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marmar

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Gender: Male
Hometown: Detroit, Michigan
Home country: Citizen of the world whose address is in the U.S.
Current location: Detroit, Michigan
Member since: Fri Oct 29, 2004, 12:18 AM
Number of posts: 65,559

Journal Archives

America's Addiction to Torture


America's Addiction to Torture

Wednesday, 17 December 2014 11:09
By Henry A. Giroux, Truthout | News Analysis


The United States is addicted to torture. Not only does this savage addiction run through its history like an overheated electric current, but it has become intensified as part of a broader national psychosis of fear, war and violence. A post 9/11 obsession with security and revenge has buttressed a militarized culture in which violence becomes a first principle, an essential need, whether in the guise of a national sport, mode of entertainment or celebrated ideal.

Foreign and domestic violence now mediate everyday relations and the United States' connection to the larger world. As such, terror, fear, war and torture, become normalized, and the work of dehumanization takes its toll on the US public as more and more people not only become numb to the horror of torture but begin to live in a state of moral stupor, a coma that relegates morality to the dustbin of history. How else to explain recent polls indicating that 58 percent of the US public believe that torture under certain circumstances can be justified, and that 59 percent think that the CIA's brutal torture methods produced crucial information that helped prevent future attacks?

There is more at stake here than manufactured ignorance and an unconscionable flight from the truth. There is also a dangerous escape from justice, morality and the most basic principles central to a democratic society. The celebration of brutality, spectacles of violence and the affirmation of torture suggests that in a market-driven society with its unchecked individualism, sheer Darwinism and refusal to think about social costs or, for that matter, any notion of the public good, the addiction to cruelty, violence and torture becomes less difficult and almost too easy. In the age of disposability and despicable gaps in wealth, income and power, modern terror becomes normalized and points to the onslaught of a mode of totalitarianism that is more than an ephemeral moment in history. Violence is no longer marginal to American life; it is the foundation that now drives it. As Lawrence Wittner recently observed:

When it comes to violence and preparations for violence, the United States is, indeed, No. 1. In 2013, according to a report by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, the U.S. government accounted for 37 percent of world military expenditures, putting it far ahead of all other nations. (The two closest competitors, China and Russia, accounted for 11 percent and 5 percent respectively.) From 2004 to 2013, the United States was also the No. 1 weapons exporter in the world. Moreover, given the U.S. government's almost continuous series of wars and acts of military intervention since 1941, it seems likely that it surpasses all rivals when it comes to international violence.


With the release of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence's report on the CIA's use of torture, it becomes clear that in the aftermath of the loathsome terrorist attacks of 9/11, the United States entered into a new and barbarous stage in its history, one in which acts of violence and moral depravity were not only embraced but celebrated. (1) Certainly, this is not to suggest that the United States had not engaged in criminal and lawless acts historically or committed acts of brutality that would rightly be labeled acts of torture. .....................(more)

The complete piece is at: http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/28055-torture-and-the-violence-of-organized-forgetting



Greed Is a Paywall Blocking Human Knowledge


from truthdig:


Greed Is a Paywall Blocking Human Knowledge

Posted on Dec 17, 2014
By Thor Benson


One of the most widely read academic journals, Nature, just became accessible without a paid subscription. Macmillan, its publisher, announced Dec. 2 that it would be making 49 of its journals, including Nature, available to read on the PDF viewing service ReadCube. That said, readers cannot simply go to ReadCube and view any journal they want; they have to get a link to the journal from an existing subscriber in order to read it for free.

This method is a way of imitating open access without actually instating it. Although being able to link directly to scientific documents in an online article is useful for letting a reader see the exact source of what the article is reporting, relying on direct links leaves behind the academics and the researchers who want to search for specific journals and may not have a subscription. Those without a subscription will be relegated to “beggar access,” as Scientific American put it, where they can read something only if they ask subscribers to share it with them.

The issue with hiding academic articles behind paywalls is that the research featured in these kinds of journals is often paid for with government grants or through public university funding. To ask the public to pay for a subscription is thus a kind of double tax, in that would-be readers pay taxes that fund the studies that provide the basis for the journal articles and then pay again to read the finished product. The authors of the research do not receive a payment from the journals when the article is accepted or when it is published, and the money from subscribers instead goes directly to the publisher.

