Today, February 11th, 2014 is The Day We Fight Back against mass surveillance. Call your Senators and reps...
Today, February 11th, 2014 is The Day We Fight Back against mass surveillance. Call your Senators and reps...
Ralph Nader: Letter to George W. Bush
Ralph Nader at Nader.org:
Dear Mr. Bush:
A few days ago I received a personalized letter from your Presidential Center which included a solicitation card for donations that actually provided words for my reply. They included â€œIâ€™m honored to help tell the story of the Bush Presidencyâ€ and â€œIâ€™m thrilled that the Bush Institute is advancing timeless principles and practical solutions to the challenges facing our world.â€ (Below were categories of â€œtax-deductible contributionsâ€ starting with $25 and going upward.)
Did you mean the â€œtimeless principlesâ€ that drove you and Mr. Cheney to invade the country of Iraq which, contrary to your fabrications, deceptions and cover-ups, never threatened the United States? Nor could Iraq under its dictator and his dilapidated military threaten its far more powerful neighbors, even if the Iraqi regime wanted to do so.
Today, Iraq remains a country (roughly the size and population of Texas) you destroyed, a country where over a million Iraqis, including many children and infants (remember Fallujah?) lost their lives, millions more were sickened or injured, and millions more were forced to become refugees, including most of the Iraqi Christians. Iraq is a country rife with sectarian strife that your prolonged invasion provoked into what is now open warfare. Iraq is a country where al-Qaeda is spreading with explosions taking 20, 30, 40, 50 or 60 lives per day. Just this week, it was reported that the U.S. has sent Hellfire air-to-ground missiles to Iraqâ€™s air force to be used against encampments of â€œthe countryâ€™s branch of al-Qaeda.â€ There was no al-Qaeda in Iraq before your invasion. Al-Qaeda and Saddam Hussein were mortal enemies.
The Bush/Cheney sociocide of Iraq, together with the loss of tens of thousands of U.S. soldiersâ€™ lives, countless injuries and illnesses, registers, with the passage of time, no recognition by you that you did anything wrong nor have you accepted responsibility for the illegality of your military actions without a Congressional declaration of war. You even turned your back on Iraqis who worked with U.S. military occupation forces as drivers, translators etc. at great risk to themselves and their families and were desperately requesting visas to the U.S., often with the backing of U.S. military personnel. Your administration allowed fewer Iraqis into the U.S. than did Sweden in that same period and far, far fewer than Vietnamese refugees coming to the U.S. during the nineteen seventies.
When you were a candidate, I called you a corporation running for the Presidency masquerading as a human being. In time you turned a metaphor into a reality. As a corporation, you express no remorse, no shame, no compassion and a resistance to admit anything other than that you have done nothing wrong.
Day after day Iraqis, including children, continue to die or suffer terribly. When the paraplegic, U.S. army veteran, Tomas Young, wrote you last year seeking some kind of recognition that many things went horribly criminal for many American soldiers and Iraqis, you did not deign to reply, as you did not deign to reply to Cindy Sheehan, who lost her son, Casey, in Iraq. As you said, â€œthe interesting thing about being the presidentâ€ is that you â€œdonâ€™t feel like you owe anybody an explanation.â€ As a former President, nothing has changed as you make very lucrative speeches before business groups and, remarkably, ask Americans for money to support your â€œcontinued work in public service.â€
Pollsters have said that they believe a majority of Iraqis would say that life today is worse for them than under the brutal dictatorship of Saddam Hussein. They would also say George W. Bush left Iraq worse off than when he entered it, despite the U.S. led sanctions prior to 2003 that took so many lives of Iraqi children and damaged the health of so many civilian families.
Your national security advisor, Condoleezza Rice, said publically in 2012 that while â€œthe arc of historyâ€ may well turn out better for post-invasion Iraq than the present day violent chaos, she did â€œtake personal responsibilityâ€ for the casualties and the wreckage. Do you?
