The state of America’s democratic experiment really worries me these days. It seems so railroaded by the interests of the very few. I’m not sure if you got a chance to read the following article at Salon by Bill Curry. You should. It’s about how the Democratic Party got co-opted by Wall Street interests and helped continue us down the road to complete plutocracy. It starts with out following the decline in the party’s alignment with ordinary Americans and the history of Ralph Nader’s formation of the consumer protection movement. Ultimately, it is about Nader and his new book. But,the details of the re-alignment and Nader’s personal history are an interesting read when put into the context of our road to corporate tyranny.
In the late ’70s, deregulation fever swept the nation. Carter deregulated trucks and airlines; Reagan broke up Ma Bell, ending real oversight of phone companies. But those forays paled next to the assaults of the late ’90s. The Telecommunications Act of 1996 had solid Democratic backing as did the Financial Services Modernization Act of 1999. The communications bill authorized a massive giveaway of public airwaves to big business and ended the ban on cross ownership of media. The resultant concentration of ownership hastened the rise of hate radio and demise of local news and public affairs programming across America. As for the “modernization” of financial services, suffice to say its effect proved even more devastating. Clinton signed and still defends both bills with seeming enthusiasm.
The Telecommunications Act subverted anti-trust principles traceable to Wilson. The financial services bill gutted Glass-Steagall, FDR’s historic banking reform. You’d think such reversals would spark intra-party debate but Democrats made barely a peep. Nader was a vocal critic of both bills. Democrats, he said, were betraying their heritage and, not incidentally, undoing his life’s work. No one wanted to hear it. When Democrats noticed him again in 2000 the only question they thought to ask was, what’s got into Ralph? Such is politics in the land of the lotus eaters.
The furor over Nader arose partly because issues of economic and political power had, like Nader himself, grown invisible to Democrats. As Democrats continued on the path that led from Coehlo to Clinton to Obama, issues attendant to race, culture and gender came to define them. Had they nominated a pro-lifer in 2000 and Gloria Steinem run as an independent it’s easy to imagine many who berated Nader supporting her. Postmortems would have cited the party’s abandonment of principle as a reason for its defeat. But Democrats hooked on corporate cash and consultants with long lists of corporate clients were less attuned to Nader’s issues.
Democrats today defend the triage liberalism of social service spending but limit their populism to hollow phrase mongering (fighting for working families, Main Street not Wall Street). The rank and file seem oblivious to the party’s long Wall Street tryst. Obama’s economic appointees are the most conservative of any Democratic president since Grover Cleveland but few Democrats seem to notice, or if they notice, to care.
This also happened along side a group of democratic senators–including Joe Biden–that helped seat the 5 generic, oddball Catholic men that threaten everything the country stands for by deciding almost SCOTUS decisions in oddball Catholic ways. (You have to wonder if they listen at all to the current Pope.) Additionally, things have gotten so right wing in the diplomacy sector that John Kerry and Barack Obama’s state department seem to be tilting in the same direction as the neocon-infested, apartheid loving Israeli government of Bibi the Butcher of Gaza.
This certainly isn’t the party of my FDR-loving Great Grandmother Nancy Anna Chisholm Williams whose father and uncle blazed the west with the Chisholm Trail and who lived and died a Depression surviving Okie. Big political interests keep driving the Democrats into very undemocratic places.
The Obama administration deserves much of the blame for the failure of the latest round of Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.
It had originally been hoped that the United States would present a binding framework along the lines of what moderate Israeli and Palestinian political leaders had agreed to in unofficial talks in Geneva in 2003: Israel would recognize a Palestinian state based roughly on the pre-1967 borders with mutual territorial swaps, which would leave the Palestinians with 22 percent of historic Palestine and allow Israel to keep the remaining 78 percent; the Palestinian state would be demilitarized and all irregular militias disarmed; illegal settlements in occupied Palestinian territory near the Israeli border—encompassing close to 80 percent of the settlers—would be incorporated into Israel while settlers in the more remote settlements would be required to return to Israel; there would be no right of return for Palestinian refugees to Israel, but there would be international assistance in helping them resettle in the new Palestinian state; and some Israeli troops would remain along border crossings between the Palestinian state and its Arab neighbors, eventually to be replaced by international forces.
The Palestinian government agreed to these terms. Israel rejected them. Rather than make public this framework, and thereby hope the Israeli public would pressure its right-wing government to compromise, the Obama administration instead insisted that “both sides” had shown a lack of will to compromise.
An interview with an anonymous U.S. official close to the peace talks in an Israeli publication confirmed numerous other reports that, despite the Obama administration’s claims to the contrary, the Palestinian side made major concessions while the Israeli side essentially refused to make any, generally refusing to talk about any substantive issues.
A host of Democratic and Republican former officials—including a former national security adviser, secretary of defense, chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, trade representative, and undersecretary of state for political affairs—went on record arguing that the Obama administration would have to challenge the Israeli government’s hard line towards the Palestinians in order for the peace process to be successful. Unfortunately, the White House apparently had no interest in doing so.
Instead, Washington has focused on Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s refusal to give in to U.S. and Israeli demands that he recognize Israel as a “Jewish state.” While the Palestinian government, the Palestine Liberation Organization, and the ruling Fatah party have all recognized the state of Israel for more than 20 years, the Obama administration has effectively moved the goalposts by declaring that recognizing the Israeli government, acknowledging its right to exist, and providing security guarantees is not enough, insisting that the Palestinians explicitly recognize the state of Israel’s ethno-religious identity as well. No previous administration has put forward such a requirement. President Carter never made such demands on Egypt, nor did President Clinton require this of Jordan as a condition for their peace treaties with Israel. Abbas has said that Israel can identify itself however it wants, but—given that 20 percent of the Israeli population is ethnically Palestinian Arab—it would be politically impossible to agree to something that would acknowledge second-class status for other Palestinians.
