Tag Archives: politics

Congressmen Say Their Own Personal Debt is OK, but not Government Debt

This article originally appeared on Disinfo.com

Ah, “elected” government, where hypocrites are paid to advocate for causes they may or may not even agree with, and legislate rules that they themselves don’t follow. And apropos of budget hysteria and economic terrorism being wrought against popular public programs, the trumped-up fears are not only false (the debt crisis is imaginary, and only 6% of the country is aware that the deficit is actually falling) but it’s no surprise to anyone that the ‘debt-fixing’ warriors don’t have the same view of their own debt as they do of the country’s, or yours.

As Josh Israel of ProPublica points out, fourteen of the most vitriolic enemies of vital programs themselves live with the personal irresponsibility of private debt (to the tune of millions).

These hypocrites include:

  • House Budget Committee Member Tom Rice (R-SC):Wrote: “At a time when hardworking American families are living off of a budget, the federal government should be no different. My colleagues and I believe it is time for America to change course and get back on a path of prosperity. This begins with a balanced budget plan.” Reported five mortgages totaling over $4 million.
  • House Budget Committee Member Diane Black (R-TN):Wrote: “The state of Tennessee balances its budget, American families and businesses balance their budgets and so should the federal government,” and “Balancing the budget is not extreme; it is what American families across this country do on a regular basis.” Reported four mortgages on three properties, totaling more than $3 million.
  • House Budget Committee Member Roger Williams (R-TX):Said Wednesday: “We have to have a balanced budget. I have to balance my budget. Everybody in America has to balance their family’s budget or their business’ budget, not every ten years, not even every single year, but every single day.” Reported more than $2.5 million in business debts.
  • House Budget Committee Member Scott Rigell (R-VA):Boasted that he voted for a balanced budget amendment because: “I know that American families do what they have to do to live within their means; and so too should the government.” Reported $1.5 million in lines of credit, a $500,000-plus mortgage, and over $10,000 in credit card debt.
  • House Budget Committee Member Bill Flores (R-TX):Wrote: “It’s time Washington was forced to finally live within its means and cut up the credit cards. Every American family and 49 out of 50 states currently abide by some form of a balanced-budget requirement. If they can make the hard choices to pay their bills and live within their means, then Washington should too,” and “American families and businesses must live by this principle every day, and they want Congress to abide by the same rule.” Reported two mortgages on residences totaling over $1.5 million.
  • House Republican Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA): In a joint editorial with Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-VA), wrote: “Just as any family or business has to do, Washington needs to learn to live within its means.” Reported three mortgages totaling at least $1 million.
  • House Budget Committee Member Vicky Hartzler (R-MO): Said in a floor speech: “Families I talk to, they say, Every year we balance our budget, how come Washington doesn’t? Every small business I visit says, We balance our budget, how come Washington doesn’t? Every farmer and rancher I visit with says, We balance our budget, how come Washington doesn’t?” Reported five real estate mortgages totaling more than $900,000.
  • House Republican Conference Chair Cathy McMorris-Rodgers (R-WA):Wrote: “Balancing the budget isn’t a liberal or conservative issue. When families in Eastern Washington balance their budgets, they don’t consider it a liberal or conservative policy; it’s just a requirement of life,” and “Families, small businesses and even the State of Washington must balance their budgets. It’s difficult and it forces some hard choices. It’s time for the federal government to do the same.” Reported three mortgages totalling more than $600,000 and a student loan of at least $10,000.
  • House Budget Committee Member Reid Ribble (R-WI):Explained that he’d backed a bill because “we need to put a stop to the irresponsible deficit spending in Washington. Families across Wisconsin have been forced to scale back their spending and balance their budgets, yet the federal government has failed to do the same.” Reported several mortgages on properties and a home equity line of credit, totaling several hundred thousand dollars.
  • House Budget Committee Member Rob Woodall (R-GA):Wrote: “A Balanced Budget Amendment is crucial to ensuring fiscal responsibility in our government, not only today, but in the years to come,” Woodall said. “American families and businesses must decide how to spend their money responsibly; it’s time that the folks in Washington do the same.”Reported two mortgages totaling more than $150,000.
  • House Budget Committee Member Alan Nunnelee (R-MS):Wrote that “businesses, large and small, are working on their budgets for 2012. Each of these groups, local governments, state government, and private businesses operate with a very practical consideration…they must make their budgets balance. This is a concept that American families understand. Thirty years ago, just before I was to be married, a very wise friend taught me a simple but important principle of family budgeting, ‘If your outgo exceeds your income then your upkeep will be your downfall.’ The only entity in America that does not seem to understand this concept is the federal government,” and “Families and businesses in my district have been sitting down, cutting spending, balancing their budgets and making tough decisions. It’s time for the federal government to do the same. A balanced budget amendment will legally force the federal government to only spend what it takes in and start living within its means – a practice Mississippi families and businesses are asked to do every day, yet a practice our own President refuses to participate in. Reported four mortgages on two properties, totaling more than $145,000.
  • House Budget Committee Member James Lankford (R-OK): Said in a floor speech: “Nineteen years ago my wife and I married. I was still in school, I was working as much as I could, she was also working, but we were barely making it, but we made the decision, we were not going to run up credit card debt and live beyond our means. We paid our school loans, we tied to our church, we ate a lot of peanut butter, and we lived simply. As Dave Ramsey said, we determined to act our wage. It’s a biblical principal for myself and my family; Proverbs 22:7 states, ‘The borrower is a slave to the lender.’ Proverbs 22 applies to families, and Proverbs 22 applies to nations. If we were living within our means as a nation, almost all the debate in the last six months in this chamber would have been different.”Reported that he “is a slave” to Bank of America, with whom he has a mortgage of more than $100,000.
  • House Republican Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-CA):Wrote: “In order to make ends meet and plan ahead, hardworking American families and small businesses budget to manage their finances. Why can’t Washington?” and “In the past two years, discretionary spending has increased by 84 percent and our debt has grown by over $3.5 trillion. No family or small business in Bakersfield, or anywhere for that matter, would ever budget like this, and the federal government cannot.” Reported a mortgage of over $100,000.
  • House Budget Committee Member Sean Duffy (R-WI):Wrote: “Congress must learn what every working family and small business in Central and Northwestern Wisconsin has known for a painfully long time: the path forward to a sustainable and prosperous future is paved by fiscal responsibility and smaller, smarter government. One of the most commonsense measures we can enact is a balanced budget amendment which simply dictates that the federal government must live within its means. This is a lesson well-learned by the hardworking citizens of Wisconsin and there’s no reason why Washington should live by different rules than Wausau, Chippewa Falls or Rice Lake.” Reported two mortgages totaling more than $150,000, a line of credit, and a student loan of more than $50,000.

As AllGov points out, forty-six lawmakers in Congress owe thousands of dollars in college loans, totaling between $1.8 million and $4.3 million (via OpenSecrets data). But we’re still not see much action in the way of student debt justice.

They probably don’t care a whit for their own debt because they know the next big bribe or revolving door contract is just around the corner. And they don’t care about your debt at all, because elites in the bubble don’t think the same as we do. And to be perfectly honest, they don’t hate the government debt either, as their buddies continue to get rich off of it (and the big drivers of debt and deficit, Pentagon spending, will not shrink an ounce). But they need a fear engendered in the populace so they can have an excuse to take things away from the populace. And if you complain that the programs you have known and loved on for decades are being austerely destroyed, well, you’re just a ‘moocher’ who wants ‘more free stuff’.

The ProPublica piece reminds us that the government is not the same as a corporation, and shouldn’t be run like one. But even considering that corpo-fascism has already taken hold of our once-public infrastructure that used to serve us, they’re still running it like a pretty piss-poor business.

Circa 1948

1948

We break the taboo tonight and de-segregate the post-war Blues era, co-mingling  syncopations signaling a broader tolerance, “a world in which there shall be an equality of opportunity for every race and nation.”

But I do fear a social conformity will take hold with all this fear-mongering and witch-hunting!

