claerwen-deactivated20111214
teemafbaby:androphilia:


When Democracy Weakens | NYTimes.com
By BOB HERBERT February 11, 2011
As the throngs celebrated in Cairo, I couldn’t help wondering about what  is happening to democracy here in the United States. I think it’s on  the ropes. We’re in serious danger of becoming a democracy in name only.
While millions of ordinary Americans are struggling with unemployment  and declining standards of living, the levers of real power have been  all but completely commandeered by the financial and corporate elite. It  doesn’t really matter what ordinary people want. The wealthy call the  tune, and the politicians dance.
So what we get in this democracy of ours are astounding and increasingly  obscene tax breaks and other windfall benefits for the wealthiest,  while the bought-and-paid-for politicians hack away at essential public  services and the social safety net, saying we can’t afford them. One  state after another is reporting that it cannot pay its bills. Public  employees across the country are walking the plank by the tens of  thousands. Camden, N.J., a stricken city with a serious crime problem,  laid off nearly half of its police force. Medicaid, the program that  provides health benefits to the poor, is under savage assault from  nearly all quarters.
The poor, who are suffering from an all-out depression, are never heard  from. In terms of their clout, they might as well not exist. The Obama  forces reportedly want to raise a billion dollars or more for the  president’s re-election bid. Politicians in search of that kind of cash  won’t be talking much about the wants and needs of the poor. They’ll be  genuflecting before the very rich.
In an Op-Ed article in The Times at the end of January, Senator John  Kerry said that the Egyptian people “have made clear they will settle  for nothing less than greater democracy and more economic  opportunities.” Americans are being asked to swallow exactly the  opposite. In the mad rush to privatization over the past few decades,  democracy itself was put up for sale, and the rich were the only ones  who could afford it.
The corporate and financial elites threw astounding sums of money into  campaign contributions and high-priced lobbyists and think tanks and  media buys and anything else they could think of. They wined and dined  powerful leaders of both parties. They flew them on private jets and  wooed them with golf outings and lavish vacations and gave them  high-paying jobs as lobbyists the moment they left the government. All  that money was well spent. The investments paid off big time.
As Jacob Hacker and Paul Pierson wrote in their book, “Winner-Take-All  Politics”: “Step by step and debate by debate, America’s public  officials have rewritten the rules of American politics and the American  economy in ways that have benefited the few at the expense of the  many.”
As if the corporate stranglehold on American democracy were not tight  enough, the Supreme Court strengthened it immeasurably with its Citizens  United decision, which greatly enhanced the already overwhelming power  of corporate money in politics. Ordinary Americans have no real access  to the corridors of power, but you can bet your last Lotto ticket that  your elected officials are listening when the corporate money speaks.
When the game is rigged in your favor, you win. So despite the worst  economic downturn since the Depression, the big corporations are sitting  on mountains of cash, the stock markets are up and all is well among  the plutocrats. The endlessly egregious Koch brothers, David and  Charles, are worth an estimated $35 billion. Yet they seem to feel as  though society has treated them unfairly.
As Jane Mayer pointed out in her celebrated New Yorker article, “The  Kochs are longtime libertarians who believe in drastically lower  personal and corporate taxes, minimal social services for the needy, and  much less oversight of industry  —  especially environmental  regulation.” (A good hard look at their air-pollution record would make  you sick.)
It’s a perversion of democracy, indeed, when individuals like the Kochs  have so much clout while the many millions of ordinary Americans have so  little. What the Kochs want is coming to pass. Extend the tax cuts for  the rich? No problem. Cut services to the poor, the sick, the young and  the disabled? Check. Can we get you anything else, gentlemen?
The Egyptians want to establish a viable democracy, and that’s a long,  hard road. Americans are in the mind-bogglingly self-destructive process  of letting a real democracy slip away.
I had lunch with the historian Howard Zinn just a few weeks before he  died in January 2010. He was chagrined about the state of affairs in the  U.S. but not at all daunted. “If there is going to be change,” he said,  “real change, it will have to work its way from the bottom up, from the  people themselves.”
I thought of that as I watched the coverage of the ecstatic celebrations in the streets of Cairo.

teemafbaby:androphilia:

When Democracy Weakens | NYTimes.com

By BOB HERBERT
February 11, 2011

As the throngs celebrated in Cairo, I couldn’t help wondering about what is happening to democracy here in the United States. I think it’s on the ropes. We’re in serious danger of becoming a democracy in name only.

