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unhappycamper

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Member since: Wed Mar 16, 2005, 10:12 AM
Number of posts: 54,563

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The Rise of Our Dumbocracy

http://smirkingchimp.com/thread/gary-corseri/55453/the-rise-of-our-dumbocracy

The Rise of Our Dumbocracy
Government
by Gary Corseri | April 19, 2014 - 8:00am

Roberts’ newest book (463 pages, from Clarity Press, 2014) is a compendium of 135 columns (bracketed by an intro and conclusion), written between August, 2008 and December 31, 2013. Roberts himself should require no intro to anyone a little hip to the alternative news media (where many of these columns were posted), or, for that matter, to any older codger aware of Roberts’ work as an associate editor and columnist for the Wall Street Journal—or, to even-older codgers who may recall his role as Assistant Secretary of the Treasury during the Reagan years. (During those years, Roberts helped shape “supply-side-economics”—for which “the Left” has still not forgiven him; and about which Roberts writes persuasively in his 2013 book, The Failure of Laissez Faire Capitalism.)

This is one busy guy! And smart! Being somewhat hip, and accelerating towards codgerdom, I must declare that PCR is simply one of America’s best chroniclers of this sad, brutal era of imperial overreach and moral decline. Anyone who wants to understand where we’ve been recently, where we are now, and where we’re heading, had better read this book pronto!

These hundred-plus columns hammer home some basic themes: Our Constitution has become little more than “a scrap of paper” (quote attributed to G. W. Bush—and sure does sound like something that moron would say!). Also, the official narrative of 9/11 is a “hoax.” That preposterous narrative has been used to justify our Nuremberg-Standard “war crimes” against Muslims (killing, wounding, traumatizing and displacing millions) in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Yemen, Pakistan, Somalia, and Syria. Our “unitary executive” is an excuse for “Cesarism.” Our Legislative and Judicial branches have surrendered their powers to our dictatorial Cesar—Obama (and his advisors!) and the quondam triumvirate of Cheny-Bush-Rummy—with barely a whimper. Our once vigorous middle class has been pummeled to a pulp thanks to jobs-offshoring, Supreme-Court maleficent decisions like “Citizens United,” and a rigged electoral system controlled by multi-billionaire oligarchs like the Koch Bros and Sheldon Adelson. Matters look none-too-sanguine for our future, of course, what with our “presstitute” media (a PCR neologism) lulling us with non-news or patent lies. Then, of course, there’s NATO. In case you’ve been too lulled, you may have missed the fact that NATO—originally a defensive alliance—has been transmogrified (since the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991) into America’s imperial army, with “puppet,” bought-out governments in France, England, etc. (27 countries at last count) fighting America’s “War on Terror,” and everything else, and pushing nukes right up to Russia’s borders, itching for a fracas (possibly nuclear!) with the Bear his selfdom! And if that isn’t madness enough—let’s “Pivot to Asia,” challenge China in the South China Sea and see if we can’t chop-suey the planet!

Personally, I think our descent into the lower circles of the Inferno began long ago, but for Roberts we at least made obeisance to a system of Laws. They may have been imperfectly observed--what with slavery and Tribal People’s genocide, but nobody had ever thought to codify our vileness (before Bush special counsel, John Yoo!). The die was cast for that codification when the invincible Soviet Union proved less than invincible and, cosmeticized with hubris, we proclaimed ourselves, in the spellbinding words of Madeleine Albright, “the indispensable people.” Such a people certainly had a “right” to override UN mandates against bombing the hell out of Serbia (to wrest Croatia into our orbit), or, later, to turn “no-fly zones” in Libya into free-fire zones. The Executive branch of such a people, supported by a wimp, campaign-financed Congress, could pooh-pooh Constitutional protections against unlimited detentions and advance to torturing suspected “terrorists” (under Bush). “Cesar” could then order the killing of American citizens, without trials or convictions, in foreign countries—call it trial-by-drones--under Obama! (And our grinning, change-we-can-believe-in Prez could kibitz about his “kill-list” skills!)
Posted by unhappycamper | Sun Apr 20, 2014, 09:13 AM (2 replies)

Oklahoma Provides a Win for ALEC's 50-State Campaign Against Democracy

http://smirkingchimp.com/thread/joshua-holland/55459/oklahoma-provides-a-win-for-alecs-50-state-campaign-against-democracy

Oklahoma Provides a Win for ALEC's 50-State Campaign Against Democracy
Worker's Rights
by Joshua Holland | April 19, 2014 - 8:57am

— from Moyers & Company

On Monday, Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin signed a bill that prohibits local governments from boosting their minimum wages or enacting laws mandating benefits like paid vacation or sick leave for working people.

