Tag Archives: right wing

The Tragicomedy of Paul Ryan

It’s not as if this is the guy that Mitt Romney would have ideally wanted to pick in his perfect campaign. But being compared to a still unpopular Bush administration was not something that Romney, or any Republican, could avoid (though one, you would think, they may have anticipated). Many of the Romney campaign’s moves seemed less calculated than they did desperate. The awkward posturing, self-inflicted wounds, easily avoidable controversies and smug demeanor were all part of his disconnected and (tax) sheltered reality, to be sure, but a healthy dose of media portrayal and recent memory made the Republican’s hill a  very steep one, indeed.

And Paul Ryan was a risky move, while described as a young hot shot intellectual of the right, his reminiscences of Ayn Rand, austerity, entitlement cutting, and hatred of our traditional social safety net ran the risk of alienating 50+ voters and certainly any remaining Republican moderates. Ah, but those businessmen love risks.

Some called it a safe bet, as the campaign and party shifted to energize their base with an inoffensive white male.

Romney’s capitulation to the Republican Party’s conservative, plutocratic base is now complete. It will be Ryan’s ideas that Romney will be under enormous pressure to pursue and implement as president, and his brand of conservatism that Romney is expected to emulate.

John McCain went on to describe the pick as “bold”, though he probably wasn’t the best to take VP advice from. While less radical than Sarah Palin (or at least, radical in other, less obvious, ways), it seemed to be a repeat of 2008. A relative party moderate feints to the right to pick up those far-right votes, hoping to rebrand after the convention and nearer the debates as a centrist-populist. But Paul Ryan had even more going for him than the confounding Palin; he was already a favorite of the right-wing, and he would go on to fire up the rallies.

That weekend:

Opening rallies were packed, Romney now has even more money, media attention, and a change of tone. Romney gains the full Koch election infrastructure, and Ryan’s base-motivation of The Conservative tribe ( group loyalty and identification is more important among conservatives than not among liberals).

Would the choice resonate? This could be a make-or-break opportunity for the rising star. Ryan was one of the favorites long before the decision, as a concerted pressure campaign by prominent conservatives and grass-roots activists specifically wanted him on the ticket. It’s possible, though anything is in that nasty business, that he’ll emerge a top-tier contender for the 2016 nomination.

He had certainly shined in the House, which dominated the GOP’s thinking as much as the GOP dominates the House. Their screaming, obstructionism, hypocrisy, dogma and pork threatened anything resembling progressive action from the Democrats, and Ryan’s proposed budget in particular bore the standards of “Republican othodoxy” going at least as far back as Reagan.

In true Randian fashion, Ryan’s budget…

 …phases out the Earned Income Tax Credit that keeps millions of American families above the poverty line and cuts funding for children’s healthcare in half. The Children’s Health Insurance Program would be abolished, and millions of working-age Americans would lose health insurance. Senior citizens would anguish over whether to pay their rent or their medical bills, in a way they haven’t since the 1960s. Government would be so starved of resources that, by 2050, it wouldn’t have enough money for core functions like food inspections and highway maintenance.

It was described by economists as the least serious budget plan, which doesn’t bring the budget into balance for decades.

Note: Reagan-era Republicans were more in favor of the social safety net, before decades of racial and class division were sown from the top. Pew Research Center, in 1987, found that 62 percent of Republicans said “the government should take care of people who cannot take care of themselves,” but that number has now dropped to just 40 percent ( PDF)

Ryan, a good little corpo-fascist, would shift social benefits previously guaranteed by the federal government away to voucherized plans. Medical care historically grows at much faster rates than the economy, meaning that the indexed vouchers would fall short of the needs and demands of seniors. The plan is to save the government money, while shifting costs back to seniors and undermine the original goals of Medicare. All the while, the medical, pharmaceutical and insurance companies reap the rewards.

From AddictingInfo.org:

The Congressional Budget Office projects that Ryan’s plan would raise seniors’ out-of-pocket expenses by $6,500 per year.

Ryan’s plan assumes an efficiently working free market, and that considerations for medical needs would be the same as other fiscal concerns; they’re not, and people who are sick and dying want a solution that works, not what’s the most low-cost. It’s a captive market, unless you’re willing to die.

Nothing in the Ryan budget tackles costs on the other side, and why would they? That isn’t in the interests of his paymasters an uninhibited and open free-market.

Starting in 2020, Social Security benefits for new retirees would be cut, the eligibility age would gradually be raised and the program would be partially privatized, a huge boon for the private sector. Payouts would “be more uncertain, despite the guarantee, because returns on stocks and corporate bonds are risky.”

Ryan had referred to Social Security as a “Ponzi scheme”. And while Social Security is not going broke (both sides often start debating having accepted this false premise), Republican strategies just haven’t worked. Voters rejected a privatization scheme when George W. Bush pushed one because it makes the system far less stable, exposing retirement savings to the volatility of the markets, and disproportionately helps the wealthy.

The Tax Policy Center (no friend of the Romney/Ryan camp), had already found that Ryan’s budget would give people that make more than $1 million a year an additional $265,000 tax cut, on average, on top of the $129,000 cut they get from the budget’s extension of the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy. Predictably, Ryan, like Romney,  could not identify a single loophole they’d close that could generate some of the revenue to make up for the revenue losses from tax cuts on the wealthy (nearly to 25 percent, by nearly 15 percent from current law). That’s over a quarter-million dollars for the top 1 percent; by half a million dollars for people earning over $1 million, and by $1.7 million for the top 0.1 percent. And by also eliminating the capital gains tax, Romney’s tax rate in one year would be just 0.82 percent under Ryan’s proposal.

Audiences have booed Ryan for the unfair distribution:

Ryan’s Blueprint was modified into Romney’s, failing to raise revenues, shifting costs to state and municipal governments (which would, no doubt, raise their own taxes to meet the increased demand, effectively laundering tax increases so Romney/Ryan wouldn’t get blamed for them).

The Economic Policy Institute estimated his plan would suck demand out of the economy and “reduce employment by 1.3 million jobs in fiscal 2013 and 2.8 million jobs in fiscal 2014, relative to current budget policies.”

According to analysis from the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities, 62 percent of Ryan’s cuts come from food stamps, Medicaid and a handful of other programs aimed at helping the most vulnerable in society.  a significant portion of the rest of his cuts come from education, both K-12 and higher ed. would also slash funding for Pell Grants, and There are other cutsas well to higher education and financial aid.

And without military cuts (spurned by both Romney and Ryan), equivalent cuts would have to be made to transportation, science, education, environmental protection, and domestic efforts.

The toxicity of the Ryan budget has been tested (on a small-scale, granted) before, and the results weren’t good.

Paul Ryan’s austerity seemed aimed at the middle and lower classes, his plan would end the Earned Income Tax Credit, once expanded by Reagan, which millions of parents count on. His policies, like many neoconservatives, would send us sliding back into a Recession or Depression just as in 1937-’38, and how the beloved Reagan administration cut the unemployment rate almost in half.

But Paul Ryan, pawn of the moneyed Koch Brothers’ political enterprise (GOP™), extremist, and poser, had attended biannual conservative strategy sessions with big donors. His special events with the Koch-backed Americans for Prosperity and the Wall Street-backed Club for Growth, among other groups, made him a savory VP pick for the “outsider” Romney.

His toxic stances and outright lies would go on to hurt his image, in the short electoral if not long term. Lying about his requests of stimulus money, requests for earmarks at the same time that he insisted he was against earmarks, all the while steering money to campaign donors.

The Huffington Post reported:

“…in at least two instances involving the Department of Transportation, Ryan has pushed the interests of companies whose members have given him campaign donations.” PPG Industries, which contributed almost $7,000 to his campaign, and the National Auto Dealers Association, which had given him $68,500.

Paul Ryan had voted for TARP, the Wall Street bailout. He got out the Republican vote for TARP as well. But it was unregulated money Paul Ryan imagines flowing into the financial sector’s coffers, Ryan voted against the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, the major financial regulatory response to the crisis. (It might be worth noting that Public Citizen did an analysis that found that House members who voted for TARP and against Dodd-Frank, a club Paul Ryan belongs to and consists mostly of Republicans, received three times as much campaign money from the financial industry as those that voted the opposite; in 2010, with a haul of at least $531,500 for the year).

