Friday, August 31, 2012

ACLU Comment on Closure of Justice Department’s CIA Torture Investigation

NEW YORK - August 31 - Attorney General Eric Holder announced on Thursday that the Justice Department will close its investigation into the CIA’s torture and abuse of detainees without bringing charges.
“That the Justice Department will hold no one accountable for the killing of prisoners in CIA custody is nothing short of a scandal,” said Jameel Jaffer, ACLU deputy legal director. “The Justice Department has declined to bring charges against the officials who authorized torture, the lawyers who sought to legitimate it, and the interrogators who used it. It has successfully shut down every legal suit meant to hold officials civilly liable.
“Continuing impunity threatens to undermine the universally recognized prohibition on torture and other abusive treatment and sends the dangerous signal to government officials that there will be no consequences for their use of torture and other cruelty. Today's decision not to file charges against individuals who tortured prisoners to death is yet another entry in what is already a shameful record.”

Economic nincompoops and Moral cyphers

Romney-Ryan: The Medicare Killers

Paul Ryan’s speech Wednesday night may have accomplished one good thing: It finally may have dispelled the myth that he is a Serious, Honest Conservative. Indeed, Mr. Ryan’s brazen dishonesty left even his critics breathless.
Some of his fibs were trivial but telling, like his suggestion that President Obama is responsible for a closed auto plant in his hometown, even though the plant closed before Mr. Obama took office. Others were infuriating, like his sanctimonious declaration that “the truest measure of any society is how it treats those who cannot defend or care for themselves.” This from a man proposing savage cuts in Medicaid, which would cause tens of millions of vulnerable Americans to lose health coverage.
And Mr. Ryan — who has proposed $4.3 trillion in tax cuts over the next decade, versus only about $1.7 trillion in specific spending cuts — is still posing as a deficit hawk.
But Mr. Ryan’s big lie — and, yes, it deserves that designation — was his claim that “a Romney-Ryan administration will protect and strengthen Medicare.” Actually, it would kill the program.
Before I get there, let me just mention that Mr. Ryan has now gone all-in on the party line that the president’s plan to trim Medicare expenses by around $700 billion over the next decade — savings achieved by paying less to insurance companies and hospitals, not by reducing benefits — is a terrible, terrible thing. Yet, just a few days ago, Mr. Ryan was still touting his own budget plan, which included those very same savings.
But back to the big lie. The Republican Party is now firmly committed to replacing Medicare with what we might call Vouchercare. The government would no longer pay your major medical bills; instead, it would give you a voucher that could be applied to the purchase of private insurance. And, if the voucher proved insufficient to buy decent coverage, hey, that would be your problem.
Moreover, the vouchers almost certainly would be inadequate; their value would be set by a formula taking no account of likely increases in health care costs.
Why would anyone think that this was a good idea? The G.O.P. platform says that it “will empower millions of seniors to control their personal health care decisions.” Indeed. Because those of us too young for Medicare just feel so personally empowered, you know, when dealing with insurance companies.
Still, wouldn’t private insurers reduce costs through the magic of the marketplace? No. All, and I mean all, the evidence says that public systems like Medicare and Medicaid, which have less bureaucracy than private insurers (if you can’t believe this, you’ve never had to deal with an insurance company) and greater bargaining power, are better than the private sector at controlling costs.
I know this flies in the face of free-market dogma, but it’s just a fact. You can see this fact in the history of Medicare Advantage, which is run through private insurers and has consistently had higher costs than traditional Medicare. You can see it from comparisons between Medicaid and private insurance: Medicaid costs much less. And you can see it in international comparisons: The United States has the most privatized health system in the advanced world and, by far, the highest health costs.
So Vouchercare would mean higher costs and lower benefits for seniors. Over time, the Republican plan wouldn’t just end Medicare as we know it, it would kill the thing Medicare is supposed to provide: universal access to essential care. Seniors who couldn’t afford to top up their vouchers with a lot of additional money would just be out of luck.
Still, the G.O.P. promises to maintain Medicare as we know it for those currently over 55. Should everyone born before 1957 feel safe? Again, no.
For one thing, repeal of Obamacare would cause older Americans to lose a number of significant benefits that the law provides, including the way it closes the “doughnut hole” in drug coverage and the way it protects early retirees.
Beyond that, the promise of unchanged benefits for Americans of a certain age just isn’t credible. Think about the political dynamics that would arise once someone born in 1956 still received full Medicare while someone born in 1959 couldn’t afford decent coverage. Do you really think that would be a stable situation? For sure, it would unleash political warfare between the cohorts — and the odds are high that older cohorts would soon find their alleged guarantees snatched away.
The question now is whether voters will understand what’s really going on (which depends to a large extent on whether the news media do their jobs). Mr. Ryan and his party are betting that they can bluster their way through this, pretending that they are the real defenders of Medicare even as they work to kill it. Will they get away with it?

Michael Moore: Mitt Romney Will Win In November | Common Dreams

Michael Moore: Mitt Romney Will Win In November | Common Dreams

Michael Moore: Mitt Romney Will Win In November

Filmmaker Michael Moore joined HuffPost Live Thursday and predicted that the influence of money in politics would lift Mitt Romney to victory over President Barack Obama in November.
If Obama cannot replicate youth voter turnout and Romney continues to raise enormous amounts of cash, the American people should get used to the words, "President Romney". "Mitt Romney is going to raise more money than Barack Obama. That should guarantee his victory," Moore told host Josh Zepps. "I think people should start to practice the words 'President Romney.' To assume that the other side are just a bunch of ignoramuses who are supported by people who believe that Adam and Eve rode on dinosaurs 6,000 years ago is to completely misjudge the opposition."
Moore said he believes that if the election were conducted "American Idol"-style, and Americans were able to vote from their couches, Obama "would win hands down."
"That's not what's gonna happen," he told Zepps. "This election's going to be decided on who gets out the most people that day. Who's up at four in the morning, making sure that dozens, hundreds, thousands of people in their communities are getting out to vote. And the Republican machine that is set up and the money behind it to guarantee [what] is really the only important thing -- turnout on that day -- that's what looks pretty scary here."