Can you, at the very least, publically urge the federal government to admit more civilian Iraqis, who served in the U.S. military occupation, to this country to escape the retaliation that has been visited on their similarly-situated colleagues? Isnâ€™t that the minimum you can do to very slightly lessen the multiple, massive blowbacks that your reckless military policies have caused? It was your own anti-terrorism White House adviser, Richard Clarke, who wrote in his book, Against All Enemies: Inside Americaâ€™s War on Terror, soon after leaving his post, that the U.S. played right into Osama bin Ladenâ€™s hands by invading Iraq.
Are you privately pondering what your invasion of Iraq did to the Iraqis and American military families, the economy and to the spread of al-Qaeda attacks in numerous countries?
P.S. I am enclosing as a contribution in kind to your presidential center library the book Rogue Nation: American Unilateralism and the Failure of Good Intentions by Clyde Prestowitz (2003) whom Iâ€™m sure you know. Note the positive remark on the back cover by General Wesley Clark.
1) Iraq: most MSM have fallen for the supposed Al-Qaida connection to the bombings going on there. They are much more likely connected to the Sunni- Shiite split that was allowed and even encouraged by the USA war and occupation. It was common to wall off literally the Sunni areas from the rest of the country and the "awakening" of the Sunni sections to supposedly back the Maliki government by paying them well for their "cooperation". The "Democratic" government we pushed was w/o proper representation of the Sunni minorities and the Shia government has taken the opportunity to suppress the minority and force even greater inequality with really nary a protest from the great benefactors (USA). Incidentally, the idea that Al-Qaida was a major force in the Iraq war was mostly BS. For outsiders to come into a country and be effective they must have the support of the people. Mostly, the Al-Qaida presence was an attempt by USA propaganda to prevent people from seeing the war as mostly a movement against the foreign invader. (Guess who?) The president's plan to send more weapons to "help" Iraq especially, Hellfire missiles, will continue attacks stamped with USA from the air that will continue the "accidental" wedding/funeral/firewood collecting bombings. It will allow the Maliki government to purposely attack the Sunni minorities with some impunity.
2) The huge WVa Chemical spill that has made much of the water toxic... Some MSM are claiming that the chemical spill is of a material that is not toxic. Let's see, If such a spill happened in the Papio Creek the actual percentage of spilled material compared to the water in that creek would be fairly soon well under 1%. However, spill the same amount in a river of the size in this matter and the spilled material would be diluted so much further that we are talking way way low concentration. Yet people are getting seriously sick. The idea that this chemical is not a serious toxic material is therefore a joke. Of course, the 5000 gal figure will most likely turnout to be a gross understatement as is traditional with corporations who have such leaks. More important, is the fact that Chemical plants and their storage facilities exist all over the USA with many many in critical places and little, if any, regulation to prevent disasters that would make this one look like a bar of soap in the bathtub in comparison.
3) Ariel Sharon's death after 8 years in a coma... CBS's "coverage" mentioned him as a colossus in his time and actually mentioned two examples of his "leadership". One was his involvement in a massacre in which he allowed Christian militia to enter Palestian refugee camps and kill the occupants while Israeli troops under his command watched. Sharon let them in knowing pretty well what would result. The second mention was of Sharon's going to the Temple Mount with a bunch of his buds which CBS said resulted in the second intifada. In neither case did CBS really give the watcher the background or suffucient information to put these actions in their true context. There were also many other actions taken by him over his public life that somehow caused that hero of many, Ronald Reagan, to describe Sharon far more accurately in Ron's diary in 1982, as "the bad guy who seemingly looks forward to a war". Another unheard comment was any real look at the idea that Sharon suffered a major brain damage event back in January of 2006. It was pretty evident almost immediately that his condition was hopeless. Yet he was kept "alive" for eight years in a deep coma. Possibly this was an example of the concept some have that life MUST be prolonged no matter what cost to the family or the public which might have to foot the bill. Does anybody actually think Sharon would have wanted this?