Ryan voted to scrap the Consumer Financial Protection Agency and replace it with a plan proposed by the Chamber of Commerce, those fair and unbiased privateers. But he hasn’t offered anything specific on derivatives, consumer financial protection, insurance, securitization, ratings agencies, and the shadow-banking industry more broadly.

An immediate scandal broke by the Richmonder blog:

Paul Ryan had lined his pockets from information he had obtained from a now-legendary meeting that took place on September 18, 2008. On that day, Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke and then-Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson broke the news to congressional leaders that they would have to approve a bailout to avert a complete meltdown of the financial system.  Ryan had sold the stocks of several major banks that day, while purchasing – surprise! – stock in Paulson’s old firm Goldman Sachs.

Money and politics expert Thomas Ferguson, who has written extensively on the bailout, explained, “Ryan did own some index-based securities, but they stand out in the summaries. They are different from the many trades Ryan was making in individual stocks. It is perfectly obvious that he sold shares in Wachovia, Citigroup and J. P. Morgan on September 18 and he bought shares in Paulson’s old firm, Goldman Sachs, on the same day. If these were index trades, what’s on the form is nonsense.”

And wasn’t this delightfully Republican: Paul Ryan and his wife own shares in oil and gas companies that benefit from tax breaks for Big Oil, and Ryan supports $40 billion in subsides for big oil. In fact, his behavior was not atypical of his fellow legislators. According to AlterNet:

…in-depth research undertaken in 2004 considered to be the baseline work in the field revealed that from 1993-1998, US senators were beating the market by 12 percentage points a year on average. Corporate insiders only beat the market by a measly 5 percent. Typical households, in contrast, underperformed by 1.4 percent.

And though the story was quickly swept under the rug in the news cycle, all of this combined to taint the frame of Paul Ryan, the conservative mathermatical wizzerd. But he wasn’t a sorcelator, he was just another acolyte. Doing “math as a Republican to make himself feel better.” A true believer’s true believer, a Koch Republican, an economic anti-populist of the highest order. An anti-tax, anti-spending purist worshiping at the altar of Ayn Rand and whatever Christ condones rampant greed.

ThinkProgress explain that the philosophy Ayn Rand laid out in her novels and essays was, “a frightful concoction of hyper-egotism, power-worship and anarcho-capitalism. She opposed all forms of welfare, unemployment insurance, support for the poor and middle-class, regulation of industry and government provision for roads or other infrastructure. She also insisted that law enforcement, defense and the courts were the only appropriate arenas for government, and that all taxation should be purely voluntary. Her view of economics starkly divided the world into a contest between ‘moochers’ and ‘producers,’ with the small group making up the latter generally composed of the spectacularly wealthy, the successful, and the titans of industry.”

Her psychopathy would go on to inspire Milton Friedman, Ronald Reagan, Glenn Beck, and devotee Alan Greenspan.

Ryan tried to disavow Rand’s philosophy to Catholics and moderates, but he had already been recently caught on record proselytizing that Rand “makes the best case for the morality of democratic capitalism.” On another occasion, he said, “The reason I got involved in public service, by and large, if I had to credit one thinker, one person, it would be Ayn Rand…. I try to make my interns read it.” And even if he did distance himself from her Virtues of Selfishness, it served to brand him as a flip flopper. A source of great struggle for the inveterate poseur.

He was long ago hewn to the party’s socially radical far-right, having supported a federal ban on abortion even in the case of rape and incest, and in 1999, voted to ban gay couples from adopting children in the District of Columbia.

Ryan co-sponsored legislation to declare that “each human life begins with fertilization,” Ryan has also voted against letting U.S. troops and their families get abortions at military health centers abroad, and to rescind abortion coverage under the federal employee health plan.

He consistently voted against funding women’s health programs, would defund Planned Parenthood and rescind all dollars for family planning grants under Title X (which already cannot be used for abortion).

He voted in 2004 and 2006 for a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage. He also voted against repealing “don’t ask, don’t tell” as well as hate-crime legislation.

Ryan appeared to agree with Todd Akin about rape, pregnancy and abortion.

True to form, Paul Ryan towed the party line against the President based on pure spite, malevolence and revenge tactics. Ryan attacked Prsident Obama’s stimulus program, but in 2002 supported President George W. Bush’s proposed stimulus spending “to create jobs and help the unemployed,”

During the campaign, Paul Ryan would go on to slam President Obama for adopting Medicare cuts that, until a week before his speech at his alma mater Miami University in Ohio, were openly supported by Ryan himself. He then claimed he actually opposed the cuts before he embraced them (a disastrously Kerry-esque flip-flop). Support for the Romney’s pledge to reverse the cuts would have further complicated the math for both candidates’ repeated vows to rapidly close the deficit. Ryan has consistently opposed measures to crack down on China’s currency manipulation practices, but accused the President of the same. He would go on to lie about Obamacare, even the parts that Romney/Ryan supported. Most erringly, Ryan slammed the President for the closure of an auto plant that closed in late 2008 under George W. Bush. His ‘Oops’ moment may have cost him big.

People began to see him as a shameless opportunist, even hawkishly claiming his sole foreign policy success was that he had ‘voted to send men to war’. For though his family had made its fortune in government contracts for public works, the young Paul Ryan has made his career out of railing against ‘The Public.’

Polls very quickly began to find that a larger swath of Americans were unsettled by Rep. Ryan, or his Medicare plan.  Americans opposed it by a margin of 49 to 34 percent. That’s the same margin as independent voters. Nearly half of Americans said Ryan was a “fair” or “poor” choice for V.P., while just 28 percent said he was an “excellent” or “good” pick.

Criticisms abounded from both left and right almost immediately. He was a “conservative policy scammer” according to economist Paul Krugman.

Republican strategists are privately fretting about the choice. “There are a lot of races that are close to the line we’re not going to win now because they’re going to battle out who’s going to kill grandma first … It could put the Senate out of reach. In the House it puts a bunch of races in play that would have otherwise been safe,” one unnamed Republican strategist told the Hill. “Very not helpful down ballot — very,” an unnamed strategist told Politico.  “This is the day the music died,” another unnamed operative, who is working for a 2012 candidate, added. Yet another told Politico, “The good news is that this ticket now has a vision. The bad news is that vision is basically just a chart of numbers used to justify policies that are extremely unpopular.”

Even Newt Gingrich famously said: “I don’t think right-wing social engineering is any more desirable than left-wing social engineering. I don’t think imposing radical change from the right or the left is a very good way for a free society to operate.”

Politico summed up their findings:

“In more than three dozen interviews with Republican strategists and campaign operatives — old hands and rising next-generation conservatives alike — the most common reactions to Ryan ranged from gnawing apprehension to hair-on-fire anger that Romney has practically ceded the election.”

Gary Johnson, the Libertarian Party candidate had some choice words:

“He voted for the Patriot Act, he voted for the National Defense Appropriation Act, he voted to ban online poker, he’s proposing a budget that gets balanced in thirty years. He is anything but a libertarian, anything but.”

“Somewhere in hell, Ayn Rand is cackling with glee,” Democratic strategist Paul Begala wrote.

Faith in Public Life, a strategy center for religious groups, opposed Ryan’s budget and Catholic groups claimed the militantly atheist Rand led Ryan to abandon his own faith with a budget that hurts the needy. Ryan was personally harassed by a Catholic protestor last year asking him to denounce Rand’s views and embrace the Bible.

USA Today-Gallup poll showed “Americans rating [Ryan’s] selection more unfavorably than any pick since at least 2000.” Forty-six percent of poll respondents in 2008 rated their initial reaction to Palin “excellent or pretty good.” For Ryan, the number is just 39 percent.

Disastrous news for a floundering party and campaign that picked the Wiz Kid, the Wonk, the Boy Wonder to improve polls. Instead, only 48 percent of voters polled by Gallup described him as “qualified” to be president, besting only Dan Quayle and Sarah Palin.

The powerful swing state voters who ultimately decided the election didn’t need more reasons to reject the Romney train, but Ryan was just that. Unmarried women shifted 10 points toward Obama, along with the Rising American Electorate (net 3-point shift), and independents (net 9-point shift). Even conservatives were swayed, shifting a net 13 points toward Obama.

