Monday, September 30, 2013

World's Top Climate Scientists Warn About Irreversible Atmospheric Damage

The most prominent international climate scientists have issued a warning, through the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, that human activity is indeed causing climate change and that time is running out before the atmospheric damage is irreversible:

The world’s top climate scientists on Friday formally embraced an upper limit on greenhouse gases for the first time, establishing a target level at which humanity must stop spewing them into the atmosphere or face irreversible climatic changes. They warned that the target is likely to be exceeded in a matter of decades unless steps are taken soon to reduce emissions.

Unveiling the latest United Nations assessment of climate science, the experts cited a litany of changes that were already under way, warned that they were likely to accelerate and expressed virtual certainty that human activity is the main cause. “Climate change is the greatest challenge of our time,” said Thomas F. Stocker, co-chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the United Nations-sponsored group of scientists that produced the report. “In short, it threatens our planet, our only home.”

The panel, in issuing its most definitive assessment yet of the risks of human-caused warming, hoped to give impetus to international negotiations toward a new climate treaty, which have languished in recent years in a swamp of technical and political disputes. The group made clear that time was not on the planet’s side if emissions continued unchecked.

“Human influence has been detected in warming of the atmosphere and the ocean, in changes in the global water cycle, in reductions in snow and ice, in global mean sea level rise, and in changes in some climate extremes,” the report said. “It is extremely likely that human influence has been the dominant cause of the observed warming since the mid-20th century.”

Sunday, September 29, 2013

GOP Rep. Compares Republicans Against Obamacare To 9/11 Heroes

Rep. Ted Yoho (R-FL) compared Republicans trying to defund Obamacare to the leaders of the Civil Rights Movement. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) likened those who doubt the success of his cause to Nazi appeasers–implying that those who support denying affordable health care to millions are heroes. In a third grotesque, self-aggrandizing historical analogy, Rep. John Culberson (R-TX, shown at right) compared Republicans seeking to defund Obamacare to the heroic passengers on United Airlines Flight 93 who fought the terrorists on 9/11. MSNBC reporter Benjy Sarlin tweeted Culberson's comment:


Culberson doubled down on his comparison, telling a reporter that he made "a good historical analogy."

Saturday, September 28, 2013

NV GOP Leader: 2014 Great For Party Since Minorities, Youth Won't Vote

Two of the main targets of Republican voter suppression are minorities and youth. In an implicit acknowledgment of the rationale for such practices, Nevada Assembly Republican Leader Pat Hickey (right) was gleeful about his party's prospects in 2014. He told a conservative radio host,"We have some real opportunities in 2014. This is a great year in an off-presidential election. No, seemingly no Democrat on the top of the ticket against Sandoval. No Harry Reid. Probably where we had a million voters turn out in 2012, we’ll have like 700,000. A lot of minorities, a lot of younger people will not turn out in an non-presidential year. It’s a great year for Republicans." Listen:

Eugene Robinson: Why Obamacare Is a GOP Nightmare

Why does the GOP want to keep millions from getting health insurance–especially when the means of doing so was first implemented on the state level by the last Republican presidential candidate? Eugene Robinson writes that what the GOP really fears is that Obamacare will be popular and successful:

Some of Obamacare’s provisions are already in force and seem to be having the intended effect. For example, young adults are now allowed to stay on their parents’ health insurance policies until age 26. In 2009, 29.8 percent of those 19 through 25 were uninsured; in 2012, 27.2 percent lacked insurance, a modest but significant decline.

Now the central provisions of the Affordable Care Act are set to come into effect—the individual mandate, the insurance exchanges, the guarantee of coverage for those with pre-existing conditions. Republicans scream that Obamacare is sure to fail. But what they really fear is that it will succeed.

That’s the reason for all the desperation. Republicans are afraid that Obamacare will not prove to be a bureaucratic nightmare—that Americans, in fact, will find they actually like it. The GOP fears that Obamacare will even be credited with slowing the rise of health care costs to a more manageable rate. There are signs, in fact, that this “bending of the curve” is already taking place: Medical costs are still rising much faster than inflation but at the slowest rate in decades.

Keeping premiums under control will require convincing lots of young, healthy people to buy insurance—and thus, in effect, subsidizing those who are older and sicker. That is why a group called Generation Opportunity, funded by the ultraconservative Koch brothers, plans to tour college campuses with disgusting ads in which a creepy Uncle Sam subjects a young woman to a pelvic examination.

The GOP message: Whatever you do, don’t buy health insurance. It may be—shudder—good for you.

Sanders Blasts "Right Wing Extremists" For Shutdown Threat

Speaking on the Senate floor on Friday, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) blasted "extreme right-wing Republicans" for threatening to shut down the government and default on the debt if Obamacare is not defunded. Sanders reminded the GOP that they lost the presidential election on this issue, among others, and that shutting down the government would hurt soldiers, police officers, working families and senior citizens. He welcomed a debate on health care, Social Security, the minimum wage, tax cuts for the rich, jobs and funding elections. Sanders warned, though, "...you do not hold the American people hostage by threatening to shut down the government or, for the first time in the history of our country, not paying our bills and bringing this country and perhaps the entire world into a major financial crisis.” Watch:

Republicans: No To Food Stamps, Yes To Personal Farm Subsidies

A number of House Republicans who voted to slash $40 billion over 10 years from food stamps aren't as budget-conscious when it comes to huge subsidies for their own family farms. While they make sanctimonious pronouncements about the "dependency" of the poor, these GOP representatives lose their anti-government scruples and readily take from federal coffers when it benefits them:

During the food stamp debate, GOP Rep. Stephen Fincher, who received thousands in farm subsidies, responded to a Democratic Congressman during the debate over the cuts by quoting the bible, saying “the one who is unwilling to work shall not eat.”

Fincher himself has received his own large share of government money. From 1999 to 2012, Stephen & Lynn Fincher Farms received $3,483,824 in agriculture subsidies. Last year he took in $70,574 alone.

Another Republican congresswoman who voted to make cuts to the food stamp program was Rep. Vicky Hartzler of Missouri. Her farm received more than $800,000 in Department of Agriculture subsidies from 1995-2012. In 2001, her farm received $135,482 in subsidies.

Rep. Kristi Noem of South Dakota, who also voted to make cuts to the program, was a partner in Racota Valley Ranch, her family’s farm and previously had nearly a 17% stake through 2008. The farm received $3.4 million in subsidies from 1995-2012. The Environmental Working Group, which analyzes subsidy data, says the “estimated amount of subsidies attributed to Rep. Noem from 1995-2012 is $503,751.”

