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It seems George Will is setting fire to his own straw men.
In his Washington Post column today, Will re-frames Elizabeth Warren's brilliant restatement of the American social contract as a Leftist assault on individualism and individual "freedom."
Senate Republicans were so intimidated by the diminutive Warren's ability to so effectively advocate on behalf of average Americans who've been defrauded by Big Banks that they informed President Obama in no uncertain terms that under no conditions would they allow the President to appoint Warren to lead the consumer protection bureau which they failed to block when financial reform was signed into law last year.
Likewise, right wing intellectuals like George Will are so desperate to discredit Warren's powerful statement of our interconnectedness as one people, they are willing to repudiate their own long-held conservative principles if it means dishonestly turning voters against liberals like Warren whose views voters share.
In remarks that both irritated Will and were a YouTube sensation, Warren said: "There is nobody in this country who got rich on his own. Nobody. You built a factory out there - good for you. But I want to be clear. You moved your goods to market on the roads the rest of us paid for. You hired workers the rest of us paid to educate. You were safe in your factory because of police forces and fire forces that the rest of us paid for. . . . You built a factory and it turned into something terrific or a great idea -- God bless, keep a big hunk of it. But part of the underlying social contract is you take a hunk of that and pay forward for the next kid who comes along."
But rather than see it as a powerful if commonplace statement of the American social contract, Will calls Warren's remarks a clarification of "the liberal project" which Will asserts is to "dilute the concept of individualism" and thereby refute "respect for the individual's zone of sovereignty."
This is truly priceless. If I had nickel for every time George Will guffawed at the impertinence of those who believe the Constitution gives to women a "right to privacy" - or, as Will puts it, a "zone of sovereignty" - to control their own reproductive lives without interference from intrusive sex police or meddling televangelist Bible-thumping preachers, I'd be a rich man.
But having declared himself to be on the side of the individual against society, Will then imputes a cartoonish mischaracterization of liberalism onto Warren when he says Warren believes "that individualism is a chimera," that individual achievements "should be considered entirely derivative from society" and that society is entitled to "socialize -- i.e., conscript" -- whatever fruits of an individual's labor society considers its fair share.
Will calls this "collectivist agenda" antithetical to America's fundamental premise, which is: That government and its products, including such public goods as roads, schools and police, are instituted to facilitate individual striving, but that such "collective choices" designed to "facilitate" individual striving "does not compel the conclusion that the collectivity is entitled to take as much as it pleases of the results of the striving."
This word salad of gibberish is sheer sophistry. For how, exactly does George Will intend for the "collectivity" to pay for all those "collective choices" known as roads, schools, power grids, courts, armies, police, fire, and much else meant to "facilitate individual striving" unless the "collectivity" is also able to "conscript" (i.e.) tax that portion of the individual citizen's "striving" that society "considers its share."
And amid all these metaphysical speculations let's not lose sight of the fact that what Will rather ominously calls "the collectivity" also goes by another, far more benign, name: democracy.
Equally astonishing is Will's belief that Warren's "emphatic assertion" of the connection between individual destinies and "cooperative behaviors" is both "unremarkable" and misses the point, which he says is: That society is a "marvel of spontaneous order among individuals in voluntary cooperation," where hundreds of millions of people make billions of decisions every day, and it is the job of government to facilitate this marvelous mayhem and then get out of the way.
That would come as news to the George Will of 1983, the one who wrote that liberal democratic societies were "ill-founded" precisely because they were based on materialism and the maximization of self-interest at the expense of those grander and more noble virtues such as generosity, modesty, humility, self-sacrifice, disinterestedness, and justice, which Will exalts in his most extensive exposition on the nature and purpose of political society, Statecraft as Soulcraft: What Government Does.
Going further, Will writes in his introduction to the re-release of professor Clinton Rossiter's classic history, Conservatism in America, that the incoherence in American conservatism is attributable to its too close association with free market capitalism. How could, asks Will, a political belief system based on law and order and the primacy of the community over the individual possibly subscribe to an economic theory like laissez-faire that is lawless at its core?
"The severely individualistic values and the atomizing social dynamism of a capitalist society conflict with the traditional and principled conservative concern with traditions, among other things," write Will. "Those other things include the life of a society in its gentling corporate existence - in communities, churches and other institutions that derive their usefulness and dignity from the ability to summon individuals up from individualism to concerns larger and longer-lasting than their self-interestedness."
Now that was the George Will I admired so much so long ago, who taught me to think and who made me proud to call myself a conservative way back when. But like Brent Scowcroft remarking about Dick Cheney, I don't recognize the George Will I see today.
The sad reality, of course, is that like so many other right wing conservatives, George Will is not aiming for intellectual consistency or integrity with his take-down of Elizabeth Warren and her so-called "collectivist" ideas of an American social contract. Rather, what Will seeks is a strategic victory for the vested interests he serves should he succeed, with all his talk of collectivism and freedoms denied, in scaring away average, everyday voters from the very people, like Warren, who're looking out for their well-being.
None of this is new. Throughout history, the reactionary formula has always and everywhere been the same: Wealthy and powerful interests, intent on maintaining their power and privileges, frighten the masses with talk their freedoms are under assault from their erstwhile allies, which is done in order for these reactionary elites to preserve and expand their own freedoms.
While conservatives like Will claim liberals stand for a leveling "equality" which penalizes individual initiative in contrast to conservatives who stand four-square for freedom, "this notion misstates the actual disagreement between right and left," writes Corey Robin in his brilliant new history, The Reactionary Mind: Conservatism from Edmund Burke to Sarah Palin.
"Historically, the conservative has favored liberty for the higher orders and constraint for the lower orders," says Robin. "What the conservative sees and dislikes in equality is not a threat to freedom but its extension. For in that extension he sees a loss of his own freedom."
That idea doesn't sell so well on Main Street, and so conservatives like Will must portray themselves as champions of The People against "the special interests" and all of those condescending liberal "elites" who want to control The People's lives.
Among his many other charming attributes, the disgraced former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay was a lawless renegade, a primitive in a pin-striped suit, who nonetheless exemplified perfectly the modern conservative type with his embrace of a radical form of "liberty" that conservatives of another era would have instantly ostracized as "license."
But let's not fool ourselves. The issue before the nation today has little to do with the size of government, whether big or small. Neither is it about spending and taxes.
The issue the nation must resolve is the nature of political power itself and how we are to be governed in the future: Whether by duly-elected democratic government accountable to the consent of the governed, or by the arbitrary and capricious whim of conservative elites in business, finance, the military and the ministry -- and all of whom are supported by a militant right wing populist movement that is unwilling to submit to any authority other than those of its own choosing, while refusing to grant the respect and dignity of real citizenship to those outside their tribe.
For these radical conservatives, the American democracy we've known for the past 230 years exposed itself as irretrievably compromised and corrupt when it fell so low as to elect a liberal black man from Illinois to be its President. And so, these radical conservatives are mad as hell and want their country back - which they intend to accomplish by building a wall across our Southern border to keep unwelcome outsiders out, and enacting union-busting, voter-suppression measures everywhere else to neutralize "outsiders" already here.