Letter from Senator Johanns dated December 20, and received Jan. 9 2014:
Thank you for contacting me regarding S. 1731, the Federal Endangered Species Management Self-Determination Act. I appreciate having the benefit of your views.
On November 19, 2013, Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) introduced S1731, which was referred to the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, on which I no longer serve. If enacted, the bill would increase state flexibility for regulating endangered species within its borders. For example, the bill would allow governors to regulate any intrastate threatened species within their borders. The Governor of a State would be allowed to (1) promulgate or enforce any regulation or guidance; (2) designate a critical habitat (sic) (3) issue a permit; (4) develop or implement a recovery plan; and (5) establish any goal with respect to the recovery plan. If the Governor of a State decides to regulate an intrastate endangered or threatened species, this action would not be subject to judicial review by the courts.
The bill would also make substantial changes to the Endangered Species Act (ESA) at the federal level. Any new species added to the federal endangered species list would require approval of a joint resulution by Congress. In addition, all species would be automatically de-listed from the federal list after five years. The bill would also allow private property landowners to seek compensation if their land use is diminished by regulatory actions pursuant to the federal ESA statute. Representative Mark Amodel (R-NV) has introduced similar legislation, HR 3533 in the House.
I believe that common sense and sound science must be applied to policies designed to protect the environment and its inhabitants. I will continue to draw on those principles when monitoring federal protection of certain species and if S 1731 or related legislation is considered by the full Senate
Then follows Johanns' standard message of how much he loves representing us etcâ€¦
Two things need to be noted: 1) The letter really does not firmly state what Johanns believes about the proposed legislation although past experience would indicate he is in favor of the ideas put forward. 2) It is a solid example of the belief of Rand Paul and many many of his Liberitarian buds that the environment is a non-entity as to care and concern when "Liberty" is the god and "freedom" to act in the Ayn Rand model is the goal.
Of course, the same group generally discredits the Global Climate problems as some kind of conspiracy. When Johanns speaks of "sound science" you can bet his concept and Paul's are far from that accepted by the vast majority of the scientific world. One last shot at the "Gold Standard" concept: Gold has flucuated massively over 50 years and indeed many more. I wonder how such fluctuations really relate to the image some invoke of steady solid currency based upon Gold. As a cute aside I read recently that all the gold from the beginning of time could be contained in a single cube 20 m on a side.
A couple of weeks ago we showed the film "What we can learn from Fukushima". Here is another link to the dangers inherent in the removal of Fuel rods etc that was discussed...
Here's a link on wealth distribution in the USA well worth your time.
(Hat tip to Ralph Smith:)
Seems relevant given the Right's belly-aching about Police, Fire and other public worker pensions.
Yesterdays OWH paper was a real work of art. A front page article was about the need to update our older nuclear weapons. There are some 400 B61 warheads that are really old and need immediate fixing. The cost for this fine work is $28 million per bomb!!! This amounts to a cost that is twice the worth of each bomb if made of SOLID GOLD
The kicker is that most of these bombs are considered tactical nuclear weapons to include bunker buster bombs. Read wiki-pedia on the B61 if you want to get a headache. The concept is that these would be used in specific targeted spots such as enemy nuclear facilities that are dug underground. As a Corps of Engineer officer we studied such weapons to be used to nuc the USSRs attack throughout Germany. It was part of the barrier plan and the weapons, in that case, were buried in the path of an attack. Needless to say, Germany and other countries were not too happy about such plans. The destructive power in some of these can be dialed up or down to as high as 300KT. Of course the bomb was also described as a Thermonuclear bomb. Generally that means an H-bomb which is much more destructive that the A-bomb in all three effects. (Heat, Light and Radition) The same article in Wiki mentioned power as low as .3 Kiloton or about 300 tons of TNT. So the article seems contradictory.
Anyway the front page article was continued on page 4a. On that page was an article headed: Nations bloated nuclear spending comes under fire You ought to read all of both of these articles.