Rep. Marlin Stutzman, a Republican Rep. from Indiana also received his fair share of government subsidies. He personally took in nearly $200,000 for the farm he co-owns with his father.

According to the New York Times Stutzman said Thursday the bill cutting food stamps by $39 billion over the next ten years “eliminates loopholes, ensures work requirements, and puts us on a fiscally responsible path.”

Image: Sack, Star Tribune

Greg Sargent: GOP Concedes Nothing In Raising Debt Limit

Greg Sargent (left) points out that the Republicans concede nothing by agreeing to raise the debt limit and pay the bills that Congress has already incurred. Despite this, the Republicans have put forth an absurd list of demands that have nothing to do with the debt. Sargent states that Democrats are not asking Republicans to give up anything; all they want is for the GOP to govern responsibly. Further, Sargent asks the media to give up the pretense that both parties are making equivalent demands:

It remains to be seen whether major commentators and news orgs will clearly and forthrightly reckon with — and convey to readers — how insane the GOP position here really is. I laid out the reasons for this yesterday, but the short version is that Democrats are not asking Republicans to give up anything in requesting that they support a debt limit hike. They are not asking Republicans to agree to more spending. They are not asking for new taxes. They are simply asking Republicans to join them in making it possible for Congress to pay obligations it has already incurred, and in so doing, avert economic catastrophe for the whole country. There is no rationale for giving Republicans anything in return for this.

Yet story after story portrays this as a battle in which both sides are asking the other to make concessions, and in which it remains to be seen whether a compromise will be reached. But the real ”compromise” position here is one in which Republicans and Dems cooperate to avert economic catastrophe for the country. It is not a “compromise” if Dems unilaterally give up concessions in exchange for Republican cooperation in making it possible to pay debts already incurred and thus averting economic disaster for all of us. In this scenario, Republicans aren’t giving up anything. Only Dems are.

Republicans Support Affordable Care Act Over Obamacare

What's in a name? Apparently it means everything to Republicans when "Obama" is part of it. A Fox News poll found that Republicans support the Affordable Care Act substantially more than Obamacare–even though they're the same thing:

Republicans like the 2010 health care law better when it's called by its proper name -- the Affordable Care Act -- instead of Obamacare, according to a new Fox News poll.

Republican support for the law jumped eight percent, from 14 percent for Obamacare to 22 percent for the Affordable Care Act, when pollsters revised the question's language.

Overall support increased from 34 percent to 39 percent with the change. Democratic support moved one percent; independent support rose four percent.


See also this telling anecdote.

AP Photo

Saturday Night At The Liberal Curmudgeon: Ginsberg & McCartney Live



I was fortunate to speak to poet Allen Ginsberg several times over the years. The first was as a high school student attending a massive NYC anti-Vietnam war protest, where I spotted him marching behind me and had a brief exchange. I think of that in connection with the video above, in which Ginsberg recites his "A Ballad of American Skeletons" to the guitar accompaniment of Paul McCartney at the Royal Albert Hall, London, 1993. Ginsberg, after all, was the most political of the Beat writers. In 1996, he described the ballad as a response to the repressive forces of the time: "“I started it because [of] all that inflated bull about the family values, the ‘Contract with America,’ Newt Gingrich and all the loudmouth stuff on talk radio, and Rush Limbaugh and all those other guys.” I also recommend listening to Ginsberg's "Birdbrain," a condemnation of oppressive figures across the globe.

Written in memory of Hal Goldman (1954-2010), Beat scholar, blues brother
"Strange now to think of you, gone...
While I walk on the sunny pavement of Greenwich Village." - Allen Ginsberg, "Kaddish"

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

AIG CEO: Anger About Bonuses "As Bad" As Racist Lynchings

The American International Group (AIG) took billions in taxpayer bailout money following the 2008 financial crisis and then rewarded its employees with bonuses. In an interview with the Wall Street Journal, Robert Benmosche, CEO of AIG, compared public anger about the bonuses to a racist lynch mob in the Deep South in the middle of the last century:

“That was ignorance … of the public at large, the government and other constituencies. I’ll tell you why. [Critics referred] to bonuses as above and beyond [basic compensation]. In financial markets that’s not the case. … It is core compensation.

“Now you have these bright young people [in the financial-products unit] who had nothing to do with [the bad bets that hurt the company.] … They understand the derivatives very well; they understand the complexity. … They’re all scared. They [had made] good livings. They probably lived beyond their means. …They aren’t going to stay there for nothing.

The uproar over bonuses “was intended to stir public anger, to get everybody out there with their pitch forks and their hangman nooses, and all that–sort of like what we did in the Deep South [decades ago]. And I think it was just as bad and just as wrong.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Cruz Likens Obamacare Defunding Skeptics To Nazi Appeasers

During his marathon speech in support of defunding Obamacare, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) likened those who doubt the success of his cause to Nazi appeasers. Cruz made his comparison as he took his "brave" stand to deny affordable health care to millions. Watch:



CRUZ: If you go to the 1940s, Nazi Germany. Look, we saw in Britain, Neville Chamberlain, who told the British people, 'Accept the Nazis. Yes, they'll dominate the continent of Europe, but that's not our problem. Let's appease them. Why? Because it can't be done. We can't possibly stand against them.' And in America there were voices that listened to that. I suspect those same pundits who say it can't be done, if it had been in the 1940s, we would have been listening to them. Then they would have made television. They would have gotten beyond carrier pigeons and beyond letters and they would have been on TV and they would have been saying, 'You cannot defeat the Germans.'

Monday, September 23, 2013

GOP Hunger Games: House Votes To Deny Food Assistance To Millions

House Republicans' approval on Thursday of about $40 billion in cuts over 10 years to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) would eliminate food assistance to 4 to 6 million low-income people, increasing hunger and poverty. Despite GOP sanctimoniousness about "dependency," the fact is that use of food stamps increased as a result of the scarcity of jobs. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities has the dire statistics regarding the Republicans' hunger games:

The people whom the proposal would cut off SNAP include but are not limited to:

• 2 million to 4 million poor, unemployed, childless adults who live in areas of high unemployment — a group that has average income of just 22 percent of the poverty line (about $2,500 a year for a single individual) and for whom SNAP is, in most cases, the only government assistance they receive;
• 1.8 million people, mostly low-income working families and low-income seniors, who have gross incomes or assets modestly above the federal SNAP limits but disposable income (the income the family has available to spend on food and other needs) below the poverty line in most cases, often because of high housing or child care costs. Some 210,000 children in these families also would lose free school meals;
 • Millions of other very low-income, unemployed parents who want to work but cannot find work or an opening in a training program — along with their children other than infants.