Shadee Ashtari reports for The Huffington Post that “opponents of the measure view the move by Oklahoma Republicans as retaliation against an initiative underway in Oklahoma City, where organizers have been gathering signatures to raise the city’s minimum wage from $7.25 an hour to $10.10.” That may well be a factor, but the legislation has the fingerprints of the National Restaurant Association — “the other NRA” — and the American Legislative Affairs Council (ALEC) all over it.

Business-backed groups that oppose living wages and paid leave have a serious problem on their hands: polls show that they’re popular. So-called preemption laws provide them with a solution.

In November, Gordon Lafer, a political economist at the University of Oregon’s Labor Education and Research Center who authored a report titled, “The Legislative Attack on American Wages and Labor Standards, 2011–2012,” told BillMoyers.com, “In places where people have a chance to vote, not for candidates, but on the actual laws — on minimum wage, on sick leave — there’s very broad support for those measures among Republicans and Democrats, among conservatives and liberals.
Posted by unhappycamper | Sun Apr 20, 2014, 09:08 AM (0 replies)

What Do You Know about NATO’s Expansion? A Quiz

http://smirkingchimp.com/thread/gary-leupp/55460/what-do-you-know-about-nato-s-expansion-a-quiz

What Do You Know about NATO’s Expansion? A Quiz
NATO
by Gary Leupp | April 19, 2014 - 9:06am

A recent poll conducted by three Ivy League professors found that one in six people in this country could locate Ukraine on a map, and that the greater the person’s geographic ignorance, the greater the support for U.S. military intervention.

One might hope that after ensuing wars based on lies, people might wake up and realize that U.S. military intervention normally produces very unpleasant results for all involved. Still, you have the warmongers, calling for NATO action, catering to their audiences and receiving warm receptions from cable news talking heads.

The latter require–and mercilessly exploit–ignorance, fear, ethnic prejudice, and a weird (ultimately religious) notion of “American exceptionalism” to goad the people into backing more saber rattling and confrontation.

They’ve constructed a coherent if entirely misleading narrative. In their myth, Russia since the ascension to power of Vladimir Putin has been hell-bent on the reconstruction of a version of the old Soviet Union, in the process thwarting the desires of any democratic-minded peoples in the region who are not yet absorbed into the EU and NATO to attain such membership (it being assumed of course that the default mode of normal national existence in this broad region is in fact such memberships).
Posted by unhappycamper | Sun Apr 20, 2014, 09:06 AM (1 replies)

Torture is an All-American Value

http://smirkingchimp.com/thread/ted-rall/55463/torture-is-an-all-american-value

Torture is an All-American Value
Human Rights
by Ted Rall | April 19, 2014 - 9:28am

Dianne Feinstein, chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee and long-time-until-recently NSA apologist, claims to be shocked by an internal CIA report that documents the agency’s grisly record of torture after 9/11. “The report exposes brutality that stands in stark contrast to our values as a nation,” Feinstein said April 3rd. “It chronicles a stain on our history that must never again be allowed to happen.”

Among the “stunning revelations” that have leaked out of the still-classified 6,600-page CIA torture report are stories that long-time followers of my writing have long been aware of, having read about them in my column during the Bush years. Guantánamo isn’t just a concentration camp; it’s also a CIA “black site”/torture dungeon, as was a joint US-UK “extraordinary rendition” depot on the Indian Ocean island of Diego Garcia. The CIA outsourced torture to Third World shitholes/U.S. allies, knowing/expecting/hoping that they would be murdered.

