Archive | June, 2012

New NSA docs contradict 9/11 claims – 9/11 – Salon.com

20 Jun

Perhaps most damning are the documents showing that the CIA had bin Laden in its cross hairs a full year before 9/11 — but didn’t get the funding from the Bush administration White House to take him out or even continue monitoring him. The CIA materials directly contradict the many claims of Bush officials that it was aggressively pursuing al-Qaida prior to 9/11, and that nobody could have predicted the attacks. “I don’t think the Bush administration would want to see these released, because they paint a picture of the CIA knowing something would happen before 9/11, but they didn’t get the institutional support they needed,” says Barbara Elias-Sanborn, the NSA fellow who edited the materials.

via New NSA docs contradict 9/11 claims – 9/11 – Salon.com.

Wiping out for-profit schools – Student Loan Debt – Salon.com

20 Jun

On a conference call with reporters Wednesday morning, Sen. Kay Hagan, D-N.C., promoted a bill she has introduced that would prohibit for-profit colleges from using taxpayer-funded financial aid for marketing, recruiting or advertising purposes.

Make no mistake, Hagan’s bill, if it becomes law, would cut for-profit schools off at their knees. The top 15 publicly traded for-profit colleges derive 85 percent of their revenue from federal financial aid. If they can’t spend that money on marketing, recruiting and advertising, then they effectively can’t market, recruit or advertise — or at least not at anywhere near the scale they currently do.

via Wiping out for-profit schools – Student Loan Debt – Salon.com.

Jumper Protests Human Folly

20 Jun

The New York Times reports:

Racing regulators kept hearing the reports: trainers were giving their horses a powerful performance-enhancing potion drawn from the backs of a type of South American frog.

When asked for a comment, Jumper the Frog responded,”This is an outrage to frogs and horses everywhere. Have these humans no shame?”
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Jumper further stated that the Amphibian Protection Association is investigating rumors that members of the Board of Visitors of the University of Virginia have been licking frog backs in late night sessions in the gardens at Monticello. “If these rumors prove true,” Jumper remarked, “the consequences will be most grave. Humans must not be allowed to continue acting like narcissistic damn fools. Frankly, they’re stinking up the planet. They need to stop it. Right now.”

Ruy Teixeira Reviews Samuel Bowles And Herbert Gintis’s “A Cooperative Species” | The New Republic

19 Jun

The selfless gene (or, more likely, genes) allowed our ancestors to think and to act as a group, thereby outcompeting other chimp-like species—literally leaving them in the dust. Moreover, our cooperative nature allowed us to build ever more complex ways of interacting with one another, which led to further evolution of the traits that facilitate cooperation (referred to as “gene-culture coevolution”). The end result of this dynamic was civilization and, eventually, the globally interconnected society we live in today.

According to this view of human nature, we are defined by our sense of fairness, adherence to group norms, willingness to punish those who violate such norms, and to share and work for the good of the group. We are not a species of seven billion selfish individuals, uninterested in anything save our own welfare and willing to cheerfully break any rule and hurt any other individual to secure it. Indeed, we think of such people as sociopaths, and if their tendencies actually dominated humanity we would still be back on the savannah with the rest of the chimp-like species. This view, as it becomes more widely accepted and understood, should have enormous significance for economics, politics, and a wide range of public policy challenges.

via Ruy Teixeira Reviews Samuel Bowles And Herbert Gintis’s “A Cooperative Species” | The New Republic.

Aaron Swartz: Chris Hayes’ The Twilight of The Elites — Crooked Timber

18 Jun

We thought we would just simply pick out the best and raise them to the top, but once they got there they inevitably used their privilege to entrench themselves and their kids (inequality is, Hayes says, “autocatalytic”). Opening up the elite to more efficient competition didn’t make things more fair, it just legitimated a more intense scramble. The result was an arms race among the elite, pushing all of them to embrace the most unscrupulous forms of cheating and fraud to secure their coveted positions. As competition takes over at the high end, personal worth resolves into exchange value, and the elite power accumulated in one sector can be traded for elite power in another… This creates a unitary elite, detached from the bulk of society, yet at the same time even more insecure…

The result is that our elites are trapped in a bubble, where the usual pointers toward accuracy (unanimity, proximity, good faith) only lead them astray. And their distance from the way the rest of the country really lives makes it impossible for them to do their jobs justly—they just don’t get the necessary feedback. The only cure is to reduce economic inequality, a view that has surprisingly support among the population (clear majorities want to close the deficit by raising taxes on the rich, which is more than can be said for any other plan). And while Hayes is not a fan of heightening the contradictions, it is possible that the next crisis will bring with it the opportunity to win this change.

via Guest Review by Aaron Swartz: Chris Hayes’ The Twilight of The Elites — Crooked Timber.

