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Member since: Tue Feb 10, 2004, 12:08 PM
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Environmental Scientist

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If We Put an End to Corporate Welfare, College Tuition Could Be Free

Since 2008, 48 states have cut funding from public colleges--some by as much as 40%. State lawmakers couch their decisions as the unavoidable consequence of the Great Recession and budget deficits. What they fail to mention is that while they’re gutting higher education, they’re giving corporations tens of billions in tax breaks and incentives.

State, local, and county governments provide corporations with $80 billion in tax breaks annually, or $9 million/hour, according to an investigation by the New York Times. To put that number into perspective, total tuition at public colleges in 2012 was just under $60 billion, according to the State Higher Education Executive Officers Association.

Tuition at four-year public colleges--which educate about 76 percent of American undergrads--has been rising for the past 25 years. According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP), tuition has increased 28 percent since 2007. There are several factors why college tuition is soaring, but the main culprit is declining support from states, which translates into higher out-of-pocket costs for students.



Charles P Pierce- Drums Along The Potomac: How This Country Never Learns Anything

Quite frankly, this has been one of the more depressing weeks we have seen in a very long time. The country seems to be sliding down some very familiar tracks into a military engagement in the Middle East -- an engagement that, at the moment, seems to be cloudy in its objectives, vague in its outlines, and obscure on the simple fact of what we are supposedly fighting for, and who we will be fighting with. Can we fight the Islamic State generally without help from (gasp!) Iran? Can we fight the Islamic State in Syria without a de facto alliance with Hafez al-Assad, who was Hitler only a year or so ago? And the most recent polling seems to indicate that all the institutions that are supposed to act as a brake on war powers within a self-governing republic are working in reverse again. The Congress is going to debate how much leeway it should give the president to make war, not whether he should be allowed to do it at all. The elite media, having scared Americans to death by giving the barbarians and their slaughter porn the international platform the barbarians so desired, is jumping on board with both feet. (To cite only one example, Chris Matthews is suiting up again.) The country has been prepared to give its children up again. At the very least, public opinion on what we should do is a muddle, which means that any plan that looks "bold" likely will carry the country with it, unintended consequences be damned.With the intelligence all pointing toward bin Laden, Rumsfeld ordered the military to begin working on strike plans.

Amid more executions by the militant group ISIS, Americans increasingly see the group as a threat to the U.S. Now, 65 percent of Americans view ISIS as a major threat - up from 58 percent in October - while another 18 percent view it as a minor threat. Majorities of Republicans (86 percent), Democrats (61 percent) and independents (57 percent) view ISIS as a major threat. Support for sending U.S. ground troops to fight ISIS has risen among all partisans, but particularly among Democrats and independents. Back in October, 56 percent of Democrats and 49 percent of independents disapproved of using ground troops - now 50 percent of Democrats approve and 53 percent of independents favor using ground troops.

You can see the logical canyon, can you not? The Islamic State is no more an actual threat to the United States than it was in October. But there have been more garish executions and more events elsewhere, so the perceived threat -- real or not -- has begun to work its dark magic on the national imagination, the way that aluminum tubes and mushroom clouds once did. The more bellicose of our leaders are openly shilling for a general engagement on the ground; the inevitable John McCain inevitably has called for a "mere" 10,000 ground troops, and he wants those troops to help fight against both the Islamic State and Assad. Because...do something!

You develop a strategy and elements of the strategy are American boots on the ground and not the 82nd Airborne, the president keeps setting up these straw man saying we want to send in masses of American troops, we don't, but we need to have American..air controllers, special forces, many others. I'm talking about about ten thousand in Iraq. Then we need to say our objective is to eliminate Bashar Assad as well as ISIS in Syria and we recruit a other Arab nations with Americans but not too many to fight against ISIS and Bashar Assad in Syria and coordinate those movements with air power guided by air controllers.

So the mission already is creeping; hell, Congressman Ed Royce, who only chairs the House Foreign Relations Committee, wants the proposed authorization for the use of military force to include Iran. And god only knows what happens if the Islamic State grabs a couple of those 10,000 American ground troops and uses them for another snuff film.



Charles P Pierce- Scott Walker Doesn't Care

By his works shall ye know him, and by his budget shall ye know Scott Walker, the goggle-eyed homunculus hired by Koch Industries to manage their midwest subsidiary formerly known as the state of Wisconsin, and current frontrunner in the Premature Nonsense Primary portion of the 2016 Republican nominating process. Where it is not actively hostile to the interests of anyone except his state's plutocrats and out-of-state mining interests, there is in the budget a low-running contempt for the concept of the government's obligation to do much of anything except protect the wealth of the wealthy and throw the right people in jail. His idea of "going big and bold" is to be petty and small-minded. His budget is a melange of childish vandalism, cut-rate empire building, and the construction of a Potemkin record for the consumption of oligarchical moneybags and hayshaking god-botherers in Iowa and elsewhere.