...The proposed cuts, which would be on top of a substantial across-the-board benefit reduction for all SNAP households scheduled to take effect in November, would come at a time when the economy continues to struggle to offer jobs for all who want to work. The economy is creating only 150,000 to 200,000 jobs a month, not much more than needed just to keep up with population growth. Moreover, the percentage of adults with jobs has barely risen since the bottom of the recession.

Though SNAP benefits are modest, at an average of less than $1.50 per person per meal, SNAP is the nation’s foremost tool against hunger and hardship, particularly during recessions and periods of high unemployment. During the recent recession, SNAP performed as it was designed to: as millions of Americans lost their jobs and fell into poverty, SNAP responded to the increase in need, helping to avert the harshest impacts of the recession and providing a boost to the economy...

The impact of these cuts on communities, as well as individuals, would be significant and felt throughout the country. The increased demand on already-strained local services and charities would be substantial — either displacing support for other needy residents, such as seniors and low-income working families, or leaving those cut off without sufficient food.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

GOP Rep. Compares Defunding Obamacare To Civil Rights Movement

Republican Representative Ted Yoho of Florida thinks highly of Republicans who wish to deny affordable health care to millions by threatening to shut down the government over defunding Obamacare. Yoho actually had the chutzpah to compare such obstructionists, implicitly including himself, to the revered figures of the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s (despite the fact that Martin Luther King Jr. supported equal access to health care):

“It only takes one with passion — look at Rosa Parks, Lech Walesa, Martin Luther King,” said Representative Ted Yoho of Florida, one of the rank-and-file House Republicans who have risen up to challenge their party’s leadership over whether to confront the Senate and President Obama with their demands to cut off funding for the president’s health care law. “People with passion that speak up, they’ll have people follow them because they believe the same way, and smart leadership listens to that.”

Chart: Right-Wing Obama Conspiracy Theories

Mother Jones has constructed a chart displaying almost every right-wing conspiracy theory during the Obama presidency. The magazine explains, "Barack Obama's presidency has been an inspiration to many Americans—especially nutjobs. Ever since the first-black-president-to-be appeared on the national political stage, a cottage industry of conservative conspiracy theorists has churned out bizarro, paranoid, and just plain racist effluvia—some of which has trickled into the political mainstream. Below, we've charted some of the Obama-baiters best (i.e., worst) work."


Read detailed descriptions of the conspiracy theories in the diagram.

Pelosi Blasts Republican "Legislative Arsonists"

Speaking to CNN's Candy Crowley, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) said that Republicans who threaten to bring down the government unless Obamacare is defunded are "legislative arsonists." She asserted that the "anti-government ideology is making a mess of what's going on in Congress now." Anti-government ideologues who dominate the GOP know that they won't succeed in repealing Obamacare; instead, Pelosi argued, their aim is to shut down government and obstruct progress: "The effect of putting the Affordable Care Act on the bill is to shut down government. They know that. They know it has no prospect of prevailing... I call them legislative arsonists. They're there to burn down what we should be building up in terms of investments in education and scientific research and all that it is that makes our country great and competitive." Watch:

Koch Brothers Fund Anti-Obamacare Campaign

Rachel Maddow points out that the anti-abortion group that published the model legislation, adopted by Republican governors, to force women to have ultrasounds against their will is the Americans United for Life. This same group is hypocritically running an anti-Obamacare campaign whose theme is that the government shouldn't play doctor, exemplified by a creepy ad in which Uncle Sam performs a gynecological exam. This ad is part of a larger campaign, funded by right-wing billionaire activists Charles and David Koch, prompting people to pledge not to sign up for health insurance under Obamacare. The Koch brothers, of course, can well afford any medical procedure without health insurance. Watch:

Paul Krugman: GOP Evolves From Stupid To Crazy Party

Paul Krugman recalls Gov. Bobby Jindal of Louisiana telling fellow Republicans not to be "the stupid party." What has actually happened is that the GOP has "transitioned from being the stupid party to being the crazy party." Its members have put forward a doomed bill defunding Obamacare and are threatening a government shutdown and even a catastrophic debt default. Krugman traces the Republicans' steps toward craziness:

...at the moment, it seems highly likely that the Republican Party will refuse to fund the government, forcing a shutdown at the beginning of next month, unless President Obama dismantles the health reform that is the signature achievement of his presidency. Republican leaders realize that this is a bad idea, but, until recently, their notion of preaching moderation was to urge party radicals not to hold America hostage over the federal budget so they could wait a few weeks and hold it hostage over the debt ceiling instead. Now they’ve given up even on that delaying tactic. The latest news is that John Boehner, the speaker of the House, has abandoned his efforts to craft a face-saving climbdown on the budget, which means that we’re all set for shutdown, possibly followed by debt crisis.

...this story is all about the G.O.P. First came the southern strategy, in which the Republican elite cynically exploited racial backlash to promote economic goals, mainly low taxes for rich people and deregulation. Over time, this gradually morphed into what we might call the crazy strategy, in which the elite turned to exploiting the paranoia that has always been a factor in American politics — Hillary killed Vince Foster! Obama was born in Kenya! Death panels! — to promote the same goals.

But now we’re in a third stage, where the elite has lost control of the Frankenstein-like monster it created.

So now we get to witness the hilarious spectacle of Karl Rove in The Wall Street Journal, pleading with Republicans to recognize the reality that Obamacare can’t be defunded. Why hilarious? Because Mr. Rove and his colleagues have spent decades trying to ensure that the Republican base lives in an alternate reality defined by Rush Limbaugh and Fox News. Can we say “hoist with their own petard”?

Of course, the coming confrontations are likely to damage America as a whole, not just the Republican brand. But, you know, this political moment of truth was going to happen sooner or later. We might as well have it now.

Obama: I Beat The Guy Who Pledged To Repeal Obamacare

House Republicans are once again playing political brinkmanship games, passing a bill that defunds Obamacare and holding out the prospect of a government shutdown. After the vote, Speaker John Boehner told his party that that the American people "don't want Obamacare." In a speech on Friday in Kansas City, MO, President Obama reminded the GOP that the American people elected him, not the candidate who promised to repeal Obamacare:

"Now let's put this in perspective. The Affordable Care act has been in the law for three and a half years, it passed both houses of Congress, the Supreme Court ruled it constitutional, it was an issue in last year's elections, the guy who was running against me said he was gonna repeal it, we won," Obama said, drawing applause.