It might be interesting to know that the Postal Service had a plan to deliver the mail after the big nuc exchange. No person I know explained to whom they intended to deliver the mail At that time we had some 32,000 nucs in the arsenal. The Russians supposedly had slightly more than 32,000. Our national plan included the possibility of us using nucs on them in Europe w/o necessarily a return strike from them. Madness. Sheer madness.
There is a great quote from our enlightened Senator Deb Fisher which partly says she is worried that our military might not have this critical tool at its disposal. Gee
But all of this is just half of the OWHs astounding Sunday coverage. Reading from the back page of the front section we run first across an article about how spending on the Great Lakes problems does not run the risk of cutbacks since even Tea Partiers want the funds spent. Also on the same page an article on excess use of force by border agents
Then on page 10A a lengthy article on the rise of CO2 in the oceans which is killing off much critical ocean ecology. Then page 9A a headline A Chilling view of tomorrows waters with multiple pictures and diagrams along with p8A too.
All of this is presented as solid fact with little, if any, punches pulled. This from a paper that seems to deny the critical nature of Climate change in most of its editorial content over the last 10 years or more. Can there be life left in the OWH or indeed on our Earth? How will we survive w/o these critical B61 weapons? Where will the money come from to fix up these aging weapons? How will we be able to use them on some poor unsuspecting country's hidden assets? What WILL we do if the F25 cannot deliver these B61 weapons?
Good article on what's going on with the Conservative bloc on the Supreme Court and why they can gingerly accept gays but not blacks.
Saturday Session on Corporations by Vincent Campos? Comments by Stephen P. Horn
Vincent has spent considerable time and effort over the last few years presenting his look at the corporate world and its relationship to economic problems we face today. I attended his presentation with the full intent of seeing it entirely. However, I had a family birthday party scheduled for 5:00 PM that night. I was told that the presentation would be 1.5 hrs so that left me time to get home in time for the party. Unfortunately, the start was delayed apparently waiting for people who had been at the Monsanto demo earlier. At any rate I had to leave about 4:40 so my comments following are based upon what I was able to see before I left plus many conversations I have had with Vincent over the past year or two.
First of all, I would agree that corporate power is out of control. My caution throughout is that there is a tendency to present very complicated problems in “either/or” choices. The listener has got to recognize that seldom in life are such narrow choices really so limited. Most any real life situation has almost limitless variations including certainly political or economic possibility. To reduce complicated topics to ultra simple situations is generally not workable.
We have early in the game a quote: “Free market does work as long as the government stays out.” I would say that so-called Free Market does not even exist let alone solve the problems of our economy. The second part of this statement is but one example of the anti-government stand that was a thrust throughout the presentation. We have these holy tenets one of which is that most all functions of the government can better be performed by “private enterprise”. Despite these claims there are all kinds of examples where government is both necessary and better suited than private enterprise.
Atlanta privatized their water system for a time until disaster made them reverse themselves. The entire country of Bolivia had a similar experience until they essentially threw the rascals out. There are all kinds of other examples. Here in good old Nebraska we have been treated to the privatization of our child care system, a decision that has carried with it all kinds of negative consequences. Our Health Care system is so screwed up largely because various parts of it are obviously in it to make the most money they can. It is certainly not a government run system. Medicare, the semi-government system, runs quite efficiently and costs considerably less than the private insurance run system most of us have (or don’t). Social Security is one of the most successful governmental programs in history. Anyone who actually thinks private companies would do better obviously has missed the huge crash of the stock market which was the supposed place to put your retirement funds by those who want to gut SS.
Vincent spent considerable time on the history of our country and on that of the corporation. Again there was much simplification with positions reduced to the two groups gathering around Jefferson and Hamilton as opponents. The quotes describing their beliefs were questionable in that they were so pointed that I have a hard time believing that any politician would utter them. The listener ought to be aware that those presenting views are not necessarily objective. History itself is filled with “facts” that many people would dispute including, undoubtedly, the very people involved. (Witness the current attempts to limit voter participation in the USA. These people will seldom admit that they want to remove certain groups from the voter rolls. Years from now naive “historians” might rightly “prove” that these people were really concerned about voter fraud by quoting their statements made at the time they were justifying their actions.)
