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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: 66,695

Journal Archives

Katrina vanden Heuvel: Today’s GOP is out of sync with Cuban Americans

from the WaPo:

by Katrina vanden Heuvel

“I probably have six Cuban grandmothers, and ten Cuban mothers,” joked then-Florida governor Jeb Bush at the Cuban Liberty Council’s annual dinner 10 years ago, where he was the guest of honor. “You can always count on me to do what I can to make sure that the cause of a free Cuba is front and center in Washington.”

This was in 2004, not long after the first millennials became eligible to vote. Back then, the “cause of a free Cuba,” as Bush described it, was clear to the Cuban American community: No lifting of the embargo. No normalizing of relations. No reconciliation.

Perhaps it shouldn’t be surprising, then, that after stepping back onto the political stage so many years later, Bush’s position on Cuba has changed not at all. “We’re not a step closer to freedom in Cuba because of the steps the president is taking,” he said last week. Nor should it be of note that Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), a Cuban American who grew up in the Florida Republican establishment during the 2000s, would declare soon after announcing his own campaign that he planned to “reverse every single one of the decisions has made” with regard to Cuba.

Nothing has changed, except for one thing: the Cuban American community itself. The political ground has shifted radically in the past decade, something neither Bush nor Rubio seem to have noticed. ................(more)


Why We Should Care About the Upcoming U.K. Elections

(Truthdig) The British general election early next month may prove as significant for Europe, and even for the United States, as for Britain itself. The British electorate must make an unprecedented choice among Conservatives, Labour, Liberal Democrats, Scottish Nationalists, UK Independents (or UKIP, who want to quit Europe) and Greens, to name only the parties likely to have any influence on the outcome.

This dazzling array of political choice, to voters collectively accustomed for nearly a century only to Tories, Liberals, Labour and an unelectable left, offers a conundrum to those who would forecast the outcome this year. As of this writing, the Conservatives and Labour are so closely matched in voter opinion as to make virtually no difference. Either, winning by the miniscule margins suggested today, is almost certain to need a coalition partner to construct a government. The candidates for that role are the Liberal Democrats, who shared rule with the Conservatives in the present outgoing government, but who have always harbored leftist sympathies and would shock few if they joined a new government with Ed Miliband’s reformed Labour Party.

However what British commentators find more intriguing is the possibility that the Scottish Nationalists, newly led by Nicola Sturgeon, could come in third (or even second, but without a result large enough to make them the official opposition). It nonetheless is now the third largest party in Britain, with 110,000 signed-up members, and would therefore have a powerful claim to a coalition position, and be strong enough to impose its mark on new government’s policies. Scotland in that case might have lost its bid for independence last year, but would have irresistible influence in a coalition government of Britain.

Then we have UKIP, the withdraw-from-the-EU party. Or one could say, one of the two anti-European parties in Britain if we count the Conservative Party according to where its heart really wants to be. Business, the City of London, and pressure from the United States keeps the Tory Party from bolting from its orthodox establishment position. Its members generally hate the EU, but its leaders accept the pragmatic arguments that the British manufacturing economy needs Europe and British high finance would be unlikely to hold its position as the world’s most important competitor of Wall Street without EU membership. Finally, what is Britain’s role if it ceases to be Washington’s entry into Europe and agent of influence in Brussels? ................(more)


Noam Chomsky: Every Word in the Phrase ‘Free Trade Agreement’ Is Just False

Posted on Apr 22, 2015

Noam Chomsky discusses how so-called free trade agreements, such as the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership, enrich corporations while creating migration crises, among other topics such as the Islamic State group and the media, via video chat at an event hosted by acTVism Munich at the Muffatwerk in Munich, Germany.


Football Stadium Arms Race Pushed This School Deeper Into Debt

(Bloomberg) Colorado State University sold $239 million of bonds to build a football stadium that students, faculty and credit-rating companies say may strain its finances. School leaders say the debt binge will help secure its future.

Colorado’s second-largest university is joining an intensifying national competition to attract high-tuition, out-of-state students by pouring billions into new dormitories, classrooms, student centers and gyms.

With borrowing costs holding close to the lowest since the 1960s, the university issued debt last month to replace its 47-year-old stadium two miles from the Fort Collins campus where the Rams now play. The new arena will help push CSU’s debt to $1.14 billion this year, more than double what it was in 2009, according to Standard & Poor’s.

“This is one of the few things that an institution can do that’s going to draw 40,000 people to campus,” said Joe Parker, the school’s director of athletics. “There are very few things that attract people with the same passion that athletics does.”


