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The eruption of Mount Tavurvur volcano on August 29th, 2014. Captured by Phil McNamara.


Categories : Breather, International
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Sep
06

9/11 Daze

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George W. Bush made me a blogger of me. Writing was the only way of dealing with the intensity of the frustration at America’s
Bush-era follies:

A flood of post-September 11 articles asked how the attacks happened, what we would do next, and why terrorists hate us. One savvy pundit asked, Would America keep its head?

We invaded Iraq on trumped-up intelligence. We conducted illegal surveillance on our own citizens. We imprisoned people without charge, here and abroad. We rendered prisoners for torture and tortured others ourselves in violation of international law. All the while, millions of staunch, law-and-order conservatives supported and defended it, and still do. Vigorously.

Did America keep its head? Uh, no.

Just as a friend’s PTSD flares up each year at this time (she lost a loved one in the New York attack), we’re still coping with the aftermath of decisions made by Bush’s Mayberry Machiavellis. So sure that they were God’s instruments (if not Halliburton’s), they could rationalize all of it. Their elaborate justification memos in legaleze are still trickling out.

“We conclude only that when the nation has been thrust into an armed conflict by a foreign attack on the United States and the president determines in his role as commander in chief .?.?. that it is essential for defense against a further foreign attack to use the [wiretapping] capabilities of the [National Security Agency] within the United States, he has inherent constitutional authority” to order warrantless wiretapping — “an authority that Congress cannot curtail,” Goldsmith wrote in a redacted 108-page memo dated May 6, 2004.

The program, code-named Stellar Wind, enabled the NSA to collect communications on U.S. soil when at least one party was believed to be a member of al-Qaeda or an al-Qaeda affiliate, and at least one end of the communication was overseas.

The ACLU obtained the memos through a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit. Staff attorney Patrick Toomey tells the Washington Post,

“Unfortunately, the sweeping surveillance they sought to justify is not a thing of the past,” Toomey said. “The government’s legal rationales have shifted over time, but some of today’s surveillance programs are even broader and more intrusive than those put in place more than a decade ago by President Bush.”

Now that Bush is home in Texas painting and Vice President Dark Side is still stumping for renewed U.S. intervention in the region his intervention helped destabilize, we are still dealing with the after effects of their misrule.

Has any one else noticed: Have any of these former global players from the Bush administration actually set foot outside U.S. borders since leaving office? Can they?

(Cross-posted from Hullabaloo.)


Categories : National, Torture
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Sep
05

Friday Open Thread

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Whoa! So what didn’t happen this week?


Categories : Open Thread
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Moffitt cribbed it:

ASHEVILLE – A company owned by state Rep. Tim Moffitt, R-Buncombe, lifted passages without attribution from other sources and used them in material for use on other legislators’ websites, a liberal Raleigh political group has found.

Progress North Carolina, the AC-T reports, says it found dozens of instances where anything from “a sentence or two” to “long paragraphs” were lifted without attribution. The irony here is what Moffitt told Barry Summers last Friday at last week’s CIBO meeting about his main focus areas in working with ALEC (on tape):

[P]robably my most pressing issue is intellectual property violations by foreign companies that really hurt North Carolina from the pharmaceutical/biotech standpoint.”

That’s right, nobody can violate the intellectual property rights of good, old Americans companies (like GSK, Bayer, or Novartis) except good, old Americans.


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Tapes and transcripts leaked recently from the Koch brothers’ annual summit meeting are filled with eye-popping details. For example, their efforts to market their free-market gospel to uninterested young people are as ham-fisted as Fox News Channel’s ill-fated 1/2 Hour News Hour. Joan Walsh writes:

“I have a big surprise for everyone here: Young people like beer,” joked Evan Feinberg of the Koch-funded Generation Opportunity. At least I think he was trying to make a joke. GenOpp is the group behind those “Creepy Uncle Sam” anti-Obamacare ads that backfired against the right. So understandably, Feinberg didn’t mention Creepy Uncle Sam, but bragged about GenOpp’s recent “Free the Brews” campaign, which used his generation’s interest in craft brewing to advance the Kochs’ deregulation agenda.

They hope to use phony interest in beer and food trucks to entice young people into trying Koch. Essentially, this is GenOpp’s recruitment pitch to twenty-somethings:

Do you like beer?