We Are Writing the Epilogue to the World We Knew

The data continue to roll in, and they are telling us we are in the process of bringing an end to the world we evolved in, and creating a new, harsher world. We will be forced to devote more and more of our resources trying to adapt to this new world, and less on development.
While politicians fiddle, the world burns.  While the press plays he-said, she-said, the ice melts, the seas rise.
In 1990 we could have averted this disaster and saved money doing it. As late as 2010 we still had a shot at avoiding it.  But now, the die is cast, the future foretold.  What follows will be an epilogue to civilization, as we knew it.
Hyperbole?  Let’s look at the facts.
Arctic sea ice hits lowest extent ever measured (and it’s still melting) – check.
Hottest winter, spring, summer, year, decade ever measured – check.
Most extensive drought in 50 fifty years, and getting worse – check.
Worst floods in recorded history – check.
Hottest seas in eons – check.
Most acidic oceans ever measured – check.
Most greenhouse gasses released in a single year – check.
Highest sea levels since Pleistocene – check.
Most permafrost melted (with record releases of methane) ever measured – check.
Massive crop failures and record high food prices – check.
Most severe weather events ever recorded – check.
Meanwhile, in Tampa, the fossil fuel funded Republican Party is doubling down on climate denial, pushing greater use of oil, coal and gas, and trying to gut programs designed to save energy and use more renewables.  In short, they’re working diligently to hasten our demise.
And no, that’s not hyperbole, either.  Check out Romney's energy plan.
What about the Democrats?  Well, except for one mention of climate change in an interview with Rolling Stone, the President has been mum on the topic, as has most of the rest of the Party.
How about the press?  Week after week of record heat and drought brought nary a mention of global warming.  It was as if people were dropping dead from bullets, but no one mentioned guns – oh wait.  Bad analogy.  That's actually happening.  OK, how about, as if the nation were getting obese, but no one mentioned massive farm subsidies for fattening foods – Whoops.  That's happening too.  Oh well, you get the idea.
And so the last chapter concludes.  The story ends.  Only the Epilogue remains.  The part where we reveal the fate of the characters.
But here’s the thing.  We are writing the story, but our children and their children’s children will inhabit the epilogue.
Imagine a world where vast regions of an acidic ocean are dominated by jellyfish.  A world where tuna, salmon, halibut swordfish, crabs, shellfish, shrimp and the rest of the seafood we take for granted – the primary source of protein for more than a billion people – is virtually gone.  Oh, and that might come with a side of oxygen depletion.   You know, the stuff we breathe.  Think of it as planetary COPD.
The land?  An unending series of drought, flood, fire and famine.  Throw in some disease, a little social chaos – with as many as billion climate change refugees  desperately swarming the planet by 2050.  Good thing the Republican platform reinforces everybody’s right to bear assault weapons.
The coasts will be their own special blend of hell on earth.  Ports will have to be abandoned.  The richer countries might get away with extraordinarily expensive dikes, levies, and pumps for a while, but eventually even they’ll have to be abandoned. Wicked storms will be routine.  International trade will become difficult and unreliable.  That is, assuming anyone has the social cohesion and political capacity to engage in global trade.
This is the epilogue we are writing. It is all but inevitable at this point. What Bill McKibben called, global warming’s terrifying new math.
But as terrifying as McKibben’s math is, it doesn’t even consider the increasingly likely horror of methane releases from permafrost and clathrates.  Methane just happens to be 72 times as strong a greenhouse gas as carbon dioxide in the short term, and 25 times as strong over the long term.  And there are 1.5 trillion tons of carbon trapped in perma-frost and about the same amount in clathrates.
Not to get all techno-geek on you, but the people modeling the effects of this much carbon suggested it would be hell on Earth by 2100.  But in calculating the rate and amount of methane and carbon released from Arctic sources, they didn’t even add in the effect of accelerated warming from the permafrost releases themselves.  In other words, they looked at greenhouse gas emissions from conventional sources only, despite the fact that releases from methane feedbacks are equivalent to those from fossil fuels.
So yeah, Hell is coming, but it’s coming a lot faster than any predictions you’ve see so far from the scientific community.
Now, as we’re closing the book on civilization as we know it, yes, let’s talk about how we can increase the production and use fossil fuels; let’s serve up divisiveness, hate and fear at a time when unity and courage are needed; let’s get guns into the hands of every possible frightened and hate-filled person so we can up the ante on the chaos to come; let’s talk about gutting government – the only force capable of mounting a coherent response to this unfolding tragedy.
That’s the real Republican platform.
Democrats?  They don’t even have a platform. To the extent they do, it seems to be “We’re not quite as bad as them.”
And the press?  They’re busy hammering away at the Epilogue.

Pakistan: Forced to flee in fear of Muslims, Christians to forest and build a church out of branches

Forced to flee in fear of Muslims, Christians to forest and build a church out of branches in Pakistan

The mercilessly persecuted under Islam. And the world stands by. We live in the modern era of the savage.  Obama has completely abandoned the religious minorities that are being crushed in the "islamic spring." As the violence continues to escalate against Christian women and children in Egypt, part of Obama's anti-freedom foreign policy is to suppress the horror of what is happening under his watch. He has gone so far as to remove the Religious Freedom Section from the State Department's Human Rights reports .
Here Christians are forced to flee their homes, their village because an 11 year-old Downs Syndrome child is charged with blasphemy.
And the enemedia is just as deadly as the jihadist clutching his rusty beheading knife in his cloven grip. It's not just that the little Christian girl with Down's Syndrome was beaten (along with her mother) for "blasphemy" under the sharia, or the 12-year-old Christian boy had his ears, nose and intestines gutted as part of the reprisal for an alleged act of blasphemy, it's that this is going on daily, the persecution of non-Muslims under the sharia in Muslim countries, and the media not only says nothing; they defame, smear, and destroy those of us who shine the light on these depraved acts in the cause of Islam.
 "Fearful Pakistani Christians make home in forest," from The Associated Press, August 27 (thanks to David):via Jihadwatch
ISLAMABAD (AP) - In the middle of a forest in the Pakistani capital, a group of Christians has cut down trees to clear land and has begun to build a church out of branches after leaving their neighborhood in fear when one of their own was accused of violating Pakistan's strict blasphemy laws. The roughly 100 men, women and children who slept overnight on the ground in a clearing just a few miles (kilometers) from the seat of the Pakistani government are fallout from the case of a young Christian girl accused by a neighbor of burning pages from Islam's holy book, the Quran. The case has spotlighted attention on the country's strict blasphemy laws which can result in life in prison or even death for those accused.
"We used to come here to collect wood for fuel so we find it a suitable place for shelter," said Sumera Zahid, who was feeding her three children and her parents. "Here it is not anybody's home, nobody's land. Let us live here in safety."
Their ordeal began a little less than two weeks ago when a Christian girl was accused by a neighbor of burning pages of the Quran. Much of the case is still in question including the girl's age, whether she was mentally impaired and what exactly she was burning. But as word of the blasphemy accusation spread, hundreds of people gathered at her house demanding something be done to the girl. The police eventually arrested her and are investigating whether she broke any law.
The Associated Press is withholding the girl's name; the AP does not generally identify juveniles under 18 who are accused of crimes.
Even if she did what she is accused of, it isn't a crime, except under Sharia -- which apparently AP has adopted.
Most Christians in the neighborhood fled, fearing retribution from their Muslim neighbors. Christian residents also reported that their landlords evicted them. After living with relatives and in churches, many of the Christians arrived at this clearing on Sunday, determined to build a home.
"We are thankful to the Lord for this land although here is no water and food but rest assured the Lord will create water fountains and provide all fruits here for you if you remain patient and suffer these hardship, thanking the Lord," said Pastor Arif Masih....
A medical review is currently being conducted to determine the girl's age and mental state, said Sajid Ishaq, Chairman of the Pakistan Interfaith League, a group that works to improve relations between various religious and sectarian groups. He said about 600 families have fled the neighborhood where the Christian girl lived and have been staying with family and friends.
"They are actually fearful. And we are trying our best to send them home safely. And also we are demanding to the government that they should give them compensation for their loss. And protection as well," he said.
Ishaq took part in a press conference Monday with the All Pakistan Ulema Council, a group of Muslim clerics and scholars from across the country, to discuss the blasphemy case. The groups called for an investigation into whether the girl was wrongly accused and what role religious extremism played in igniting the case. They demanded that all Christians be allowed to return to their neighborhood.
The degree of international attention on this case has not gone unnoticed in Pakistan, where many already feel their country is unfairly portrayed as being a haven for terrorists and religious extremism.
The chairman of the All Pakistan Ulema Council, Maulana Tahir-ul-Ashrafi, urged the world community to avoid any interference in the case and promised that Pakistan would provide justice for the girl and the Christian community. A few Christians have moved back to the neighborhood. Nooran Bashir said she left her house in panic, hours after the Christian girl's arrest.
"I don't know whether she burned pages of some holy book or not, but we all had to abruptly leave our homes to save our lives," she said. On Sunday, she finally decided to return to their house and spent the night there, along with one of her sons. But her other children were too scared to return with her so she sent them to stay with relatives.
She said local Muslims asked them not to worship at their church, and if they do, they were told not to sing songs during the service.
Islamic law forbids dhimmis to build new houses of worship or repair old ones, as well as to make a public display of their faith -- i.e., through loud singing or processions.
But others are not ready to return. A group of about 200 Christians protested in front of the city administration offices, demanding that they be allowed to stay in the clearing they had created and where they hoped to build their church. There was word on whether their wish would be granted. "We don't have a big list of demands," said one Christian resident, Salim Masih. "We have cleared this place with our hands, and we have laid the first foundation of a small church here. Although this is a mere skeleton made of tree branches, this is the holy home of God. This should be respected."
But it won't be.