The new debt will “exert greater pressure on financial resources that we already view as very weak for the rating,” Jessica Wood, an S&P analyst in Chicago, wrote in a report. ................(more)


Steve King is a legend in his own mind

In what could easily be perceived as a threat, Iowa Representative Steven King assured the audience at the Susan B. Anthony List Campaign for Life Gala & Summit — the point of which is to find candidates committed to “pursuing policies that will reduce and ultimately end abortion” — that his state will serve as a litmus test for the entire Republican field of presidential candidates.

He upbraided those candidates who “think that if they don’t come Iowa, they don’t have to deal with Steve King,” by informing them that on Wednesday morning, he’s getting on a plane and flying to New Hampshire, and that on May 9th, he would be in South Carolina. The goal, King said, is to make sure that whoever the Republican candidate ends up being, he will support “full spectrum constitutional conservatism” — by which he meant “life and marriage” of the fetal and heteronormative variety.

King said that he would be comfortable putting “five or six” of the current nominees’ names in a hat and selecting one at random, because any name he chose would fight “the deconstruction of America by the White House.”

He characterized President Barack Obama as “a man who is taking on the pillars of American exceptionalism with a procedural jackhammer,” which has somehow resulted in “American young people not learning the things they need to learn at the age that they are.” ....................(more)


Obama’s deal with the devil: The dangerous treaty that has him teaming with the GOP

Obama’s deal with the devil: The dangerous treaty that has him teaming with the GOP
"Americans should be as proud of this agreement as Madrid should be of the Spanish flu," said one Democrat


(Salon) Trade deals have upended the typical dynamic in Washington, with Congressional Republicans and the White House aligning against members of the President’s own party. The White House wants so-called “fast track” authority to negotiate agreements like the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), and get an expedited up-or-down vote with no amendments or filibusters. Democrats disapproving of prior trade deals like NAFTA don’t want to give up those Congressional powers.

To be honest, I hesitate to call these trade deals; TPP’s title doesn’t include the word. Critics believe they have far more to do with maximizing corporate profits – whether through ensuring higher prices for prescription drugs or aggressively enforcing intellectual property restrictions or allowing companies to sue governments over their sovereign laws — than facilitating the exchange of goods. But at least one dissenting Congressman thinks TPP also fails on its own terms, as a trade agreement.

The Obama Administration has tried to sell skeptical Democrats on TPP, not with economic arguments but national security ones. The theory is that a successful trade deal that lowers tariffs — taxes on imported goods, basically — and imposes higher standards on the 12 countries negotiating TPP will help America combat China’s rising influence, since that country is not part of the agreement. “If we do not help to shape the rules so that our businesses and our workers can compete in those markets,” President Obama said at a news conference on Friday, “then China will set up rules that advantage Chinese workers and Chinese businesses.”

But Rep. Brad Sherman (D-CA) claimed in a conference call last week that TPP would actually give China special privileges. “This is a great deal for China because of the ‘rules of origin’ provision,” Sherman said. “Goods can be 65 percent made in China, then they can ship them to Vietnam, slap a ‘Made in Vietnam’ label on it and get them into this country duty-free. But because China’s not party to the agreement, we can’t get our goods in .” In other words, China would get the benefits of selling its goods without tariffs, while not having to open their markets to U.S. goods or abide by any other TPP rules.

That’s a very serious charge, one that would undermine the purpose of outflanking China, instead handing them trade preferences through the back door. And AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka made the same allegation yesterday. ................(more)


San Francisco Opposes TPP Fast Track in New Resolution

San Francisco Opposes TPP Fast Track in New Resolution

The San Francisco Board of Supervisors has unanimously voted in favor of a resolution today urging the district's congressional representatives to oppose Fast Track legislation for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement. Supervisor John Avalos put forth the resolution, which expresses concerns about the secret trade agreement's provisions that would impact the free and open Internet, among a host of other threats to the public interest.

This comes at a critical time, as lawmakers introduced a new Fast Track (aka trade promotion authority) bill last week to limit Congress' constitutionally-mandated authority over the White House's trade policies. Fast Track would restrict Congress to a yea-or-nay vote to pass the TPP with limited debate, and it would even prevent them from amending the final contents of the deal.

San Francisco is a city that has long been committed to government transparency, and the utter secrecy of deals like the TPP flies in the face of those values. The Board of Supervisors (which also serves as our city council) passed the Sunshine Ordinance almost 15 years ago to protect openness of the government's workings. "Public officials who attempt to conduct the public's business in secret should be held accountable for their actions," the law reads. And of course, the same must also be true of binding international deals, especially those that threaten to constrain federal and state lawmakers from passing rules in the public interest. The back-room meetings that have led to the TPP's harmful provisions should be seen as particularly offensive to a city that itself upholds transparency in government. .............(more)


'Education is no longer a public good but a private right'

Domestic Terrorism, Youth and the Politics of Disposability

Tuesday, 21 April 2015 00:00
By Henry A. Giroux, Truthout | News Analysis

"The danger is that a global, universally interrelated civilization may produce barbarians from its own midst by forcing millions of people into conditions which, despite all appearances, are the conditions of savages."

