I have never understood why this can possibly be allowed under our constitution, but it is:
EARLIER this year Sarah Stillman wrote a first-rate piece in the New Yorker on the abuses of civil asset forfeiture—a practice wherein police seize and keep the property of people who have not been convicted of a crime. The piece opens with the story of Jennifer Boatright and Ron Henderson, who had their cash taken by authorities in the small town of Tenaha because they "fit the profile of drug couriers", even though no drugs were found in their car nor were they charged with any crime. Despite this, Ms Stillman writes, "The basic principle behind asset forfeiture is appealing. It enables authorities to confiscate cash or property obtained through illicit means, and, in many states, funnel the proceeds directly into the fight against crime."
Those two sentences are true only to the extent that the two key qualifiers in them are true. The first is "obtained through illicit means". That strongly implies not civil, but criminal asset forfeiture, referring to the seizure of property proven in a court of law to have been obtained through illicit means, not to the seizure of whatever property police can concoct a semi-plausible excuse to grab. The standards for civil asset forfeiture are far lower, as Ms Stillman andothershaveinfuriatinglydetailed. Police do not have to successfully prosecute someone, or even charge them with a crime, to seize their assets. The second is "funnel the proceeds directly into the fight against crime." Using a convicted trafficker's Escalade for stakeouts has a certain poetic justice.
Using forfeiture funds as the district attorney's (DA) office in Fulton County, which covers most of Atlanta, is alleged to have done, does not. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution has the sordid details: $5,600 on a Christmas party; $1,100 for flowers; $3,200 for "sirloin beef tip roast, roasted turkey breast and mini crab cakes with champagne sauce"; $8,200 on a security system for the home of Paul Howard, Fulton's DA; $4,800 for a holiday awards gala held at a "historic Midtown mansion". Mr Howard insists that he has done nothing wrong and that he has wide discretion in how he spends.
This convenient way of financing police agencies' "finer things" first came to my attention over 20 years ago when I first read about the Donald Scott case right here in Malibu:
Early on the morning of October 2, 1992, 31 officers from the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department, Drug Enforcement Administration, Border Patrol, National Guard and Park Service entered the Scott's 200-acre ranch. They planned to arrest Scott for allegedly running a 4,000-plant marijuana plantation. When deputies broke down the door to Scott's house, Scott's wife would later tell reporters, she screamed, "Don't shoot me. Don't kill me."That brought Scott staggering out of the bedroom, blurry-eyed from a cataract operation—holding a .38 caliber Colt snub-nosed revolver over his head. When he emerged at the top of the stairs, holding his gun over his head, the officers told him to lower the gun. As he did, they shot him to death. According to the official report, the gun was pointed at the officers when they shot him.
Later, the lead agent in the case, sheriff's deputy Gary Spencer and his partner John Cater posed for photographs smiling arm-in-arm outside Scott's cabin.
Despite a subsequent search of Scott's ranch using helicopters, dogs, searchers on foot, and a high-tech Jet Propulsion Laboratory device for detecting trace amounts of sinsemilla, no marijuana—or any other illegal drug—was found.
Scott's widow, the former Frances Plante, along with four of Scott's children from previous marriages, subsequently filed a $100 million wrongful death suit against the county and federal government. For eight years the case dragged on, requiring the services of 15 attorneys and some 30 volume binders to hold all the court documents. In January 2000, attorneys for Los Angeles County and the federal government agreed to settle with Scott's heirs and estate for $5 million, even though the sheriff's department still maintained its deputies had done nothing wrong.
Michael D. Bradbury, the District Attorney of Ventura County conducted an investigation into the raid and the aftermath, issuing a report on the events leading up to and on October 2, 1992. He concluded that asset forfeiture was a motive for the raid.
The Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department issued their own report in response, clearing everyone involved of wrongdoing while California Attorney General Dan Lungren criticized District Attorney Bradbury. Sheriff Spencer sued D.A. Bradbury for defamation in response to the report. The court ruled in favor of Michael Bradbury and ordered Sheriff Spencer to pay $50,000 in Bradbury's legal bills.
I frankly don't care if they are using the money to buy new SWAT uniforms or pay for swanky parties at the Ritz-Carlton. Police agencies should not have the power to confiscate people's property without due process --- and that means the people in question must be convicted of a crime. It should happen under the aegis of the courts and the assets should not go directly to those who did the confiscating. This is a recipe for official thievery.
The incentives for the sort of misconduct in the examples cited above are obvious. And they are yet another symptom of a justice system that is corrupt and unaccountable. Perhaps it has always been this way, in one respect or another but there's just no excuse for allowing the police to run over the 4th Amendment in a tactical vehicle and then seize the spoils for themselves. Those are the actions of a mercenary army, not police agencies of a democratic republic.
You're not doing your daughters any favors with this stuff, daddies.
I'm sure the intention here is good humor and fatherly concern. It's natural to want to protect your children and I think fathers are especially protective of their little girls.
But this list is an awful lesson for both teen-age boys and teen-age girls. Girls aren't inanimate objects and daughters are not daddy's property. In fact, you could easily substitute "borrow my car" for "date my daughter" in that list and it would make perfect sense. They should be acknowledged as having equal agency in all this. And boys shouldn't be "negotiating" privileges with a girl's father. She's a person and if either boyfriend or daddy are going to be doing any negotiating, it should be with her.
It reminds me of the purity balls especially the princess/conquest thing which, again, reduces the girl in this picture to daddy's private property. It's antediluvian, patriarchal claptrap and modern men should know better. If you have those thoughts, keep them to yourselves and try to help create a world where your daughters don't have to fight to be seen as equal citizens.
Since there are obviously not enough jobs for all the unemployed to fill them, he can only be saying they need to immediately start their new careers as robbers and whores in order to keep food on the table and a roof over their heads:
Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) said Sunday he opposes extending unemployment benefits for workers, arguing that it would be a "disservice" to jobless individuals.
"I do support unemployment benefits for the 26 weeks that they're paid for. If you extend it beyond that, you do a disservice to these workers," he said in an interview on "Fox News Sunday."
It's this twisted Randroid sanctimony that really gets to me. It's bad enough that this creep thinks the unemployed are parasites and moochers. But he has the brass balls to adopt a disgustingly unctuous "compassionate" tone to suggest that he's following Christian teachings by throwing them out on the street.
Several years ago, a senior officer in the CIA clandestine service attended a closed-door conference for overseas operatives. Speakers included case officers who were working in the manner Hollywood usually portrays spies — out on their own.
Most CIA officers abroad pose as U.S. diplomats. But those given what's called non-official cover are known as NOCs, pronounced "knocks," and they typically pose as business executives. At the forum, the NOCs spoke of their cover jobs, their false identities and measures taken to protect them. Few said much about gathering intelligence.
A colleague passed a caustic note to the senior officer. "Lots of business," it read. "Little espionage."