"Occupy Wall Street" protesters, community groups, unions and students have combined forces for a Lower Manhattan march this evening to demand Governor Andrew Cuomo and federal lawmakers stop giving tax breaks to the wealthy, eliminate budget cuts and restore jobs.
The thousands of demonstrators gathered in Foley Square and marched to Zuccotti Park, where the "Occupy Wall Street" protesters have stayed for two-and-a-half weeks.
Students from colleges in the neighborhood also staged walkouts from classes and joined the protests.
Among the dozens of participating representatives from city municipal unions is Transit Workers Union Local 100 President John Samuelsen, who said his union members share common concerns with the "Occupy Wall Street" organizers.
"One is joblessness, which is pervasive, and one is the disparity of wealth, which has continued to grow over the last several decades, and particularly in New York State right now," Samuelsen said.
He also said that the governor cannot say there is no money for raises for union members, when millionaires are still getting tax breaks.
While today's marchers do not have a single set of demands, participants said their diversity is an important aspect of their efforts.
"It gets to a point where you need to organize collectively. All different unions that are organizing today, the community-based organizations, all are out today, undivided," said Andy King of United New York.
The Occupy Wall Street movement staged a massive rally on Wednesday night, drawing on the newfound support of labor unions to attract thousands of protestors to downtown Manhattan and amplify its critique of economic inequity. The protest was the largest since Occupy Wall Street began over two weeks ago, and it underscored the movement's increasing sophistication and breadth.
Union members wearing the t-shirts of their local shops marched alongside students, community organizers and activists. Protestors began by massing in Occupy Wall Street's base camp of Zuccotti Park, where veterans of the movement warned others to stay on the sidewalks and to remain respectful of police officers, an attempt to prevent a repeat of the mass arrests that marred a protest on the previous Saturday. They then slowly proceeded towards Foley Square, pounding drums, waving signs and chanting slogans that included "We are the 99 percent" and "We got sold out, banks got bailed out.
This could be it. This could be what finally turns the worm that has been destroying the country for the last 30 years.
What will you say, 30 years from now, when someone asks "What did you do in the class war?"
Well, duh! @SarahPalinUSA got her gig at Fox because, according to Roger Ailes, "She was hot and she got ratings." Thsat he used the past-tense was not lost on us. The bloom departed that rose a looonnnng time ago, in every sense of the word.
What a clueless asshole -- no wonder he's stormed into the lead in the GOP horserace. "In an interview posted Wednesday morning by The Wall Street Journal, Herman Cain shared some harsh sentiments on the movement, labeling it, "orchestrated to distract from the failed policies of the Obama administration." Cain then targeted the protesters' own economic conditions. ... "Don't blame Wall Street, don't blame the big banks," Cain said. "If you don't have a job and you're not rich, blame yourself!" ... When asked by host Alan Murray if he thought the banks had any responsibility for the nation's current economical climate, Cain replied, "They did having something to do with the crisis in 2008, but we're not in 2008, we're in 2011!""
She isn't running, so will she go the hell away now? Her sell-by date passed ages ago.
A republican admits an error? On the record? He'll be getting a stern talking to, just as soon as Speaker Boehner's Thursday morning hangover abates. "The chairman of the House subcommittee investigating a federal loan guarantee to the bankrupt solar panel company Solyndra admitted on Wednesday that the White House had delivered documents to committee Republicans in a timely fashion. ... On Tuesday Rep. Cliff Stearns (R-FL) had accused the White House of providing the documents the panel was seeking to Democrats on the committee first, and of delaying providing the documents to committee Republicans. ... Not so, Stearns now admits. ... "It appears that the White House delivered the latest documents to both offices after hours ar nearly 7:00 pm on Friday evening, which caused the confusion," Stearns said in a statement to Politico. ... Stearns had complained to Politico's lead energy reporter Darren Samuelsohn that the White House had provided the 685 pages of documents to Democrats first, enabling them to take the lead in framing the nature of the communications between the White House and the Department of Energy regarding Solyndra."
This is our kind of homecoming queen! "In his 18 years at Pinckney Community High School, Jim Darga, the principal, said, the homecoming queen had always been crowned at halftime of the school's football game. Never before, though, had she had to be summoned from the team's locker room. ... And that was just the beginning of Brianna Amat's big night. ... If being named homecoming queen is a lifetime memory for a high school student, so, too, is kicking a winning field goal. For Amat, 18, they happened within an hour of each other."
More Cowbell! Since austerity isn't working in Britain, David Cameron wants more of it.
Thin-skinnedd much? "Anti-Islam activist John Jay has vowed to never write again after prominent activists Pam Geller and Robert Spencer disavowed any connection to him and strongly condemned his call to violence. Yesterday, ThinkProgress reported on Jay's call for the mass murder of members of Congress, journalists, Muslims, and liberals, prompting Geller and Spencer -- key players of the Islamophobia network -- to disown Jay, who had helped them with the incorporation of their advocacy group. ... Now, Jay feels abandoned. In a downhearted blog post titled, "from this day forth, i will write no more forever ....," he explains that he is retiring his pen because "[I am] toxic to my friends, those who remain.""
Tossing COIN "GRAFENWÖHR, Germany -- The morning fog had barely lifted on a training field here when a C-130 approached from the west, opened its cargo door and scattered paratroopers with the 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team. ... They were practicing for a massive training rotation, one that bears little resemblance to the nation's current wars and represents a step away from the narrow counter-insurgency focus of recent years. ... Known as a full spectrum training environment, the complex, monthlong exercise at the Joint Multinational Readiness Center in Hohenfels reshapes a brigade into an expeditionary force and pits it against a conventional force armed with tanks, helicopters and unmanned drones. It's the first European exercise of its scope in a decade, organizers say. ... Set to begin Wednesday with a massive jump by the 173rd into the JMRC training area, the exercise comes as the Army imagines life after counter-insurgency fights in Iraq and Afghanistan, and as the Department of Defense reevaluates national armies, including that of China. ... "The focus has been on COIN (counter-insurgency), but we recognize we have to be prepared to deal with those threats across a full spectrum," said Maj. William Griffin, a spokesman for JMRC."
Silly Mainers -- you're supposed to take a chicken to your doctor. "As millions of Americans continue to struggle in the worst economy since the Great Depression, keeping up with rising health care costs has become an all-too-common problem. Low-income Maine residents who don't have insurance have found a novel way of getting the health care services they need: bartering for them by offering to do yard work or other chores. NPR reports on a program that hopes to inspire other health clinics to consider alternative means of payment in difficult times: Deb Barth is raking leaves for Lesley Jones. But Barth isn't earning money for her yardwork, at least not in physical currency. She's earning "time dollars" -- for every two hours she spends doing odd jobs, she'll earn a free visit with her doctor."