For example, he seeks to replace the state's independent oversight boards in areas like environmental management, reducing their roles to that merely of "advisory" bodies. Also, he proposes to place in his office the responsibility for local environmental issues that heretofore was the responsibility of local citizens. And he also has decided that the state's Department of Natural Resouces need not have an educational function any more.

In addition, as has been the case with taxophobe governors for decades now -- Hi, Governor Mitt Romney! -- Walker proposes to raise all kinds of fees, including vehicle fees and season passes to Wisconsin's state parks. He is still tinkering clumsily with education, rewarding the rural areas that voted for him, and punishing the urban areas -- coughblackpeoplecough -- that did not. (He's arranging for urban school boards to have less influence over charter schools, while rural districts get more money.) He's starving local governments of revenue, and he's making it harder for them to pass referenda regarding possible property tax increases. He's merging away the body that regulates banks in the state, and loosening the regulations on for-profit colleges. And he's cutting the cojones off the state's Building Commission.



Our Wars, Our Victims

by Charles Simic

Jon Stewart: “Right now, the Middle East is spiraling out of control. What should America do about this?”
Bassem Youssef, Egyptian comedian and satirist: “Well, how about… nothing.”
—The Daily Show, February 9, 2015

Since we rarely see real images of our wars today and have to fall back on simulated ones in Hollywood movies that make us look good, I wonder what Americans would say if they were shown graphic footage of the results of US drone attacks, some of the many wedding parties or funerals we mistook for gatherings of terrorists and reduced to “bug splats,” in the parlance of those dispatching our missiles. The idea that wiping out a bunch of innocents along with a few bad guys will make us safer at home and not make us more enemies everywhere is nuts, and so is the argument that the atrocities we find appalling in others are acceptable when perpetrated by us.

All this ought to be obvious to our leaders in Washington, but apparently it isn’t. President Obama’s new request for war authorization, now pending before Congress, to fight ISIS over the next three years with further airstrikes and “limited” combat operations, despite the complete failure of all our previous attempts in Libya, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Yemen to do any good, may make our wars legal, but no less foolish.

What Czeslaw Milosz said of the last century is unfortunately already true of this one: Woe to those who think they can save themselves without taking part in a tragedy. Millions of Americans certainly continue to think so, even after September 11 and all the wars we have fought since and are still fighting. Television footage and newspaper photographs do not convey the scale of destruction and death in New York City on that day. One needed to have stood at least once under the twin towers to grasp their immense height and magnitude. Although I did, it took me days and months to comprehend fully what had occurred. Even after the second airliner struck the towers, it didn’t cross my mind that they might collapse. When they did, my mind had trouble accepting what my eyes were seeing. It was like a movie, people said afterward. We’d exit the dark movie theater with a shudder and go back to our lives. I thought Americans would finally begin to understand what being bombed is like.

What has always amazed me about countries at war is the way the killing of the innocent in foreign lands is ignored. People who wouldn’t step on an ant at home have no interest in finding out what horrors their country is perpetrating abroad. This heartless attitude becomes even more offensive when one thinks back to those terrified people in New York running through fire and smoke from the collapsing towers. In the days after the attacks, our pundits and politicians clamored for a quick and brutal retaliation that would not be overly concerned with distinguishing the innocent from the guilty. In other words, let’s just start bombing the bastards and not worry about who gets killed—or about the likelihood that the bombed might want to have their own revenge one day.



Crude Oil is being transported in unsafe train cars across the USA

On Monday, a train hauling 100 tankers of crude oil derailed in West Virginia.The violent crash punctured several of the tankers. Eventually 19 were engulfed in flames. Now, more questions are swirling about whether these tankers are safe enough to carry crude.

Old cars, new crude
Initially, the crash had many pointing to a seemingly similar accident in Lac-Mégantic, Quebec in 2013, in which crude oil tankers also ignited following a derailment. In the Quebecois crash, many of the tanker cars involved were DOT-111s—a train car not designed to transport flammable crude oil, but that regularly does so on North American rail lines.

In 2009, four years before the Quebecois crash, the DOT-111 had been flagged by U.S. National Transportation Safety Board as inadequate to carry ethanol and crude oil, chiefly because of its inability to prevent a puncture in the event of a crash. But the NTSB's recommendations are not legally binding anywhere in North America. More than 100,000 DOT-111s were transporting crude across American and Canadian rails when the Quebec accident occurred, and still are today.

The CSX Corporation, the railway company that owns Monday's crashed tankers, was quick to point out that the tankers in use in the West Virginia crash were not DOT-111s, but CPC-1232s. But the fact is that a CPC-1232 tanker is just a reinforced,purportedly tougher version of the DOT-111—a redesign put in place after the NTSB's 2009 warning. The biggest difference between the DOT-111 and the CPC-1232 is that the head shields (the puncture-prone ends of the cylindrical tankers) are more heavily protected.