"So the voters were pretty clear on this," he added.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Saturday Night At The Liberal Curmudgeon: Jonathan Richman Live



Two weeks ago, we listened to Joan Jett's cover of "Roadrunner," written by Jonathan Richman for his proto-punk former band, The Modern Lovers, who recorded the song's original version. Above, Richman performs an acoustic version of his song, a tribute to the youthful trinity of driving, rock and the radio, at the Coney Island High music club (which is actually in the East Village), May 1998. The occasion was the birthday party of Joey Ramone, the late lead singer of The Ramones (the Bowery at East Second Street, NYC, near the former CBGB club, was officially named "Joey Ramone Place"). One can hear the influence of The Velvet Underground in Richman's performance.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Starbucks CEO: Guns No Longer Welcome In Our Shops

In a week highlighted by yet another horrendous gun massacre, one sign of sanity came from Starbucks CEO Howard Schulz, who wrote an open letter requesting that customers no longer bring guns into his 7,000 coffee shops. Prior to the letter, guns were tolerated in shops located in states with "open carry" laws. Schulz wrote that he was disturbed by gun owners' "Starbucks Appreciation Days":

Recently...we’ve seen the “open carry” debate become increasingly uncivil and, in some cases, even threatening. Pro-gun activists have used our stores as a political stage for media events misleadingly called “Starbucks Appreciation Days” that disingenuously portray Starbucks as a champion of “open carry.” To be clear: we do not want these events in our stores. Some anti-gun activists have also played a role in ratcheting up the rhetoric and friction, including soliciting and confronting our customers and partners.

For these reasons, today we are respectfully requesting that customers no longer bring firearms into our stores or outdoor seating areas—even in states where “open carry” is permitted—unless they are authorized law enforcement personnel.

I would like to clarify two points. First, this is a request and not an outright ban. Why? Because we want to give responsible gun owners the chance to respect our request—and also because enforcing a ban would potentially require our partners to confront armed customers, and that is not a role I am comfortable asking Starbucks partners to take on. Second, we know we cannot satisfy everyone. For those who oppose “open carry,” we believe the legislative and policy-making process is the proper arena for this debate, not our stores. For those who champion “open carry,” please respect that Starbucks stores are places where everyone should feel relaxed and comfortable. The presence of a weapon in our stores is unsettling and upsetting for many of our customers.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Barney Frank: Why Are Bankers Paying Themselves So Much Money?

Appearing on "Meet the Press," former Congressman Barney Frank had a simple question for  CNBC host Maria Bartiromo, who spoke about banks "struggling," along with moderator David Gregory and former treasury secretary Hank Paulsen: "I do want to add one thing, though, to your question about those poor beleaguered bankers who have been forced to do so much to keep from not being able to pay their debts that they can't lend money. If they really are running businesses that are so stressed that they can't do their basic work, why are they paying themselves so much money? Where did these enormous salaries come from if they were in fact in such serious trouble?" Paulsen is tongue-tied, Bartiromo laughs awkwardly and Gregory changes the subject. Watch:

Conservatives Block Creation Of Science Laureate Post

The conservative war on science continues with the blocking of a bill to create an honorary U.S. science laureate. After the American Conservative Union objected out of fear that the position would open up discussion of climate change, House Republicans derailed the bill:

Climate science skeptics have derailed a congressional proposal to create the honorary position of U.S. science laureate. But proponents haven’t abandoned the idea of giving someone a national platform to foster public understanding of science and serve as a role model.

On Tuesday, the U.S. House of Representatives was expected to give swift approval to a bill introduced this spring by a bipartisan coalition of legislators in both the House and the Senate. The legislation would allow the president to name not more than three laureates at a time to an unpaid position that could last up to 2 years. The idea was considered so innocuous that it was to be brought up under special rules requiring a two-thirds majority and allowing no amendments.

The bill was never discussed in any committee, however, and Larry Hart of the American Conservative Union hit the roof when he saw it on the House calendar for the next day. (The Washington, D.C.-based group calls itself “the oldest and largest grassroots conservative organization in the nation.”) In a letter to other conservative organizations and every House member, Hart said the bill would give President Barack Obama the opportunity to appoint someone “who will share his view that science should serve political ends, on such issues as climate change and regulation of greenhouse gases.” He also called the bill “a needless addition to the long list of presidential appointments.”

...The House Republican leadership reacted immediately, pulling the bill from the floor schedule.

Obama Destroys GOP Myth That Putin Saved Him On Syria

Speaking to George Stephanopoulos of ABC's "This Week," President Obama confirmed that one year ago, he and President Putin discussed Syria's turning over its chemical weapons to the international community. In stating as much, Obama destroyed the Republican myth that the entire deal was suddenly hatched by Putin, who "saved" him. Watch (starting at 2:58):



STEPHANOPOULOS: And you’re- and President Putin has become your unlikely partner in this. And, you know, even in this op-ed, which has stirred up a lot of controversy here in United States, he said, “There’s every reason to believe that the rebels are the ones who used the chemical weapons.” So does that tell you he’s willing to lie to protect Assad?

OBAMA: Well, nobody around the world takes seriously the idea that the rebels- were the perpetrators of this—

STEPHANOPOULOS: He wrote it in The New York Times.

OBAMA: Well, I understand. What I said is nobody around the world takes seriously the idea that the rebels perpetrated this attack. Now what is true is that there are radical elements in the opposition- including folks who are affiliated with al-Qaeda, who, if they got their hands on chemical weapons, would have no compunction using them in Syria or outside of Syria. And part of the reason why we’ve been so concerned about this chemical weapons- issue is because we don’t want- those folks gettin’ chemical weapons, anymore than we want Assad to have chemical weapons. And so the best solution is for us to get them out of there. But- with respect to Mr. Putin- I have said consistently that where the interest of the United States and Russia converge, we need to work together. And I had talked to Mr. Putin a year ago- saying to him- the United States and Russia should work together to deal with these chemical weapons stockpiles, and to work to try to bring about a political transition-

(h/t: Politicus USA)

Peter Beinart: Millenials Ready For Candidates From The Left

I highly recommend Peter Beinart's article, "The Rise of the New Left," in the Daily Beast. Beinart's thesis is that members of the Millennial generation (early 1980s-2000), facing a diminished job market, huge college debt and a shredded safety net, are shifting to the left in ways that could challenge both major parties. Beinart sees Bill de Blasio's primary victory over Christine Quinn in New York City's Democratic mayoral primary as a symptomatic of this shift, in which Mayor Bloomberg's ally Quinn was overcome by de Blasio, who protested NYC's rising economic inequality under Bloomberg. Beinart warns that Hillary Clinton may face a similar challenge from Elizabeth Warren:

Bill de Blasio’s mayoral campaign offers a glimpse into what an Occupy-inspired challenge to Clintonism might look like. In important ways, New York politics has mirrored national politics in the Reagan-Clinton era. Since 1978, the mayoralty has been dominated by three men—Ed Koch, Rudy Giuliani, and Michael Bloomberg—who although liberal on many cultural issues have closely identified Wall Street’s interests with the city’s. During their time in office, New York has become far safer, cleaner, more expensive, and more unequal. In Bloomberg’s words, New York is now a “high-end product.”