No, Dumbass. You're thinking about the PATRIOT Act "A group of Republican senators and representatives convened on the Senate Swamp this morning to present 1.6 million petition signatures "from American citizens who are urging Congress to immediately repeal Obamacare." The lawmakers argued that health care reform has undermined job creation and pledged to repeal the law before the Supreme Court rules on its constitutionality in the summer of 2012. ... Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX) went a step further, suggesting that the justices should find the law unconstitutional in order to protect their own medical privacy."
Good for Harry Reid "Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) blocked a vote on this year's defense budget authorization act because of provisions in the bill that the Obama administration says will tie its hands when dealing with terrorism suspects. Reid explained his impending move on the Senate floor Monday before issuing a letter Tuesday to the Democratic chairman and ranking Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee."
Yeah, let's see if Wall Street's pet cops have the stones to pepper spray a few Teamsters. "The Occupy Wall Street movement staged a massive rally on Wednesday night, drawing on the newfound support of labor unions to attract thousands of protestors to downtown Manhattan and amplify its critique of economic inequity. The protest was the largest since Occupy Wall Street began over two weeks ago, and it underscored the movement's increasing sophistication and breadth. Union members wearing the t-shirts of their local shops marched alongside students, community organizers and activists. Protestors began by massing in Occupy Wall Street's base camp of Zuccotti Park, where veterans of the movement warned others to stay on the sidewalks and to remain respectful of police officers, an attempt to prevent a repeat of the mass arrests that marred a protest on the previous Saturday. They then slowly proceeded towards Foley Square, pounding drums, waving signs and chanting slogans that included "We are the 99 percent" and "We got sold out, banks got bailed out."
In Greece, the wages of austerity is riots. "At least 16,000 anti-austerity protesters have converged in central Athens, chanting slogans, banging drums and blowing whistles in a display of opposition to the Greek government's latest austerity measures. The vast majority of demonstrators were peaceful, but a few dozen protesters clashed with riot police, Al Jazeera's Jonah Hull reported from the Greek capital on Wednesday. Youth broke up marble paving slabs and hurled the chunks of rock at police in full riot gear while others who were masked threw stones, sticks, petrol bombs and other projectiles at the police lines. The police responded by firing tear gas grenades, chasing the protesters and dragging some of them away. The march was organised by union members and workers from the public sector, which staged a 24-hour general strike over government plans that would see 30,000 civil servants put in a 'labour reserve' programme, which effectively means they will lose their jobs within months."
We smell a trap. "Bahrain's attorney general has ordered a civilian court retrial for 20 medical personnel sentenced to long prison terms as alleged backers of anti-government protests. A statement released on Wednesday by Bahrain's government appeared to nullify the verdicts issued earlier this week by a special security court against the doctors and nurses, who received sentences ranging from five to 15 years. Lawyers for the Bahraini medics earlier denounced the convictions, saying they had found that "the most essential elements for a fair trial were not available in this trial". According to the lawyers, the medics were tried in a military court, despite being civilians."
Yet another "worst in decades" "Nearly 400 people have died in Cambodia and Thailand as a result of what officials in the Southeast Asian region are describing as the worst monsoon flooding in decades. By Wednesday, after several weeks of heavy rain, at least 224 people had been confirmed killed in Thailand and another 167 were found dead in Cambodia. Keo Vy, spokesman for Cambodia's National Committee for Disaster Management, said that this year's flooding had already exceeded the human and economic toll exacted by the flood season in 2000, which was considered severe. In a statement to the Xinhua news agency, Vy said the flooding that began in August had now affected the lives of more than 200,000 families in the nation of 14 million. He said that the flooding of the Mekong River, the region's vital waterway, has inundated an estimated 291,000 hectares of rice paddy, 200km of national roads and up to another 2,019km of gravel roads throughout Cambodia."
Bibi's Israel: making enemies out of allies. "Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey's prime minister, has branded Israel as a "threat" to its region, accusing it of owning nuclear weapons, in a defence of Palestinians. "I right now see Israel as a threat for its region, because it has the atomic bomb," Erdogan said on Wednesday in a foreign policy speech during an official visit to South Africa. Israel has never officially admitted to possessing nuclear weapons, but is widely believed to be the only Middle East country to have them. Others including Iran, Iraq, Syria and Libya are suspected of trying, or having tried in the past, to follow suit. Erdogan's remarks came in response to comments from an Israeli embassy diplomat in South Africa, who criticised Hamas, the Palestinian group which rules Gaza, for launching rocket attacks into Israeli territory. "I have asked many Israeli officials, how many Israelis have been killed by rockets launched from Gaza and Palestine. I could not get an answer," Erdogan said. "Yet tens of thousands of Palestinians have been killed from bombs that have rained down on them from Israel. "You sleep at night peacefully and secure," he told the diplomat, to applause by South African foreign affairs officials and members of the diplomatic corps. "Yet Palestinians can't find a single trace of peace in Palestine." Erdogan also accused Israel of committing "state terrorism", saying it had attacked the Gaza Strip as well as the UN buildings in Gaza with phosphorus bombs."
Love him or hate him, few people had a greater influence on the late 20th century. "Apple Inc. said the company's co-founder Steve Jobs died Wednesday. He was 56. "We are deeply saddened to announce that Steve Jobs passed away today," the company said in a brief statement. "Steve's brilliance, passion and energy were the source of countless innovations that enrich and improve all of our lives. The world is immeasurably better because of Steve." "
Bad news for Taz "Culling does not effectively control the contagious cancer threatening the Tasmanian devil, a new study suggests. The researchers modelled the effect of removing sick animals on the disease's prevalence in a small population. The study, in the Journal of Applied Ecology, seems to confirm findings in wild trials, that selective culling of sick animals is ineffectual at stopping the spread of the disease. All trial culls of the devils have now been stopped. Culling has been used to control infectious diseases in a range of species from deer to badgers, wolves to domestic cattle. Despite proving successful in controlling the diseases of livestock, such as foot and mouth, culling wild animals is controversial because of the lack of evidence that it works. In fact, cases exists where culling wild animals has made the problem worse. But, hoping to save the Tasmanian devil, Sarcophilus harrisii, from the facial cancer that has wiped out more than 90% of individuals in some areas, conservation biologists have trialled a cull since 2004."
Every time we see fresh evidence of the economy's weakness or fragility, Republicans are quick to blame the White House. After all, if Obama is president, and the economy stinks, it must be his fault.
But in order for this to make sense, the administration would have to be getting its way when it comes to economic policy. Then Republicans would have a credible case to make: if only we'd try things the GOP's way, we'd finally see great results.
As Greg Sargent explained in a gem of a post, Republicans have nothing to complain about, since we're already sticking to their script.
No hiring surge is going to happen until Obama and Dems actually agree to do it their way in policy terms.
No hiring surge will happen until that job killing stimulus spending winds down; until Dems allow Republicans to extend the Bush tax cuts on the rich; until Dems agree to deep cuts to Federal programs; until municipal governments are forced to cut back and fend for themselves; until Dems embrace the notion that government must tighten its belt to restore business confidence; and until Dems begin seriously basing their policy response to unemployment on the conservative idea that if we only reduce the deficit, a thousand economic flowers will bloom. Only then we'll see the surge in employment we're all waiting for.
