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Showing posts from January, 2010

"Government Bailout Has Increased Risk Of Economic Crisis"

The Huffingt0n Post -The government's response to the financial meltdown has made it more likely the United States will face a deeper crisis in the future, an independent watchdog at the Treasury Department warned.
The problems that led to the last crisis have not yet been addressed, and in some cases have grown worse, says Neil Barofsky, the special inspector general for the trouble asset relief program, or TARP. The quarterly report to Congress was released Sunday.
"Even if TARP saved our financial system from driving off a cliff back in 2008, absent meaningful reform, we are still driving on the same winding mountain road, but this time in a faster car," Barofsky wrote. Read more.

Protest held in Tokyo against US military presence

Antiwar -Thousands of protesters from across Japan marched Saturday in central Tokyo to protest the U.S. military presence on Okinawa, while a Cabinet minister said she would fight to move a Marine base Washington considers crucial out of the country.
Some 47,000 U.S. troops are stationed in Japan, with more than half on the southern island of Okinawa. Residents have complained for years about noise, pollution and crime around the bases.
Japan and the U.S. signed a pact in 2006 that called for the realignment of American troops in the country and for a Marine base on the island to be moved to a less populated area. But the new Tokyo government is re-examining the deal, caught between increasingly adamant public opposition to American troops and its crucial military alliance with Washington.
On Saturday, labor unionists, pacifists, environmentalists and students marched through central Tokyo, yelling slogans and calling for an end to the U.S. troop presence. They gathered for a rally at a…

Why does the US turn a blind eye to Israeli bulldozers?

Photo credit: robb from morguefile.com
Robert Fisk @ The Independent UK - "Palestine" is no more. Call it a "peace process" or a "road map"; blame it on Barack Obama's weakness, his pathetic, childish admission - like an optimistic doctor returning a sick child to its parents without hope of recovery - that a Middle East peace was "more difficult" to reach than he imagined.
But the dream of a "two-state" Israeli-Palestinian solution, a security-drenched but noble settlement to decades of warfare between Israelis and Palestinians is as good as dead.
Both the United States and Europe now stand idly by while the Israeli government effectively destroys any hope of a Palestinian state; even as you read these words, Israel's bulldozers and demolition orders are destroying the last chance of peace; not only in the symbolic centre of Jerusalem itself but - strategically, far more important - in 60 per cent of the vast, biblical lands of t…

To Gasps from the Gallery, Blair: "We Should Be Proud of the War"

The Independent UK - His voice was hoarse from six hours of questioning. But still he was unrepentant. To gasps of anger from grieving relatives Tony Blair used the final moments of his evidence to the Iraq war inquiry to justify leading Britain in one of the country's most divisive conflicts in its history.
Asked by the inquiry chairman, Sir John Chilcot, whether he had any regrets, he replied: "Responsibility but not a regret for removing Saddam Hussein. I think that he was a monster. I believe he threatened not just the region but the world. And in the circumstances that we faced then, but I think even if you look back now, it was better to deal with this threat, to remove him from office."
Sir John appealed for calm as a heckler shouted: "What, no regrets? Come on!" His voice fading, Mr Blair insisted that Britain - especially its armed forces - should feel an "immense sense of pride" over the Iraq war. He added: "I had to take this decision as…

'Nobel Peace Prize-winner Barack Obama ups spending on nuclear weapons to even more than George Bush'

The Daily Telegraph - President Obama is planning to increase spending on America's nuclear weapons stockpile just days after pledging to try to rid the world of them.
In his budget to be announced on Monday, Mr Obama has allocated £4.3billion to maintain the U.S. arsenal - £370million more than George Bush spent on nuclear weapons in his final year.
The Obama administration also plans to spend a further £3.1billion over the next five years on nuclear security.
The announcement comes despite the American President declaring nuclear weapons were the ‘greatest danger' to U.S. people during in his State of the Union address on Wednesday. Read more.