City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, despite her roots on the left as a housing and LGBT activist, became Bloomberg’s heir apparent by stymieing bills that would have required businesses to give their employees paid sick leave and mandated a higher minimum wage for companies that receive government subsidies. Early in the campaign, many commentators considered this a wise strategy and anticipated that as New York’s first lesbian mayor, Quinn would symbolize the city’s unprecedented cultural tolerance while continuing its Clintonian economic policies.

Then strange things happened. First, Anthony Weiner entered the race and snatched support from Quinn before exploding in a blaze of late-night comedy. But when Weiner crashed, his support went not back to Quinn but to de Blasio, the candidate who most bluntly challenged Bloomberg’s economic philosophy. Calling it “an act of equalization in a city that is desperately falling into the habit of disparity,” de Blasio made his central proposal a tax on people making over $500,000 to fund universal childcare. He also called for requiring developers to build more affordable housing and ending the New York Police Department’s “stop and frisk” policies that had angered many African-Americans and Latinos. Bloomberg’s deputy mayor Howard Wolfson tweeted that de Blasio’s “agenda is clear: higher taxes, bigger govt, more biz mandates. A u-turn back to the 70s.”

But in truth, it was Wolfson who was out of date: Fewer and fewer New Yorkers remember the 1970s, when economic stagnation, rising crime, and bloated government helped elect both Ed Koch and Ronald Reagan. What concerns them more today is that, as The New Yorker recently noted, “If the borough of Manhattan were a country, the income gap between the richest twenty per cent and the poorest twenty per cent would be on par with countries like Sierra Leone, Namibia, and Lesotho.” In Tuesday’s Democratic primary, Quinn defeated de Blasio in those parts of New York where average income tops $175,000 per year. But he beat her by 25 points overall.

...Hillary is vulnerable to a candidate who can inspire passion and embody fundamental change, especially on the subject of economic inequality and corporate power, a subject with deep resonance among Millennial Democrats. And the candidate who best fits that description is Elizabeth Warren.

Claire Conner: Who Are The Birchers Today?

Progressive author Claire Conner, the daughter of John Birch Society members, has written a book, "Wrapped in the Flag," an account of that far right group and its enduring influence in the GOP and Tea Party. In the following video, Conner explores the question, "Who are the Birchers today?" She finds that their ideas are represented by a right-wing coalition "50 years in the making." Today's "'new' GOP ideas," Conner argues, are "rewrites of the same old ideas," as current Republican leaders parrot themes long promoted by the Birchers. Watch:

Wealthy Take Record Share Of U.S. Income In 2012


Nathan W. Armes/Reuters/File

The wealthiest Americans accrued a record share of income in 2012 and are almost fully recovered from the financial crisis, according to a recent study. Income inequality in the U.S. outpaces that of a number of developing countries, while current economic policies ensure that the trend will continue:

The top ten percent of earners in the United States took home more than 50 percent of all income in 2012, the highest amount ever recorded since data was first collected in 1917, according to an updated report from economists Emmanuel Saez and Thomas Piketty.

While the wealthiest took a big hit during the financial crisis, they’ve almost fully recovered. Last year, income for the top 1 percent of earners “increased sharply,” the report notes, growing by nearly 20 percent, while the bottom 99 percent only saw money rise by 1 percent. “In sum,” the authors write, “top 1% incomes are close to full recovery while bottom 99% incomes have hardly started to recover.”

...the response to the Great Recession, which mostly amounted to the Dodd-Frank financial reform bill and an increase in the top tax rate, “are modest relative to the policy changes that took place coming out of the Great Depression,” [the authors] write. It’s unlikely they will make any lasting change.

The U.S. suffers from particularly drastic income inequality. It is worse here than in Egypt, Tunisia, Yemen, the Ivory Coast, Pakistan, and Ethiopia. It’s a trend that began in the 1970s and has continued: Through the 2000s, the richest 20 percent of Americans saw their incomes grow by $2,550, while the bottom 20 percent just saw $1,330 in growth. The top 10 percent now has 15.9 times the income of the bottom.

And U.S. policy is mostly to blame. The deregulation of Wall Street meant huge profits in the sector, attracting the 1 percent, whose incomes then took off from everyone else’s. Changes in the tax code for capital gains income, or money made through investment rather than salaries, is one of the largest factors. While the social safety net has helped keep the gap smaller than it otherwise would be, the U.S. has been cutting back drastically on social spending. We’re set to cut $1.5 trillion in spending over the next decade.

Ted Cruz Praises Racist Jesse Helms

Rachel Maddow reviewed the racist career of Sen. Jesse Helms (R-NC), including an incident in which he sang "Dixie," the Confederate anthem, while sharing an elevator in 1993 with Sen. Carole Moseley Braun (D-IL), the only black senator at the time. Helms told Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT), also present, that his intention was to make Moseley Braun cry. Maddow then showed footage of Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) telling the Heritage Foundation on Wednesday, "The willingness to say all those crazy things is a rare, rare characteristic in this town... We need a hundred more like Jesse Helms in the U.S. Senate." Watch:

Cenk Uygur: War On Weed Is "The New Jim Crow"

Cenk Uygur of The Young Turks comments on an ACLU report based on federal data showing skyrocketing marijuana arrests in recent years, especially under the Obama administration; the exorbitant cost of the war on weed; its futility, and its racist character, given the fact that blacks and whites use marijuana at similar rates, yet blacks are arrested four times as much. Uygur refers to marijuana laws as "the new Jim Crow." Watch:



(h/t: Best of the Left Podcast)

Saturday Night At The Liberal Curmudgeon: Johnny Cash Live



Johnny Cash, who passed away 10 years ago this past Thursday, performed "Ring of Fire" at the Montreux Festival, Switzerland, in 1984. Jon Pareles, New York Times music critic, wrote in 1994 that in Cash's songs, "characters face unforgiving elements and indifferent fate; their faith and virtue will not necessarily be rewarded in this world. Even love songs, like 'I Walk the Line' and 'Ring of Fire,' are about the dangers of temptation and the singer's stubborn resolve in fighting it off."