Disgusting stuff. For sure. Yet there’s something even more nauseating — and infinitely more dangerous — than a country that tortures:

A nation in denial about its true values.
Posted by unhappycamper | Sun Apr 20, 2014, 09:03 AM (2 replies)

Pulitzer-winning series used as tool to lobby for change

http://gazette.com/pulitzer-winning-series-used-as-tool-to-lobby-for-change/article/1518509



Iraq War veteran Kris Goldsmith speaks at a news conference with Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand. On Tuesday, Gillibrand announced her support of the Military Mental Health Review Board Improvement Act, saying she was prompted by Goldsmith.

Pulitzer-winning series used as tool to lobby for change
By Dave Philipps Published: April 19, 2014 | 12:00 am

After a combat tour in Iraq, Kris Goldsmith was discharged from the Army in 2007 for attempting suicide.

His superiors wrote him up for malingering and not being on a plane to his second combat deployment - a flight he missed because he was locked in an Army hospital psychiatric ward. He was given a general discharge that stripped him of some veterans benefits.

"They kicked me out as quickly as they could," he said when reached Thursday at his house in New York. "And ever since, I've struggled. I can't get a real job because my discharge papers say I committed a serious offense."

Other than honorable: The Gazette's Pulittzer Prize winning special report

Once out of the Army, Goldsmith decided he would do whatever he could to keep the same thing from happening to other troops. This year, with other veterans, he started knocking on doors on Capitol Hill.
Posted by unhappycamper | Sun Apr 20, 2014, 08:38 AM (0 replies)

Conservative heavyweights have solar industry in their sights

http://www.latimes.com/nation/la-na-solar-kochs-20140420,0,2718030,full.story



The Koch brothers and large utilities have allied to reverse state policies that favor renewable energy. Environmentalists are pushing back, but the fight is spreading and intensifying.

Conservative heavyweights have solar industry in their sights
By Evan Halper
April 19, 2014, 9:00 p.m.

WASHINGTON — The political attack ad that ran recently in Arizona had some familiar hallmarks of the genre, including a greedy villain who hogged sweets for himself and made children cry.

But the bad guy, in this case, wasn't a fat-cat lobbyist or someone's political opponent.

He was a solar-energy consumer.

Solar, once almost universally regarded as a virtuous, if perhaps over-hyped, energy alternative, has now grown big enough to have enemies.

Posted by unhappycamper | Sun Apr 20, 2014, 07:51 AM (1 replies)

Amazon’s tax-free European profits drop after IRS clampdown

http://www.thenewstribune.com/2014/04/19/3156320/amazons-tax-free-european-profits.html?sp=/99/261/

Amazon’s tax-free European profits drop after IRS clampdown
By TOM BERGIN
Reuters April 19, 2014

LONDON — The amount of money Amazon.com reports through a tax-exempt vehicle in Europe has dropped sharply in the past two years, even as European sales jumped, after the U.S. tax authority tightened rules it felt were being abused to shift profits.

Amazon minimizes its tax bill by having the U.S. unit, which owns its technology licenses, lease the rights to re-license the technology to a tax-exempt partnership based in Luxembourg.

This partnership then resells the software rights to other affiliates for a much higher price, corporate and court filings show.

Such arrangements have drawn fire from politicians on both sides of the Atlantic as well as citizens struggling with higher personal taxes and cutbacks in state services imposed to pay for the financial crisis.
Posted by unhappycamper | Sun Apr 20, 2014, 07:19 AM (0 replies)

Apple and Google started a wage-fixing cartel involving dozens of companies and over 1 million emplo

http://smirkingchimp.com/thread/gaius-publius/55440/apple-and-google-started-a-wage-fixing-cartel-involving-dozens-of-companies-and-over-1-million-employ

Apple and Google started a wage-fixing cartel involving dozens of companies and over 1 million employees
Corporate America | Worker's Rights
by Gaius Publius | April 18, 2014 - 9:18am

You probably haven’t read about this before — and if you believe the myths and the legends, Apple’s Steve Jobs was a kind-hearted visionary, and Google’s Eric Schmidt has your NSA-covered back.

~snip~

Back in January, I wrote about “The Techtopus” — an illegal agreement between seven tech giants, including Apple, Google, and Intel, to suppress wages for tens of thousands of tech employees. The agreement prompted a Department of Justice investigation, resulting in a settlement in which the companies agreed to curb their restricting hiring deals. The same companies were then hit with a civil suit by employees affected by the agreements.