Twelve years after the CIA began a major push to get its operatives out of embassy cubicles and into foreign universities, businesses and other local perches to collect intelligence on terrorists and rogue nations, the effort has been a disappointment, current and former U.S. officials say. Along with other parts of the CIA, the budget of the so-called Global Deployment Initiative, which covers the NOC program, is now being cut.
"It was a colossal flop," a former senior CIA official said in sentiments echoed by a dozen former colleagues, most of whom spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss a classified program.
The CIA spent at least $3 billion on the program, and the number of specially trained spies grew from dozens to hundreds. The entire clandestine service is believed to total about 5,000 people.
But because of inexperience, bureaucratic hurdles, lack of language skills and other problems, only a few of the deep-cover officers recruited useful intelligence sources, several former officers said.
Apparently, the people of Iran (where most of this was focused) are watching Hollywood movies too and exposed most of these spies who were then brought back to the US.
This is unfortunate. Assuming any powerful nation will spy on other countries, this form of HUMINT is the traditional way it's done, with the use of people with knowledge of the relevant culture and politics using well honed skills to seek specific information on the ground. That's a form of intelligence gathering that relies on the heuristic abilities of human beings which, in my opinion, are a lot more nuanced and sophisticated than the NSA dragnet computer models can possibly be.
But that takes training and long term commitment and we don't really want to bother with that when we can spy on everyone in the world and draw conclusions from inferences based upon who knows who and where they drink their coffee. Let's just say the possibility of error is at least as great with this huge data collection as it is when relying on trained spies on the ground. And I would guess that the possibility of missing something more important is greater. Computer analysis is only as good as what it's programmed to analyze. Human beings on the ground would always have a subtler grasp on the reality of any threat.
But it didn't work out apparently. So we're going with this instead:
Aside from the obvious authoritarian concerns I really have to wonder if reliance on this fancy high tech intelligence gathering is going to end up making us less able to understand the complex nature of what it is we're supposed to be spying on: namely, human beings.
Maybe we should have a public-public partnership on health, not a public-private one?
by David Atkins
This is the sort of thing that happens when you do ill-advised public-private kludges instead of commonsense Medicare-style deals between the public and their government:
The California health exchange says it's been giving the names of tens of thousands of consumers to insurance agents without their permission or knowledge in an effort to hit deadlines for coverage.
The consumers in question had gone online to research insurance options but didn't ask to be contacted, the Los Angeles Times reported Saturday (http://lat.ms/1jyABXS ).
Officials with Covered California, the exchange set up in response to the federal health law, said they began providing names, addresses, phone numbers and email addresses if available this week in a pilot program. They said they thought it would help people meet a Dec. 23 deadline to have health insurance in place by Jan. 1.
The state doesn't know exactly how many people are affected by the information sharing. Social Security numbers, income and other information were not provided to the agents, exchange officials said.
The pilot program meets privacy laws and was cleared by the exchange's legal counsel, Peter Lee, executive director of Covered California, told the Times.
But some insurance brokers and consumers weren't pleased with the state's initiative.
"I'm shocked and dumbfounded," said Sam Smith, an Encino insurance broker and president of the California Association of Health Underwriters, an industry group.
"These people would have a legitimate complaint," said Smith, who added he had been given two consumer names.
It's not the biggest deal in the world, but it is a problem. Privacy is at far greater risk when the government is forced to rely on private services that should be a one-stop efficient contract between the people and their elected government.
While obscured in public memory by the (relatively) more "recent" 1993 Branch Davidian siege in Waco, the eerily similar demise of the Philadelphia-based MOVE organization 8 years earlier was no less tragic on a human level, nor any less disconcerting in its ominous socio-political implications. In an enlightening new documentary called Let the Fire Burn, director Jason Osder has parsed a trove of archival "live-at-the-scene" TV reports, deposition videos, law enforcement surveillance footage, and other sundry "found" footage (much of it previously unseen by the general public) and created a tight narrative that plays like an edge-of-your-seat political thriller.
Depending upon whom you might ask, MOVE was an "organization", a "religious cult", a "radical group", or all of the above. The biggest question in my mind (and one the film doesn't necessarily delve into) is whether it was another example of psychotic entelechy. So what is "psychotic entelechy", exactly? Well, according to Stan A. Lindsay, the author of Psychotic Entelechy: The Dangers of Spiritual Gifts Theology, it would be
...the tendency of some individuals to be so desirous of fulfilling or bringing to perfection the implications of their terminologies that they engage in very hazardous or damaging actions.
In the context of Lindsay's book, he is expanding on some of the ideas laid down by literary theorist Kenneth Burke and applying them to possibly explain the self-destructive traits shared by the charismatic leaders of modern-day cults like The People's Temple, Order of the Solar Tradition, Heaven's Gate, and The Branch Davidians. He ponders whether all the tragic deaths that resulted should be labeled as "suicides, murders, or accidents". Whether MOVE belongs on that list is perhaps debatable, but in Osder's film, you do get the sense that leader John Africa (an adapted surname that all followers used) was a charismatic person. He founded the group in 1972, based on an odd hodge-podge of tenets borrowed from Rastafarianism, Black Nationalism and green politics; with a Luddite view of technology (think ELF meets the Panthers...by way of the Amish). Toss in some vaguely egalitarian philosophies about communal living, and I think you're there.
The group, which shared a town house, largely kept itself to itself (at least at first) but started to draw the attention of Philadelphia law enforcement when a number of their neighbors began expressing concern to the authorities about sanitation issues (the group built compost piles around their building using refuse and human excrement) and the distressing appearance of possible malnutrition amongst the children of the commune (some of the footage in the film would seem to bear out the latter claim). The city engaged in a year-long bureaucratic standoff with MOVE over their refusal to vacate, culminating in an attempted forced removal turned-gun battle with police in 1978 that left one officer dead. Nine MOVE members were convicted of 3rd-degree murder and jailed.
The remaining members of MOVE relocated their HQ, but it didn’t take long to wear out their welcome with the new neighbors (John Africa’s strange, rambling political harangues, delivered via loudspeakers mounted outside the MOVE house certainly didn’t help). Africa and his followers began to develop a siege mentality, shuttering up all the windows and constructing a makeshift pillbox style bunker on the roof. Naturally, these actions only served to ratchet up the tension and goad local law enforcement. On May 13, 1985 it all came to a head when a heavily armed contingent of cops moved in, ostensibly to arrest MOVE members on a number of indictments. Anyone who remembers the shocking news footage knows that the day did not end well. Gunfire was exchanged after tear gas and high-pressure water hoses failed to end the standoff, so authorities decided to take a little shortcut and drop a satchel of C-4 onto the roof of the building. 11 MOVE members (including 5 children) died in the resulting inferno, which consumed 61 homes.
