Posts Tagged ‘president obama’

PUBLIC ENEMIES 1 and 2

December 9, 2009

BILLIONAIRE BASTARDS:

Meet the Billionaire Brothers Funding the Right-Wing War on Obama, Think Progress. by Faiz Shakir, et al.

They’re the 9th richest people in America and they’re pushing hard to upend President Obama’s progressive agenda.

Billionaire brothers David and Charles Koch are the wealthiest, and perhaps most effective, opponents of President Obama’s progressive agenda. They loom in the background of every major domestic policy dispute this year. Ranked as the 9th richest men in America, the Koch brothers sit at the helm of Koch Industries, a massive privately owned conglomerate of manufacturing, oil, gas, and timber interests. David and Charles are also responsible for a vicious attack campaign aimed directly at obstructing and killing progressive reform. Over the years, millions of dollars in Koch money has flowed to various right-wing think tanks, front groups, and publications. At the dawn of the Obama presidency, Koch groups launched television and radio ads deriding the recovery stimulus package as simply “pork” spending. The Cato Institute — founded by Charles — as well as other Koch-funded think tanks like the Heritage Foundation, produced a blizzard of reports distorting the stimulus and calling for a return to Bush-style tax cuts to combat the recession. David’s Americans for Prosperity (AFP) placed calls and helped organize the very first “tea party” protests. AFP, founded in 1984 by David and managed by astroturf lobbyist Tim Phillips, mobilized “tea party” opposition to health reform, clean energy legislation, and financial regulations.

STOPPING CLEAN ENERGY: David Koch presents himself as a champion of science. Nevertheless, Koch has done more to undermine the public’s understanding of climate change science than any other person in America. The Competitive Enterprise Institute, funded by Koch, wages an underhanded campaign to falsely charge that a set of hacked e-mails unravels the scientific consensus that global warming is real. Despite the brothers’ extravagant wealth, Koch’s Americans for Prosperity has run populist ads mocking environmentalists as spoiled brats. Koch Industries has spent nearly $9 million dollars so far to misinform the public on climate change legislation. Koch-funded operatives attempted to crash the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen this week, and may succeed in scuttling any prospect for addressing climate change.

STOPPING HEALTH REFORM: Much of the fierce opposition to health reform can be credited to the Kochs. Their Patients United has blanketed the country with ads distorting provisions of the health reform legislation, particularly the public option. Koch groups foster extremism. A speaker with the Patients United bus tour compared health reform to the Holocaust while an eight-by-five foot banner at AFP health care rallies read, “National Socialist Health Care: Dachau, Germany” superimposed over corpses from a concentration camp. AFP channeled anger into Democratic healthcare town halls in August. It wasn’t the first time Koch groups helped hijack the health reform debate. In 1994, Americans for Prosperity, then known as Citizens for a Sound Economy, worked closely with then-House Speaker Newt Gingrich to bring mobs of angry men to health reform rallies [to intimidate] then-First Lady Hillary Clinton.

A LONG HISTORY OF STOPPING PROGRESS: The Koch brothers clearly have a financial stake in blocking reform. Koch Industry oil refineries are major carbon dioxide polluters, and Georgia-Pacific, a Koch Industries timber subsidiary, is one of the largest contributors to the loss of carbon-sink capacity. According to the EPA, Koch Industries is responsible for over 300 oil spills in the U.S. and has leaked three million gallons of crude oil into fisheries and drinking waters. Their opposition is a long family tradition of trying to shift the country to the far right. Fred Koch, father of Charles and David helped to found the John Burch Society in the late 1950s. The John Burch Society harnessed Cold War fears into hate against progressives, warning that President Kennedy, Civil Rights activists, and organized labor were in league with communists. His sons continue to galvanize hundreds of thousands of middle class people into supporting the Kochs’ narrow agenda of cutting corporate taxes and avoiding consumer regulations [to the ruin of our equality and democracy]. READ MORE:

http://www.alternet.org/politics/144455/meet_the_billionaire_brothers_funding_the_right-wing_war_on_obama

Obama Far Outdoes Bush in Escalating War — The Numbers Will Surprise You By David DeGraw, Amped Status.

Increasing numbers of deployed soldiers, mercenaries and drones all add up to Obama being more of a war president than Bush, in terms of hard numbers. READ MORE:

http://www.alternet.org/world/144449/obama_far_outdoes_bush_in_escalating_war_–_the_numbers_will_surprise_you

Copenhagen Won’t Be Enough — Only a ‘Human Movement’ Can Save Civilization from the Climate Crisis By Fred Branfman, Sacramento News & Review.

A strange cloud envelops human civilization as its leaders fail to take the measures to protect it in Copenhagen that they themselves endorsed just five months ago.

To be or not to be, that is the question.–William Shakespeare, Hamlet. READ MORE:

http://www.alternet.org/environment/144451/copenhagen_won%27t_be_enough_–_only_a_%27human_movement%27_can_save_civilization_from_the_climate_crisis

The Public Option That Isn’t Public At All By James Ridgeway, Mother Jones Online.

As the Senate negotiates its health-care reform bill, liberals appear ready to throw in the towel on a real public option. READ MORE:

http://www.alternet.org/politics/144446/the_public_option_that_isn%27t_public_at_all

OH, AMERICA!

December 2, 2009

Patriot's Dream

ABSTRACT

15 Signs American Society Is Coming Apart at the Seams By David DeGraw, Amped Status,  edited excerpt from the Amped Status report, “The Critical Unraveling of U.S. Society.”  LINKto full report at END of ABSTRACT.

Are we nearing a tipping point as rapacious elites push a heavily armed populace too far?

The economic elite have launched an attack on the U.S. public and society is unraveling at an increased rate. You may have missed it in the mainstream news media, but statistical societal indicators are reading red across the board. Let’s look at the top 15 statistics that prove we are under attack.

1) The inequality of wealth in the United States is soaring to an unprecedented level. The U.S. already had the highest inequality of wealth in the industrialized world. Since the crisis, the gap between the top 1 percent and the remaining 99 percent of the U.S. population has grown to a record high.

2) As the stock market went over the 10,000 mark and surged to a 13-month high, the three big banks that took taxpayer money and benefited the most from the bailout have just set a new global economic record by issuing $30 billion in annual bonuses this year, “up 60 percent from last year.” Goldman Sachs is on pace for the best year in the firm’s history, and it is also benefiting by only paying 1 percent in taxes.

3) The profits of the economic elite are “now underwritten by taxpayers with $23.7 trillion worth of national wealth.”

As the looting is occurring at the top, the U.S. middle class is just beginning to collapse.

4) Workers between the ages of 55 to 60, who have worked for 20 to 29 years, have lost an average of 25 percent off their 401k. During the same time period, the wealth of the 400 richest Americans went up by $30 billion, bringing their total combined wealth to $1.57 trillion.

5) Home foreclosure filings “hit a record high in the third quarter (of 2009)… They were the worst three months of all time… some experts estimate that next year will be even worse.”

President Obama has enacted a $75 billion taxpayer funded program that has been a spectacular failure in stemming the foreclosure crisis and another massive waste of billions of taxpayer dollars.

6) 25 million people are unemployed or underemployed.

We have 25 million people who urgently need to increase their income, and they’re quickly running out of options. “The president’s chief economic adviser warned that the nation’s unemployment rate could stay ‘unacceptably high’ for years to come.”

The New York Times reports: “Americans now confront a job market that is bleaker than ever in the current recession, and employment prospects are still getting worse.

Economist Nouriel Roubini, just reported on unemployment stating: “Think the worst is over? Wrong. Conditions in the U.S. labor markets are awful and worsening…. So we can expect that job losses will continue until the end of 2010 at the earliest. The jobs just are not coming back.”

7) As the few elite banks thrive, there have been 123 U.S. bank failures this year. The troubles put taxpayers at risk of losing as much as $5.1 billion invested in the banks since TARP was launched in October 2008.”

8) As bankruptcies surge across the board, 10 U.S. states are on the verge of bankruptcy, with several ready to declare a financial state of emergency. California, Arizona, Florida, Illinois, Michigan, Nevada, New Jersey, Oregon, Rhode Island and Wisconsin, raising the likelihood of higher taxes, more government layoffs and deep cuts in services.”

9) This is occurring at a time when the “federal budget deficit for the fiscal year that just ended was $1.4 trillion, nearly a trillion dollars greater than the year before.”  In total, “U.S. public debt topped $12 trillion for the first time in history, meaning Congress would have to raise the debt ceiling to prevent a shutdown of government operations.”

Economist Dean Baker explains the risk “If the debt limit is not passed, then at some point the government will not be able to pay workers and contractors. It won’t be able to send out Social Security checks or make payments for Medicaid and unemployment insurance to state governments. And, it will not be able to make interest payments on government bonds, effectively defaulting on the national debt.”