Never in history has any country been required to recognize the ethnic or religious identity of another state as a condition for peace. It appears, then, that the Obama administration’s demand may have been an effort to destroy any chance of a peace agreement and leave an opening to blame the Palestinians—despite their agreement to virtually every other issue—for the failure of the peace process.
The failure may also come from President Obama’s trusting Secretary of State John Kerry, a longtime supporter of the Israeli right, to play such a key role in the peace talks. In 2004, Kerry unconditionally endorsed an Israeli plan to unilaterally and illegally annex large areas of the West Bank, leaving the Palestinians with only a series of small non-contiguous cantons surrounded by Israel as their “state,” a proposal denounced worldwide as a violation of the UN Charter, a series of UN Security Council resolutions, and basic principles of international law. Indeed, Kerry has long insisted that it was “unrealistic” to demand an Israeli withdrawal from its occupied territories. (By contrast, Kerry has demanded that Russia withdraw completely from Crimea, citing the illegality of any country acquiring “part or all of another state’s territory through coercion or force.”)
A Democratic administration is basically supporting an apartheid state replete with ethnic cleansing. Under what world does a secular, U.S. democracy support an apartheid-creating theocracy that won’t follow any agreements it made previously? Why are we the lone country cowering in the corner with a government gone genocidal instead of searching out the country’s numerous moderates and secular leaders and finding a path to coexistance? It truly worries me that former SOS Hillary Clinton who went on Fareed Zakaria’s show on Sunday may continue down this road of letting huge political donors outweigh solutions and fairness. Yet, her interview sounded like there’s some key differences between Kerry’s handling of this situation and the previous problems handled by Clinton. Is she distancing herself from her former boss and signalling that things will be different with her in charge? Will US domestic and foreign policy stop lurching to the right?
ZAKARIA: Bibi Netanyahu…
ZAKARIA: You say you had a complicated, and it sounded like a difficult relationship with him.
CLINTON: Well, I have to say, I’ve known Bibi a long time. And I have a very good relationship with him, in part because we can yell at each other and we do. And I was often the designated yeller. Something would happen, a new settlement announcement would come and I would call him up, “What are you doing, you’ve got to stop this.” And we understood each other, because I know how hard it is to be the leader of a relatively small country that is under constant pressure, and does face a lot of legitimate threats to its existence from those around it. And I also care deeply about how Israel is able not just to survive, but thrive, and just fundamentally disagreed with Bibi in the ’90s that I was in favor of a two-state solution. I was the first person associated with any administration to say that out loud. And he did not. But then when he came back in in 2009, he did. And I’ve sat with him, as you and I are sitting, and I really believed that if he thought he could get adequate security guarantees for a long enough period of time, he would be able to resolve everything with the exception of Jerusalem, which is the hardest issue. You can get borders and if you can figure out how to do security within those borders, some of which may require having IDF and international forces in the Jordan Valley, for example, then if you could move toward a state and leave Jerusalem to be worked on, because that’s the hardest issue for all sides.
ZAKARIA: But, you know, he gave an interview recently to, I think it was The Times of Israel where he said there are no circumstances under which we will ever relinquish security control of the area west of the Jordan, meaning, the West Bank. That sounds like it’s a – it’s going back on his acceptance of the two-state solution.
CLINTON: Well, Fareed, I see that as an – as an opening negotiating position, because I’ve had the private one-on-one conversations and the private conversations with him sitting there and – and Mahmoud Abbas sitting there and George Mitchell sitting there. And I know that Abbas, in my conversations, was willing to entertain a number of years where there could be some continuing security. Remember, the IDF – the Israel Defense Forces – have a working relationship with the Palestinian Authority security forces, which have been incredibly professional. We’ve helped to provide training, as has Jordan and others, and the positions that Netanyahu has taken. Now, once they take a position, and I know the years that Abbas has said are – are permitted and – and I know the years that Bibi has demanded, you’re in a negotiation. But if there’s no process going on, which is why we can’t even leave the vacuum of no process, despite how incredibly frustrating it is, then, of course Abbas is going to say never, not under any circumstances, and Bibi is going to say absolutely forever.
ZAKARIA: In 2009, you said that you wanted Israel settlement activity to stop. In fact, you were pretty blunt. You said no exceptions.
ZAKARIA: You write in the book that that was a tactical mistake because it made on – Bibi Netanyahu get even more hardline.
ZAKARIA: But Martin Indyk has just resigned as the you know, the kind of – the sherpa of the peace process. And he says that the immediate trigger, in his view, there were many, but was the fact that the Palestinians looked at the Israeli continued settlement activity…
ZAKARIA: – and said these guys are not serious, we’re never going to be able to get a state…
ZAKARIA: – look at what they’re doing.
CLINTON: This is my biggest complaint, with the Israeli government. I am a strong supporter of Israel, a strong supporter of their right to defense themselves. But the continuing settlements, which have been denounced by successive American administrations on both sides of the aisle, are clearly a terrible signal to send, if, at the same time, you claim you’re looking for a two-state solution. Now, when I was negotiating and I had been able to put together three face-to-face meetings between Netanyahu and Abbas, it was clear that if we were working off the ’67 borders, which was our stated position that President Obama had outlined, some of the settlements would be within any responsible drawing of borders for Israel. But a number of them would not. And those that would not would have to be either dismantled or live under Palestinian rule. There are deep wells of mistrust and misunderstanding on both sides. And what I’ve urged the Israelis to do is do more to help the Palestinians in the West Bank right now. Don’t monopolize the water. Don’t make it difficult to build. So even while we’re struggling over the end issues that would resolve the conflict, like borders, don’t make life so miserable, you know, because that’s not any way to begin to try to deal with the mistrust. You know, the longer I do this, Fareed, the more convinced I am that mistrust and misunderstanding are often the real fundamental obstacles to bringing people together. And that means that people from both sides of whatever divide it is, whether it’s Israeli, Palestinian, you know, Russian-speaking, Ukraine-speaking, whatever it might be, people have to start listening and working together to build habits of cooperation that might possibly lead to greater trust.