PLAYLIST
In The Hall Of The Mountain King – Will Bradley-Ray McKinley Band
As Time Goes By – Arthur “Dooley” Wilson
One O’Clock Jump – Count Basie & His Orchestra
Butterfly Strut – Ziggy Elman And His Orchestra
Artistry in Rhythm – Stan Kenton & His Orchestra
Jersey Bounce – Benny Goodman & His Orchestra
Boogie Woogie – Tommy Dorsey & His Orchestra
Flying Home – Hamton, Lionel & His Orchestra
Drumming Man – Gene Krupa
Tschaikowsky (And Other Russians) – Danny Kaye
Praise the Lord and Pass the Ammunition – Kay Kyser & His Orchestra
I’m My Own Grandpaw – Guy Lombardo
You Keep Coming Back Like a Song – Dinah Shore
Don’t Get Around Much Any More – The Ink Spots
Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah – Johnny Mercer and The Pied Pipers
Besame Mucho (Kiss Me Much) – Jimmy Dorsey & His Orchestra
Brazil – Xavier Cugat And His Orchestra
Heartaches – Ted Weems & His Orchestra
Ciribiribin – Harry James & His Orchestra
C Jam Blues – Duke Ellington & His Orchestra
Canned Heat – Chet Atkins
That Lucky Old Sun – Frankie Laine
Deep In The Heart Of Texas – Horace Heidt And His Musical Knights
Riders In The Sky – Vaughn Monroe
Pistol Packin’ Mama – Al Dexter and His Troopers
Detour – Spade Cooley
Move It on Over – Hank Williams
Cool Blues – Charlie “Bird” Parker
Sophisticated Lady – Duke Ellington
I’ve Got My Love To Keep Me Warm – Les Brown
Bebop – Charlie “Bird” Parker
Elmer’s Tune – Dick Jurgens And His Orchestra
Snowfall – Claude Thornhill And His Orchestra
Stardust – Artie Shaw & His Orchestra
Do You Dig My Jive – Sam Price and his Texas Bluesicians
Mean Old ‘Frisco Blues – Arthur “Big Boy” Crudup
Knockin’ Myself Out – Lil Green with Big Bill Broonzy
Is You Is or Is You Ain’t My Baby – Louis Jordan & His Tympany Five
Open the Door, Richard – Count Basie Orchestra
I Wonder – Cecil Gant
Laura – David Raksin
Nature Boy – Nat King Cole

Stranger in a Strange Land 2013-03-09: Circa 1948 by The Stranger on Mixcloud

The convention of Americans for Democratic Action was winding up today in a lather of resolutions giving scant sign of enthusiastic support in November for President Truman. The ADA, heavily representative of the old Roosevelt New Deal group, gives the back of its left hand to the Wallace third-party people the back of its right hand to the Taft Republicans. Yet in three days of debates seemed to bury Mr. Truman in censure rather than praise him. A phrase borrowed from Europe may have political significance here, “the third force” which is used to describe the non-communist left, intellectuals opposing “both the tyranny of reaction and tyranny of Communist totalitarianism.”

While Senator McGrath of Rhode Island sounded off against Henry Wallace’s third party, saying “a third party has as much place in American politics as does a third party on a honeymoon” adding the Wallace campaign and supporters “will either waste their votes or give aid and comfort to reactionary candidates.”

Speaking of those Reds, the Communist Police State Action in Czechoslovakia was legalized as the Czech President accepted the Red Cabinet and their brutal plot, who will not be working with any opposition parties, whose ministers turned in their resignations last week. New Cabinet members told foreign reporters that the events of last month giving Communists controls were the ‘will of the people.’ There are no numbers on how many persons in the former government got the bum rush from their positions/arrested as “reactionaries”. Legal elections have been promised the Czechs by Communists, but many other grand promises to workers and farmers have also been made by the Soviets.

Finland, conversely, has turned down Stalin’s request to join a Russian Defense Pact Ring, fearing a loss in their liberty.

The pressure, many Washington correspondents in-the-know fear, may quicken the pace towards a shooting war, and a military pact aimed at Russia.

So while the US has written off Czechoslovakia, here at home Gov. Arthur Coolidge of Massachusetts charged that Russian agents are busy in Hawaii. He claimed to have evidence, but hasn’t spilled it to the public as of yet.

(We remember well how) Soviet diplomats obstructed the UN founding meeting in San Francisco, dormy spy rings uncovered…

Meanwhile, the United States called for nation-wide elections in Korea in defiance of a Russian boycott. China immediately joined with the United States in the proposal laid before the United Nations little assembly. Both powers agreed that steps toward establishment of a free and independent Korea were of utmost importance to world peace, and that Soviet non-cooperation should not be allowed to stand in the way.

(As for Russia, I do highly recommend reading ‘A Russian Journal’ by John Steinbeck with photographs by Robert Capa of that country’s reconstruction, a special correspondence with the New York Herald Tribune).

The U.S. may also remain isolationist regarding the Palestine issue, declaring it firmly stands for diplomatic peace; this despite a recent bomb plot in the Holy Land admitted by Arab hatchetmen. The United Nations is holding special sessions to consider and cope with the crisis. The surprise resolution moves that a council be formed to set up a committee to study the advisability of such a special assembly. The Jewish Agency for Palestine had no comment pending a full study of the speech, but there are those contending that a Palestine partition and peace are inseparable. The British, for their part, have declared that they will fire upon both Jews and Arabs in the Holy Land.

So support the United Nations as they punish future aggressors before they launch WWIII. See “a world in which there shall be an equality of opportunity for every race and nation.” (Wendell Willkie’s One World)

All while Truman chops are busted by segregationist southern governors who came to Washington to protest civil rights legislation. Here is the exchange from the stenographic record, Gov Strom Thurmond: “Will you now, at a time when national unity is so vital to the solution of the problem of peace in the world, use your influence, as chairman of the DNC, to have the highly controversial civil rights legislation, which tends to divide our people, withdrawn from consideration by the congress?” Senator McGrath: “No.”

Just who is dividing the people, and on whose terms is this so-called unity, and whose problem with peace? Our strength is in democracy, a spiritual strength that derives from our freedom, fair-play, tolerance, and the guarantee of civil rights in our Constitution. Though we have not achieved these things completely, that is the ideal we raise before the world. What would the world say if we went backward as that chiseler Governor Thurmond suggests? We can only move forward, even if slowly. Who is dividing the people; those who want to realize our ideals, or a few noisy Southern politicians and a minority of southern people.

The Dixie Democrats are hopping mad over at least four of the 10 points in Truman’s proposal, and began serious talk of convening a split from the Democrats on the civil rights issue. (1. federal anti-lynching law, 2. permanent fair employment practice commision, 3. and end to Jim Crow laws and 4. outlawing state poll taxes). The remainder of the points were a permanent commission on civil rights, a joint congressional committee on civil rights, a civil rights division of the justice department, toughening of existing civil rights statutes, home rule for the District of Columbia, statehood for Alaska and Hawaii, equalization of naturalization opportunity, settlement of evacuation claims of Japanese-Americans (who got a bum rap). The program is in particularly hot debate due to the election year.

But I worry that the conservative con to brand New Dealers out of touch, arrogant bureaucrats is a short hoof from labeling them Communists! How soon they forget! Look! Truman didn’t keep government-built or backed plants at the war’s end! They went right back to private owners.

You’ll remember how Daddy Warbucks was revived, gloating at the corpse of FDR!

And the fix is in, government contracts were rescinded, plants closed up, flat soldiers come home expecting jobs instead to join picket lines against fat head moneymen. Gallup polls show 62% of the public fears another Depression in the next ten years.

“Yet once the war is over its backwash smears over us, and the nation succumbs to greed, fear, ineptitude, fumbling of the morning hopes, shoddy dispersal of the evening dreams. That in late 1946, the two most painful and pressing shortages in the land should be the most primitive necessities of life; food and housing, is evidence enough of the disintegration, no matter how temporary these shortages may turn out to be… Does show that to become efficient this country needs the stimulus of war? Does it mean that 295,000 Americans have to be killed in order to give us true effectiveness as a nation?” -journalist John Gunther, 1946

So Truman places a $15 billion ceiling on defense spending, bolsters social welfare. Truman; small-business populist, anti-monopoly, distrusting of Big Trust, Big Labor and Big Business.

Indeed, 1947 had seen a boom set off by the savings of both war worker and war profiteer, pent-up demand and rising wages! And demand means more jobs! Hundreds of houses built in a day! But it’s not all silk!

Truman lifted price controls on meat when conservative businessmen raised prices and fears and turned up the heat. He blamed “reckless group of selfish men”, the same group that “has opposed every effort of this administration to raise the standard of living and increase opportunity for the common man.” By appeasing them, Truman tipped his mitt again, his policies gummed up by cheap flimflam! Inflation accelerated, cost of living up, special interests feeding frenzy, prices raised by the greedy.