Putting aside any debate or speculation for a moment over whether or not John Africa and his disciples were deranged criminals, or whether or not the group’s actions were self-consciously provocative or politically convoluted, one simple fact remains and bears repeating: “Someone” decided that it was a perfectly acceptable action plan, in the middle of a dense residential neighborhood (located in the City of Brotherly Love, no less) to drop a bomb on a building with children inside it. Even more appalling is the callous indifference and casual racism displayed by some of the officials and police who are seen in the film testifying before the Mayor’s investigative commission (the sole ray of light, one compassionate officer who braved crossfire to help a young boy escape the burning building, was chastised by fellow officers afterward as a “nigger lover” for his trouble).
Let the Fire Burn is not only an essential document of a true American tragedy, but a cautionary tale and vital reminder of how far we still have to go in purging the vestiges of institutional racism in this country (1985 was not really that long ago). In a weird bit of Kismet, I saw this film the day before Nelson Mandela’s passing, which has of course prompted a stream of retrospectives on the history of Apartheid on the nightly news. Did you know that in 1985, there was a raging debate over whether we should impose sanctions on South Africa? (*sigh*) Sometimes…you can’t see the forest for the trees.
Think of it as the CIA’s plunge into Hollywood -- or into the absurd. As recent revelations have made clear, that Agency’s moves couldn’t be have been more far-fetched or more real. In its post-9/11 global shadow war, it has employed both private contractors and some of the world’s most notorious prisoners in ways that leave the latest episode of the Bourne films in the dust: hired gunmen trained to kill as well as former inmates who cashed in on the notoriety of having worn an orange jumpsuit in the world's most infamous jail.
The first group of undercover agents were recruited by private companies from the Army Special Forces and the Navy SEALs and then repurposed to the CIA at handsome salaries averaging around $140,000 a year; the second crew was recruited from the prison cells at Guantanamo Bay and paid out of a secret multimillion dollar slush fund called “the Pledge.”
Last month, the Associated Press revealed that the CIA had selected a few dozen men from among the hundreds of terror suspects being held at Guantanamo and trained them to be double agents at a cluster of eight cottages in a program dubbed "Penny Lane." (Yes, indeed, the name was taken from the Beatles song, as was "Strawberry Fields," a Guantanamo program that involved torturing “high-value” detainees.) These men were then returned to what the Bush administration liked to call the “global battlefield,” where their mission was to befriend members of al-Qaeda and supply targeting information for the Agency’s drone assassination program.
Such a secret double-agent program, while colorful and remarkably unsuccessful, should have surprised no one. After all, plea bargaining or persuading criminals to snitch on their associates -- a tactic frowned upon by international legal experts -- is widely used in the U.S. police and legal system. Over the last year or so, however, a trickle of information about the other secret program has come to light and it opens an astonishing new window into the privatization of U.S. intelligence.
In July 2010, at his confirmation hearings for the post of the Director of National Intelligence, James Clapper explained the use of private contractors in the intelligence community: "In the immediate aftermath of the Cold War... we were under a congressional mandate to reduce the community by on the order of 20%... Then 9/11 occurred... With the gusher... of funding that has accrued particularly from supplemental or overseas contingency operations funding, which, of course, is one year at a time, it is very difficult to hire government employees one year at a time. So the obvious outlet for that has been the growth of contractors." (read on ...)
That's obviously a feature not a bug. In fact, there are a lot of people who feel this "dynamic" form of outsourcing makes good sense since defense costs are obviously volatile in a time of war. Except, of course, they aren't are they? They just keep going up. And the "wars" just keep keeping on.
Clapper very conveniently blames the necessity of private contracting on the fact that the government pulled back intelligence funding in the aftermath of the Cold War. But think about that. We know now that the cold war was hyped unmercifully and the level of overkill had been massive for decades. The pullback in funding was hardly precipitous and spending never came back down to a reasonable level. The idea that they were hurting for resources is absolute nonsense.
The real problem then, for this sector, was that there existed official entities with whom we could mutually agree that the "war", such as it was, had ended and precipitate some small shrinking of spending on defense. And that's not going to be possible with the war on terror, is it? Again, feature not bug. They won't make that mistake again.
Some people knew how this would go a long time ago:
Until the latest of our world conflicts, the United States had no armaments industry. American makers of plowshares could, with time and as required, make swords as well. But now we can no longer risk emergency improvisation of national defense; we have been compelled to create a permanent armaments industry of vast proportions. Added to this, three and a half million men and women are directly engaged in the defense establishment. We annually spend on military security more than the net income of all United States corporations.
This conjunction of an immense military establishment and a large arms industry is new in the American experience. The total influence -- economic, political, even spiritual -- is felt in every city, every State house, every office of the Federal government. We recognize the imperative need for this development. Yet we must not fail to comprehend its grave implications. Our toil, resources and livelihood are all involved; so is the very structure of our society.
In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the militaryindustrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.
We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted. Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together.
Still true. Unfortunately, those who try to inform the people are labeled traitors.
. digby 12/07/2013 04:00:00 PM
A correction from us now. On Wednesday during a discussion on our roundtable about Vice President Biden I tried to make the point that despite his substantive work, the media perhaps too often focuses on his gaffes. In doing so, I did him and you the exact same ill service by not providing the proper context for a quick sound bite we aired. The vice president had been attending an event in Japan aimed at highlighting efforts to reduce the percentage of Japanese women, currently at 60 percent, who quit their jobs after the birth of their first child. An important context for you to have known before we showed you the vice president asking some female workers there how their husbands like them working full-time. Again, we were trying to make the point that the VP perhaps deserved a more fair shake but then I inadvertently, ironically, perhaps even hypocritically, did the same thing. I regret the error and apologize to the vice president and to you, the viewer.
On December 3. Biden visited the Toyko headquarters of the Japanese company DeNA. According to the Wall Street Journal, that firm "is known for encouraging its female employees to continue working through motherhood," and Biden was there to "meet with its female employees to chat about achieving a work-life balance in a country where 60% of women don't return to work after giving birth." As part of that dialogue, Biden asked a group of five young female employees, "Do your husbands like you working full time?" Illustrating the vulnerability of journalists working in the current media environment, numerous media outlets ripped Biden's comments from their context and presented them as a sexist gaffe.
That dishonest framing reached CNN the same day, when Crossfire's Gingrich tried to use them to diffuse criticism of the GOP's toxic rhetoric on women. He commented: "Democrats like to complain about a Republican war on women. That was before Vice President Joe Biden started his current tour of Japan. Today, while touring a Japanese game company, he walked up to a group of women and asked them, 'Do your husbands like you working full-time?'" Gingrich used Biden's comments to ask, "How do you explain Biden's inability to stay in touch with reality?"
So the first thing out of the box after President Obama's big speech on inequality is a big push for "fast-tracking" a new international trade deal called the Trans Pacific Pact (TPP.) It almost makes you want to laugh it's so predictable. So, it's time to get up to speed on this deal and Dave Johnson has done the research for you, with charts, graphs, links and a short primer on what it all means and what you can do.