Hey, me too!

You know, we should get together and lower marginal tax rates.

Walsh calls Feinberg’s career “a case study in the way wingnut welfare creates a culture of dependency, or alternatively, the debilitating effects of affirmative action for white people.”

Jokes aside, this approach reminded me of … something. Oh, yeah. There are lots of sources on this, but this one will do:

To more effectively recruit new believers, cult members sometimes organize special events, a tactic which allows them to camouflage their true motives. They know that people are more likely to attend a networking mixer, a youth group or a charity fundraiser than they are to sign up for an information session on the interdimensional doomsday prophesy of Gur the Dragon of Death.

Except in this case the sessions were framed as a death match between the Kochs and the collectivists:

In his speech titled “American Courage: Our Commitment to a Free Society,” Charles Koch echoed an op-ed he wrote earlier this year in the Wall Street Journal in both his paranoia and self-pity. The billionaire oil industrialist, hosting some of the most powerful men in Washington, without irony claimed in his speech that he and his brother were “put squarely in front of the firing squad.” He later framed the path ahead for America as a binary choice between freedom and collectivism, a catchall term he used to describe liberalism, socialism, and fascism.

Audio and transcripts are here if this sort of thing from the Kochification Church is your cup of Kool-Aid.

(Cross-posted from Hullabaloo.)


Categories : National, Religion
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Sep
03

No Free Lunch

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Our friends on the right get almost gleeful whenever they see an opening to use their superior command of economics to explain to liberals how the world really works.

Yet, the basic concept they themselves have trouble wrapping their brains around is “no free lunch.”

Gov. Sam Brownback’s tea party-driven economic experiment in Kansas is taking a toll. The latest poll shows him trailing his Democratic opponent, Paul Davis, by 8 points. The Kansas City Star says Brownback is “paying a political price for bold leadership.” This is what bold leadership looks like:

Brownback has slashed income taxes, cut thousands off welfare, curbed abortion rights, tried gaining control of judicial appointments and made a failed attempt to cut arts funding.

When the moderate wing of his party stood in the way, Brownback successfully campaigned for conservatives more in step with his political philosophy so he could exert a tighter grip on the statehouse.

The result? His state’s economy is headed into the tank after slashing income taxes at Brownback’s urging, with more cuts scheduled and growth below projections. Standard & Poors downgraded Kansas’ credit rating in August. Davis charges that another Brownback term will bring cuts to Kansas schools.

Five hundred women from across the state gathered last week at the Taking Back Kansas convention in Wichita, put on by Women for Kansas and chaired by Lynn Stephan. The bipartisan group aims to turn out Brownback, Secretary of State Kris Kobach, and U.S. Sen. Pat Roberts in November. Most of the candiidates they support are Democrats.

“Women in this state are scared,” Stephan said. “We’re going broke” under the leadership of Brownback’s tea-party fiscal ideas. Schools and hospitals in some small towns may have to close, she said, and then “the town will dry up and blow away.”

Although she considers herself a moderate Republican, Stephan said that “the Republican party abandoned me 10 years ago.”

That’s about two decades after the party abandoned reality for the magical thinking of trickle down economics and started worshipping the Market as a deity.

As much as conservatives discuss curtailing entitlements, many of them behave as if they are entitled to kick ass on any country they feel is stepping out of line, and to doing so without paying for it. They feel entitled to beat their chests about how exceptional America is, and entitled to the public infrastructure their parents and grandparents built with their taxes and sweat in making it a world power. Yet they seem to have no sense of pride in maintaining it. Not their responsibility. They’re taxed enough already.

They complain their taxes are too high, and all the while the country is running a budget deficit that proves they are not paying enough to cover its costs and to keep it from crumbling. A report last year ranked U.S. highways 18th in the world, behind Korea, Luxembourg, and Saudi Arabia.

Point this out, and conservatives insist that the problem is government is spending too much. That we need to eliminate waste, fraud, and abuse — the bane of Republicans’ perpetual motion economy.

See, America could maintain its infrastructure, fund top-notch schools, and support a costly global empire indefinitely without raising taxes just by eliminating the friction of waste, fraud, and abuse.