Federal subsidies work when directed and divested correctly; housing, swimming pools, playgrounds, baseball fields, suburbs accessible by highways… Mortgages guaranteed by the GI Bill.

Hayek (free market anti-socialism enthusiast) and Keynes (that economic interventionist) both agree that antitrust laws and minimum wages are necessary!

Blind ‘stereotypes’, referred to by head shrinks, are fixed attitudes towards an idea, event, or person. A blind spot in the mind, the cause of which is emotional and irrational, disallowing the person’s attitude to change with changes in factual evidence pertaining to the object of prejudice. Pertinent illustrations such as race prejudice, an extreme sort where individuals are vilified in generalities incorporating all the evil traits which may have ever been found or imagined in any one past member of the race. Attitudes expressed about the late President Roosevelt and his ideas often fall into this same category. His name has been slandered with such intensity and emotion that one could almost feel the murderous hatred in their hearts; there is nothing analytical or thoughtful in what they say.

It’s an excuse to ally political highbinders with big business high pillows and their dough, fear-mongering the pliant into cheesy loyalty, making chop suey of the rest. Right-wing groups are firing off their ‘confidential’ (re: unsubstantiated) dope to HUAC and the FBI, fueling Hoover’s inquisition. Now we’re grilling not only union leaders but teachers, book reviewers, social workers, and librarians. the Chamber of Commerce is demanding that authorities ban whomever they deem too pro-Communist off of radio airwaves. Even social gospel ministers ousted from their pulpits! No totalitarianism or infringement on freedom of speech here, my friends.

I do fear a social conformity will take hold.

The jingle-brained conservatives are enjoying a counterrevolution with William Jenner, John Bricker, William Knowland, Joseph McCarthy, Richard Nixon… even the once pro-New Deal Hollywood liberal Ronald Reagan is espousing more conservative malarkey, see what they know!

Texas Tom Clark (Attorney General) architect of the list of subversive organizations, making guilt by association a national security policy.

And Adolph Menjou (Motion Picture Alliance for the Preservation of American Ideals) spilled to HUAC last year, “I am a witch hunter if the witches are Communists”.

They dress it up as a Christian crusade to despoil your children. But they’re putting the screws on the working man, gunning for all of us, with the convenient moniker that they’re protecting us from the reds, when they’re really putting us behind the eight ball. One of HUAC’s loudest mouths, John E. Rankin, is a notorious racist and anti-Semite, as are several other committee members. That’s why they’re spending so much energy giving the up-and-down to Jews who escaped Germany. It’s all pretty hinky, I tell you.

After all, unemployment for blacks is three times that among whites; their pay only 30-70% what whites make.

So the fat cats have ginned up big support for their Crusade, even though a few short years ago in 1945, Americans sick of war, some 70%, opposed a “get-gashouse” approach with the Soviets, lousy with post-war blues: triumphalist despair. But ever since Dean Acheson said we have to be on ‘permanent alert’ against some unknown phantom forces, resources and scratch are diverted to purely military industry. They see their support now against the Communists as an egotistical Holy War to save Christianity and Civilization. There are those who don’t believe the War ever ended. We’re being given a Hobson’s choice between appeasement and containment, disarmament and military strength- ignoring all diplomatic alternatives. They’ll use the crack-up in Czechoslovakia as a crummy excuse to drop atom bombs on more babies.

And that means there’s little bumping gums for progressive programs without a crisis. Truman’s campaigning on the messages of national health insurance, federal aid to education, and civil rights. He may be in the right, but he’s in real Dutch if the guys in graft tell him to take it on the heel.

It doesn’t seem like much of the Fair Deal or New Dealer policies have much tooth any more, the final being the GI Bill. We still do not have an Economic Bill of Rights.

Gin up Solidarity among veterans, workers, the common man. The saps.

1947 Gallup poll shows one-third of veterans feel estranged from civilian life, either in a jam or off their noodle, and 20% feel ‘hostile’ to civilians. War Department survey replicates this; one in five is “completely hostile” to civilians. Survey finds there are 15.8 million vets, average age 29, 80% of them under the age of thirty, 33% went directly into service from school, only 25% finished high school. Veterans and their families make up one-fourth of the population.

The divorce rate today is more than twice that of 1939. But the marriage rate and birth rate are also spiking. So is the homicide rate, as any of these Joe Palookas could go off the track in a moment!

HUAC and the blacklists has made it impossible for any picture to get made taking the side of the workers, who for their part have seen hourly drops in pay since VJ Day.

And Truman himself overestimates the power of the unions to make his points. He wants to draft men who strike during peacetime, as in Germany or Russia! That’s the crop of it! He seized the mines after criticism that he was too pro-labor. Most unions are on the square, hostile to Communists, fearing it damages their cause.

A late challenge to the Taft-Hartley law is entering our courts. The act restricts the activities and power of labor unions. Named after sponsors Senator Robert Taft and Representative Fred A. Hartley, Jr., overcame Truman‘s veto last year; labor leaders called it the “slave-labor bill” while President Truman argued that it was a “dangerous intrusion on free speech”, and that it would “conflict with important principles of our democratic society”. The latest orderly and properly challenge is by CIO News and its president Philip Murray, trying it in the courts in a democratic manner. Mr. Murray said he and the CIO were acting in complete respect for the “law of the land” and not in a spirit of “defiance or bitterness.” This refreshingly constructive and calm way of tackling the issue hits on all eight, and may end up in the Supreme Court, a matter on which Congress will be called upon to expand, condense or clarify.

In Chicago, the National Lawyer’s Guild charged in a policy statement that there is a ‘co-ordinated and unrelenting’ attack being made against civil liberties in the U.S. Over 200 delegates to an annual meeting voted their approval yesterday calling upon Congress to repeal the Taft-Hartley law and abolish the House Committee on Un-American Activities, for violating four amendments to the Constitution. Benedict Wolf, New York lawyer, read that recommendation to Congress to investigate the Federal Bureau of Investigation itself.

This is the Age of Distrust – engineer enemies for the upcoming election; if the Nazis and Japanese won’t do, use Communism. Without recommending an advocation of the tenets of Communism, one does not need then to fly into the arms of right-wing fascism or “narrow nationalism” (Wendell Willkie’s One World). Upton Sinclair warned us that it can happen here. Fears of totalitarianism abound when there are disingenuous geezers in charge! Hard facts have a way of melting into the shadows of ambiguity.

Ah, TINSEL TOWN!



Stay tuned for all that plus hokum, bunkery, science and more! On this time-displaced episode of a Stranger in a Strange Land!

Stranger in a Strange Land 2013-03-09: Circa 1948 by The Stranger on Mixcloud

~The Stranger
thestranger@earthling.net

Love and Destruction

heartPLAYLIST
In the Hall of the Mountain King – Funk United
Light My Fire – Minnie Riperton
The Atmosphere Routine – Mr. Dibbs
Love And Happiness – Al Green
Do Your Thing – Isaac Hayes
Don’t Go Home with Your Hard-On – Leonard Cohen
New Comer – W. Rockman
Munchies for Your Love – Bootsy’s Rubber Band
Velvet Voyage – Klaus Schulze
Why – Gemini (Birthday Song)
Take It All Away – CAKE
I Blame You – They Might Be Giants
Debonair – Afghan Whigs
Djed – Tortoise
You To Thank – Ben Folds
Spent on rainy days – Bright Eyes
Options – Pedro The Lion
Hogin’ Machine – Les Baxter
The Dean And I – 10CC

Stranger in a Strange Land 2013-02-16: Love Songs by The Stranger on Mixcloud

It’s a good thing Fox “News” credibility has been steadily dwindling, falling by 9 percent in three years, and is now at a four-year record-low. These are the idiots are are trying to kill jobs, keep the minimum wage low, and encourage the toxic philosophy of companies laying off employees to dodge taxes.

 makes an excellent point about those long lines in stores when the fat cats decrease hours and increase layoffs to avoid paying fair wages and health insurance:

Were they being “penny-wise and pound-foolish” and costing themselves business today as well as in the future?

Because this misunderstands taxes. Taxes are not a “cost” as Marco Rubio said. Taxes are on profits. A company pays taxes after all costs — including wages and salaries — are deducted from revenue. The fact of the company paying a tax at all means they have the right number of employees serving their customers and meeting demand so they make a profit.