Kenya: Jihad in Kenya: Day 3

Jihad in Kenya: Day 3, churches burning

Another state in play. Kenya: Muslims torch two churches, Christians sue government for not protecting them
Kenya Intifada Astute blogger
There has been fresh violence in the riot-torn Kenyan city of Mombasa, with at least one explosion and a number of casualties reported. Details of the attacks are yet to be confirmed but they follow two days of rioting that have left four people dead, including three policemen. 
The riots were sparked by the killing of radical Muslim cleric Aboud Rogo Mohammed by unknown gunmen. He was accused by the US and UN of backing Islamist fighters in Somalia. THIS IS WHAT ISLAM DOES.

, churches burning

Another state in play. Kenya: Muslims torch two churches, Christians sue government for not protecting them
Kenya Intifada Astute blogger
There has been fresh violence in the riot-torn Kenyan city of Mombasa, with at least one explosion and a number of casualties reported. Details of the attacks are yet to be confirmed but they follow two days of rioting that have left four people dead, including three policemen. 
The riots were sparked by the killing of radical Muslim cleric Aboud Rogo Mohammed by unknown gunmen. He was accused by the US and UN of backing Islamist fighters in Somalia. THIS IS WHAT ISLAM DOES.

Billionaires Decide America's Fate

The Real GOP Convention Is on the Cracker Bay

One of the reasons this Republican convention has been so deathly dull is that the real action isn't at the convention. It's at Cracker Bay. That's the name of the yacht that the Romney team just hosted 50 partiers, including some of his top donors. This was one of about a dozen events outside of the convention where they had private meetings with donors giving more than $1 million dollars to his campaign. Over $1 million a piece. Now, where do you think the real policy gets made?The Cracker Bay played host to the Romney campaign's wealthiest donors.
You think Mitt Romney gives a damn what a delegate thinks? The only delegates that matter were on that yacht. They call this group the "Victory Council." This is made of people who are literally millionaires and billionaires and who dictate what Mitt Romney's positions will be. He's a legendary flip-flopper, but if you want to know what he really thinks you had to be on that boat.
"It was a really nice event. These are good supporters," said billionaire Wilbur Ross, an energy industry executive, according to ABC News. I bet it was. Mitt Romney just revealed his energy plan a couple of days ago. Are you going to be surprised to find out that it massively helps energy companies? A really nice event is where you pay a million bucks and you get billions back if the candidate you supported wins the presidency.
It's clear what Mitt Romney owes these people. What do you think he owes you? Ann Romney said that Mitt was a man who would not fail. She's right; he will not fail his donors. He is a good businessman, so he will give them the service they paid for.
They're so brazen the boat they were meeting on was flying a Cayman Islands flag. As one local put it, even their yacht doesn't want to pay taxes. In the old days, you'd be a little embarrassed about things like this and it would be huge news if you got caught. Now people treat it like it's perfectly normal.
Paul Ryan recently went to get the blessing of billionaire GOP donor Sheldon Adelson. Soon after he was picked and before getting ready for their convention, he had to stop everything and kiss the ring of their boss. This is sick. It is obvious legalized bribery and it's being done right in front of our eyes. And the press hardly notices as our democracy leaves shore along with that boat full of millionaires.
The candidate with more money wins 93 percent of congressional races. In the Senate, it's 94 percent. It doesn't matter if you are a Democrat or Republican, a liberal or a conservative, it doesn't matter what your ideas or values are. The only thing that matters is if you're on that yacht.
This post is part of the HuffPost Shadow Conventions 2012, a series spotlighting three issues that are not being discussed at the national GOP and Democratic conventions: The Drug War, Poverty in America, and Money in Politics.

ANTARTICA: Huge Poison Gas [methane] Deposits

Beneath Melting Antarctica, Powerful Greenhouse Gas Lurks

Study suggests as much as 4 billion tons of methane sits beneath melting ice sheets

- Common Dreams staff
The carbon stored under Antarctic ice is on par with the amount held in the northern hemisphere’s frozen permafrost soils and the lower end of estimates for methane trapped under the Arctic Ocean, according to Jemma Wadham, professor of Glaciology at the U.K.’s University of Bristol and lead author of a study in the journal Nature yesterday. (Photographer: Torsten Blackwood/AFP/Getty Images)An enormous and previously unknown reservoir of potent methane—a greenhouse gas 25 times more potent than carbon dioxide—could be locked beneath the Antarctic ice sheet, a new study in the journal Nature warns.
The scientists behind the study calculate that as much as 4 billion tons of methane gas could exist beneath the ice, and that if the alarming rate of polar melting continues and the vast reserve escapes into the atmosphere, the feedback loop of climate change already underway would accelerate dramatically.
If the scientists are correct, these southern deposits would roughly match recent estimates of the amount of methane lurking beneath the northern Arctic ice sheets.
“There’s a potentially large pool of methane hydrate in part of the Earth where we haven’t previously considered it,” said Jemma Wadham, professor of Glaciology at the U.K.’s University of Bristol and lead author of the study, in a telephone interview with Bloomberg. “Depending on where that hydrate is, and how much there is, if the ice thins in those regions, some of that hydrate could come out with a possible feedback on climate.”
As the Press Association reports, the organic material in which the methane remains trapped "dates back to a period 35 million years ago when the Antarctic was much warmer than it is today and teeming with life."
Study co-author Prof Slawek Tulaczyk, from the University of California at Santa Barbara, said: "Some of the organic material produced by this life became trapped in sediments, which then were cut off from the rest of the world when the ice sheet grew. Our modelling shows that over millions of years, microbes may have turned this old organic carbon into methane."
The gas itself is trapped in what is known as "methane hydrate" which resides in sediments beneath the seabed. As the ice above it thaws, the hydrates become unstable, and the gas begins to dissipate into the water and then escape into the air.
According to Bloomberg: "The concentration of methane in the atmosphere rose 0.28 percent to 1,808 parts per billion in 2010, the highest since records began, the UN said in November. Scientists including James Hansen have said the decline of Arctic sea ice, which this year has shrunk to the lowest extent on record, may be a harbinger of greater changes, including the release of methane compounds from the permafrost -- or frozen soils."
The scientists behind this study conceded their findings were not definitive, but argued that neglecting the possibility of methane reserves in the Antartic was a dangerous option.
“Our study highlights the need for continued scientific exploration of remote sub-ice environments in Antarctica, because they may have far greater impact on Earth’s climate system than we have appreciated in the past,” Tulaczyk said.
#  #  #