Very nicely done. I know Greg and I have both been banging this drum for a long while, but the point is largely missing from the larger discourse. Whether Republicans want to admit it or not, the economy is advancing exactly as they want it to. The private sector is being left to its own devices; the public sector is shedding jobs quickly and scrapping investments; and debt reduction is at the top of Washington's to-do list.
This is the playbook the GOP put together. When it's followed and it fails, Republicans should be prepared to accept responsibility for the consequences, instead of pretending they're not getting their way.
As the Republican presidential candidates fall all over themselves to outdo the other in pushing reckless anti-government, anti-tax ideology, there is one progressive response that I've always been particularly fond of but is far too seldom used: the fact that never in the history of the modern nation state has an economy successfully operated along the lines the Tea Party envisions for America. Bill Clinton of all people made this point just recently in a meeting with bloggers:
You know, there's not a single solitary example on the planet, not one, of a country that is succesful because the economy has triumphed over the government and choked it off and driven the tax rates to zero, driven the regulations to nonexistent and abolished all government programs, except for defense, so people in my income group never have to pay a nickel to see a cow jump over the moon. There is no example of a succesful country that looks like that.
This is one of the reasons that conservatives are so desperate to hold onto the notion of American exceptionalism: liberals have a wide of range of models from Japan to Scandinavia to prove the efficacy of various progressive solutions to America's problems. No country is perfect, of course, and solutions that work elsewhere may not work here. But as a general rule, progressives have effective examples worldwide to prove the value of our approach, whether it be in medicine, criminal justice, labor or otherwise.
Conservative approaches by contrast are a failure wherever and whenever they are tried. Theocracy inevitably leads to tyranny and despotism, whether it be the Christian theocracies of the Middle Ages or the modern theocracies of the Islamic world. Weapons-happy libertarianism ultimately ends in the sort of anarchic despotism we see in Somalia. Conservative approaches to finance, taxation and regulation lead inevitably to economic collapse, as seen in the history of basically every single country that ever even temporarily earned the "tiger" moniker from Austrian economists seeking to validate their theories.
So it's crucial for conservatives to insist that America never learn from anyone else's positive example, and that every problem in America be seen as sui generis. Faith-based policy making can only exist in an informational vacuum where real-world examples are never considered.
Progressives often lament that the conservative rhetorical construct is nearly impossible to demolish. But that's actually not true. Republican rhetoric, built as it is on a foundation of lies, is incredibly rickety when challenged in the right places. Destroy one pillar, and much of the rest of it comes tumbling down. But doing so would require taking on some taboo subjects that have been so vigorously protected by the conservative establishment as to have become sacred cows.
American exceptionalism is one of those sacred cows. It is what allows faith-based policy to exist. The notion, accepted by so much of the Democratic establishment, that we cannot even rhetorically challenge the idea that love of America means never looking abroad for ways we can improve, has to go by the wayside if we want to have a chance of taking this country back.
Of course, doing that won't happen overnight. But an easy way to lead into the argument would be to provide the negative counterexample: maybe we're not yet in a position where independent voters will pay attention to examples of solutions from around the world. But they should at least be open to the argument that Republican policies have never worked here or elsewhere, not least because it's true.
Liberals go with what works, and reject what doesn't.
I haven't posted much lately, either here or at my little place. The truth is that I've found myself in a bit of a quandary this past few days.
You see, I consider myself a strict constitutionalist. Yeah, I know, lots of people use that term. But I'm talking about STRICT strict. If it says it, then by damn, that's the way it is as far as I'm concerned. If it doesn't say it, then don't bother me trying to convince me it does.
Of the various clauses, articles and amendments those dealing with my basic right to fair and equitable treatment under the law are perhaps the most important to me. The concept that I have a certain inalienable right to be treated justly and impartially had been one of the basic tenets in my pride in being a citizen in what... until about 11 years ago... I had thought was the freest and most democratic country not only in the world but in the history of the world.
Finding out you've been wrong... that everything you ever believed in, staked your life on and striven to uphold has been nothing but a sham can be pretty damned heavy especially to someone who has come to that realization late in life as has happened in my case.
I remember my righteous indignation when Bush and Cheney were ripping the constitution to shreds and I remember a lot of people to my left being even more indignant than I was. We ranted about Bushco "cherry picking" the constitution, upholding the parts they liked and ignoring the parts that interfered in any way with their agenda, especially the imposition of the onerous policies and programs that together made up the "Patriot Act".
Today, we have another administration that has... for whatever reasons... chose to maintain many of those same... still onerous but suddenly not so unbearable... programs and policies that were levied upon us by the Bush administration, the ones that we ranted so indignantly about back then... even adding some new fillips of their own.
Our first and fourth amendment rights are still in the toilet, Domestic spying is still rampant, Habeas corpus has become basically non-existent as far as the federal government is concerned, we have a for profit judicial and penal system, separation of church and state has become a joke, corporations are now human beings, the goddamned banks and corporations are openly buying politicians in a public market, every vital government service and program has been, or is in line to be, privatized... hell, the list of what we have given up in order to get our corporate oligarchy to allow "our" government to "keep us safe" is endless.
And every freedom... every scrap of liberty we've been forced to give up... along with every single dime that has disappeared into privately held offshore tax shelters... every American man, woman and child that has been forced into poverty... has been a victory for the nameless, faceless bogey men... the "terrorists" who allegedly lurk in their multitudes behind every rock and tree... the ones that our new Fascist hierarchy is supposed to be protecting us against.
And now, people at BOTH ends of the political spectrum are looking at the constitution and cherry picking it for whatever interpretation they can apply to their own personal agendas and many things that are deemed horrible when it was Bush and Cheney doing them are suddenly OK or at least not so bad after all... as long as it "keeps us safe".
Had a conversation yesterday with my brother in which he pointed out to me that the constitution IS... as George Bush was falsely accused of saying... nothing but a piece of paper. Starting even before the ink was dry on the last signature, people have ALWAYS adhered to whatever principles it upholds as long as it suited their purpose to do so and worked to find ways to bypass or outright violate those provisions that didn't serve that purpose and that includes modern Democrats, Republicans, Liberals and Conservatives.
We've gone from a system of governance that once said, "If you don't like a law, then change it.", to one saying "If you don't like a law, then %$#k it, just ignore it.". And sadly, that includes the Bill of Rights and the Constitution itself
War on terror, my ass. The actual terrorists out there don't need to make open war on us. By making us give up every damned principle that most of us thought we stood for, they've already flipping won that goddamned war because they've managed to drag us down to THEIR level... which just happens to be where Wall Street wants us to be also.
People who write opinion columns for a living really ought to learn the basics of how public opinion gets formed. Along these lines, Kevin Drum today helps clarify for me what I find so infernally confounding about New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman and his obsession with trying to mend our dysfunctional political system by forming a third "centrist" major political party.