Obama Empowers the Corporate Military Prison State

Max Eternity - Though mired in the economic crisis of the Great Recession, many Americans are nevertheless continuing to throw their blind support behind President Obama, even as it becomes widely known and agreed upon that he has not followed through on most campaign promises. Perhaps it is because some feel they have no choice. And yet, instead of being the Progressive he made himself out to be on the campaign trial, the President is serving up what appears to be yet another Bush term, policy wise, in the White House. His justice department has given cover for the torture program of the Bush administration, also continuing to operate secret sites and prisons, including Guantanamo Bay. Obama bailed out Wall Street, simultaneously neglecting main street--the middle class and working poor. And though the President received the Nobel Peace Prize last year, he has also escalated the Middle-East wars and occupations, more that Bush ever did--adopting the unconstitutional Patriot Act, …

Paul R. Jones: Noted African-American Art Collector Dies at 81

ABC News - Paul R. Jones, a collector of African-American art who donated troves of works to universities in Delaware and Alabama, has died. He was 81.
Jones died in Atlanta on Tuesday after a brief illness, said University of Alabama spokeswoman Angie Estes. The university established an art collection in Jones' name after receiving some 1,700 pieces valued at $5 million in 2008.
Despite humble beginnings in Alabama and never independently wealthy, Jones began buying pieces in the 1960s after noting African-American art was underrepresented in public galleries.
As the drawings, paintings, photographs, sculptures and other works grew into the hundreds, part of his collection was exhibited at the University of Delaware in 1993. He later made a gift of several hundred works to the school. Read more.
"My goal has been to incorporate African-American art into American art," he told The Tuscaloosa News in 2008 when he made his donation to the University of Alabama with a plan fo…

Play, Then Eat: Shift May Bring Gains at School

The New York Times -Can something as simple as the timing of recess make a difference in a child’s health and behavior?
Some experts think it can, and now some schools are rescheduling recess — sending students out to play before they sit down for lunch. The switch appears to have led to some surprising changes in both cafeteria and classroom.
Schools that have tried it report that when children play before lunch, there is less food waste and higher consumption of milk, fruit and vegetables. And some teachers say there are fewer behavior problems.
“Kids are calmer after they’ve had recess first,” said Janet Sinkewicz, principal of Sharon Elementary School in Robbinsville, N.J., which made the change last fall. “They feel like they have more time to eat and they don’t have to rush.”
One of the earliest schools to adopt the idea was North Ranch Elementary in Scottsdale, Ariz. About nine years ago, the school nurse suggested the change, and the school conducted a pilot study, tracking food w…

U.S. Suspends Haitian Airlift in Cost Dispute

The New York Times -The United States has suspended its medical evacuations of critically injured Haitian earthquake victims until a dispute over who will pay for their care is settled, military officials said Friday.
The military flights, usually C-130s carrying Haitians with spinal cord injuries, burns and other serious wounds, ended on Wednesday after Gov. Charlie Crist of Florida formally asked the federal government to shoulder some of the cost of the care.
Hospitals in Florida have treated more than 500 earthquake victims so far, the military said, including an infant who was pulled out of the rubble with a fractured skull and ribs. Other states have taken patients, too, and those flights have been suspended as well, the officials said.
The suspension could be catastrophic for patients, said Dr. Barth A. Green, the co-founder of Project Medishare for Haiti, a nonprofit group affiliated with the University of Miami’s Miller School of Medicine that had been evacuating about two dozen…

A Radical Treasure: Bob Herbert Remembers Howard Zinn

Bob Herbert - I had lunch with Howard Zinn just a few weeks ago, and I’ve seldom had more fun while talking about so many matters that were unreservedly unpleasant: the sorry state of government and politics in the U.S., the tragic futility of our escalation in Afghanistan, the plight of working people in an economy rigged to benefit the rich and powerful.
Mr. Zinn could talk about all of that and more without losing his sense of humor. He was a historian with a big, engaging smile that seemed ever-present. His death this week at the age of 87 was a loss that should have drawn much more attention from a press corps that spends an inordinate amount of its time obsessing idiotically over the likes of Tiger Woods and John Edwards.
Mr. Zinn was chagrined by the present state of affairs, but undaunted. “If there is going to be change, real change,” he said, “it will have to work its way from the bottom up, from the people themselves. That’s how change happens.” Read more.

