conservative standards. He proposed, for example, wage and price controls, a massive federal takeover of the national economy that would be branded Sovietism by today’s right. Under Nixon’s watch, the federal government created the Environmental Protection Agency, and introduced affirmative action. One blogger wrote that no Democrat today could get away with what Nixon tried to do, let alone a Republican.

Yet, in one critical way, Nixon really is the creator of conservatism as it exists today in America.

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Is San Francisco losing its soul?

From The Guardian UK:

The big pay cheques of the tech boom are changing the City by the Bay as Twitter and Google millionaires take over its bohemian haunts. Could this be the end of the city as we know it?

Zoë Corbyn The Observer, Saturday 22 February 2014

Poet and painter Lawrence Ferlinghetti came to San Francisco in 1951 because he heard it was a great place to be a bohemian. He settled in the Italian working-class neighbourhood of North Beach with its cheap rents and European ambience. And before long he put the city on the world's counter-cultural map by publishing the work of Beat poets such as Allen Ginsberg and Jack Kerouac. But despite his status as world and local literary legend, the 94-year-old co-owner of the renowned City Lights bookshop and publishing house doesn't feel so at home in the City by the Bay anymore. 

He complains of a "soulless group of people", a "new breed" of men and women too busy with iPhones to "be here" in the moment, and shiny new Mercedes-Benzs on his street. The major art galley in central San Francisco that has shown Ferlinghetti's work for two decades is closing because it can't afford the new rent. It, along with several other galleries, will make way for a cloud computing startup called MuleSoft said to have offered to triple the rent. "It is totally shocking to see Silicon Valley take over the city," says Ferlinghetti, who still rents in North Beach. "San Francisco is radically changing and we don't know where it is going to end up."

Until recently, San Francisco, California – a small city of around 825,000 poised on the tip of a peninsular on America's western edge that sprang up during the 1840s gold rush – wasn't thought of as a centre for business. Rather, it was famed as an artistic, bohemian place with a history of flowering counter-cultures that spilled over and changed America and the world, from the beats in North Beach to the hippies in the hilly region of Haight- Ashbury to the gay rights movement in the Castro neighbourhood. Jefferson Airplane's Paul Kantner called it "49 square miles surrounded by reality".

But times have changed in Ferlinghetti's city. San Francisco has become the hype- and capital-fuelled epicentre of America's technology industry, which has traditionally centred on the string of suburban cities known as Silicon Valley 40 miles to the south. In 2011, Mayor Ed Lee introduced tax breaks for Twitter and several other tech companies to encourage them to settle in and revitalise the downtown San Francisco neighbourhood South of Market, or Soma, and help the city climb out of the recession. Soma has become home to some of the most important companies in the new economy, such as Twitter and Dropbox, and many small startups hoping to challenge them. AngelList, a networking site for investors, now lists 5,249 tech startups in San Francisco, each worth $4.6m (£2.8m) on average and offering an average salary of $105,000 (£64,000).

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Silencing the Scientist: Tyrone Hayes on Being Targeted By Herbicide Firm Syngenta

Extreme Poverty Has Been Used to Divide and Terrify Working People for Centuries

From Truth Out:

By Frances Fox Piven Sunday, 23 February 2014

In the following excerpted chapter, scholar Frances Fox Piven argues that the guarantee of a universal income would facilitate a new economic fairness and stability to a financial system careening out of control.

Most of the world is now in the grip of hyper-capitalism, what we call neoliberalism. This new system has brought us careening economic instabilities, worsening ecological disasters, brutal wars, a depleted public sector and poverty in the affluent global north, and the prospect of mass famine in the global south.

It seems high time to think about alternatives to the capitalist behemoth. I don’t know whether we will ultimately call the new ways of organizing our society "socialist," but the values that have inspired movements for socialism in the past should inform our search. Those values include a society with sharply reduced inequalities in both material circumstances and social status. Socialist movements also aspire to lessen the grinding toil now imposed on those who work for wages. They dream of an inclusive culture. They fight for democratic practices and policies in which influence is widely shared. And they believe in eliminating the pervasive terror in everyday life that is produced by the exigencies of capitalist markets and the arbitrary power of the state regimes that support those markets.

No matter how successful the new society is in equalizing earnings and assets, however, we will have to be concerned about the potential for poverty and hard times. This might result from exogenous shocks, such as a drought or earthquakes, or from internal economic disorganization, including the instabilities produced by efforts to transform our institutions. Moreover, there will always be people who are not well suited to the work that is available because of their physical health or personal disorganization.