This week, as the final summary judgement for the resulting class action suit looms, and several of the companies mentioned (Intuit, Pixar and Lucasfilm) scramble to settle out of court, Pando has obtained court documents (embedded below) which show shocking evidence of a much larger conspiracy, reaching far beyond Silicon Valley.

Confidential internal Google and Apple memos, buried within piles of court dockets and reviewed by PandoDaily, clearly show that what began as a secret cartel agreement between Apple’s Steve Jobs and Google’s Eric Schmidt to illegally fix the labor market for hi-tech workers, expanded within a few years to include companies ranging from Dell, IBM, eBay and Microsoft, to Comcast, Clear Channel, Dreamworks, and London-based public relations behemoth WPP. All told, the combined workforces of the companies involved totals well over a million employees.
Posted by unhappycamper | Sat Apr 19, 2014, 09:02 AM (4 replies)

The Silent Hybrid Motorcycles the Pentagon Will Use for Stealth Raids

https://www.wired.com/2014/04/hybrid_bikes/



The Logos Technologies project is based on BRD’s RedShift MX, which retails for $15,000.

The Silent Hybrid Motorcycles the Pentagon Will Use for Stealth Raids
By Allen McDuffee
04.18.14 | 6:30 am

~snip~

In February, DARPA awarded Logos Technologies a $100,000, six-month Phase I Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) contract for a preliminary design to see just how viable the project is.

“Quieted, all-wheel-drive capability at extended range in a lightweight, rugged, single-track vehicle could support the successful operations of U.S. expeditionary and special forces in extreme terrain conditions and contested environments,” said Wade Pulliam, manager of advanced concepts at Logos Technologies, in a statement. “With a growing need to operate small units far from logistical support, the military may increasingly rely on adaptable, efficient technologies like this hybrid-electric motorcycle.”

Although still in the research phase, Logos plans to fit its quieted, multifuel hybrid-electric power system with an all-electric bike from San Francisco-based manufacturer BRD Motorcycles — a seven year old company that specializes in electric motorcycles.

For its base platform, the project relies on an existing (and what BRD calls “barely legal”) racing bike, the RedShift MX, a 250-pound all-electric moto that retails for $15,000.
Posted by unhappycamper | Sat Apr 19, 2014, 08:44 AM (1 replies)

7 Ways the Feds Can Make a Comcast-Time Warner Merger Less Terrible

http://www.wired.com/2014/04/7-limits-the-fcc-should-impose-on-a-comcast-time-warner-merger/



7 Ways the Feds Can Make a Comcast-Time Warner Merger Less Terrible
By Art Brodsky
04.19.14 | 6:30 am

This week, the Washington Post endorsed Comcast’s takeover of Time Warner Cable, the largest taking over the second-largest. The Post said the deal was OK, but regulators should keep a “watchful eye” on it and be prepared to act “if big industry players begin to violate basic principles of market fairness.”

That’s like telling someone it’s OK to step on a rattlesnake but to be careful not to get bitten. It’s also a little late. Those principles are long dead, killed in large part by a compliant Congress and weak regulators. If the deal must go through, the FCC should impose the seven rules I outline below. But first, some background on Comcast’s special place in what is looking increasingly like our new Gilded Age.

What the Comcast-TWC Merger Means for You

In this deal, every antitrust expert says that the way law is now interpreted, Comcast can buy Time Warner because the two don’t compete with each other, so there is no loss of choice for consumers. Think about that for a minute. The way the cable industry is structured, each company operates in its own franchise area. The industry is structured not to compete. So under the Comcast-Time Warner logic, Comcast could buy up every other cable company in the country and not be bothered a bit by that old-hat concept of antitrust.

What that formula ignores, of course, is the collateral damage to consumers. Every once in a while, cable (or satellite) companies and broadcasters get into these spats, called “retransmission consent” negotiations, in which they can’t agree on who should pay how much for programming. More and more, they end up with consumers getting the short end of the stick when a cable system is all of a sudden missing, say, the network carrying the Super Bowl.
Posted by unhappycamper | Sat Apr 19, 2014, 08:38 AM (2 replies)
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