In Haiti, US military creates open-air concentration camp

Why Did We Focus on Securing Haiti Rather Than Helping Haitians?
Slate - By the weekend, it was clear that something perverse was going on in Haiti, something savage and bestial in its lack of concern for human life. I'm not talking about the earthquake, and certainly not about the so-called "looting," which I prefer to think of as the autonomously organized distribution of unjustly hoarded goods. I'm talking about the U.S. relief effort.
For two days after the quake, despite almost unimaginable destruction, there were reasons to be optimistic. With a few notable exceptions—Pat Robertson and David Brooks among them—Americans reacted with extraordinary and unhesitating generosity of spirit and of purse. Port-au-Prince is not much farther from Washington, D.C., than, say, New Orleans, and the current president of the United States, unlike his predecessor, was quick to react to catastrophe. Taking advantage of "our unique capacity to project power around the world,&q…

Bill Moyers: Remembering Howard Zinn

UCLA says gay military ban costs millions

UPI - A more open approach to homosexual or bisexual men and women serving in the military will save hundreds of millions of tax dollars and draw more people into the ranks, the Williams Institute at the University of California at Los Angeles said in a research brief made public Wednesday.
The UCLA research body said that U.S. Census figures showed that about 66,000 lesbian, gay and bisexual men and women were on military payrolls. The current policy requires members of the armed forces to remain silent about their sexual orientation.
However, the Don't Ask/Don't Tell policy carries huge costs for the taxpayer, the study said. The institute estimated that lifting the DADT policy would attract 50,000 new entrants to the armed forces and save taxpayers huge amounts currently spent on maintaining that policy. Read more.

Roubini Calls U.S. Growth ‘Dismal and Poor,’ Predicts Slowing

Bloomberg - New York University Professor Nouriel Roubini, who anticipated the financial crisis, called the fourth quarter surge in U.S. economic growth “very dismal and poor” because it relied on temporary factors.
Roubini said more than half of the 5.7 percent expansion reported yesterday by the government was related to a replenishing of inventories and that consumption depended on monetary and fiscal stimulus. As these forces ebb, growth will slow to just 1.5 percent in the second half of 2010, he said.
“The headline number will look large and big, but actually when you dissect it, it’s very dismal and poor,” Read more.

Plant-Based Plastics to Replace Petroleum Plastics?

Natural News - As the price for crude oil continues to rise over time, the cost of producing petroleum-based plastic products continues to rise with it. Alternatives such as bio-plastics, which currently cost more to produce than existing plastics, may someday become more cost effective than petroleum-based plastics.
Frederic Scheer, owner of a company called Cereplast that makes sustainable bio-plastic material from vegetable and grain starches, believes that petroleum prices will eventually exceed the costs of producing his own product. By 2013, he believes that industry giants like DuPont and BASF will pursue his technology as a replacement for their soon-to-be outdated petroleum plastics.
Scheer's company has developed a method of converting starch from corn, wheat, tapioca, and potatoes into biodegradable plastic resins. Because they effectively biodegrade in a mere 90 days, they are an excellent alternative to traditional plastic cups, containers and packaging materials. Read…

Swine Flu Didn't Fly

Truthout - For makers of the swine flu vaccine, 2009 was a year to remember. By June, CSL Limited's profits rose 63 percent above 2008 levels, while in the third quarter of 2009 - just about the time H1N1 contracts picked up steam - GlaxoSmithKine enjoyed a 30 percent jump in earnings to $2.19 billion. Roche, the maker of Tamiflu, which prevents H1N1, saw second quarter profits leap to 12 times what they were in that quarter of 2008. But in 2010, drug companies may get their comeuppance.
On Tuesday, the Council of Europe launched an investigation into whether the World Health Organization (WHO) "faked" the swine flu pandemic to boost profits for vaccine manufacturers. The inquiry, held in Strasbourg, France, vindicates a worldwide movement of insiders, experts and elected officials who accuse the United Nations organization of misleading the world into buying millions of unnecessary vaccines. Read more.

