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Member since: Tue Feb 9, 2010, 11:51 PM
Number of posts: 3,306

About Me

Long time reader on DU and liberal/progressive. Up until recently I have not posted a lot. But I am very concerned about the situation in Ukraine and the people there. Liberals need to understand what is really happening, because Ukrainians are in a very dangerous situation and the geopolitical thing (US/Russia) is actually distracting from the realities that Ukrainians are facing on the ground there. So I have been posting a fair amount about that situation.

Journal Archives

Caucus turnout: Robust, record-setting and surprising

Source: Des Moines Register

Iowa’s 2016 caucus attendance was a doozy.

Republicans counted more than 180,000 caucusgoers, topping their 2012 attendance record of 121,503 by an estimated 60,000 people.

And while Democratic numbers weren’t completely tallied at the time of this publication, all indications pointed to a robust performance, although not likely to top the roughly 240,000 total who showed up in 2008 to vote for a Democratic rock-star field led by Barack Obama, John Edwards and Hillary Clinton.

The turnouts shunned conventional wisdom that high participation would equate to a Donald Trump victory, said Kedron Bardwell, the chairman of the political science department at Simpson College.

“It’s not what people were expecting in terms of what would happen if we had an increased turnout,” Bardwell said. “This is a dynamic kind of effect. If people anticipate that Trump is going to win, it also motivates the people that want anybody but Trump.”

Read more: http://www.desmoinesregister.com/story/news/elections/presidential/caucus/2016/02/02/caucus-turnout-robust-record-setting-and-surprising/79626128/

How The Iowa Democratic Caucus Works, Featuring Legos

Liberals No Longer Amused by Bernie Sanders’ Presidential Campaign

Liberals No Longer Amused by Bernie Sanders’ Presidential Campaign
by Kevin Gosztola


"It is one thing to vote for Hillary Clinton and other Democrats, who are more than happy to serve the moneyed elite, if you actually believe in what she stands for as a presidential candidate," writes Gosztola. "But it is quite another thing to delude people into voting for her simply because it is your view that Bernie Sanders’ vision is difficult to make a reality." (Photo: Charlie Leight, Getty Images)

The objective of the week for liberals appears to be to make clear Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders is some kind of pariah. Despite how his candidacy has transformed into a phenomenon over the past months, establishment liberals maintain the U.S. senator from Vermont should not be considered a “serious” candidate. They believe it would be a huge mistake if a Democrat with unapologetic socialist leanings won the nomination, especially over Hillary Clinton.

But these cases against Sanders are really arguments against citizens voting their conscience. The uncertainty and dismissiveness toward Sanders serves to silence any critics of the corporate-driven politics entrenched in the Democratic Party. It suggests a fear that Democrats might actually stand against corporate power for a change.

"What argument really amounts to is an argument that Democratic Party politicians and the operatives who run their campaigns would be uncomfortable with talking openly about socialism because that would alienate the corporate interests they have cozied up to in order to win elections."

The New York Times reports “alarmed Hillary Clinton supporters” are warning Sanders “would be an electoral disaster who would frighten swing voters and send Democrats in tight congressional and governor’s races to defeat.” Supporters cast Sanders as “unelectable” and attempt to present him as the Republicans’ favored nominee because super political action committees run by operatives like Karl Rove would supposedly prefer to see the Republican nominee run against Sanders.

Continued at CommonDreams.org

Skewed Courts Team Up with Debt Predators to Screw Nation's Poor

Skewed Courts Team Up with Debt Predators to Screw Nation's Poor

'Rubber stamping debt buyer suits threatens the rights of poor people and ultimately undermines the basic integrity of the courts.'
by Jon Queally


Courts across the United States have allowed multibillion-dollar corporations to secure judgments against alleged debtors en masse without providing meaningful evidence to support their claims, Human Rights Watch said in a report released Thursday .(Image: © 2016 Brian Stauffer for Human Rights Watch)

Courts across the United States are systematically failing poor and low-income individuals as predatory financial companies buy up large portfolios of past debt and then win profits by targeting vulnerable people who may or may not be responsible for the alleged delinquencies.

That's the key conclusion of an in-depth investigation conducted by Human Right Watch HRW), and published Thursday, which scrutinizes how courts handle hundreds of thousands of lawsuits brought every year by debt buyers – firms that specialize in purchasing bad debts which they then try to collect for themselves.

"Courts should find ways to assist alleged debtors who don’t have legal representation instead of stacking the odds still further against them." —Chris Albin-Lackey, Human Rights Watch

The report charges that courts are rubber-stamping lawsuits brought against people by these companies but that due-diligence is woefully lacking and too little is being done to protect the rights of those being sued.

"Courts should be treating debt buyer lawsuits with heightened vigilance," said Chris Albin-Lackey, senior legal adviser at Human Rights Watch. "Rubber stamping debt buyer suits threatens the rights of poor people and ultimately undermines the basic integrity of the courts."