10) Although the government’s official figure tries to low-ball the number, 47.4 million U.S. citizens live in poverty, and the U.S. poverty rate is the highest in the industrialized world.

Predictably, homelessness is rising at an increased rate as well. “The fastest growing segment of the homeless population is families with children.”

Children have been hit especially hard by the economic crisis:

11) One out of every two children in the United States of America will need to use a food stamp… to EAT!

Washington Post report: “The nation’s economic crisis has catapulted the number of Americans who lack enough food to the highest level since the government has been keeping track, according to a new federal report, which shows that nearly 50 million people — including almost one child in four — struggled last year to get enough to eat… ‘This is unthinkable. It’s like we are living in a Third World country,’ said Vicki Escarra, president of Feeding America.”

These numbers don’t take into account the millions more unemployed throughout 2009.

This a national tragedy. But it gets much worse.

12) In 2008, according to the Census Bureau, the number of U.S. citizens without health care grew to a record 46.3 million.

13) Lack of health insurance has caused 45,000 preventable U.S. citizen deaths in the past year. The American Journal of Medicine recently released a study that stated, “Nearly two out of three bankruptcies stem from medical bills, and even people with health insurance face financial disaster if they experience a serious illness.”

Studies report that: 17,000 children have died due to lack of health care; 2,266 U.S. veterans have died in 2008 due to lack of insurance.

The Senate continues to strip meaningful amendments from a health care bill that wouldn’t even take effect until 2013; the health care bill is going to fall far short of meaningful reform and continue to rig the game in favor of large insurance company profits at the expense of the U.S. population. Change is not on the horizon.

The economic hit men have now hit the United States and millions of American citizens are now effectively sentenced to a slow death.

And the clock is ticking…

14) The gun and ammunition manufacturing industry in the United States has over 200 companies producing billions of dollars in annual revenues. This huge manufacturing base cannot fulfill demand quickly enough.

Americans are arming themselves to the teeth!

15) In the past year, 100 new armed militia groups have been formed, as militia members have doubled in numbers. One federal authority recently said, “All it’s lacking is a spark. I think it’s only a matter of time before you see threats and violence.”

So let’s break down these numbers.

You have 50 million people in desperate need of money, have no health insurance and can’t afford to get health care of any kind. They are running out of options fast, and time delayed is time closer to death.

The richest 1 percent have never had it so good.

We are sitting on a powder keg.

Read the rest of the report here.

Denial isn't a river in Africa.

IT’S THE BEES, PLEASE!

November 16, 2009

Birdlife

Peaceable Kingdom

Why We Need Bees and More People Becoming Organic Beekeepers By Makenna Goodman, Chelsea Green Publishing.

Bees teach us how to live our life in a way that by taking what we need from the world around us, we leave the world better than we found it.

Beekeeping is rising in popularity — from urban rooftops to backyard hives, the world is abuzz with interest in homemade honey. And who better to comment on the nature of bees than the former president of the Vermont Beekeepers Association, Ross Conrad. He’s led bee-related presentations and taught organic beekeeping workshops and classes throughout North America for many years, and Conrad’s small beekeeping business supplies friends, neighbors, and local stores with honey and candles among other bee related products, not to mention provides bees for Vermont apple pollination in spring. I talked to Conrad about organic beekeeping, the state of pollination, and tips for aspiring bee farmers.

Makenna Goodman: Your book, Natural Beekeeping: Organic Approaches to Modern Apiculture, offers up a program of natural beehive management, and an alternative to conventional chemical-based approaches. So — why organic beekeeping?

Ross Conrad: History has shown us that the industrialized “economy of scale” approach does not work when applied to agriculture because we are dealing with living biological systems, not an inert assembly line food production system where the economy of scale approach can be applied across the board. One of the biggest issues is the large number of chemical contaminants that are being found in beeswax and pollen, often at very high concentrations. Toxic chemical contamination has been implicated in Colony Collapse and the reality is that there is no effective regulation of chemicals in Western society. Let me tell you why: READ MORE: http://www.alternet.org/environment/143764/why_we_need_bees_and_more_people_becoming_organic_beekeepers

Sarah Palin Rules the GOP — And She Will Destroy It By Max Blumenthal, Tomdispatch.com.

Palin’s influence on a party largely devoid of leadership is expanding. If she doesn’t become the GOP’s future queen, she may be its future king-maker — and its destroyer.

Sarah Palin’s heavily publicized book tour begins in earnest this Monday, but weeks before, her ghostwritten memoir, Going Rogue: An American Life, had already vaulted into the number one position at Amazon. Warming up for a tour that will take her across Middle America in a bus, Palin tested her lines in a November 7th speech before a crowd of 5,000 anti-abortion activists in Wisconsin. She promptly cited an urban legend as a “disturbing trend,” claiming the Treasury Department had moved the phrase “In God We Trust” from presidential dollar coins. (The rumor most likely originated with a 2006 story on the far-right website WorldNetDaily.)

In fact, a suggested alteration in its position on the coin was shot down in 2007 after pressure from Democratic Senator Robert Byrd. Nonetheless, Palin did not hesitate to take up this “controversy,” however false, since it conveniently pits a tyrannical, God-destroying, secular big government against humble God-fearing folk. In doing so, of course, she presented herself as this nation’s leading defender of the faith.

In a Republican Party hoping to rebound in 2010 on the strength of a newly energized and ideologically aroused conservative grassroots, Palin’s influence is now unparalleled. Through her Twitter account, she was the one who pushed the rumor of “death panels” into the national healthcare debate, prompting the White House to issue a series of defensive responses. Unfazed by its absurdity, she repeated the charge in her recent speech in Wisconsin. In a special congressional election in New York’s 23rd congressional district, Palin’s endorsement of Doug Hoffman, an unknown far-right third-party candidate, helped force a popular moderate Republican politician, Dede Scozzafava, from the race. In the end, Palin’s ideological purge in upstate New York led to an improbable Democratic victory, the first in that GOP-heavy district in more than 100 years. READ MORE:

http://www.alternet.org/story/143967/sarah_palin_rules_the_gop_–_and_she_will_destroy_it

America Is One Big Clunker and No Amount of Cash Will Buy Us a New One By James Howard Kunstler, Kunstler.com.

We continue to be childishly delusional about our dark economic and environmental prospects. Unfortunately, reality isn’t amenable to lies and spin.

In The Long Emergency (2005, Atlantic Monthly Press), I said that we ought to expect the federal government to become increasingly impotent and ineffectual — that this would be a hallmark of the times. In fact, I said that any enterprise organized at the colossal scale would function poorly in years ahead, whether it was a government, a state university, a national chain retail company, or a giant midwestern farm. It is characteristic of the compressive contraction our society faces that giant hypercomplex systems will wobble and fail. We should expect this.

It’s tragic that the avatar of hopefulness himself, Barack Obama, stepped into his role at exactly the moment when this set of conditions was getting traction. It is sure to get worse, and there are going to be a lot of disappointed people out there who will be suffering terrible losses and real pain in daily life. Societies don’t do well when the public falls into the broad despair that is the opposite of hope. That’s when the long knives and the tribal animosities come out and things get smashed.  READ MORE:

http://www.alternet.org/environment/143969/america_is_one_big_clunker_and_no_amount_of_cash_will_buy_us_a_new_one

Obama’s Strongest Supporters Suffering the Most in Recession, While Elites Thrive By Bob Herbert, The New York Times.

The young, the black and the poor are among those who are being hammered unmercifully in this long and cruel economic downturn that the financial elites are telling us is over.

President Obama’s strongest supporters during the presidential campaign were the young, the black and the poor — and they are among those who are being hammered unmercifully in this long and cruel economic downturn that the financial elites are telling us is over.

If the elites are correct, if the Great Recession really is over, then these core supporters of the president are being left far, far behind — as are blue-collar workers of every ethnic and political persuasion. Nobody wants to talk seriously about class in America, but the elites are smiling and perusing their stock portfolios while the checklist of Americans locked in depressionlike circumstances just grows and grows: construction and manufacturing workers, young men without college degrees (especially young black and Hispanic men), teenagers, and those who were already poor when the recession began.

The economic environment for all of these groups is an absolute and utter disaster.  READ MORE:

http://www.alternet.org/story/143968/obama%27s_strongest_supporters_suffering_the_most_in_recession%2C_while_elites_thrive

Mooses

Sarah comes down from the mountain.