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Bill de Blasio Calls For Progressive Taxation

Bill de Blasio came in first in the Democratic primary for mayor of New York City. Thousands of paper ballots, however, are still being counted, as the city waits to see if he can hold on to 40 percent of the vote and avoid a runoff with Bill Thompson, who came in second. In the following video, de Blasio speaks to supporters at Borough Hall in Brooklyn about income inequality and progressive taxation, alluding to his proposal to raise taxes on the wealthy to afford preschool for every child in the city. These crucial economic issues and de Blasio's liberal perspective are relevant not just to NYC, but to the entire nation. His words confirm why I voted for him Tuesday night. Watch:

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Vote Bill de Blasio In NYC Mayoral Primary, Sept. 10

I urge my fellow New York City Democrats to vote this Tues., Sept. 10, in the mayoral primary for Bill de Blasio. After eight years of Guiliani and twelve years of Bloomberg, it's time for the city to move in a more progressive direction.

Last week I offered some of the reasons that I support de Blasio, including his proposals for preserving thousands of affordable housing units, removing wasteful tax breaks for real estate developers, raising taxes on the wealthy to enroll children in pre-school and his consistent opposition to the New York Police Department's stop-and-frisk practices. He is the candidate most attuned to the city's growing income inequality, as reflected in his "tale of two cities" theme.

De Blasio stands a chance to reach 40 percent support in the primary and avoid a runoff. That would enable him to concentrate fully on likely Republican mayoral candidate Joe Lhota. Only 700,000 are expected to vote in the Democratic primary, rendering every vote especially important. Let's ensure that de Blasio is the Democratic candidate for mayor of New York City this Tuesday.

Is This About "Punishing" Assad Or Feeling Good About Ourselves?

Writing in Daily Kos, Laurence Lewis questions the rationale of a "limited strike" on Syria and considers the possibility of an expanded war leading to U.S. troops on the ground. He concludes by considering the folly of the rush to "do something":

From day one, it was clear that the chemical stockpiles wouldn't be targeted by air strikes, because that could loose those chemicals into civilian populations. So the idea of taking out the chemical stockpiles was moot to begin with. From day one, it also was claimed that the entire operation would be limited and targeted. But what would that accomplish?

A limited strike leaves Assad in power, leaves his military largely intact, doesn't take out the chemical weapons, and of course almost certainly kills more civilians. So Assad is "punished" how? The administration seems to have figured that out, and now we are hearing of expanded target lists, and possibly even military "trainers."

The rush to war was short on details and goals, which are evolving. As in expanding.

If the expanding details and goals include destabilizing Assad, or full regime change, a Pandora's Box quickly spirals out of U.S. control, leading to a deeper and wider civil war, with even more civilian suffering, while the chemical weapons are left unsecured, for anyone to take.

Unless there is a large U.S. troop presence on the ground.

The only way to secure the chemical weapons is a large U.S. troop presence on the ground.

The only way destabilization of Assad doesn't lead to a deeper and wider civil war is a large U.S. troop presence on the ground.

Everyone wants to Do Something. But wanting to Do Something doesn't mean there is anything practical that can be done, militarily. The rush to war has been extremely poorly thought out, and the urgency raises many questions.

Is this really about "punishing" Assad and protecting civilians, or is it about feeling good about ourselves?

Photo attribution: Reuters

Senators For Syria Strike Got More Defense Cash Than Those Opposed


Wired reported on the correlation between senators' stances on striking Syria and the amount of campaign contributions they received from defense contractors. The differences between the two groups of lawmakers are noteworthy:

Senators voting Wednesday to authorize a Syria strike received, on average, 83 percent more campaign financing from defense contractors than lawmakers voting against war.

Overall, political action committees and employees from defense and intelligence firms such as Lockheed Martin, Boeing, United Technologies, Honeywell International, and others ponied up $1,006,887 to the 17 members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee who voted yes or no on the authorization Wednesday, according to an analysis by Maplight, the Berkeley-based nonprofit that performed the inquiry at WIRED’s request.

Committee members who voted to authorize what the resolution called a “limited” strike averaged $72,850 in defense campaign financing from the pot. Committee members who voted against the resolution averaged $39,770, according to the data.

The analysis of contributions from employees and PACs of defense industry interests ranges from 2007 through 2012 — based on data tracked by OpenSecrets.org.

Stand United Against ALEC

The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) writes bills with lawmakers promoting voter suppression, "stand your ground" and anti-public education, -labor, -consumer, -environmental and -immigrant legislation, among other right-wing initiatives. The following video from Greenpeace USA urges progressives to stand united against ALEC. Watch:

NYT: Raise Minimum Wage And Labor Protections

Fast food workers have been engaged in strikes and walkouts to demand higher pay and the right to unionize. Despite big profits at fast food chains and increased labor productivity, the minimum wage is $7.25 an hour, lower than wages adjusted for inflation than those of 50 years ago. In an editorial, the New York Times called for an increase in the minimum wage plus pro-labor policies to ensure that workers also benefit from increased profits:

On its own...growth will not raise wages. What’s missing are policies to ensure that a large and growing share of rising labor productivity flows to workers in the form of wages and salaries, rather than to executives and shareholders. Start with an adequate minimum wage. Provide increased protections for workers to unionize, in order to strengthen their bargaining power. Provide protections for undocumented workers that would limit exploitation. Add to the mix regulations to prevent financial bubbles, thereby protecting jobs and wages from ruinous busts. Adopt expansionary fiscal and monetary policies in troubled times to sustain jobs and wages.

Low-wage workers would also benefit from executive-branch orders to ensure fair pay for employees of federal contractors. All workers need stronger enforcement of labor law so they are not routinely misclassified in ways that deny wages, overtime and benefits. They also need a tax system that is more progressive to shield wage earners from unduly burdensome tax increases or government cutbacks.

They need, in brief, pro-labor policies that have been overlooked for decades, with devastating results: from 1979 to 2012, typical workers saw wage increases of just 5 percent, despite productivity growth of nearly 75 percent, while wage gains for low-wage workers were flat or declined.

Recent experience has been even worse. In the decade from 2002 to 2012, wages have stagnated or declined for the entire bottom 70 percent of the wage ladder. The marchers had it right 50 years ago. The fast-food strikers have it right today. Washington has it wrong.