Obama Admin excuses Bush-era torturers

Max Eternity - One of the signature hallmarks of the Obama administration has been to stand idle as high-level criminal acts within corporate America occur--going unpunished. This has been a pattern in the banking industry resulting in trillion dollar bailouts for collapsing private lending entities, even as they purveyed an endless supply of fraudulent mortgage packages. Though, instead of ordering his justice department to prosecute the conspirators and collaborators, Obama rewarded them with public funds, facilitating yet another billion-dollar bonanza in profits and bonuses for the already rich.
And yet, the President talks about the moral high-road at every turn. Indeed, no chance is missed to speak of what should be done. all the while continuing to lead the nation in very much the same rogue, lawless manner as his predecessor.
For all his upbeat orations about how well things are going--the recent State of the Union Address, the poor and middle class slips further in steep…

Remember the illegal destruction of Iraq?

Glenn Greenwald - British political news has been consumed for the last several weeks by a formal inquiry into the illegalityand deceit behind Tony Blair's decision to join the U.S. in invading Iraq. Today, Blair himself ispublicly testifying before the investigative commission and is being grilled about numerous false claims he made in the run-up to the war, not only about Iraqi weapons programs (his taxi-cab-derived "45-minutes-to-launch!!" warning) and Saddam's ties to Al Qaeda, but also about secret commitments he made to join the U.S. at a time when he and Bush were still pretending that they were undecided and awaiting the outcome of the U.N. negotiations and the inspection process. A major focus of the investigation is the illegality of the war. Some of the most embarrassing details that have emerged concern the conclusions by the British Government's own legal advisers that the invasion of Iraq would be illegal without U.N. approval. The top British leg…

Remembering JD Salinger

The Christian Science Monitor - If you've been to high school in the US in the past 50 years, then you know his book. J.D. Salinger was not as prolific as many authors, but few could even dream of being as influential. Today, Salinger's son announced that, after years of life in seclusion, his father, author of the 1951 classic "The Catcher in the Rye," died yesterday at his home in Cornish, N.H. Salinger was 91.
After "Catcher in the Rye," Salinger went on to publish a handful of additional works, acclaimed by critics and fans alike – "Nine Stories" (1953), "Franny and Zooey" (1961) and "Raise High the Roof Beams, Carpenters" (1963). But nothing else would capture the world's attention to quite the extent of "The Catcher in the Rye," with its alienated, disillusioned, prep school dropout narrator, Holden Caulfield.
An early obituary of Salinger credits "The Catcher in the Rye" with long- and wide-ranging …

Coal Industry ghost-writing reports for the EPA

Truthout - The coal ash industry manipulated reports and publications about the dangers of coal combustion waste, reports Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). The group stated that the Environmental Protection Agency allowed the multibillon-dollar coal ash industry to have virtually unfettered access to the EPA during the Bush administration and now under President Obama.
As a result of the industry's formal relationship with the EPA, insiders were allowed to edit and ghostwrite publications and official reports on the effects of coal waste. The documents obtained by PEER indicate that the coal ash industry "watered down official reports, brochures and fact-sheets to remove references to potential dangers" of coal ash waste. Additionally, the so-called "environmental benefits" of coal ash were repeatedly aggrandized.
"For most of the past decade, it appears that every EPA publication on the subject was ghostwritten by the American Coal A…

Save Our Seeds

Photo credit: Irish_Eyes from morguefile.com
Inter Press Service - Biodiversity, already decaying fast as a result of climate change and intensive farming, is under further threat by genetic modification (GM) of seeds, says a leading German ecological activist.
Genetic modification of seeds is dangerous, "since it is at the beginning of the agricultural chain, and can spread all over," says Benedikt Haerlin, former campaign manager at the environmental organization Greenpeace and former member of the European Parliament.
Haerlin now leads the global ‘Save our Seeds' campaign in cooperation with some 300 environmental organizations across Europe.
The campaign is currently calling attention to plans by the European Commission (EC) to tolerate "accidental or technically unavoidable" contamination of conventional seed with GM varieties.
In September 2004, the EC sought to pass a directive allowing up to 0.7 percent of GM organisms (GMO) in maize and oilseed rape seed wi…

Hell and Hope in Haiti

Bill Quigley @ Common Dreams - Smoke and flames rose from the sidewalk. A white man took pictures. Slowing down, my breath left me. The fire was a corpse. Leg bones sticking out of the flames.
Port Au prince police headquarters is gone, already bulldozed. A nearby college is pancaked. Goverment buildings are destroyed. Stores fallen down. Tens of thousands of buildings destroyed. Hundreds of thousands homeless.
Giant piles of concrete, rebar, metal pipes, plastic pipes, doors and wires.
Corpses are still inside many of the mountains of rubble. No estimates of how many thousands of people are dead inside.
Electrical poles bend over streets, held up by braids of thick black wires. On some side streets the wires are stll down in the street.
Buildings take unimaginable shapes. Some are half up while the other side slopes to the ground. Some like collapsed cakes. Others smashed like childre's toys. Read more.