Canada: denies human race status

Canada Orders War Resister to Be Deported Back to US

Kimberly Rivera must leave Canada by Sept. 20

- Common Dreams staff
A war resister who has been living in Canada for the last five years has been ordered deported back to the U.S., an immigration board said Thursday.
Kimberly Rivera is seen with her family in this undated photo. Courtesy of Kimberly Rivera, reported to be the first female U.S. war resister, had served in Iraq in 2006 but sought refuge in Canada in 2007.
Rivera is the mother of four children, the two youngest born in Canada.
She must now leave the Canada by Sept. 20.
Courage to Resist, a U.S.-based war resister support organization, reported on Rivera's story and why she had sought refuge in Canada:
"While in Iraq losing soldiers and civilians was part of daily life. I was a gate guard. This was looked down on by infantry soldiers who go out in the streets, but gate guards are the highest security of the Forward Operation Base. We searched vehicles, civilian personnel, and military convoys that left and came back every hour. I had a huge awakening seeing the war as it truly is: people losing their lives for greed of a nation and the effects on the soldiers who come back with new problems such as nightmares, anxieties, depression, anger, alcohol abuse, missing limbs and scars from burns. Some don't come back at all."
"On December 21, 2006 I was going to my room and something in my heart told me to go call my husband. And when I did 24 rounds of mortars hit the FOB in a matter of minutes after I got on the phone...the mortars were 10-15 feet from where I was. I found a hole from the shrapnel in my room in the plywood window. That night I found the shrapnel on my bed in the same place where my head would have been if I hadn't changed my plans and gone to the phone."
She began questioning everything: "Why am I here? What am I giving my life for? How am I helping my comrades and Iraq's people? What harm do I see here that would affect the safety of my family back home? Is what I am doing self-defense or aggression?"
That night an Iraqi civilian friend of Kimberly’s was badly wounded. “All I know is she was in very bad shape. The shrapnel hit her in her mid section and she was put on life support. That’s the last I heard from her sisters before I left.”
The following Saturday she watched as an Iraqi father came to the base with a little girl about 2 years old to put in a claim for loss due to Army negligence. The little girl was shaking very hard. "You could see tears of trauma running down her face. No weeping, no whining, just tears. . I was seeing my little girl. I wanted to hold her so bad, but I was afraid of scaring her more and I didn't want to do that."

Fight Money Power

Money in Politics: Where Is the Outrage?