- Hannah Arendt, The Origins of Totalitarianism

Following Hannah Arendt, a dark cloud of political and ethical ignorance has descended on the United States. Thoughtlessness has become something that now occupies a privileged, if not celebrated, place in the political landscape and the mainstream cultural apparatuses. A new kind of infantilism now shapes daily life as adults gleefully take on the role of unthinking children and children are taught to be adults, stripped of their innocence and subject to a range of disciplinary pressures designed to cripple their ability to be imaginative.

Under such circumstances, agency devolves into a kind of anti-intellectual cretinism evident in the babble of banality produced by Fox News, celebrity culture, schools modeled after prisons and politicians who support creationism, argue against climate change and denounce almost any form of reason. The citizen now becomes a consumer; the politician, a slave to corporate money and power; and the burgeoning army of anti-public intellectuals in the mainstream media present themselves as unapologetic enemies of anything that suggests compassion, a respect for the commons and democracy itself.

Education is no longer a public good but a private right, just as critical thinking is no longer a fundamental necessity for creating an engaged and socially responsible citizenship. Neoliberalism's disdain for the social is no longer a quote made famous by Margaret Thatcher. The public sphere is now replaced by private interests, and unbridled individualism rails against any viable notion of solidarity that might inform the vibrancy of struggle, change, and an expansion of an enlightened and democratic body politic.

One outcome is that we live at a time in which institutions that were designed to limit human suffering and indignity and protect the public from the boom and bust cycles of capitalist markets have been either weakened or abolished. Free market policies, values and practices, with their now unrestrained emphasis on the privatization of public wealth, the denigration of social protections and the deregulation of economic activity, influence practically every commanding political and economic institution in North America. Finance capitalism now drives politics, governance and policy in unprecedented ways and is more than willing to sacrifice the future of young people for short-term political and economic gains, regardless of the talk about the need to not burden future generations "with hopelessly heavy tuition debt." It gets worse. ...................(more)


A Fact-Resistant ‘Group Think’ on Syria

from Consortium News:

A Fact-Resistant ‘Group Think’ on Syria
April 20, 2015

Exclusive: CBS News’ anchor Scott Pelley is known for his clueless journalism which never goes beyond Official Washington’s “group think” – and he was at it again in a dangerously provocative “60 Minutes” segment on the sarin gas attack near Damascus, Syria, in 2013, reports Robert Parry.

By Robert Parry

On Sunday evening, CBS’s “60 Minutes” presented what was pitched as a thorough examination of the infamous sarin gas attack outside Damascus, Syria, on Aug. 21, 2013, with anchor Scott Pelley asserting that “none of what we found will be omitted here.” But the segment – while filled with emotional scenes of dead and dying Syrians – made little effort to determine who was responsible.

Pelley’s team stuck to the conventional wisdom from the rush-to-judgment “white paper” that the White House issued on Aug. 30, 2013, just nine days after the incident, blaming the Syrian government of President Bashar al-Assad. But Pelley ignored contrary evidence that has emerged in the 20 months since the attack, including what I’ve been told are dissenting views among U.S. intelligence analysts.

The segment also played games with the chronology of the United Nations inspectors who had been invited to Damascus by Assad to investigate what he claimed were earlier chemical attacks carried out by Syrian rebels, a force dominated by Islamic extremists, including Al-Qaeda’s Nusra Front and the even more brutal Islamic State.

Though Pelley starts the segment by interviewing a Syrian who claimed he witnessed a sarin attack in Moadamiya, a suburb south of Damascus, Pelley leaves out the fact that Moadimiya was the first area examined by the UN inspectors and that their field tests found no evidence of sarin. Nor does Pelley note that UN laboratories also found no sarin or other chemical agents on the one missile that the inspectors recovered from Moadamiya. ..................(more)


NYC Subway Ridership Grows to Highest Point in 65 Years

NEW YORK (AP) — New York City subway ridership has reached its highest level in more than 65 years.

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority says more than 1.7 billion people rode the subway last year. That's a 2.6 percent increase from 2013.

Figures released Monday show that 5.6 million people rode the system on weekdays and 6 million took it on an average weekend.

The MTA says at its busiest, it carried more than 6 million customers on 29 weekdays in the last four months of 2014. That's a level it hasn't seen since the post-World War II era. ...............(more)


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