10,000 protest new government in Moldova as tensions rise

Source: http://news.yahoo.com/moldova-braces-more-protests

Chisinau (AFP) - Around 10,000 people staged a mass protest in the Moldovan capital Chisinau on Thursday as tensions in the pro-Western nation flared following the secret midnight swearing-in of a new government.

People attend a rally in front of the Parliament building in Chisinau, Moldova on January 21, 2016 (AFP Photo/Dorin Goian)

Lawmakers of the impoverished former Soviet republic on Wednesday approved a new government amid political turmoil, with protesters storming the parliament building and opposition legislators attempting to block the vote.

The swearing-in of the new cabinet has exacerbated tensions over alleged high-level corruption in the country of 3.5 million wedged between Ukraine and Romania.

Opposition protesters marched along the capital's main avenues in sub-zero temperatures and rallied in front of the parliament building, which was blocked off by a police cordon six rows deep.

Read more: AFP

MLK Jr.: One of the Nation's Great Democratic Socialists

Martin Luther King Jr.: One of the Nation's Great Democratic Socialists
by Peter Dreier


Martin Luther King Jr Memorial at night in Washington, DC. (Photo: Scott Abelman/flickr/cc)

As we celebrate his birthday, it is easy to forget that Rev. Martin Luther King was a democratic socialist.

In 1964, accepting the Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo, he observed that the United States could learn much from Scandinavian "democratic socialism." He often talked about the need to confront "class issues," which he described as "the gulf between the haves and the have-nots."

In 1966 King confided to his staff:

"You can't talk about solving the economic problem of the Negro without talking about billions of dollars. You can't talk about ending the slums without first saying profit must be taken out of slums. You're really tampering and getting on dangerous ground because you are messing with folk then. You are messing with captains of industry. Now this means that we are treading in difficult water, because it really means that we are saying that something is wrong with capitalism. There must be a better distribution of wealth, and maybe America must move toward a democratic socialism."

In holding these views, King followed in the footsteps of many prominent, influential Americans whose views and activism changed the country for the better. In the 1890s, a socialist Baptist minister, Francis Bellamy, wrote "The Pledge of Allegiance" and a socialist poet, Katherine Lee Bates, penned "America the Beautiful." King was part of a proud tradition that includes such important 20th century figures as Jane Addams, Eugene Debs, Florence Kelley, John Dewey, Upton Sinclair, Helen Keller, W.E.B. DuBois, Albert Einstein, A. Philip Randolph, Bayard Rustin, and Walter Reuther.

Today, America's most prominent democratic socialist is Senator Bernie Sanders, a candidate for the Democratic Party's presidential nomination. Like King, Sanders says that the U.S. should learn from Sweden, Norway and Denmark -- countries with greater equality, a higher standard of living for working families, better schools, free universities, less poverty, a cleaner environment, higher voter turnout, stronger unions, universal health insurance, and a much wider safety net. Sounds anti-business? Forbes magazine ranked Denmark as the #1 country for business. The United States ranked #18.


 Uncle Sam Got a Shiny New Propaganda Bullhorn for Christmas

Uncle Sam Got a Shiny New Propaganda Bullhorn for Christmas
The Nation Magazine

 A new partnership is turning Radio Free Europe into an
anti-Russia propaganda machine.

As we begin 2016, with the American mainstream media’s anti-Russia bias as deeply entrenched as never before, comes the news that the US government–funded Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) has partnered up with the online magazine the Interpreter.

Previously, the Interpreter had been a “special project” of the Manhattan-based Institute for Modern Russia (IMR), a think tank funded by the exiled Russian oligarch Mikhail Khordorkovsky. In announcing the change, the magazine’s editor-in-chief, the journalist and CNN fixture Michael Weiss, said his organization was “excited to serve as an outpost of such a venerable news organization.”

An RFE/RL official told The Nation that the deal stipulates that RFE/RL will have exclusive rights to publish and translate articles from the Interpreter for RFE/RL’s audience abroad, while The Interpreter will be, in turn, obligated to publish each installment of ITS intractably Russo-phobic “The Power Vertical” blog.

According to Weiss, given his “magazine’s trajectory, a partnership with RFE/RL makes perfect sense.” That is only too true, given the marked decline in RFE/RL’s standards since the heyday of the Cold War.

Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty were founded in 1950 by the State Department’s first Director of Policy Planning, George F. Kennan, in coordination with the postwar Office of Policy Coordination (OPC). In founding RFE and RL (the two entities merged in 1976), Kennan and the OPC, according to Kennan biographer John Lewis Gaddis sought “to provide financial support and employment opportunities for Eastern European émigrés, as well as anti-Soviet broadcasts to their homelands.”


Nuclear weapons risk greater than in cold war, says ex-Pentagon chief

Source: The Guardian

William Perry lists a series of factors that he says mean the chance of a ‘calamity’ is higher today than in the 1970s and 80s

The risks of a nuclear catastrophe – in a regional war, terrorist attack, by accident or miscalculation – is greater than it was during the cold war and rising, a former US defence secretary has said.