A Memory of Howard Zinn

Daniel Ellsberg @ Common Dreams - I just learned that my friend Howard Zinn died today. Earlier this morning, I was being interviewed by the Boston Phoenix, in connection with the release in Boston in February of a documentary in which he is featured prominently. The interviewer asked me who my own heroes were, and I had no hesitation in answering, first, "Howard Zinn."
Just weeks ago after watching the film on December 7, I woke up the next morning thinking that I had never told him how much he meant to me. For once in my life, I acted on that thought in a timely way. I sent him an e-mail in which I said, among other things, what I had often told others about him: that he was," in my opinion, the best human being I've ever known. The best example of what a human can be, and can do with their life." Read more.

The “school to prison pipeline” must end

Michelle Chen @ The Progressive - We need to stop militarizing our schools.
Across the country, school administrators are making cops and metal detectors as much a part of the school day as teachers and textbooks. So-called zero-tolerance disciplinary policies are transforming the campus into hostile territory, alienating communities and pushing vulnerable students to give up on their education.
The coercive climate extends beyond school grounds.
To children in poor communities of color, the school day is too often an extension of the crisis engulfing their neighborhoods, where violence, police abuse, drugs and joblessness loom over their streets and homes.
Labeled and punished as troublemakers or delinquents, vulnerable children are frequently funneled into a pattern that activists call the “school to prison pipeline.” Read more.

"Thank You Howard Zinn"

Mathew Rothchild @ The Progressive - Thank You, Howard Zinn, for being there during the civil rights movement, for teaching at Spelman, for walking the picket lines, and for inspiring such students as Alice Walker and Marian Wright Edelman.
Thank you, Howard Zinn, for being there during the Vietnam War, for writing “The Logic of Withdrawal,” and for going to Hanoi.
Thank you, Howard Zinn, for always being there.
Thank you, Howard Zinn, for being a man who supported the women’s liberation movement, early on.
Thank you, Howard Zinn, for being a straight who supported the gay and lesbian rights movement, early on.
Thank you, Howard Zinn, for being a Jew who dared to criticize Israel’s oppression of the Palestinians, early on. Read more.

Just A Cause, Not A War by Howard Zinn

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"Let us be a more modest nation. We will then be more secure."
Howard Zinn, 1922 - 2010
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Just A Cause, Not A War It Seems to Me by Howard Zinn
The Progressive: December 2001 Issue
A Just Cause, Not a Just War
I believe two moral judgments can be made about the present "war": The September 11 attack constitutes a crime against humanity and cannot be justified, and the bombing of Afghanistan is also a crime, which cannot be justified.
And yet, voices across the political spectrum, including many on the left, have described this as a "just war." One longtime advocate of peace, Richard Falk, wrote in The Nation that this is "the first truly just war since World War II." Robert Kuttner, another consistent supporter of social justice, declared in The American Prospect that only people on the extreme left could believe this is not a just war.
I have puzzled over this. How can a war be truly just when it involves the daily killing of civilians, when it cau…

Howard Zinn, Historian and Activist, Dies at 87

The Huffington Post - Howard Zinn, an author, teacher and political activist whose leftist "A People's History of the United States" became a million-selling alternative to mainstream texts and a favorite of such celebrities as Bruce Springsteen and Ben Affleck, died Wednesday. He was 87.
Zinn died of a heart attack in Santa Monica, Calif., daughter Myla Kabat-Zinn said. The historian was a resident of Auburndale, Mass.
Published in 1980 with little promotion and a first printing of 5,000, "A People's History" was – fittingly – a people's best-seller, attracting a wide audience through word of mouth and reaching 1 million sales in 2003. Although Zinn was writing for a general readership, his book was taught in high schools and colleges throughout the country, and numerous companion editions were published, including "Voices of a People's History," a volume for young people and a graphic novel
"I can't think of anyone who had such a p…

Headlines: Democracy Now!