We might wish the uproar from the convention halls of both parties these busy weeks were the wholesome clamor of delegates deliberating serious visions of how we should be governed for the next four years. It rises instead from scripted TV spectacles — grown-ups doing somersaults of make-believe — that will once again distract the public’s attention from the death rattle of American democracy brought on by an overdose of campaign cash.Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and his wife Tonette cheer at the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla., on Wednesday, Aug. 29, 2012. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
No serious proposal to take the money out of politics, or even reduce its tightening grip on the body politic, will emerge from Tampa or Charlotte, so the sounds of celebration and merriment are merely prelude to a funeral cortege for America as a shared experience. A radical minority of the super-rich has gained ascendency over politics, buying the policies, laws, tax breaks, subsidies, and rules that consolidate a permanent state of vast inequality by which they can further help themselves to America’s wealth and resources.
Their appetite for more is insatiable. As we write, Mitt Romney, after two fundraisers in which he raised nearly $10 million from the oil and gas industry, and having duly consulted with the Oklahoma billionaire energy executive who chairs the campaign’s energy advisory committee, has announced that if elected President, he will end a century of federal control over oil and gas drilling on public lands, leaving such matters to local officials more attuned to industry desires. Theodore Roosevelt, the first great advocate for public lands in the White House, would be rolling in his grave, if Dick Cheney hadn’t already dumped his bones in a Wyoming mining shaft during the first hours of the Bush-Halliburton administration.
We are nearing the culmination of a cunning and fanatical drive to dismantle the political institutions, the legal and statutory canons, and the intellectual and cultural frameworks that were slowly and painstakingly built over decades to protect everyday citizens from the excesses of private power. The “city on the hill” has become a fortress of privilege, guarded by a hired political class and safely separated from the economic pressures that are upending the household stability, family dynamics, social mobility, and civic life of everyday Americans.
Socrates said to understand a thing, you must first name it. As in Athens then, so in America now: The name for what’s happening to our political system is corruption — a deep, systemic corruption.
How did we get here?
Let’s begin with the judicial legerdemain of nine black-robed magicians on the Supreme Court back in the l880s breathing life into an artificial creation called “the corporation.” An entity with no body, soul, sense, or mortality was endowed with all the rights of a living, breathing “person” under the Constitution. Closer to our own time, the Supreme Court of 1976 in Buckley vs. Valeo gutted a fair elections law passed by a Congress that could no longer ignore the stench of Watergate. The Court ruled that wealthy individuals could spend unlimited amounts of their own fortunes to get themselves elected to office, and that anyone could pour dollars by the hundreds of thousands into the war chests of political action committees to pay for “issue ads,” clearly favoring one side in a political race, so long as a specific candidate or party was not named.
Money, the justices declared in another burst of invention, was simply a form of speech.
Then, just two years ago, the Roberts Court, in Citizens United vs. Federal Elections Commission, removed any lingering doubts that the marvelous “persons” that corporations had become could reach into their golden troughs to support their candidates and causes through such supposedly “educational” devices as a movie trashing Hillary Clinton.
Meaningful oversight of campaign expenditure, necessary if representative government is to have a fair chance against rapacious wealth, was swept away. Hail to a new era in which a modestly-financed candidate is at the mercy of nuclear strikes from television ads paid for by a rich or corporate-backed opponent with an “equal right” to “free speech.” As one hard pressed Connecticut Republican, lagging behind in a primary race against a billionaire opponent outspending him twelve to one, put it: “I’m fighting someone with a machine gun and I’ve got a pistol.” When the votes were counted, even the pistol turned out to be a peashooter.
A generation ago, the veteran Washington reporter Elizabeth Drew warned against the rising tide of campaign money that would flood over the gunwales of our ship of state and sink the entire vessel. Noah’s Flood was a mere drop in the bucket compared to the tidal wave that has fulfilled Drew’s prophecy. The re-election of every member of Congress today is now at the mercy of corporate barons and private princes who can make or destroy a candidacy by giving to those who vote “right,” or lavishing funds on opponents of those who don’t.
Writing the majority opinion for Citizens United, Justice Anthony Kennedy would have us believe corruption only happens if cash passes from one hand to another. But surely as he arrives at his chambers across from Capitol Hill every morning, he must inhale the fetid air rising from the cesspool that stretches from Congress to K Street — and know there’s something rotten, beyond the naked eye, in how Washington works.
Senator John McCain knows. Having been implicated in the Keating Five scandal during the savings and loan debacle 30 years ago, he repented and tried to clean up the game. To no avail. And now he describes our elections as nothing less than “an influence-peddling scheme in which both parties compete to stay in office by selling the country to the highest bidder.”
For the ultimate absurdity of money’s role, we must look to another group of happy billionaires, the corporate owners of the television stations which reap handsome profits for selling the public’s airwaves to undisclosed buyers (also known as campaign contributors) who pollute the political atmosphere with millions of dollars spent on toxic ads designed to keep voters angry, dumb, or both. Every proposal is shot down or undermined that would make it a duty for those stations to devote free air time for public purposes in order to earn the licenses that they treat as permits to get rich. In one of the great perversions of the Constitution foisted on its subjects by their overlords, the public airwaves where free speech should reign have become private enclosures to which access must be bought. Free? It’s about as free as Tiffany pearls.
Money rules. And in the foul air democracy chokes and gasps, the middle class falls behind, and the poor sink from sight as political donations determine the course and speech of policies that could make the difference in the lives of ordinary people struggling in a dog-eat-dog world.
The Devil must grin at such a sorry state of affairs and at the wicked catch-22 at its core. To fight the power of private money, it is first necessary to get elected. To get elected it is necessary to raise astronomical amounts of private money from people who expect obedience in return. “That’s some catch,” says Yossarian to Doc Daneeka, and Doc agrees: “It’s the best there is.”
Where is the outrage at this corruption? Partly smoothed away with the violence, banality, and tawdry fare served up by a corporate media with every regard for the public’s thirst for distractions and none for its need to know. Sacrificed to the ethos of entertainment, political news — instead of getting us as close as possible to the verifiable truth — has been reduced to a pablum of so-called objective analysis which gives equal time to polemicists spouting their party’s talking points.
As ProPublica recently reported: “Someone who gives up to $2,500 to the campaign of President Barack Obama or challenger Mitt Romney will have his or her name, address and profession listed on the FEC website for all to see. But that same person can give $1 million or more to a social welfare group that buys ads supporting or attacking those same candidates and stay anonymous.” But when is the last time you heard one of the millionaire anchors of the Sunday talk shows aggressively pursue a beltway poobah demanding to learn about the perfidious sources of the secret money that is poisoning our politics?
At our combined ages we’ve seen it all; hope no longer springs eternal. We know the odds against reversing the hardening grip of the monied interests are disheartening. Those interests are playing to win the ferocious class war they launched 40 years ago with a strategy devised by the corporate lawyer Lewis Powell (later a Supreme Court justice) and a call to arms from the Wall Street wheeler-dealer William Simon, who had been Richard Nixon’s treasury secretary. Simon argued that “funds generated by business” would have to “rush by multimillions” into conservative causes in order to uproot the institutions and the “heretical” morality of the New Deal. He called for an “alliance” between right-wing ideologues and “men of action in the capitalist world” to mount a “veritable crusade” against everything brought forth by the long struggle for a progressive America. Business Week noted at the time “that some people will obviously have to do with less… It will be a bitter pill for many Americans to swallow the idea of doing with less so that big business can have more.”
This was not meant to be. America was not intended to be a winner-take-all country. Our system of checks and balances — read The Federalist Papers — was to keep an equilibrium in how power works and for whom. Because of the vast sums of money buying up our politics, those checks and balances are fast disappearing and time is against us.
We are losing ground, but that’s the time when, more than ever, we need to glance back at the progressive crusades of a century ago to take note of what has been forgotten, or rather what braying blowhards like Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck have been distorting or attempting to flush down the memory hole. Robbing a nation of its historical memory is the most devastating of all larcenies because it opens the door to far worse crimes.
We have been here before. The two of us have collaborated in studying the example of the populists and progressives who over a century ago took on the financial and political corruptors. They faced heavy odds, too — a Supreme Court that exalted wealth as practically a sacred right, the distortion by intellectual and religious leaders of the theory of evolution to “prove” that the richest were the fittest to rule, the crony capitalism of businessmen and politicians.
With government in the grip of such exploiters, child labor was a fact of life, men and women were paid pittances for long hours of work and left unprotected from industrial diseases and accidents, and workers too old to be useful to employers any longer were abandoned to starvation or the poorhouse. No model laws existed to protect them.
But these pioneers of progressivism were tough citizens, their political courage fueled by moral conviction. They sensed, as the Kansas editor William Allen White wrote, that their country had fallen into the hands of self-seekers, their civilization needed recasting, and a new relationship must be forged between haves and have-nots. When the two major parties failed them they gave full throat to their discontent by fighting from outside, and when Theodore Roosevelt’s breakaway Progressive Party held its organizing convention in l912 — exactly one hundred years ago — they shook the rafters with “The Battle Hymn of the Republic.” Oh, for such defiance today!
From the fighters of that era came a renewal of the social contract first set forth in the preamble of the Constitution — the moral and political notion of “We, the People.” Equitable access to public resources was its core, so that when the aristocrat De Tocqueville came here from France in the l830s he marveled at the egalitarian spirit he found in the new country. Public institutions, laws and regulation, as well as the ideas, norms, and beliefs embedded in the American mythos pointed to a future of prosperity open to all. That ideal survived the fires of the civil war and then the hard, cold cruelties of the industrial era and the First Gilded Age because people believed in and fought for it. They neither scorned nor worshipped wealth but were determined it would not rule.
It was on these foundations that the New Deal built the structure now under attack, with the support of a Depression-stricken nation which realized that we were all in it together — as we were in the war against fascism that followed.
But in the succeeding fat years the nation forgot something — the words of the great progressive senator Robert LaFollette from Wisconsin: “Democracy is a life and demands constant struggle.” Constant struggle. No victory can be taken for granted, no vigilance relaxed. Like the Bourbon kings of France, the lords of unrestrained, amoral capitalism never forgot anything. They learned from their defeat how to organize new strategies and messages, furnish the money to back them, and recapture control of the nation’s life. And in the absence of genuine, fight-to-the-finish resistance, they are winning big-time.
Think of where we are now. One party is scary and the other is scared. The Tea Party, the religious right, and a host of billionaires dominate the Republican Party. Secret money fills its coffers. And in the primaries this year almost every Republican inclined to compromise to make government work went down before radical and well-funded opponents with a fundamental “anti-government” mindset.
Yet even now President Obama says he is sure the Republicans will be willing to negotiate if he is re-elected. Sure, and the wolves will sit down with the lamb.
Nor is that all. In Wisconsin, salvo after salvo of campaign cash for union-busting Governor Scott Walker defeated the effort to recall him. In Pennsylvania a hardline judge has given his approval to a voter ID law specifically targeted to making it harder for low-income would-be voters to register. And such laws are proliferating like runaway cancer cells in state after state. The Tea Party and right-wing Christians furnish the shock troops of these assaults, but those who could be counted on for sturdy defense are not immune to the grinding pressures of nonstop fundraising. Democratic incumbents and challengers, in national and state canvasses likewise garner corporate contributions — including President Obama, whose fundraising advantage is about to be overtaken by Mitt Romney and the Deep Pockets to whom he is beholden. And at both conventions, the prime time show is merely window-dressing; the real action occurs at countless private invitation-only parties where CEOs, lobbyists, trade associations and donors literally cash in their chips. Writing in the New York Times, for example, Nicholas Confessore reports how The American Petroleum Institute will entertain with a concert and panels, all the while promoting an agenda that includes approval of the Keystone XL pipeline, opposition to new transparency rules for American energy companies operating abroad, and the expansion of oil production on those public lands Mitt Romney is preparing to turn over to them.
Does this money really matter? Do owls and bats fly by night? Needed reforms are dead on arrival on the floor of Senate and House. Banking regulations with teeth? Mortgage relief? Non-starters when the banks’ lobbyists virtually own Washington and the President of the United States tells Wall Street financiers he is all that stands between them and the pitchforks of an angry mob. Action on global warming? Not while the fossil fuel industries and corporate-back climate deniers have their powerful say in the matter. Cutting bloated military expenditures? Uh-uh, when it means facing a barrage of scare stories about weakening our defenses against terrorism. Spend money on modernizing our rail system or creating more public transportation in our auto-choked city streets? What heavy artillery the auto, gasoline and highway construction lobbies would rain down on any such proposal.
All of which would make a Progressive Rip Van Winkle shake his head in disbelief and grind his teeth in fury. “Where is the passion we shared for driving money from politics?” he would ask. Where indeed? Not on the floor of either of these conventions. You are unlikely to hear the name of Theodore Roosevelt praised by Republicans or of Franklin Delano Roosevelt by the Democrats, except in perfunctory terms (It was FDR, after all, who said he feared government by money as much as government by the mob.)
Each party will sing the obligatory hosannas to the middle class, give the silent treatment to the working poor, and bellow forth the platitudes of America’s “spirit of enterprise and innovation” that will restore our robust economy and world leadership. If the stagnant recovery and sufferings of the unemployed and underemployed get any mention, it will be to blame them on the other party. As for taking on the predatory rich, forget it.
Our advice: Learn something from the emptiness of what you see and hear — and if it doesn’t make you mad as hell and ready to fight back against the Money Power, we are all in real trouble.