THANKSGIVING TURKEYS

October 13, 2009
Patriot's Dream

Patriot's Dream

Bill Moyers: Was the Financial Bailout Just a Slick, Friendly Takeover of the Federal Government? By Bill Moyers, Bill Moyers Journal. Moyers interviews Marcy Kaptur, a hero of Michael Moore’s latest documentary and former IMF head Simon Johnson on Wall Street’s purchase of our democracy.

http://www.alternet.org/workplace/143209/bill_moyers%3A_was_the_financial_bailout_just_a_slick%2C_friendly_takeover_of_the_federal_government

4 Supreme Court Cases That Will Say a Lot About the Direction of Our Country By Liliana Segura, AlterNet. Would a Human Sacrifice TV Channel be protected by the First Amendment? Answers to this and other key questions will be answered.

As the Supreme Court kicked off its new season last week with a brand new justice on the bench, the cases on the docket provided a fascinating glimpse into the judicial soul of the country.

In the first days alone, there were cases involving dog fighting, a controversial cross on public land, and a number of prickly criminal justice issues.

The months to come will test laws on some of the most controversial issues of our time, including guns, sex offenders and the uniquely American question of whether teenagers can be sentenced to life without parole. The outcomes will tell us a lot about the future direction of the Roberts court, and what it might mean to have Justice Sonia Sotomayor on the bench.

http://www.alternet.org/rights/143197/4_supreme_court_cases_that_will_say_a_lot_about_the_direction_of_our_country

Possible Major Speed Bump on the Way to Legal Marijuana By Stephen Webster, Raw Story. In spite of a law on California books for over a decade allowing sales of pot, L.A. DA Steve Cooley suddenly announces, “The time is right to deal with this problem.”

In spite of a law on California books for over a decade which allows the sale of medical cannabis to properly licensed patients, the district attorney in Los Angeles County is preparing an all-out legal assault against the “vast majority” of dispensaries.

“Hundreds of dispensaries operate under a 1996 voter initiative that allowed medical marijuana use, and a state law that allows for collective growing of marijuana,” NBC Los Angeles reported. “But based on a state Supreme Court decision last year, [LA County District Attorney Steve] Cooley has concluded that over-the-counter sales are illegal. Most if not all of the dispensaries in the state operate on that basis.”

http://www.alternet.org/rights/143208/possible_major_speed_bump_on_the_way_to_legal_marijuana

Republican Senate Sex Scandals Point Back to Secretive Conservative Christian “Family” By Bill Berkowitz, Religion Dispatches. It was a hot summer full of sex scandals for GOP members of “The Family,” the exclusive conservative Christian group with designs on DC power.

Before the Tea Party Express brought tens of thousands to protest in the nation’s capital, and before town hall meetings about health care devolved into shout downs, there was the story of the boys of C Street.

What at first seemed like a series of public sex scandals turned out to have a connective thread. The main protagonists (Governor Mark Sanford of South Carolina, Senator John Ensign of Nevada, and former Arkansas Congressman Chip Pickering) were all one-time residents of C Street and members of the Family, otherwise known as the Fellowship. As the summer unfurled, the “three amigos” gave mainstream media outlets plenty to talk about, and this highly secretive and powerful right-wing group got a lot of exposure. And then, as is the wont of the media, the story of C Street disappeared from the headlines.

http://www.alternet.org/politics/143151/republican_senate_sex_scandals_point_back_to_secretive_conservative_christian_%22family%22

Insurers Mount Attack Against Health Reform by Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar.  WASHINGTON — The health insurance industry is warning that a comprehensive Senate bill would increase the cost of a typical policy by hundreds, or even thousands, of dollars a year after lawmakers eased up on the requirement that all Americans get coverage.

The stinging attack came on the eve of a pivotal Senate vote and was a clear message to President Barack Obama and congressional Democratic leaders who have been making headway on overhauling the nation’s health care system. The industry fears that a weakening of the penalties for failing to get insurance would let Americans postpone getting coverage until they get sick.

http://www.commondreams.org/headline/2009/10/12-4

Second Thoughts by Michael Moore.  Friends,

Last night my wife asked me if I thought I was a little too hard on Obama in my letter yesterday congratulating him on his Nobel Prize. “No, I don’t think so,” I replied. I thought it was important to remind him he’s now conducting the two wars he’s inherited. “Yeah,” she said, “but to tell him, ‘Now earn it!’? Give the guy a break — this is a great day for him and for all of us.”

I went back and re-read what I had written. And I listened for far too long yesterday to the right wing hate machine who did what they could to crap all over Barack’s big day. Did I — and others on the left — do the same?

We are weary, weary of war. The trillions that will have gone to these two wars have helped to bankrupt us as a nation — financially and morally. To think of all the good we could have done with all that money! Two months of the War in Iraq would pay for all the wells that need to be dug in the Third World for drinking water! Obama is moving too slow for most of us — but he needs to know we are with him and we stand beside him as he attempts to turn eight years of sheer madness around. Who could do that in nine months? Superman? Thor? Mitch McConnell?

http://www.commondreams.org/view/2009/10/11

War and Peace Prizes by Howard Zinn.

I was dismayed when I heard Barack Obama was given the Nobel peace prize. A shock, really, to think that a president carrying on two wars would be given a peace prize. Until I recalled that Woodrow Wilson, Theodore Roosevelt, and Henry Kissinger had all received Nobel peace prizes. The Nobel committee is famous for its superficial estimates, won over by rhetoric and by empty gestures, and ignoring blatant violations of world peace.

Yes, Wilson gets credit for the League of Nations – that ineffectual body which did nothing to prevent war. But he had bombarded the Mexican coast, sent troops to occupy Haiti and the Dominican Republic and brought the US into the slaughterhouse of Europe in the first World War, surely among stupid and deadly wars at the top of the list.

Sure, Theodore Roosevelt brokered a peace between Japan and Russia. But he was a lover of war, who participated in the US conquest of Cuba, pretending to liberate it from Spain while fastening US chains on that tiny island. And as president he presided over the bloody war to subjugate the Filipinos, even congratulating a US general who had just massacred 600 helpless villagers in the Phillipines. The Committee did not give the Nobel prize to Mark Twain, who denounced Roosevelt and criticised the war, nor to William James, leader of the anti-imperialist league.

http://www.commondreams.org/view/2009/10/10-3

Wamm2

HARD LABOR

September 29, 2009
Hard Labor 
 
CORPORATE GIVEAWAYS:

The federal government spent $167 billion in 1994 on corporate tax breaks and handouts – an average of $1400 per taxpayer (not including subsidies from counties and cities, hazardous waste cleanup costs, or limits on corporate liability).  By contrast, the total price tag for Aid for Families with Dependent Children (AFDC), food stamps and public housing came to $50 billion, or $400 per taxpayer.

Not many politicians talk about this.  A rare exception is former Labor Secretary Robert Reich who said to the Democratic Leadership Council in November 1995 that people are mad because “we are on the way to becoming a two-tiered society composed of a few winners and a larger group left behind.”  Then, he said, “Since we are committed to moving the disadvantaged from welfare to work, why not target corporate welfare as well?”

The White House quickly distanced itself from Reich’s speech, but activists of all kinds picked it up: Perot’s United We Stand-America made it a major target of angry-middle groups; the right-wing Heritage Foundation and libertarian Cato Institute joined Ralph Nader to present a list of corporate pork barrel reforms.  Yet, neither Congress nor the White House makes much of corporate giveaways in budget-balancing plans.

What are the giveaways?  The active variety includes agribusiness, military contractor subsidies, loan guarantees, and the bailout of the S&Ls, and computer databases.  The rights to lumber and minerals on federal lands are routinely granted for $5 per acre, making the United States the only country in the world that virtually gives away its depletable natural resources!  Drugs developed with taxpayer money are routinely given to drug companies for monopoly marketing with no restraint on price, or royalties returned to the people.  The major television networks get free broadcast licenses with minimal public responsibility or obligation.

Passive corporate giveaways come in the form of tax breaks and loopholes.  Private individuals pay taxes at higher rates than corporations.  The investment tax credit designed to increase economic activity is historically taken as a windfall.  Tax breaks granted to be put back into productive equipment, plants and jobs, are commonly used to buy out other companies, creating no new jobs or wealth.  Subsidies actually debilitate innovation and efficiency.

In the debate over budget deficits, many ask, “How can we take food out of poor kids’ mouths and continue to subsidize the rich?”  Scant legislation has been introduced to rid us of tax loopholes for the rich. There’s been no serious move to initiate cost-benefit analysis of corporate giveaways, in the same way they’ve meticulously reviewed health and safety regulation for years, and assaulted affirmative action and the minimum wage.

One problem is that connections are frequently not made between things that people don’t like and what causes them.  Well-funded corporate lobbies and toadies are too adept at directing people’s anger against government in a massive, daily, Rush Limbaugh-/Lars Larsen-esque hate-your-government drumbeat.  They work to keep the focus away from corporations, which are the dominant institution in our society.