I had an interesting conversation the other night with someone who was recently in the administration who tells me that the bipartisan consensus on these trade deals in Washington is so entrenched (indeed, has been so entrenched ever since the logjam was broken around NAFTA) that it's impossible to imagine that this won't ultimately go through. We don't know that for sure, of course. New coalitions and strangely self-defeating obstructionism seems to be the rule in the congress these days, so maybe the Tea Partiers will find a way to save the day. But assuming this is destined to pass in some form, it's still vitally important that "fast track" authority is denied so that the people can look at this thing and have a say in how it's structured. These fast track agreements are completely undemocratic and the trade pacts should allow the people to have input into the details. I know that's inconvenient for the One Percenters, but it's the way our system is supposed to work. As Dave writes, there are ways to improve these deals:
A trade agreement doesn’t have to be bad. A real “trade’ agreement could lift the world’s economy, instead of making exploitation of labor and the environment into a competitive advantage. (“Shut up our we’ll move your job out of the country, too.”) But with all of the stakeholders at the table, we could work out a way around the low wages and lack of environmental protections in some countries. (Make it a trade violation to say “Shut up our we’ll move your job out of the country, too.” Make it a trade violation to lower costs by allowing pollution. Make it a trade violation to block union organizing or deny unemployment benefits or do other things that push wages down. Make it a trade violation to have a continuing trade surplus.)
Click on the link above to see what you can do to help make that happen.
I've noticed over the last few years that it's fairly common to pooh-pooh the concept of privacy. "It's dead already", who needs it, if you've got nothing to hide, etc. In this Facebook world in which people eagerly share every thought that passes through their minds, it almost seems quaint. But it isn't. Privacy is fundamental to being a human being.
This interview with Glenn Greenwald is fascinating for any number of reasons and you should read the whole thing, but I was especially taken with his philosophical approach to this subject considering how important his reporting and analysis on the NSA revelations have been. He said:
I think it's interesting because a lot of times people have difficulty understanding why privacy's important...and so what I try to do is look at human behavior, and what I find, I think, is that the quest for privacy is very pervasive. We do all kinds of things to ensure that we can have a realm in which we can engage in conduct without other people's judgmental eyes being cast upon us.
And if you look at how tyrannies have used surveillance in the past, they don't use surveillance in support of their tyranny in the sense that every single person is being watched at all times, because that just logistically hasn't been able to be done. Even now it can't be done -- I mean, the government can collect everybody's e-mails and calls, but they don't have the resources to monitor them all. But what's important about a surveillance state is that it creates the recognition that your behavior is susceptible to being watched at any time. What that does is radically alter your behavior, because if we can act without other people watching us, we can test all kinds of boundaries, we can explore all kinds of creativity, we can transgress pretty much every limit that we want because nobody's going to know that we're doing it. That's why privacy is so vital to human freedom.
But if we know we're being watched all the time, then we're going to engage in behavior that is acceptable to other people, meaning we're going to conform to orthodoxies and norms. And that's the real menace of a ubiquitous surveillance state: It breeds conformity; it breeds a kind of obedient citizenry, on both a societal and an individual level. That's why tyrannies love surveillance, but it's also why surveillance literally erodes a huge part of what it means to be a free individual.
The Panopticon is a type of institutional building designed by English philosopher and social theorist Jeremy Bentham in the late 18th century. The concept of the design is to allow a single watchman to observe (-opticon) all (pan-) inmates of an institution without them being able to tell whether they are being watched or not. Although it is physically impossible for the single watchman to observe all cells at once, the fact that the inmates cannot know when they are being watched means that all inmates must act as though they are watched at all times, effectively controlling their own behavior constantly. The name is also a reference to Panoptes from Greek mythology; he was a giant with a hundred eyes and thus was known to be a very effective watchman.
The design consists of a circular structure with an “inspection house” at its centre, from which the manager or staff of the institution are able to watch the inmates, who are stationed around the perimeter. Bentham conceived the basic plan as being equally applicable to hospitals, schools, sanatoriums, daycares, and asylums, but he devoted most of his efforts to developing a design for a Panopticon prison, and it is his prison which is most widely understood by the term.
Bentham himself described the Panopticon as “a new mode of obtaining power of mind over mind, in a quantity hitherto without example.” Elsewhere, he described the Panopticon prison as “a mill for grinding rogues honest”.
Ubiquitous government surveillance, whether or not they are actually watching your every move, is by definition a form of authoritarianism. People adjust their behavior even if they don't know they are doing it. It automatically impinges on our basic human freedom.
People used to automatically understand this. I'm not sure when or how that changed but one thing is clear: all this handwringing about "trust in government" is overwrought. Most people seem to think it's just fine if the government has access to information about all of their communications, contacts and movements. And that can only mean they believe the government would never use it against them. And maybe it won't, But somewhere, in that back of all of our minds now, we know that they could. And that automatically changes us, even if we don't know it.
Multiple Democrats on Capitol Hill are worried that House Democratic leaders are close to joining with House GOP leaders to support a bipartisan measure that could undermine the White House’s efforts to reach a long term deal curbing Iran’s nuclear program, I’m told by sources involved in discussions.
The worry is that Dem Rep. Steny Hoyer, the number two House Dem, may join with GOP Rep. Eric Cantor on a resolution or bill that will either criticize the current temporary deal with Iran, or call for a new round of sanctions, or set as U.S. policy some strict parameters on a final deal with Iran, such as opposition to any continued uranium enrichment, House Democratic aides say. House Dems and outside foreign policy observers have communicated such worries to Hoyer’s office, sources add.
Hoyer’s office confirmed to me that Cantor had produced a bill and shared it with him, but declined to discuss details. “Cantor has a bill, and it’s being reviewed by our office,” Hoyer spokesperson Stephanie Young said. “No decisions have been made.” Spokespeople for Cantor didn’t respond.
Any resolution or bill along these lines that has the support of any House Dem leaders would increase the pressure on Senate Democrats to pass a measure of their own, which the White House opposes. And some fear that a measure in the House itself — even if the Senate didn’t act — could have an adverse impact on international talks.
According to reports in the Hill and National Journal, Cantor and House GOP leaders are looking for a way to express opposition to, and put obstacles in the way of, the deal the Obama administration is pursuing. But now that a bill has been produced, and could be joined by Hoyer, that significantly ratchets up worries that Congress could very well act in a way that scuttles hopes for a long term deal.
Those wary of a possible Hoyer-Cantor measure point out that the two have previously collaborated on measures relating to U.S. policy in the middle east.
I've seen some discussions of this saying that, contrary to some assertions in Sargents piece, the congress playing bad cop gives the administration more leverage in a bigger deal. And that might make some sense if it weren't obvious that the Senate could easily derail any deal for real.
Opposition to peace is one thing that always has strong bipartisan support. This is not a good sign.
This story has been out there for a few days now, but it's so outrageous that it bears repeating: Americans aren't just subsidizing the low wages of WalMart and fast food chains by having to publicly assist their hardworking but underpaid employees. We're also subsidizing the banks as well who, despite being outrageously profitable and subsidized in a variety of other ways, are vastly underpaying their tellers:
Almost a third of the country’s half-million bank tellers rely on some form of public assistance to get by, according to a report due out Wednesday.