Drum says that if anyone ought to be able to cut through the spin and the BS and the misleading labels and see that it's Republicans who are "dedicated to blocking anything that might even remotely have a chance of improving the economy," it should be those worldly and sophisticated corporate CEOs who have their eyes firmly affixed to the bottom line.
And yet, says Drum, "it's still sort of freshly gob-smacking" every time he sees how completely CEOs have "bought the austerity/regulation/deficit fable hook, line, and sinker -- even though it makes not the slightest sense."
As proof, Drum cites a recent CEO-level conference in Cleveland where Ezra Klein reports "business types really hate Barack Obama."
Even though corporate profits may have hit record highs and the top 1% of earners have never had it better, "these folks really, really feel persecuted and unappreciated," says Klein.
"These are, supposedly, some of the smartest folks in the country," says a dumbfounded Drum. "But they don't have a clue. You can't even say they're slaves of some particular defunct economist, as Keynes suggested. They're just slaves of folk economics at its folksiest and most vacuous -- and most damaging. And they have every intention of taking the rest of us down with them."
Preconceptions and labels matter, which is why Thomas Friedman is so infuriating. Take his column today on Governor Chris Christie's decision not to run for president.
I have no doubt that Friedman's private sympathies are with President Obama and the Democrats. He says, for example, it's too bad Governor Christie decided not to run because "he had a chance to rescue the Republican Party from its dash to the cliff."
When every Republican presidential candidate announced they would turn down a deal that involved $10 in spending cuts for every $1 in tax increases, Friedman knew then the Republican Party had finally become "a danger to itself and to the country."
Yet, in the very next sentence Friedman throws up his hands in despair at Democrats he says made "a huge mistake" by abandoning "the Grand Bargain" on taxes and spending and instead countered what Friedman admits is the GOP's extremism "by moving to the left rather than to the center."
Now, whenever an opinion leader like Thomas Friedman stands up on the huge platform he's been given from the New York Times, waves his arms around like an over-caffeinated traffic cop at a major intersection of American politics, and starts pointing "Left," "Right," "Center," I want to grab him by the throat and strangle him.
Labels like "Left," "Right," and "Center" are not merely a puny substitute for critical thinking. They are utterly meaningless at a time when reactionary billionaires have devoted decades of hard labor and invested literally billions of their own dollars for the sole purpose of convincing Americans that conventional economic wisdom, and mainstream political practice, over the past 70 years is dangerously radical.
The fact that less than 20% of Americans currently identify themselves as "liberals" while at the same time large majorities also report themselves fully in support of policies and programs that are "liberal" in everything but name, didn't just happen by accident. It happened by design.
Why do you think victorious armies always steal the other guy's flag? Turning "liberalism" into "The 'L' Word" was the whole point of right wing politics over the past generation. Indeed, right wing politics at some level is always about labeling and "branding" as divide-and-conquer conservatives use politics to herd people into their separate, antagonistic tribes.
In 1850, for example, just as he was about to take over the presidency of South Carolina College from his freethinking predecessor, the pro-slavery Rev. J.H. Thornwell declared: "The parties in this conflict are not merely abolitionists and slaveholders - they are atheists, socialists, communists, red republicans, jacobins on one side and the friends of order and regulated freedom on the other. In one word, the world is the battleground - Christianity and atheism the combatants; and the progress of humanity at stake."
The labels today are little different as liberal critics of Wall Street greed and recklessness are put on the defensive with charges of "class warfare" by corporations that sit on $2 trillion in "free cash" - the highest ever recorded - while Americans suffer through 9% unemployment, and as billionaires like Warren Buffett get read out of the Plutocracy for the heresy of suggesting, maybe just maybe, the wealthy ought to pay a tax rate commensurate with the hired help.
And so, amid all of this furious re-framing and re-branding by a right wing intent on discrediting progressive ideas in the minds of Americans, we have a prominent columnist with liberal sympathies like Thomas Friedman -- who thinks Republicans are a danger to themselves and to us -- nevertheless excoriating the President for "moving left" in order to confront this gathering right wing menace.
The Louisville demonstrators said they intended to "occupy" the grassy space across Fourth Street from the Kentucky Convention Center indefinitely - 24 hours a day - like their New York City counterparts have done with Zuccotti Park.
Curtis Morrison planned to pull an all-nighter - and more - for the protest, which may relocate at nights to the Belvedere before returning to the space at Jefferson and Fourth this morning. "Congress needs to look at this," said Morrison, an organizer of the still-organizing demonstration. "They need to make some reforms or there's going to be a revolution."
About 140 protesters were present at 2 p.m., but Morrison said the group peaked earlier at roughly 200. The Occupy Louisville protest didn't have a principal organizer, instead coalescing through word-of-mouth and social media.
Separate groups met at the Belvedere and at Fourth and Jefferson. Within an hour, the Belvedere protesters marched to Fourth and Jefferson, toting signs that said "Stop the War on Workers" and chanting, "The banks got a bailout, we got sold out."
"I'm here because our federal government has sold us out," protester Meredith Dooley said, holding a sign. "It's government of the money, for the money, by the money. I hope people get greater awareness that their government is not representing them. People should be outraged by the inequality of wealth."
First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win. --Mahatma Gandhi
I cut my political and protest movement teeth on the anti-apartheid divestiture movement of the early eighties.
I was thirteen years old when I became a liberal and a human rights advocate. I know this, because I can pinpoint the day on the calendar that I woke the hell up. It was June 16, 1976. That is the date of the Soweto Riots that sparked the undoing of the apartheid regime in South Africa. When Walter Cronkite told me about the riots, and showed me pictures of children -- my generational peers -- who had been killed by police because they revolted against the white-minority government decree that all school instruction would henceforth be taught in Afrikaans, the language of the white minority -- well, that set my bearing "and that's the way it is."
From that day forward, I made it my business to know what was going on in that country, and to stay up to date on the struggle for freedom of the black majority. A year later, when Biko was killed, I sat shiva and wore black for a month. (It was 1977 and I listened to punk, so I can't be sure anyone noticed that I was wearing black for a reason, but I was.)
When I went to college in 1980, there was an active anti-apartheid organization on campus, and I joined up. That is the movement I cut my political teeth on, and it just so happens that we won. In two decades, Nelson Mandela didn't just walk out of prison on Robin Island, he walked into the presidency and he healed his nation with truth, reconcilliation and forgiveness. His election came 18 years after I first stenciled "FREE MANDELA" on a t-shirt. Change happens slowly. If it happens quickly, it yields chaos and the probability of the change turning out to be for the worse instead of the better approaches 1.
With the success we had in our efforts in mind, and with nothing but high hopes for the ground-shift that is afoot in the form of the Occupy Wall Street movement, I have been doing some thinking about what makes for success when social change is on the line. Call them BG's rules for successful radicals, cribbed heavily from the Civil Rights Movement.