“The world’s entire scientific and cultural heritage, published over centuries in books and journals, is increasingly being digitized and locked up by a handful of private corporations,” the late Internet activist Aaron Swartz wrote in 2008 in the Guerilla Open Access Manifesto. He fought against the privatization of knowledge, becoming a warrior for the open access movement. .............(more)

The complete piece is at: http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/greed_is_a_paywall_blocking_human_knowledge_20141217



Police State Bulletin


Thanksgiving morning began sweetly for Cesar Baldelomar. No work. Beautiful weather. And good tunes thumping from his car stereo. As the 26-year-old cruised through Hialeah toward his parents' house, he could practically smell his mother's cooking wafting down 24th Avenue.

But when Baldelomar pulled up to the stoplight at West 60th Street, Hialeah Police Officer Harold Garzon was standing nearby, filling out some paperwork from a traffic accident. At that moment, another song came on Baldelomar's stereo. "Fuck tha police/Comin' straight from the underground," N.W.A. rapped. "A young n**** got it bad cause I'm brown / And not the other color so police think / they have the authority to kill a minority."

Then came the song's eponymous refrain -- "Fuck tha police!" -- four times in a row.

"Really?" Garzon said to Baldelomar through his open car window. "You're really playing that song? Pull over."

Garzon is a buzzcutted cop with sleeve tattoos and sunglasses. He's also a 17-year veteran with 16 internal affairs cases against him, according to records. (It's unclear how many were sustained; Hialeah PD didn't respond to New Times' requests for comment.) .............(more)

The complete piece is at: http://blogs.miaminewtimes.com/riptide/2014/12/hialeah_cop_pulls_over_harvard_grad_for_playing_nwa_song_f_tha_police.php



From Occupy to Ferguson: The two movements are more connected than you think


from In These Times:


From Occupy to Ferguson
The two movements are more connected than you think.

BY JESSICA STITES


The shooting and death of Michael Brown, an unarmed teenager from Ferguson, Missouri, ignited protests, rallies and vigils from Washington D.C. (left) to New York City. The movement served as a platform to get justice for Brown, as well as to expose issues of police brutality and racism. (Ep_Jhu / Flickr)

Early in the Occupy movement, Frances Fox Piven predicted, “We may be on the cusp, at the beginning of another period of social protest.” Months later, in September 2012, long after the last tent had folded, Piven questioned the “ready conclusion that the protests have fizzled.” As she and Richard Cloward noted 35 years earlier in their pivotal study, Poor People’s Movements: Why They Succeed, How They Fail, the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 1960s and the labor movement of the 1920s and 1930s took years to win substantial victories.

As the nation erupts in protests, her words ring prophetic. The killing of unarmed teenager Michael Brown by police officer Darren Wilson in Ferguson, Missouri, has put a match to years of simmering fury over police brutality. Ferguson may seem a far cry from Occupy. These protests aren’t about inequality; they’re about policing. Yet many of the 1960s civil rights riots were set off by police brutality. For people in poor communities, overpolicing is the most palpable manifestation of economic and political oppression.

Piven is heartened by the Ferguson protests. “Occupy was brilliant in getting a message across, but these protests are disruptive. They (are) specifically, deliberately, planfully setting out to disrupt the functioning of the city until attention is paid to the grievance they have,” she tells In These Times. “Protesters have to bring things to a halt in order to have an impact.”

Those in power seem nervous. In a speech following a grand jury’s decision not to indict Wilson, Barack Obama sounded less like the man who, after the Trayvon Martin verdict, spoke candidly and movingly of his personal experiences of racial profiling by police, and more like the lord of the manor with the mob at the door. “First and foremost, we are a nation built on the rule of law,” he stressed. ......................(more)

The complete piece is at: http://inthesetimes.com/article/17421/from_occupy_to_ferguson



From Occupy to Ferguson: The two movements are more connected than you think


from In These Times:


From Occupy to Ferguson
The two movements are more connected than you think.