Sen. Sanders: GOP Will Use War To Press For More Cuts

Speaking to Ed Schultz, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) expressed his concerns about military intervention in Syria: the distraction from the country's problems; the possibility of escalation; setting an international precedent for unilateral action; Republicans using the cost of war to cut domestic programs; and the U.S. becoming the world's policeman while failing to meet the needs of its people. Watch:



Transcript of interview above.
Sen. Sanders' statement on Syria.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Chris Hayes Speaks Against U.S. Intervention In Syria

MSNBC's Chris Hayes speaks against American intervention in Syria, taking into account the deaths of more innocent civilians through aerial bombardment, skepticism regarding the effectiveness of a military strike, and the possibilities that the U.S. will exacerbate the situation and become involved in another Middle Eastern quagmire. While questioning the possibility of a political solution to the Syrian civil war, Hayes advocates a number of humanitarian measures. Watch:

Fox News Popular Among Egyptian Conspiracy Theorists

Studies have shown that Fox viewers are less informed than those who watch no news and that exposure to Fox increases misinformation. Apparently Fox's brand of misinformation–along with that of right-wing Web sites–has gone global; the station has become a favorite among Egyptians prone to conspiracy theories:

Speaking of U.S. news channels: Even as the Egyptian government and most of the media have been complaining about slanted international coverage of events in Egypt, one American channel has suddenly become popular here. TV satellite channels have been showing subtitled segments from Fox News, particularly ones in which President Barack Obama is taken to task for his wrong-headed and supposedly unconditional support of the Muslim Brotherhood.

Thanks to this strange connection between anti-Islamist circles in Egypt and right-wing groups in United States, the idea that Obama is a staunch supporter of the Islamists has become widespread.

A prominent Egyptian newspaper interviewed a Republican political consultant it mistook for a senator and quoted him as saying, “The Brotherhood climbed to power, backed by the Obama administration.” Tahani el-Gabali, a former Supreme Court judge who has clashed with Islamists, told a local TV program last week that Obama’s Kenyan half-brother is a financier of the Muslim Brotherhood, an allegation that appears to have originated on U.S. right-wing Web sites.

Saturday Night At The Liberal Curmudgeon: Joan Jett Live



Appearing on the David Letterman Show in January 1987, Joan Jett and the Blackhearts covered "Roadrunner." The lyrics by Jonathan Richman of The Modern Lovers capture the youthful trinity of driving, rock and the radio. In the original version, The Modern Lovers sang about cruising the highways of the Boston suburbs; in her dynamic performance, Jett gains the appreciation of this New Yorker by shifting the scene to the West Side Highway. Jett was a pioneer in her determination to establish an all-girl hard-rock band, as depicted in the film "The Runaways," which I reviewed in April 2010. See also the recent review of "Queens of Noise: The Real Story of the Runaways" in the Los Angeles Review of Books.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Best Of The Left Podcast Brings The Best Of Liberal Media

I highly recommend that all my readers listen to and support the Best of the Left Podcast, and spread the word about the show to friends. First, host Jay Tomlinson provides, as he states, “the absolute best of the truly liberal media.” Second, I became concerned when I heard Jay state following the latest episode, “For a really long time, there’s been a very gradual decline in the total number of members…It’s just been a steady downward slope.” It behooves all of us who value alternative voices to keep the Best of the Left alive and kicking–especially kicking against reactionary policies.

Each listener-supported Best of the Left show focuses on a topic of concern to progressives: income inequality, gay rights, women’s rights, labor rights, racism, the environment, health care, domestic surveillance, gun control, the media, foreign policy and more. Jay provides a compilation of clips from outstanding commentators; among my favorites are Rachel Maddow, Sam Seder, Counterspin, the Young Turks, Jim Hightower, Thom Hartmann, The Progressive, David Pakman, Dan Savage, Bill Moyers and Jimmy Dore.

I don’t have time to listen to all of these commentators’ individual shows, so I appreciate the podcast’s bringing me a representative selection. It’s also been a great source of topics for me as a blogger at The Liberal Curmudgeon (where you’ll find the Best of the Left linked under the “Multimedia” listings). I encourage you to visit bestoftheleft.com, where, besides iTunes, you’ll find various ways to subscribe to the podcast; click on the “membership” and “donate” tabs to support the show. You can also keep up with news about the show through Facebook and Twitter.

The Best of the Left is an invaluable alternative media resource for the entire progressive community. I encourage you to listen to the Best of the Left and support it as generously as you can.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Mary Cheney: My Sister Is "Dead Wrong" On Gay Marriage

Mary Cheney (right) criticized her sister, Wyoming Senate candidate Liz Cheney (left), for her opposition to gay marriage. Mary Cheney wrote on her Facebook page that her sister is "dead wrong" and urged others to share the message:

Posting on Facebook on Friday evening, Mary Cheney, who is gay and married her longtime partner last year, wrote: “For the record, I love my sister, but she is dead wrong on the issue of marriage.”

Their father, former Vice President Dick Cheney, supports same-sex marriage, and the younger Cheney echoed some of his language on the issue when she added, “Freedom means freedom for everyone.”

“That means that all families — regardless of how they look or how they are made — all families are entitled to the same rights, privileges and protections as every other,” Mary Cheney wrote.

Earlier Friday, Liz Cheney revealed her position on same-sex marriage, a topic she has kept relatively quiet about since declaring her candidacy in July against incumbent Senator Mike Enzi, Republican of Wyoming.

“I am not pro-gay marriage,” Liz Cheney said in a statement responding to an apparent push poll against her in Wyoming. “I believe the issue of marriage must be decided by the states, and by the people in the states, not by judges and not even by legislators, but by the people themselves.”

That position — deferring to the will of the voters on a state-by-state basis — may represent something of a compromise between total support or opposition. But it did little to placate her sister.

“It’s not something to be decided by a show of hands,” Mary Cheney wrote.

And to emphasize that she was not shying away from drawing attention to her view, Mary Cheney concluded her Facebook post: “Please like and share if you agree.”

Elizabeth Warren: "Now, More Than Ever, The U.S. Needs A Strong Labor Movement"

In her Labor Day message, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) reminds us of the role that labor unions have played in building a strong middle class and passing progressive legislation–and why we need to support them today in the face of attack. Watch:

Robert Reich: Syria is a Distraction From Our Moral Choices At Home

In a message that applies to Labor Day, Robert Reich advises us to heed the unforeseen consequences of past military engagements before attacking Syria in the name of national resolve–and that the better test of our resolve is to provide jobs and decent working conditions for our citizens here at home:

We are on the brink of a tragic decision to strike Syria, because, in the dubious logic of the President, “a lot of people think something should be done,” and American “credibility” is at stake. He and his secretary of state assure us that the strike will be “limited” and “surgical.”