And though he certainly did help fundraising, it seemed in the end that fundraising was a wash. The country was largely purple, with the populous cities (and thus electoral votes) a deep blue. Paul Ryan may have “brought vision” to the Romney team, but his clear vision was encrusted with cataracts, blinding him and his cohorts to the needs of real Americans. He would go on to do his best fumbling through the many fallacies of Republican dogma, balancing Randian and fundamentalist Christian philosophy, reconciling both corporate and populist messages, and navigating the hazardous differences of his own and Mitt Romney’s obscured policy vision.

The ticket became what they ultimately wanted, a base-energized ‘clear choice’ to Obama, whom they wanted to vote out “above all else.” Americans recognized this clear choice between visions, and chose accordingly. It can be presented no differently now, it should be spun as nothing less than the gold they thought it was mere weeks ago.

But by a long shot, we haven’t seen nor heard the last of extremists like Paul Ryan. Not only was he re-elected handily despite being a no-show in his Wisconsin seat race, there is now an empty field of view to 2016, and somebody ‘immensely proud‘ of his vice-presidential bid could claim some serious chops. Would it be disastrous or calculated? Much of that may depend on how the next four years go, how obstructionist the Republicans may continue to be (or how successful such attempts may be), how much he may appear to be a ‘loser’ after four years, and if or how the GOP retools away from the dangerous scam they have running on the American people. A scam with Paul Ryan’s smiling punim and Mitt Romney’s off-putting grin. A scam the American people recognized and all-too-willingly rejected.

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Outmoded Cogs

All those outmoded pieces of the political machine stand in the way between our current miserable lot and real progress. That’s right, brand them for it! Make the reactionaries wear their conservative moniker for the shame that it is!

PLAYLIST
Peer Gynt Suite ‘In the Hall of the Mountain King’
The Supernatural Anaesthetist – Genesis
Symphonic Fantasia No.1 & 2 – Akira Ifukube
Evil Devolution – Ayreon
Loving – Astor Piazzolla, Kronos Quartet
Fight Outta You – Ben Harper
The Needle Has Landed – Neko Case
Butcher’s Boy – Damien Jurado
Miracula Eternitatis – Cirque Du Soleil
Wander – The Album Leaf
Spanish Castles in Space – The Orb
Boredom – Procol Harum
Music for a Found Harmonium – Penguin Cafe Orchestra
Gentler We – Clogs
Magnificat – Manuel Cardoso
Kentucky Moonshiner – Dave Van Ronk
Yesterday Is Here – Tom Waits

Archaic thinking, smirking opportunistic politicians, violent religious extremists, right-wing mainstream media, forcing teachers to strike, and the digital disruption of your privacy threaten us daily. Sadly, the show is only weekly, and we do what we can.

~The Stranger
thestranger@earthling.net

Tropical Paradise

The stress and anger from the fast-paced world of current events and electoral mudslinging are getting to you, and since we can’t stop those, let us find our exotic escape. A quiet beach on a remote island, with sweet drinks and soft jungle sounds on a moonlit night, relax and melt into your adirondack chair, under your tiki hut near your cabana, and dream that this is how humbly the other half lives. Better yet, dream of the indigenous fauna.

Our problems will still be here when we get back.

Stranger in a Strange Land 2012-08-18: Tropical Paradise by The Stranger on Mixcloud

PLAYLIST
In the Hall of the Mountain King – The Mysterions
007 (Shanty Town) – Desmond Dekker
Ebb Tide – Al Caiola & His Islanders
Jungle Madness – Martin Denny
Tiare Anani – Webley Edwards
Chuncho (the Forest Creatures) – Yma Sumac
Island In The Sun – Harry Belafonte
Mucha Muchacha – Esquivel
Bongo Lesson – Jack Costanza
Lambada Timbales – Tito Puente
Corcovado (Quiet Nights) – Sergio Mendes, Cannonball Adderley
Brazil – Django Reinhardt
Agua De Beber – Frank Sinatra & Antonio Carlos Jobim
Irene – Caetano Veloso
The Warmth Of The Sun – Beach Boys
Double Naught Spy – Deke Dickerson
The Cannibal Village – Michael Land
Tropicando – Les Baxter
Exotic Guitars – Safari Ways
Pastime Paradise – Ray Barretto
Waves Within – Santana
War – Bob Marley
No Dub Island – Scientist
James Bond Theme – The Skatalites
SPY – Seatbelts
Spygame – Parov Stelar
Jungle Fresh – Gorillaz
Bongo Bong – Manu Chao
Vacation Island – Kid Koala
Manha De Carnaval – Louiz Bonfa
Mana Ma’ohi – Matato’a
Son Of A Son Of A Sailor – Jimmy Buffett

Now, it has officially been eight attacks on houses of worship in eleven days in this country, with distrust, bigotry and racism stirred up by the likes of Islamophobes Michele Bachmann and Peter King. And even demagoguery in the areas where violence would later occur against Muslims:

Rep. Joe Walsh, R-Ill., sowed the seeds of mistrust and suspicion by alleging that “radical Islam” had made a home in the suburbs of Chicago; that ”It’s in Elk Grove, it’s in Addison, it’s in Elgin. It’s here”; and that radical Muslims are “trying to kill Americans every week.” Walsh’s warnings were met with applause.

According to FBI data, hate crimes against Muslims might be rising. The rate of anti-Muslim crimes fell from nearly 500 in 2001 to 107 in 2009. But in 2010 (the latest year for which the FBI has data) the total number of hate crimes jumped 50 percent to 160.

As we discussed last week, our intelligence agencies tasked to protect us have a massive blind spot in the area of homegrown terrorism, but they had been warned.

Daryl Johnson, architect of the infamous 2009 Department of Homeland Security report on right-wing extremism, made headlines last year, when he accused Homeland Security of ignoring the growing threat of right-wing violence due to political pressure. Johnson said DHS employed just one analyst to monitor all non-Islamic extremism, down from eight prior to the report’s release. In stark contrast, the department has at least two dozen personnel assigned to analyzing the threat of homegrown Islamic extremism.

DHS continues to turn a blind eye, says Johnson.

“Right around the time I went public last year, they hired a brand-new person with no experience and no law enforcement connections,” shortly thereafter the new hire was transferred to a different unit, again leaving just one analyst on the beat. A year later, Johnson says, “absolutely nothing has changed.” another former DHS analyst, there have been, at most, two DHS analyst on the non-Islamic extremism beat since he left the agency in 2010. During his time at DHS, he recalls a “3-to-1 ratio” of analysts assessing Islamic extremism versus those covering non-Islamic threats. According to the former analyst, “very few products have been released in the past several years [on right-wing extremism]. A couple, but not much at all.”

What’s worse is that other law enforcement groups rely on DHS threat assessments, and within the halls of power these groups are seen as inconsequential to nonexistent, while Muslims are seen as suspicious to radical. Ignorance has led to our agencies being led by a sham terror expert industry, exaggerating one threat and ignoring others.

Read John Mueller and Mark G. Stewart’s The Terrorism Delusion: America’s Overwrought Response to September 11, in the latest issue of International Security.

Mueller and Stewart analyze 50 cases of supposed “Islamic terrorist plots” against the United States, and show how virtually all of the perpetrators were (in their words) “incompetent, ineffective, unintelligent, idiotic, ignorant, unorganized, misguided, muddled, amateurish, dopey, unrealistic, moronic, irrational and foolish.” They quote former Glenn Carle, former deputy national intelligence officer for transnational threats saying “we must see jihadists for the small, lethal, disjointed and miserable opponents that they are,” noting further that al Qaeda’s “capabilities are far inferior to its desires.”

Expenditures on domestic homeland security (i.e., not counting the wars in Iraq or Afghanistan) have increased by more than $1 trillion since 9/11, even though the annual risk of dying in a domestic terrorist attack is about 1 in 3.5 million. Using conservative assumptions and conventional risk-assessment methodology, they estimate that for these expenditures to be cost-effective “they would have had to deter, prevent, foil or protect against 333 very large attacks that would otherwise have been successful every year.” Much of that money ends up going to private contractors.

These are the types of government spending and overreach that policymakers will never criticize Obama for. CIA-perfected torture is normalized as concept with impunity here in the states (by calling it “enhanced interrogation techniques”), and captives are sent face rendition abroad.