Drone Warfare…Medea Benjamin’s new book reviewed by Lynn Feinerman | Tikkun Magazine

18 Jun

Illuminating the pivotal reason why her articulate book is so very timely, and so very much needed, she informs us that drones themselves are not silent like the press. They are not voiceless. They have a vocal advocacy group in Congress: The Congressional Unmanned Systems Caucus. Yes, these machines have their own Congressional caucus!

“It seems that, like corporations, robots are people too…” quips Medea Benjamin. That quip cuts deeply, to the underlying reality of our nation: Dwight D. Eisenhower cautioned us about it. He warned us back in the ’50′s that the US was not disarming after World War II. We chose instead to militarize in order to jump start a lagging post-war economy, sucking our taxes into obscene military budgets, with rampant corporate profiteering from “endless war” manufacture, and with a Congress and Executive branch going right along with the program.

The US is hooked on war. Its so-called “economy” is so tied into the vicious cycle of ravaging the world for oil, feeding the war machine with that oil and our taxes, then going out to ravage again for oil, that the problems of any number of innocent civilians it harms don’t really amount to a hill of beans in most media …as Bogart said in CASABLANCA.

via Drone Warfare…Medea Benjamin’s new book reviewed by Lynn Feinerman | Tikkun Magazine.

A Story About Truth, Tradition, Dialog, and Groovology

17 Jun

The following is a presentation of the Truth and Traditions Theatre of Polymorphic Politics, Jumper the Frog and Kong the Gorilla, proprietors. Since the adults are not getting the message, it’s in language suitable for five-year olds.

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* * * * * Continue reading

Rich Yeselson: Not With A Bang, But A Whimper: The Long, Slow Death Spiral Of America’s Labor Movement | The New Republic

15 Jun

…the cord connecting union organizing and activism to broad currents of the American public has been frayed nearly to the breaking point. Unions always had powerful enemies, but they also had a broad institutional legitimacy grounded in their ubiquitous presence within economics, politics, and even culture. (Who can imagine today a hit Broadway show like The Pajama Game of the 1950s, or a popular film like Norma Rae of the 1970s?) When union membership peaked in the mid 1950s at about 35 percent, it was disproportionately weighted to the Northeast, the Midwest, and California. But that meant that in those regions—the most populous in the country—either a worker was in a union himself/herself, had a family member in a union, or, at least, had a friend or neighbor in a union. People, for better or worse, knew what unions did and understood them to be an almost ordinary part of the workings of democratic capitalism.

Most important, they knew, for better or worse, that unions had power. Sixty years ago, the UAW or the Mineworkers or the Steelworkers, not only deeply affected crucial sectors of an industrial economy, they also demanded respect from broader society—demands made manifest in the “political strikes” they organized, whether legally or not, to protest the issues of the day. Millions supported these strikes, millions despised them—but nobody could ignore them.

via Rich Yeselson: Not With A Bang, But A Whimper: The Long, Slow Death Spiral Of America’s Labor Movement | The New Republic.

Too Much Power for a President – NYTimes.com

15 Jun

The Times article points out, however, that the Defense Department is currently killing suspects in Yemen without knowing their names, using criteria that have never been made public. The administration is counting all military-age males killed by drone fire as combatants without knowing that for certain, assuming they are up to no good if they are in the area. That has allowed Mr. Brennan to claim an extraordinarily low civilian death rate that smells more of expediency than morality.

via Too Much Power for a President – NYTimes.com.

Resolve to Overturn ‘Citizens United’ Spreads Through the States | The Nation

14 Jun

People don’t want to see a repeat of Wisconsin, where more than $63 million was spent in the recall election ($50 million went to Walker)—much of it from out of state, including $24 million from outside groups. Local public officials also realize that they can’t raise the kind of resources a handpicked, corporate-favored candidate can now access. There is also an obscenely exorbitant presidential campaign on the horizon with a price tag expected to reach $2 billion or more, including hundreds of millions of dollars flowing in from wealthy and corporate interests. In May alone, conservative groups spent $20 million in just nine swing states and Michigan.

Legislators have clearly reached their own conclusion that there is an “appearance of corruption.” Twenty-two states and the District of Columbia have joined Montana in asking the Supreme Court to uphold the state’s ban on corporate expenditures. This coalition is a mix of red, blue, and purple states, including New York, Arkansas, California, Idaho, Kentucky, Mississippi, Nevada, North Carolina, Utah, Vermont and West Virginia. Senators John McCain and Sheldon Whitehouse also filed an amicus brief in support of Montana, writing, “Evidence from the 2010 and 2012 electoral cycles has demonstrated that so-called independent expenditures create a strong potential for corruption and the perception thereof.”

via Resolve to Overturn ‘Citizens United’ Spreads Through the States | The Nation.