Part of the simplification was addressed by one of the few questions posed while I was still there. Boards were “elected” by the shareholders that in turn chose the CEO. The truth is that shareholders like me, for instance, have little or no input to the actual running of the company. Most all corporations are dominated by major shareholders and the elections held are dominated by these fairly few lucky huge shareholders. Then too, the board (which was held up as a group which ran/decided company policy) most often are largely picked to do the bidding of the major shareholders and many times are nothing more than very highly paid PR fronts for the powers that be. Witness the OWH article the last few days that exposed the 100,000 dollar payments to the president of NU for his “work” on the board of Valmont. Of course, this is not viewed as a conflict of interest by the OWH or any of the NE power structure. This despite NU having big programs dealing with water. Vincent rightly points to the legal immunity of corporations as one of the critical factors that allow immoral or criminal behavior. There certainly is truth in that. However, to think that we can go back to a time w/o corporations is beyond comprehension. Even if we could, evil still exists and such people will still require that controls be placed upon their actions for the good of all. Libertarians want little or no governmental controls. The holy “free market” will address all and punish those who transgress.
This gets way too long. Let me just close with my thoughts on the DVD that was given out free to all at the presentations. Turns out it was a John Birch Society product. Some of you may not be aware of the JBS and it’s history. I first ran up against it in about 1963 or so when they put on a series of fancy presentations at the Civic sponsoring rich, right wing, largely racist, speakers who were really upset with Civil Rights and the Warren Court. As I recall the audiences were all white. Turns out JBS considered President Eisenhower a communist, among other outrageous beliefs. By the way, for you youngsters the concept of “States Rights” which comes up frequently is, in many minds, intrinsically interwoven with attempts to block Federal Civil Rights actions. This organization is not one anyone familiar with its history should use.
What Can We Learn From Denmark?
By Senator Bernie Sanders
May 26, 2013
Danish Ambassador Peter Taksoe-Jensen spent a weekend in Vermont this month traveling with me to town meetings in Burlington, Brattleboro and Montpelier. Large crowds came out to learn about a social system very different from our own which provides extraordinary security and opportunity for the people of Denmark.
Today in the United States there is a massive amount of economic anxiety. Unemployment is much too high, wages and income are too low, millions of Americans are struggling to find affordable health care and the gap between the very rich and everyone else is growing wider.
While young working families search desperately for affordable child care, older Americans worry about how they can retire with dignity. Many of our people are physically exhausted as they work the longest hours of any industrialized country and have far less paid vacation time than other major countries.
Denmark is a small, homogenous nation of about 5.5 million people. The United States is a melting pot of more than 315 million people. No question about it, Denmark and the United States are very different countries. Nonetheless, are there lessons that we can learn from Denmark?
In Denmark, social policy in areas like health care, child care, education and protecting the unemployed are part of a "solidarity system" that makes sure that almost no one falls into economic despair. Danes pay very high taxes, but in return enjoy a quality of life that many Americans would find hard to believe. As the ambassador mentioned, while it is difficult to become very rich in Denmark no one is allowed to be poor. The minimum wage in Denmark is about twice that of the United States and people who are totally out of the labor market or unable to care for themselves have a basic income guarantee of about $100 per day.
Health care in Denmark is universal, free of charge and high quality. Everybody is covered as a right of citizenship. The Danish health care system is popular, with patient satisfaction much higher than in our country. In Denmark, every citizen can choose a doctor in their area. Prescription drugs are inexpensive and free for those under 18 years of age. Interestingly, despite their universal coverage, the Danish health care system is far more cost-effective than ours. They spend about 11 percent of their GDP on health care. We spend almost 18 percent.
When it comes to raising families, Danes understand that the first few years of a person's life are the most important in terms of intellectual and emotional development. In order to give strong support to expecting parents, mothers get four weeks of paid leave before giving birth. They get another 14 weeks afterward. Expecting fathers get two paid weeks off, and both parents have the right to 32 more weeks of leave during the first nine years of a child's life. The state covers three-quarters of the cost of child care, more for lower-income workers.