It is the poorly-managed companies that employ too few people who are not going to do well enough to pay taxes. (I doubt very many companies are employing too many people. What are they doing, having them sit around reading the paper?)

Obviously being profitable — which means that they pay taxes — does not cause a business to lay people off or reduce hours. When Rubio says taxes make companies “pass the costs on to their employees through fewer hours, lower pay and even layoffs” he is just wrong.

For the minimum-wage employee an increase means an immediate increase in demand at all the places he shops. Millions of people with a bit more money to spend because of a minimum-wage boost would certainly mean more hiring, because more customers would be coming through the doors. A well-run business employs the right number of people, period.

And while the Republicans are so interested in the drummed up controversy over the public debt, it ignores the debt that Wall Street hasn’t paid back to the American taxpayers, despite their astounding bounce-back and profits. Of course they face no criminal charges, but what about the$245 billion of TARP funds spent on banks, with only $26 billion received in settlements. 

And while their predatory practices effect the poor, and people of color, the most, governments and private enterprise seem all too willing to collude on bringing back debtor’s prisons.

Via In These Times:

A 2010 report from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) lays out the breadth of this problem. Titled “In For a Penny: The Rise of America’s New Debtor Prisons,” the report examines how “day after day, indigent defendants are imprisoned for failing to pay legal debts they can never hope to manage. In many cases, poor men and women end up jailed or threatened with jail though they have no lawyer representing them.”

Meanwhile, Obama is increasing domestic drone surveillance, and clamming up when asked any questions about these (or related) policies or programs.

Via Mother Jones:

During a Google+ “Fireside Hangout” Thursday evening, President Barack Obama was asked if he believed he has the authority to authorize a drone strike against an American citizen on US soil.

He didn’t exactly answer the question.

“First of all, I think, there’s never been a drone used on an American citizen on American soil. And, you know, we respect and have a whole bunch of safeguards in terms of how we conduct counterterrorism operations outside the United States. The rules outside the United States are going to be different then the rules inside the United States. In part because our capacity to, for example, to capture a terrorist inside the United States are very different then in the foothills or mountains of Afghanistan or Pakistan.

But what I think is absolutely true is that it is not sufficient for citizens to just take my word for it that we are doing the right thing. I am the head of the executive branch. And what we’ve done so far is to try to work with Congress on oversight issues. But part of what I am going to have to work with congress on is to make sure that whatever it is we’re providing congress, that we have mechanisms to also make sure that the public understands what’s going on, what the constraints are, what the legal parameters are. And that is something that I take very seriously. I am not someone who believes that the president has the authority to do whatever he wants, or whatever she wants, whenever they want, just under the guise of counterterrorism. There have to be legal checks and balances on it.”

Even with Rand Paul on the job, so serious questions are being asked of John Brennan in his confirmation hearings, despite concerns about civil liberties killing Brennan’s nomination to head the CIA in 2008.

  • Why Did the President Kill a 16-year old American Teenager?
  • Are there ANY Qualifications for Authorizing Death Sentences?
  • Why did the Obama administration wait until election season to codify rules for assassinating people?
  • Do you see a problem with “signature strikes?”

So why didn’t Obama just say, “no, the president cannot deploy drone strikes against US citizens on American soil”? Because the answer is probably “yes.”

Even so-called “liberals” like Dianne Feinstein are dead wrong on the issue, both morally and factuallyShe stated that civilian casualties caused by U.S. drone strikes each year has “typically been in the single digits.”

According to an extensive report by researchers at NYU School of Law and Stanford University Law School, disputed the line coming from the White House and from Feinstein on Thursday. The report cites statistics from the U.K. based Bureau of Investigative Journalism (BIJ), which found that from June 2004 to September 2012 U.S. drone strikes in Pakistan killed between 474 to 881 civilians, including 176 children. The BIJ relies on newspaper accounts and its own independent researchers in Waziristan.

The Stanford/NYU study backs up such figures with evidence of the trauma of living under drones strikes, based on “interviews with victims and witnesses of drone activity, their family members, current and former Pakistani government officials, representatives from five major Pakistani political parties, subject matter experts, lawyers, medical professionals, development and humanitarian workers, members of civil society, academics, and journalists.” Even if the BIJ’s lowest estimation of 474 civilians in Pakistan alone were accurate, Feinstein’s figures would still be far off the mark.

Washington Post offers data from the Web site Long War Journal, U.S. drone strikes in Pakistan and Yemen killed a combined 31 civilians in 2008, 84 in 2009, 20 in 2010, 30 in 2011  and 39 in 2012.

The New America Foundation, a Washington think tank, says that U.S. drone strikes in Pakistan alone killed at least 25 civilians in 2008, 25 again in 2009, 14 in 2010, six in 2011 and five in 2012.

Hell, let’s give the drone pilots medals while we’re at it! They might get sore asses from sitting down all day!

Among self-described liberal Democrats, fully 77 percent endorse the use of drones against terrorist targets. On the question of killing Americans in drone strikes, Democrats approved of the use 58-33 percent, as did liberals, 55-35 percent.

A separate Pew study from October 2011 found that 87 percent of Americans support “increasing the use of unmanned drones,” including a majority of Democrats who said it was a “good thing.”

This is due to the false dichotomy of the blind theology set up by militant drone hawks. Either robot death from the skies, or boots on the ground?

“Drones are a lot more civilized than what we used to do. I think it’s actually a more humane weapon because it can be targeted to specific enemies and specific people.” ~Sen. Angus King’s (I-Maine)

[Drone strikes] inflict fewer civilian deaths than bombing campaigns, boots on the ground or any practical alternative.” ~New York Times columnist David Brooks

MSNBC’s Chris Hayes calls the other alternative.

“We can be a nation that declares its war over, that declares itself at peace and goes about rigorously and energetically using intelligence and diplomacy and well-resourced police work to protect us from future attacks”

But the dogma doesn’t allow for such creative problem-solving when singular destruction is narrowly employed. And secret, no less!

All the more reason that Yours Truly can’t wait for our civilization to be destroyed by alien life, life-destroying asteroids, or rather, exploding meteorites.

At least that wouldn’t be politically-motivated. It would be a mercy. A labor of love. Ahh.

Stranger in a Strange Land 2013-02-16: Love Songs by The Stranger on Mixcloud

~The Stranger
thestranger@earthling.net

Austere Warnings

sun ra

Danger signs abound reminding us of the context of our austere, violent, unequal world. Politically-motivated reasoning disenfranchises voters, consumers, workers, people of color, the impoverished, whistleblowers, dissenters, journalists, and any citizen who wants their free civil rights.

PLAYLIST
In the Hall of the Mountain King – Duke Ellington
Sunshine Of Your Love – Ella Fitzgerald
Other Planes of There – Sun Ra And His Solar Arkestra
Pinetops Boogie Woogie – Pinetops Perkins
Big Chief – Professor Longhair
I Smell A Rat – Big Mama Thornton
Drunk – Jimmy Liggins & His 3D Music
RL Burnside – Boogie Chillen
Bass Solo – Larry Graham
What About You (In The World Today) – Co Real Artists
fruitman – kool and the gang
Acid Lady – San Francisco T.k.o.’s
Message From 9 To The Universe – Jimi Hendrix & friends
Get Off Your Ass And Jam – George Clinton & Parliment Funkadelic
Look What You Can Get – Funky Nassau
Symphonic Revolution – Mandrill
It’s A New Day – The Skullsnaps
Do The Sissy – Albert Collins
Sunset – Yusef Lateef
Goodmorning Sunshine – Quasimoto
Crosshairs – DANGERDOOM
Chemical Calisthenics – Blackalicious
Spiritual Healing – Dälek
Bounce – Jay Dilla
Lazy Confessions – The Moldy Peaches
Lonlon (Ravel’s Bolero) – Angélique Kidjo

Stranger in a Strange Land 2013-02-02: Austere Warnings by The Stranger on Mixcloud

Even the jobs numbers belie the myth, with Economic Policy Institute’s Heidi Shierholz noting that “the jobs deficit—the number of jobs lost since the recession officially began plus the number of jobs we should have added just to keep up with the normal growth in the potential labor force—remains nearly nine million.” With certain politicians stamping out that growth to the labor and middle classes, the labor market will not fill that gap until the end of 2021.

The conservative-led drive in Congress for more federal budget-cutting will reduce demand, stifle growth and choke off job creation, at a time when we need much higher levels of investment and jobs growth.