The Occupy Wall Street movement is a real grass-roots movement that is actually rather eerily reminiscent of what they tried to sell the astroturf tea party as back in it's nascent days. Now, the tea party was never a genuine movement, although it did attract some well-meaning and good-intentioned people, most of whom have since dropped out, once they got hip to the fact that the corporatists and theocrats were pulling the strings.
I happen to believe that the very fabric of the republic is in danger of being rendered rags, and I don't want to see that happen, and not just because the nation owes me a pension at 55, either. I have been thinking about what we did in the eighties and in that context I offer some "lessons learned."
The traditional media is your enemy. As we have already seen, their first inclination was to ignore. Then Fox started mocking. Then the rest of the press eventually started paying attention - but they did their fair share of mocking, too. Especially Andrew Ross Sorkin of the New York Times. This deliberate and willful effort to ignore the protests and intentional failure to cover dissenting movements is a deliberate effort to cause confusion about what your movement is about within the mainstream, evening-news-and-morning-paper audiences. This is purposefully done in order to piss you off. If they can piss you off, they can make you appear unreasonable, and we all know what happens to unreasonable people...they either get negative attention, or they get rendered invisible.
The movement will be infiltrated. Hell, it already has. While the press sends mixed messages or mocks dissident movements, the corporatists who are threatened by the movement are already busy putting operatives in your midst to both disrupt and co-opt.
Only after infiltration is accomplished will the media start paying attention. Indeed, that is how you know they have succeeded in planting moles/operatives in your midst. The media won't bother covering you until they know what the answers will be to the questions they ask. we have already seen this with Jesse LaGreca. How long do you think it will take for the M$M to get back to interviewing him on camera again?
Politicians will start jumping on your bandwagon -- just as soon as it looks safe to do so. At that point, they will start relating tales and waxing nostalgic about how Wall Street corruption is the very reason they got into politics in the first place, way back in seventh grade when they ran for student council.
"Non-Partisan" entities will start writing checks - but their checks will come at a cost. They will "help you organize" and "plan strategy." Once that happens, they control you and the threat you represented is effectively neutralized.
As I keep saying, I want the movement to succeed. I believe that too big to fail is too big to allow. Period. But for the movement to succeed, a few things need to happen.
Proclaim the movement to be non-violent and stick to it. Denounce violence. Denounce it with a full-throated roar. The rabblerousers don't help, in fact, the probability is at least .5, and approaches 1, that they are plants and operatives sent to infiltrate and discredit your movement.
Image matters. In fact, image is not half the battle, it is MOST of the battle. It's a myth that Rosa Parks was simply exhausted after a long day at work and too tired to move, I don't care what three different Women's Studies professors insisted when the topic was brought up in class. No, Rosa Parks was active in the local chapter of the NAACP and she was chosen for the action because she was not threatening -- light skinned, delicate features, slight, modest, soft-spoken; the kind of person who could make a person feel guilty for hating her on spec. In other words, she was the perfect face of the movement.
Which brings us to: Pick a sympathetic face for your movement, but make god-damn sure the vetting is done beforehand.
Decide on one media point person to do interviews and talk to the press. This person needs to be intelligent, quick-witted, attractive, well spoken and affable; someone who is capable of always putting their best face forward. This means looking good and speaking well and staying on message.
Resist those "non-partisan" entities and their giant checkbooks. Better you stay independent.
Stay focused on the greed, corruption and social inequality that the plutocracy embodies. This is the part that gives me the greatest amount of heartburn. I'm not seeing focus, and until there is focus, the movement won't be taken seriously. Don't get sidetracked by other stuff...Squirrel! In other words, fight one battle at a time. Win one before you try to fight ten at once. I'm sure the Free Mumia kids are already on the scene, but really, what does their cause have to do with this? Nothing. Nothing tangible, anyway. Let me say it one more time, because it's really fucking important: STAY. FOCUSED.
Accept that the movement has already been infiltrated and comport yourselves accordingly. Never completely trust anyone who wasn't there before the beginning.
Internalize this: "Believe none of what you hear and only half of what you see," and make it your mantra. Our corporate overlords are masters of illusion and they are out to control you and co-opt your movement. They will do whatever they need to in order to achieve that goal, and employ any means necessary to make sure you fail.
Take your inspiration from the lowly army ant...enough of them will pick an elephant's carcass clean. Go forth and be those ants.
That's it. That's what a battle-weary veteran of a previous campaign has to offer. I can also tell you that nothing, absolutely nothing, feels better than changing the world. One victory nearly twenty years ago, that took twenty years to fight, is still keeping me going. I never completely give up, because I know what's possible.
I hope, in thirty-five years or so, these protesters have a similar tale of success to tell their kids and grandkids who are righteously pissed about something, because the republic itself -- and the issue of our future, whether we reclaim "We, the people," or become serfs in a corpocracy -- is riding on their success.
Many years ago, the late, great Isaac Asimov wrote a short story about human beings trying to overthrow alien invaders. The story focused on two characters: one a wild-eyed radical and the other a compromising bureaucrat. The radical starting screaming from Day One that the aliens were invaders, not friends, and we must kill them immediately before they took over. The bureaucrat condemned the radical as crazy and dangerous and had him locked up. Over the course of decades, this scenario repeated itself: the radical led protests against the encroachments of the aliens and the surrender of the planet by the bureaucrat, and the bureaucrat responded by jailing the radical.
In the end, the bureaucrat succeeded in using subterfuge and secret diplomacy to kick the aliens out. The radical, freed from his latest imprisonment, found himself hailed as a hero, while the bureaucrat was condemned as a collaborator. The radical objected to this mistreatment of the man he now realized had been right all along. The bureaucrat responded that the radical really was the hero. Without the radical's constant protest in contrast, the bureaucrat would have had no credibility in slowly building a strong opposition and leading it to victory.
In order for change to take place, good Democrats do need to be in power. But only an angry and motivated populace angry with both Parties and strongly intent on holding Democrats accountable will scare and motivate Democrats enough to do what they were elected to do.
LBJ wouldn't have been pushed to do the right thing for civil rights without MLK. But neither would MLK have brought his dream to fruition without a president in power with the courage to enforce desegregation.
Ultimately, the institutionalists need to allow the Occupy Wall Street protests to develop organically without attempting to convert them into electoral activism in any form. Supporting the protests is perhaps the most important thing progressives can be doing right now. As Robert Cruickshank tweeted:
We need to focus on generating the waves, not recruiting people to surf them.
But on the other hand, it would behoove movement progressives not to dismiss the arena of electoral politics and those who engage in it. If Mitt Romney becomes president or John Boehner remains the House Speaker, it won't matter how big or successful the protests become. For things to really work, Democrats will have to be in power and a powerful progressive protest movement with a healthy distrust of institutional Democrats will need to be in place to hold them accountable.
Down with Tyranny is working the inside/outside angle by strongly criticizing President Obama while researching, identifying and supporting congressional candidates who are genuine liberals. You can find them here.