Government has been only a minion, a simply willing agent, for transferring tax dollars to corporate coffers. We are the richest nation in the history of the world and our richest (corporate) citizens behave as if divine providence, rather than selfish market decisions doom the poorest (human) citizens.  However, if the corporate greed issue is connected with people’s deprivation – and we brand-name the greediest corporate kings in the United States – we can turn the tide against the self-interested, compassionless and undemocratic aspects of the corporate institution. Corporations should pay their fair share to the citizens and communities, which enable their success.  That can result in real tax reform, without creating unnecessary hardships for the poor and middle class.

WALL STREET LIES BLAME VICTIMS TO AVOID RESPONSIBILITY FOR FINANCIAL MELTDOWN by Nomi Prins, Wiley Press.

To hear it from the big financial companies, the big crash started when poor people bought homes they couldn’t afford. But that was at most 1% of the problem.  Editor’s note: The following is an excerpt from Nomi Prins’ new book, It Takes a Pillage: Behind the Bailouts, Bonuses, and Backroom Deals from Washington to Wall Street.

The Second Great Bank Depression has spawned so many lies, it’s hard to keep track of which is the biggest. Possibly the most irksome class of lies, usually spouted by Wall Street hacks and conservative pundits, is that we’re all victims to a bunch of poor people who bought McMansions, or at least homes they had no business living in. If that was really what this crisis was all about, we could have solved it much more cheaply in a couple of days in late 2008, by simply providing borrowers with additional capital to reduce their loan principals. It would have cost about 3 percent of what the entire bailout wound up costing, with comparatively similar risk.

http://www.alternet.org/workplace/142944/wall_street_lies_blame_victims_to_avoid_responsibility_for_financial_meltdown

ORGANIZED IRRESPONSIBILITY

The Guardian/UK

US DOLLAR SET TO BE ECLIPSED World Bank President Predicts by Heather Stewart

The United States must brace itself for the dollar to be usurped as the world’s reserve currency as American dominance wanes in the wake of the financial crisis, the World Bank president, Robert Zoellick, warned yesterday. United States would be mistaken to take for granted the dollar’s place as the world’s predominant reserve currency, says Zoellick. Speaking ahead of the World Bank/IMF annual meetings in Istanbul, he said it was time for a “responsible globalisation”, in which decision-making was shared between the old powers and developing countries such as China and India.

http://www.commondreams.org/headline/2009/09/28-7

The Real News Network

CLEAN COAL IS FICTION says Jessy Tolkan: Washington saying coal industry can be “clean” is pure fiction.

Paul Jay speaks to Jessy Tolkan at the Tides Foundations’ Momentum conference in San Francisco. They speak about Tolkan’s coalition on climate change fighting Obama to establish a moratorium on all coal mining. Tolkan says that Washington’s push for “clean coal” is not enough because the coal industry’s and President Obama’s argument that the production of coal can be clean is “an absolute, 100% lie.” She also says that “the science is clear that if we don’t address coal head on, it’s almost “game over” for the planet.”

http://www.commondreams.org/video/2009/09/28

The New York Times

CASSANDRAS OF CLIMATE by Paul Krugman

Every once in a while I feel despair over the fate of the planet. If you’ve been following climate science, you know what I mean: the sense that we’re hurtling toward catastrophe but nobody wants to hear about it or do anything to avert it.

And here’s the thing: I’m not engaging in hyperbole. These days, dire warnings aren’t the delusional raving of cranks. They’re what come out of the most widely respected climate models, devised by the leading researchers. The prognosis for the planet has gotten much, much worse in just the last few years.

http://www.commondreams.org/view/2009/09/28-3

ENVIRONMENT-POPULATION JUMBOPAK

POLLUTER BORN EVERY MINUTE

gonefishin'

 

 

 

 

REPUBLICAN INSURANCE NAZIS

August 9, 2009

It's Not Fascism

ABSTRACT:  Republican Fascists.

EXPERTS SAY:

PAUL KRUGMAN, New York Times.

At recent town halls, angry protestors are yelling, “This is America!” to drown out public debate, and threatening democratic members of Congress with lynching for daring to speak the truth about health care.  Some commentators want us to believe that this is just good old civil disobedience.  It is not.

Experts on right-wing culture and politics say we are finally becoming a fascist state.  A fascist American future looms in the very near future if these people are allowed to win — or even hold their ground.

Published on Friday, August 7, 2009 by The New York Times

THE TOWN HALL MOB by Paul Krugman

http://www.commondreams.org/view/2009/08/07-1

William L. Shirer, Rise and Fall of the Third Reich.  Simon & Schuster.

“…Hitler organized a bunch of roughneck war veterans into ‘strong-arm’ squads…These uniformed rowdies… soon took to breaking up [meetings] of other parties.  Hitler told an audience, ‘The National Socialist Movement will in the future ruthlessly prevent – if necessary by force – all meetings or lectures that are likely to distract the minds of our fellow countrymen.’”

Frank Schaeffer, AlterNet: writer and author of Crazy for God: How I Grew Up As One Of The Elect, Helped Found The Religious Right, And Lived To Take All (Or Almost All) Of It Back.

Here’s the emerging American version of the fascist’s formula: combine millions of dollars of lobbyists’ money with embittered troublemakers who have a small army of not terribly bright white angry people (collected over decades through pro-life mass mailing networks) at their beck and call, ever ready to believe any myth or lie circulated by the semi literate and completely and routinely misinformed right wing Evangelical religious underground. Then put his little mob together with the insurance companies’ big bucks. That’s how it works — American Brown Shirts at the ready.  Republican leaders taking insurance industry money and organizing what amounts to roving bands of thugs not only need to be exposed but should also become absolute pariahs.

The Lobbyist-run Groups “Americans for Prosperity ” and “FreedomWorks” Dick Armey-Orchestrated Memo:

Here is a leaked excerpt from the folks organizing the intimidation campaign:

  • Artificially Inflate Your Numbers: “Spread out in the hall and try to be in the front half. The objective is to put the Rep on the defensive with your questions and follow-up. The Rep should be made to feel that a majority, and if not, a significant portion of at least the audience, opposes the socialist agenda of Washington.”
  • Be Disruptive Early And Often: “You need to rock-the-boat early in the Rep’s presentation, Watch for an opportunity to yell out and challenge the Rep’s statements early.”
  • Try To “Rattle Him,” Not Have An Intelligent Debate: “The goal is to rattle him, get him off his prepared script and agenda. If he says something outrageous, stand up and shout out and sit right back down. Look for these opportunities before he even takes questions.”

THE “SCORCHED EARTH POLICY”

Dick Armey and company have been driven mad by their reversal, not just of political fortunes but of seeing that they’ve wasted their lives. They now know they were wrong: about the country, the free market, war for fun and profit, and what the American people really want. They made their best case and were rejected by the American people — and by history. Bush was their man and he turned out to be a fool. So now all the Republican gurus have left is what the defeated Germans of World War Two had: a scorched earth policy. If they can’t win then everyone must go down. Obama must fail! The country must fail!

No, I don’t believe that these people are about to take over the country. No, the sky is not falling. But the Republican Party is. It is now profoundly anti-American.

http://www.alternet.org/healthwellness/141833/right-wing_turncoat_gives_the_inside_scoop_on_why_conservatives_are_rampaging_town_halls/

Sara Robinson, AlterNet: Fellow at the Campaign for America’s Future, and a consulting partner with the Cognitive Policy Works in Seattle. One of the few trained social futurists in North America, she has blogged on authoritarian and extremist movements at Orcinus since 2006, and is a founding member of Group News Blog.

What is fascism?

Pre-eminent historian Robert Paxton defines the term as: “a form of political behavior marked by obsessive preoccupation with community decline, humiliation or victimhood and by compensatory cults of unity, energy and purity, in which a mass-based party of committed nationalist militants, working in uneasy but effective collaboration with traditional elites, abandons democratic liberties and pursues with redemptive violence and without ethical or legal restraints goals of internal cleansing and external expansion.”

Fascism unfolds in five stages.

In the first stage, a rural movement emerges to effect some kind of nationalist renewal. They come together to restore a broken social order, always drawing on themes of unity, order, and purity. Reason is rejected in favor of passionate emotion, rooted in the promise of restoring lost national pride by resurrecting the culture’s traditional myths and values, and purging society of the toxic influence of outsiders and intellectuals blamed for current misery.

Modern American conservatism was built on these themes. From “Morning in America” to the Rapture-ready religious right to the white nationalism promoted by the GOP through various racist groups, American proto-fascism offers redemption by promising to restore the innocence of a traditional, white, Christian, male-dominated America. The entire Republican party now openly defines itself along these lines. It is blatantly racist, sexist, repressed, exclusionary, and permanently addicted to the politics of fear and rage. It has no shame, no apologies. These same threads weave through every fascist movement in history.