BY JESSICA STITES


The shooting and death of Michael Brown, an unarmed teenager from Ferguson, Missouri, ignited protests, rallies and vigils from Washington D.C. (left) to New York City. The movement served as a platform to get justice for Brown, as well as to expose issues of police brutality and racism. (Ep_Jhu / Flickr)

Early in the Occupy movement, Frances Fox Piven predicted, “We may be on the cusp, at the beginning of another period of social protest.” Months later, in September 2012, long after the last tent had folded, Piven questioned the “ready conclusion that the protests have fizzled.” As she and Richard Cloward noted 35 years earlier in their pivotal study, Poor People’s Movements: Why They Succeed, How They Fail, the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 1960s and the labor movement of the 1920s and 1930s took years to win substantial victories.

As the nation erupts in protests, her words ring prophetic. The killing of unarmed teenager Michael Brown by police officer Darren Wilson in Ferguson, Missouri, has put a match to years of simmering fury over police brutality. Ferguson may seem a far cry from Occupy. These protests aren’t about inequality; they’re about policing. Yet many of the 1960s civil rights riots were set off by police brutality. For people in poor communities, overpolicing is the most palpable manifestation of economic and political oppression.

Piven is heartened by the Ferguson protests. “Occupy was brilliant in getting a message across, but these protests are disruptive. They (are) specifically, deliberately, planfully setting out to disrupt the functioning of the city until attention is paid to the grievance they have,” she tells In These Times. “Protesters have to bring things to a halt in order to have an impact.”

Those in power seem nervous. In a speech following a grand jury’s decision not to indict Wilson, Barack Obama sounded less like the man who, after the Trayvon Martin verdict, spoke candidly and movingly of his personal experiences of racial profiling by police, and more like the lord of the manor with the mob at the door. “First and foremost, we are a nation built on the rule of law,” he stressed. ......................(more)

The complete piece is at: http://inthesetimes.com/article/17421/from_occupy_to_ferguson



NY State Official Raises Alarm on Charter Schools — And Gets Ignored


NY State Official Raises Alarm on Charter Schools — And Gets Ignored
A top official in the New York State Comptroller’s Office has urged regulators to require more transparency on charter-school finances. The response has been, well, nonexistent.

by Marian Wang
ProPublica, Dec. 16, 2014, 3:13 p.m.


Add another voice to those warning about the lack of financial oversight for charter schools. One of New York state's top fiscal monitors told ProPublica that audits by his office have found "practices that are questionable at best, illegal at worst" at some charter schools.

Pete Grannis, New York State's First Deputy Comptroller, contacted ProPublica after reading our story last week about how some charter schools have turned over nearly all their public funds and significant control to private, often for-profit firms that handle their day-to-day operations. The arrangements can limit the ability of auditors and charter-school regulators to follow how public money is spent – especially when the firms refuse to divulge financial details when asked.

Such setups are a real problem, Grannis said. And the way he sees it, there's a very simple solution. As a condition for agreeing to approve a new charter school or renew an existing one, charter regulators could require schools and their management companies to agree to provide any and all financial records related to the school.

"Clearly, the need for fiscal oversight of charter schools has intensified," he wrote in a letter to New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio last week. "Put schools on notice that relevant financial records cannot be shielded from oversight bodies of state and local governmental entities." ..................(more)

The complete piece is at: http://www.propublica.org/article/ny-state-official-raises-alarm-on-charter-schools-and-gets-ignored



More Splendid Zinn: "the wrong people are in jail and the wrong people are out of jail"




The Problem is Civil Obedience
1970 from the Zinn Reader, Seven Stories Press




I start from the supposition that the world is topsy-turvy, that things are all wrong, that the wrong people are in jail and the wrong people are out of jail, that the wrong people are in power and the wrong people are out of power, that the wealth is distributed in this country and the world in such a way as not simply to require small reform but to require a drastic reallocation of wealth. I start from the supposition that we don't have to say too much about this because all we have to do is think about the state of the world today and realize that things are all upside down. Daniel Berrigan is in jail-A Catholic priest, a poet who opposes the war-and J. Edgar Hoover is free, you see. David Dellinger, who has opposed war ever since he was this high and who has used all of his energy and passion against it, is in danger of going to jail. The men who are responsible for the My Lai massacre are not on trial; they are in Washington serving various functions, primary and subordinate, that have to do with the unleashing of massacres, which surprise them when they occur. At Kent State University four students were killed by the National Guard and students were indicted. In every city in this country, when demonstrations take place, the protesters, whether they have demonstrated or not, whatever they have done, are assaulted and clubbed by police, and then they are arrested for assaulting a police officer.