While millions of ordinary Americans are struggling with unemployment and declining standards of living, the levers of real power have been all but completely commandeered by the financial and corporate elite. It doesn’t really matter what ordinary people want. The wealthy call the tune, and the politicians dance.

So what we get in this democracy of ours are astounding and increasingly obscene tax breaks and other windfall benefits for the wealthiest, while the bought-and-paid-for politicians hack away at essential public services and the social safety net, saying we can’t afford them. One state after another is reporting that it cannot pay its bills. Public employees across the country are walking the plank by the tens of thousands. Camden, N.J., a stricken city with a serious crime problem, laid off nearly half of its police force. Medicaid, the program that provides health benefits to the poor, is under savage assault from nearly all quarters.

The poor, who are suffering from an all-out depression, are never heard from. In terms of their clout, they might as well not exist. The Obama forces reportedly want to raise a billion dollars or more for the president’s re-election bid. Politicians in search of that kind of cash won’t be talking much about the wants and needs of the poor. They’ll be genuflecting before the very rich.

In an Op-Ed article in The Times at the end of January, Senator John Kerry said that the Egyptian people “have made clear they will settle for nothing less than greater democracy and more economic opportunities.” Americans are being asked to swallow exactly the opposite. In the mad rush to privatization over the past few decades, democracy itself was put up for sale, and the rich were the only ones who could afford it.

The corporate and financial elites threw astounding sums of money into campaign contributions and high-priced lobbyists and think tanks and media buys and anything else they could think of. They wined and dined powerful leaders of both parties. They flew them on private jets and wooed them with golf outings and lavish vacations and gave them high-paying jobs as lobbyists the moment they left the government. All that money was well spent. The investments paid off big time.

As Jacob Hacker and Paul Pierson wrote in their book, “Winner-Take-All Politics”: “Step by step and debate by debate, America’s public officials have rewritten the rules of American politics and the American economy in ways that have benefited the few at the expense of the many.”

As if the corporate stranglehold on American democracy were not tight enough, the Supreme Court strengthened it immeasurably with its Citizens United decision, which greatly enhanced the already overwhelming power of corporate money in politics. Ordinary Americans have no real access to the corridors of power, but you can bet your last Lotto ticket that your elected officials are listening when the corporate money speaks.

When the game is rigged in your favor, you win. So despite the worst economic downturn since the Depression, the big corporations are sitting on mountains of cash, the stock markets are up and all is well among the plutocrats. The endlessly egregious Koch brothers, David and Charles, are worth an estimated $35 billion. Yet they seem to feel as though society has treated them unfairly.

As Jane Mayer pointed out in her celebrated New Yorker article, “The Kochs are longtime libertarians who believe in drastically lower personal and corporate taxes, minimal social services for the needy, and much less oversight of industry — especially environmental regulation.” (A good hard look at their air-pollution record would make you sick.)

It’s a perversion of democracy, indeed, when individuals like the Kochs have so much clout while the many millions of ordinary Americans have so little. What the Kochs want is coming to pass. Extend the tax cuts for the rich? No problem. Cut services to the poor, the sick, the young and the disabled? Check. Can we get you anything else, gentlemen?

The Egyptians want to establish a viable democracy, and that’s a long, hard road. Americans are in the mind-bogglingly self-destructive process of letting a real democracy slip away.

I had lunch with the historian Howard Zinn just a few weeks before he died in January 2010. He was chagrined about the state of affairs in the U.S. but not at all daunted. “If there is going to be change,” he said, “real change, it will have to work its way from the bottom up, from the people themselves.”

I thought of that as I watched the coverage of the ecstatic celebrations in the streets of Cairo.

sufigeek

I find it interesting that if terrorists put a chemical in the food supply that killed a million people, it would be called a great crime against humanity, and we’d probably bomb some nation into dust in retaliation. But when a U.S. food corporation puts chemical additives into the food that ultimately kill a million people through heart disease, cancer, obesity and diabetes, nobody seems to notice.

I find it interesting that if terrorists put a chemical in the food supply that killed a million people, it would be called a great crime against humanity, and we’d probably bomb some nation into dust in retaliation. But when a U.S. food corporation puts chemical additives into the food that ultimately kill a million people through heart disease, cancer, obesity and diabetes, nobody seems to notice.

radicalrevolution

What the Gulf War was to CNN, the people’s revolutions of the Middle East are to Al Jazeera English. But in the U.S., in a sad vestige of the era of Freedom Fries, hardly anyone can watch the channel on cable TV. Cable companies: Add Al Jazeera English NOW!