In the second stage, fascist movements take root, turn into real political parties, and seize their seat at the table of power.  The political base comes from rural, less-educated parts of the country; and offers themselves as informal goon squads organized to intimidate farmworkers on behalf of large landowners. The KKK persecuted black sharecroppers and enforced Jim Crow. The Italian Squadristi and the German Brownshirts broke up farmers’ strikes. These days, GOP-sanctioned anti-immigrant groups make life hell for Hispanic agricultural workers in the US. GOP right-wing goon squads are getting basic training that they may eventually use to intimidate the rest of us.

The second stage also depends on a weak liberal state, whose inadequacies create disorder, decline, or humiliation; and political deadlock because the Right – heir to power but unable to continue to wield it alone – refuses to accept a growing Left as a legitimate governing partner.” Hitler and Mussolini both took power under these same circumstances: “deadlock of constitutional government (produced in part by the polarization that the fascists abetted); conservative leaders who felt threatened by loss of capacity to keep the population under control at a moment of massive popular mobilization; an advancing Left; and conservative leaders who refused to work with that Left and who felt unable to continue to govern against the Left without further reinforcement.”

Sounds eerily like the dire straits Republicans are now in. Though the GOP has been humiliated, rejected, and reduced to rump status by a series of epic national catastrophes mostly of its own making, its leadership can’t even imagine governing cooperatively with the newly mobilized and ascendant Democrats. Lacking legitimate routes back to power, their last hope is to invest the hardcore remainder of their base with an undeserved legitimacy, recruit them as shock troops, and overthrow American democracy by force. If they can’t win elections or policy fights, they’re more than willing to take it to the streets, and seize power by bullying Americans into silence and complicity.

When that unholy alliance is made, the third stage — the transition to full-fledged government fascism — begins.

The third stage: being there

A deliberate, committed institutional partnership is forming between America’s conservative elites and its emerging homegrown brownshirt horde.

The “Teabag Movement” was created out of whole cloth by astroturf groups like Dick Armey’s FreedomWorks and Tim Phillips’ Americans for Prosperity, with massive media help from FOX News. The nonsense-issue Birther fracas is openly ratified by congressional Republicans.  Armey professionally-produced a field manual that carefully instructs conservative goon squads in the fine art of disrupting the democratic governing process. Republican House Minority Leader John Boehner applauds and promotes a video of the disruptions and looks forward to “a long, hot August for Democrats in Congress.”

This is the sign we were waiting for — the one that tells us that yes, kids: we are there now. America’s conservative elites have openly thrown in with the country’s legions of discontented far right thugs. They have explicitly deputized them and empowered them to act as their enforcement arm on America’s streets, sanctioning the physical harassment and intimidation of workers, liberals, and public officials who won’t do their political or economic bidding.

This is the catalyzing moment at which honest-to-Hitler fascism begins. It’s also our very last chance to stop it.

The Road Ahead

We’ve arrived. We are now parked on the exact spot where our best experts tell us full-blown fascism is born. Every day that the conservatives in Congress, the right-wing talking heads, and their noisy minions are allowed to hold up our ability to govern the country is another day we’re slowly creeping across the final line beyond which, history tells us, no country has ever been able to return.

How do we pull back?  That’s my next post.

Published on Sunday, August 9, 2009 by OurFuture.org

FASCIST AMERICA: ARE WE THERE YET? by Sara Robinson

http://www.commondreams.org/view/2009/08/09-5

READ THE FULL ARTICLES AT THE LINKS PROVIDED

Palintler

HOW TO FIGHT REPUBLICAN INSURANCE NAZIS:

Blood Sacrifice

ABSTRACT:

7 Ways We Can Fight Back Against the Rising Fascist Threat

By Sara Robinson, Campaign for America’s Future
http://www.alternet.org/story/141929/

Writing about fascism for Americans is a fraught business.  A third of the readers dismiss the topic (and the blogger’s sanity); they’ve got their own definition, or anyone who invokes the F-word is a de facto alarmist of questionable credibility.

Another third dismiss it because America has been fascist since (choose one:) 1) 9/11; 2) Reagan; 3) McCarthy; 4) the Civil War; 5) July 4, 1776.  For them, careful analysis and worried warnings are dangerously naive.

The final third engage in thoughtful discussion, including what must be done.

The most insidious part of fascism is that when it’s obvious to everyone that these people are dangerously out of control, it’s too late to do anything about it.  Early warnings are the business of futurists.  We can still change our minds, and spend our future elsewhere, but we are now actively choosing, whether aware of it or not.  Things are happening now that set a course we may be unable to alter.

How do we turn back? A few basic principles:

First: Teabaggers must not win.  When a bully learns that intimidation and threats work, he does more of it.  The longer he goes without penalty, the worse he gets and the harder it is to stop him.  Do nothing, and he takes over.

It only takes a handful of thugs to terrorize people into giving up civil rights, abandoning democracy and doing what they’re told.  The main imperative becomes staying off the goons’ radar.  All enforcers need do is make a horrific example out of “troublemakers” now and then to keep everybody else in line.

With a colossal conservative investment in organizing and directing teabaggers, we’d be stupid to believe that this will go away when Congress returns in September.  Having had a taste of power and publicity, these newly empowered mobs are likely to stick around and see what else they can muck up.

Our choice is stark: knock them back while they’re new, small and not yet entrenched; or later when they have real power to fight, and the cost is higher.

Second: Think nationally, fight locally.  Conservatives run this fight as a national campaign, but the terror that fuels fascism is always intensely, intimately local.  Fascist goon squads recruit from the neighborhood, built on people we know.  Since that’s where they start, that’s where they have to be stopped.  This is why all the best tactics involve community-level action.  Anybody who sits this one out because they assume that folks in D.C. will handle it shouldn’t be surprised when they get “special treatment” from longtime neighbors, or discover their car vandalized.

That’s the next baby step from where we are now; and in some places, it’s already happening.  Winning means getting out and defending community standards and boundaries while they’re still there to be defended.

Third: Use nonviolent resistance — leave heavy lifting and rough enforcement to police.  The only way to stop a bully is to stand up to them, but that doesn’t involve eye-for-an-eye.  If we meet thuggery with thuggery, we lose, because they’re better at, and enjoy it.  The right wing is looking hard to make a case that they’re innocent victims of the “left”.  The Nazis used this kind of victim-blaming to tremendous effect as they built up their party.  We must not give our proto-brownshirts any basis to make the same kind of argument.

It’s about the moral high ground.  Our choices must be consistent with our values.  Standing up for health care reform is important; but before that, we need to stand up for civil discourse and free speech.  We’re defending the rule of law; our best tactic is to use the law.  When people from either side cross the line, it’s time for police and prosecutors to assert that bullying people in a public meeting (or anywhere else) is illegal and will not be tolerated.

Fourth: Make sure media gets the story right.  Teabaggers run out of power if the media turns off their cameras, but this nefariously incited drama is a real ratings-booster.  Left alone, the media (local news in particular) turn these hate and fear mongers into cultural heroes.  The best cure for bad speech is good speech: documented, on YouTube, blogged, spread widely; a coordinated rapid-response letterwriting to local papers; and keeping local reporters well-fed with news of concerned nonpartisan citizens working to keep control of democratic discourse in the face of organized thugs trying to suppress it.  Since the media are watching, make sure they see it all.

Fifth: Support legislators who don’t show fear. The Democratic leadership knows that these noisy, scary people don’t represent the 73 percent of Americans who support health care reform.  The GOP runs the risk of being marginalized as the Party of No, and the Party of Moonbat Crazy.  If you’ve never attended a public meeting, August 2009 is the month to start.  Your congressperson’s Web site probably lists his or her schedule, or a number to call to inquire.

That’s a first step.  Do more.  Write.  Call.  Find out where your local congressional office is, and drop by.  Tell staff how you feel about health care reform, teabaggers, your legislator’s courage.  If they’re stressed, encourage them.  A constituent in the office counts.  One visit or call is good.  More is better.  Contact your representatives at least once a week to support their public service.

Sixth: Shut down the hate talkers.  Teabaggers come straight out of right-wing talk-radio audiences, mainlining raw emotion and toxic misinformation: “death panels!” “kill your granny!” “Join the “resistance!”  Cut off this endless torrent of lies and fearmongering to power down the whole movement.  Basic recipe:

  • Record their shows.
  • Note anything intimidating, threatening, or aimed at inciting violence against a named target.
  • Note every advertiser.
  • Write a polite letter to the CEOs of sponsors, toss in choice quotes and ask if they want their product identified with them.  This works extremely well — and quickly — at local and national levels.