And by installing this simple device — one that big oil companies have tried to suppress — your car can get 500 miles per gallon. Order now!

(Cross-posted from Hullabaloo.)


Categories : Economy, Republicans
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Sep
01

Now You’re Talking

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“Folks, they want to destroy public education,” the state Senate minority leader told a room full of supporters last year. He said it as though he had just figured it out.

Since the Republican sweep in 2010, Democrats have spent so much time in state capitols defending against one frontal assault after another coming from yards away. They tend not to notice troop movements on the fringes of the political battlefield. Is The Village any different?

Outside the bubbles, it’s been clear for years that destroying public education is where charters, vouchers, and online schools are taking us under the guise of helping the disadvantaged. But one rarely sees it put so bluntly as this week. The WaPo’s Valerie Strauss quotes the Dayton Area Chamber of Commerce’s vice president of public policy and economic development:

“The business community is the consumer of the educational product. Students are the educational product. They are going through the education system so that they can be an attractive product for business to consume and hire as a workforce in the future.”

Yup. Like Robocop, your kids are product. Maybe. Allstate CEO Thomas Wilson explained that globalization means, “I can get [workers] anywhere in the world. It is a problem for America, but it is not necessarily a problem for American business … American businesses will adapt.” So unless the little darlings offer some upside to their bottom lines, they add no value. Why should the 1% pay to educate American children when other nations will pay to educate theirs for us? And besides, how much education do waiters and gardeners really need, anyway?

OTOH, if corporations could tap the unrealized potential of that government-guaranteed, recession-proof, half-trillion-dollar stream of public tax dollars states “waste” each year on not-for-profit, K-12 public education? The Big Enchilada? Now you’re talking.

Which is why, as the Education Opportunity Network explains, charters don’t need ad campaigns. They need regulation. There are some good “mom and pop” charters out there, sure, but they are just small fry, bait for the bigger fish. The Progressive reports:

There’s been a flood of local news stories in recent months about FBI raids on charter schools all over the country.

From Pittsburgh to Baton Rouge, from Hartford to Cincinnati to Albuquerque, FBI agents have been busting into schools, carting off documents, and making arrests leading to high-profile indictments.

It’s almost as if charters have become what the Progressive calls “a racket.”

Over the last decade, the charter school movement has morphed from a small, community-based effort to foster alternative education into a national push to privatize public schools, pushed by free-market foundations and big education-management companies. This transformation opened the door to profit-seekers looking for a way to cash in on public funds.

In 2010, Rupert Murdoch, whose News Corp. has been an ALEC member, declared K-12 public education “a $500 billion sector in the U.S. alone that is waiting desperately to be transformed.”

The transformation has begun.

“Education entrepreneurs and private charter school operators could care less about innovation,” says [associate professor of education policies at Georgia State University, Kristen] Buras. “Instead, they divert public monies to pay their six-figure salaries; hire uncertified, transient, non-unionized teachers on-the-cheap; and do not admit (or fail to appropriately serve) students who are costly, such as those with disabilities.”

Hide yer children. And yer wallets.

(Cross-posted from Hullabaloo.)


Categories : Education, National
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Sep
01

Happy Labor Day

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Categories : Labor, National
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Aug
31

Round and Around

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Hipster Wheel


Categories : Uncategorized
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Chattanooga is a reminder that the best solutions are often local…

A lot of commonalities here with Asheville:

Loveman’s department store on Market Street in Chattanooga closed its doors in 1993 after almost a century in business, another victim of a nationwide decline in downtowns that hollowed out so many US towns. Now the opulent building is buzzing again, this time with tech entrepreneurs taking advantage of the fastest internet in the western hemisphere.

[...]

In large part the success is being driven by The Gig. Thanks to an ambitious roll-out by the city’s municipally owned electricity company, EPB, Chattanooga is one of the only places on Earth with internet at speeds as fast as 1 gigabit per second – about 50 times faster than the US average.

The tech buildup comes after more than a decade of reconstruction in Chattanooga that has regenerated the city with a world-class aquarium, 12 miles of river walks along the Tennessee River, an arts district built around the Hunter Museum of American Arts, high-end restaurants and outdoor activities.

What was it the Cowardly Lion asked?


Categories : Economy, Local
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