Now, I have been studying very closely what happens every day in the courts in Boston, Massachusetts. You would be astounded-maybe you wouldn't, maybe you have been around, maybe you have lived, maybe you have thought, maybe you have been hit-at how the daily rounds of injustice make their way through this marvelous thing that we call due process. Well, that is my premise.

......(snip).....

And our topic is topsy-turvy: civil disobedience. As soon as you say the topic is civil disobedience, you are saying our problem is civil disobedience. That is not our problem.... Our problem is civil obedience. Our problem is the numbers of people all over the world who have obeyed the dictates of the leaders of their government and have gone to war, and millions have been killed because of this obedience. And our problem is that scene in All Quiet on the Western Front where the schoolboys march off dutifully in a line to war. Our problem is that people are obedient all over the world, in the face of poverty and starvation and stupidity, and war and cruelty. Our problem is that people are obedient while the jails are full of petty thieves, and all the while the grand thieves are running the country. That's our problem. We recognize this for Nazi Germany. We know that the problem there was obedience, that the people obeyed Hitler. People obeyed; that was wrong. They should have challenged, and they should have resisted; and if we were only there, we would have showed them. Even in Stalin's Russia we can understand that; people are obedient, all these herdlike people.

But America is different. That is what we've all been brought up on. From the time we are this high and I still hear it resounding in Mr. Frankel's statement-you tick off, one, two, three, four, five lovely things .~ about America that we don't want disturbed very much. But if we have learned anything in the past ten years, it is that these lovely things about America were never lovely. We have been expansionist and aggressive and mean to other people from the beginning. And we've been aggressive and mean to people in this country, and we've allocated the wealth of this country in a very unjust way. We've never had justice in the courts for the poor people, for black people, for radicals. Now how can we boast that America is a very special place? It is not that special. It really isn't. ...................(more)

The complete piece is at: http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article36950.htm


Calgary’s soaring transit use suggests high ridership is possible even in sprawling cities


from the Transport Politic blog:




Calgary is a boomtown — the center of Canada’s resource economy, whose explosion in recent years has led to big gains in Calgary’s population and commercial activity. It’s the sort of place that might seem completely hostile to public transit; 87 percent of locals live in suburban environments where single-family homes and strip malls predominate; surrounding land is mostly flat and easily developable farmland; the city is almost 10 times bigger than it was in 1950, meaning it was mostly built in a post-automobile age; and big highways with massive interchanges are found throughout the region. Even the transit system it has serves many places that are hostile to pedestrians and hardly aesthetically pleasing.

It’s an environment that looks a lot more like Dallas or Phoenix than Copenhagen.

And yet Calgary is attracting big crowds to its transit system, and those crowds continue to increase in size. Like several of its Canadian counterparts, Calgary is demonstrating that even when residential land use is oriented strongly towards auto dependency, it is possible to encourage massive use of the transit system. As I’ll explain below, however, strong transit use in Calgary has not been a fluke; it is the consequence of a strong public policy to reduce car use downtown. It provides an important lesson for other largely suburban North American cities that are examining how to reduce their automobile use.

Much of the trend of increasing transit use has come recently, in part because of the expansion of the city’s light rail network, C-Train. That system, which opened in 1981 and has been expanded several times (it now provides service on 36 miles of lines), has become the backbone of the municipal transit agency and now serves more rides than the bus network. C-Train is now the second-most-heavily used light rail system in North America. ................(more)

The complete piece is at: http://www.thetransportpolitic.com/2014/12/10/calgarys-soaring-transit-use-suggests-high-ridership-is-possible-even-in-sprawling-cities/



Professor Richard Wolff: The Political Economy of Austerity Now


The Political Economy of Austerity Now
by Richard D. Wolff


Government austerity for the masses (raising taxes and cutting public services) is becoming the issue shaping politics in western Europe, north America, and Japan. In the US, austerity turned millions away from the polls where before they supported an Obama who promised changes from such policies. So Republicans will control Congress and conflicts over austerity will accelerate. In Europe, from Ireland's Sinn Fein to Spain's Podemos to Greece's Syriza, we see challenges to a shaken, wounded political status quo (endless oscillations between center-left and center-right regimes imposing austerity). Those challenges build impressive strength on anti-austerity themes above all else. In Japan, Prime Minister Abe resorts to ever more desperate political maneuvers to maintain austerity there.