At a time when college education in the United States is increasingly unaffordable and the average college graduate leaves school more than $25,000 in debt, virtually all higher education in Denmark is free. That includes not just college but graduate schools as well, including medical school.
In a volatile global economy, the Danish government recognizes that it must invest heavily in training programs so workers can learn new skills to meet changing workforce demands. It also understands that when people lose their jobs they must have adequate income while they search for new jobs. If a worker loses his or her job in Denmark, unemployment insurance covers up to 90 percent of earnings for as long as two years. Here benefits can be cut off after as few as 26 weeks.
In Denmark, adequate leisure and family time are considered an important part of having a good life. Every worker in Denmark is entitled to five weeks of paid vacation plus 11 paid holidays. The United States is the only major country that does not guarantee its workers paid vacation time. The result is that fewer than half of lower-paid hourly wage workers in our country receive any paid vacation days.
Recently the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) found that the Danish people rank among the happiest in the world among some 40 countries that were studied. America did not crack the top 10.
As Ambassador Taksoe-Jensen explained, the Danish social model did not develop overnight. It has evolved over many decades and, in general, has the political support of all parties across the political spectrum. One of the reasons for that may be that the Danes are, politically and economically, a very engaged and informed people. In their last election, which lasted all of three weeks and had no TV ads, 89 percent of Danes voted.
In Denmark, more than 75 percent of the people are members of trade unions. In America today, as a result of the political and economic power of corporate America and the billionaire class, we are seeing a sustained and brutal attack against the economic well-being of the American worker. As the middle class disappears, benefits and guarantees that workers have secured over the last century are now on the chopping block. Republicans, and too many Democrats, are supporting cuts in Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, nutrition, education, and other basic needs — at the same time as the very rich become much richer. Workers' rights, the ability to organize unions, and the very existence of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) are now under massive assault.
In the U.S. Senate today, my right-wing colleagues talk a lot about "freedom" and limiting the size of government. Here's what they really mean.
They want ordinary Americans to have the freedom NOT to have health care in a country where 45,000 of our people die each year because they don't get to a doctor when they should. They want young people in our country to have the freedom NOT to go to college, and join the 400,000 young Americans unable to afford a higher education and the millions struggling with huge college debts. They want children and seniors in our country to have the freedom NOT to have enough food to eat, and join the many millions who are already hungry. And on and on it goes!
In Denmark, there is a very different understanding of what "freedom" means. In that country, they have gone a long way to ending the enormous anxieties that comes with economic insecurity. Instead of promoting a system which allows a few to have enormous wealth, they have developed a system which guarantees a strong minimal standard of living to all — including the children, the elderly and the disabled.
The United States, in size, culture, and the diversity of our population, is a very different country from Denmark. Can we, however, learn some important lessons from them? You bet we can.
You may not have heard of The Pirate Bay but Hollywood certainly has. The Pirate Bay is only one of the street mutts chomping on the ankle of the high-dollar 20th Century film studios.
Each year technology makes quality video production possible to people with less and less money. The internet provides the means of distribution while the imploding major networks, in their attempts to save money by elminating script writers entirely, resolutely lower the bar once again.
You haven't made your own TV show yet? Why not?
Tristan Bonn: Still Trying To Figure Out What Is So Hard About Commnity Policing that the Powers That Be just can't seem to grasp it.
Tristan seems to think that OPD is the one that can't give up control. I think that OPD is a bit player in this drama; highly visible, but just carrying out orders. We have to dig a bit deeper (higher?) into the Omaha Power Structure to find out where those guidelines are coming from. Guidelines like: ignore popular expressions of discontent (there have been a lot of meetings with large numbers of people voicing their unhappiness with OPD and City policies - they just weren't called by the Empowerment Network), downplay the seriousness of any problems, do nothing that will upset the current flows of patronage.
Good music video linked in the blog.