How our society treats these people is of great importance. Morally, it is important because it is unnecessary and cruel for an affluent society to impose impoverishment and humiliation on some of its members. It is less often recognized that the treatment of the poor has a large bearing on the well-being of the entire society.

The poverty policies characteristic of capitalist societies, especially the United States, form a template for what we should not do in the new society. They also suggest an agenda for constructing the institutions that will lead to a more equal, more democratic and more humane society.

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Anti-American Glenn Beck Says America Is 'The Stink On The Crap Pile'

Will the Republicans go the way of the Whigs?

From Salon:

It would take a huge defeat or a civil war to kill the GOP -- but its dysfunction may augur a new political era

Saturday, Feb 22, 2014

Since at least the end of the Reagan administration, we’ve seen occasional pronouncements from political commentators about the impending breakup of the Republican Party, pulled in one direction by its fire-breathing conservative base and in another by corporate elites and Washington insiders. It keeps not happening. One factor here is just magical thinking on the part of liberals, along with the continual frustration of losing elections to an opponent who combines troglodyte social views with discredited economic fantasies and a paranoid, mythological foreign policy. (Let’s leave aside, for the moment, that on the latter two questions the Democrats are only marginally better.) Wouldn’t it be a nicer country if the nasty Republicans, and the millions of citizens who vote for them, simply went away?

Still, there really are significant divisions within the GOP, as the party’s panicked post-2012 retreat on immigration reform, and the humiliating aftermath of the government shutdown, have made clear. (With lightning speed, Ted Cruz went from Our Next President to Our Next Prime-Time Fox News Host.) To the immense frustration of the Republican establishment in Washington, the party faithful have repeatedly snatched defeat from the jaws of victory by nominating some Tea Party zealot or Christian flat-earther who blunders away a potentially winnable statewide election by saying something stupid about women and sex. As things stand, the Republicans have a good chance of retaking the Senate majority in this year’s midterm elections, even though they have no coherent policies on any major issue and their only platform is to run out the clock on the Obama administration and hope against hope they can beat Hillary Clinton in 2016. Amazingly enough, if it weren’t for their propensity to commit ritual suicide in close elections, the Republicans would already hold the Senate majority, in all likelihood.

To a large extent, the predictions of a GOPocalypse that’s coming someday soon but not right now are based on observable political and demographic factors I don’t need to explore at any length here. As John Judis and Ruy Teixeira argued 12 years ago in “The Emerging Democratic Majority,” long-term shifts in the American population, as the country grows steadily more diverse and more metropolitan, would seem to favor the Democrats. And there’s no question that the Republican Party of 2014 is a peculiar coalition of groups with distinct worldviews and ideologies that don’t always overlap: The corporate overlords and 1-percenters, the burn-it-down Tea Partyers, the decaying but still vocal “Christian conservatives” and the Ayn Rand libertarians are united only by a strident rhetoric of American exceptionalism, a professed dislike of big government, and by what we might call the identity politics of whiteness. They can all agree that they hate Obamacare (for varying reasons) and view the presidency of its author as a continuing nightmare. But they disagree about almost everything else.

Another factor in forecasting Republican doom, I think, is the dim historical sense that political parties are not necessarily permanent phenomena, and that we’ve had various permutations of a two-party system throughout American history. Four American presidents belonged to the Whig Party — actually, the number is six if you count Abraham Lincoln and Rutherford B. Hayes, who were prominent Whigs before they became Republicans — and that’s been gone for more than 150 years. The Federalist Party, our nation’s very first, barely limped into the 19th century and was dissolved in 1824. What historians now call the Democratic-Republican Party (technically an ancestor to both of today’s major parties) dominated national politics for more than 20 years and then abruptly split apart. Couldn’t some version of what happened to them happen to today’s Republican Party?

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Sunday, February 23, 2014

The Cruel and Shameless Ideology of Corporatism

From Common Dreams:

by Ralph Nader

Like ravenous beasts of prey attacking a weakened antelope, the forces of subsidized capital and their mercenaries sunk their fangs into the United Auto Workers (UAW) and its organizing drive at the Volkswagen factory in Chattanooga, Tennessee. The UAW narrowly lost – 712 to 626 – and the baying pack of plutocrats exalted, as if they had just saved western civilization in the anti-union, lower-wage South.

The days preceding the vote were a corporatist frenzy with corporatist predators bellowing ‘the sky is falling.’ VW, which sensibly stayed neutral, but privately supported the UAW’s efforts and its collateral “works councils” (an arrangement that had stabilized and made their unionized, higher-paid workers in Germany more productive), must have wondered on what planet they had landed.