Researchers say taxpayers are doling out nearly $900 million a year to supplement the wages of bank tellers, which amounts to a public subsidy for multibillion-dollar banks. The workers collect $105 million in food stamps, $250 million through the earned income tax credit and $534 million by way of Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program, according to the University of California at Berkeley’s Labor Center.
The center provided the data to the Committee for Better Banks, a coalition of labor advocacy groups that published the broader study, to be released Wednesday, on the conditions of bank workers in the heart of the financial industry, New York. In the that state alone, 39 percent of tellers and their family members are enrolled in some form of public assistance program, the data show.
“This is the wealthiest and most powerful industry in the world, and it’s substantially subsidized by our tax dollars, money that we could be spending on child care or pre-K,” said Deborah Axt, co-executive director at Make the Road New York, one of four coalition members.
Profits at the nation’s banks topped $141.3 billion last year, with the median chief executive pay hovering around $552,000, according to SNL Financial. In contrast, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics pegs the median annual income of a bank teller at $24,100, or $11.59 an hour.
The government shouldn't be giving billionaire bankers a single dime in exemptions or subsidies without demanding that they pay all their employees a decent living wage. It's an outrage.
Very Serious Republicans: "I know you are but what am I?"
Brad Plumer gives us an update on the budget negotiations which are apparently continuing through the week-end. They are reportedly getting to a compromise that would raise the cap on sequestration a little bit, to be paid for down the road because both parties are afraid of deficits. The little bit of restored money will go equally to discretionary programs and defense in the amount of roughly one trillion dollars.
For perspective, you can see that the goalposts have moved so much that "winning" is now actually below Paul Ryan's original budget.
That worked out well.
But House Republicans could still balk. They want sequestration to be kept in place come hell or high water. And you just won't believe this:
On Friday, 18 House conservatives sent a letter to John Boehner demanding only a "clean" continuing resolution bill that would fund the government at the lower $967 billion level next year and keep sequestration in place (albeit with more flexibility for federal agencies). "The Budget Control Act is the law of the land," they wrote. "Our Democrat colleagues are now threatening to shut the government down in order to change that. We should not permit that to happen."
Chutzpah doesn't even begin to describe that. Any right winger who can use the argument that it's the "law of the land" and accuse the Democrats of threatening to "shut down the government" to change it are such immature imbeciles that they should not be allowed to hold office. This is basically what they're doing:
It's hard to write about politics every day in this era without resorting to insults and seeming hyperbole, which make the writer look "unserious." But if the Objectivist worldview consistently espoused on Fox News and other right-wing media outlets doesn't merit moral outrage, it's hard to know what does outside of outright crimes against humanity. Failing to vituperate against it or savage it with satire normalizes opinions that should be horribly embarrassing to express openly in polite society, much less to promote as political propaganda.
After a November altercation between a law enforcement officer and a high school student left the student in a coma, civil rights groups are urging the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement to ban the use of non-lethal weapons like Tasers and pepper spray on school grounds.
Last month, Sheriff's Deputy Randy McMillan, who was a school resource officer at the time, used a Taser on Noe Nino de Rivera, 17, while trying to break up a fight at Cedar Creek High School in Bastrop County, Texas. After receiving the shock from the stun gun, the teenager fell to the ground and suffered a traumatic brain injury, according to the Austin American-Statesman. The teen remains in a medically induced coma.
Remember, tasers save lives. Because before they had tasers, school officials just had to shoot high school students to break up fights. They had no choice. Now, at least, they're only in comas.
The bill by Rep. Jack Kingston (R-Ga.) would require unemployment claimants to pass a drug test if they are identified in an initial screening as having a high probability of drug use...
Kingston cited an overwhelming number of job applicants flunking drug tests as the rationale for his proposal.
"I had an employer tell me of an overwhelming response for job openings," Kingston said in a statement. "There was just one problem: half the people who applied could not even pass a drug test."
Unfortunately for him, he's now forced to run against someone who is even more of a right wing nutjob than he is:
On January 7, second-term Republican Rep. Paul Broun of Georgia and two friends prayed over a door. It was not just any door, but the entranceway beneath the Capitol that President-elect Barack Obama will pass through as he walks onto the inaugural stage to take the oath of office. “I hope and pray that as God stirs the heart of our new president that President Obama will listen and will heed God’s direction,” Broun proclaimed.
The point here is that GOP base voters may force Republican lawmakers to remain chained to a fantasy — that Obamacare’s demise is still a genuine possibility. While Democratic operatives fully recognize that the law is unpopular, that further problems are possible, and that Dems are still in danger, they believe Republican lawmakers and candidates are constrained in a way that will work against them, too.
Democratic lawmakers and candidates at least have some flexibility to deal with problems as they arise — they can call for fixes while defending the law’s broader goal of expanding affordable health coverage. Republicans don’t have any flexibility. Remember, a recent CNN poll showed that only Republican voters believe the law should already be pronounced a failure, while moderates and independents still think its problems can be solved. Republican lawmakers and candidates must continue to insist on full repeal and nothing else, even as the number of people gaining coverage continues to mount.
Greg says that the GOP will suffer for this and I'm inclined to agree when it comes to swing statewide races and, of course, the presidency. They just sounds like assholes to anyone who isn't a hardcore Obama hater. But unfortunately, I think this could very well work for them in certain red states and conservative districts. This frothing, incoherent hatred for a health care program would logically turn off even hardcore conservatives because it looks unstable and weird. But it's become a tribal war cry for the true believers and I'll guess it is going to have organizing power where the right is in a majority, at least for a while.
“He was fighting against some great injustice, and I would make the argument that we have a great injustice going on right now in this country with an ever-increasing size of government that is taking over and controlling people’s lives -- and Obamacare is front and center in that."
Because affordable health insurance is very much like apartheid.
There’s a scene in one of the Three Stooges movies — if any readers know which one, please let me know — in which we see Curly banging his head repeatedly against a wall. Moe asks why he’s doing that, and Curly says, “Because it feels so good when I stop.”
Big joke, right? Except that this is now the reigning theory of fiscal policy.
As Antonio Fatas points out, austerians are now claiming vindication because some of the countries that imposed austerity are — after years of economic contraction — finally starting to show a bit of growth. This is, as he says, happening because sooner or later economies do tend to grow, unless bad policy not only continues but gets steadily worse; with austerity still severe but arguably not getting much more severe, some growth isn’t a big surprise. And these countries are still far below where they would have been with less austerity.
But hey, it feels good, at least relatively, when the countries stop banging their heads against the wall. Austerity rules!
Right. The hell with all those lost years, opportunity costs and human suffering. In the long run, everything will work out. (I wrote a lot about this during the Bush administration.)