Italy: Wealthy Yacht Owners Targeted by Tax Authorities

Thursday, August 30, 2012 – by Staff Report

Yachts Raided by Tax Authorities in Italy ... August should be the high season for yachters lounging off the coast of Italy. But this summer, many are staying clear to avoid a new threat: tax authorities. Yacht brokers say that mega-yachts sailing off the Tuscan and Amalfi coasts have been increasingly targeted by tax inspectors looking for revenue. The tax inspectors, who often board the boats at marinas, are carrying out what Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti last week called "a state of war" against tax evaders. – CNBC
Dominant Social Theme: These one-percenters are a greedy disaster and should be strung up.
Free-Market Analysis: The disease of class envy is upon us once again. We've watched the power elite whip up this meme and it is truly off-putting if you are sensitive to these things.
We cover elite themes so we do indeed notice what is transpiring and, of course, how it is all converging, the way elite promotions often do. It is part of an effort, in our humble view, to promote a certain kind of social divisiveness.
The power elite wants to run the world and what we call the Internet Reformation has made it difficult for their conspiracy to come to near-term fruition. In fact, they're being exposed every day.
Read More

Welcome to Michiganistan

Welcome to Michiganistan, where a burnt Koran is worth more than a beaten Jew

Zachary Tennen said two college-aged males asked if he was Jewish and when he answered yes, the two men assaulted him. Zachary told police the two men then “stapled me in the back side of my bottom teeth, starting in my gums and going upwards.”
Tennen, a journalism sophomore who loves basketball, is recovering from his injuries, but he had this to say.

“I’m really, really upset in a few ways,” Zachary Tennen said. “First of all it is a terrible experience, physically and also mentally to know someone would do something like this,” he said before his surgery, despite the difficulties for him to talk.


East Lansing Police appear to be skeptical and are denying that this was a hate crime. They were not nearly as reticent when it came to a burnt Koran left outside the Islamic Center of East Lansing.
The East Lansing Police Department is seeking the publics help to find who is responsible for burning and desecrating a Koran. The incident happened on September 11. It was found at the front door of the Islamic Center of East Lansing. The department is offering $10,000 for any information that would lead to the identification and prosecution of those responsible for this act.
It would appear that a burnt Koran merits a $10,000 reward, but a beaten Jewish college student can be safely ignored by the East Lansing Police.
Michigan is sounding more and more like a country in Europe.
posted by Carl in Jerusalem

Israel: It's Dirty Barry vs Dirty Harry ~ November 6, 2012

Dear me.... It's Grandma Jan and Jihad Kitty's latest video, Dirty Barry v. Dirty Harry - November 6, 2012.

Lebanon: Shia Muslims in Lebanon Criticize Hezbollah

Lebanon:Shia Protest Hezbullah

Video: Shia Muslims protest against Hezbullah
A large number of Lebenese citizens are speaking out against Hezbollah, the terrorist group that controls southern Lebanon and refuses to disarm. As Hezbollah continues to support the Assad regime's war crimes a short distance away in Syria, many Shi'a Muslims -- Hezbollah's base, that is -- are protesting Hassan Nasrallah's behavior.

Here's a report from al-Arabiya English.

Let's go to the videotape.

So if Israel attacks Iran, Hezbullah attacks Israel, and Israel pounds Lebanon, will Lebanese - including Shia - turn on Hezbullah? Hmmm.
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Israel: UN Ambassador slams Report on Gaza

Israel's Ambassador to the United Nations, Ron Prosor, has sent a scathing letter to the United Nations Security Council President Gerard Araud, blasting a UN report that claims that Gaza will be 'unlivable' by 2020. This is from the first link.
“This week, Israel’s children started their school year with the all-too-familiar sounds of sirens and explosions, as terrorists in Gaza fired six more rockets into their communities, Prosor wrote.

“While Israel’s schoolchildren were taking cover in bomb shelters, the UN released yet another biased report about Gaza. Apparently, the roar of rockets flying out of Gaza has not reached the deaf ears of the UN agencies that produced this report.”


Prosor said the officials who wrote the document “conveniently failed to mention that Hamas has brutally hijacked Gaza and deliberately targets Israeli civilians in relentless rocket attacks.”

The truth, he wrote, was “plain and simple: Hamas is responsible for the suffering in Gaza.”

Prosor said it was “high time” for the Security Council and other UN bodies to speak out loudly and clearly “against the violence that Hamas and other terrorists in Gaza continue to unleash on the children of our region, Israelis and Palestinians alike.”
Well, don't hold your breath waiting for that to happen.
posted by Carl in Jerusalem

Israel: USA fears Iran

S military chief Martin Dempsey to Israel: 'We won't have your back if you attack Iran'

Speaking to journalists in London at the opening of the Paralympic games, Martin Dempsey, the Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, said that the United States would not have Israel's back if it unilaterally attacked Iran.
Distancing himself from any Israeli plan to bomb Iran, Dempsey said such an attack would "clearly delay but probably not destroy Iran's nuclear programme".

He added: "I don't want to be complicit if they [Israel] choose to do it."

Dempsey said he did not know Iran's nuclear intentions, as intelligence did not reveal intentions. What was clear, he said, was that the "international coalition" applying pressure on Iran "could be undone if [Iran] was attacked prematurely". Sanctions against Iran were having an effect, and they should be given a reasonable opportunity to succeed.
The sanctions are indeed having an effect on Iran, but it's not the one that the United States Congress intended. In the meantime, Dempsey's not wanting to be complicit indicates that the US will stand aside if there's an Israeli attack. I wonder whether that includes absorbing the inevitable Iranian attacks on US troops.

Here's the problem: Most of Israel is convinced that President Obama is more concerned with his own reelection than he is with this country's fate. So long as that is the case, he will not be able to stop Israel from taking unilateral action.

Israel: Gaza Keeps Firing Rockets

Posted: 30 Aug 2012 01:30 PM PDT
Ma'an reports:
A previously unknown militant group claimed responsibility Wednesday for an attack on the Israeli city of Ashkelon with five Grad missiles the previous evening.

"The Mujahadeen consultative council in Jerusalem and its environs" said it would continue its attacks targeting Israeli areas near Gaza in response to its crimes against Palestinians.

Israeli authorities said two rockets and a mortar shell were fired into southern Israel late Tuesday. There were no reports of injury or damage in the attacks.
Don't you love how these "previously unknown groups" pop up all the time in Gaza - and they manage to get their hands on mortars and rockets?

Especially since every weapons tunnel into Gaza is monitored and controlled by Hamas?

GANSO says this is what they noticed Tuesday night:
MU, 29 AUG: Overnight, Pal. ops. fired 8 mortar shells and 3 HMRs ["home-made rockets"] toward the Green Line. 2 mortars and 1 HMR dropped short. No injuries or damage reported.
Luckily for Gazans, the ones that fell short didn't hit any homes. This time.

Meanwhile, Israel is complaining to the UN, and the UN is ignoring it:
Israeli Ambassador to the UN Ron Prosor has submitted another complaint to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon over the rockets that have been fired from Gaza on Sderot. Prosor accused the UN of inaction, urging the global body to condemn the violence.
Israel Matzav

Iran: Sanctions boost nuke production

How 'bout those sanctions? IAEA report says Iran has more than doubled underground centrifuges since May, 75% of the way to completing Fordow site

International sanctions are having a huge effect on Iran's nuclear program. Unfortunately, it's not the one for which supporters of sanctions outside the Obama administration were hoping. The IAEA reports that despite the sanctions, since May, Iran has doubled the number of underground centrifuges that are enriching uranium. That's right. More than doubled. In three months. The UN InternationalIran:

Egypt{ MB Official: Peace With Israel Brought Cancer And Other Diseases To Egypt

Video: Muslim Brotherhood official says peace brought cancer and other diseases to Egypt

Here's something that ought to convince us to immediately make peace with all of our Arab and Muslim neighbors. A leader of Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood, the party that rules Egypt, says that the 30-year old peace treaty with Israel brought cancer and other diseases to Egypt.

