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Current location: Potlandia
Member since: Fri Sep 28, 2007, 04:39 PM
Number of posts: 12,623

Journal Archives

Colombia Is Taking On Its Billionaires - Why Can't We?

Colombia Is Taking On Its Billionaires - Why Can't We?
Thursday, 18 September 2014 13:52
By The Daily Take Team, The Thom Hartmann Program | Op-Ed

America's billionaires are driving this nation's poverty epidemic. But it doesn't have to be that way.
As we speak, working-class Americans are getting screwed over by policies that favor the wealthy elite, and leave everyone else in the dust. As a result, more and more Americans are living in poverty.

In 2013, over 45 million Americans were living in poverty, including one in five children, and today, around 4 percent of our population lives on $2 per day or less. Unfortunately, our lawmakers in Washington would rather continue pandering to the needs of the rich and famous, than confront the very real poverty epidemic that is crippling our country.

Like America, Colombia is struggling with its own poverty epidemic brought on by extremely high levels of wealth inequality and by wealthy Colombians who aren't doing their fair share to help the economy.

Colombia is the seventh most unequal country in the world, with a staggering 32 percent of Colombians living in poverty. In rural areas of that country, the poverty rate jumps to just under 47 percent.

Meanwhile, just like here in America, there is a small number of very wealthy people who are doing very little to help the Colombian economy and working-class Colombians. But that's changing.


USA Has Largest Prison Population In World — And It’s Growing?

Seriously. WTF is up with the USA locking-up more of our own citizens that ANY NATION ON EARTH?
What further "evidence" do I need to conclude that this nation already IS a police state? None, sadly.

The United States Has The Largest Prison Population In The World — And It’s Growing

Both in raw numbers and by percentage of the population, the United States has the most prisoners of any developed country in the world — and it has the largest total prison population of any nation. That didn’t change in 2013. After several years in which the prison population dropped slightly, the raw number of inmates in United States custody went up again in 2013.

More than 1.57 million inmates sat behind bars in federal, state, and county prisons and jails around the country as of December 31, 2013. In the federal prisons, more than half of those sentenced to a stints of a year or longer are still there for drug crimes. In states including Louisiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Texas, Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, and Georgia, at least 1 percent of male residents were in prison on December 31. And across the country, racial disparities persist. Black men are six times more likely than white men to be in prison. Hispanic men are 2.4 times more likely, according to a Sentencing Project analysis of the data.

This doesn’t paint the full picture of the U.S. incarceration system. Many have estimated the total number of U.S. incarceration to be more than 2.4 million. This is in part because another estimated 12 million individuals cycle through the county jail systems in a given year for periods of less than a year, and are therefore not factored into a snapshot on December 31. There are also other mechanisms of incarceration not factored into this figure, including immigration detention, civil commitment, and Indian Country facilities, according to a Prison Policy Initiative briefing.
And a vastly greater number of Americans — 1 in 31 according to 2009 Pew figures — are under U.S. corrections custody either through parole, probation, or incarceration. One in three Americans have a criminal record, according to recent FBI estimates.


Oh! Really? "Obama Is Open to Ground Troops in Iraq, Top General Says"

So which is it? Boots on the ground in Iraq? .. or Not?

Obama Is Open to Ground Troops in Iraq, a Top General Says
George Zornick * The Nation * September 16, 2014 - 11:14 AM ET

President Obama has repeatedly declared there will be no combat troops on the ground in Iraq to fight the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. But a Senate hearing Tuesday with top US military officials revealed that pronouncement is on very shaky ground—there is now no question ground troops are under active consideration at the highest levels of government.

General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said in his opening remarks he isn’t ruling out asking Obama for ground troops. “To be clear, if we reach the point where I believe our advisers should accompany Iraqi troops on attacks against specific ISIL targets, I will recommend that to the president.” Dempsey also testified that the president asked him “to come back to him on a case-by-case basis” on the subject of ground troops.