President Obama has closed the CIA’s “black sites,” its secret prisons where American agents once dirtied their hands with waterboarding and wall slamming. But via rendition — the sending of terrorist suspects to the prisons of countries that torture — and related policies, his administration has outsourced human rights abuse to Afghanistan, Somalia, and elsewhere. In this way, he has avoided the political stigma of torture, while tacitly tolerating such abuses and harvesting whatever intelligence can be gained from them.

But pundits and politicians would rather focus on the ECONOMY, stupid.

When it comes to fiscal issues, Mitt Romney wants voters to know he’s disgusted by reckless government spending spree under President Obama the past three years, while at the same time also contending that Obama’s government hasn’t stepped in enough to help Americans.

Paul Ryan also slammed President Obama on Thursday for failing to rescue an auto factory in his Wisconsin district — one that closed in 2008, under President George W. Bush. Oopsie! Ryan also got caught misrepresenting his actions when it comes to his handling of Obama’s stimulus package. In an interview this week with WCPO, an ABC affiliate in Cincinnati, Ryan said, “No, I never asked for stimulus … I opposed the stimulus because it doesn’t work, it didn’t work” but it turns out that’s not true. In 2009 and 2010 Ryan sent at least five letters to Energy Secretary Steven Chu and Labor Secretary Hilda Solis seeking stimulus grants in the millions for two Wisconsin energy conservation companies.

And while avoiding the big deal over his own taxes, Romney attacked the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center’s finding that fulfilling his budget promises would require asking 95 percent of Americans to pay more in taxes. “They made garbage assumptions and they reached a garbage conclusion,” he said. He then used Simpson-Bowles to defend his vague formula, but the commission’s co-chair, Erskine Bowles, has repeatedly said it’s not mathematically possible to meet Romney’s goals without asking the middle class to pay more in taxes.

“The Romney plan, by sticking to revenue-neutrality and leaving in place tax breaks, would raise taxes on the middle class and do nothing to shrink the deficit,” Bowles wrote in a Washington Post op-ed last week.

The Tax Policy Center responded to a number of Romney’s criticisms, claiming that none of the complaints affected the conclusions, which the group said were based on running simple numbers around Romney’s previously stated goal of revenue-neutral tax reform that would lower income tax rates while eliminating tax deductions, starting with those that benefit the wealthiest Americans.

“[I]t remains true — as we showed in our paper — that a reform proposal that meets the five goals stated above would have to raise burdens on middle-class households,” they wrote.

Surely many other scandals will come out concerning Romney’s moneyed storied past, but this week it was Joe Biden who was in the news for his “gaffes”

“Romney wants to let the — he said the first 100 days — he’s gonna let the big banks once again write their own rules. Unchain Wall Street,” Biden said at an event in Danville, Va. “They gonna put y’all back in chains.”

Of course, the Republicans lashed out at his racial rhetoric, despite having been all-too-willing to play that card themselves in the past:

“They will put you in chains called ‘Obamacare,’ and you will never break away,” ~Sen. Rick Santorum

“[Obama] does not want you to have the self-esteem of getting up and earning and having that title of American. He’d rather you be his slave.” ~Florida Rep. Allen West

But the point still stands, that there are (some) wealthy elites who would reinstate the feudal state, the gilded age, and even serfdom. But what can we do?

Les Leopold, author of The Looting of America, proposes we turn the banks into public utilities. Via Alternet:

The simple truth is our giant banking system is metastasizing throughout our economy. It’s sucking away our wealth. And it’s out of control. We’ve seen our bankers commit every kind of financial crime imaginable. They trade on insider information. They manipulate markets. They rig bets. They fix prices. They sell securities that are designed to fail so that they can bet against them. They launder money for rogue nations. They create too-big-to-fail banks that gamble with impunity knowing that we will bail them out again and again. And they collectively crashed the economy causing 8 million workers to lose their jobs.

No bank CEO can effectively manage the empires they now preside over. No regulator can keep up with the financial games that are played right under their noses. It’s just not possible. Too-big-to-fail also means too-big-to-control. Banks are the predators and we are the prey. We need to end too-big-to-fail, instead of proposing reforms that are too little, too late.

He counters every criticism of his proposal, arguing that it isn’t necessary socialism (about as much as the police force is), that public trusts are more effective, and that losing the “best” Wall Street talent by drastically lowering salaries will be a good thing.

It’s all just in time, too, since privatization is ruining America:

  1. We spend lifetimes developing community assets, then give them away to a corporation for lifetimes to come.
  2. Private systems of health care, schools and prisons are failing us.
  3. Facts about privatization are hidden from the public.
  4. Privatizers have suggested that teachers and union members, public schools, are communists.
  5. Privatization often creates an “incentive to fail” for no-bid contractors.

And, amid journalist harassmentarrests, and criminalizing dissent, private contractors have now dedicated massive, nationwide surveillance networks to watching us.

Via RT:

In a 2005 interview with The Entrepreneur Center, Richard “Hollis” Helms, co-founder of TrapWire developers Abraxas, says the system “can collect information about people and vehicles that is more accurate than facial recognition, draw patterns, and do threat assessments of areas… The beauty of it is that we can protect an infinite number of facilities just as efficiently as we can one and we push information out to local law authorities automatically.”

Essentially, siphoning private surveillance camera footage to intelligence agents.  intelligence caught by TrapWire was being fed directly to these high-profile customers, including the NYPD (who lied in denying it), the Pentagon, the Secret Service and the White House. Stratfor, for its part, is keeping quiet about the revealing emails, and won’t comment enough to deny them. Mainstream media (*cough* NYTimes *cough*) whitewashes the facts behind the scandal, and all of this could be for good and more than just classified reasons. This could all be very illegal.

US v. Jones, the recent ruling by the Supreme Court, could mean that using Trapwire to track people is illegal without a search warrant, and would be a violation of the Fourth Amendment

“Regardless of the technology, the government should need a warrant for persistent tracking of individuals” ~The Electronic Frontier Foundation

Well, the government thinks it needs a lot of things, but warrants don’t seem to be among them.

Stranger in a Strange Land 2012-08-18: Tropical Paradise by The Stranger on Mixcloud

~The Stranger
thestranger@earthling.net

Prognosis

Problems progress, and so the solutions must be progressive, and so should the tunes. When we realize the cosmic scope of time and space and mind, we see our problems aren’t so grand.

Stranger in a Strange Land 2012-08-11: Prognosis by The Stranger on Mixcloud

PLAYLIST
In the Hall of the Mountain King – Aunt Mary
Isn’t It Quiet And Cold? – Gentle Giant
Mastoul Alakefak – Aksak Maboul
Truth, Justice, And The American Way – 5uu’s
Starship Trooper – Yes
Vampire State Building – Alcatraz
Stagnation – Genesis
Symphonic Revolution – Mandrill
Variations on a Theme by Brian Smith – Ain Soph
A Time A Place – Brainchild
18 Variations On Sinister #3 – Frank Zappa
One of These Days – Pink Floyd
Night Illusion – Gong
Sechs Achtel – Aera
My House On Mars – Ayreon
Technopolis – Yellow Magic Orchestra
Backwash – Blodwyn Pig
Ork Alarm – Magma

The country reacts to even more hateful violence in this country, but a trend is revealing not Muslim terrorism, or even just those random acts of inscrutable psychotics, but a seething right-wing white nationalist domestic terrorism.

So while I applaud leaders like John McCain or the usually small-minded Chris Christie who are breaking party rhetoric to denounce the more vitriolic bigotry of Michelle Bachmann and others. More troubling are the endemic thinking of prejudice within the intelligence and military complexes, or the reluctant response to white supremacists and neo-Nazis who represent genuine, local threats.