There are a number of articles where you read recent interviews with Hillary where she sounds more and more like a candidate these days. I want to hear that Hillary will take us back to democracy for all. Not just for those who can purchase it. Here’s Hillary on the US Border situation.
In a smart move, Hillary Clinton firmed up her position on the crisis in an interview that aired over the weekend — in a manner that, intentionally or not, sharpened the contrast with the position of most Republicans.
Speaking to Fusion’s Jorge Ramos, Clinton came out against any changes to the 2008 trafficking law, which Republicans are seeking to expedite deportations of arriving minors as a condition for supporting any money to address the debacle.
“I don’t agree that we should change the law,” Clinton told Ramos. She added that she wanted a more strenuous effort to distinguish between “migrant” children and “refugees,” to ensure that those who genuinely qualify for humanitarian relief in the U.S. obtain it. “I’m advocating an appropriate procedure, well funded by the Congress, which they are resisting doing, so that we can make individual decisions,” Clinton said. “We should be setting up a system in Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador, to screen kids over there, before they get in the hands of coyotes.”
In opposing changes to the 2008 law, Clinton has placed herself a bit to the left of even Obama, who initially signaled openness to such changes before backtracking after Congressional Dems objected. And Clinton is also clarifying her previous suggestion that the kids should be “sent back.”
“Like Pelosi and Reid, she’s realized that the tough line of President Obama – change the law, send ‘em back – is not the position of most Democratic voters and lawmakers,” immigration advocate Frank Sharry tells me. “She’s repositioned herself. Smart.”
Is it likely Hillary will move us back to more traditional Democratic policies or is she likely to continue the rightward drift of elected Democratic Leaders like Obama and even Bill Clinton? A recent poll shows that Hillary is popular with white voters; more so than a lot of Democratic pols before her.
This entire idea of having a crazy right wing nut of GOP while Democrats continue to cater to neocons and plutocrats still worries me. We use to have two functioning parties that represented fairly diverse groups of voters. It wasn’t all sweetness and light, but there wasn’t such a concentration of policy that benefited so few coming out of them both. They also did the business of the people. Now we still have two parties. It’s just that one represents crazy religionists and whacked out billionaire libertarians and the other one that occasionally does something for the common american still is likely to slide further to the right to attract rich, powerful donors.
So, that’s what’s on my mind. What’s on your reading and blogging list today?
I’m having another one of those mornings. Once again, I woke up with that feeling of surreality–the world can’t be as strange as it seems, can it?
Lots of allegedly intelligent, liberal Americans have been freaking out for months about revelations leaked by Edward Snowden that the NSA spies on foreign countries in order to protect U.S. national security. Snowden and his public relations handler Glenn Greenwald are heroes to these people despite the fact that Greenwald apparently sold Snowden’s remaining secrets to the highest bidder–a libertarian, pro-corporate billionaire named Pierre Omidyar. More on this story later.
None of us likes the idea of being spied upon, but at least the President of the U.S. must be getting the best security money can buy, right?
I’m afraid not. It’s still possible for a person suffering from schizophrenia to get onto a stage filled with world leaders and stand shoulder-to-shoulder with President Obama and wave his arms around in some kind of meaningless pantomime. From this morning’s Boston Globe: Interpreter for Mandela event: I was hallucinating.
JOHANNESBURG (AP) — The man accused of faking sign interpretation next to world leaders at Nelson Mandela’s memorial told a local newspaper that he was hallucinating and hearing voices.
Thamsanqa Jantjie did not describe his qualifications for being a sign language interpreter, but told The Star he works for an interpreting company that paid him $85 for interpreting Tuesday’s event. He told Radio 702 Thursday he’s receiving treatment for schizophrenia and had an episode while on stage.
Watch video of the performance at the link.
The man accused of faking sign interpretation while standing alongside world leaders like U.S. President Barack Obama at Nelson Mandela’s memorial service said Thursday he hallucinated that angels were entering the stadium, suffers from schizophrenia and has been violent in the past.
Thamsanqa Jantjie said in a 45-minute interview with The Associated Press that his hallucinations began while he was interpreting and that he tried not to panic because there were “armed policemen around me.” He added that he was once hospitalized in a mental health facility for more than one year.
Jatjie knew he had to do his best to act normal, so he waved his arms around and pretended to be interpreting the speeches of numerous world leaders, including Obama.
“What happened that day, I see angels come to the stadium … I start realizing that the problem is here. And the problem, I don’t know the attack of this problem, how will it comes. Sometimes I react violent on that place. Sometimes I will see things that chase me,” Jantjie said.
“I was in a very difficult position,” he added. “And remember those people, the president and everyone, they were armed, there was armed police around me. If I start panicking I’ll start being a problem. I have to deal with this in a manner so that I mustn’t embarrass my country.”
Asked how often he had become violent, he said “a lot” while declining to provide details.
So exactly who hired Jantjie? It’s a mystery. BBC News reports: Owners of Mandela ‘fake’ interpreter firm ‘vanish’ The BBC is also using a different spelling for the schizophrenic interpreter’s name.
Hendrietta Bogopane-Zulu apologised to the deaf community for the poor quality of interpretation given by Thamsanqa Dyantyi from SA Interpreters.
“He is Xhosa speaking. The English was a bit too much for him,” she said.
What is this man’s real name? I don’t know, but–get this–Bogopane-Zulu “did not rule out hiring him again”!
During a press conference, Ms Bogopane-Zulu, the deputy minister for women, children and people with disabilities, admitted that a mistake had been made but said there was no reason for the country to be embarrassed.