This jobs deficit is directly affected by the blind austerity hysteria (or austeria, eh? eh?), with our U.S. economy lagging in response to the declining markets in Europe, suffering a costly recession inflicted by misguided austerity policies.

I can’t repeat it enough: cutting government spending in a weak economy costs jobs.

Via The Campaign for America’s Future:

  1. Austerity costs jobs. More than 20 million people are in need of full-time work.  While corporate profits are at record heights as a percentage of the economy, wages are at record lows and falling.  cuts in government spending and hikes in taxes on working people cost jobs.  Government workers and contractors get laid off.  Small businesses feel the pinch as the afflicted tighten their belts.  Interest rates can’t go lower; business doesn’t get any more confident.
  2. More austerity is already being inflicted. Last quarter’s decline took place before the tax hikes agreed to in December’s “fiscal cliff” deal.  The increase of tax rates on the top 1 percent will have little effect on demand, since someone making over $400,000 can afford the hit.  But the end of the payroll tax holiday cost the typical family 2 percent of their income, with the change visible in their January paychecks.  For a family earning $50,000, that represents a $1,000 loss of income
  3. Even more austerity will soon come. House Republicans devoted their retreat to reordering the fiscal hostage crises they have planned for the next five months. – the sequester, they believe, will give them greater leverage to extort deep and unpopular cuts in spending, particularly Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security.
  4. The deficit hawks are delusional. Out-of-control inflation hasn’t broken out.  Investors are not panicked.  They are still willing to park their money in U.S. bonds for essentially no real return. One reason is that the deficit isn’t out of control.  As the Congressional Budget Office reports, the annual deficit is down by 25 percent since 2009.    It is coming down faster than any time since the demobilization at the end of World War II.   Our mid-term debt is essentially stabilized as a percent of gross domestic product.  Our long-term debt projections are completely a question of fixing our broken health care system.
  5. Stop the austerity hysteria. Stop paying tribute to the austerity lobby. return to sensible governance.  Repeal the sequester – deep across-the-board cuts are idiotic. Commit to growing our way out of the hole we are in. Invest in areas vital to our economy and to our people.  Pay for those commitments in ways that makes sense.  Put people back to work and watch the deficits come down.  Crack down on overseas tax dodges. End the obscene subsidies to Big Oil, Big Pharma and Big Agra.

But Obama is not and will not be our savior on this subject. He has flip-flopped enough on the issue of Too-Big-to-Fail banks and money in politics enough to appear entirely culpable.

Like many presidents before him, he is using the guise of ‘nonprofits’ to turn what was once lucrative campaign cash into unlimited corporate donations. Just as he has ‘devolved’ on SuperPACs, Citizen’s United, special interests, and other contributions. At this point, it is no longer questionable or dodgy to call him a Wall Street co-conspirator, as the President rakes in massive Wall Streetcontributions and paying back donors with immunity from prosecution.

He hasn’t prosecuted a single banker and has appointed a scandal-plagued Wall Street defense lawyer to head the SEC. He has whined that he has been blocked by the intransigent Congress, but still refuses to exercise executive function (you know, his fucking job) in areas that he does have direct influence.

Via Salon:

A president, for instance, has the unilateral power to at least propose tough Wall Street regulations, even if Congress is too corrupt to pass them. A president, likewise, has the unilateral power to nominate genuinely independent regulators, even if a Wall Street-dominated Senate might try to halt such a nomination. In short, a president has the unilateral power to at least force a serious fight over these issues — and Obama has refused to even do that. Instead, he championed bailouts and a Wall Street “reform” package that let the banks off the hook, and he has appointed Wall Street pals like Lanny Breuer at Justice andMary Jo White at the Securities Exchange Commission.

The ‘President is weak and blocked’ defense doesn’t make much sense either in the context of one of the most powerful presidents in recent history, on leveraging reforms, increasing the surveillance state, national security and foreign policy.

In fact, this Treasury Department has approved excessive salaries for the very same executives of the very same financial firms that received taxpayer funds as part of the 2008 economic bailout of Wall Street.

The news comes in a report authored by the Special Inspector General for the Troubled Asset Relief Program, which said that “Treasury approved all 18 requests it received last year to raise pay for executives at American International Group Inc., General Motors Corp. and Ally Financial Inc,” according to the Associated Press.

14 of the requests for executive pay raises were over $100,000, and the biggest raise was $1 million. All this while employee and consumer protections are set adrift and ignored, or worse; the National Labor Relations Board and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau are set upon and impugned by cruel Republicans. The unemployed are even cannibalized by the major banks taking their cut wherever they can get it.

Via AllGov:

A new report (pdf) from the nonprofit group National Consumer Law Center (NCLC) says Americans out of work are paying millions of dollars in unnecessary fees as part of receiving their unemployment payments. This is because many states encourage or even require the jobless to use bank-issued payment cards to access their funds.

The NCLC found that many states, like Arizona, make it difficult for residents to sign up for direct deposit with the state government. And in at least five states—California, Indiana, Kansas, Maryland and Nevada—direct deposit is not an option at all.

The consumer group contends that this situation is illegal under federal law prohibiting states from requiring benefits recipients to open an account with a specific bank, such as JPMorgan ChaseU.S. Bancorp and Bank of America.

But ignore the hypocrisy. Congress does whatever it wants, breaking the very laws it legislates, or at least, exempting themselves at the expense of the fleeced classes.

And while those Chief Execrable Officers in Congress “battle“, they hope to silence large swaths of the voting population. It isn’t enough that they overlook the poor and favor those who can afford hefty bribes, they still want to entirely disenfranchise the hated plebes with voter ID laws. There is much that can be done to prevent this tampering, but injustice is frequent.

Because the status quo machinery cannot be stopped. Even when outspoken cogs decry the monstrousness of it, they make such admonitions within the context of authoritative paradigms.

Via Danger Room:

Ben Emmerson wants to be clear: He’s not out to ban flying killer robots used by the CIA or the U.S. military. But the 49-year-old British lawyer is about to become the bane of the drones’ existence, thanks to the United Nations inquiry he launched last week into their deadly operations.

Emmerson, the United Nations’ special rapporteur for human rights and counterterrorism, will spend the next five months doing something the Obama administration has thoroughly resisted: unearthing the dirty secrets of a global counterterrorism campaign that largely relies on rapidly proliferating drone technology. Announced on Thursday in London, it’s the first international inquiry into the drone program, and one that carries the imprimatur of the world body.

If the facts show that the US is committing war crimes, then so be it, that is what he will unearth.

And AlterNet:

A military judge overseeing September 11 pre-trial hearings revealed Thursday the government had censored them from outside the courtroom, and angrily ordered that this stop immediately.

The proceedings at the high-security, high-tech courtroom due to host the trial of five alleged plotters in America’s worst terror attack are heard in the press gallery and in a room where human rights groups and victims’ families sit, with a 40 second delay.

This is done so a court security officer, or CSO, sitting next to the judge can block anything deemed classified.

On Monday part of the proceedings were censored when the discussion touched on secret CIA prisons where the suspects were held and abused.

The judge said he was surprised and angry that the censoring mechanism was activated from outside the court, without his knowledge.

And the only official who has been officially punished for the illegal CIA torture program was the whistleblower who talked about it.

Via Glenn Greenwald:

John Kiriakou is not a pure anti-torture hero given that, in his first public disclosures, he made inaccurate claims about the efficacy of waterboarding. But he did also unequivocally condemn waterboarding and other methods as torture. And, as FAIR put it this week, whatever else is true: “The only person to do time for the CIA’s torture policies appears to be a guy who spoke publicly about them, not any of the people who did the actual torturing.” Despite zero evidence of any harm from his disclosures, the federal judge presiding over his case – the reliably government-subservient US District Judge Leonie Brinkema – said she “would have given Kiriakou much more time if she could.” As usual, the only real criminals in the government are those who expose or condemn its wrongdoing.

This is why whistleblowing – or, if you prefer, unauthorized leaks of classified information – has become so vital to preserving any residual amounts of transparency.

“when our sources are prosecuted, the news-gathering process is criminalized, so it’s incumbent upon all journalists to speak up” 

~the New Yorker’s Jane Mayer

“People are feeling less open to talking to reporters given this uptick. There is a definite chilling effect in government due to these investigations.” ~Washington Post

“the president’s crackdown chills dissent, curtails a free press and betrays Obama’s initial promise to ‘usher in a new era of open government.'” ~Bloomberg report

So the powerful call for more cyber-warfare, more government surveillance of the citizenry, and to privatize that surveillance state the way they are privatizing everything else in our rapidly corporatizing fascist nation.