Let's go to the videotape (Hat Tip: Omri Ceren via Twitter).

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Tomorrow Is Today Trailer - YouTube

Tomorrow Is Today Trailer - YouTube

Sharpton: GOP’s diversity push an ’optical illusion’

Sharpton: GOP’s diversity push an ’optical illusion’

Ryan misleads on GM plant closing in hometown

In his acceptance speech, GOP Vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan appeared to suggest that President Obama was responsible for the closing of a GM plant in Ryan’s hometown of Janesville, Wisc.
That’s not true. The plant was closed in December, 2008, before Obama was sworn in. But look how Ryan came close to the line in his speech:
“Right there at that plant, candidate Obama said: ‘I believe that if our government is there to support you … this plant will be here for another hundred years.’ That’s what he said in 2008. Well, as it turned out, that plant didn’t last another year. It is locked up and empty to this day.”
Obama gave his speech in February, 2008, and he did say those words. But Ryan’s phrasing, referring to the fact the plant did not last another year, certainly suggests it closed in 2009, when Obama was president.
(A fuller account of this issue is available at The Fact Checker blog.)

Romney: Greed and Debt

August 29, 2012 7:00 AM ET
Mitt Romney illustration
Mitt Romney illustration
Illustration by Robert Grossman
The great criticism of Mitt Romney, from both sides of the aisle, has always been that he doesn't stand for anything. He's a flip-flopper, they say, a lightweight, a cardboard opportunist who'll say anything to get elected.
The critics couldn't be more wrong. Mitt Romney is no tissue-paper man. He's closer to being a revolutionary, a backward-world version of Che or Trotsky, with tweezed nostrils instead of a beard, a half-Windsor instead of a leather jerkin. His legendary flip-flops aren't the lies of a bumbling opportunist – they're the confident prevarications of a man untroubled by misleading the nonbeliever in pursuit of a single, all-consuming goal. Romney has a vision, and he's trying for something big: We've just been too slow to sort out what it is, just as we've been slow to grasp the roots of the radical economic changes that have swept the country in the last generation.
The incredible untold story of the 2012 election so far is that Romney's run has been a shimmering pearl of perfect political hypocrisy, which he's somehow managed to keep hidden, even with thousands of cameras following his every move. And the drama of this rhetorical high-wire act was ratcheted up even further when Romney chose his running mate, Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin – like himself, a self-righteously anal, thin-lipped, Whitest Kids U Know penny pincher who'd be honored to tell Oliver Twist there's no more soup left. By selecting Ryan, Romney, the hard-charging, chameleonic champion of a disgraced-yet-defiant Wall Street, officially succeeded in moving the battle lines in the 2012 presidential race.
Like John McCain four years before, Romney desperately needed a vice-presidential pick that would change the game. But where McCain bet on a combustive mix of clueless novelty and suburban sexual tension named Sarah Palin, Romney bet on an idea. He said as much when he unveiled his choice of Ryan, the author of a hair-raising budget-cutting plan best known for its willingness to slash the sacred cows of Medicare and Medicaid. "Paul Ryan has become an intellectual leader of the Republican Party," Romney told frenzied Republican supporters in Norfolk, Virginia, standing before the reliably jingoistic backdrop of a floating warship. "He understands the fiscal challenges facing America: our exploding deficits and crushing debt."
Debt, debt, debt. If the Republican Party had a James Carville, this is what he would have said to win Mitt over, in whatever late-night war room session led to the Ryan pick: "It's the debt, stupid." This is the way to defeat Barack Obama: to recast the race as a jeremiad against debt, something just about everybody who's ever gotten a bill in the mail hates on a primal level.
Last May, in a much-touted speech in Iowa, Romney used language that was literally inflammatory to describe America's federal borrowing. "A prairie fire of debt is sweeping across Iowa and our nation," he declared. "Every day we fail to act, that fire gets closer to the homes and children we love." Our collective debt is no ordinary problem: According to Mitt, it's going to burn our children alive.
And this is where we get to the hypocrisy at the heart of Mitt Romney. Everyone knows that he is fantastically rich, having scored great success, the legend goes, as a "turnaround specialist," a shrewd financial operator who revived moribund companies as a high-priced consultant for a storied Wall Street private equity firm. But what most voters don't know is the way Mitt Romney actually made his fortune: by borrowing vast sums of money that other people were forced to pay back. This is the plain, stark reality that has somehow eluded America's top political journalists for two consecutive presidential campaigns: Mitt Romney is one of the greatest and most irresponsible debt creators of all time. In the past few decades, in fact, Romney has piled more debt onto more unsuspecting companies, written more gigantic checks that other people have to cover, than perhaps all but a handful of people on planet Earth.
By making debt the centerpiece of his campaign, Romney was making a calculated bluff of historic dimensions – placing a massive all-in bet on the rank incompetence of the American press corps. The result has been a brilliant comedy: A man makes a $250 million fortune loading up companies with debt and then extracting million-dollar fees from those same companies, in exchange for the generous service of telling them who needs to be fired in order to finance the debt payments he saddled them with in the first place. That same man then runs for president riding an image of children roasting on flames of debt, choosing as his running mate perhaps the only politician in America more pompous and self-righteous on the subject of the evils of borrowed money than the candidate himself. If Romney pulls off this whopper, you'll have to tip your hat to him: No one in history has ever successfully run for president riding this big of a lie. It's almost enough to make you think he really is qualified for the White House.
The unlikeliness of Romney's gambit isn't simply a reflection of his own artlessly unapologetic mindset – it stands as an emblem for the resiliency of the entire sociopathic Wall Street set he represents. Four years ago, the Mitt Romneys of the world nearly destroyed the global economy with their greed, shortsightedness and – most notably – wildly irresponsible use of debt in pursuit of personal profit. The sight was so disgusting that people everywhere were ready to drop an H-bomb on Lower Manhattan and bayonet the survivors. But today that same insane greed ethos, that same belief in the lunatic pursuit of instant borrowed millions – it's dusted itself off, it's had a shave and a shoeshine, and it's back out there running for president.
Mitt Romney, it turns out, is the perfect frontman for Wall Street's greed revolution. He's not a two-bit, shifty-eyed huckster like Lloyd Blankfein. He's not a sighing, eye-rolling, arrogant jerkwad like Jamie Dimon. But Mitt believes the same things those guys believe: He's been right with them on the front lines of the financialization revolution, a decades-long campaign in which the old, simple, let's-make-stuff-and-sell-it manufacturing economy was replaced with a new, highly complex, let's-take-stuff-and-trash-it financial economy. Instead of cars and airplanes, we built swaps, CDOs and other toxic financial products. Instead of building new companies from the ground up, we took out massive bank loans and used them to acquire existing firms, liquidating every asset in sight and leaving the target companies holding the note. The new borrow-and-conquer economy was morally sanctified by an almost religious faith in the grossly euphemistic concept of "creative destruction," and amounted to a total abdication of collective responsibility by America's rich, whose new thing was making assloads of money in ever-shorter campaigns of economic conquest, sending the proceeds offshore, and shrugging as the great towns and factories their parents and grandparents built were shuttered and boarded up, crushed by a true prairie fire of debt.
Mitt Romney – a man whose own father built cars and nurtured communities, and was one of the old-school industrial anachronisms pushed aside by the new generation's wealth grab – has emerged now to sell this make-nothing, take-everything, screw-everyone ethos to the world. He's Gordon Gekko, but a new and improved version, with better PR – and a bigger goal. A takeover artist all his life, Romney is now trying to take over America itself. And if his own history is any guide, we'll all end up paying for the acquisition.