The use of chemical weapons against Syrian citizens is abominable, and if Assad’s regime is responsible he should be treated as an international criminal and pariah.

But have we learned nothing from our mistakes in the past? Time and again over the last half century American presidents have justified so-called “surgical strikes” because the nation’s “credibility” is at stake, and because we have to take some action to show our “strength and resolve” — only to learn years later that our credibility suffered more from our brazen bellicosity, that the surgical strikes only intensified hostilities and made us captive to forces beyond our control, and that our resolve eventually disappears in the face of mounting casualties of Americans and innocent civilians — and in the absence of clearly-defined goals or even clear exit strategies. We and others have paid an incalculable price.

On Labor Day weekend we should instead be testing the nation’s resolve to provide good jobs at good wages to all Americans who need them, and measuring our credibility by the yardstick of equal opportunity. And we should strike (and join striking workers) against big employers who won’t provide their employees with minimally-decent wages. We need to commit ourselves to a living wage, and to providing more economic security to the millions of Americans now working harder but getting nowhere.

Mr. President, a lot of Americans do think something should be done — about these mounting problems at our doorstep here in America. We can have more influence on the rest of the world by showing the rest of the world our resolve to live by our ideals here in America, than by using brute force to prove our resolve elsewhere.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

NYPD Designates Mosques as Terrorism Organizations

Documents obtained by the Associated Press reveal that the New York Police Department secretly designated mosques as terrorism organizations and conducted open-ended surveillance on their congregants without evidence of involvement in criminal activities. The NYPD persuaded a federal judge to rewrite rules on monitoring First Amendment-protected speech and went further in their investigations than the FBI:

The New York Police Department has secretly labeled entire mosques as terrorism organizations, a designation that allows police to use informants to record sermons and spy on imams, often without specific evidence of criminal wrongdoing.

Designating an entire mosque as a terrorism enterprise means that anyone who attends prayer services there is a potential subject of an investigation and fair game for surveillance.

Since the 9/11 attacks, the NYPD has opened at least a dozen “terrorism enterprise investigations” into mosques, according to interviews and confidential police documents. The TEI, as it is known, is a police tool intended to help investigate terrorist cells and the like.

Many TEIs stretch for years, allowing surveillance to continue even though the NYPD has never criminally charged a mosque or Islamic organization with operating as a terrorism enterprise.

The documents show in detail how, in its hunt for terrorists, the NYPD investigated countless innocent New York Muslims and put information about them in secret police files. As a tactic, opening an enterprise investigation on a mosque is so potentially invasive that while the NYPD conducted at least a dozen, the FBI never did one, according to interviews with federal law enforcement officials.

The strategy has allowed the NYPD to send undercover officers into mosques and attempt to plant informants on the boards of mosques and at least one prominent Arab-American group in Brooklyn, whose executive director has worked with city officials, including Bill de Blasio, a front-runner for mayor.

AP Photo/Seth Wenig: Rally to protest NYPD surveillance tactics near police headquarters in New York, Wednesday, Aug. 28, 2013.

Conservative Writer: "Family Guy" Turns Young Away From Republicans

Speaking at the RightOnline conference organized by the Koch brothers-funded Americans for Prosperity, conservative blogger and screenwriter Bill Whittle blamed "Family Guy" for turning the young away from the Republicans. In Whittle's estimation, "Superman" promoted patriotism while "Gilligan's Island" was neutral; however, “...if you’re a young person out there today and you can finish the theme song from 'Family Guy,' then all the anti-American, anti-capitalist, anti-Christian, anti-morality messages of 'Family Guy' are in your head as completely and thoroughly as that theme song is. You're programmed by the pop culture... If we're the villain in all of the stories that are told, we're never going to win another election." In this simplistic formulation, "anti-American" means "anti-Republican." Further, it isn't the Republicans' anti-gay, anti-women, anti-minorities, anti-immigrant, anti-poor and anti-middle class policies that turn people away; it's pop culture that spreads mean messages about the GOP. Watch:

Bill Moyers Essay: The End Game For Democracy

Bill Moyers condemns our corrupt political system, in which "predators in Washington are only this far from monopoly control of our government," enjoying "the tax breaks, the loopholes, the contracts, the payoffs," while the public pays "the taxes they write off." All the while, journalists don't ask the right questions because they're "bedazzled" by "parties and perks"–or because "they fear that if the system were exposed for what it is, outraged citizens would descend on this town and tear it apart with their bare hands." Watch:



Transcript.

Ann Wright: "Possible Consequences Of A U.S. Military Attack On Syria"

Writing in Common Dreams, Ann Wright, former U.S. Army colonel, retired State Department official and author of "Dissent: Voices of Conscience," considers the possible consequences of a military attack on Syria. She cites what often seems forgotten, the further deaths of civilians, along with "unintended consequences," regional repercussions and the events following our 1983 intervention in Lebanon:

... The strike will be “limited”—but tell that to the civilians who inevitably die when military attacks take place.

...As U.S. warships gather off the shores of Lebanon to launch Tomahawk Cruise missiles at targets in Syria, we can make some educated guesses of what the “unintended consequences” could be:

• Syrian anti-aircraft batteries will fire their rockets at incoming U.S. missiles.

• Many Syrians on the ground will die and both the U.S. and Syrian governments will say the deaths are the fault of the other.

• The U.S. Embassy in Damascus will be attacked and burned, as may other U.S. Embassies and businesses in the Middle East.

• Syria might also launch rockets toward the U.S. ally in the region—Israel.

• Israel would launch bombing missions on Syria as it has three times in the past two years and perhaps take the opportunity to launch an attack on Syria’s strongest ally in the region Iran.

• Iran, a country with a population of 80 million and has the largest military in the region untouched by war in the past 25 years, might retaliate with missiles aimed toward Israel and toward nearby U.S. military bases in Afghanistan, Turkey, Bahrain and Qatar.

• Iran could block the Straits of Hormuz and impede the transport of oil out of the Persian Gulf.

...At this time of crisis, it is worth remembering another time, 30 years ago in October, 1983 when U.S. warships bombarded Lebanon, the country located next to Syria. Within weeks, the U.S. Marine barracks in Beirut was blown up by a massive truck bomb that killed 241 American servicemen: 220 Marines, 18 sailors and three soldiers...