This is always how the conservatives explain their failures. Here's Dick Cheney:
I had the experience, for example, of working for Jerry Ford, and I've never forgotten the travails he went through after he had been president for 30 days when he issued the pardon of former president Nixon. And there was consternation coast to coast...I know how much grief he took for that decision, and it may well have cost him the presidency in '76.
Thirty years later, nearly everybody would say it is exactly the right thing to do, that if he'd paid attention at the time to the polls he never would have done that. But he demonstrated, I think, great courage and great foresight, and the country was better off for what Jerry Ford did that day. And 30 years later, everybody recognized it.
And I have the same strong conviction the issues we're dealing with today -- the global war on terror, the war in Afghanistan and Iraq -- that all of the tough calls the president has had to make, that 30 years from now it will be clear that he made the right decisions, and that the effort we mounted was the right one, and that if we had listened to the polls, we would have gotten it wrong.
On the last page of Bob Woodward’s Plan of Attack (2004), Bush, asked how history would judge the war in Iraq, verbally shrugs: “History. We don’t know. We’ll all be dead.” And on the first page of Robert Draper’s Dead Certain (2007), Bush cautions, “You can’t possibly figure out the history of the Bush presidency—until I’m dead,” then inserts a piece of cheese into his mouth. This exit clause isn’t something he invokes only to reporters. In Bill Sammon’s The Evangelical President (2007), an aide confirms to the susceptible author that Bush doesn’t brood about the petty setbacks that bedevil less serene souls: “His attitude is a very healthy one. He says, ‘Look, history will get it right and we’ll both be dead. Who cares?’ ” If only the estimated 1.5 million Iraqis displaced by the war and driven into Syrian exile could adopt such a healthy outlook, maybe they too would learn how not to sweat the small stuff.
I was shocked by this at the time but I've since realized that the conservative project in general really, truly doesn't give a damn about human suffering. They live in an abstract universe in which their dedication to their rigid ideology simply trumps all moral concerns about real human beings in the here and now. They just don't give a damn.
Nelson Mandela will live in history as an inspiration for defenders of liberty around the globe. He stood firm for decades on the principle that until all South Africans enjoyed equal liberties he would not leave prison himself, declaring in his autobiography, 'Freedom is indivisible; the chains on any one of my people were the chains on all of them, the chains on all of my people were the chains on me.' Because of his epic fight against injustice, an entire nation is now free.
We mourn his loss and offer our condolences to his family and the people of South Africa.
Here is a sampling of the responses of his Facebook followers:
Tom Griffin Sad to see you feel this way Ted. He was a terrorist. I guess you have only seen the Hollywood movies
Like · 80 · Reply · Yesterday at 3:23pm
Derek Cranford stunned to see you support this scumbag,Mr. Cruz...Mandela was a murderer, and a terrorist..not to mention a communist...
Like · 31 · Reply · Yesterday at 3:37pm
Mike Buescher Mmmm... I found something I disagree with Cruz on.
Like · 29 · Reply · Yesterday at 3:25pm
George Taylor sorry senator u be wrong on this one. He is nothing or was nothing but a criminal
Like · 26 · Reply · Yesterday at 3:26pm
Dan Noxon Why don't all you Mandela lovers head on over to South Africa and see what's going on now that "Mandela's people" have control of the nation. And no staying in palaces ala Sean Penn and other "entertainers" ... get out and mix with the people, experience what life is really like. Especially if you're white.
Like · 26 · Reply · Yesterday at 3:33pm
Kris Smith Senator Cruz, He was communist terrorist.
Like · 21 · Reply · Yesterday at 3:30pm
Seliqua Bodina you're joking, aren't you Mr. Cruz? how about we light up a South African necklace in his honor? wow you stepped in it this time.
Like · 19 · Reply · Yesterday at 3:38pm
Rob Kordelski lets not forget his idol karl marx and his best friend gaur redebe....a communist. he is not the great hero that cnn says he is. he was a huge fan of jawa nehru who wanted indian independence sooo badly that he would've joined up with the nazis. yes lets all say sorry that this communist died. while we are at it lets send out condolences for when north korea's ruler dies too.....
Like · 19 · Reply · Yesterday at 3:34pm
Jeff Petersen This would be the time to just stay silent on the subject. Mandela admitted to tossing grenades into school buses occupied by children and his wife was a proficient practitioner of the tire and gasoline combo around the necks of her victims...
Like · 36 · Reply · Yesterday at 3:24pm
Bryan Smith he was a commie terrorist
Like · 16 · Reply · Yesterday at 3:27pm
Sasha Chamorro Just look up "necklacing" (a form of murder endorsed by his wife at the time) to see what a fine man Mandela was.
Like · 15 · Reply · Yesterday at 3:32pm
André Augusto Custódio Mandela was a communist trained by the Kgb who sings racial hate songs... And now, the South Africa is a worst country for both whites and blacks... this is the inspirations of americans conservative politicians?
Like · 33 · Reply · Yesterday at 3:38pm
Dusty Roop Sorry Ted, I found something I disagree with you on. Mandella was a terrorist. Plain and simple. Hid regime was brutal. He was not a hero. You have listened to lies.
Like · 32 · Reply · Yesterday at 3:35pm
Looney Floyd he was an unrepentant terrorist
Like · 12 · Reply · Yesterday at 3:39pm
Philip Lanks Just another shakedown artist. Goodbye bum.
Like · 12 · Reply · Yesterday at 3:25pm
Bob Ciuffa Mandela was a white hating killer and his wife continued his tradition. .including torture and immolation of enemies. With Rev. Tutu they tried to help the east Germans in Angola to invade and take over S. Africa. He remained tribal and killed other blacks not of his tribal affiliates. Honoring him is like honoring the Prince of Darkness
Like · 29 · Reply · Yesterday at 3:30pm
Davidius Maximus Nelson singing about killing white people: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NKiePbTcAfY
Mandela: Speaking to reporters after singing to kill whites
Like · 11 · Reply · Yesterday at 3:28pm
Paul Emslie Ted, I love ya, but you might want to do some research and delete your post on this one.
Like · 12 · Reply · Yesterday at 3:57pm
Randy Dietmeyer I am sure there are some dyed-in-the-wool Marxists that love cute little puppies as well. I'm not gonna celebrate them either.
Like · 12 · Reply · Yesterday at 3:31pm
Arran Hersey I am disappointed in senator Cruz. Mandela was not a good human or a defender of freedom, he very much was an avowed communist.
Like · 12 · Reply · Yesterday at 3:27pm
John W Toewater Ted, long before you were born, his reputation was the complete opposite. He was, in fact, a terrorist and a criminal, he persecuted and killed Zulus All the apartheid B S you hear in today's media, is all lies
And apparently one of his other major crimes was supporting women's rights:
He was also a huge supporter of abortion! Don't put him too high up! Careful Mr Cruz.
Like · 7 · Reply · Yesterday at 3:30pm
Uhm...maybe not so much. My friend's post: I see that the convicted terrorist and abortion-lover Mandela has finally met the Maker whom he never acknowledged as far as I know.