There are currently about 1,600 US troops on the ground in Iraq serving in “advisory” roles. Dempsey reiterated several times he could imagine scenarios in which he would want them to switch into more active roles, though his potential rationale for doing so changed in striking ways throughout the hearing.

Dempsey first said, in a response to a question from Senator Carl Levin, the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, “If there are threats to the United States, then of course I would go back to the president and make a recommendation that may include the use of US military ground forces.” But moments later, in a response to a question from Senator Jack Reed, he outlined an entirely different scenario that would involve US troops heading into battle without a clear threat to the United States.

“If the Iraqi security forces and the pesh were at some point ready to retake Mosul, a mission that I would find to be extraordinarily complex, it could very well be part of that particular mission to provide close combat advising or accompanying for that mission,” Dempsey said. “But for the day-to-day activities that I anticipate will evolve over time, I don’t see it to be necessary right now.”

Truthout: Obama Declares Perpetual War

Meet the "new war" just like the old one.

Obama Declares Perpetual War
Monday, 15 September 2014 10:15
By Marjorie Cohn * Truthout

President Barack Obama escalated the drone war he has conducted for the past five and a half years by declaring his intention to "degrade and ultimately destroy" the Islamic State, also known as ISIS, or ISIL. Since August 8, Obama has mounted at least 154 airstrikes in Iraq. He will send 475 additional US troops, increasing the total number in Iraq to about 1,600. Obama announced he would conduct "a systematic campaign of airstrikes" in Iraq, and possibly in Syria. But, not limiting himself to those countries, Obama declared the whole world his battlefield, stating "We will hunt down terrorists who threaten our country, wherever they are . . . if you threaten America, you will find no safe haven."

If, indeed, there were an imminent threat of attack on the United States, Obama would be legally entitled to launch a military operation. The United Nations Charter, which prohibits the use of military force, allows an exception when a country acts in self-defense. Under the well-established Caroline doctrine, the "necessity for self-defense must be instant, overwhelming, leaving no choice of means, and no moment for deliberation." The only problem is, Obama admitted, "We have not yet detected specific plotting against our homeland." Citing only the vague possibility of future "deadly attacks," Obama nevertheless declared a perpetual war with no specific end time.

The only other exception to the UN Charter's prohibition on military force is when the Security Council has given its approval. Obama said he would chair a meeting of the Council in two weeks' time to "mobilize the international community." But the Charter requires that the Council countenance the military operation before it occurs. The proposed resolution the Council is slated to adopt will reportedly call on countries to criminalize recruitment and travel of foreign fighters that join extremist military forces, and require the sharing of airline passenger information. It will not, however, authorize military force. Obama's war violates the UN Charter, a treaty the United States has ratified, making it part of US law under the Supremacy Clause of the US Constitution.


The United States Heading for a Crash in the Middle East?

The United States Heading for a Crash
Tuesday, September 16, 2014 * by Immanuel Wallerstein * Common Dreams

President Barack Obama has told the United States, and in particular its Congress, that it must do something very major in the Middle East to stop disaster. The analysis of the presumed problem is extremely murky, but the patriotic drums are being turned to high pitch and almost everyone is for the moment going along. A cooler head might say that they are all flailing around in desperation about a situation that the United States has the major responsibility for creating. They don't know what to do, so they act in panic.


A lot of attention is focused on what Obama has and hasn't done. Even his closest defenders seem to doubt him. An Australian commentator, writing in the Financial Times, summed it up in one sentence: "In 2014 the world has grown suddenly weary of Barack Obama." I wonder if Obama has not grown weary of Obama. But it's a mistake to pin the blame just on him. Virtually no one among U.S. leaders has been making alternative proposals that are more sensible. Quite the contrary. There are the warmongers who want him to bomb everybody and right away. There are the politicians who really think it will make a lot of difference who will win the next elections in the United States.