Finally: Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty.  Conservatives invest a lot of money and effort to build a mass movement aimed at destroying democratic government — and they’re not going to let up as long as Democrats are in control.  This is our new reality — and it comes straight out of Chapter 6 of Hitler’s Mein Kampf.  They intend to keep the outrage junkies high with never-ending, made-up reasons to act out.  Which means that even if we win this round, we must push back against the bullies, over and over, for the next three to seven years.

There are only two outcomes: get very good at spotting and stopping these attempts at a brownshirt takeover the minute they crop up; or they get very good at public intimidation and keep ratcheting it up toward violence and goon rule.

That’s how it’s going to be for the rest of this administration.  The sooner we resign ourselves to the zero-sum nature of this fight, the sooner we can get on with getting good at it.

Sara Robinson is a fellow at the Campaign for America’s Future and a consulting partner with the Cognitive Policy Works in Seattle. One of the few trained social futurists in North America, she has blogged on authoritarian and extremist movements at Orcinus since 2006, and is a founding member of Group News Blog.

Read the full story online at: http://www.alternet.org/story/141929/

Fire Dancer

LEGISLATORS FOR SALE!

August 5, 2009
Sly hard sells Louie.

Sly hard sells Louie.

WOW!

Published on Tuesday, August 4, 2009 by Countdown w/ Keith Olbermann

LEGISLATORS FOR SALE by Keith Olbermann – VIDEO:

http://www.commondreams.org/video/2009/08/04

Thank you, Mr. Olbermann.

Thank you, CommonDreams.org

http://www.commondreams.org/

CommonDreams.org is a national nonprofit, progressive, nonpartisan citizens’ organization founded in 1997 by political activists Craig Brown and his late wife, Lina Newhouser.  They are a powerful online voice for change in America.  With millions of monthly readers, they have become one of the top progressive websites.  Check it out.  Here’s a sample of their fare.

LOCALIZED MAYHEM:

Published on Tuesday, August 4, 2009 by The Nation

Blackwater Founder Implicated in Murder by Jeremy Scahill.  A former Blackwater employee and an ex-Marine who worked as a security operative for the company have made a series of explosive allegations in sworn statements filed on August 3 in federal court in Virginia.  “The two men claim that the company’s owner, Erik Prince, may have murdered or facilitated the murder of individuals who were cooperating with federal authorities investigating the company.  the former employee also alleges that Prince ‘views himself as a Christian crusader tasked with eliminating Muslims and the Islamic faith from the globe,” and that Prince’s companies “encouraged and rewarded the destructionof Iraqi life.'”

http://www.commondreams.org/headline/2009/08/04-9

THE GREEN GREEN HILLS ARE BLACK:

Published on Monday, August 3, 2009 by Canada.com

Carbon Credits: ‘Cure Worse Than the Disease’ by Kevin Dougherty.  QuebecCarbon credits – to package and trade offsets to greenhouse gas emissions – won’t work, says McGill University economist Christopher Green, “rejecting the argument of Premier Jean Charest who wants the Montreal Exchange to be the carbon market for all of Canada.”

http://www.commondreams.org/headline/2009/08/03-6

Published on Monday, August 3, 2009 by Inter Press Service

The Biggest Shift from North to South: ‘Time to De-Grow’ – Q&A: Claudia Ciobanu interviews economist Serge Latouche.  BUCHAREST –  He calls for “abandoning the objective of growth for growth’s sake, an insane objective, with disastrous consequences for the environment.”  The need for a de-growth society stems from the certainty that the earth’s resources and natural cycles cannot sustain the economic growth that is the essence of capitalism and modernity.

http://www.commondreams.org/headline/2009/08/03-2

Published on Monday, August 3, 2009 by The Guardian/UK

Will a Warmer World Make Us Sicker? by Roberta Kwok.  Scientists are piecing together how climate impacts disease, strange patterns are emerging: mosquito outbreaks can follow drought, shorter migrations can make butterflies sick, and more birds (not fewer) can ward off West Nile virus.  From Conservation magazine, part of the Guardian Environment Network.  In the late 1990s, a set of alarming maps created a stir in the scientific community. “Based on predictions by a team of Dutch and Australian researchers and initially published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives, the maps charted how global warming could increase the risk of malaria in seemingly unlikely locales: northern countries such as Poland, the Netherlands, and Russia.”

http://www.commondreams.org/headline/2009/08/03-3

Published on Monday, August 3, 2009 by The Independent/UK

Warning: Oil Supplies Are Running Out Fast by Steve ConnorCatastrophic shortfalls threaten economic recovery, says world’s top energy economist.  “The world is heading for a catastrophic energy crunch that could cripple a global economic recovery because most of the major oil fields in the world have passed their peak production, a leading energy economist has warned.”

http://www.commondreams.org/headline/2009/08/03

Published on Tuesday, August 4, 2009 by The Globe and Mail (Canada)

Modified Corn Seeds Sow Doubts by Martin MittelstaedtNext spring, farmers in Canada will be able to sow one of the most complicated genetically engineered plants ever designed, a futuristic type of corn containing eight foreign genes.  “But a controversy has arisen over the new seeds, which were approved for use last month by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency: Health Canada hasn’t assessed their safety.”

http://www.commondreams.org/headline/2009/08/04-5

Published on Tuesday, August 4, 2009 by The Guardian/UK

Crackdown Against ‘Environmental Criminals’ Follows Greenpeace Report by Damian Carrington and Tom Phillips in Rio de Janeiro.  Shoe Brands Get Tough on Leather Suppliers to Save Amazon Rainforest.  Some of the world’s top footwear brands, including Clarks, Adidas, Nike and Timberland, have demanded an immediate moratorium on destruction of the Amazon rainforest from their leather suppliers in Brazil.

http://www.commondreams.org/headline/2009/08/04-1

Published on Tuesday, August 4, 2009 by The Guardian/UK

Obama’s Green Credentials Tested by Battle Against Mountaintop Mining by Suzanne Goldenberg.  James Hansen and Darryl Hannah among those opposing open-cast coal extraction that destroys mountains and forests.  “Like other opponents of mountaintop removal, [they] had been counting on Obama, with his election promises of a clean energy economy, to shift the power balance away from coal. But those hopes evaporated in May when the EPA signed 42 permits for mountaintop removal while turning down only six — a higher ratio even than during the latter part of the George Bush presidency. Some 170 more permits are pending, according to the Sierra Club.”

http://www.commondreams.org/headline/2009/08/04-2

Koi Pond

AVAAZ – “VOICES”

July 16, 2009

This is a very interesting group.  They’re doing a lot of good and significant things for the right reasons, using positive methods. 

ABOUT AVAAZ Avaaz.org is an independent, not-for-profit global campaigning organization that works to ensure that the views and values of the world’s people inform global decision-making. (Avaaz means “voice” in many languages.) Avaaz receives no money from governments or corporations, and is staffed by a global team based in Ottawa, London, Rio de Janeiro, New York, Buenos Aires, and Geneva.

Dear friends,

Here’s a quick report back on recent campaigning at Avaaz. Our community has grown like wildfire and is becoming really extraordinary — the pace and impact of our advocacy is intense. In just the last 8 weeks, we’ve run 9 major national and global campaigns on issues ranging from climate change to Iran to Guantanamo. Much more remains to be done on all these issues — but together we’re contributing in powerful ways. Here are some highlights from the last 8 weeks:

Brazilian rainforest – Brazilian Avaaz members made 14000 phone calls and sent 30,000 online messages to President Lula’s office in two days(!) and in the 11th hour successfully reversed a law that would hand over much of the Amazon rainforest to agrobusiness for exploitation – this was a major victory on climate change since the Amazon consumes enormous amounts of the greenhouse gasses that are warming the earth.

G8 Summit – last week 130,000 Avaaz members signed a petition in 48 hours calling for the G8 industrial countries to limit global warming to 2 degrees celsius – focusing on shaming 3 countries who were blocking progress. The petition was delivered at the summit to UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown (see image at right), along with giant personalized postcards.

Outside the summit, Avaaz members stripped down to green underwear in a humorous theatrical delivery of the campaign’s message that generated substantial media coverage (pictured at right). As Avaaz and partners built pressure in Italy and around the world, the blocking countries relented, and the G8 leaders agreed to the 2 degree goal! However, they failed to agree on specific actions to make the goal a reality — our challenge now is to make sure leaders live up to their rhetorical commitments with a binding global treaty at the UN summit in Copenhagen this December.

Iran Protests – our community rapidly responded to the election crisis in Iran with an opinion poll to gauge the views of ordinary Iranians, a petition to world leaders to withhold recognition of the new President until the crackdown on protests ceased, and a fundraiser to support technology that would allow Iranians to freely access the internet. The rapidly deteriorating security situation has made it difficult to conduct the poll (final word on that coming this week), but the technology fundraiser has raised over a hundred thousand dollars to support the best tools for Iranians to access the internet and communicate freely. The situation in Iran remains uncertain, and we will continue to both support freedom of expression and oppose those who would exploit this crisis to justify military action against Iran.