Via Salon:

When Homeland Security director Janet Napolitano released a report in April 2009 identifying right-wing extremists as a threat to the country, conservatives howled. The general sentiment was expressed by Michelle Malkin, who declared the report a “piece of crap … propaganda … an Obama hit job.” Jonah Goldberg complained that the DHS report failed to stick “to the practice of describing these groups with more specificity and without the catchall, ideologically loaded descriptors.”
Now documents, which were collected by the invaluable National Security Archive and obtained partly through Freedom of Information Act requests, shed light on the problems coming from the extreme right. According to a 2004 FBI report, “right-wing terrorists pose a significant threat due to their propensity for violence”
These groups increased their recruitment efforts and rhetoric after 9/11, according to the report. White supremacists groups relied on broader anti-immigrant sentiment throughout the country to advance their efforts.
More disturbingly, neo-Nazis were trying to infiltrate law enforcement agencies, according to a 2006 FBI report devoted to the subject. “White supremacist presence among law enforcement personnel is a concern due to the access they may possess to restricted areas vulnerable to sabotage and to elected officials or protected persons, whom they could see as potential targets for violence,” it reads. One idea far-right terrorists proposed was to walk into police stations and offer information, in order to determine an agency’s interest in any given organization.

Apparently, this infiltration is part of what these groups refer to as the “fascist path of stealth” in which they must appear as “ghost skins” in order to gain paramilitary training and inside information. The FBI also claims that white supremacists have evinced interest in broader campaigns of suicide terrorism, according to the FBI. “These provide the movement with an ideal of self-sacrifice and a context for individuals to put themselves into fatal situations on behalf of its causes.” Terrorist acts could unify the movement and inspire others to carry out similar acts.

And while we lean right into either a corpo-fascist or theocratic or plutocratic state (or D. all of the above), the country, political parties and national dialogue becomes more radical, more fundamentalist, more anti-intellectual, and more insane. Valid arguments are now represented by invoking Godwin’s law, labeling opponents as reactionaries, communists, Maoists and yes, even nazis. Pretty harsh language to describe the process of giving citizens health care, or observe the constitutional separation of church and state.

But this is what we’ve come to expect from our elected do-nothings, compulsive liars and reprobates. And while our “leftist” commander-in-chief stomps out press and protest freedoms, the only things we could hope for from the GOP if elected is obstructionism, vindictiveness, delusions, hypocrisy, and pouting ineptitude. Hell, not only do they need SuperPACs to be citizens, not only do they need massive donor information to remain secret from the public, they are also blocking the Internal Revenue Service from tightening oversight of anonymous money groups misusing the tax code.

Speaking of tax fraud, even though this has been a hard month for Mitt Money Romney (down in the polls, hammered on his wealth and taxes, seen as a buffoon abroad), he has officially begun to outraise Obama. This does not even include the SuperPAC money dedicated to defeating Obama at all costs, no matter the Republican candidate.

Polls show voters see Romney in an increasingly negative light and Obama making progress in swing states, where he leads everywhere but North Carolina in the PollTracker Average.

Romney, whose predatory career has claimed the jobs of countless Americans while calling himself a “job creator” and “wealth creator.” Does he mean miserable jobs in Chinese factories? Wealth for the 1 percent? The cash hoarders? This all sort of runs counter to traditional American values. It seems a little, Idunno, detrimental to a decent society as a whole.

Look, I’m all for capitalism, but when people shout “more capitalism!”, it’s really a rallying cry for more sweatshop jobs, more child labor and more impoverishing of American workers so that offshoring and outsourcing entrepreneurs can make more millions and keep their incomes in offshore banks and out of the hands of the IRS.

Mitt, for example, currently owns three homes, and his entire entitled body language screams “boredom and contempt” for having to deal with so many of his lessers on the campaign trail (O, what the debates will hold!).

Mitt finds it far safer to express the passive side of his passive-aggressiveness: arms immobile at his sides (the better to not throttle you with); mouth closed (the better to not blurt insults); eyes dreamy (the better to not shoot daggers). It all goes with how he trained himself, consciously or otherwise, to not be as honest

Hey, meritocracy is back in style, polished, glossed over and unlubed.

Expect to see him attempt to lie his way into office, especially at the expense of everyone’s right to vote. Veterans in Ohio aren’t buying it, but we already know how Romney hates those ‘frivolous’ firefighters and cops. Why does the GOP hate our servicemen?
Scott Brown, for one, is outraged at the prospect of poor people voting:

Brown is outraged that his opponent’s daughter is working for an organization making it easier for people to legally vote. Because they’re poor.
“I want every legal vote to count, but it’s outrageous to use taxpayer dollars to register welfare recipients!”
It’s actually a “special effort” to comport with federal law. helping legally qualified citizens register to vote is now considered improper.

Brown did, after all, spend a ton of money to ensure that the voices of many could not be heard. Just drown them out with money. It’s all part of the GOP’s “only the better sort of people should be trusted with the vote” schemata. What does that remind us of?

Of course, there are people who claim that it doesn’t matter who you vote for anyway, it’s all rigged. The Candidates won’t address these important issues, such as net neutrality, or the drug war fueling racial caste systems in this country, or hurting democracy in Afghanistan and Mexico.

Instead, both sides of the political aisle agree, condemn whistleblowing, silence dissent, and spy on everybody.

Via RT:

Former senior intelligence officials have created a detailed surveillance system more accurate than modern facial recognition technology — and have installed it across the US under the radar of most Americans, according to emails hacked by Anonymous.

Every few seconds, data picked up at surveillance points in major cities and landmarks across the United States are recorded digitally on the spot, then encrypted and instantaneously delivered to a fortified central database center at an undisclosed location to be aggregated with other intelligence.

And while I had previously advocated the use of social justice bots, but considering the police state built up around us, I feel I should clarify… nothing illegal should be attempted without full acceptance of the consequences. Unless you’re in power already, of course.

But it’s entirely possible that Anonymous could hack, or otherwise somehow interfere with the presidential election. This would be as aggregious, in my eyes, as the political parties cheating, engineering and disenfranchisement.

As for those bots, well, they already have the power to take down Wall Street, rogue or otherwise. And it’s happened on a somewhat manageable scale already. We’re just waiting for something to go haywire, resulting in billions of dollars in losses in just minutes. It is clear that the big banks and financial industry at large cannot be trusted with their death grip on the economy.

Luckily, Stephen Lerner at Alternet proposes some alternatives:

  1. Renegotiate public and housing debt. It is estimated that banks have already sucked more than $50 billion out of local communities through toxic loans, fees and tricky deals that cities are locked into.
  2. Exercise eminent domain. There are 16 million underwater homes, worth $2.8 trillion, that are $1.2 trillion underwater. Resetting those mortgages to fair market value would save the average underwater homeowner $543 per month, $104 billion into the national economy every year. This would create 1.5 million jobs nationally. If just five of the most severely underwater cities used eminent domain they could seize $140 billion worth of underwater homes from banks, forcing banks to take a $30 billion haircut on underwater loans.
  3. Boycott big banks and move public money. One of the key profit centers for banks is their government business. And it isn’t just LIBOR they cheated on. There are investigations and growing scandals around price fixing on municipal bonds. banks are holding cities hostage on Letters of Credit (LOC’s) by ratcheting up the cost knowing if cities refuse to pay they may be forced to pay huge termination fees.
  4. Enact resolutions at local governments and pension funds.
  5. Litigate and legislate.

So, whether in the system or out of it, out of the box thinking is sorely needed. Innovative experiments and progressive action must be taken at every level, or this grand experiment we call America may be doomed to fail.

Stranger in a Strange Land 2012-08-11: Prognosis by The Stranger on Mixcloud

~The Stranger
thestranger@earthling.net

Fusion

Tonight a fusion of world events, geopolitics and international genres!

PLAYLIST
In The Hall Of The Mountain King – The Marimba Belles
So What – Miles Davis (Miles From India Tribute)
The Shadow World – Sun Ra
A Minha Menina -Os Mutantes
Zana – Toquinho
Call Any Vegetable Suite -Frank Zappa & The Mothers
This Is An Artistic Statement (Part I) – The Beat Of The Earth
Love Is Like A Bottle Of Gin – The Magnetic Fields
Chilly Winds Don’t Blow – Nina Simone
Everything – Radio Citizen feat. Bajka
Sax Quartet – Seatbelts
Star Vader – Guitar Vader
Jardin Chinois – Cirque Du Soleil
La Petite Fille de la Mer – Vangelis
Storm – Parov Stelar
In-Flux – DJ Shadow
The Lighthouse – Amon Tobin
Scratch Bass – Lamb
Track 24 – Z-Trip
A Sunday Mystery – RjD2
Midnight Lullaby – Tom Waits
Niltrous Burn Out 2012 – Man… Or Astroman?