A rare voice of sanity came in an interview in the New York Times with Daniel Benjamin, who had been the U.S. State Department's top antiterrorism advisor during Obama's first term. He called the so-called ISIS threat a "farce" with "members of the cabinet and top military officers all over the place describing the threat in lurid terms that are not justified." He says that what they have been saying is without any "corroborated evidence" and just demonstrates how easy it is for officials and the media to "spin the public into a panic." But who is listening to Mr. Benjamin?

At the moment, and with the help of gruesome photos showing the beheading of two American journalists by the caliphate, the polls show enormous support in the United States for military action. But how long will this last? The support is there as long as it seems there are concrete results. Even Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Martin Dempsey in advocating military action says it will take at least three years. Multiply three by five and one might come nearer to how long this will go on. And the U.S. public is sure to become quickly disenchanted.


Iran and the U.S. Are Allies Against ISIS but Aren’t Ready to Admit It Yet

Mixed signals all around.

Iran and the U.S. Are Allies Against ISIS but Aren’t Ready to Admit It Yet
By Joshua Keating * Slate * SEPT. 16 2014 11:56 AM

We are in an era of unacknowledged invasions. In military operations ranging from Russia’s incursion into eastern Ukraine to the activities of Iranian military advisers in Iraq, governments refuse to admit what they’re up to even when those engagements are widely reported in the international media. As the U.S. begins carrying out its first airstrikes against ISIS under the new strategy announced by President Obama last week, we’ve seen the rise of another related phenomenon: the unacknowledged alliance.

Last week there were media reports that Ayatollah Ali Khamenei had approved cooperation with the United States in the name of fighting ISIS. If those reports are true, the supreme leader doesn’t appear willing to acknowledge them publicly. Shortly after Secretary of State John Kerry said Monday that the U.S. would be open to talks with Iran about the crisis in Iraq, Khamenei personally rebuffed the offer, telling the state news agency IRNA, “I saw no point in cooperating with a country whose hands are dirty and intentions murky." He went on to suggest that the U.S. was using the crisis as a "pretext to do in Iraq and Syria what it already does in Pakistan—bomb anywhere without authorization.”

The U.S. side has been sending some mixed signals. Last week Kerry had ruled out cooperation with Iran due to its “engagement in Syria and elsewhere.” Iran, after all, is a major backer of Bashar al-Assad’s government, which, in addition to its many other crimes, the U.S. accuses of facilitating the rise of ISIS. (Syria has since executed a rapid about-face and is now trying to sell itself internationally as an enthusiastic member of the anti-terror coalition.)

Iran was not among the more than 20 nations represented at a conference in Paris this week devoted to assisting the Iraqi government in its efforts against ISIS, a snub lamented by the Iraqi foreign minister.


Yet another Casualty of Income Inequality: State Budgets aka education/infrastructure

This is a particularly disturbing article, since I had just posted these two OPs a few days ago:
Why the fuck is The Fed setting the stage to bankrupt local municipalities?
The Fed Just Imposed Financial Austerity on the States

These two things coming to light within a few days of each other, is striking to me. I mean really. WTF is going on here? Nothing other than the steady deliberate beggaring of working people and their local communities by a handful of obscenely wealthy oligarchs, leeches who presume to be "entitled" to rape, plunder and pillage everything and everyone in sight.

Think Greece. Think Detroit. <--Our Future, brought to you by The 1%


Rising Income Inequality Is Taking A Toll On State Revenues
AP * 09/15/2014 12:23 am EDT Updated: 09/15/2014 11:59 am EDT

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — A national increase in income inequality appears to be negatively affecting tax revenues in Missouri and other states, according to a new report from a credit rating agency.

The report by Standard & Poor's notes that Missouri's average annual tax revenue growth has declined sharply over recent decades. From the 1950s through the 1970s, Missouri averaged more than 9 percent annual growth. But from 2000 to 2009, it averaged just 1.8 percent growth.

Over the past several decades, household incomes have risen significantly faster for the top 1 percent of earners nationwide than for median households — a trend that economics refer to as the income gap, or income inequality.