Japan climate targets – In Japan, we raised the alarm as the Prime Minister Taro Aso was about to choose a damagingly weak climate targets. Funded by small online donations, Avaaz ran a national opinion poll that showed that 63% of Japanese people wanted strong targets, publicized it in the press, in a full page ad in the country’s largest business newspaper, and one in the Aso’s favourite comic book (see right). Internationally, Avaaz ran a front page ad in the Financial Times, and Avaaz members demonstrated and met with Japanese climate negotiators at summits in Paris and Bonn.

At last, the Prime Minister announced a target stronger than polluting industries had urged — but far from strong enough to stop catastrophic climate change. So we redoubled the pressure with a widely-covered international press conference dubbing the Japanese leader “George W. Aso” — comparing him to Bush for holding back progress on climate change.


Free Burma’s political prisoners
– Over 400,000 of us signed a major petition to UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon asking him to make the release of Nobel prize winning political prisoner Aung San Suu Kyi and other political prisoners his top priority. The petition was delivered in an extended meeting with Moon’s office and in a press conference at the UN in New York. The UN chief issued a strong statement backing the release of Suu Kyi and traveled to Burma to attempt to meet with her, but was rebuffed by Burma’s military junta. International pressure did cause the junta to delay a new show trial to extend Aung San Suu Kyi’s prison sentence, but it will take much more pressure to secure her release.

United States and Torture – A global fundraiser and petition on stopping torture and closing Guantanamo prison allowed Avaaz to secure a giant, 9 story billboard just blocks from the White House in the heart of Washington DC to deliver our message — but at the last minute the company selling the ad space refused, despite members of the US congress offering to help unveil the billboard in a press conference. Avaaz has now secured an alternative option for delivering our edgy message that will have Washington DC buzzing with our call for justice.

UN Climate Summit – At a major summit on climate change in Bonn, Avaaz recruited among members in Germany to help our partners organize a massive 500 person aerial photo spelling out ‘Yes You Can’ as a message to leaders discussing climate targets (see right). It helped raise the profile and urgency of these faltering but urgent talks. Avaaz also sent a 16-person lobbying/activist team to the summit negotiations and members in 10 key countries joined “negotiator tracking teams” that are following and responding to urgent needs to press individual country negotiators at these summits.

Peru – Avaaz arranged with local indigenous and top political allies to deliver a global petition against new laws that would cause massive devastation to the Peruvian rainforest and its people, taking out an ad in the national newspaper (at right). The ad and campaign generated much attention, and the domestic and international pressure worked, for now — the Peruvian congress has revoked the controversial laws!

Israel – As Prime Minister Netanyahu prepared to make a speech responding to Obama’s historic Cairo address and demand that Israel stop illegal settlements of Palestinian land, Avaaz took out a front page ad in a major newspaper – Haaretz – delivering a joint petition from global and Israeli Avaaz members edgily asking Netanyahu to ‘be more like Obama’ and stop the settlements. Netanyahu has so far refused, but we’re helping to build an unprecedented wave of Israeli and global pressure and attention on this issue.

The petitions, fundraisers, rallies, and lobbying campaigns our community is doing are having an incredible impact. Avaaz has grown by 50,000 people a week and is now almost 3.6 million engaged citizens in every country of the world — and we’re truly global – operating in 14 languages our community has 25,000 members in Singapore, 35,000 in South Africa, 130,000 in Italy, 50,000 in Mexico… There hasn’t really been a community like ours before, able to rapidly and effectively mobilize people power all over the world to the greatest needs and concerns of all human beings — it’s a reason for hope.

It’s also an exciting journey — looking forward to taking on the next 8 weeks, and 8 months, and 8 years together!

With hope,
Ricken, Alice, Pascal, Ben, Veronique, Paul, Graziela, Brett, Raluca, Luis, Raj, Milena, Paula, Iain, Taren, Margaret and the whole Avaaz team.

PS – To see some of the highlights of Avaaz campaigning in 2007 and 2008 and leave a comment, click here:
https://secure.avaaz.org/en/report_back_2/

And to check out other recent Avaaz campaigning highlights like our climate victory in Germany, our messages to Obama wall in DC, the delivery of our Swine Flu petition to the WHO, our Green Recovery march at G20 Summit in London, or our support to Tibetan organizations to break the blackout on their communications — visit the Avaaz blog: http://www.avaaz.org/blog/en/.

Click here to learn more about our largest campaigns.

Don’t forget to check out our Facebook and Myspace and Bebo pages! You can also follow Avaaz on Twitter!

ENVIRONMENT-POPULATION JUMBOPAK

July 6, 2009
Rising Tide.

Rising Tide.

Today’s post is a letter submitted to the Editor of Willamette Week in Portland, Oregon, January 21, 1999 – a time capsule from the last millennium.  It reveals how far we have come in such a short time.  Ya think?

Dear Editor: 

On the eve of the Year 2000 there is no doubt that environmental alarms are well founded.

The front page of the Friday, July 25, 1997 Oregonian announced, “Scientist delivers warning on climate.”  President Clinton launched a “nationwide campaign about the issue, saying the ‘overwhelming balance of evidence and scientific opinion is that it is no longer a theory but now a fact that global warming is real.”  Complete with “rising sea levels and glacial melting.”

Seen from outer space, poor, old Earth has mangeDeserts replace forests and lumber interests tell us they must cut more trees to keep the economy alive and loggers’ jobs; we must “balance” economy and environment; but it’s easy to see who’s got the biscuit.  In truth, the lumber interests eliminated jobs by automating destruction of the forests.  Industry ‘experts’ know that fact is disposable to theory.  They tell us that ‘careful management‘ will replace Old Growth; timber company t.v. ads show vast green stretches of pristine managed forest.  What we should know is what do all of the forests managed by all of the timber companies look like in aggregate?

Taken in cumulated terms, the timber companies are working against posterity around the world.  In fact the Old Growth forests are almost gone in Oregon and California as well as in Brazil.  The last clear-cut rape of all the Old Growth left will not save the logger’s lifestyle, but once the forest is gone, so goes the breathing apparatus for the entire planet.

In 1994, the Smithsonian‘s Wilson Quarterly stated, “Some of the environmental changes may produce irreversible damage to the Earth’s capacity to sustain life.”  The island of Tobago in the Caribbean is being inundated by 3-4 feet per year (ten times faster than ten years ago) and is expected to lose 30-40 feet per year in the next ten.  “Science and technology may not be able to prevent either irreversible degradation of the environment or continued poverty for much of the world.”

Which brings up the appalling fact that many cities are developing public housing in floodplains.  It may be just in time for property developers to cash in before the land goes under.  Will we, the dense public, be invited to bail out subsequently sinking subsidized housing?  Will we eventually build seawalls thirty feet high at public expense to protect uninsurable money pits?

As to population, experts predict twice as many people in the United States by the year 2050.  More babies are being born today than during the so-called “Baby-Boomer” generation and we ain’t seen nuthin’ yet!  The ridiculous taboos around the issue of human population – usually “politically correct” arguments of small practical value – are a direct threat to our own dear, precious, misdirected, unthinking selves.  We’re breeding ourselves out of room.

Our planet has a limit to the life it can sustain.  It must function within a specific and fairly narrow range of environmental limits. In this constraint, the majority of Americans trashes rather than recycles, and eats, drinks and drives too damned much, ignorant of context, and in absolute poverty of conclusion.

No brainer: unchecked growth demands greater and greater amounts of shrinking resources.  The scale of many of our dilemmas – e.g. public health and housing – is attributable to too many people competing for too few resources in too small a space.  It would seem, therefore, that some education and some action on this issue might be in order.  Yet, religious institutions militantly urge membership to procreate, and sponsor armies of child-producing sectarian immigrantsBusiness leadership focuses on lower wages, larger markets and plentiful cheap labor.  Timorous local, state and federal elected leaders bicker over tax-funded population education, and resist tax-funded birth prevention.  We argue over sex education, birth control, and abortion while our overcrowded house burns down.

However, the nation has embarked on the biggest prison-building program in its history, even as the hard crime rate falls.  This may be due to “effective community policing,” but it is also systematic suppression of a youthful surplus male underclass without family wage jobs.  Statistically, economic development largely benefits a relatively small group of players: three-fourths of the people grin and bear eroding livability, falling wages and rising prices in a rat race fueled by non-productive speculation.  We have, created whole new crimes – e.g. “simple” marijuana possession – and longer “minimum” sentences to keep our disaffected unemployed off our city streets.

For many leaders, there is no apparent alternative.  Most business, elected and mainstream media leadership extols an almost mystical faith in “growth,” pursuing mythical future taxes that can never catch up with the infrastructure stresses the growth produces – particularly as corporately manipulated voters cut off tax money via “popular” ballot initiatives.