First out of the growling caves were the supine politicians, who always offer those proposing a factory big taxpayer subsidized bucks to bring crony capitalism to their region. Senator Bob Corker (R-TN) who, without citing his source, warned “I’ve had conversations today and based on those am assured that, should the workers vote against the UAW, Volkswagen will announce in the coming weeks that it will manufacture its new mid-size SUV here in Chattanooga.” VW immediately denied that cause and effect claim.

No matter, Senator Corker then assailed the UAW and its negotiated wages and work rules for bringing down Detroit, along with the Big Three Auto Companies – GM, Ford and Chrysler. That’s strange because for decades the UAW lifted up industrial labor while the auto companies made record profits. Apart from the mistake the UAW made years ago when they sided with the auto bosses in lobbying in Congress against fuel efficiency standards, which would have made domestically produced vehicles more competitive with foreign imports, the responsibility for the auto industry’s collapse lies with management. It was all about “product, product, product,” as the auto writers say, and Detroit’s products fell behind the Japanese and German vehicles. The J.D. Power ratings, year after year, had U.S. cars bringing up the rear. The foreign car companies rated higher on fit and finish, other quality controls and fuel efficiency, while, as one former Chrysler executive told me about his industry, “We were producing junk.”

Add these losses of sales to the speculative binge of the auto companies’ finance subsidiaries, like Ally Financial Inc., previously known as General Motors Acceptance Corporation, which got itself caught in the huge Wall Street downdraft in 2008-2009. The result was that the auto giants rushed to demand a huge taxpayer bailout from Washington, which they were given.

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Ted Nugent And How The Conservative Press Can't Hide Its Hate Streak

From Media Matters:

ERIC BOEHLERT February 21, 2014

It's too soon to tell whether Ted Nugent's noxious career as a conservative pundit reached a tipping point this week, but the moment he called in sick to CNN and backed out of a scheduled interview with Erin Burnett as Republican politicians denounced him might soon be seen as a flash point for the fading rock star and the incendiary brand of hate rhetoric he's been cashing in on for years. It might also be viewed as a key stumbling moment for the conservative media, which have been unable in recent years to establish any sort of guardrails for common decency within the realm of political debate.

Increasingly reliant on bad fringe actors like Nugent to connect with their far, far-right audience, the conservative media have built up Obama-bashing personalities who no longer occupy any corner of the American mainstream. Yet Nugent enjoys deep ties with Republican campaigns all across the country. When those ties receive media scrutiny, they cannot be defended.

National Rifle Association board member Nugent found himself at the center of a campaign controversy this week when he was invited to two public events for Texas Republican Greg Abbott, who is running for governor. Of course Nugent, a former Washington Times columnist who now writes for birther website WND, recently called President Obama a "communist-nurtured subhuman mongrel" and has a long and vivid history of launching vile attacks on women. (He's called Hillary Clinton a "toxic cunt.")

Following waves of condemnations for the association, and a torrent of critical media coverage, with reporters and pundits wondering why a gubernatorial candidate would voluntarily campaign with someone who spouts "insane and racist talk," as CNN's Jake Tapper put it, Abbott claimed he wasn't aware of Nugent history of racist and misogynistic comments. If so, Abbott's campaign staff is utterly incompetent. (The "subhuman mongrel" comment, unearthed last month by Media Matters, was highlighted by a number of outlets at the time, including on MSNBC.)

It's likely Abbott and his staff did know about Nugent's dark rhetoric, since that's all he traffics in. But because that kind of hate speech has become so accepted and even celebrated within the bubble for right-wing media, they failed to see the danger of embracing it.

Following the ill-fated campaign events, which made national headlines, Abbott has defended the decision to bring Nugent to the state, claiming that in Texas politics Nugent remain popular. But if inviting Nugent to become an Abbott surrogate was so clever, why did likely Republican presidential hopeful Rand Paul step forward to denounce Nugent and his "offensive" Obama commentary?

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Thursday, February 20, 2014

If the 1% wants class warfare, maybe it's time to start fighting back

From The Guardian UK:

What Tom Perkins and Co don’t know can only make the rest of us stronger, Tuesday 18 February 2014

The White House administration official who proposed taking on “income inequality” as the dominant theme of Obama’s second term must have thought the move was at least halfway clever: I mean, try as the Right may to argue against the administration’s preferred mechanisms to undo income inequality, honestly, what kind of jerk would straight-up defend it? 

Well, it turns out there are two kinds. Call them the emotional alarmist and the pseudo-scientific apologist. Both variations were on display in the past week, in the form of zillionaire Tom Perkins and economist-to-the-zillionaires, former Romney adviser Greg Mankiw. Both Perkins and Mankiw are correct to be worried about how the widening income gap might inspire more class consciousness. They’re just wrong about which side is the underdog.