The Standard & Poor's report examined the tax revenues in 10 states that rely heavily on income taxes, including Missouri, and 10 other states that depend more significantly on sales taxes for their revenues. "The findings from our research indicate that tax revenue growth slows as income inequality rises, regardless of a state's tax structure," said the report, written by S&P credit analysis Gabriel Petek.

In Missouri's sales-tax dependent neighbor of Tennessee, for example, the average annual tax revenue growth has declined from 9 percent in the period of the 1950s through 1970s to 3.8 percent during 2000 through 2009. Although Missouri had a sharper decline than Tennessee, the report found that the rise of income inequality generally had a stronger negative effect on the group of sales-tax-reliant states than the income-tax dependent states.

The report concludes that income inequality is an economic problem — with financial implications for states — and that states are unlikely to be able to fully offset it by changing their tax policies.


Empire - The Rise of the Oligarchs

This could NOT be more timely IMHO. We've been had big-time by
domestic economic terrorists. Where is our Smedley Butler?


Surprise, surprise! "Contractors Ready to Cash In On ISIS War"

Contractors Ready to Cash In On ISIS War
WORLD NEWS * 09.13.14

Obama pledged that the war against ISIS won’t be fought with U.S. ground troops. He didn’t say anything about contractors, who see this as “the next big meal ticket.”

America’s rapidly-expanding war against ISIS won’t involve large numbers of U.S. troops on the ground, President Obama is promising. And it’s clear that airstrikes alone won’t beat back the extremist group. Which means that if the President wants to have any hope of meeting his far-reaching goal of destroying ISIS, he’s going to have to rely on private military contractors. At least, that’s what the contractors are hoping.

At the height of the Iraq war, these firms hired hundreds of thousands of people: guns-for-hire, IT geeks, logistics specialists, interrogators, and short order cooks to ladle out the slop at the military cafeteria. Over time, some of those contractors became the symbol for everything that was wrong with the Iraq war: hugely expensive, ineffective, and indifferent to Iraqi life. Contractors were at the middle of the war’s biggest scandals, from Abu Ghraib to Nissour Square. And it was the abductions and murder of Blackwater contractors that sparked one of Iraq's biggest battles.

None of the five current and former contractors who spoke with The Daily Beast expected a replay of last decade’s Iraq war. But they all said a major opportunity was coming—both for them, and for Obama, who could use the private armies as a way to conceal just how many people will be fighting in this new conflict.

“Iraq this time around is not going to be as big as it was before,” said Roger Carstens, a former special operations officer who has served as a contracted military adviser in Somalia and Afghanistan. “That said, this new war will present an opportunity for the companies that have a resident train and advising capability to contribute to this new effort.”

President Obama has asked Congress to authorize $500 million to train a new Syrian opposition out of Saudi Arabia. That money would be part of a $5 billion fund Obama requested this spring from Congress to help train and equip U.S. allies to fight terrorists. One U.S. military contractor working in Iraq who asked not to be named said, “I can tell you the contractor-expat community is abuzz thinking this will lead to more work. We expect a much larger footprint than he is showing right now.”


Beheadings at ‘record levels’: Saudi Arabia executes dozens in deadly August

I guess some beheadings are more "acceptable" than others.

Beheadings at ‘record levels’: Saudi Arabia executes dozens in deadly August
AUGUST 26, 2014 1:56PM * News.com

A PERSON has been put to death in Saudi Arabia almost every day this month with the country expected to have added to that figure with the execution of its 23rd inmate yesterday. Hajras al-Qurey will become the latest person to be executed in the last three weeks with human rights groups horrified by what they are calling a surge in executions.

The execution of al-Qurey will top off a deadly week around the world with the beheading of an Egyptian man by Libya armed groups and the execution of 18 informers by Hamas, according to Amnesty International. Human rights groups have been unable to confirm whether his execution has yet taken place.

Last Monday four men — two sets of brothers Hadi bin Saleh Abdullah al-Mutlaq and Awad bin Saleh Abdullah al-Mutlaq along with Mufrih bin Jaber Zayd al-Yami and Ali bin Jaber Zayd al-Yami — were beheaded.

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