The comfy relations between the private sector and law enforcement poses a risk to the rights and freedoms of the individual. But authoritarians accept government power as inherently valid and government claims as inherently true. It’s easy for them to accept the secrecy, and to punish defiers as traitors.

Stranger in a Strange Land 2013-02-02: Austere Warnings by The Stranger on Mixcloud

~The Stranger
thestranger@earthling.net

Unraveling Myths

http://fruelund.deviantart.com/

Obama Reagan by Fruelund

Pervading and damaging myths persist in the collective national dialogue; that either political party are rational actors, that the president’s second term will be filled with progressive policy objectives, that the economy will fix itself in an unregulated free market, that the deficit is the most important problem to tackle, that severe cuts to the middle class and impoverished are the only things that can help, and that intellectual honesty and American values drive the biases and decisions of either side.

Instead we are demagogued by contrarian hypocrites, unscientific loons and immoral proselytizers. The inconsistencies within their own parties, and even within their own philosophies and speech, impel us to believe that they are not merely incompetent, but complicit in the ongoing devastation of democracy.

Stranger in a Strange Land 2013-01-26: Unraveling Myths by The Stranger on Mixcloud

PLAYLIST
Hall Of The Mountain King/Louie Louie – Half Japanese
Maybe I Know – Lesley Gore
King Kong – Frank Zappa
Çarsamba – Mustafa Özkent
Montana – Pere Ubu
A Few Words In Defense Of Out Country – Randy Newman
Hard Times – Baby Huey
I Will Pray – Conexion
But I Was Cool – Oscar Brown Jr.
Ghostwriter – RJD2
Forest Crunk – Aesop Rock
Golem II: The Bionic Vapour Boy – Mr. Bungle
Telekinesis – Lemon Demon
Meaningless Upbeat Happy Song – The Dead Milkmen
The Grand Delusion – Bad Religion
Square – Boom Bip & Dose One
Ich Mache Einen Spiegel – Popol Vuh
2-2 – Brian Eno
I Have Been Floated – The Olivia Tremor Control
Sunday In Richmond – Danny Cohen
Cossack Song (Polyushko Polye) – Leningrad Cowboys
Bubamara (Vivaldi version) – Emir Kusturica & No Smoking Orchestra
I Love A Day Like This! – Black Cat Orchestra
Un Grand Sommeil Noir (Original 1906 Version)
Volcanoes – Islands

Many journalists are debating where President Obama’s second term will be better or worse, but his legacy is already being determined. He will most likely spend the rest of his time in office cementing the weak accomplishments of his first term; a watered-down health care law, a weak economic recovery, and a slow withdrawal from foreign wars.

He has made new promises in his Inauguration speech, namely immigration reform and climate change, but there are many reasons to be skeptical.

Salon lists some of the past quotes that tell us we should ‘check our optimism‘:

  • Obama’s chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, berated liberals as “fucking retarded” for daring to try to press congressional Democrats to back the health care promises Obama himself made.
  • Obama deployed his official spokesman to tell reporters that liberals working to hold the president to his campaign promises “ought to be drug tested” because they are “crazy.”
  • Obama’s reelection campaign sent out an email slamming Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman as a “political rookie”
  • Branded LGBT activists as “naive”
  • Obama adviser denigrated liberals as the “internet left fringe”
  • A “senior Obama adviser” labeled those supporting a public health-care merely“the left of the left.”
  • Obama’s national security adviser slammed civil libertarians questioning the president’s extra-judicial drone war as “Cheeto-eating people in the basement working in their underwear.”

In truth, the candidate who promised more transparency and accountability has been the least transparent and accountable presidents in modern history. And the corporate influx of money did not end with his election; he continues to collect special interest dollars (at least $500 million) to go towards his ‘legacy projects.’

And though it was a right-wing idea, Obama seems all-too-willing to entertain prospects of putting armed police in every school. You know, because right-wingers are so upset about a police state and all. The chilling effects we’ve already seen from such actions have made the school-to-prison pipeline for minor offenses all the more viable, disproportionately affecting children of color.

Which, along with many other examples, is why Cornell West had some choice words on Obama’s decision to take the Oath of Office on the MLK Jr. Bible.

Not that neoliberal hypocrites like Obama hold a monopoly on twisting the vision of MLK to their own ends, as both anti-contraception right-wingers and even militaristic warmongers advocates have ignored the real message and meaning of Martin Luther King, Jr. to further their own dark goals.

Because the man was a radical. He didn’t condone the status quo that sees wages stagnating and middle and lower classes being crushed by a widening gap, (even as the economy has doubled over thirty years).

There are those with evident tactics to cheat middle class workers (i.e., you):

  1. Boost productivity while keeping worker wages flat.
  2. Build up a financial industry that has no maximum wage.
  3. Keep accumulating wealth created by the financial industry.
  4. Tax yourself as little as possible.
  5. Lend out your excess money to people who can no longer afford a middle-class lifestyle.

We have a financial services industry that defrauds, cheats, lies, steals, anything to maintain that upward mobility of capitol and wealth. But what can be done?

Oxfam International released a statement titled “The cost of inequality: how wealth and extreme incomes hurt us all.” In it, the anti-poverty organization cites the World Economic Forum’s recent report labeling “severe income disparity” as one of the top global risks for 2013, and offers several suggestions for curtailing wealth accumulation, including closing tax havens worldwide, setting a global minimum corporate tax rate, and limiting the size of bonuses. The goal, the report says, is “to end extreme wealth by 2025.”

According to the organization, the top 100 billionaires earned enough money in 2012 “to end world poverty four times over.” the growing economic gap between rich and poor won’t be alleviated unless extreme measures are taken. The real challenge lies with governments “willing to risk angering their wealthiest citizens in order to improve life for the poorest.”

We are told that the bankers are too important to jail, we see our Commander-in-Chief failing to dole out any modicum of punishment for the serious problems these fraudsters have wrought, and in fact continues to nominate and appoint more of the same Wall Street enablers who thrive in a ‘revolving door’ of backscratching and bribery between public office and backroom dealing.

This is exactly what center-right status quo gets us. This is the shell game of having the right-wing extremists appear as an insane alternative to the Beltway moderate wisdom.

To give the man a little credit, it must be an awful lot of work to unravel decades of toxic Reaganomic Republicanism. He is now able to do so by exposing their internal inconsistencies, leaderless sophistry, and partisan fractures.

Republican libertarians have never got along with social conservatives, who want to impose their own morality on everyone else.

Shrink-the-government fanatics in the GOP have never seen eye-to-eye with deficit hawks, who don’t mind raising taxes as long as the extra revenues help reduce the size of the deficit.

The GOP’s big business and Wall Street wing has never been comfortable with the nativists and racists in the Party, who want to exclude immigrants and prevent minorities from getting ahead.

And right-wing populists have never got along with big business and Wall Street, who love government as long as it gives them subsidies, tax benefits, and bailouts.

They appear to assuage themselves with myths about a nonexistent spending crisis, or that the government should have some fixed (usually small) size, in the hopes that such rhetoric will bind them against their severe differences on core social and financial issues.

But their contagious craziness not only enters the national dialogue, but takes center stage for both parties, its lip service becomes ‘serious discussion’ on the floors of Congress, and even the American public becomes distracted and dissuaded from real issues by the noise:

According to Pew Research Center’s annual policy priorities survey, released on Thursday, 72% of Americans identified reducing the federal budget deficit as a top policy priority for Obama’s second term, a far cry from January 2009, when only 53% of Americans labeling the budget deficit as a top priority.

And this new Congress has been plenty full of noise; already this year pushing extremist distractions to allow relatively sane (but still dangerously conservative) legislations to squeak through unnoticed. So far the sophomoric, moronic voices have clamored:

  • to impeach the president because he wants to reduce gun violence
  • that gays are too powerful to get equal rights
  • that women should not be in combat in the military
  • to give citizens the same weapons as the military
  • questions at the Secretary of State about right-wing conspiracy theory
  • claiming “Welfare Moms” wanting to commit fraud are to blame for gun violence
  • that Obama only upholds the “Soviet Constitution” (?)
  • that Saddam Hussein had something to do with 9/11
  • to vote to leave Hurricane Sandy victims out in the cold
  • to jail rape victims for ending their pregnancies because they would be “evidence of a crime”

All during record-low approval ratings, because, so it seems, there are no fucks to be given. They already know, on the Right at least, that their only path to winning is to rig the rules in their favor. To legalize cheating and gaming of the electoral system with a malapportionment of votes, and perhaps even win them the White House (and other contests) with the minority of votes.