In responding to austerity, ever more people find their way to a critical understanding of capitalism. Beyond blaming individuals or groups, such people condemn the system, capitalism, whose structure of incentives (rewards and punishments) drives their behaviors. That system brought the 2007/2008 crisis. It then delivered trillions in government bailouts to fund its survival. And now austerity serves to shift the costs of crisis and bailouts onto the general public. Austerity is today's hot issue not only because it affects practically everyone, but also because it touches the foundations of economy and society.

The austerity policies imposed on western Europe, north America, and Japan are consequences of capitalism's massive relocation underway since the 1970s. Where modern capitalism began (western Europe, then north America and Japan), its production and distribution facilities grew and concentrated mostly in certain industrialized towns and cities from the 1770s to the 1970s. Those regions' rural and agricultural areas became capitalism's "hinterlands" providing industry with food, raw materials, workers, and markets for capitalists' outputs. When local hinterlands proved insufficient, colonialism turned the rest of the world into such hinterlands. Along the way, increasingly well-organized working classes in western Europe, north America, and Japan won rising wages in tough struggles with capitalists there. In contrast, incomes of most people in the colonized hinterlands shrank.

By the 1970s, the wage gap between the capitalist centers and their hinterlands had become immense. That gap, together with the inventions of jet engine air travel and modern telecommunications, created an historic opportunity for capitalists. They could dramatically increase profits by relocating production. Jets and global telecommunications enabled western European, north American, and Japanese capitalists to monitor and control the production and distribution they relocated to new low-wage centers (in China, India, Brazil, and so on). Only the top direction, financing, and diplomatic/military control centers remained in the old capitalist centers.

.....(snip).....

Capitalism blocks and negates that economic democracy. It privileges capitalists' freedom to invest over the majority's freedom to participate democratically in determining their jobs, job conditions, and what is done with the profits their labor helps to produce. Today, workers' struggles against austerity are educating them to grasp and confront basic capitalist privileges and their incompatibility with democracy or the economic needs of the people. That is why today's governments are so determined to maintain austerity and so fearful if austerity fails and falls even in one small country like Greece. .................(more)

The complete piece is at: http://mrzine.monthlyreview.org/2014/wolff151214.html



Guardian UK: Dear Chelsea Manning: birthday messages from Edward Snowden, Terry Gilliam and more




On Wednesday, Chelsea Manning – heroine, whistleblower and inmate – turns 27. She has been behind bars for four years and eight months, ever since her arrest for leaking ­classified US documents. There isn’t much prospect that she will be released any time soon. Manning is serving a 35-year sentence, with the earliest possibility of parole being in 2021. She has appealed to Barack Obama for a pardon. It seems unlikely he will grant it.

It is against this gloomy and unpropitious backdrop that leading writers, artists and public figures from around the world are today sending Chelsea birthday greetings. Their contributions include letters, poems, drawings and original paintings. Some are philosophical – yes, that’s you, Slavoj Žižek – others brief messages of goodwill. A few are ­movingly confessional.

All send a powerful reminder: that for millions in the US and beyond, Chelsea Manning is an inspiring moral figure who deserves our continued support. Her leaks, published in 2010, at a time when Manning was unhappily stationed with the US military in Baghdad, revealed the true nature of America’s twin wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. They also ­illuminated the gulf between Washington’s private thinking and its public diplomacy.

Edward Snowden sums up the mood of collective ­gratitude: “I thank you now and forever for your extraordinary act of service and I am sorry that it has come with such an unbelievable personal cost. As a result of your courageous act, the American people are more informed about the ­workings of our government as it positions itself for endless war ... For this we all thank you. Happy birthday, Chelsea.” ......................(more)

The complete piece is at: http://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2014/dec/16/-sp-dear-chelsea-manning-birthday-messages-from-edward-snowden-terry-gilliam-and-more



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