Max Eternity - Today on Democracy Now, it is reported that Haitians seeking aid in the aftermath of the recent devastating earthquake, were fired upon with tear gas as they sought food aid from a relief center. It is also reported that in addition to other illegal Bush-era policies, President Obama is continuing Bush-era assassination policy.

Is Bernanke hiding the AIG smoking gun?

Ryan Grimm @ The Huffington Post - A Republican senator said Tuesday that documents showing Federal Reserve Board Chairman Ben Bernake covered up the fact that his staff recommended he not bailout AIG are being kept from the public. And a House Republican charged that a whistleblower had alerted Congress to specific documents provide "troubling details" of Bernanke's role in the AIG bailout.
Sen. Jim Bunning (R-Ky.), a Bernanke critic, said on CNBC that he has seen documents showing that Bernanke overruled such a recommendation. If that's the case, it raises questions about whether bailing out AIG was actually necessary, and what Bernanke's motives were.
A letter Bunning sent Monday to Banking Committee Chairman Chris Dodd (D-Conn.) also refers to an "[e]mail exchange regarding restructuring of assistance to AIG, initiated by Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner" in March 2009. Read more.

Along with proxy wars in Somalia and Pakistan, Obama now engaged in secret Yemen war

The Washington Post - The operations, approved by President Obama and begun six weeks ago, involve several dozen troops from the U.S. military's clandestine Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC), whose main mission is tracking and killing suspected terrorists. The American advisers do not take part in raids in Yemen, but help plan missions, develop tactics and provide weapons and munitions. Highly sensitive intelligence is being shared with the Yemeni forces, including electronic and video surveillance, as well as three-dimensional terrain maps and detailed analysis of the al-Qaeda network.
As part of the operations, Obama approved a Dec. 24 strike against a compound where a U.S. citizen, Anwar al-Aulaqi, was thought to be meeting with other regional al-Qaeda leaders. Although he was not the focus of the strike and was not killed, he has since been added to a shortlist of U.S. citizens specifically targeted for killing or capture by the JSOC, military officials said. The official…

Toyota Suspends Sales Of 8 Vehicle Models

The Huffington Post - Toyota suspended U.S. sales of some of its most popular vehicles – including the best-selling car in America, the Camry – to fix sticking gas pedals that could make the cars accelerate without warning.
In another blow to the world's No. 1 automaker, Toyota Motor Corp. said Tuesday it would halt some production at six assembly plants beginning the week of Feb. 1 "to assess and coordinate activities."
The company said it would stop selling eight models of cars and trucks, a significant portion of its fleet. The suspension comes after a recall of the same models last week involving 2.3 million vehicles.
Toyota has said it was unaware of any accidents or injuries due to the pedal problems associated with the recall, but could not rule them out for sure. Read more.

Got Milk? A Disturbing Look at the Dairy Industry

Alternet - Eating milk, cheese, sour cream, ice cream, and other dairy yumminess is impossible to do with a clear conscience -- and I'm not referring to the fat or cholesterol. Calves born into the industrial grip of today's dairy industry have a road ahead of them that is short, but not merciful. Dairy cows are subject to brutal conditions before being sent to slaughter for beef and male calves are worth next to nothing in the dairy business. Some are simply left to die after birth. Many are slaughtered for low-grade "bob veal" a few days after they are born and will end up as cheap hot dogs or dog food.
While a small number of dairies are bucking the industrial trend, the vast majority of dairy products we eat come from factories that are nothing short of horrific in many cases.
"One of the things people don't think about is the effort it takes a cow to produce milk," said Marlene Halverson who has worked on farm animal welfare issues for years. "T…

Anti-ACORN filmmaker arrested

Politico - Federal authorities have arrested four men on felony charges for attempting to infiltrate Sen. Mary Landrieu's New Orleans office, including one filmmaker who targeted the community group ACORN last year in undercover videos.Among those arrested was 25-year-old James O'Keefe, the conservative filmmaker, along with Joseph Basel, Robert Flanagan and Stan Dai, all 24. They were charged with entering federal property under false pretenses and attempting to gain access to the Democrat's office by posing as telephone repairmen, according to a copy of an FBI affidavit unsealed Tuesday.The complaint said that Flanagan and Basel each entered the premises, wearing light green fluorescent vests, denim paints and blue work shirts, tool belts and hard-hats. They informed a member of Landrieu's staff that they were telephone repairmen and requested access to the main telephone at the reception desk. Read more.