“There are as many as a hundred sign language dialects,” she said, to explain the difficulties he faced.
“He started well and later he became tired. Guidelines say we must switch interpreters every 20 minutes.”
She did not rule out employing him in some circumstances again.
Except the company she hired him through has “vanished into thin air.” And why didn’t they switch to other interpreters? The article doesn’t say, but it does say the man has interpreted at important events in the past.
And then there’s the Republican outrage over Obama shaking hands with Raul Castro at Mandela’s funeral. WTF? From Time: Here’s 14 People Freaking Out On Twitter After Barack Obama and Raul Castro Shook Hands. What was Obama supposed to do–slap Castro across the face with a glove and challenge him to a duel? (Actually some of the tweeters were being sarcastic and Time apparently missed the point.) I think cartoonist Bill Day had the best response.
Was Michelle Obama annoyed when her husband took that selfie at Nelson Mandela’s memorial service? Roberto Schmidt, the Agence France-Presse photographer who snapped the photo of the president, British Prime Minister David Cameron and Danish Prime Minister Helle Thorning Schmidt, says no.
“I later read on social media that Michelle Obama seemed to be rather peeved on seeing the Danish prime minister take the picture,” Schmidt wrote on AFP’s blog. “But photos can lie. In reality, just a few seconds earlier the first lady was herself joking with those around her, Cameron and Schmidt included. Her stern look was captured by chance.”
The photo, which immediately became an Internet sensation, is only one piece of the day’s story; the leaders had a variety of expressions during the service and were acting “like human beings, like me and you,” he wrote. “I doubt anyone could have remained totally stony faced for the duration of the ceremony, while tens of thousands of people were celebrating in the stadium.”
But none of that matters, because the corporate media has decided that whatever Obama does must be harshly criticized. CNN even brought on Donald Trump to opine about Obama’s perceived gaffes, unemployment, and Obamacare. If that isn’t surreal, what is?
Here’s more strangeness: Secretary of State John Kerry expressed “disgust” at the government of Ukraine for cracking down on protesters. Here’s the official statement:
The United States expresses its disgust with the decision of Ukrainian authorities to meet the peaceful protest in Kyiv’s Maidan Square with riot police, bulldozers, and batons, rather than with respect for democratic rights and human dignity. This response is neither acceptable nor does it befit a democracy.
Last week in Brussels and Moldova, I underscored publicly the importance of all sides avoiding violence and called on President Yanukovych to fulfill the aspirations of the Ukranian people. We put the government on notice about our concern.
As Vice President Biden made clear to President Yanukovych during their phone call yesterday, respect for democratic principles, including freedom of assembly, is fundamental to the United States’ approach to Ukraine. This is a universal value not just an American one. For weeks, we have called on President Yanukovych and his government to listen to the voices of his people who want peace, justice and a European future. Instead, Ukraine’s leaders appear tonight to have made a very different choice.
We call for utmost restraint. Human life must be protected. Ukrainian authorities bear full responsibility for the security of the Ukrainian people.
As church bells ring tonight amidst the smoke in the streets of Kyiv, the United States stands with the people of Ukraine. They deserve better.
Has Kerry forgotten how peaceful “Occupy” protesters were treated in the streets of multiple U.S. cities just a couple of years ago? Some reports on the crackdowns (from foreign sources):
The Guardian: Police crack down on ‘Occupy Wall Street’ protests.
AlJazeera: Fierce crackdown on ‘Occupy Oakland’ protest
Getting back to the Greenwald-Snowden-Omidyar story, the attacks on Greenwald have moved from the usual critics to previous members of the Greenwald-Snowden cheering section. First Sarah Harrison–who accompanied Snowden from Hong Kong to Russia and then stayed with him for months gave an interview on the subject to a German newspaper. The Guardian reports, WikiLeaks’ Sarah Harrison: ‘How can you take Pierre Omidyar seriously?’
The WikiLeaks staffer and Snowden collaborator Sarah Harrison has criticised Pierre Omidyar, the eBay founder who is setting up a new journalism venture with Glenn Greenwald, Laura Poitras and Jeremy Scahill, for his involvement in the 2010 financial blockade against WikiLeaks.
In her first interview since leaving Moscow for Berlin last month, Harrison told German news weekly Stern: “How can you take something seriously when the person behind this platform went along with the financial boycott against WikiLeaks?”
Harrison was referring to the decision in December 2010 by PayPal, which is owned by eBay, to suspend WikiLeaks’ donation account and freeze its assets after pressure from the US government. The company’s boycott, combined with similar action taken by Visa and Mastercard, left WikiLeaks facing a funding crisis.
As for Greenwald’s decision to sell out to Omidyar,
Referring to Omidyar’s plans to set up a new media organisation, in which the former Guardian writer Greenwald – who wrote a number of stories from the Snowden revelations – will play a central part, Harrison said: “If you set up a new media organisation which claims to do everything for press freedom, but you are part of a blockade against another media organisation, then that’s hard for us to take it seriously. But I hope that they stick to their promises”.
Next, Greenwald was hit with an even harsher attack on his journalistic ethics by former FBI whistleblower Sibel Edmonds: Checkbook Journalism & Leaking to the Highest Bidders. It’s a pretty powerful critique.
A government whistleblower obtains over 50,000 pages of documents that implicate the government in severely illegal and unconstitutional practices. This whistleblower risks everything, including fleeing the country, in order to leak these documents and let the public know how its government has been breaking the nation’s laws and violating their rights. So he goes to another country and then entrusts all this evidence to a few reporters and wanna-be journalists. Why does he do that? He does it so that these reporters will present all this information to the public: not only those in the United States, but everyone all over the world. Think about it. Why else would someone risk everything, including his own life, to obtain and leak such documents? Are you thinking? Because what would be the point to all this, to taking all these risks, if 99% of these documents remain secret and hidden from the public? Ludicrous, right?