Like · 4 · Reply · Yesterday at 4:47pm
That's the tip of the iceberg. There were a few people who agreed with Senator Cruz's words,or took issue with the comments but not many.
The world is rightly eulogizing Nelson Mandela, who is unquestionably one of the greatest human beings to have graced this planet.
But let's not forget that Mandela didn't just meet with opposition from racist conservatives in South Africa. He was met with prejudice by the highest ranks of Republican leadership in America as well. Dick Cheney considered him a terrorist, and Ronald Reagan vetoed the Anti-Apartheid Act.
In the U.S. Congress, lawmakers were ready to show their opposition to the South African regime with the Comprehensive Anti-Apartheid Act, a bill that imposed tough sanctions and travel restrictions on the nation and its leaders, and called for the repeal of apartheid laws and release of political prisoners like Mandela, then leader of the African National Congress (ANC).
The measure passed with bipartisan support, despite strong and largely Republican opposition. President Ronald Reagan was among those most opposed to the bill, and when he finally vetoed the measure over its support of the ANC, which he maintained was a "terrorist organization," it took another vote by Congress to override it. Among the Republicans who repeatedly voted against the measure was future Vice President Dick Cheney, then a Republican congressman from Wyoming.
Cheney's staunch resistance to the Anti-Apartheid Act arose as an issue during his future campaigns on the presidential ticket, but the Wyoming Republican has never said he regretted voting the way he did. In fact, in 2000, he maintained that he'd made the right decision.
“The ANC was then viewed as a terrorist organization," Cheney said on ABC's "This Week." "I don't have any problems at all with the vote I cast 20 years ago.'"
It's a constant theme of conservatism to falsely take credit for the progressive causes of yesteryear while attempting to destroy contemporary ones. It bears repeating: in 1776, a conservative was a Tory. In 1860, a centrist advocated more compromises and a conservative was a Confederate or Confederate sympathizer. In 1880, a conservative was a friend of the robber barons. In 1935, conservatives advocated that the elderly die in the streets rather than receive Social Security. In 1955, a conservative was a McCarthyite red-baiter. In 1965, a conservative was a Beatles-hating, MLK-hating opponent of Medicare, civil rights and birth control. In 1986 conservatives were calling Mandela a terrorist while clandestinely selling arms to Iran to funding fascist Central American death squads. In 1996 conservatives were led by Newt Gingrich and impeached Bill Clinton over sex acts. In 2006 they were committing war crimes in Iraq while trying to private Social Security and subvert the justice department.
It's not any different in 2013. The issues change, but the heart and soul of conservatism remains the same.
"When is she bringing the dogs out!?" two-year-old Ashtyn Gardner insistently nagged her father, Navy Lt. John Gardner.
The Gardner family was attending a White House holiday celebration where they and other military families viewed decorations and mingled with first lady Michelle Obama.
"Ashtyn is a dog lover, we have a black lab at home," so she was "most excited" about meeting Bo and Sunny, Lt. Gardner explained. The two-year-old was decorating cookies with the other children when the moment she'd been anticipating finally happened - the first lady let the dogs out.
"She was so excited!" "She went straight for them, reaching out to hug Sunny," Ashtyn's father recalled. "The next thing you knew her shiny shoes were in the air!" Without shedding a tear, Ashtyn got right back up. While it was unclear from her father's vantage point whether Ashtyn tumbled herself, or the dog knocked her over, the two-year-old later told her parents the fall was a result of Sunny's affection, "he was kissing me."
When the first lady bent down to console Ashtyn, "she asked, 'are you okay sweetie?'" to which Ashtyn nodded her head. Obama then inquired "Do you like my dog?" Ashtyn's response was firm, "NO." Her blunt response was "the most hilarious part for us," her father reminisced. "She loves dogs! I have no idea where that came from!"
The Gardner family left the White House in great spirits, and assured that "if Ashtyn remembers anything from the event, it's getting that big hug from the first lady and playing with the dogs."
What the California Republicans are doing with Obamacare is probably the lowest of the low, but they aren't the only ones trying to scam citizens. I just got a robo-call from someone telling me that "the records" show that under the new health care laws I will qualify for low cost insurance and should cive them all my personal information in order to "verify." Needless to say, it's a con. Apparently, there are a lot of them:
Buses running up and down the streets of San Francisco are plastered with ads for Covered California, the state’s official health insurance exchange. But a passenger who goes home and visits coveredcalifornia.com on Thursday would be greeted with a blank white page—not because of any website glitches, but because it is one of ten imitation sites that has been shut down by the California Attorney General’s office.
“These websites fraudulently imitated Covered California in order to lure consumers away from plans that provide the benefits of the Affordable Care Act,” state Attorney General Kamala Harris said in a statement. “My office will continue to investigate and shut down these kinds of sites.”
Officials from Washington to New Hampshire have been dealing with websites that closely resemble government portals. The Kentucky Attorney General has sent cease and desist letters to similar mimicker websites, and Pennsylvania officials shut down a private “exchange” site brandishing the state’s seal this summer.
These are mostly insurance brokers trying to get uninformed people to buy the crappy insurance they're offering outside the exchanges. And the sites look authentic:
Why do they hate Obamacare so much? This might have something to do with it...
by David Atkins
It's always been a little puzzling why the entire right wing is still so upset about the Affordable Care Act. No, they don't want government getting a good name by helping people. They hate the idea of subsidizing the less fortunate in any way. And they're afraid that the ACA might be a stepping stone toward single-payer.
But still, as progressive critics often point out, the ACA is also something of a giveaway to big business. It mandates health insurance coverage, gives insurance companies millions of new customers and does them the favor of dropping the cost curve and stabilizing the private market, reducing the mounting pressure to adopt a saner single-payer system. That's why the Heritage Foundation supported it in the first place, as did Mitt Romney in its Massachusetts incarnation.
Under normal circumstances the law should have passed, the Right should have whipped its people into a froth, used it to win an election, then shrugged its shoulders and sat down in some quiet satisfaction as millions of people settled in to their new, somewhat cheaper private insurance. But that's not what happened. The powers that be on the Right continue to rave and rant against the ACA as if it were the devil's spawn itself. That's always been something of a mystery.
Well, perhaps this, courtesy RASalvatore at Daily Kos, might have something to do with it:
You see, up until Obamacare, the truly wealthy in our society, that passive income crowd that dodged the top tax bracket by getting their compensation in capital gains and such, was EXEMPTED from the Medicare portion of FICA.
This tax (2.9%) went up .9% for incomes over 250k under PPACA. .9%'s not that bad, of course, but for those living on passive income, the hit is much larger.
Until now, this law, they were exempt from that tax.
Now they're not.
Take a guy like Romney - he makes $20,000,000 a year, most if not all of it in the form of passive income. So he was paying at the 15% rate, thanks to the special treatment for such "special" income.
That went up to 20% when parts of hte Bush tax cuts expired in 2012.