@MittRomney remains the longest of shots to win a Profile in Courage award. "Mitt Romney took a hard break from his Republican opponents for the presidential nomination in an interview with a New Hampshire newspaper Monday. ... Unlike much of the rest of the GOP field, Romney's not ready to condemn the booing of a gay soldier at the last debate. ... Other candidates have said it was wrong for members of the audience at the debate in Orlando to boo when Army Capt. Stephen Hill asked if he'd still be allowed to serve openly if any of the Republicans on stage won. Some candidates have even said they wish they had said something at the debate instead of standing silent when the boos came. ... Not Romney. ... "You'd have to look at it," he told the New Hampshire Union-Leader, according to the Wall Street Journal. "I don't know when they booed, and I don't know why people booed. I will tell you that the boos and the applause has not always coincided with my own views.""
So two out of two idiots agree, then? Judson Phillips, the low-brow, common-as-the-town-pump idiot who "founded" one of the tea party groups is pissed at ESPN for shitcanning Bocephus and getting rid of that stupid fucking song that signaled the start of Monday Night Football for over 20 years. "If ESPN will not have Hank Williams because of his political beliefs I will not watch ESPN. No Hank, no football!"
You mean Erick the RedState Moron just makes shit up? We're shocked. Shocked, we say. Last night, appearing on the formerly-credible CNN, whille he was bleating about the Rick Perry "Niggerhead" story, he asserted that the Post has written more words on it than they did on the entire Jeremiah Wright/Barack Obama saga. Not quite...they have devoted about 4000 words to the Perry fiasco. They devoted over 46,000 to the Obama/Wright non-story. So Erick lied. Try to contain your surprise.
There will be blood. It will happen here, just like it did in Norway, and assholes like John Jay should hang publicly for inciting violence when it does. "The anti-Muslim activist John Joseph Jay has issued a call for the mass murder of the leadership of both parties in Congress, the governors of seven states, and prominent academics, along with a demand to "burn all mosques. period." ... Jay helped in the founding of anti-Muslim activist Pam Geller's group American Freedom Defense Initiative. AFDI is the umbrella organization of the prominent Stop the Islamization Of America (SOIA). Jay's signature can be seen below those of Geller and fellow arch anti-Muslim activist Robert Spencer on AFDI's incorporation document (PDF), as Charles Johnson at LGF pointed out. The P.O. Box listed for Jay is also the same as Geller's. ... But while those organizations have stopped short of calls for violence, Jay crossed way over that line in a rambling post on his blog called "start the revolution," which fantasizes about the painful medieval deaths of perceived enemies."
The Communications Workers of America are backing Occupy Wall Street. "The Communications Workers of America (CWA), "the largest communications and media union in the US," announced its support of the Occupy Wall Street protests this afternoon. In a statement, the CWA says it "strongly supports the Occupy Wall Street Movement," and that "it is an appropriate expression of anger for all Americans, but especially for those who have been left behind by Wall Street." The national union plans to "encourage all CWA Locals to participate in the growth of this protest movement.""
Romney is ready to admit there's a class war, now that our class is starting to fight back against the terror his class has inflicted on us for four decades. "Ongoing protests on Wall Street are in their third week, as demonstrators continue to speak out against corporate greed and growing income inequality. Several labor unions have lent their support to the protests, with AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka saying that "being in the streets and calling attention to issues is sometimes the only recourse you have." When White House Press Secretary Jay Carney was asked about the protests, he replied, "to the extent that people are frustrated with the economic situation, we understand." However, 2012 GOP presidential hopeful Mitt Romney does not approve of the protests. "I think it's dangerous, this class warfare," said Romney -- who has become a favorite of Wall Street donors -- when asked about the protest."
The ladies of The View missed a golden opportunity. Herman Cain joined the cast for a chat on Tuesday, and let his homophobic-flag fly. He insists that being gay is a "choice" and wants someone to "show him the science" that says it's not. Why no one asked him when he chose to be straight is beyond us. (The only person who has ever had a ready answer to that question was Mr. BG -- "The first time I saw Marilyn Monroe's skirt fly up on that transom in Seven Year Itch.")
Another GOP legislator denounces Grover's no-taxes-ever-or-I'll-hold-my-breath-til-I-turn-blue pledge. "Rep. Frank Wolf (R-VA) unleashed a verbal fusillade on Anti-Tax Guru Grover Norquist Tuesday, calling him out as the main political force behind Washington gridlock. ... Wolf took the House floor to lambaste Norquist's pledge, a promise not to raise taxes that all but six Republicans in Congress have signed, accusing him of using it to advance other pet issues that most Republicans -- if not most voters -- do not support. ... In addition, Wolf excoriated Norquist, the president of Americans for Tax Reform, for his associations with "unsavory people and groups out of the mainstream." ... "I also believe that Mr. Norquist has used the ATR pledge as leverage to advance many other issues that many Americans would find inappropriate, and when taken as a whole should give people pause." ... Wolf specifically highlighted Norquist's connections to disgraced GOP lobbyist Jack Abramoff and his lobbying on behalf of Fannie Mae."
What the hell??? "Herman Cain gets the top spot in three new surveys of GOP voters from Public Policy Polling (D), conducted in North Carolina, West Virginia and Nebraska. ... "In 4 years at PPP I've never been as befuddled by a set of polls as this past weekend's," PPP pollster Tom Jensen tweeted on Monday. "Cain/Newt to top of GOP field out of nowhere?" ... Yes, GOP voters have been incredibly fickle this time around. Yet this may mark the fastest plummet yet: Texas Gov. Rick Perry has gone from national frontrunner to competing in the middle of all these polls. Cain leads the field by ten points in North Carolina, six in West Virginia, and 14 in Nebraska in the PPP surveys. Just as confounding? Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich is second in all the polls, except for North Carolina, where he is tied with former Mass. Gov. Mitt Romney."
Scientists debate benefits of memory-dampening drugs to treat PTSD -- and they ought to be debating the propriety, too. "Aversion to memory-dampening drugs among medical researchers may leave millions of veterans and assault victims needlessly suffering post-traumatic stress disorders, some neuroscientists are warning. ... A growing number of drugs show signs of leaving memories intact but dampening the emotions of PTSD victims, while others show even stronger effects on wiping out memories, says medical ethicist Adam Kolber of the Brooklyn Law School in New York. ... Kolber has called for scientists to expand research into memory effects of drugs, such as propranolol, commonly given to treat high blood pressure, which show signs of taking the edge off a memory's emotions if given within a few hours of trauma. ... "Dampening the emotional edges of these awful memories could help a lot of people," he says. ... But critics of the idea, such as theologian Gilbert Meilaender of Valparaiso (Ind.) University, sees problems with memory-blunting drugs changing patient's fundamental identities. Warnings such as the 2003 president's bioethics council report cautioned against efforts by doctors to affect memories of patients."