Many Republicans who voted for contempt against Eric Holder in his ‘Fast and the Furious’ operation, subscribe to a conspiracy theory holding that the administration tried to boost the number of weapons going to Mexico in order to increase support for gun regulations that have never been introduced.

This does not make sense.

Aside from the fact that Mr. Holder had no direct influence over the operation (something that he could, theoretically, actually be criticized for by sane individuals), President Obama hasn’t so much as breathed a word of gun control speak in the general direction of the ten-foot pole not even touching the issue. But then again, these are the same reactionary citizens who have no problem bordering on treasonous remarks when it benefits their fancy little Tea Party.

“To resist by all means that are right in the eyes of God is not rebellion or insurrection, it is patriotic resistance to invasion.”

-Roy Nicholson, Chairman of the Mississippi Tea Party

In light of the open suggestions of armed revolt, Glenn Greenwald at Salon wonders:

Does President Obama have the power to order Nicholson assassinated without charges or trial? Should he have this right? What’s the principled distinction that makes assassinating Awlaki acceptable but not Nicholson? The most likely answer is that Awlaki was in Yemen while Nicholson is in the U.S., but that’s just a pragmatic difference, one that cannot make any legal or Constitutional difference: American citizens don’t renounce their Constitutional protections against the U.S. Government when they leave the country. If the President has the legal authority to assassinate U.S. citizens without charges on the ground that they are allegedly plotting against the U.S. when they’re on foreign soil, then shouldn’t the President have this same right for citizens on American soil? Think Progress celebrates the Awlaki assassination as an Obama “success”; would they do the same if the President ordered Nicholson assassinated without charges?

I could, in the ‘I’m Rubber-You’re-Glue’ vein, introduce some conspiracies of my own… Such as the theory that Mitt Romney is covering up federal felonies related to his contradicting claims made to SEC officials. Romney owned a Bermuda-based company for over 15 years which suggests that without further disclosure it may be impossible to tell his actual hidden wealth. Or point out how Bain Capital to invest in a medical-waste disposal company that disposed of aborted fetuses. And:

“In 1991, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration cited its Arkansas operation for 11 workplace safety violations. The facility had not provided employees with sufficient protective gear, and it had kept body parts, fetuses, and dead experimental animals in unmarked storage containers, placing workers at risk.

And though Romney and others are making this merely a “referendum on Obama”, and spreading lies about the tax impact of his healthcare plan, when you compare the projected revenue effect of the individual mandate to the actual revenue effects of other, actually large tax increases, their claims becomeslaughable. The mandate is tiny by comparison.

And most American’s actually support the provisions in ‘Obamacare’:

A recent poll by the Kaiser Family Foundation found Americans split down the middle, with 41 percent approving of the law, and 40 percent saying they didn’t like it. But then Kaiser asked about 12 specific provisions in the legislation, and found that, on average, 63 percent of respondents approved of the nuts and bolts of Obamacare. Of the 12 measures they tested, only one – the controversial mandate to carry health insurance or pay a penalty – received the approval of less than half of Americans (35 percent).

Or consider this divide: while only 12 percent of Republicans had a positive view of the law overall, 47 percent, on average, viewed its specifics favorably.

What most folks don’t know about the law (or have been outright lied to), is that most Americans will be getting subsidy checks, including tax credits for small businesses that offer employee coverage, advanceable tax credits for citizens, the richest Americans paying a fair amount that they can comfortably afford, insurers actually required to spend money on their customers, and larger companies (with 50 or more full-time workers) will have to pay penalties if they don’t provide coverage.

According to the Congressional Budget Office, just 1 percent of the population will pay the mandate penalty, which maxes out at 1 percent of one’s income, and the law will reduce the projected deficit by $210 billion over the next decade.

The bill provides maternity care, mental healthcare and substance abuse treatment, pediatric care, ambulance rides and hospitalization, and new dollars for community health centers.

Yes, the old systems are starting to decay, and will all hopefully be replaced with reasonable solutions. As Chris Hedges writes at Truthdig:

“Civilizations in the final stages of decay are dominated by elites out of touch with reality. … This failure to impose limits cannibalizes natural resources and human communities. This time, the difference is that when we go the whole planet will go with us.”

The Rockerfellers and the Rothschilds are merging their interests, as are the Koch Brothers and Casino mogul Sheldon Adelsonpledging $10 million to their conservative 2012 efforts. And even those that take the fall for massive investment failures and fraud (covering for the super-rich elites) face no jail time and will not have any money clawed back.

This is the most important rule of finance: It really doesn’t matter how badly you screw up; if you’re an important enough person you will never face any real negative consequences, besides a bit of bad press. The best managers know how to delegate large-scale theft and fraud.

So even though Barclay’s has agreed to pay fines related to their price-fixing scamwe won’t be seeing any of that money. There were also huge bid-rigging settlements for Chase, UBS, Bank of America, GE and Wachovia.

Our only slim hope is that they’ll take themselves out, though this is grisly and unjust. Is the 1% going to leap at this as an example of their first casualty in the Class War we nefarious “poors” are waging against them?

Corporate profits are at an all-time high; wages (as a percent of the economy) are at an all-time low, often at or just above the poverty level.

“One reason companies are so profitable is that they’re paying employees less than they ever have as a share of GDP. And that, in turn, is one reason the economy is so weak: Those ‘wages’ are other companies’ revenue,” Henry Blodget, Business Insider. And high unemployment makes workers willing to accept those poverty wages.

Right-wingers from Michele Bachmann to Ron Paul have used high unemployment as an opportunity to call for eliminating the minimum wage entirely, letting companies decide just how little they think their workers are worth. Companies love to claim that if they’re forced to pay more, they’ll have to eliminate jobs, but these numbers show that actually, they’re able to keep wages low and refuse to hire, And the rich are getting ever richer.

Politicians proclaim that they feel your pain while announcing budget cuts that freeze salaries, lay off workers and force more work onto those who remain. CEOs use that same language when explaining why they simply can’t create jobs. Morgan Stanley’s CEO, James Gorman blamed the lousy economy when asked why he hadn’t created the jobs his company had promised the city in exchange for massive tax breaks.

That’s what rich corporations are able to buy with their record profits: politicians who turn around and hand them even more money, in the form of tax breaks that hollow out city and state budgets and force even more austerity and even more social service cuts that fall on the backs of the same underpaid workers.

Corporate taxes are at a 40-year low, with an effective tax rate paid of 12.1 percent. That’s what you can buy when you’d rather pay politicians than your workers.

The Center for American Progress found in a study that as union membership decreases, so does the so-called middle class’s share of national income. The middle class has long served as a buffer between those at the top and those at the bottom. As long as the majority of Americans were comfortable, had decent jobs and pensions, and could send their kids to school, the wealthy could stay wealthy and the poor were pretty much just ignored. And that middle class was built through decades of union agitation, not just for higher wages and health care benefits, but for the eight-hour day, for the weekend, and for safety in the workplace and some job security.

But now the middle class has been hollowed out, many of their jobs being outsourced or automated into nonexistence in the name of profits. Increasingly, there are the super-super-rich, and there are the rest of us.

The far right frames these issues as moral ones, and so should we.

The basic idea behind democracy in America is the idea that citizens care about each other; that they act socially as well as individually to cash out that care, and they try to do as well as they can in doing that both for themselves and for others. They do this by having the government create what we call “the public.” The public provision of things; things for everybody – roads, bridges, sewers, public education and public health, like the Centers for Disease Control. Clean air, clean water, the provision of energy, communications and so on. These are all the sorts of things that you can’t live a life without. A private life or a private enterprise. Every business depends on all of these things. The private depends on the public. That is a moral issue. That is how we care about each other.

Now many are claiming that the toxic economic philosophy of austerity for the poor, deregulated greed and risk-taking for the rich, and blind obedience to authoritarianism, has become it’s own religion (and a very anti-Christian one at that).

“Anyone who believes in indefinite growth in anything physical, on a physically finite planet, is either mad – or an economist.” ~Kenneth Boulding

“Neoclassical economics has become a religion. Because it has a mathematical veneer, and I emphasize the word veneer, they actually believe it’s true. Once you believe something is true, you’re locked into its way of thinking unless there’s something that can break in from the outside and destroy that confidence.” ~Economics professor Steve Keen

“The arguments of economists legitimate social and economic arrangements by providing these arrangements with quasi-religious justification. Economists are thus doing theology while for the most part unaware of that fact.” ~Paul Heyne

Paul Krugman also has some very reasonable choice words on the virtue of selfishness.