My husband will uplift country

(CNN) - Ann Romney will describe her husband, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, as a problem solver who "has helped lift up others" in her Tuesday primetime speech at the Republican National Convention, according to excerpts released by the Romney campaign.
"This is the man who will wake up every day with the determination to solve the problems that others say can't be solved, to fix what others say is beyond repair," she is to say about her husband, according to the excerpts. "This is the man who will work harder than anyone so that we can work a little less hard."

Brazil: Miners Allegedly Have Killed Dozens of Indigenous

Miners Allegedly Killed Dozens of Indigenous Amazonians

Posted on Aug 29, 2012
Fora do Eixo (CC BY-SA 2.0)

A human rights group has reported an attack on the Yanomami tribe in Venezuela that has left up to 80 people dead after gold miners set fire to a communal house last month.
Three survivors have been accounted for so far. Yanomami groups have called on Venezuelan authorities to cooperate with Brazil in monitoring the activity of illegal miners. Activists say the tribe has been repeatedly threatened and attacked.
—Posted by Alexander Reed Kelly. Follow him on Twitter: @areedkelly.

Syria: The Kurdish Wild Card

Posted on Aug 28, 2012
AP/Shaam News Network
Kurdish protesters hold an effigy of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad as they wave the Kurdish flag during a demonstration in the northeastern town of Amouda, Syria.
The apartment reminds me of a ’60s-era crash pad. Syrian Kurds in their 20s sprawl on every available bed, couch and sleeping mat. Posters line the walls extolling Kurdish martyrs who fought Bashar al-Assad.
Fighters, smugglers, medics and demonstration organizers who have fled Syria stay here in Antakya, near the Syrian border. They reflect different political viewpoints but are united in opposition to the Syrian regime.
Bassam Al Ahmed, an activist who had just arrived from the mostly Kurdish city of Qamishli, tells me the Syrian government still controls the big Kurdish towns. Nevertheless, “thousands of people still demonstrate in the cities,” he says. In July, for the first time, armed Kurds took control of four villages. He says he believes the tide is turning against Assad.
But Kurdish participation in the uprising is anything but simple. Turkish residents of this city generally sympathize with the Syrian opposition. But when neighbors found out that the crash-pad Syrians were Kurdish, they called the cops.
The Turkish government has long battled Kurdish fighters within its borders, and tends to link Kurdish activism with terrorism. When the police investigated, however, the Syrians assured them they were fighting Assad, not Turkey.
<a href='' target='_blank'><img src='' border='0' alt='' /></a>
That incident symbolizes the complexities facing Kurds, an ethnic minority making up an estimated 10 to 15 percent of Syria’s population of 22 million. Kurds face discrimination and repression under Assad. But when they took up arms against the Syrian regime, both Turkey and the United States became wary.
The Turks argue that an extremist faction of Kurds, the Kurdish Democratic Union Party, (PYD), seized the Syrian villages with the intention of launching cross-border attacks on Turkey. The PYD is affiliated with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which Turkey and the United States consider a terrorist group.
Referring to the villages under Kurdish control, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan told a press conference, “We will not let the terrorist group set up camps and pose a threat to us. No one should attempt to provoke us.”
Every Kurd interviewed for this article, including strong opponents of the PYD, said Erdogan is manufacturing a threat to intimidate the Kurdish movement. Activist Al Ahmed notes that the villages are controlled jointly by the PYD and the umbrella Kurdish National Council (KNC). He asks why Kurds would attack Turkey when many are coming here as refugees.
Kurdish activists say the real issue is who controls the opposition movement in the Kurdish region. Kurds won’t allow the Turkish-backed Free Syrian Army into their areas. Kurds are divided into many political groups, but they are united in demanding that a post-Assad government respect Kurdish rights.
When I interviewed President Bashar al-Assad at the presidential palace in 2006, I asked why Kurds shouldn’t be educated in their own language. Why not grant Syrian citizenship to some 250,000 Kurds who were stateless as a result of a 1962 Syrian government decision?
He promised to resolve those issues, and then proceeded to do nothing for six years. When the uprising began in March 2011, Assad finally granted the Kurds citizenship, but ignored other demands.
In the early months of the uprising, the vast majority of Kurdish political parties declined to join the opposition led by Syrian Arabs. Many Kurds feared that conditions would be worse if conservative Islamists came to dominate a new Syria. But in recent months, Kurds have seen the Assad regime severely weakened.
Miral Biroredda, a Kurdish activist and leader of a Local Coordinating Committee in central Syria, told me “Kurds are now engaged in armed struggle. If Assad falls, Kurds can assert their own rights.”
Almost all the Syrian Kurdish parties have joined the KNC. That coalition has close ties to Massoud Barzani, the powerful leader of Iraqi Kurdistan. Barzani acknowledges that KNC guerrillas are receiving military training in Iraqi Kurdistan, but claims they are not yet fighting in Syria.
While the KNC has international backing, the militant PYD has iron discipline and ideologically committed cadres. The PYD, and its parent group the PKK, lack majority support, but not for the reasons usually proffered by the U.S. and Turkey.
The PKK has waged a 28-year armed campaign against Turkey. It targets the Turkish military, but has killed many civilians in the process. The PKK rejects the “terrorist” label and calls itself a national liberation group.
The PKK has been all over the map, politically. In the 1980s, it called for an independent, socialist Kurdistan. By the 1990s, it renounced socialism and separatism. It now demands local autonomy in the Kurdish region, although details remain vague. The PYD makes similar demands in Syria.
The PKK and PYD have angered many Kurds for creating a cult around their imprisoned leader Abdullah Ocalan. The PYD engages in extreme sectarianism, activists say, including attacks on other opposition militants.
When Syrian troops withdrew from the four Kurdish villages, for example, the KNC and PYD jointly took charge. “The PYD took down the Kurdish flag and hoisted their own,” said one disgusted Kurd, who asked that his name not be used for fear of retaliation.
Despite these differences, Syrian Kurds have some common demands. The country should no longer be called the Syrian Arab Republic, for instance, but return to the name Syrian Republic. (Kurds don’t consider themselves Arab.) They uniformly reject separatism, but demand some kind of local control in areas of Kurdish concentration.
But even such relatively simple demands run into roadblocks. Syria’s Muslim Brotherhood, one of the major opposition groups, worries that the Kurds really want a separate state.
“Many of the Kurdish leadership don’t express their desire to separate from Syria,” Omar Mushaweh, a top Muslim Brotherhood spokesman told me. “But they sometimes list demands that would lead eventually to separation.”
As an example, he cited the demand for a Kurdish parliament. “We’re willing to accept some kind of local control in Kurdish regions, but not a parliament,” he said.
Mushaweh strongly criticized “extreme Kurdish nationalists.” He interpreted the PYD raising its own flag, for example, as “creating instability and fights with Turkey.”
The Muslim Brotherhood is holding talks with KNC leaders to resolve the sharp differences between Kurdish and other opposition groups.
The residents of the crash pad, meanwhile, continue their work opposing the Syrian regime and asserting Kurdish rights. Some stay in Turkey to organize; others are going back to Syria to fight. Events are moving rapidly. The Kurds say they are determined to chart their own future in a post-Assad government.