Benjamin Netanyahu takes another swipe at the White House

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu took another shot at the White House Thursday, sharply escalating his dispute with the Obama administration over its dealings with Iran.

In comments reported by the Associated Press, Netanyahu claimed to know the details of the nuclear deal being negotiated between the two countries — despite a recent spate of reports claiming that the Obama administration has begun withholding information for fear of Israeli leaks.

“We know that Tehran knows the details of the talks. Now I tell you that Israel also knows the details of the proposed agreement,” the prime minister said. “I think this is a bad agreement that is dangerous for the state of Israel, and not just for it.”

He added, “If anyone thinks otherwise, what is there to hide here?”

Netanyahu’s claims come a day after spokespeople for the State Department and the White House told reporters — in unusually blunt language — that the Obama administration will not be sharing some details about the negotiations with Israel.

Read more: http://www.politico.com/story/2015/02/benjamin-netanyahu-congress-white-house-115330.html#ixzz3SIirsppe

Bernie Sanders: Wal-Mart Wages ‘Nowhere Near Enough’

IOWA CITY, Iowa, Feb. 19 – U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) issued the following statement today after Wal-Mart announced that all of its workers in the United States would earn at least $9 an hour by April and $10 an hour by 2016:

“The Walton family which owns Wal-Mart is the wealthiest family in America and it is absurd that thousands of their low-wage workers are forced to use programs like food stamps, Medicaid and subsidized housing. Wal-Mart should not be paying starvation wages.

“While this is a step forward and a response to grassroots activism across the country, this is nowhere near enough. Wal-Mart should raise their minimum wage to at least $10.10 an hour now and move it to $15 over the next several years. Struggling working families should not have to subsidize the wealthiest family in the country. Wal-Mart also should end its vehemently anti-union activities.”


Who Can Save the Grand Canyon?

A holy war is being fought over a proposal to build a $500 million commercial development, on the rim of America's natural treasure

By David Roberts

Twelve miles in on the rutted dirt road we pull over in a dry wash and get out of our vehicles. We are on the western edge of the Navajo Reservation in Arizona, not far from the sandstone rim where the Grand Canyon plunges 3,000 feet to the confluence of the Colorado and Little Colorado rivers. The bare plateau across which we are driving is treeless, almost desolate. The region, nearly uninhabited today, was for centuries home to some of the most traditional of the Diné, as Navajos call the People.

Our guide to this outback, Delores Wilson, grew up on the plateau and knows every wrinkle of its landscape. “In summer, when we herded the sheep on our way home,” Wilson says, “we used to stop here and cool off in the shade. I had two sisters, six brothers and countless cousins. We all herded sheep when we were kids.”

Four miles farther in, we stop by the half-collapsed ruins of a small building. “This was my grandmother’s hogan,” says Wilson. “Until I was 7 or 8, we all slept in there, all 10 or 15 of my family, because we didn’t have a home of our own. Packed together like sardines, to stay warm in winter. I can still hear the sheep wailing for the lambs to come home in the evening.”

Our next stop is another six miles west, beside a nondescript bedrock shelf. “This is where I had my puberty ceremony,” says Wilson. “I had to run in all four directions. The other kids ran after me. If they passed me, they’d get old before I did.

Read more: http://www.smithsonianmag.com/arts-culture/who-can-save-the-grand-canyon-180954329/#6skejwbUzQb97GqD.99

Paul Krugman- Republicans' Utter, Epic Predictive Failure

Scott Walker, the governor of Wisconsin, is said to be a rising contender for the Republican presidential nomination. So, on Wednesday, he did what, these days, any ambitious Republican must, and pledged allegiance to charlatans and cranks.

For those unfamiliar with the phrase, “charlatans and cranks” is associated with N. Gregory Mankiw, a professor at Harvard who served for a time as George W. Bush’s chief economic adviser. In the first edition of his best-selling economics textbook, Mr. Mankiw used those words to ridicule “supply-siders” who promised that tax cuts would have such magic effects on the economy that deficits would go down, not up.

But, on Wednesday, Mr. Walker, in what was clearly a rite of passage into serious candidacy, spoke at a dinner at Manhattan’s “21” Club hosted by the three most prominent supply-siders: Art Laffer (he of the curve); Larry Kudlow of CNBC; and Stephen Moore, chief economist of the Heritage Foundation. Politico pointed out that Rick Perry, the former governor of Texas, attended a similar event last month. Clearly, to be a Republican contender you have to court the powerful charlatan caucus.

So a doctrine that even Republican economists consider dangerous nonsense has become party orthodoxy. And what makes this political triumph especially remarkable is that it comes just as the doctrine’s high priests have been setting new standards for utter, epic predictive failure.


Friday TOON Roundup 4 - The Rest




The issue








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