The sanctity of military spending

Glenn Greenwald - Administration officials announced last night that the President, in tomorrow's State of the Union address, will propose a multi-year freeze on certain domestic discretionary spending programs. This is an "initiative intended to signal his seriousness about cutting the budget deficit," officials told The New York Times. But the freeze is more notable for what it excludes than what it includes. For now, it does not include the largest domestic spending programs: Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security. And all "security-related programs" are also exempted from the freeze, which means it does not apply to military spending, the intelligence budget, the Surveillance State, or foreign military aid. As always, the notion of decreasing the deficit and national debt through reductions in military spending is one of the most absolute Washington taboos. What possible rationale is there for that? The facts about America's bloated, excessive, al…

Michael Moore slams Obama's corporate-sponsored left

Democracy Now! - Filmmaker Michael Moore joins us for a wide-ranging interview about Haiti, the Supreme Court decision on corporate campaign financing, President Obama’s first year in office, the Democrats, and much more. “The Democrats] don’t have the guts. They don’t have the courage of their own convictions. They’re disgusting. I’m embarrassed,” Moore says. “I want really nothing to do with them. And if they don’t find their spine, well, they’re in for a huge surprise in November.”

Nonplussed with Obama, Progressives express fury with Emanuel

Peter Wallsten @ WSJ - President Barack Obama's liberal backers have a long list of grievances. The Guantanamo Bay prison is still open. Health care hasn't been transformed. And Wall Street banks are still paying huge bonuses.
But they are directing their anger less at Mr. Obama than at the man who works down the hall from him. Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, they say, is the prime obstacle to the changes they thought Mr. Obama's election would bring.
The friction was laid bare in August when Mr. Emanuel showed up at a weekly strategy session featuring liberal groups and White House aides. Some attendees said they were planning to air ads attacking conservative Democrats who were balking at Mr. Obama's health-care overhaul.
"F—ing retarded," Mr. Emanuel scolded the group, according to several participants. He warned them not to alienate lawmakers whose votes would be needed on health care and other top legislative items.
The unrest among liberals comes at a perilous…

"Budget freeze won’t do anything except make Obama look like a liar"

Photo credit: cohdra from morguefile.com
Allison Kilkenney - Someone is going to have to explain the logic of this to me.
Obama is going to ask Congress to freeze spending for some domestic programs for three years beginning in 2011, but don’t worry — not the Pentagon allowance. It’ll just be a small part of the budget ($250 billion over ten years) for some tiny, domestic programs. You won’t even miss it. Everyone, calm down, the wars won’t be affected by the freeze.

This single act marks Obama’s surrender to the deficit hawks. It doesn’t seem to matter that Nobel Prize-winning economists like Krugs and Stiglitz have been screaming that the only way out of a recession is stimulus. Read more.

Obama's Credibility Gap

Max Eternity - Today Bob Herbert of The New York Times writes of President Obama's growing credibility gap. Many independent journalists and progressive thinkers, like Chris Hedges, Glenn Greenwald, Naomi Klein, Ralph Nader and Amy Goodman have been bringing attention to this for more than 6 months now, so Herbert's unfavorable assessment of the President is not out of the ordinary. But what is hair-raising about this is that Herbert is writing in the mainstream--corporate media--of Obama's year-long squander of political capital. This has been slow coming from beltway pundits, so it's definitely worth noting.
Yet, not only is it significant that one of the old guard papers papers is now publishing articles from progressive thinkers who are shedding light on Obama's mixed-signal timidity, but that its coming from a respected, down-to-earth, intelligent black man like Herbert, is of much importance too. Because when taken into context of what other, more striden…