But the systems of power continue to peddle and perpetuate their scam of ‘hard work in America.’

Since the 1970s, America’s annual working hours have been steadily increasing. At the same time, middle-class wages have stagnated or declined. Despite this, Americans work more hours than any other Western nation, says Boston University professor Ellen Shell. , and this is bad for the economy and bad for our mental and physical well-being. “…we must push hard against our current practice of celebrating overwork and treat it as the scam it has become,” she says, referring to how the wages of the upper-class have boomed in the last decade.

We’re headed back to the robber baron era, the Gilded Age, and in many ways may already be there.

We have the highest level of income inequality in 90 years, both private and public sector unions are under a concerted attack, and federal and state governments intend to cut deficits by slashing services to the poor. Unregulated corporate greed has historically created economic collapses that the public then has to pay for. Unions are being stamped out, elections are being openly bought and sold, the Supreme Court is heavily partisan towards the financial industry, civil liberties are being violated and protestors shot, votes are being discounted, and minority groups beaten and subjugated.

NYPD is now operating in cahoots with the CIA, using its resources as a vast domestic spy network engaged in surveillance, mapping and infiltration,  stretching from the heart of New York City to the border of Canada—by way of Connecticut, New Jersey and Long Island. Treating basic acts of daily living as potential crimes, disregarding privacy and the freedom of speech and religion. Mild-mannered Muslim citizens, students, cab drivers, business owners, vendros are all fair game, with every minute detail of their lives being recorded. How long before the eyes of scrutiny are turned on the rest of us?

There’s a rich history in this country of suppressing dissent and stripping away civil rights; the WWI Red Scare and “Prostitution” roundups, the Depression-era Bonus Army attack, WWII internment, and most notably, the surveillance and operations against left-leaning political groups in the 1960s (COINTELPRO) and the lawless indefinite detention post 9/11 to today. Anarchists, communists, labor organizers, civil rights organizations and various ethnic groups were all monitored by a succession of “Red Squads.”

Mass arrests accompanied the Republican conventions held in New York in 2004, when 900 people were busted, and in St. Paul in 2008 when 300 were detained, including 30 journalists. In the recent NATO summit held in Chicago at which approximately 70 people were busted over two days, including three for “terrorism.”

Increasingly, steps are being taken to prevent us from making real change.

What’s needed, for starters, is a unified progressive identity, a concerted effort to institutionalize coordination, a common infrastructure capable of formulating clear policy objectives and strategic messages, and a commitment to creating a powerful, unified movement beyond isolated campaigns. a new American Dream, a New Progressive Movement.

“America needs a different story. . . . So let me say what I think up front: The leaders and thinkers and activists who honestly tell that story and speak passionately of the moral and religious values it puts in play will be the first political generation since the New Deal to win power back for the people.”

~Bill Moyers

We need ideas for dethroning GDP, transcending consumerism, transforming corporations, revitalizing communities, building a different system for money and finance, and more.

Yes Magazine illustrates a vision of America the possible, a manifesto on the “new economy.” The following transformations hold the key to moving to a new political economy. Consider each as a transition from today to tomorrow.

  • Economic growth: from growth fetish to post-growth society, from mere GDP growth to growth in human welfare and democratically determined priorities.
  • The market: from near laissez-faire to powerful market governance in the public interest.
  • The corporation: from shareholder primacy to stakeholder primacy, from one ownership and motivation model to new business models and the democratization of capital.
  • Money and finance: from Wall Street to Main Street, from money created through bank debt to money created by government.
  • Social conditions: from economic insecurity to security, from vast inequities to fundamental fairness.
    Indicators: from GDP (“grossly distorted picture”) to accurate measures of social and environmental health and quality of life.
  • Consumerism: from consumerism and affluenza to sufficiency and mindful consumption, from more to enough.
  • Communities: from runaway enterprise and throwaway communities to vital local economies, from social rootlessness to rootedness and solidarity.
  • Dominant cultural values: from having to being, from getting to giving, from richer to better, from separate to connected, from apart from nature to part of nature, from transcendent to interdependent, from today to tomorrow.
  • Politics: from weak democracy to strong, from creeping corporatocracy and plutocracy to true popular sovereignty.
  • Foreign policy and the military: from American exceptionalism to America as a normal nation, from hard power to soft, from military prowess to real security.

There’s work to be done together. But there’s democracy in the air.

Stranger in a Strange Land 2012-07-07: Fusion by The Stranger on Mixcloud

~The Stranger
thestranger@earthling.net

A Better Amercia

PLAYLIST
In The Hall of the Mountain King – Umphrey’s McGee
Dark End of The Street – The Flying Burrito Brothers
Shelcha – Yael Naim
Computer Games – Yellow Magic Orchestra
Clectric Café (Neotericz) – 8-Bit Operators
WTF? – OK Go
Super Brothers (Love Device Mix) – Guitar Vader
Rubber Band – Trammps
Brothers On The Slide – Cymande
Fascination – David Bowie
Strawberryfire – The Apples In Stereo
Raid (Instrumental) – Madvillain
Trouble (Eve of Destruction) – Blackalicious
The Evil that Pens Do – Extended Famm
White Flag (feat. Bashy, Kano and the National Orchestra for Arabic Music) – Gorillaz
One Day – RJD2
Golden Rule – Erin Anova & the Maroons
Funk Em – Hieroglyphics & Del The Funky Homosapien
Past Zero Time – Dark Matter
Sessomatto – Armando Trovaioli
The Sophisticated Hippie – Horace Silver (Easy Mo Bee)
Always True to You in My Fashion – George Shearing & Peggy Lee
La Vieille Meurt – Alain Goraguer
Waiting For The Worms/Stop/The Trial/Outside The Wall – Pink Floyd

Stranger in a Strange Land 2012-06-02: A Better Amercia by The Stranger onMixcloud

While the socialist-Maoist-Marxist-Trotskyite-Stalinist-communist-pinko-red-hippie John McCain badmouthed capitalism as ‘cruel’, and Bill Clinto went off-message on private equity, the old guard of Republicans (RINOs) futilely try to inject their reasonable wisdom into an insanely destructive party. Former Sen. Alan Simpson (R-WY) has lashed out at members of his party for their unyielding obstructionist opposition to new tax revenues.

“The only thing [SuperPAC money] can do to you, as an elected official, is defeat you for reelection. And if that means more to you than your country when we need patriots to come out in a situation when we’re in extremity, you shouldn’t even be in Congress.”

In America, a disturbing number of people seem to think that the impoverished are degenerates who deserve their fate and none of our society’s help. At least it’s encouraging to know that they also don’t believe the rich should get their unearned, undeserved bailouts. But these crooks don’t have anything to worry about.

Our police forces seem more interested in hauling away credentialed members of the media in cuffs. “Your First Amendment rights can be terminated,” was the warning issued by a Chicago Police Department officer caught on video. Our hypocritical Commander-in-Cheeba seems more interested in busting up medical marijuana stoners, than any cartels.

via OccupyWallSt

And even during the 2008 Republican National Convention, at which FBI informants Brandon Darby and Andrew Darst set up David McKay, Bradley Crowder, and Matthew DePalma on charges of possessing Molotov cocktails in two separate incidents. It’s important to note that the only Molotov cocktails that figured in the RNC protests at any point were the ones used to entrap these young men: the FBI were not responding to a threat, but inventing one.

Over the past month, the FBI have shifted into high gear with this approach. Immediately before May Day, five young men were set up on terrorism charges in Cleveland after an FBI infiltrator apparently guided them into planning to bomb a bridge, in what would have been the only such bombing carried out by anarchists in living memory. During the protests against the NATO summit in Chicago,three young men were arrested and charged with terrorist conspiracy once again involving the only Molotov cocktails within hundreds of miles, set up by at least two FBI informants.