William Perry, who served at the Pentagon from 1994 to 1997, made his comments a few hours before North Korea’s nuclear test on Wednesday, and listed Pyongyang’s aggressive atomic weapons programme as one of the global risk factors.

He also said progress made after the fall of the Soviet Union to reduce the chance of a nuclear exchange between the US and Russia was now unravelling.

“The probability of a nuclear calamity is higher today, I believe, that it was during the cold war,” Perry said. “A new danger has been rising in the past three years and that is the possibility there might be a nuclear exchange between the United States and Russia … brought about by a substantial miscalculation, a false alarm.”

Read more: http://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/jan/07/nuclear-weapons-risk-greater-than-in-cold-war-says-ex-pentagon-chief

Crimea faces months without power rather than be defined as part of Ukraine

Source: The Telegraph

Vladimir Putin asked Crimeans to choose between months of blackouts and signing an electricity contract that says the region is still part of Ukraine.

People play chess holding a torch near Nakhimov's Square in Sevastopol, Crimea Photo: AP

Residents of Crimea are facing several more months of blackouts after being asked to choose between energy shortages or signing an electricity supply contract that defines the peninsula as part of Ukraine.

The peninsular, which was annexed by Russia in 2014, has been in a state of emergency since an “energy blockade” by Ukrainian activists left nearly two million people without power in November.

The survey consisted of two questions: “Do you or do you not support signing a commercial contract with Ukraine for delivery of electricity to Crimea and Sevastopol, if it says that Crimea and Sevastopol is part of Ukraine?”

The second question was: “are you prepared to endure temporary difficulties connected with minor interruptions in the energy supply over the next three to four months?”

Read more: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/russia/12077725/Crimea-faces-months-without-power-rather-than-be-defined-as-part-of-Ukraine.html

Crimeans vote to give up electricity contract with Ukraine even if it means more power cut-offs


Headlights exposing residents of Simferopol crossing a motor road. © Maks Vetrov / Sputnik

About 2,500 people in Crimea and 500 in Sevastopol participated in the poll, meaning the statistical margin for error doesn’t exceed 4.5 percent, according to Fyodorov.

If Ukraine doesn’t change the wording in question, Russia is most likely to abandon the contract, Dmitry Peskov, the Russian president’s press secretary, said, upon learning of the outcome of the poll. Putin has already been informed of the results of the survey, he added.

The vote was ordered by President Putin, who wanted to know if locals approved of the renewal of the contract with the Ukrainian Ukrenergo company.

The order followed yet another power line disruption that occurred on December 30 when an electricity pylon was blown up. Ukrainian ultranationalists from the Right Sector group had already damaged a pylon in November, and then prevented rescue teams from repairing it. Since that act of sabotage, Crimea has been suffering from constant blackouts, prompting Russia to boost its own power supplies.


Endless War, Undeclared and Undebated

Endless War, Undeclared and Undebated

The Obama administration is waging war all over the world — without congressional authorization.

Foreign Policy in Focus


The death of six US soldiers in Afghanistan on December 21 at the hands of a Taliban suicide bomber brings to 21 the number of US combat deaths there in 2015. Once again we must confront the question of national purpose in waging war without debate or declaration. Like all other battlefield deaths in the Middle East, the Obama administration rationalizes these latest as being part of “training, advising, and assisting,” not combat. But those are merely code words for direct interventions that Congress has not authorized since 2002, in clear violation of restrictions the War Powers Resolution of 1973 places on presidential power.

There will be plenty more casualties in the Middle East for years to come, and not just because of the seemingly permanent US military presence in Iraq and Afghanistan. Consider two recent news items. According to a plan not yet formally approved, the Pentagon wants to create a worldwide string of “hubs” as staging areas for Special Operations forces to strike quickly against terrorists. Second, most members of Congress are unwilling to introduce and debate a bill authorizing the Obama administration’s use of force in the Middle East and beyond. Thus, there is no end in sight to the US at war, both because the Pentagon has found the perfect enemy and because no one in Congress is willing to stand up to it.

The Pentagon’s plan is to have a forward presence that, in the words of Defense Secretary Ashton Carter, “will enable unilateral crisis response, counterterror operations, or strikes on high-value targets.” Not long ago the Pentagon’s mantra was “places, not bases,” so as to avoid all the political problems, as well as the monetary costs, associated with a permanent military presence on foreign soil. Now “places” evidently have been modified to “hubs” and “spokes,” Pentagon-speak for small-scale leased bases of the sort already in place all over Africa. Northern Iraq and southern Europe are being considered as additional hub sites.

Beltway Resistance

Not everyone is reportedly on board with the Pentagon’s plan. The State Department correctly sees it as a power grab that may actually harm US foreign policy. The plan works at cross-purposes with diplomacy, substituting the deployment and use of force for potential opportunities to engage governments and rival groups. More US military facilities, no matter their size, invite criticism in the host countries, may become targets of terror groups, and feed the hostile propaganda of militants. In our terrorism era, however, State has no chance to win this battle.

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