The same guy who keeps bleating "we're broke!" has authorized paying $1.5 million to outside counsel to defend DOMA. In case you were wondering, this creates zero new jobs. "House Republican leaders have tripled the amount allocated for a legal team arguing in support of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) from $500,000 to $1.5 million of taxpayer money. ... A modified contract between the General Counsel to the House of Representatives and former Solicitor General Paul Clement of Bancroft PLLC sets a cap of $750,000 which can be raised up to $1.5 million. ... "It is absolutely unconscionable that Speaker Boehner is tripling the cost for his legal boondoggle to defend the indefensible Defense of Marriage Act," Drew Hammill, a spokesman for Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, said in a statement. ... "At a time when Americans are hurting and job creation should be the top priority, it just shows how out of touch House Republicans have become that they would spend up to $1.5 million dollars to defend discrimination in our country," Hammill continued."
Can you say "impeachment"? "In America, the Supreme Court is the ultimate judge. Once it has decided a matter, that's pretty much it. Antonin Scalia, one of the judges who sits on that court, has said -- in as many words -- that he only respects the rule of law insofar as it does not conflict with his religious beliefs. For that, nothing short of impeachment is suitable. ... The last Supreme Court judge to be impeached was "Old Bacon Face," Samual Chase. In 1805, he was brought up on charges that he treated defendants unfairly based on his political bias. He was eventually acquitted. Of particular note is that Chase's impeachment set the benchmark for several judicial boundaries. Most notably, it set the "gold standard" that Supreme Court justices are required to abstain from partisan politics. And let's be perfectly clear: Religious intrusion into the law of the land is a partisan political matter. Just ask Rick Perry."
It all depends whose ox is getting gored. "A few years go, a media firestorm erupted over the urban "Stop Snitchin" campaign promoted by gangs and a few hip hop icons. Stop Snitchin refers to the effort to intimidate informants to prevent them from cooperating with police about gang violence or drug trafficking schemes. Rapper Cam'ron received heavy scrutiny for endorsing the trend during an interview on the issue for CBS's 60 Minutes. ... A new Stop Snitchin campaign to deter would-be informants, in this case against people speaking up against crimes on Wall Street, is quietly taking shape, this time far from the media's eye. ... Financial experts and academics agree that strong whistleblower regulations could have prevented the Bernie Madoff Ponzi scheme and indeed much of the financial crisis if employees at firms engaged in fraudulent activity had spoken up early or had reported complex crimes to the appropriate authorities. Employees at firms at the center for the financial crisis, including troubled lender Countrywide, have cited intimidation and other illicit tactics as the reason few people spoke up as whistleblowers. Since the old whistleblower laws provided for weak legal protections for informants and relatively rare rewards, the Dodd-Frank financial reform law passed last year revamped the system with new rights for informants blowing the whistle on financial crimes. ... Bank lobbyists and Fox News, however, have made such protections enemy number one."
Just like old times during the Cold War. "Russia and China have joined forces to veto a European-drafted UN Security Council resolution condemning Syria and hinting that it could face sanctions if it continues its crackdown on protesters. Tuesday's resolution received nine votes in favor and four abstentions from Brazil, India, Lebanon and South Africa. Russia and China cast the only votes against the resolution, which was drafted by France with the co-operation of Britain, Germany and Portugal. Western nations have been pressing for the adoption of the resolution condemning Syria's crackdown on anti-government protests. The resolution sought to impose "targeted measures" against the government of Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad for a crackdown that has killed 2,700 people, according to UN estimates."
You think repug obstruction is bad? Imagine that the person in charge of preventing financial catastrophe is Silvio Berlusconi.Credit ratings agency Moody's has downgraded Italian government bond ratings from "Aa2" to "A2" with a negative outlook, citing risks for the financing of long-term debt and slow economic growth. "The negative outlook reflects ongoing economic and financial risks in Italy and in the euro area," the agency said in a statement on Tuesday. The agency also warned that an uncertain market environment and a risk of further deterioration in investor sentiment could constrain the country's access to public debt markets."
Somalia is what happens to countries when politics fails. "Al-Shabab has vowed to carry out more attacks in Mogadishul following a truck bomb blast that killed scores of people in the Somali capital. The warning came after the armed anti-government group claimed responsibility for Tuesday's blast outside a government compound in Mogadishu, which killed at least 70 people and left many others wounded, in one of the country's deadliest ever suicide attacks, officials and witnesses said."
Because the best strategy for Afghanistan is pissing off Pakistan. "The political leaders of Afghanistan and India have forged closer ties between their nations by signing a "strategic partnership" following talks in New Delhi. The agreement, announced on Tuesday after Karzai's meeting with Manmohan Singh, the Indian prime minister, is the first such pact between Afghanistan and another country and aims to boost trade, security and cultural links between the countries. Karzai's visit to New Delhi on Tuesday's came against a backdrop of deteriorating relations between Afghanistan and Pakistan in the wake of the assassination of Burhanuddin Rabbani, a former Afghan president appointed by Karzai to lead negotiations with the Taliban. Karzai, speaking at a press conference with Singh, stressed again that "terrorism and radicalism" were being used "as an instrument of policy against our citizens." It appeared to be a veiled reference to Pakistan."
You'll find the instigator by looking in the mirror, morons. "Saudi Arabia has blamed an unnamed foreign power for clashes that took place in its oil-rich Eastern Province in which it says 14 people were injured. The unrest, on Monday night, occurred in the Gulf coast city of Qatif, which is home to a large Shia population and was the scene of protests earlier this year. "A foreign country is trying to undermine national security by inciting strife in Qatif," Saudi state television cited the interior ministry as saying on Tuesday. The world's top oil exporter moved swiftly to suppress protests in the area in February and March, arresting more than 100 people. The protests had petered out for several months but flared up again two days ago."
Another amazing outer space initiative NASA does not lead. "Europe is to lead the most ambitious space mission ever undertaken to study the behaviour of the Sun. Known as Solar Orbiter, the probe will have to operate a mere 42 million km from our star - closer than any spacecraft to date. The mission proposal was formally adopted by European Space Agency (Esa) member states on Tuesday. Solar Orbiter is expected to launch in 2017 and will cost close to a billion euros. Nasa (the US space agency) will participate, providing two instruments for the probe and the rocket to send it on its way. The Esa delegates, who were meeting in Paris, also selected a mission to investigate two of the great mysteries of modern cosmology - dark matter and dark energy. Scientists are convinced that these phenomena dominate and shape the Universe but their nature has so far eluded any satisfactory explanation. The discovery in the late 1990s of dark energy and its influence on cosmic expansion was recognised with a Nobel Prize earlier in the day for three scientists. The Euclid telescope will map the distribution of galaxies to try to get some fresh insight on these dark puzzles. Like Solar Orbiter, Euclid's cost will be close to a billion euros. However, the mission still needs to clear some legal hurdles and formal adoption is not expected until next year. A launch could occur in 2019. "They are both exciting missions, and it was really good to hear today that the physics Nobel Prize was awarded to research on the accelerating Universe, which is of course linked to Euclid," said Alvaro Gimenez, Esa's director of science. "And I'm really looking forward to Solar Orbiter, which will become the reference for solar physics in the years to come," he told BBC News."