Add to all this an ongoing drug war that both enables drug atrocities while disabling scientific efforts to stop it, and the rising governmental ‘need’ for information on the citizenry, and you’ve got a dangerous set of myths and misconceptions on a grand national security scale.

Stark challenges all, but we shall rise to them.

Stranger in a Strange Land 2013-01-26: Unraveling Myths by The Stranger on Mixcloud

~The Stranger
thestranger@earthling.net

Al-Jazeera Buys Current TV, Pundits’ Heads Explode

This article originally appeared on Disinfo.com

Current TV was sold to Al-Jazeera English for a reported $500 million dollars. Eliot Spitzer has quit his show, while the Young Turks made a point of saying they are independent, and thus owned by neither organization.

Time Warner Cable opportunistically jumped at the chance to drop Current with the ‘change of ownership’ clause in their contract. Time Warner contends it was not a political move, but cited ‘lack of demand’ and their already-streaming online free content as factors. According to the New York Times, Time Warner Cable wrote: “We are keeping an open mind, and as the service develops, we will evaluate whether it makes sense, for our customers, to launch the network.”

The point has been made at AlterNet that Time Warner subscribers are hit with the cost of political organizations they may not even want, with FOX charging $1 per month for its content and MSNBC 20 cents.

It is difficult to take seriously, however, claims that anything regarding Al-Jazeera in America (which would be called Al-Jazeera America) are not at least somewhat politically-motivated. FOX fraudsters called Al Gore and his Current TV a litany of names from ‘failures’ ($500 million worth of fail) to hypocritical assertions of tax avoidance, even implications of American betrayal and of being *gasp* unpatriotic!  FOX has a long history of blind stereotyping and anti-Muslim hatred, xenophobic fear-mongering and jingoistic bias; they reveal too much of themselves by calling the internationally award-winning Al-Jazeera English news agencies Anti-American terror mouthpieces: “Al Jazeera, known as the network of the Arab Street, is also known for taking anti-American, anti-Israel and pro-terror positions.” Absurd allegations from arguably the most morally bankrupt propaganda companies in the media.

The Huffington Post reminds us that this partisan vitriol is nothing new;

The Bush administration condemned Al Jazeera for its Arabic-language network’s coverage of the Iraq War and broadcasting of al Qaeda tapes, even targeting its headquarters in Baghdad during the Iraq War. Perceptions that the news organization, which is funded by Qatar’s government, is anti-American continue even as U.S. political leaders such as Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) have praised the network’s reporting abroad.

Al Anstey, managing director of Al Jazeera English, acknowledged to The Huffington Post in August 2011 that “in the United States of America, there were myths and misconceptions that needed to be tackled about what Al Jazeera stood for and what Al Jazeera English stood for and stands for.”

On Wednesday, Al Jazeera management expressed confidence that there’s strong demand for its programming in the U.S., which already accounts for 40 percent of the viewership of its streaming English-language network.

The talking heads at FOX are exploding so fast at news of the sale, you’d think terrorists had managed to creep in.

Bill O’Reilly has lambasted Al-Jazeera’s coverage of the Arab Spring for its ties to the government of Qatar; which would have been a legitimate criticism if it wasn’t embedded in such an an us-vs-them framing, and combined with a factually inaccurate post-9/11 terror angle. It is also particularly silly considering FOX’s parent company’s second-biggest investors is Saudi Prince Al-Waleed bin Talal, a nephew of the Saudi king. FOX’s biggest investor and founder is, of course, an Australian. Those damn international interests at work!

Glenn Beck went so far as to claim Al Gore had chosen to sell to Al-Jazeera over red-blooded American patriots such as himself. Unfortunately, Beck’s story is beset with inconvenient truths; he didn’t have the money for the purchase, didn’t intend to raise the money, was not a serious buyer, and happens to be at the opposite end of the philosophical universe as Gore. Beck then admitted that he thinks “global warming is nonsense”, and said that Al-Jazeera “hates America” while he himself loves it. Just loves it up in a cup.

Via The Young Turks:

Most of the ‘America hatred’ stems from Al-Jazeera’s coverage in the Middle East, including reporting on and showing the released tapes of Osama Bin Laden. Because a new agency should, you know, ignore or lie about what is going on in the world, especially if it concerns international affairs, the War on Terror or national security. How ridiculously pathetic is our own myopic national news when it has to be stated: “Content with an Arab perspective is not necessarily anti-American.”

Progressive online source Salon has even more on the possible biases and more possible openness of new points-of-view that would come from Americans getting that sweet cable access:

Juliette Kayyem, the national security and foreign policy columnist for the Boston Globe and lecturer at Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government, told Salon that the impression of Al Jazeera as an anti-America, anti-Israel newsroom was misleading. On a visit last month to Doha’s Al Jazeera campus, she noted, the reporters seemed more than anything young, ambitious and innovative. (Failing to break into the U.S. market meaningfully with Al Jazeera English, the network had been streaming through YouTube for interested U.S. viewers.) They were unconcerned about ownership issuing marching orders: “The monarchy knows Al Jazeera is a good brand for the monarchy,” said Kayyem. “And the more they mess with Al Jazeera, it’s not a good brand.”

Which is not to say that Al Jazeera has magically shed a point of view. “I suspect as viewers get to know the content,” said Al Tompkins, the Poynter Institute’s senior faculty for broadcasting, “they will develop filters through which to watch the journalism, in the same way thoughtful viewers filter Fox or MSNBC and so on.” He cited Britain, Canada, South Africa and Denmark as states whose government-funded networks did good journalistic work.

For the record, can we just acknowledge that every media source has some bias somewhere along the political gradient, with many much worse than others? I can appreciate the alternative views from liberals at RT, for example, and still realize that they go easy on their own right-wing president Putin, who just granted a tax haven to the wealthy. I can enjoy the Chris Hayes and Ed Schultzes of MSNBC, and also see their news cycle asapologism for Obama‘s war crimes. I don’t need to suspect every local story from every minor FOX affiliate to be branded and approved by the GOP, especially if I’m watching FOX Sports.

Once again, it just requires constant calibration of your bullshit detector, which can only be helped by more information, not less.

Digital Culture Killed My Dog

anonymous-16114-400x250This week, aaronJacob and I examine the state of the digital world, wondering whether our state of technological growth is a good thing or a bad thing, much the same, or if that growth is perhaps a little overstated. Is it making us mentally unstable? Does it help us escape or confirm our biases? Does new technology annihilate old modalities? We’ll spend our electronically-scored time delving into as many aspects of our collective computer culture and online ouvre as we can in two hours, everything from viral videomemes and remix art to pitched copyright battles and very real cyberwars, piracy and hacktivism to censorship and surveillance. Not to mention the insidious, darkest corners of the web; conspiracy, violence, cyberbullies, trolls,  and even hauntings.

Stranger in a Strange Land 2013-01-19: Digital Culture Killed My Dog by The Stranger on Mixcloud

PLAYLIST
In the Hall of the Mountain King – Galaxee Trance
Katamari on the Swing – We Love Katamari Soundtrack
my favorite james taylor song – (8BitPeoples) yuppster
Hard Reset – Eats Tapes
Gimme the Mermaid – Negativland
Circumlocution – The Quiet American
Human After All (Alter Ego Remix) – Daft Punk
Scratch Bass – Lamb
Slow This Bird Down – Boards Of Canada
Verbal (Prefuse 73 Dipped Escalade mix) – Amon Tobin
Roboshuffle – Kid Koala
Spread Teamer – Yip-Yip
Super Mario Bros. Dirty Mix OC ReMix – A Scholar & A Physician
Spy vs Spy II (Drunk n’ Basement Mix) – 8-Bit Weapon
Lavender Town – Pokemon
Clocktown Backwards – Majora’s Mask
Wood Man Theme – Mega Man 2
Town (Day) – Castlevania 2
Hydrocity Zone Act 1 – Sonic the Hedgehog 3
no more memory – cyriak
Return of the God – Dreadnots
A Huge Ever Growing Pulsating Brain That Rules From The Centre Of The Ultraworld – The Orb
CHange FRom ONe FOrm TO ANother – The Royal You
Upgrade (A Brymar College Course) – Deltron
Sattellite Surfer – F/i

January 18 marks an online holiday: Internet Freedom Day, or#InternetFreedomDay. The day a massive online protest successfully defeated the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the PROTECT-IP Act (PIPA). But as the EFF points out, we must remain ever-vigilant against such threats:

  • Stop the Trans Pacific Partnership
  • Demand Patent Reform
  • Reform Draconian Computer Crime Law
  • Protect Cell Phone Location Data
  • Stop new Internet Surveillance Laws

We recognize the value of fair use when artists are free to express their creative, political and social statements by repurposing and remixing such classics:

Whatever new aesthetic form our digital art takes, such as data moshing or augmented reality. Heck, there is even value to preserving the nature of piracy in some regard.