None of the targets of these entrapment cases seem to be longtime anarchist organizers. None of the crimes they’re being charged with are representative of the tactics that anarchists have actually used over the past decade. All of the cases rest on the efforts of FBI informants to manufacture conspiracies. All of the arrests have taken place immediately before mass mobilizations, enabling the authorities to frame a narrative justifying their crackdowns on protest as thwarting terrorism. And in all of these cases, the defendants have been described as anarchists in the legal paperwork filed against them, setting precedents for criminalizing anarchism.

Smashing bank windows, for example, may be illegal, but it is increasingly understood as a meaningful political statement; it would be difficult to build a convincing terrorism case around broken glass.

And now the Obama Justice Department is trying to do what Richard Nixon couldn’t: indict a media organization. . . . Charging Julian Assange with ‘conspiracy to commit espionage’ would effectively be setting a precedent with a charge that more accurately could be characterized as ‘conspiracy to commit journalism‘”

Key Democratic Senators such as Senate Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein have publicly called for Assange’s prosecution for espionage (which in the case of both Assange and Manning may still carry a death sentence).

A group of journalists including Jeremy Scahill, Amy Goodman, Glenn Greenwald, and Kevin Gosztola joined WikiLeaks and their counsel, the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR), insuing the federal government over the extreme secrecy in the trial of Bradley Manning. CCR asked the court “to grant the public and press access to the government’s motion papers, the court’s own orders, and transcripts of proceedings, none of which have been made public to date.” CCR argues that the trial has been “even less transparent than the controversial military commission proceedings ongoing at Guantánamo Bay.”

Considering that any vaguely named combatant or anyone standing near said “combatant” can be blown up by the president without due process, it does seem like something we should probably guard against, right? Now, similar to the ‘Do Not Call’ and ‘Do Not Track’ lists, a ‘Do Not Kill‘ petition has been started to counter the president’s ‘Kill List’. People are now (only half-mockingly) begging the government not to kill them.

via Salon:

Could Obama order the targeted killing of an American citizen, in a country with which the United States was not at war, in secret and without the benefit of a trial? The Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel prepared a lengthy memo justifying that extraordinary step, asserting thatwhile the Fifth Amendment’s guarantee of due process applied, it could be satisfied by internal deliberations in the executive branch. Despite an executive order banning assassinations, a federal law against murder, protections in the Bill of Rights and various strictures of the international laws of war”

Attorney General Eric Holder then publicly claimed: “‘Due process’ and ‘judicial process’ are not one and the same, particularly when it comes to national security. The Constitution guarantees due process, not judicial process.” Both of those episodes sparked controversy, because of how radical of a claim it is.

John Brennan, the president’s counter-terrorism adviser, said in a recent speech that not a single non-combatant had been killed in a year of drone strikes in Afghanistan and Pakistan. And today’s Times article quoted a senior administration official who said that civilian deaths were in the “single digits.”
But it turns out that even this hey-it’s-better-than-carpet-bombing justification is rather flimsy. The Times article says “Mr. Obama embraced a disputed method for counting civilian casualties …It in effect counts all military-age males in a strike zone as combatants, according to several administration officials, unless there is explicit intelligence posthumously proving them innocent.” This was the exact language used by George Zimmerman in his 911 call about Travyon Martin (“it looks like he’s up to no good”), classifying all males in the vicinity of suspected Terrorists in Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia — including teenagers — as “militants” and “combatants,” and deeming them fair game to be killed solely by virtue of their physical location, gender and age.

And of course, President Obama is creating a great recruiting tool for anti-American fundamentalist forces.

“These attacks are making people say, ‘We believe now that al-Qaeda is on the right side,’ ” said businessman Salim al-Barakani, adding that his two brothers — one a teacher, the other a cellphone repairman — were killed in a U.S. strike in March.

Who would have guessed that continually dropping bombs on a country using remote-controlled sky robots and killing their civilians would breed hatred and a desire to attack back? Not only do these constant Obama attacks extinguish the lives of innocent people, but they also exacerbate the very threat they are ostensibly designed to address.

Of course, if the president continues to utilize authoritarian methods of torture, profiling, surveillance, illegal wiretapping, terroristic war tactics,and  robotic death-from-the-sky, surely the conservatives will call him out on this big government tyranny! What’s that? They’re calling him a socialist, leftist, a Maoist, and a Muslim? And the left supports his Big Brother extremism as well? As the ACLU’s Jameel Jaffer asked: “Dems who think executive process is due process: Where were they when Bush‬ needed help with warrantless wiretapping?” or his indefinite detention scheme? Dianne Feinstein is more worried about stopping leaks and punishing whistleblowers than investigating the war crimes in the first place?

And WIRED gives us even more right-wing Nixonian extremism coming from the Obama White House:

The Obama administration is set to argue to a federal appeals court Friday that the government may breach, with impunity, domestic spying laws adopted in the wake of President Richard M. Nixon’s Watergate scandal.

The case tests whether Americans may seek recourse or monetary damages when a sitting U.S. president bypasses Congress’s ban on warrantless spying on Americans — in this instance when President George W. Bush authorized his secret, warrantless domestic spying program in the aftermath of the September 2001 terror attacks. A federal judge found in 2010 that two American lawyers’ telephone conversations with their clients in Saudi Arabia in 2004 were siphoned to the National Security Agency without warrants. The allegations were initially based on a classified document the government accidentally mailed to the former al-Haramain Islamic Foundation lawyers.

The document was later declared a state secret, removed from the long-running lawsuit and has never been made public. With that document ruled out as evidence, the lawyers instead cited a bevy of circumstantial evidence that a judge found showed the government illegally wiretapped the lawyers as they spoke on U.S. soil to Saudi Arabia.

Against the government’s objections, San Francisco U.S. District Court Judge Vaughn Walker awarded the two lawyers — Wendell Belew and Asim Ghafoor — $20,400 each in damages and their legal counsel $2.5 million in costs. It marked the first time anyone had prevailed in a lawsuit challenging Bush’s so-called Terrorist Surveillance Program.

The domestic spying program was first disclosed by The New York Times in December 2005, and the government subsequently admitted that the the National Security Agency was eavesdropping on Americans’ telephone calls without warrants if the government believed the person on the other line was overseas and associated with terrorism. Further news investigations found that the government had secretly enlisted the help of major U.S. telecoms, including AT&T, to spy on Americans’ phone and internet communications without getting warrants as required by the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.
Parts of the surveillance program were so egregious that the upper echelon of the Justice Department, including then-Attorney General John Ashcroft, threatened to resign en masse if it wasn’t changed.

Congress, with the vote of President Barack Obama — who was an Illinois senator at the time — subsequently legalized much of the warrantless spying in the summer of 2008. The legislation also provided the nation’s telecommunication companies immunity from lawsuits accusing them of being complicit with the government’s warrantless wiretapping.

The government, however, claims said it cannot be held liable under the spying law, and that Congress has not waived sovereign immunity — meaning the government has not consented to being sued for breaching its own laws.

And via EFF:

In a disappointing ruling for government transparency advocates, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals held the government could keep secret “cables describing waterboarding; a photograph of a detainee, Abu Zubaydah, taken around the time that he was subjected to the ‘enhanced interrogation techniques’; and a short phrase that appears in several Justice Department memos referring to a ‘source of authority.’” This suit came on the heels of revelations that tapes allegedly showing waterboarding were destroyed by a CIA officer. The court accepted the government’s argument that waterboarding was an “intelligence method” and therefore exempt from disclose. The Obama administration argued in favor of this interpretation despite previously banning waterboarding as torture. As the ACLU’s Alexander Abdo wrote, the ruling means “the CIA can effectively decide for itself what Americans are allowed to learn about the torture committed in their name.”

Meanwhile, the Department of Homeland Security has been forced to release a list of keywords and phrases it uses to monitor social networking sites when looking for “signs of terrorist or other threats against the U.S.”

The list was posted by the Electronic Privacy Information Center who filed a request under the Freedom of Information Act, before suing to obtain the release of the documents. The documents were part of the department’s 2011 ’Analyst’s Desktop Binder‘ used by workers at their National Operations Center which instructs workers to identify ‘media reports that reflect adversely on DHS and response activities’.

I present them all here in the hopes of generating more blog traffic and wasting expensive government resources. It is especially entertaining to know that one can get on Intelligence Agency radar with sentences such as “Pirates plot smart power pork cloud exposure, help aid meth lab explosion body scanner wave!”

~The Stranger
thestranger@earthling.net

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