It is downright un-American to still refuse to carry it. Vital, world-changing news is occurring in the Middle East and no one–not the xenophobic or celebrity-obsessed or cut-to-the-bone American media–can bring the perspective, insight, and on-the-scene reporting Al Jazeera English can.

Media blogger Jeff Jarvis writes that US cable companies should begin carrying Al Jazeera English (via newsflick)

it has been stunning to see al-jazeera’s total dominance in covering and analyzing the events in egypt over the past few days. i was on the phone with my dad when reports that egypt had shut down internet access in the country began to circulate. “i don’t see it on nytimes or cnn or msnbc,” dad said. “oh, you have to go to al-jazeera,” i told him. there was a beat. “the information world is really different from when i grew up,” he said.

i’ve had the al-jazeera english internet feed running almost constantly since friday and it’s where the most consistent, reliable, up to date information is - which is evident in the egyptian government’s efforts to revoke its license, shut down its broadcasting, cut its phone lines, etc.

(via abbyjean)

herzundseele-deactivated2011010

africacompany:

RAMALLAH, West Bank, Nov 19 (Reuters) - Away from the headlines, Palestinians have been trying to advance their statehood agenda in small but symbolic ways in United Nations agencies that fall off the radar for most people.But even on the outer reaches of the sprawling U.N. system, their efforts have been blocked by a United States resolved not to display the slightest tilt toward Palestinians as it tries to act as honest broker in their halting peace talks with Israel.Many Israelis suspect President Barack Obama is bent on establishing a Palestinian state at any cost. But in Ramallah, the seat of the Palestinians’ limited self-rule in the West Bank, they think he’s not as serious about it as he sounds.”We could have gone to voting and got what we wanted,” said Sulaiman Zuhairi, a member ofthe Palestinian delegation last month at a meeting in Mexico of the International Telecommunications Union.He tabled a motion that would have secured them the rights of a member state, and after months of diplomatic preparation, it was endorsed by around 50 countries and was on track to pass with the backing of an additional 40 states.”We asked for the rights and privileges of a state but without being a member state. Let them call us whatever they want, but I wanted all the rights of a member state,” he said.There were U.S. objections, however, and the Palestinians backed down, fearing the consequences of rocking the boat, which Zuhairi did not detail.

There was no comment from the U.S. State Department on his account. But the U.S. objections were consistent with a long-standing policy that treats the stateless Palestinians as no more than an observer member of the United Nations.

That includes Palestinian efforts to force the diplomatic agenda. Palestinian officials say even small steps in the obscure U.N. agencies have been quashed as a potentially harmful to the carefully balanced twin-track policy.When the Palestinians in September made their first bid for full access to the UNESCO committee where states may seek the return of antiquities, their representative Hamdan Taha hoped to use the body to pursue the recovery of tens of thousands of artefacts removed during the Israeli occupation.Their proposal would have allowed the Palestinians and the Vatican, which both have observer status, to table their concerns in the same way as member states, said Taha.But the U.S. representative alone opposed the idea, he said.”In the U.S. intervention, it was noted that the change Palestine had demanded introduced a new element. It wasn’t a complete rejection, but an attempt to delay the discussion.”

so-treu
cuntymint:

This controversial book by Ivan Van Sertima, the Guyanese historian, linguist, and anthropologist, claims that Africans had been to the New World centuries before Columbus arrived there in 1492. Citing—among other things—the huge Negroid-looking Olmec heads of Central Mexico and the similarities between the Aztec and Egyptian calendars and pyramid structures, Van Sertima pieces together a hidden history of pre-Columbian contact between Africans and Native Americans. He also puts forth the possibility that Columbus may have already known about a route to the Americas from his years in Africa as a trader in Guinea. The ideas in this book have been debated and discussed since its first publication in 1976; even those who choose not to believe Van Sertima’s theories should take his argument seriously. —Eugene Holley, Jr.
PDF here: 
http://www.google.com/url?sa=t&source=web&cd=5&sqi=2&ved=0CDgQFjAE&url=http%3A%2F%2Folmec98.net%2FbeforeColumbus.pdf&ei=0YncTO7ZBIX0tgOusom4Bw&usg=AFQjCNGeQPgIeQJ5ToOnUq9Te3Jczq6nqQ&sig2=0tIDkc0HZpe2bEA9Y6uI1g

There’s much to be said on this that is supported by the history of Muslims on the African continent, ‘gotta do more research before i step into this one though. Nice post, CM.

cuntymint:

This controversial book by Ivan Van Sertima, the Guyanese historian, linguist, and anthropologist, claims that Africans had been to the New World centuries before Columbus arrived there in 1492. Citing—among other things—the huge Negroid-looking Olmec heads of Central Mexico and the similarities between the Aztec and Egyptian calendars and pyramid structures, Van Sertima pieces together a hidden history of pre-Columbian contact between Africans and Native Americans. He also puts forth the possibility that Columbus may have already known about a route to the Americas from his years in Africa as a trader in Guinea. The ideas in this book have been debated and discussed since its first publication in 1976; even those who choose not to believe Van Sertima’s theories should take his argument seriously. —Eugene Holley, Jr.