Perkins, the venture capitalist and emotional alarmist, has been in the news quite a bit lately, due to his Wall Street Journal letter-to-the-editor comparing agitation about income inequality to declaring war on the wealthy. Specifically, declaring World War II: Perkins warned that “‘progressive’ radicalism” is the “descendent” Kristallnacht.

The ensuing uproar had Perkins rethinking his vocabulary but not backing down from the imagery. “Kristallnacht should never have been used,” he said in the splashy aftermath of the assertion. “I regret the use of that word. I don’t regret the message at all.” In other words: I’m sorry I used a term that refers to the early stages of the Holocaust, but we’re in the early stages of a Holocaust. At a Fortune magazine event last Thursday that took its name from the larger point of his original screed – “The War on the 1%” – he went a step further. Higher taxes, he said, will lead to the “economic extinction” of the 1%. So there you go: he didn’t mean genocide, he meant something worse. At least as far as Tom Perkins is concerned.

The use of a Nazi metaphor is so provocative, and apologizing for it is so vital, that it’s easy to lose sight of what else is wrong with the Perkins analogy: it’s not the rich who are being attacked; they are now the ones doing the attacking. The metaphor was terrible – and he got it backwards anyway. There is, for instance, already one side of his imagined conflict living in ghettos. Even more to the point, there is not an epidemic of rich people dying younger and younger or becoming sicker and sicker. Would it comfort Tom Perkins to know that the “life expectancy gap” in America is widening even more quickly as that of income? In 1980, the richest Americans could expect to live about 1.8 years longer than poorest; by 2000, they could expect to live 4.5 years longer, a jump of almost 40 percent. Meanwhile, income inequality has increased by 25 percent.

This is good news for the apocalyptic scenario of super-rich America! Perkins and his compatriots won’t have to fight off the poor; they’ll just have to wait them out. Far from facing “economic extinction”, the 1% will just have even more trouble finding good help.

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Pussy Riot attacked with whips by police at Sochi

Actually, climate trolls, January ended up being the fourth-warmest on record

From Salon:

Basically everywhere but the U.S. had a warmer than average month

Thursday, Feb 20, 2014

Last month was the fourth-warmest January on record, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reported Thursday, with temperatures 1.17 degrees warmer than the 20th century average. Since we started keeping track back in 1880, only 2002, 2003 and 2007 have had a warmer start to their year.

Yes, that’s this past January we’re talking about. Because, as Philip Bump put it, not everyone lives near you, or was in the direct path of the polar vortex. This handy map from the NOAA neatly demonstrates how, while it might have been cold at your house, most of the world experienced a uncharacteristically balmy January:

So there you go. One final, definitive way to shut down the trolls who keep insisting that global warming can’t be happening because it’s cold outside. Add it to the rest, then let’s be done with this inanity, okay?

Check out map:

long haired freaky people

By The Time Natural Gas Has A Net Climate Benefit You’ll Likely Be Dead And The Climate Ruined

From Think Progress:

By Joe Romm
on February 19, 2014

The evidence is mounting that natural gas has no net climate benefit in any timescale that matters to humanity. In the real world, natural gas is not a “bridge” fuel to a carbon-free economy for two key reasons. 

First, natural gas is mostly methane, (CH4), a super-potent greenhouse gas, which traps 86 times as much heat as CO2 over a 20-year period. So even small leaks in the natural gas production and delivery system can have a large climate impact — enough to gut the entire benefit of switching from coal-fired power to gas. 

Sadly as a comprehensive new Stanford study reconfirms, “America’s natural gas system is leaky.” The news release explains:
A review of more than 200 earlier studies confirms that U.S. emissions of methane are considerably higher than official estimates. Leaks from the nation’s natural gas system are an important part of the problem.
Second, natural gas doesn’t just displace coal — it also displaces carbon-free sources of power such as renewable energy, nuclear power, and energy efficiency. A recent analysis finds that effect has been large enough recently to wipe out almost the entire climate benefit from increasing natural gas use in the utility sector if the leakage rate is only 1.2 percent (comparable to the EPA’s now discredited new lowball estimate).

In fact, as a major paper we reported on in November found, “The US EPA recently decreased its CH4 emission factors for fossil fuel extraction and processing by 25–30% (for 1990–2011), but we find that CH4 data from across North America instead indicate the need for a larger adjustment of the opposite sign.”

The new study in Science “Methane Leaks from North American Natural Gas Systems” (subs. req’d) is even more problematic for natural gas as a so-called bridge fuel.

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