Now, here is what happens next: The whistleblower hands over these documents, and goes through a surreal escape journey. So surreal that even Hollywood could not have matched it. Of the handful of reporters who were entrusted with 50,000 documents, a few do nothing. By that I mean absolutely nothing. A couple from this entrusted group does a little bit more. They meet with a few mainstream media outlets, they spend many hours around the table with their mega companies’ mega attorneys and U.S. government mega representatives (the same government that is implicated in these documents).
Edmonds notes that Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger has admitted that only 1% of the Snowden material has been published.
The main wanna-be reporter begins his relentless pursuit of high dollars in return for … for what? In return for exclusive interviews where he would discuss some of this material. In return for a very lucrative book deal where he would expose a few extra pages of these 50,000-page documents. In return for a partnership with and extremely high salary from a Mega Corporation (think 1%) where he would … hmmmm, well, it is not very clear: maybe in return for sitting on and never releasing some of these documents, or, releasing a few select pages?
That’s right. The culprit is able to use his role in the whistleblower case, and his de facto ownership of the whistleblower’s 50,000-page evidence, to gain huge sums of money, fame, a mega corporate position, book and movie deals … yet, making sure that the public would never see more than a few percent of the incriminating evidence.
There’s much more scathing commentary at the link to Edmonds’ blog. Of course, Greenwald used his twitter timeline to call Edmonds “stupid,” and at the same time failed to respond to any of her criticisms. Of course Glenn had already had a bad day after Time chose the Pope as “Person of the Year” instead of Snowden.
So those are some of the stories that gave me that feeling of surreality this morning. What are you hearing and reading today? Please post your links in the comment thread, and enjoy your Thursday!
How Wal-Mart’s Chairman Burned Through Millions Of Dollars In A Matter Of Seconds From Business Insider
It took Wal-Mart Chairman Rob Walton a matter of seconds to burn through millions of dollars on a race track last year.
He was reportedly tearing around a corner in his rare Shelby Daytona Cobra Coupe, one of five ever made, when he ran it off the track and wrecked it.
The car has been estimated to be worth as much as $15 million, according to The Los Angeles Times, and it likely cost him a couple million dollars to fix it.
The Waltons are without question one of the wealthiest families in the world. Forbes estimates that the net worth of just six of the family members is more than $144 billion, which is greater than the combined net worth of Bill Gates and Warren Buffett.
Rob Walton’s father, Samuel Walton, founded Wal-Mart in 1962. The family now owns a 50.9% stake in the company that’s worth $131 billion and paid out $2.5 billion in dividends last year. The dividends alone would be enough to pay every one of Wal-Mart’s 1.3 million U.S. employees nearly $2,000 in cash.
Consider Rob Walton, for example: Besides houses in Aspen, Colo., and Paradise Valley, Ariz., at least a half dozen vintage cars, and the recent purchase of 1,500 acres of land in Hawaii for a planned resort, you would be hard-pressed to find many signs of his outrageous wealth.
and let’s not forget:
While the average wage of Wal-Mart associates is the subject of some dispute (OUR Walmart claims that most make less than $9 per hour, an estimate based on data from IBISWorld and Glassdoor.com, while Wal-Mart pegs the figure at $11.83), there’s little doubt that many of the store’s workers are stuck below the poverty line, currently $23,550 for a family of four.
A study by congressional Democrats suggested that low wages at a single Wal-Mart could be costing taxpayers as much as $900,000 per year, due to employees using programs like food stamps and Medicaid.
No, BB, it isn’t just you. There are just a lot of people in the world that need a lesson. Speaking of which …
Rush Limbaugh is going after Pope Francis just in time for the Christmas season.
The outspoken conservative pundit blasted the Pope this week after the pontiff released a new 50,000 word document, titled “Evangelli Gaudium” (The Joy of Gospel), calling for church reforms and criticizing certain ideas of capitalism.
Limbaugh, whose nationally syndicated radio show is no stranger to controversial rhetoric, called Francis’ latest statement “pure Marxism.”
Limbaugh’s own statement, titled “It’s Sad How Wrong Pope Francis Is (Unless It’s A Deliberate Mistranslation By Leftists)“ goes on to question whether the pontiff was actually the author of the document.“It’s sad because this pope makes it very clear he doesn’t know what he’s talking about when it comes to capitalism and socialism and so forth,” Limbaugh wrote.
Would you like to discuss who is waging the war on christian “values” now or should we just read Snowflake Snookie’s selling really badly kid’s book? Or perhaps watch Rick Santorum’s movie? Shop for gifts at Walmart?
Yes, there is a classwar, and 99.9% of us are losing it!!
Yes, it seems that Halloween is coming early this year. All around us we see tricks being played out. Some are the sort of tricks played on people who must really be dumb as dirt to fall for them.
Progressives and libertarians came together in Washington on Saturday to protest widespread government surveillance, taking a tentative step towards creating a coalition that isn’t as awkward as the pairing might appear.
Organized by the coalition Stop Watching Us, which includes dozens of groups ranging from Internet freedom advocates to Tea Party organizations, the rally attracted hundreds of people to the Capitol Reflecting Pool to protest the electronic surveillance by the National Security Agency revealed by Edward Snowden this year. The crowd included Occupy protesters, Ron Paul libertarians, and even strict constitutionalist Oathkeepers. Yet despite some recent grumbling on the left about having to work with libertarians on the issue, attendees and speakers on both sides said they were happy to unite around a common enemy.
Seriously, who the hell would want to be associated with those crazy-ass Oathkeepers? (That link goes to a page over at Southern Poverty Law Center, Oathkeepers are a hate group you know…) Actually, these are not dumb people, that would be an insult to the stupid folks that do have low IQ as an excuse to become partnered with assholes like Ron Paul. So who spoke at this thing?