So while our leaders are trying to convince us that foreign entities and idealistic individuals are to blame for the viruses and espionage around the globe, but in reality our own massively overpowered governments are spying and prying into our personal affairs, unleashing damage and persecuting the free every day.

In response to a FOIA request, the FBI sent the ACLU of empty and redacted pages (PDF), providing zero insight into what this policy actually is. The FBI says that information is “private (privileged) and confidential.”

“The Justice Department’s unfortunate decision leaves Americans with no clear understanding of when we will be subjected to tracking—possibly for months at a time—or whether the government will first get a warrant” ~Catherine Crump, an ACLU staff attorney

All this while human rights monitors document the rise in surveillance and censorship technology being exported from America to other (arguably) more repressive nations.

Human rights monitors have documented the use of US-manufactured Internet surveillance and censorship gear in 21 countries, some with checkered human rights policies such as Syria, China, and Saudi Arabia. Afghanistan, Bahrain, China, India, Indonesia, Iraq, Kenya, Kuwait, Lebanon, Malaysia, Nigeria, Qatar, Russia, South Korea, Singapore, Thailand, Turkey, and Venezuela. Egypt, Kuwait, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates. The technology isn’t subject to US State Department export restrictions except to countries such as Syria, Iran, and North Korea (all on an embargo list).

So while we idly worry about threats to our online privacy, diligent crusaders and information liberators are actively targeted by government prosecutors.

Reddit co-founder and internet freedom activist Aaron Swartz tragically committed suicide on January 11, 2013. He had been arrested and charged back in 2009 for having downloaded a massive cache of documents from JSTOR., and was facing up to 13 felony counts, 50 years in prison, and millions of dollars in fines. MIT and JSTOR had already settled over the ‘Terms of Use’ breach, but prosecutors only dropped the charges after his death.

Prosecutors allege that Swartz downloaded the articles because he intended to distribute them for free online, though Swartz was arrested before any articles were made public. He had often spoken publicly about the importance of making academic research freely available. His actions were criminalized under the federal Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA), an act was designed to prosecute hackers.

JSTOR did acknowledge it was “deeply saddened” by the Swartz tragedy.

“The case is one that we ourselves had regretted being drawn into from the outset, since JSTOR’s mission is to foster widespread access to the world’s body of scholarly knowledge,” the organization wrote in an unsigned, undated statement. “At the same time, as one of the largest archives of scholarly literature in the world, we must be careful stewards of the information entrusted to us by the owners and creators of that content. To that end, Aaron returned the data he had in his possession and JSTOR settled any civil claims we might have had against him in June 2011.”

Law professor Lawrence Lessig, a friend and mentor to Swartz, wrote a post called “Prosecutor as Bully”:

The question this government needs to answer is why it was so necessary that Aaron Swartz be labeled a “felon.” For in the 18 months of negotiations, that was what he was not willing to accept, and so that was the reason he was facing a million dollar trial in April — his wealth bled dry, yet unable to appeal openly to us for the financial help he needed to fund his defense, at least without risking the ire of a district court judge. And so as wrong and misguided and fucking sad as this is, I get how the prospect of this fight, defenseless, made it make sense to this brilliant but troubled boy to end it.

Fifty years in jail, charges our government. Somehow, we need to get beyond the “I’m right so I’m right to nuke you” ethics that dominates our time. That begins with one word: Shame.

They don’t prosecute Wall Street for destroying the world’s economy, they don’t prosecute HSBC for laundering billions for the drug cartels and terrorists, and they don’t prosecute war criminals. But they’ll prosecute Aaron Swartz, Bradley Manning and other activists.

Some Senators are demanding answers:

Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) introducedAaron’s law,” which would reform the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act that was used to prosecute Swartz. Another member of the House Judiciary Committee, Darrell Issa (R-CA), said he wanted to investigate the actions of the US Attorney who authorized the prosecution, Carmen Ortiz of Massachusetts.

Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) sent a letter this morning to Attorney General Eric Holder, suggesting the case against Swartz may have been retaliation for prior investigations of Swartz, or his use of FOIA.

But US Attorney Carmen Ortiz released a statement defending her prosecution of Aaron Swartz, calling it an ‘appropriate handling of the case’, even though many are claiming that it may have prompted the 26-year-old’s suicide.

“At no time did this office ever seek – or ever tell Mr. Swartz’s attorneys that it intended to see – maximum penalties under the law,” Ortiz said. She claims she would have recommended that the judge offer a deal that came with six-month prison sentence in a low-security setting.

Elliot Peters, Swartz’s lawyer, said that prosecutors planned to argue for a seven to eight year prison sentence if their client had rejected the six-month offer.

So while Zoe Lofgren’s terrific changes are a good start, the EFF vowed to continue Aaron’s work and ‘attack‘ the obsolete, vague, and abused computer and communications laws:

EFF vows to continue his work to open up closed and entrenched systems that prevent ordinary people from having access to the world’s knowledge, especially the knowledge created with our tax dollars… to attack the computer crime laws that were so horribly misused in the prosecution of Aaron.

First, [to] ensure that when a user breaks a private contract like a terms of service or other contractual obligation or duty, the government can’t charge them criminally under the CFAA or wire fraud law—two statutes the Justice Department used against Aaron.

The second set of changes ensures that no criminal liability can attach to people who simply want to exercise their right to navigate online without wearing a digital nametag. It ensures that changing a device ID or IP address cannot by itself be the basis of a CFAA or wire fraud conviction.

Meanwhile, a group of online archivists released the “Aaron Swartz Memorial JSTOR Liberator.” The initiative is a JavaScript-based bookmarklet that lets Internet users “liberate” an article, already in the public domain, from the online academic archive JSTOR. This is in the hope that free knowledge can be taken from behind academic paywalls and put into the public domain, to liberate information and do to publishing what has already been done to other forms of media.

But as Swartz’s and other “hacktivist” cases demonstrate, you don’t necessarily have to be a hacker to be viewed as one under federal law. Are activists like Swartz committing civil disobedience, or online crimes?

  • Publishing Documents – Accessing and downloading documents from private servers or behind paywalls with the intent of making them publicly available.
  • Distributed Denial of Service  – Some web activists have pressed for DDoS to be legalized as a form of protest, claiming that disrupting web traffic by occupying a server is the same as clogging streets when staging a sit-in. A petition started on the White House’s “We the People” site a few days before Swartz’s death has garnered more than 5,000 signatures.

“Distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) is not any form of hacking in any way. It is the equivalent of repeatedly hitting the refresh button on a webpage. It is, in that way, no different than any ‘occupy’ protest.”

  • Doxing – Doxing involves finding and publishing a target’s personal or corporate information.
  • Website Defacement

As we’ve seen, hackers can be a lot more benefit than harm, and the internet, if it is to be the most democratizing system on the planet, must allow for radical transparency of information. Even if you disagree with much of it, or find the bulk of it stupid or offensive. Reactionary censorship and oppression are never righteous, or even permanently effective, solutions.

Stranger in a Strange Land 2013-01-19: Digital Culture Killed My Dog by The Stranger on Mixcloud

~The Stranger
thestranger@earthling.net

“whether we know it or not, all of us are being influenced by the net. The machines have changed everything in our lives. As you know, if you use the internet, there is a tremendous evil available at your fingertips. Do not- DO NOT allow the machines to take control over your lives. Don’t do that.”

~Bill O’Reilly

“the Internet is not something that you just dump something on. It’s not a big truck. It’s a series of tubes.”

~Ted Stevens