Forget the deficit; people need jobs

Jesse Jackson @ The Chicago Sun-Times - The state of America's union is stark. The economic collapse triggered by the bursting of the housing bubble continues to take its toll.
We know the statistics. Nearly one in five American workers is unemployed or underemployed. That means wages are losing ground. One in three homes with a mortgage is under water. Millions of Americans are headed to losing their homes.
That will leave families adrift, children displaced.
We need another big jobs program. Aid should go to states and localities that now face brutal cuts that will lay off teachers, police and professors. Public jobs programs -- a green corps, an urban corps -- should target hard-hit areas like the Midwest and urban centers. We should invest in infrastructure by repairing schools, weatherizing public buildings and creating the projects that will hire construction workers.
Without these commitments, there will be no recovery. Businesses won't expand into an economy in which one i…

Italian official condemns Haiti earthquake relief as 'vanity parade'

Guardian UK - The Italian government official who led the country's response to the L'Aquila earthquake has condemned relief efforts in Haiti as a disorganised "vanity parade", ahead of an international conference on rebuilding the devastated country.
Guido Bertolaso, the head of Italy's civil protection service, said there had been a fundamental lack of leadership thus far in foreign aid missions to Haiti, warning also that the large US military mission in the country was not entirely helpful.
"The Americans are extraordinary, but when you are facing a situation in chaos they tend to confuse military intervention with emergency aid, which cannot be entrusted to the armed forces," Reuters reported him as telling Italy's RAI television. Read more.

AD Mag Update: Joe Nalven, Art | Anthropology

Cornel West Calls Out Barack Obama

Democracy in America Is a Useful Fiction

Chris Hedges - Corporate forces, long before the Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, carried out a coup d’état in slow motion. The coup is over. We lost. The ruling is one more judicial effort to streamline mechanisms for corporate control. It exposes the myth of a functioning democracy and the triumph of corporate power. But it does not significantly alter the political landscape. The corporate state is firmly cemented in place.
The fiction of democracy remains useful, not only for corporations, but for our bankrupt liberal class. If the fiction is seriously challenged, liberals will be forced to consider actual resistance, which will be neither pleasant nor easy. As long as a democratic facade exists, liberals can engage in an empty moral posturing that requires little sacrifice or commitment. They can be the self-appointed scolds of the Democratic Party, acting as if they are part of the debate and feel vindicated by their cries of protest.
Muc…

Youth Occupy Trees, Blasting Halted on Coal River Mountain

It's Getting Hot In Here (blog) - This morning, five individuals took direct action against Mountaintop Removal (MTR) by halting work at an MTR site. Sitting in barren oak trees and a poplar are Eric Blevins, 28, Amber Nitchman, 19, and David Aaron Smith, 23. On standby at the trees’ base are the direct supporters Josh Graupera, 19, and Isabelle Rozendaal, 22. The trees’ location on Coal River Mountain directly impedes on Massey Energy’s attempt to build an access road to an impoundment where the toxic leftovers from coal processing (or, “slurry”) are being held back from the communities below. Their banners state: “EPA: Halt the Blasting”, “Windmills Not Toxic Spills”, and “Save Coal River Mountain.” Blevins expressed disbelief at this careless action, pointing out that “Massey Energy is a criminal corporation with over 4,500 documented violations of the Clean Water Act, yet the government has given them permission to blast next to a dam full of toxic coal waste that will kill 9…

Latest Texas Oil Spill Dumps 450,000 Gallons of Oil in River

Photo credit: Grafixar from morguefile.com
CNN - A tanker ship loaded with oil in the Port of Port Arthur, Texas, collided with two barges being towed by a tug boat, resulting in a spill of about 450,000 gallons of crude, according to the U.S. Coast Guard.
No injuries were reported, but a 50-block area around the port was evacuated out of caution, as the tanker was carrying a type of oil containing sulfide.
The portion of the port where the collision occurred will remain closed until it is deemed safe for workers and other vessels to return, Petty Officer Richard Brahm said.
The Coast Guard has deployed 4,000 feet of boom, which helps corral the oil, with 10,000 more feet available for cleanup. Also on the scene are oil skimmers, three boom vessels, four 25-foot Coast Guard boats, the Coast Guard cutter Manowar and authorities from the local police and fire departments. Read more.