Onstage, speakers ranged from progressives like former congressman Dennis Kucinich to libertarians like Johnson and Rep. Justin Amash, as well as NSA whistleblower Thomas Drake and Jessalyn Radack of the Government Accountability Project, who visited Snowden in Russia two weeks ago and read a statement attributed to him for the crowd. Snowden was a central figure in absentia at the protest, with most people holding signs or wearing t-shirts emblazoned with his face.
The article says the rally was mostly “libertarian” in nature…but these are a few of the quotes you should not miss:
A recent article in Salon by progressive journalist Tom Watson had ruffled feathers by calling on liberals to boycott the really[sic] because of its libertarian elements. “I cannot support this coalition or the rally,” Watson wrote. “It is fatally compromised by the prominent leadership and participation of the Libertarian Party and other libertarian student groups; their hardcore ideology stands in direct opposition to almost everything I believe in as a social democrat.” Watson described the Stop Watching Us coalition as “fatally infected.”
Code Pink’s Medea Benjamin rejected this premise in an interview with BuzzFeed next to the main speaker’s stage .
“Left and right doesn’t mean anything anymore,” Benjamin said. Democrats and Republicans, she said, “both like the status quo. Libertarians or leftists are people who want to defend the values of this country and not have party politics and I think we’ve started coming around together on many of these issues.”
“I think that strange bedfellows around particular issues is the way that change has happened throughout history,” she said.
Uh…first off, that Medea Benjamin needs to STFU. Its sounds to me like she is fatally ridiculous. I got a question for her. If left and right doesn’t mean anything anymore…How does she feel about the way the “right” values her uterus? Hmmmm…..lets see her libertarian friends get out and defend that part of this country…the 50 percent vagina part!
But wait, and hear it from an actual idiot himself, here’s another quote:
By all appearances at the Stop Watching Us rally, they did — though a bit warily. John McGloin, an Occupy protester from New York who described himself as a “sometimes” progressive, said he could accept working with libertarians to try and curtail government surveillance as long as they weren’t “people who think we should all fend for ourselves — that’s where I draw the line.”“We definitely need all the help we can get,” McGloin said.
Alright, up next: A few items on Rural America.
From the “You might be a redneck” theme of news reports, really the headline should say it all: Georgia man runs into burning home to save beer | abc13.com
COLUMBUS, GA (KTRK) — “I went back into the house like a dummy.” That’s what one man in Georgia said after he risked his life to save beer from his fridge while his house was on fire.
The flames broke out while six adults and two young children were watching TV. Everyone quickly made it outside safely.
But then Walter Serpit, who walks with a cane, rushed back into the burning building to save something near and dear to him.
“I told them to get the kids out and everything, and me myself, being an alcoholic, I was trying to get my beer out,” he said. “You feel me?”
Now, remember what I said up top about the folks who have a real excuse for partnering with those libertarian assholes? You feel me?
Walter made it out with a couple of cold ones, and the fire department made a statement that you should never run back into a burning building…period.
That story is actually sad and pathetic.
More bad news on the Obamacare front, from the New York Times: Health Care Law Fails to Lower Prices for Rural Areas
As technical failures bedevil the rollout of President Obama’s health care law, evidence is emerging that one of the program’s loftiest goals — to encourage competition among insurers in an effort to keep costs low — is falling short for many rural Americans.
While competition is intense in many populous regions, rural areas and small towns have far fewer carriers offering plans in the law’s online exchanges. Those places, many of them poor, are being asked to choose from some of the highest-priced plans in the 34 states where the federal government is running the health insurance marketplaces, a review by The New York Times has found.
Of the roughly 2,500 counties served by the federal exchanges, more than half, or 58 percent, have plans offered by just one or two insurance carriers, according to an analysis by The Times of county-level data provided by the Department of Health and Human Services. In about 530 counties, only a single insurer is participating.
The analysis suggests that the ambitions of the Affordable Care Act to increase competition have unfolded unevenly, at least in the early going, and have not addressed many of the factors that contribute to high prices. Insurance companies are reluctant to enter challenging new markets, experts say, because medical costs are high, dominant insurers are difficult to unseat, and powerful hospital systems resist efforts to lower rates.
“There’s nothing in the structure of the Affordable Care Act which really deals with that problem,” said John Holahan, a fellow at the Urban Institute, who noted that many factors determine costs in a given market. “I think that all else being equal, premiums will clearly be higher when there’s not that competition.”
And that means that for those people who live out in areas like Banjoville, they are going to be hit with higher premiums because of lack of competition.
In rural Baker County, Ga., where there is only one insurer, a 50-year-old shopping for a silver plan would pay at least $644.05 before federal subsidies. (Plans range in price and levels of coverage from bronze to platinum, with silver a middle option.) A 50-year-old in Atlanta, where there are four carriers, could pay $320.06 for a comparable plan. Federal subsidies could significantly reduce monthly premiums for people with low incomes.
Counties with one carrier are mostly concentrated in the South. Nearly all of the counties in Mississippi and Alabama, for example, are served by just one insurer, according to The Times’s analysis. Other states with scarce competition include Maine, West Virginia, North Carolina and Alaska.
That is a long article, and there is an interactive map at the link too, so take a look at it.
Since we are on the subject of healthcare, what about an article on madness…with a witchy twist: 7 Countries That Still Kill Accused Witches
You know how the long-ago witch hunts were stupid and hateful? What a relief those days are over.
Except they’re not. In many countries, people are still killed on suspicion of witchcraft. United Nations experts cautioned in 2009 that murders of women and children accused of sorcery were on the rise. Following are just a few of many examples from around the world.