In 1956, C. Wright Mills wrote in the Power Elite: 

“Two things are needed in a democracy: articulate and knowledgeable publics, and political leaders who, if not men of reason, are at least reasonably responsible to such knowledgeable publics as exist.  Such a public and such leaders – either of power or of knowledge – do not now prevail, and knowledge does not now have democratic relevance in America.”

The rich are generally blind or indifferent to the social consequences of ignoring the welfare of the general citizenry.  In the end, we all pay for their selfish indifference.  If we, the people don’t get smart pretty quickly, we, the people will perish much sooner than expected, and NOT due to any particular plan, but simply because of plain old human selfishness and self-deception.

The time for each one to teach one, each one to reach one, is NOW.

 July 6, 2009:

 Act.  There may be no result in your lifetime, but without action, there will be no result at all.” – Mahatma Gandhi.

 

Light at the End of the Tunnel.
Light at the End of the Tunnel.

INVOLVED AND INFORMED (essential links):

http://www.wunderground.com/

Weather Underground is committed to delivering the most reliable, accurate weather information possible. Our state-of-the-art technology monitors conditions and forecasts for locations across the world, so you’ll always find the weather information that you need.

http://www.newseum.org/todaysfrontpages/

The Newseum displays these daily newspaper front pages in their original, unedited form. Some front pages may contain material that is objectionable to some visitors. Viewer discretion is advised.

http://www.poodwaddle.com/worldclock.swf

World Clock: time, and real-time statistics: population, death, illness, environment, energy, us crimes, food, more.

http://www.nrdc.org/

The Natural Resources Defense Council works to protect wildlife and wild places and to ensure a healthy environment for all life on earth.

http://www.sierraclub.org/

Since 1892, the Sierra Club has been working to protect communities, wild places, and the planet itself. We are the oldest, largest, and most influential grassroots environmental organization in the United States.

http://www.wecansolveit.org/

WE are 2,313, 499 people determined to Solve the Climate Crisis and Repower America with 100% clean electricity within 10 years.”  The We Campaign is a project of The Alliance for Climate Protection — a nonprofit, nonpartisan effort founded by Nobel laureate and former Vice President Al Gore.  The goal of the Alliance is to build a movement that creates the political will to solve the climate crisis — in part through repowering America with 100 percent of its electricity from clean energy sources within 10 years.  Our economy, national security, and climate can’t afford to wait.

http://www.defenders.org/index.php

Founded in 1947, Defenders of Wildlife is one of the country’s leaders in science-based, results-oriented wildlife conservation. We stand out in our commitment to saving imperiled wildlife and championing the Endangered Species Act, the landmark law that protects them.

Don’t Ask Polar Bears and Fools About Free Speech

July 2, 2009
Five in the Stones

Five in the Stones

DON’T ASK, DON’T TELL

When I was in active military service, 1966-70, I did not care about the sexuality of the person beside me, I cared about his professionalism.

 The military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy is discrimination pure and simple. It is an unnecessary, non-job related issue, and a blatant labor and civil rights disgrace. 

 It not only destroys the lives of the men and women directly affected, but also the military’s organizational unity.  It is a morale downer, a Salem Witch Hunt mentality introduced into the ranks. 

 The largely fundamentalist religiously inspired objection to gays is based upon misinformation (an actual and purposeful misreading of their own texts), a scapegoat us vs. them mindset, and an absolutist morality used generally as one more self-terrorizing control over the fearful toiling faithful. 

 If America is to ever achieve equality, freedom, and justice, we must strike down “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”  Strike a blow for human rights and humanity.  We are either all Americans working in defense of our country and its ideals, or we are a nation of strangers, fighting for the barest survival. 7-02-09

POLAR BEARS AND CUB SCOUTS

 Woe is me!  Everything is going to hell in a hand basket!  We can’t do anything about it!  Wring hands!  Cry despair!  Weep!  Moan!  Thrash!  Have you gotten out of your SUVs?  Moved closer to work?  Convinced others of the need to ACT and quit bitching?  Is it the price of gas that bothers you, or the lack of it?  Would you quit hitting yourself over the head with the hammer, or go get another one if someone took yours away?  The time to ACT is now, and to hell with the system.  Do you need a leader to tell you not to put your damned finger in the light socket?  Too bad revelation comes so late to this benighted species.  Is it the wall of water rushing at you that scares you, or the fact that you were too dumb to notice it until the rising tide was at your doorstep?  Our over-consuming must stop at once.  Each of us has a part in that, regardless of what leadership, or the imbecile next door is doing.  Get off your butts and MOVE.  Or, don’t.  The future belongs – collectively – to all of us, if we all work for it.  It doesn’t exist for polar bears, or cub scouts, if we don’t. 6-22-08

FOOLS AND CORPORATIONS

 Today’s privately monopolized television serves rightwing corporatists by dumbing down the American people.  There is no choice, just program packages arranged like blood diamonds.  In television, the garbage includes:

  •  Religious programming – Christians only need apply.  They’re getting ready for Armageddon, 24-7.  Why do we have to pay to watch them?
  • “Ain’t corporations great?” propaganda, not one cloud on the big rig’s sky.  Not one word about how they changed the weather.
  • “Reality” shows, which are evidently scripted.  One can get just as excited at a professional wrestling match or roller derby – for as little cause.
  • “Beauty and fitness” programming – Americans care so very much about hair and blemishes.  Coach looks fifty years younger, hey?  Just a dab.
  • Right wing filtered news, commentary and opinion, which screams down the truth in favor of dogma and self-interest.  To hell with integrity.
  • Sports, improbably including auto/truck/motorcycle noise-making and gas-fuming circle-go-rounds – another loophole in EPA emission standards?  For those of us who left games at adolescence, it’s a real drag.
  • Shopping channels and infomercials feeding the callous over-consuming malaise destroying our planet.  There are addicts of all kinds.
  • Commercials – non-stop and multiplying.  Why do we have to pay for these?  The damned television people should be paying us to watch them!

Real history, especially recent U.S. history, is slighted, under-reported, and often misrepresented, or ideologically slanted.  We discuss firefights on entering Baghdad, but not the illegal policy and the criminal lies that drove them.  We see Troy and Rome, and incessant searches for objects of pseudo-history and outright myth – lost arks (boat-sized and box), spears of Longinus, grails and virgins, “true” crosses, and “god-ravaged” city ruins.  We don’t see labor history, women’s history, or civil and human rights history.  We don’t review Iran-Contra and the early days of the present administration’s emergence from the Reaganite distortion of our national progress.  Everything from Carter to Bush Jr., except for Clinton’s tacky sex life, is a black hole of non-accountability.

 This is all part of the Great Privatization of America.  “Do good and be rewarded” is Christian and Rightist hypocrisy.  They don’t do the right thing selflessly, but for a substantial bribe.  We are fools to allow corporations to determine our national information policy, control our public airways, own our means of communications.  We are fools to allow them to continue to distort our national consciousness, or to interfere with our right to meet and discuss and decide as a unified national community.  We are fools to allow them to keep us ignorant and apart.  3-09-08

FREE SCHOOLS, FREE LIBRARIES, FREE SPEECH

  Radio and television station owners should be held accountable in their charge to serve the public interest.  Instead, the right wing has been systematic in its suppression of the progressive voice and we ignore their censorship at our peril.

 The right wing has overwhelmed any residual of the “Fairness Doctrine.”  They have done so with free licenses granted by the American government on behalf of the American public that are worth millions of dollars to licensees.  The only requirement imposed upon them is to serve the public interest.

 A free and democratic society cannot survive without a free and fair flow of information.  All ideas should take their chances in the sea of democratic pluralistic debate.  It is an abomination to a free and equal society to tolerate any, most definitely including private, abridgement, censorship, or exclusion of fair and balanced opposing views.

 Right-wingers have taken over radio and television resources and foreclosed progressive voices on a systematic and pervasive level throughout the United States.  No progressive voices can now be heard in Boston, Baltimore, Atlanta, Washington D.C., or Philadelphia – in the heart of revolutionary America the cracked pots have replaced the cracked bell.  It is a deliberate creeping plague designed to manipulate American public opinion to undemocratic ends; it must be treated or it will kill free speech.

 President Obama’s inspired effort to reinvigorate American democracy will amount to a pimple on the butt of national history if the right wing is allowed to continue its assault on our democratic institutions. We can bear no more “fixed” news, no more right wing press dominance!  Let progressives fairly compete for the public interest. 

 There is no more important infrastructure repair for us to make than to preserve, defend and advance the democratic institutions that make America great: free schools, free libraries, free press, and freedom of speech.  3-08-09

 More PROGRESSIVE THOUGHT: sidebar links