And now, to add insult to that injury, Romney's income is subjected to that dastardly Medicare tax (which, unlike the Social Security portion of FICA, doesn't cut off at $106,000, or $133,000, or whatever it is this year).
3.8% of $20,000,000 is $760,000 dollars in taxes. That has to sting that generational wealth plan Romney was hatching.
Imagine the hit the Kochs and the hedge fund guys are taking. The 25 top hedge fund guys in 2009 averaged $1Billion each...3.8% of a billion? Get your calculators out: mine says that means about $38,000,000 in new taxes for these guys.
So if they spend a few million trying to kill it, who could blame them, right?
They hate Obamacare. They hate Obama. It's pretty simple, when you think about it.
Nelson Mandela, standing in the dock before the South African Supreme Court in 1964, made a speech before he was sent off to spend most of the next 3 decades in prison. It concluded with this:
Above all, we want equal political rights, because without them our disabilities will be permanent. I know this sounds revolutionary to the whites in this country, because the majority of voters will be Africans. This makes the white man fear democracy. But this fear cannot be allowed to stand in the way of the only solution which will guarantee racial harmony and freedom for all. It is not true that the enfranchisement of all will result in racial domination. Political division, based on colour, is entirely artificial and, when it disappears, so will the domination of one colour group by another. The ANC has spent half a century fighting against racialism. When it triumphs it will not change that policy.
This then is what the ANC is fighting. Their struggle is a truly national one. It is a struggle of the African people, inspired by their own suffering and their own experience. It is a struggle for the right to live. During my lifetime I have dedicated myself to this struggle of the African people. I have fought against white domination, and I have fought against black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.
Luckily for all of us, this great man lived to see his dream fulfilled. After all of his suffering he became president of South Africa and lived many years beyond as a living inspiration for people everywhere.
But read that whole speech from 1964 to also be reminded that for all of his historic sacrifice and reputation as a man of peace and rare forgiveness, he was a true political radical in his time. It's rare that a single person can come to be the living symbol of a movement's struggle and evolution but Nelson Mandela was that.
He died peacefully today at the age of 95. He was a true hero.
And here I thought right wingers believe that religion is sacred:
Pope Francis is undergoing a popularity surge comparable to the way Barack Obama was greeted by the world in 2008. And just as President Obama has been a disappointment for America, Pope Francis will prove a disaster for the Catholic Church.
My fellow Catholics should be suspicious when bastions of anti-Catholicism in the left-wing media are in love with him.
Much is being made of his ‘compassion’ and ‘humility,’ but kissing babies and hugging the sick is nothing new. Every pope in recent memory has done the same, yet only now are the media paying attention. Benedict XVI and John Paul II refused to kowtow to the liberal agenda, and so such displays of tenderness were under-covered.
Francis is beating a retreat for the Catholic Church, and making sure its controversial doctrines are whispered, not yelled – no wonder the New York Times is in love.
I don't know about you but I'm shocked, shocked to see that to conservative Catholics even the pope is only as good as his politics. But then right wing religion is usually just the bludgeon of choice to with which to beat political opponents over the head. It would appear that even Pope Francis is guilty of violating the code of wingnut religious correctness.
The news actually seems to be covering this. And covering it pretty fairly, too. I get the feeling that many of the TV News celebrities are genuinely shocked that so many people are working full time yet are still in poverty and having to get public assistance just to keep hearth and home together:
When you're making eight bucks an hour, which is pretty typical in the fast-food industry, it's tough to make ends meet.
And increasingly, the working poor are asking this question: Why am I living in poverty, even when I'm working full time?
That's the message that thousands of fast-food workers rallying Thursday in about 100 U.S. cities — from Oakland to Memphis to Washington, D.C. — want heard. A living wage in big cities is closer to $14 an hour, and it jumps to about $20 an hour for an adult supporting a child.
The protests are part of a growing campaign backed by a coalition of advocacy groups, religious organizations and union organizers aimed at raising fast-food wages to $15 an hour.
At at time when the fastest-growing jobs in the U.S. economy are also the lowest paid, the issue of income inequality is on the lips of leaders worldwide.
Amal Mimish, an organizer with Good Jobs Nation, registers protesters at the fast-food workers' rally in Washington, D.C. on Thursday.Enlarge image
Amal Mimish, an organizer with Good Jobs Nation, registers protesters at the fast-food workers' rally in Washington, D.C. on Thursday.
From the remarks by Pope Francis a few weeks back to President Obama's speech Wednesday, it's clear that there's growing unease about the divide between the haves and the have-nots.
And the image problem for the fast-food industry is exemplified by this online petition urging McDonald's chief executive officer, Donald Thompson, to cancel his order for another corporate jet until he pays all his employees a decent wage.
According to the petition, McDonald's just bought a $35 million luxury Bombardier jet for its corporate executives. Yet many of the company's employees make so little that they rely on public assistance to get by.
"It's not right to impoverish your employees while sailing above them at a rate of $2,500 an hour," reads the petition started by the Campaign For America's Future. "It's immoral to do it with a taxpayer subsidy."
In a recent study, economists at the University of California, Berkeley, found that 52 percent of fast-food workers rely on taxpayer-funded public assistance programs, such as food stamps or Medicaid.
"Taxpayers are subsidizing the low-wage model of these employers, who are making record profits in some cases," says Dorian Warren, an associate professor at Columbia University who studies income inequality.
It's not just fast food workers, either. A lot of office temps and retail workers and maids among others are also toiling for poverty wages in this country as the 1% hoovers up more and more of the wealth. If the owners are smart they'll open their eyes and see that unless they want pitchforks, they'll make some concessions now.
That's right. The teen pregnancy rate is dropping like a stone. And that's not just from some artificial high during the sex crazed 60s. Teen pregnancy was always high --- teen-agers are very fertile. So this is a big deal.
There's lots of interesting info at the link, with data showing that the abortion rate has logically fallen along with the pregnancy rate and that women are having children later than they used to, which makes sense.
I don't know all the reasons for these changes and I'm sure that there are a lot of theories. But regardless of the why the news is very good for women who do much better in their lives if they delay childbearing.
There are a whole lot of intangible costs to keeping Guantanamo open, not the least of which is the ongoing damage it is doing to American notions of justice and its reputation in the world. But there's an outsized financial cost as well:
Congress spent $1.42 billion on Guantanamo when all Guantanamo detainees could have been held in existing U.S. prisons for a cost of $29.9 million.
The current Senate version of the National Defense Authorization Act for 2014 would likely save U.S. taxpayers billions by easing the restrictions on transferring detainees out of Guantanamo. The portion of this legislation that would make it easier to move out those already cleared for transfer would save almost $2 billion in the next budget cycle.
A billion here and a billion there and pretty soon you're talking about real money.
Guantanamo is not just a horrible stain on the US Constitution. It's a drain on US resources as well. But I won't be all that surprised if many of the prisoners in it die of old age.