1. Saudi Arabia
Saudi Arabia’s religious police department has an official Anti-Witchcraft Unit that it dispatches to catch sorcerers and break their spells. In 2007, the Saudis executed an accused sorcerer. A woman awaiting the death penalty for alleged witchcraft died in prison.
Like the New England witch hunters of yore, those in Saudi Arabia use magic as a convenient excuse to silence inconvenient people. Accusations of sorcery have been leveled against foreign women working as domestics for Saudi families who charge their employers with sexual assault, according to Saudi Arabia expert Christoph Wilcke.
This east African country killed approximately 600 elderly women on charges of witchcraft just two years ago. The Pew Forum on Religious and Public Life found a strong and pervasive belief in magic among Tanzanians. It sometimes leads to reverence rather than murder. One woman who claims to be a witch charges between $20 and $120 for services including medical cures and exorcisms — in a country where the average income is under two dollars a day.
The other five countries are more disturbing in their descriptions, so you can read them at the link if you like.
Hey, since that last article was on the morbid side, let’s have another: What would you choose for your last meal? Final food choices of executed criminals revealed… and they throw up a few oddball selections
Florida has revealed the final food choices of executed criminals, throwing up a number of eccentric final meals in the process.
While many of those spending their last day alive decide to go for the final indulgence of a heaving plate of fatty, fried food and a giant bowl of ice cream, others opt for more Spartan fare – requesting homemade sandwiches or just a simple cup of coffee.
That is one you need to click and read. Wow….
I want to bring you updates on a few other stories that we have discussed on the blog the past couple of weeks, and this will be in a link dump:
New York civil rights leaders on Saturday decried the city’s brewing “shop-and-frisk” scandal, in which major retailers Barneys and Macy’s are accused of profiling black shoppers who say they were detained by police after buying luxury items.
A magistrate court judge in Tennessee who forced a couple to change the name of their child from Messiah to Martin has been cited for religious bias by a state ethics panel and will face a disciplinary hearing.
Lu Ann Ballew, a child support magistrate in Cocke County of eastern Tennessee, had been settling a dispute about child support and the last name of Messiah Deshawn MCCullough, the child of Jaleesa Martin, and Jawaan McCullough. Neither parent had expressed interest in changing the child’s first name.
Several weeks ago, on September 24th, Popular Scienceannounced that it would banish comments from its Web site. The editors argued that Internet comments, particularly anonymous ones, undermine the integrity of science and lead to a culture of aggression and mockery that hinders substantive discourse. “Even a fractious minority wields enough power to skew a reader’s perception of a story,” wrote the online-content director Suzanne LaBarre, citing a recent study from the University of Wisconsin-Madison as evidence. While it’s tempting to blame the Internet, incendiary rhetoric has long been a mainstay of public discourse. Cicero, for one, openly called Mark Antony a “public prostitute,” concluding, “but let us say no more of your profligacy and debauchery.” What, then, has changed with the advent of online comments?
Anonymity, for one thing. According to a September Pew poll, a quarter of Internet users have posted comments anonymously. As the age of a user decreases, his reluctance to link a real name with an online remark increases; forty per cent of people in the eighteen-to-twenty-nine-year-old demographic have posted anonymously. One of the most common critiques of online comments cites a disconnect between the commenter’s identity and what he is saying, a phenomenon that the psychologist John Suler memorably termed the “online disinhibition effect.” The theory is that the moment you shed your identity the usual constraints on your behavior go, too—or, to rearticulate the 1993 Peter Steiner cartoon, on the Internet, nobody knows you’re not a dog.
I’ve got a few on Fukushima alone:
Some of those are long articles, so they will take some time.
What did our ancestors sound like in the 50th century B.C.? University of Kentucky linguistics lecturer Andrew M. Byrd examines ancient Indo-European languages (such as Latin, Greek, Sanskrit and Old English) and the language from which they derive, Proto-Indo-European, or PIE.
PIE is the prehistoric ancestor of hundreds of languages, including English, Spanish, Greek, Farsi, Armenian, and more. The language is typically thought to have been in use around 7,000 years ago, though some suspect it was spoken at an even earlier time.
According to some archaeologists and the majority of linguists like Byrd, the people who spoke PIE were located just to the north of the Black Sea and were likely the first to tame horses, and perhaps even to invent the wheel.
The primary focus of Byrd’s work is to understand what this language would have sounded when it was spoken millennia ago. Byrd says this all begins by looking at similarities in other languages.
“We start by gathering words, such as ‘king,’ from languages that we think are related and then find the common threads among them,” he said. “When you bring these words together, you’ll see that all of the words meaning ‘king’ or ‘ruler’ begin with something like an ‘r’ followed by a long vowel. Through examining trends in each language, you can tell which parts of the word have changed over time, and working backward from that … you can peer into the past and get an idea of what PIE might have sounded like.”
I know that BB worked with language in children for her doctorate, so that article will be something cool for her to read about. This second one will be just a joke…because she is my number one when it comes to grammar…and boy do I need her help…
Are you forever trolling the internet, commenting on posts with incorrect grammar? Do your friends consider you a “Grammar Nazi?” Well, you better put your money where your mouth is, and test your grammar skills using Grammatically Speaking, a quick little grammar game we found online!
Grammatically Speaking tests all your grammar know-how, from proper punctuation, to the proper use of “that” or “which” in a sentence. Our favorite part of the test is that it shows you what percentage of users got each question wrong – for example, people are particularly terrible at “it’s” vs. “its” and when to use “me” vs. “I.”
It is fortunate that I have BB to come and fix my post when my grammar is way…way off the mark. I tend to write like I talk, and then I never could grasp all that proper English stuff anyway.
This is all I have for you this morning. Have a wonderful day, and please leave a comment or two below…so, what are you thinking and reading about today?