PDF here: 

http://www.google.com/url?sa=t&source=web&cd=5&sqi=2&ved=0CDgQFjAE&url=http%3A%2F%2Folmec98.net%2FbeforeColumbus.pdf&ei=0YncTO7ZBIX0tgOusom4Bw&usg=AFQjCNGeQPgIeQJ5ToOnUq9Te3Jczq6nqQ&sig2=0tIDkc0HZpe2bEA9Y6uI1g

There’s much to be said on this that is supported by the history of Muslims on the African continent, ‘gotta do more research before i step into this one though. Nice post, CM.

vruz

vruz:

by Andrew Sullivan, The Daily Dish / The Atlantic

The NYT’s account of systemic use of torture largely by Shiites on Sunnis, revealed in the Wikileaks doc-dump, is here. It’s horrifying - along the lines of Abu Ghraib and Bagram, but also, in many cases, even worse and cruder. It occurred during US occupation of the country; although most of the torture was perpetrated by Iraqi security forces, and although on occasion American forces prevented torture, some occurred under American control, and there was inevitable enmeshment as they fought alongside:

The documents show that Americans did sometimes use the threat of abuse by Iraqi authorities to get information out of prisoners. One report said an American threatened to send a detainee to the notorious Wolf Brigade, a particularly violent Iraqi police unit, if he did not supply information.

[…]

Ambers has a summary here. The Guardian:

In two Iraqi cases postmortems revealed evidence of death by torture. On 27 August 2009 a US medical officer found “bruises and burns as well as visible injuries to the head, arm, torso, legs and neck” on the body of one man claimed by police to have killed himself. On 3 December 2008 another detainee, said by police to have died of “bad kidneys”, was found to have “evidence of some type of unknown surgical procedure on [his] abdomen”.

The forces that conducted these horrific acts are the forces we are handing the country over to. History will harshly judge this war, and those of us who supported it, its long-term strategic effect, and so forth. In particular, it appears, that one of the main actors was Iran, and Iran has emerged as the core winner. But the hell unleashed by the incompetent occupation led to over 100,000 often gruesome civilian deaths in what was a nation-wide bloodbath of almost frenzied proportions.

I think it can be said, now more forcefully than ever, that whatever moral legitimacy this war once had is now gone forever.

It was worse than a mistake. It was, in many ways, a crime.

vruz: time for war crime tribunals, Bush, Blair and Cheney.  doesn’t matter you’re a friend of the nazi pope, Tony.

now you see why robert gates hates wikileaks so much.

it’ll seriously be the day when the Bush Admin. and the policy-makers responsible for orchestrating the lie that was the invasion of Iraq, and the subsequent civil disintegration and sectarian chaos, are finally held responsible for their actions, put on trial, and, most importantly, are found guilty and punished for all their evils.

notthebarefootcontessa
dominickbrady:

Wow indeed.
brain-food:

Here is a Georgia State Trooper in riot gear at a KKK protest in a north Georgia city back in the 80s. The Trooper is black. Standing in front of him and touching his shield is a curious little boy dressed in a Klan hood and robe. I have stared at this picture and wondered what must have been going through that Trooper’s mind. Before the Trooper is an innocent child who is being taught to hate him because of the color of his skin. The child doesn’t understand what he is being taught, and at this point he doesn’t seem to care. Like any other child his curiosity takes hold and he wants to explore this new thing that this man is holding probably because he can see his reflection in it and that’s a neat thing and he wants to check it out. In this picture I see innocence mixed with hate, the irony of a black man protecting the right of white people to assemble in protest against him, temperance in the face of ignorance, and hope that racism can be broken because this young boy may remember that a black man smiled at him once and he didn’t seem so bad after all.
(Picture source)(Paragraph source)

Wow. 

dominickbrady:

Wow indeed.

brain-food:

Here is a Georgia State Trooper in riot gear at a KKK protest in a north Georgia city back in the 80s. The Trooper is black. Standing in front of him and touching his shield is a curious little boy dressed in a Klan hood and robe. I have stared at this picture and wondered what must have been going through that Trooper’s mind. Before the Trooper is an innocent child who is being taught to hate him because of the color of his skin. The child doesn’t understand what he is being taught, and at this point he doesn’t seem to care. Like any other child his curiosity takes hold and he wants to explore this new thing that this man is holding probably because he can see his reflection in it and that’s a neat thing and he wants to check it out. In this picture I see innocence mixed with hate, the irony of a black man protecting the right of white people to assemble in protest against him, temperance in the face of ignorance, and hope that racism can be broken because this young boy may remember that a black man smiled at him once and he didn’t seem so bad after all.

(Picture source)
(Paragraph source)

Wow. 

qexwejbey:

afghanipoppy:

The transaction would involve providing or refurbishing some 150 F-15 fighter jets as well as selling Saudi Arabia dozens of Black Hawk and Apache helicopters, and, probably at a later date, naval and missile defense assets.

Following discussions between Robert Gates, US defence secretary, and Ehud Barak, his Israeli counterpart, Washington has agreed to restrict the F-15s’ capability to hit distant targets, so as to pose less of a threat to Israel.

Last month the US also announced a deal worth up to $15.2bn in which it would sell Israel F-35 Joint Strike Fighters, which are more advanced than the F-15.

“We have discussed this issue within the broader context of the US’s commitment to maintain Israel’s military edge and, even though we are not thrilled about it, the US has taken note of our concerns,” said an Israeli official.

This is all being done to stabilize an Iranian nuclear threat. Hey America, here’s a crazy idea, why don’t you try denuclearizing yourself and Israel first rather than loading up more shiny toys for the lunatics in Saudiya?

The regional arms build-up also contrasts with the actions of some of the US’s most trusted allies in western Europe, which are in the process of carrying out arms cuts. The UK on Tuesday announced plans to reduce defence spending by 8 per cent by 2015.

Can we start a blog dedicated to trying to figure out who is more evil, the Zionists or the House of Sa’ud? Not that it matters since they are BFF and all, but it would make a pretty rage-filled blog.

In the first fourteen months, down to the “hand-over of sovereignty” and the end of the CPA (“children playing adults,” as the U.S. military contemptuously called the young and inexperienced American staff, most of them chosen by patronage) in June 2004, only $300 million of the U.S. government’s money was actually disbursed, but all of the Iraqi money was spent — althought “spent” is perhaps the wrong word, as it implies an exhange of money for goods or services. Some $12 billion of the Iraqi money was flown from New York to Baghdad in cash — 363 tonnes of one-hundred-dollar bills — and handed out to Iraqi contractors (kickbacks galore), to American contractors with good connections in the Bush administration on inflated cost-plus contracts, and to “government ministries” in Baghdad that barely existed except on paper.

Some $800 million was handed over to the U.S. military commanders for discretionary spending without being counted or even weighed. Another $1.4 billion was flown from Baghdad to the Kurdish regional government in Irbil, and has not been seen since. The $8.8 billion that passed through the new government ministries in Baghdad during the reign of the CPA has never been accounted for, and there is little prospect of finding out where it went. The Defence Ministry’s $1.3 billion procurement budget for 2005 vanished completely, together with the defence minister and the procurement chief: “It is possibly one of the biggest thefts in history,” said Ali Allawi, finance minister at the time. The CPA itself kept one fund of nearly $600 million in cash for which there is simply no paper-work, and in the final month before it left Iraq, it managed to get rid of the last $5 billion of Iraq’s money, most of it in contracts let without tender to American corporations with contacts in the White House. Auditors were not appointed until April 2004, and were not allowed to see the CPA’s accounts, such as they were, until it had disbanded and gone home. It is likely that more money was stolen in the first year of the occupation of Iraq than Mobutu Sese Seko managed to steal in thirty-two years of looting the Congo.

Gwynne Dyer, The Mess They Made: The Middle East After Iraq [pg. 18-19]

Under Security Council Resolution 1483, passed on May 22nd, 2003, the United Nations transferred some $23 billion of Iraqi money derived from frozen Iraqi bank accounts, seized Iraqi assets, and Iraqi oil sales into a “Development Fund for Iraq” and put it in the hands of the CPA.

Again, one more time for emphasis: “It is likely that more money was stolen in the first year of the occupation of Iraq than Mobutu Sese Seko managed to steal in thirty-two years of looting the Congo.

The American occupation of Iraq: a robbery like no other.