Upcoming in the Contemporary Arts arena is the Istanbul Biennial. It may be an interesting event to watch, so I thought a little background on events preceding it might be useful given the recent unrest in Turkey. Some general information about the event:
The Wikipedia entry looks like its mostly lifted from the History tab on the Biennial website (see below). Click on the Curator’s tab to learn more about 13th Biennial’s curator, Fulya Erdmeci, her name will come up in later links:
Koç Holding will come up from time to time as well. Here’s their Wikipedia entry:
From the New Contemporary Blog:
The 13th Istanbul Biennial will be held between September 14 and November 10, 2013, with Fulya Erdemci as the curator and Bige Örer as the director. This year’s conceptual framework takes its name from one of poet Lale Müldür’s books: “Mom, am I barbarian?” The focal point of the biennial – which is sponsored by Koç Holding, one of the biggest holdings of the country – will be the notion of the public domain as a political forum. (İstanbul Foundation for Culture and Arts (İKSV) had a sponsorship agreement with Koç Holding to support five editions of the Istanbul Biennial over ten years, from 2006 through 2016.) The fact that a biennial with the aim to bring urban transformation policies to the table is being sponsored by Koç Holding became a topic of discussion once the conceptual framework was revealed.
The New Contemporary article is a good read for background on the Turkish Summer, analogue of sorts to the Arab Spring. The Biennial protests staged by independent Turkish artists, immediately preceded the Gezi Park movement. While Gezi Park/Taksim Square quickly evolved and then escalated into something significantly more awesome, initially its agenda was the one articulated by the Biennial protestors. And the Gezi Park movement never seemed to lose the essential artistic aspect, the “sophisticated populism” that characterized the Biennial Resistance. With the added intensity of the Turkish government’s response to it, the Gezi movement morphed into a massive and severe indictment of Turkish governance. It is as if the entire nation convulsed in attempt to challenge the relevance of conservative governance for a nation grappling with modernity. But it was the Biennial protests, I think, that really set the stage for the “sophisticated populism” that energized Turkey.
I don’t know what I would call this other than “sophisticated populism.” It seems to be a similar spirit that energized the Gezi resistance:
The protestors wore t-shirts that said “Waiting for Barbarians,” turning their backs to show the writing, and read C. P. Cavafy’s poem “Waiting for the barbarians.” The aim was to counter Lale Müldür’s poem “Mom, am I a barbarian?” with another poem. The aim of the group is to show the economic power domain of urban transformation, according to the written statement.
Fleshing out the Biennial protests a little further:
Although the events that transpired over the summer at Taksim Square are likely well known, I’m including a few summaries for those who may have not kept up with it. I didn’t keep on top of it as it unfolded, but will have my eye on Istanbul this fall to see how the Biennial pans out. The following is a brief retrospective.
The following is a good read, but I take issue with this frame:
If you have been reading international news about the protests that started in Istanbul and have spread across Turkey, you may be under the false impression that this is an ideological battle between a secular piece of society and an Islamist Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, sparked by an insignificant event, the occupation of a city park. But the role of space in these outbreaks cannot be underestimated. As part of a project that would pedestrianize Taksim, Istanbul’s main square, the adjacent Gezi Park was to be demolished to build an Ottoman-via-Las Vegas Mall. The protest was an effort to save a park by occupying that very park; it was not a symbolic or ideological demonstration like the Occupy Wall Street movements, but a primal struggle between human bodies and bulldozers, that made the political discourse all the more potent.
What happened at Gezi Park wasn’t so localized; it spread to rural areas with a broader agenda, and it activated women in particular.
David Giocacchini from the Penn Libraries compiled an “archival guide” for the Gezi Park demonstrations with some pretty striking photo and video:
The Penn Guide:
I include the Penn Guide and the following short documentaries because I’ve taken offense to the hyperbolic slinging of the term “police state” currently steamrolling the media in reference to the U.S government. Police state rhetoric more often than not derives from the fear-inducing fringe that can’t bear the idea of American espionage and can’t quite grasp that Freedom of the Press is like every other right – subject to restriction. Associating the American apparatus for handling crime-terrorism to a police state only demeans the experiences of people in legitimate struggle against an institutionally oppressive police state. Also, to stimulate thought on the proper parallels between liberty infringement – the right to peaceable assembly and, of course, free speech.
A short film produced by OccupyGezi:
The video embedded in the following link is a bit lengthy, but well worth watching. Note the gas mask graphic in the Roar editorial – probably one of the most striking images of political art I’ve seen in a long time. I’m struck by its “realistic symbolism.” By that I mean this isn’t metaphorical or hyperbolic imagery – wearing of gas masks was a reality for the Gezi Park protestors. There is brief mention in the video of how the movement embraced humor and its opponent’s critique as a tool of identity and resistance. I draw attention to it because I think it is another example of what I previously termed “sophisticated populism.”
Turkey has been home or host to some of the most sophisticated and oldest civilizations the world has ever known. Its unique geographical position facilitated an extraordinary tradition of multiculturalism all throughout ancient times. The Antikythera Device, for instance was probably derived and constructed in the great library city of Pergamum.
Whether it be known as Anatolia, Caria, Lycia, Lydia, the Land of the Hatti… what is now Turkey holds a special fascination for me. I find it ironic and a sad commentary that a land once the epicenter of global cross-culturalism is now on the vanguard of rejecting the predatory globalization which threatens all cultural heritage everywhere.
I’ll end with one final link that doesn’t speak to the events noted here directly, but is a marvelous illustration of Turkey’s current struggle to reach modernity – another irony given its ultra-sophisticated heritage in the Ancient world. The following is a Turkish film from 2011 and deserving as wide an audience as it can find entitled, Once Upon a Time in Anatolia. It isn’t an American-paced movie by any stretch of the imagination. Appreciating it definitely requires patience. I watched it three times because of all that was woven into it. I’ll not say more than that for fear of spoiling the experience. Here’s the IMDb link for reference: