Sunday, September 30, 2012

ANS -- America - He's Your President for Goodness Sake!

Here is a foreign (Canadian) view of how America is treating President Obama. 
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America - He's Your President for Goodness Sake!

By William Thomas

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There was a time not so long ago when Americans, regardless of their political stripes, rallied round their president. Once elected, the man who won the White House was no longer viewed as a republican or democrat, but the President of the United States. The oath of office was taken, the wagons were circled around the country's borders and it was America versus the rest of the world with the president of all the people at the helm.

Suddenly President Barack Obama, with the potential to become an exceptional president has become the glaring exception to that unwritten, patriotic rule.

Four days before President Obama's inauguration, before he officially took charge of the American government, Rush Limbaugh boasted publicly that he hoped the president would fail. Of course, when the president fails the country flounders. Wishing harm upon your country in order to further your own narrow political views is selfish, sinister and a tad treasonous as well.

Subsequently, during his State of the Union address, which is pretty much a pep rally for America, an unknown congressional representative from South Carolina, later identified as Joe Wilson, stopped the show when he called the President of the United States a liar. The president showed great restraint in ignoring this unprecedented insult and carried on with his speech. Speaker Nancy Pelosi was so stunned by the slur, she forgot to jump to her feet while clapping wildly, 30 or 40 times after that.

Last spring, President Obama took his wife Michelle to see a play in New York City and republicans attacked him over the cost of security for the excursion. The president can't take his wife out to dinner and a show without being scrutinized by the political opposition? As history has proven, a president in a theatre without adequate security is a tragically bad idea.

Remember: "Apart from that, Mrs. Lincoln, how did you enjoy the play?"

At some point, the treatment of President Obama went from offensive to ugly and then to downright dangerous.

The health-care debate, which looked more like extreme fighting in a mud pit than a national dialogue, revealed a very vulgar side of America. President Obama's face appeared on protest signs white-faced and blood-mouthed in a satanic clown image. In other tasteless portrayals, people who disagreed with his position distorted his face to look like Hitler complete with mustache and swastika.

Odd, that burning the flag makes Americans crazy, but depicting the president as a clown and a maniacal fascist is accepted as part of the new rude America.

Maligning the image of the leader of the free world is one thing, putting the president's life in peril is quite another. More than once, men with guns were videotaped at the health-care rallies where the president spoke. Again, history shows that letting men with guns get within range of a president has not served America well in the past.

And still the "birthers" are out there claiming Barack Obama was not born in the United States, although public documentation proves otherwise. Hawaii is definitely part of the United States, but the Panama Canal Zone where his electoral opponent Senator John McCain was born? Nobody's sure.

Last month, a 44-year-old woman in Buffalo was quite taken by President Obama when she met him in a chicken wing restaurant called Duff's. Did she say something about a pleasure and an honour to meet the man or utter encouraging words for the difficult job he is doing? No. Quote: "You're a hottie with a smokin' little body."

Lady, that was the President of the United States you were addressing, not one of the Jonas Brothers! He's your president for goodness sakes, not the guy driving the Zamboni at "Monster Trucks On Ice." Maybe next it'll be, "Take Your President To A Topless Bar Day."

In President Barack Obama, Americans have a charismatic leader with a good and honest heart. Unlike his predecessor, he's a very intelligent leader. And unlike that president's predecessor, he's a highly moral man.

In President Obama, Americans have the real deal, the whole package and a leader that citizens of almost every country around the world look to with great envy. Given the opportunity, Canadians would trade our leader, hell, most of our leaders for Obama in a heartbeat.

What America has in Obama is a head of state with vitality and insight and youth. Think about it, Barack Obama is a young Nelson Mandela. Mandela was the face of change and charity for all of Africa but he was too old to make it happen. The great things Obama might do for America and the world could go on for decades after he's out of office.

America, you know not what you have.

The man is being challenged unfairly, characterized with vulgarity and treated with the kind of deep disrespect to which no previous president was subjected. It's like the day after electing the first black man to be president, thereby electrifying the world with hope and joy, Americans sobered up and decided the bad old days were better.

President Obama may fail but it will not be a Richard Nixon default fraught with larceny and lies. President Obama, given a fair chance, will surely succeed but his triumph will never come with a Bill Clinton caveat – "if only he'd got control of that zipper."

Please. Give the man a fair, fighting chance. This incivility toward the leader who won over Americans and gave hope to billions of people around the world that their lives could be enhanced by his example, just naturally has to stop.

Believe me, when Americans drive by the White House and see a sign on the lawn that reads: "No shirt. No shoes. No service," they'll realize this new national rudeness has gone way, way too far.

For comments, ideas or a signed copy of a book, go to

ANS --

this is a fairly short, interesting article; a bit of respite from politics.  It's about groceries and not wasting them. 
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Grocery Chain Figures Out How to Stop Wasting Food

  • by NRDC
  • September 29, 2012
  • 5:00 am
Grocery Chain Figures Out How to Stop Wasting Food  

by Peter Lehner, Executive Director, NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council)

40 percent of the food we produce in the United States goes uneaten. No matter how local or organic it is, if nearly half our edible food is ending up in the garbage, we're not doing something right.

Much of this food gets wasted at home, and I recently blogged about simple strategies we can all use to reduce this waste. About 43 billion pounds of food are thrown away in grocery stores every year ­ about 10 percent of the total food supply at the retail level. The USDA estimates that supermarkets lose $15 billion each year in unsold produce alone. And because big retailers influence customer behavior on one side (Buy One Get One Free!), and suppliers on the other (demanding requirements that encourage growers to overplant for fear of not fulfilling them), their decisions can drive even more food waste throughout the system.

Industry executives say that wasted food is part of the cost of doing business. Conventional wisdom holds that customers want abundance ­shelves and displays overflowing with food. Low waste numbers actually raise a red flag for store managers ­ if food isn't wasted, that means there's not enough product on the shelves, and the store is actually failing to deliver a satisfactory customer experience.

It's pretty twisted logic and it's also not true, according to José Alvarez, the former CEO of Stop and Shop/Giant Landover. Alvarez bucked conventional wisdom by reducing waste across his 550 stores, keeping his customers happy, and saving $100 million annually in the process.

"People have it drilled into their brains that they need to have large, overflowing displays of perishable products," says Alvarez, now a lecturer at Harvard Business School. "We know there's waste, but everyone's afraid to reduce it because the thinking is that you're going to reduce your ability to sell product."

While at Stop and Shop, Alvarez was baffled by surveys that showed customers were unhappy with his stores' produce. "As far as we knew, we were at the top of our game," says Alvarez. "We were buying top-notch produce, we were maintaining the cold chain­yet people thought our produce wasn't fresh."

Efficiency Satisfies Customers, Saves $100 Million

After studying the problem in depth, Alvarez realized that the store's basic display requirements forced managers to put two to four days' worth of product on the shelf at any given time. So customers were seeing produce a-plenty, but it wasn't always fresh.

Stop and Shop drastically changed the way food was presented across all its perishable departments, in all of its stores, putting out 4 salmon fillets instead of 10 at the fish counter, or 8 avocados in the produce aisle instead of 24, stacked in a shallow basket with a dummy layer to give the illusion of depth. It took more labor to refill the displays, but less work to go through and remove any bad product. The store also reduced the variety of pack sizes available for a particular product, for example, offering field tomatoes either loose or in 6-packs, as opposed to loose, 3-packs, 6-packs, and 8-packs.

Within a few months, customer satisfaction had improved, sales numbers were up, and store waste was dramatically reduced. The changes saved the chain $100 million a year, a savings which they passed on to consumers by lowering prices.

Other changes were going on behind the scenes, too. If customers only bought 8 avocados a day, did Stop and Shop need to purchase them in cases of 24? "We started to push back deeper into the supply chain," said Alvarez. Stop and Shop buyers worked with suppliers to get smaller case sizes for some products, but weren't always successful. "Growers were saying, 'You guys want 8-packs, but the other guy wants 24-packs, so now I have to pack twice.' There wasn't a lot of industry cooperation on the issue."

Not all buyers were willing to take on increased packing costs up front, even though the cost was negligible compared to the savings in waste reduction. "Some people only see the numbers in front of their faces. It's complicated to measure the total system impacts. What we did took a lot of hard work and required a great deal of detailed analysis," says Alvarez.

From Alvarez's perspective, reducing waste across 550 stores was about efficiency and customer satisfaction. It wasn't about putting some new-fangled theory into action ­ it was just plain good business. "My father was a baker in Chicago, he had his own business," he recalls. "It was pretty strongly inculcated in me that you couldn't afford for stuff to go to waste. If you had stale bread you made bread pudding. You found ways to make money and satisfy customers by not wasting. If you don't do that, you don't survive as a business.  We need to address these issues as an industry and as a society."

This post is part of our Wasteland series, featuring people, towns, businesses and industries that are finding innovative ways to cut waste, boost efficiency and save money, time and valuable resources.

Related Stories:

Read more:

Friday, September 28, 2012

ANS -- Every State Taxes Its 1 Percent At A Lower Rate Than Low-Income Households

This is a short but important article.  The worst is Washington state.  Oh no, we were thinking of moving there....
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Every State Taxes Its 1 Percent At A Lower Rate Than Low-Income Households

By Pat Garofalo on Sep 21, 2012 at 9:30 am

[] As ThinkProgress has noted, the � 47 percent� that Mitt Romney derided for paying no federal income tax, and thus taking no �personal responsibility and care for their lives,� actually pay a slew of other taxes at rates higher than Romney himself pays. The lion�s share of the tax breaks handed out by the U.S. don�t go to low-income households or the middle class, but to the rich.

And according to a new report from the Institute for Taxation and Economic Policy, things are even worse at the state and local level level. In fact, all 50 states impose higher tax rates on low-income households than their richest 1 percent, when state and local taxes are taken into account:

The fact is that nearly every state and local tax system takes a much greater share of income from middle- and low-income families than from the wealthy. This �tax the poor� strategy is problematic because hiking taxes on low-income families pushes them further into poverty and increases the likelihood that they will need to rely on safety net programs. From a state budgeting perspective, this �soak the poor� strategy also doesn�t yield much revenue compared to modest taxes on the rich. It�s no wonder that so many states with regressive tax structures are facing long-term structural budget deficits. They�re continually imposing higher taxes on people without much money.

Some of the worst offenders are Florida, where the top 1 percent pays a 2.1 percent tax rate while the bottom 20 percent of households pay 13.5 percent; Illinois, 4.1 percent and 13 percent, respectively; Nevada, 1.6 percent and 8.9 percent, respectively; Texas, 3 percent and 12.2 percent, respectively; and South Dakota, 1.9 percent and 11 percent, respectively. Washington state though, is the worst, where the richest 1 percent pay a 2.6 percent tax rate while the poorest 20 percent pay a whopping 17 percent in taxes.

In the entire U.S., only the District of Columbia charges the richest 1 percent a higher tax rate than the poorest 20 percent, according to the report.

ANS -- Obama Bars Chinese-Owned Company From Building Wind-Farm

Here's something different.  Obama has stopped a Chinese company from building a windfarm close to a Naval base. for security reasons. 
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Obama Bars Chinese-Owned Company From Building Wind-Farm

By Sara Forden - Sep 28, 2012 11:28 AM PT

President Barack Obama barred a Chinese-owned company from building wind farms near a U.S. Navy installation in Oregon, the first time in 22 years a president has blocked a transaction on national security grounds.

�The president�s action demonstrates the administration�s commitment to protecting national security while maintaining the United States� longstanding policy on open investment,� the U.S. Treasury said in a statement today. The ruling �is specific to this transaction and is not a precedent with regard to any other foreign direct investment from China or any other country.�

Obama�s decision confirms an order handed down in July by the government�s Committee on Foreign Investment in the U.S., or CFIUS, which reviews acquisitions of domestic companies by non- U.S. entities. CFIUS referred the matter to the president after the Chinese-owned company, Ralls Corp., sued to overturn its ruling.

�I thought this case would have been ripe for some sort of mitigation agreement, which would have limited access by the parties but still allow them to obtain the benefit of their purchase,� Greg Jacobs, a lawyer with Reed Smith LLP in Washington, said in an interview before the announcement. �Some will view this as a closed-door to Chinese investment.�

Ralls, which is owned by executives of China-based Sany Group Co., is seeking to develop the wind farms in Oregon after purchasing land and other rights earlier this year. The assets consist of four locations, one of which is within restricted airspace the Navy uses for training, according to court documents. Three other properties are within five miles of the restricted airspace, according to the filings.

Sany Group

Closely held Sany Group is the owner of China�s biggest machinery maker. Dawei Duan, Sany�s chief financial officer and Jialiang Wu, a vice president of the group and general manager of Sany Electric Co., a group unit, are the owners of Delaware- based Ralls, according to court filings.

CFIUS rulings are rarely referred to the president for a decision before being resolved in some other way, according to a panel report to Congress covering the period from 2008 to 2010.

The last transaction blocked on CFIUS grounds was by then- president George H.W. Bush in 1990 in the proposed acquisition of MAMCO Manufacturing Inc., a maker of motors and generators based in Washington state, by China National Aero-Technology and Export Corp.

A status report in the court case, which is before U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson, is due from both sides by Oct. 1

Jackson already said she can�t review the president�s decision because of the deference that she�s legally obliged to give the president on national security issues. She urged the government and Ralls to try to reach an agreement.

CFIUS Reporting

Ralls bought the wind-farm assets earlier this year without reporting the transaction to CFIUS, according to a U.S. filing in the case.

CFIUS is an interagency committee headed by Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner that reviews the national security implications of transactions that could lead to a non-U.S. citizen controlling a U.S. business. The heads of the departments of Justice, Homeland Security, Commerce, Defense, State, and Energy, among others, sit on the committee. The panel�s recommendations can be enforced only by the president under the law.

The case is Ralls Corp. v. Committee on Foreign Investment in the U.S., 1:12-cv-01513, U.S. District Court, District of Columbia (Washington.)

To contact the reporter on this story: Sara Forden in Washington at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Michael Hytha at

ANS -- The 8-Hour Sleep Myth: How I Learned That Everything I Knew About Sleep Was Wrong

This is very interesting.  She says sleep researchers have come up with the idea that 8 hours of sleep in one go is NOT our natural state -- that what is natural for us is four hours, then an hour or two awake, then another four hours of sleep.  That interval in the middle is called "The Watch" -- does that give you a clue as to why we evolved that way? 
I wonder if I could make that happen in my life? 
Find it here:    

  personal health  
AlterNet / By Lynn Parramore
comments_image   119 COMMENTS

The 8-Hour Sleep Myth: How I Learned That Everything I Knew About Sleep Was Wrong

We've been told over and over that the 8-hour sleep is ideal, but our bodies have been telling us something else.
March 5, 2012  |  

Photo Credit: Shutterstock
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I've always been at odds with sleep. Starting around adolescence, morning became a special form of hell. Long school commutes meant rising in 6am darkness, then huddling miserably near the bathroom heating vent as I struggled to wrest myself from near-paralysis. The sight of eggs turned my not-yet-wakened stomach, so I scuttled off without breakfast. In fourth grade, my mother noticed that instead of playing outside after school with the other kids, I lay zonked in front of the TV, dozing until dinner. "Lethargy of unknown cause," pronounced the doctor.

High school trigonometry commenced at 7:50am. I flunked, stupefied with sleepiness. Only when college allowed me to schedule courses in the afternoon did the joy of education return. My decision to opt for grad school was partly traceable to a horror of returning to the treadmill of too little sleep and exhaustion, which a 9-to-5 job would surely bring.

In my late 20s, I began to wake up often for a couple of hours in the middle of the night – a phenomenon linked to female hormonal shifts. I've met these vigils with dread, obsessed with lost sleep and the next day's dysfunction. Beside my bed I stash an arsenal of weapons against insomnia: lavender sachets, sleep CDs, a stuffed sheep that makes muffled ocean noises, and drugstore remedies from valerian to melatonin which cause me "rebound insomnia" the moment I stop taking them.

The Sleep Fairy continued to elude me.

Recently I confessed my problem to the doctor, ashamed to fail at something so simple that babies and rodents can do it on a dime. When I asked for Ambien, she cut me a glance that made me feel like a heroin addict and lectured me on the dangers of "controlled substances." Her offering of "sleep hygiene" bromides like reserving my bedroom solely for sleep was useless to a studio apartment-dweller.

Conventional medical wisdom dropped me at a dead end. Why did I need to use a bedroom for nothing but sleeping when no other mammal had such a requirement? When for most of history, humans didn't either? Our ancestors crashed with beasties large and small roaming about, bodies tossing and snoring nearby, and temperatures fluctuating wildly. And yet they slept. How on earth did they do it?

A lot differently than we do, it turns out.

The 8-Hour Sleep Myth

Pursuing the truth about sleep means winding your way through a labyrinth of science, consumerism and myth. Researchers have had barely a clue about what constitutes "normal" sleep. Is it how many hours you sleep? A certain amount of time in a particular phase? The pharmaceutical industry recommends drug-induced oblivion, which, it turns out, doesn't even work. The average time spent sleeping increases by only a few minutes with the use of prescription sleep aids. And -- surprise! -- doctors have just linked sleeping pills to cancer.  We have memory foam mattresses, sleep clinics, hotel pillow concierges, and countless others strategies to put us to bed. And yet we complain about sleep more than ever.

The blame for modern sleep disorders is usually laid at the doorstep of Thomas Edison, whose electric light bulb turned the night from a time of rest to one of potentially endless activity and work. Proponents of the rising industrial culture further pushed the emphasis of work over rest, and the sense of sleep as lazy indulgence.

But there's something else, which I learned recently while engaged in a bout of insomnia-driven Googling. A Feb. 12, 2012 article on the BBC Web site, "The Myth of the 8-Hour Sleep," has permanently altered the way I think about sleep. It proclaimed something that the body had always intuited, even as the mind floundered helplessly.

Turns out that psychiatrist Thomas Wehr ran an experiment back in the '90s in which people were thrust into darkness for 14 hours every day for a month. When their sleep regulated, a strange pattern emerged. They slept first for four hours, then woke for one or two hours before drifting off again into a second four-hour sleep.

Historian Roger Ekirch of Virginia Tech would not have been surprised by this pattern. In 2001, he published a groundbreaking paper based on 16 years of research, which revealed something quite amazing: humans did not evolve to sleep through the night in one solid chunk. Until very recently, they slept in two stages. Shazam.

In his book At Day's Close: Night in Times Past, Ekrich presents over 500 references to these two distinct sleep periods, known as the "first sleep" and the "second sleep," culled from diaries, court records, medical manuals, anthropological studies, and literature, including The Odyssey. Like an astrolabe pointing to some forgotten star, these accounts referenced a first sleep that began two hours after dusk, followed by waking period of one or two hours and then a second sleep.

This waking period, known in some cultures as the "watch," was filled with everything from bringing in the animals to prayer. Some folks visited neighbors. Others smoked a pipe or analyzed their dreams. Often they lounged in bed to read, chat with bedfellows, or have much more refreshing sex than we modern humans have at bedtime. A 16th-century doctor's manual prescribed sex after the first sleep as the most enjoyable variety.

But these two sleeps and their magical interim were swept away so completely that by the 20th century, they were all but forgotten.

Historian Craig Koslofsky delves into the causes of this massive shift in human behavior in his new book, Evening's Empire. He points out that before the 17th century, you'd have to be a fool to go wandering around at night, where ne'er-do-wells and cutthroats lurked on pitch-black streets. Only the wealthy had candles, and even they had little need or desire to venture from home at night. Street lighting and other trends gradually changed this, and eventually nighttime became fashionable and hanging out in bed a mark of indolence. The industrial revolution put the exclamation point on this sentence of wakefulness. By the 19th century, health pundits argued in favor of a single, uninterrupted sleep.

We have been told over and over that the eight-hour sleep is ideal. But in many cases, our bodies have been telling us something else. Since our collective memory has been erased, anxiety about nighttime wakefulness has kept us up even longer, and our eight-hour sleep mandate may have made us more prone to stress. The long period of relaxation we used to get after a hard day's work may have been better for our peace of mind than all the yoga in Manhattan.

After learning this, I went in search of lost sleep.

Past Life Regression

"Even a soul submerged in sleep
is hard at work and helps
make something of the world."
Heraclitus, Fragments

What intrigued me most about the sleep research was a feeling of connection to ancient humans and to a realm beyond clock-driven, electrified industrial life, whose endless demands are more punishing than ever. Much as Werner Herzog's documentary Cave of Forgotten Dreams pulls the viewer into the lives of ancient cave dwellers in southern France who painted the walls with marvelous images, reading about how our ancestors filled their nights with dream reflection, lovemaking and 10-to-12 hour stretches of down-time produced a strange sense of intimacy and wonder.

I'm a writer and editor who works from home, without children, so I've had the luxury, for the last couple of weeks, of completely relinquishing myself to a new (or quite old) way of sleeping. I've been working at a cognitive shift – looking upon early evening sleepiness as a gift, and plopping into bed if I feel like it. I try to view the wakeful period, if it should come, as a magical, blessed time when my email box stops flooding and the screeching horns outside my New York window subside.

Instead of heading to bed with anxiety, I've tried to dive in like a voluptuary, pushing away my guilt about the list of things I could be doing and letting myself become beautifully suspended between worlds. I've started dimming the lights a couple of hours after dusk and looking at the nighttime not as a time to pursue endless work, but to daydream, drift, putter about, and enter an almost meditative state.

The books I've been reading in the evening hours have been specially chosen as a link to dreamy ruminations of our ancestor's "watch" period. Volumes like Norman O. Brown's Love's Body or Eduardo Galeano's Mirrors provide the kind of reflective, incantatory experience the nighttime seems made for. Freud's Interpretation of Dreams would be another excellent choice, and I know from experience that reading it before bedtime triggers the most vivid mental journeys.

In sleep, we slip back to a more primitive state. We go on a psychic archaeological dig. This is part of the reason that Freud proclaimed dreams to be the royal road to the unconscious and lifted his metaphors from the researchers who were sifting through the layers of ancient history on Egyptian digs, uncovering relics and forgotten memories. Ghosts flutter about us when we lie down to rest. Our waking identities dissolve, and we become creatures whose rhythms derive from the moon and the seas much more than the clock and the computer.

As we learn more, we may realize that giving sleep and rest the center stage in our lives may be as fundamental to our well-being as the way we eat and the medicines that cure us. And if we come to treasure this time of splendid relaxation, we may have much more to offer in the daytime hours.
Lynn Parramore is an AlterNet contributing editor. She is cofounder of Recessionwire, founding editor of New Deal 2.0, and author of 'Reading the Sphinx: Ancient Egypt in Nineteenth-Century Literary Culture.' Follow her on Twitter @LynnParramore.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

ANS -- Exploiting the Prophet

Here's and opinion piece about why Arabs react violently when Mohammed is criticized and Christians don't (lately) riot when Jesus is criticized.  He makes some interesting points.  Note the one about age. 
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Exploiting the Prophet


Published: September 22, 2012
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"PISS CHRIST," a famous photograph partly financed by taxpayers, depicted a crucifix immersed in what the artist said was his own urine. But conservative Christians did not riot on the Washington Mall.

Damon Winter/The New York Times
Nicholas D. Kristof

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"The Book of Mormon," a huge hit on Broadway, mocks the church's beliefs as hocus-pocus. But Mormons haven't burned down any theaters.

So why do parts of the Islamic world erupt in violence over insults to the Prophet Muhammad?

Let me try to address that indelicate question, and a related one: Should we curb the freedom to insult religions that are twitchy?

First, a few caveats. For starters, television images can magnify (and empower) crazies. In Libya, the few jihadis who killed Ambassador Chris Stevens were vastly outnumbered by the throngs of Libyan mourners who apologized afterward.

Remember also that it's not just Muslims who periodically go berserk, but everybody ­ particularly in societies with large numbers of poorly educated young men. Upheavals are often more about demography than about religion: the best predictor of civil conflict is the share of a population that is aged 15 to 24. In the 19th century, when the United States brimmed with poorly educated young men, Protestants rioted against Catholics.

For much of the postwar period, it was the secular nationalists in the Middle East who were seen as the extremists, while Islam was seen as a calming influence. That's why Israel helped nurture Hamas in Gaza.

That said, for a self-described "religion of peace," Islam does claim a lot of lives.

In conservative Muslim countries, sensitivities sometimes seem ludicrous. I once covered a Pakistani college teacher who was imprisoned and threatened with execution for speculating that the Prophet Muhammad's parents weren't Muslims. (They couldn't have been, since Islam began with him.)

I think a few things are going on. The first is that many Muslim countries lack a tradition of free speech, and see ridicule of the prophet as part of a larger narrative of the West's invading or humiliating the Islamic world. People in these countries sometimes also have an addled view of how the United States handles blasphemy.

A Pakistani imam, Abdul Wahid Qasmi, once told me that President Bill Clinton burned to death scores of Americans for criticizing Jesus. If America can execute blasphemers, he said, why can't Pakistan?

I challenged him, and he plucked an Urdu-language book off his shelf, thumbed through it, and began reading triumphantly about the 1993 raid on David Koresh's cult in Waco, Tex.

More broadly, this is less about offensive videos than about a political war unfolding in the Muslim world. Extremist Muslims like Salafis see themselves as unfairly marginalized, and they hope to exploit this issue to embarrass their governments and win public support. This is a political struggle, not just a religious battle ­ and we're pawns.

But it would be a mistake to back off and censor our kooks. The freedom to be an imbecile is one of our core values.

In any case, there will always be other insults. As some leading Muslims have noted, Islam has to learn to shrug them off.

"Why should we feel danger from anything?" Nasr Hamid Abu Zyad, one of the Islamic world's greatest theologians, said before his death in 2010. "Thousands of books are written against Muhammad. Thousands of books are written against Jesus. O.K., all these thousands of books did not destroy the faith."

A group called Muslims for Progressive Values noted a story in Islamic tradition in which Muhammad was tormented by a woman who put thorns in his path and went so far as to hurl manure at his head as he prayed. Yet Muhammad responded patiently and tolerantly. When she fell sick, he visited her home to wish her well.

For his time, Muhammad was socially progressive, and that's a thread that reformers want to recapture. Mahmoud Salem, the Egyptian blogger better known as Sandmonkey, wrote that violent protests were "more damaging to Islam's reputation than a thousand so-called 'Islam-attacking films.' "

He suggested that Egyptians forthrightly condemn Islamic fundamentalists as "a bunch of shrill, patriarchal, misogynistic, violent extremists who are using Islam as a cover for their behavior."

Are extremists hijacking the Arab Spring? They're trying to, but this is just the opening chapter in a long drama. Some Eastern European countries, like Romania and Hungary, are still wobbly more than two decades after their democratic revolutions. Maybe the closest parallel to the Arab Spring is the 1998 revolution in Indonesia, where it took years for Islamic extremism to subside.

My bet is that we'll see more turbulence in the Arab world, but that countries like Egypt and Tunisia and Libya won't fall over a cliff. A revolution isn't an event, but a process.

ANS -- It was Another 9/11, Alright - in Exactly the Way They Didn't Intend

Here is Brad Hicks' take on what has been going on in Libya.  Apparently, killing Chris Stevens was very bad for al Qaeda, and good for democracy.  Funny how things turn out.... they didn't really intend to kill him -- they didn't know he had arrived early.  But Brad says it essentially ended the civil war in Libya.  Chris Stevens was a major hero in Libya, and killing him caused locals to run unarmed against machine guns to overrun the militias. 
Find it here: 

It was Another 9/11, Alright - in Exactly the Way They Didn't Intend

  • Sep. 23rd, 2012 at 8:05 AM
Brad @ Burning Man
In the last year and a half or so before Osama bin Laden's death, we found out, bin Laden himself had joined the chorus of current and former al Qaeda members who were questioning whether or not 9/11 had been good for the al Qaeda cause. All but a couple of bin Laden's closest friends and top commanders had made the case to him, some of them in public and in print, that 9/11 had not only failed to expel the Americans from the Middle East as was promised, had not only failed to expel the Jews from Palestine as promised, had not only failed to re-unite the shattered Caliphate into a single global superpower as promised­not only had it failed at every single one of its policy objectives, it had cost them the one place in the entire world that was unambiguously theirs, the (now former) Islamic Caliphate of Afghanistan. In the last few months of his life, bin Laden wrestled with the question of what, then, they could do, what if anything would actually work, to meet their policy objectives, and he died with the work unfinished.

In the wake of bin Laden's death, control of al Qaeda fell into the hands of practically the last remaining Islamic "theologian" who still believes in violent jihad against civilian infidels, Ayman al-Zawahiri, and the world's war on al Qaeda continued. Since al-Zawahiri's promotion, he lost one of his best friends to the war, Abu Yahya al-Libi, his sub-commander in Libya, and so al-Zawahiri decided to honor the 9/11 anniversary this year by calling for strikes against Americans inside Libya in retaliation for Abu Yahya's death. But just as his predecessor over-played his hand by killing thousands of civilians, al-Zawahiri overplayed his hand­not by killing thousands of civilians, but by killing exactly the wrong one.

I mentioned, almost a year ago, how weirdly random it was that Cablegate, which ostensibly had nothing to do with Tunisia, because of newspaper reporting that happened in passing to draw attention to something about Tunisia's internal politics that wasn't even new, against all odds resulted in Tunisia, then Egypt, then Libya overthrowing their military dictatorships; there was no reason to think history would turn out that way, but it did. And here we are, a year later, and something just as random and unpredictable has happened: al Qaeda's allies in Libya had no way of knowing that US Ambassador Chris Stevens was going to be in Benghazi that night. His public schedule had him arriving the next day, for the dedication of a cultural center. He drove out the night before for a small, personal business meeting­and by sheer historical accident, drove into the consulate mere hours, at most, before al Qaeda attacked it.

Had they known he was there, I doubt that the Libyan al-Qaeda-allied milita would have attacked the building, abu-Libi or no, 9/11 or no. The Islamist militias are­or were, and I'll get to that in a second­headquartered in a tiny little town that's practically a suburb of Benghazi, so trust me when I say that they knew who Chris Stevens was. Everybody in Benghazi knew who Chris Stevens was. According to local Benghazi lore, it was Chris Stevens, personally, who persuaded NATO to intervene. It was Chris Stevens, the Benghazis say, who was the first outsider to take Qaddafi literally when he threatened to kill every single man, woman, and child in Benghazi during the Arab Spring. The people of Benghazi are in almost universal agreement that, if Chris Stevens had not been the US ambassador to Libya, every single one of them would be dead now. And, entirely by accident, one of Libya's two main Islamist militias, the one associated loosely with al Qaeda, killed that guy.

A British reporter (coincidentally) named Chris Stephen was in Benghazi the other night, to report on an all-day protest against not just Islamists, and not just against Islamist militias, but also against militias in general. He says that when night fell, the crowd sent the women and children home, because they had decided to simply end the militia problem in Benghazi once and for all. They over-ran six different militia bases, including all five Islamist compounds, including running unarmed directly into machine gun fire at the one where the Islamists dug in because that was what it took. According to Reuters, five protesters died, and more than 60 were wounded, but they succeeded: every militia headquarters in Libya's largest and second-most important city has been seized and enthusiastically, cheerfully turned right over to the Libyan army.

The new government of Libya has been negotiating for months to get the various resistance groups, tribal militias, ethnic militas, political militias, religious militas (all told, hundreds of them) to either stand down and return their seized heavy weapons to the Libyan army or to join the Libyan army and submit to elected authority. Negotiations dragged on, making minor progress after two militias opened fire on each other a few months ago in a local dispute. But no serious progress was being made, because each village, each tribe, each ethnic group, each local mosque wanted something in exchange for submission to the central government­more jobs, cash aid, a new school or water treatment plant­basically most of them thought they were entitled to be bribed to lay down their arms, they were holding the state (dare we say it) hostage to the idea that they could, if they wanted to, kill a lot of people if they didn't get what they wanted.

Thanks to al Qaeda over-playing their hand once again on an 11th of September, the militia blackmailing of Libya appears to finally be over. The civilians who ran to the front armed only with wooden, cardboard, or plastic toy guns to slow down Qaddafi's advance on Benghazi are on the march again, and with their support the President of Libya just gave the militias an ultimatum. It's a tempered, temperate ultimatum. They can keep their weapons. They can keep their structure and membership. But each and every single one of them will accept a Libyan army officer as their superior, and swear allegiance to the elected government of Libya, or be destroyed. And after what the protesters of Benghazi did this weekend, it's no bluff. The Libyan civil war is over, and (as in the last election) the Libyan people have come down on an enthusiastically pro-democracy side, unambiguously in favor of peaceful trade with the west, not jihad. Thank you for repeating your predecessor's greatest mistake, Ayman al-Zawahiri!



( 11 comments ­ Leave a comment )
[] nebris wrote:
Sep. 23rd, 2012 01:59 pm (UTC)
The Gang That Couldn't Shoot Straight
Well, what can one expect from an outfit that is more or less a CIA creation? =P

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Brad @ Burning Man
[] bradhicks wrote:
Sep. 23rd, 2012 02:52 pm (UTC)
Re: The Gang That Couldn't Shoot Straight
"Well, you have me there, John." But Nebs, this took more than blistering incompetence. This took a combination of blistering incompetence and almost Biblical bad luck.
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[] nebris wrote:
Sep. 23rd, 2012 03:11 pm (UTC)
almost Biblical bad luck
I have an icon for that. ;)

But seriously, like our own Neo-Cons, AQ operates at a level of hubris that positively creates its own 'Biblical bad luck'. Reminding myself of that is part of why I re-watch Adam Curtis' "The Power of Nightmares" roughly once a year.

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Brad @ Burning Man
[] bradhicks wrote:
Sep. 23rd, 2012 03:24 pm (UTC)
Re: almost Biblical bad luck
True enough. If you keep writing plans that have no fall-back plan, that depend on nothing randomly going wrong, you might get away with it for a while, but not indefinitely. (Now if we could only convince our politicians and CEOs of this.)
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[] Holly Ward wrote:
Sep. 23rd, 2012 11:43 pm (UTC)
Re: The Gang That Couldn't Shoot Straight
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[] dydan wrote:
Sep. 23rd, 2012 02:26 pm (UTC)
I am always impressed by your insight!
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[] yesthattom wrote:
Sep. 23rd, 2012 03:07 pm (UTC)
Very impressive!

Did you read 'Manhunt: The Ten Year Search for bin Laden From 9/11 to Abbottabad,' by Peter L. Bergen? It taught me more about foreign affairs and the history of al Qaeda than anything else. He also covered the "questioning whether or not 9/11 had been good for the al Qaeda cause" in detail.
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Brad @ Burning Man
[] bradhicks wrote:
Sep. 23rd, 2012 03:22 pm (UTC)
Didn't read it, did the next best thing: read a couple of reviews and heard an interview.
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[] jonathankorman wrote:
Sep. 23rd, 2012 05:45 pm (UTC)
"Qaddafi ... threatened to kill every single man, woman, and child in Benghazi during the Arab Spring"

Do you have a reference on that? I have a friend protesting that Qaddafi promised mercy to people who surrendered.
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Brad @ Burning Man
[] bradhicks wrote:
Sep. 23rd, 2012 08:36 pm (UTC)
I was working from memory for that part, so I just ran a bunch of Google searches. Apparently there's more disagreement about what he said, specifically how to translate it, than I remembered at the time. I remember Richard Engel, who was reporting from Benghazi at the time, said that the interpretation he was getting from both sides was that Qaddafi loyalists were going to murder the entire city of Benghazi unless the rebels laid down arms before the troops got there; apparently there were contradictory reports, which I did not see at the time, that loyalist forces were ordered not to shoot anybody who surrendered.

Whatever the truth of the order was, more recent sources agree that the people of Benghazi believed then, and believe now, that Qadaffi loyalists were going to murder the entire city, and believe that only the NATO air strikes saved them, and believe that Chris Stevens was the one who brought the NATO air strikes. Whether or not they're right, it's the fact that they believe that that made their probably-accidental killing of Chris Stevens such a huge setback for al Qaeda in Libya.
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[] jonathankorman wrote:
Sep. 23rd, 2012 09:33 pm (UTC)
Yeah, that sounds about right to me.
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Saturday, September 22, 2012

ANS -- Keep an Eye on Some of the Best Organizing Going On in America: 6 Activist Projects to Watch

Here's a short list of some of the stuff going on.  there's videos, but I think you have to go to the website to access those.
Find it here:  

AlterNet / By Sarah Seltzer
comments_image   3 COMMENTS

Keep an Eye on Some of the Best Organizing Going On in America: 6 Activist Projects to Watch

Some groups are fighting for the dignity of the most marginalized in society,
September 21, 2012  |  

The band Desaparecidos comes out in support of Breakthrough's "I'm Here" campaign
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As the date to go to the polls comes near, many seasonal activists will lace up their sneakers and do the work of knocking on doors to lend an aid to high-profile and local campaigns alike.

Getting out the vote is great, but year-round, season in and out,  grassroots activists create campaigns whose wins and losses don't get trumpeted across all the news networks. But their work is just as vitally important to local and national communities, very often with lives and safety at stake.

From the arts to local ballot initiatives to radical environmental activism, these are just a few of the many, many cool projects, ideas and campaigns that might be worth a minute of your attention this fall.

1. Documenting local resistance across the country with The Radical Resistance Tour. Two former occupiers from New York City, Amelia Dunbar and Kathleen Russell left town and spent the summer criss-crossing the country to spend time in local communities resisting corporate and political dominance. Their stops included mountain defense in West Virginia, protesting coal exports in Montana, direct action against the Keystone pipeline in Texas, pushing back against corporate takeover of housing in Chattanooga, Tennessee and Indian reservation defense against local businesses in South Dakota among others. They tried to focus on loci of activity that did not center around "straight white male" activists, they told me, because they'd been turned off by the too-often white male face of the Occupy movement.

Many of the local hubs of resistance the two visited were recommended to them by activists they met along the way, as they discovered an already extant network of solidarity. And while some of the projects they came across were Occupy-affiliated most were not. They documented many communities where the local activists had learned to let the least privileged, most directly threatened activists make decisions while more privileged people served in a supportive role and even at times volunteered to take risks and get arrested on their comrades' behalf. "People were supporting each other and fighting the same battle," Dunbar, one of the project's creators, told me. Through a blog and a series of videos that are going up one per week, they hope to spread awareness of these successful models of local activism and help build solidarity across the different causes and geographical area.

Episode 03: East Texas from Radical Resistance Tour on Vimeo.


2. Using Art to Activate Change: "Searching for American Justice" is a performance art project conceived and acted by Kanene Holder, another Occupier who memorably played the Goldman Sachs "squid" during last year's protests. Holder quotes Alexander Hamilton in declaring that the first duty of a nation is to justice, but her aims are more radical than Hamilton might have envisioned. Her project uses a mix of performance art and digital media to focus on injustices in housing, healthcare, the economy, law enforcement, gender rights, immigration and education. Holder specifically aims to remind viewers and participants that after the election, there is still work to be done. As Holder told me, "when we buy a car, we don't expect to just leave it for four years--we consider it an investment that we check in on regularly and get inspected." Democracy, she noted, should be the same--and by personifying the missing figure of justice, Holder hopes to inspire voters to perform regular inspections of their republic. Holder will be performing at the Art in Odd Places Festival and appearing at the Imagining America conference.


3. Ensuring the rights of domestic workers: Nannies, cleaners and home health aides, under the umbrella of the awesome and indefatigable Domestic Workers United, have made strides across the country, and in New York the passage of the Domestic Workers Bill of Rights was a notable step forward.

But as this Nation article details, passage is one thing while enforcement is another--many employers don't know or about the new regulations, while it's hard to enforce violations that occur in private homes. Still, many folks are doing continual on-the ground work work. The locus of much hat work is the socially-conscious, family-friendly neighborhood of Park Slope, Brooklyn, which DWU and others want to make into a pilot "domestic work justice zone." One group organizing towards this end (on the employer side) is Jews for Racial and Economic Justice's Shalom Bayit Campaign, aiming to mobilize employers, churches and synagogues and community groups, and explore the potential for collective bargaining in the industry once a "critical mass have come together and publicly committed to a set of standards, paving the way," says Rachel McCullough of JFREJ. Collective bargaining for nannies: imagine that.

JFREJ, DWU and many other partners are also working a national campaign called "Caring Across Generations" to improve the lot of home care workers which spotlights the rights of immigrants, aid workers, the elderly and the disabled in a way they hope will bring those groups together--particularly given the challenge of the aging baby boomer generation.


4. Fighting for the franchise.  While activists across the country fight back against the poll purge and voter ID laws, Michigan communities are trying to cast off the shackles of the state's emergency manager law. Elections in Michigan this November won't just be about who becomes President--they will be about who controls local politics.

Unions, civil rights lawyers, and Africa--American activists have coalesced to fight back against Michigan's odious emergency manager laws which takes local control away from mostly impoverished, minority communities and hands them over to representatives of the Republican governor. As Rachel Maddow has covered on her show, the laws are a way of essentially denying the ballot to minorities, an example of the shock doctrine in effect.

As the Sugar Law Center, which has (unsuccessfully) fought the laws through the court system, notes:

In the meantime, the number of local governments and school districts under the control of the Governor now stands at seven. That number is ten if you count the de facto state control represented by consent agreements in Detroit, Inkster and River Rouge. Taken together, well over half of Michigan's African-Americans have been stripped of their local voting rights

Finally, the coalition won their battle this summer to get repeal of these laws on the ballot, and now face an uphill slope to getting the laws implemented--but for Michigan residents, election day is going to have even more at stake than it does for the rest of us.

One website:

5. Standing with a hounded refugee and her family. A woman named Grace Grande, arrived in America after ending her relationship as a "concubine" with a powerful politician. After reaching out to multiple organizations to ask for help she found allies in the sister organizations Mariposa and AF3IRM, who work with women on the margins providing services on one hand, advocacy on the other.

In Grace's case, says Jollene Levid, AF3IRM Chairperson,  they saw the living embodiment of the toll that GOP's stalling on VAWA in an attempt to take away its protection for immigrant women, would take.  "We have this woman here who's exactly the type of woman who would be affected by pulling the VAWA language," says Levid. It's also about a phenomenon called "trans-border stalking" for which she says there's no international law. "In the age of the internet, how easy it is to communicate across borders and for the wealthy to cross borders," and continue their persecution abroad. Thus the shadowy figures Grace has seen outside the building where she and her family work.

Grace is different from other women in her circumstances, Levid told me, because of her willingness to step forward and let her story be told. In turn, a petition and letter-writing campaign to the judge in her case have brought heightened attention to her plight. On September 24, Grace's asylum hearing will be held, after which they'll determine next steps for the campaign.


6. Reminding us that immigrant women are here. Breakthrough is an organization that uses a mix of pop culture engagement and grassroots organizing to address human rights in India and the US. Their "I'm Here" (#ImHere) campaign calls attention to women like Grace, above, and so many more. "We've been working for the last decade on impact of immigration enforcement on communities in the US," says Director Malika Dutt, "and have been increasingly alarmed by the severe impact of women and families for years. " For instance, they are launching a video about a mom who didn't call the police after her daughter was raped because she was scared due to her immigration status.

The social media aspect of #ImHere includes prongs like asking people to send in photos in solidarity with immigrant women as well as live-tweets of political events to remind people about the impact of policy on immigrant communities has "emerged from confluence of increasing attacks on women in general as well as increasing attacks on immigrants." It's a reminder that there's a group of people who lack basic human rights here at home. It's time to say enough, says Dutt. "This cannot be what the country aspires to be."


From the well-financed to the self-starting, from worker's rights to public awareness, the people behind all the movements and campaigns above are doing really impressive advocacy and service work--and when the nation's attention moves past the election, the issues--and people--they highlight will need more work than ever.
Sarah Seltzer is an associate editor at AlterNet and a freelance writer based in New York City. Her work has been published at the Nation, the Christian Science Monitor, Jezebel and the Washington Post. Follow her on Twitter at @sarahmseltzer and find her work at

Friday, September 21, 2012

ANS -- Mitt Romney’s Gaping Wound

this is from Jeffrey Feldman at Frameshop:  It's about what was really wrong with what Romney said in the tape of his closed-door talk at the country club. 
Find it here:

Mitt Romney's Gaping Wound

Sep 21, 12 10:16 AM
Author Jeffrey Feldman Categories ElectionTags equality , Romney

As the media storm surge continues to crash down on Mitt Romney head, it may be worth remembering that modern elections in this country are winner-take-all contests where the goal, for the most part, is to wound your opponent before she wounds you.

The fantasy in the base, as always, is that the candidate will utter one phrase that is powerful enough to simultaneously impress and dissuade.  Such a phrase or magical rhetorical moment does not exist.

What does exist, however, are moments where one candidate is left with a gaping wound–a moment so damaging that it rises above the tit-for-tat of politics and cuts to the core of how we think about ourselves as Americans.

Mitt Romney's video is exactly that kind a wounding moment and no matter what the Romney campaign does from this point forward, they will never be able to stitch him up.  From this point forward, they need to slap some vaseline over the cut, send him back into the ring, and hope for the best.

So, how do we translate Romney's gaping wound into basic terms? What was the core American value that he trampled?

Mitt Romney's gaping wound can be summed up in one word:


The idea that the "haves" in American society are not in fact better than the "have-nots"–that all Americans, irrespective of financial means, all sit at the same table–is one of the most deeply held values in our system. We routinely reference this value using the word "equality."

Now, given the past 100 years of ongoing civil rights battles in this country, many observers of politics often identify "equality" solely with these struggles for inclusion.  Certainly, these civil rights struggles are fronts in the larger discourse of equality.

Given the relationship between American culture, our Constitution, and the capitalist system, however, there is a much broader understanding of equality situated within the discourse of means, money and wealth.

In those broad conception of equality–which is almost never articulated fully in our system, but is deeply held to be true–Americans believe that the amount of wealth one accumulates does not in turn give one's individual citizenship more value.  To have millions and millions in the bank does not give one the right to stand in judgement over those less fortunate.

Do not be mistaken, here. Judging others is as American as pumpkin pie.  We are happy to judge people for their looks, their accent, their sexuality, thee shape of their body, and their religion.  The most popular television shows are reality shows in which people stand before a panel of judges.

Judge another person for anything you'd like, so long as you do not stand in judgement over another American for having less money.

Now, to observers of the Republican Party, this may seem like the very thing they do all the time.  Stand in judgement.

In fact, the hallmark of the modern GOP is the extent to which they have always found the cleverest (some would say devious) ways for the wealthy to wield power over the less fortunate without ever judging them for having less.

The advances legislation that helps the wealthy to the detriment of the working class and poor via massive rhetorical campaigns that judge government, Islam, women, atheism, homosexuality, teachers, science, single mothers, and so on, and so forth.  And yet, you would be hard pressed to find a GOP campaign that came right out and said what it was thinking: You don't have as much as us because you are lazy.

Roll the tape back to Mitt Romney's key quote:

"There are 47% of the people who will vote for the president no matter what. All right, there are 47% who are with him, who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you name it…These are people who pay no income tax, 47% of Americans pay no income tax. So our message of low taxes doesn't connect. So he'll (President Obama) be out there talking about tax cuts for the rich. I mean, that's what they sell every four years. And so my job is not to worry about those people. I'll never convince them that they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives. What I have to do is convince the five to ten percent in the center that are independents, that are thoughtful, that look at voting one or the other depending upon in some cases emotion, whether they like the guy or not."

Ignoring for a moment that most of what Romney says is a lie (most of the 47% pay higher tax rates than Romney–deducted from their paychecks), what we see here is a Presidential candidate standing in judgement over those less fortunate.

It is a grand moment of country club condescension caught on video.  Romney is saying that  be someone in this category of the 47% is to be less than a full thinking individual.  You are a person guided by emotions, not reason.  You are easily manipulated and lazy.  And how does he know that you are like this?  Because your lack of "personal  responsibility" has left your bank accounts less substantial than his.  The 47%, Romney is saying, are not as good as the rest of us.

If Mitt Romney ultimately ends up winning the election, pundits will write post-scripts talking about the end of an America based on equality, the rise of neo-feudalism, the Dickensian Presidency.

If Mitt Romney ultimately ends up losing the election, pundits will return to the video as the moment a vast majority of America felt judged by the Republican candidate and, accordingly, turned away in disgust.

Either way, Mitt Romney has doomed himself to a long and painful future with a gaping wound that will never heal.

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One Comment so far. Leave a comment below.
  1. [] Veronica, 09.21.12 at 5:03 pm
    From Mitt Romney's speech: "Can you imagine working every day, taking a couple of jobs, saving your money so that your brother could go to­I mean, I would never do that for my brother­"
    I lived in Utah for about 6 years and one thing I learned is that the ones who are living according to Mormon principles consider "service to their brothers and sisters" one of the most holy things they can do for each other. My point is: he has not only wounded himself politically; he has wounded his image as a spiritual leader in the Mormon religion.
    Also, he is a horrible human being. Reply

Monday, September 17, 2012

ANS -- Sebastopol may require solar arrays on new businesses

This is interesting. 
find it here:   
PS, Are any of you sending my ANS missives on to Tish?  She wanted to be taken off of the list, but she's not on my list.

Sebastopol may require solar arrays on new businesses

Sunday, September 16th, 2012 | Posted by PD staff | no responses


The city of Sebastopol, which prides itself on being a small community with a big solar energy footprint, will consider requiring photovoltaic arrays on new commercial construction.

�It would be groundbreaking and it could really lead towards something,� said Councilman Patrick Slayter, an architect who is proposing the idea. �The city of Sebastopol and the County of Sonoma have pretty aggressive greenhouse gas reduction goals and this is moving towards meeting them.�

Solar panels at Ives Pool in Sebastopol. (PD File)

If the city adopts Slayter�s proposal, it will be among the first in the nation.

While there are many incentives to solar development in the form of rebates and credits and many renewable energy goals, there are few absolute mandates.

Culver City in Southern California requires solar on very large commercial developments, Hawaii requires solar water heaters on new homes and Japan is considering requiring solar on all new buildings following the Fukushima nuclear facility disaster, according to reports.

Sebastopol is a pioneer in solar energy, said Tom Kimbis, vice president of the Solar Energy Industries Association and the former director of Solar America, a $4.9 million federal program in which 25 cities, including Sebastopol, developed solar programs.

�It is something that would work for some cities and be inappropriate for other cities that are not as far along the deployment curve,� Kimbis said. �Some cities are just installing their first solar panels. Sebastopol is on the other extreme. It could be a model for other cities their size.�

A solar system on a commercial building could cost $40,000 to $75,000, but with tax incentives and rebates, it could pay for itself in five or six years, Slayter said.

The city already requires contractors to put in solar infrastructure on all new buildings, but the city�s building ordinance stops short of requiring systems be installed. As a matter of practice, however, solar has become commonplace on homes and commercial and public buildings.

There has been 1 megawatt of solar energy developed on homes, businesses and public buildings since 2003, enough electricity to power 500,000 homes.

�I think Sebastopol has the highest per capita of solar anywhere in the country,� said Vice Mayor Michael Kyse, a retired energy consultant. �We partly do it for the environment and we partly do it because it makes sense.�

Making solar a requirement is just the next step, Slayter said.

�If owners are doing it voluntarily and doing it with a tremendous payback, why not make it a requirement,� Slayter said.

Slayter is asking the council to appoint a subcommittee to come up with an ordinance, which would determine how large a project would have to be to trigger a requirement, how big the system would be, whether residential projects would be included and if it would apply to remodeling.

�I don�t want it to be an impediment to builders of small projects, costwise. If it gets to be too expensive, then nothing will happen,� Slayter said.

As a starting point, Slayter is proposing it apply to commercial buildings of 4,000 square feet or by major remodeling of large commercial buildings.

Such a requirement would have applied to the controversial CVS Pharmacy and Chase Bank branch project, which the City Council approved even though it could not convince the developer to include solar.

It would also have applied to the Barlow project, where solar is part of the ongoing construction; the recent Community Church remodeling; and a commercial building that is part of the Hollyhock subdivision.

Since 2003, when it began keeping statistics, there has been 1 megawatt of solar power developed in Sebastopol and other jurisdictions have looked to Sebastopol for guidance, said Glenn Schainblatt, the city�s building official.

From 2007 to 2009, Sebastopol has also been at the top of lists for solar installations and the power generated for small cities, according to a study done by the Northern California Solar Energy Association.

�We have been pretty influential for such a small little town,� Schainblatt said. �People come up here and say that we have solar everywhere.�

The City Council is meeting at 6 p.m. Tuesday in the Youth Annex.

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ANS -- Is Poverty a Kind of Robbery?

This article postulates that poverty in America isn't from a lack -- lack of jobs, lack of housing, lack of help -- it is from exploitation, and that exploitation is off-limits to the major parties to consider.  Brad Hicks linked to this article (by Thomas B. Edsall), and had this to say about it:  "Need to sleep on this.  When my rage simmers down, I'm going to have a lot to say about this, which I agree with."
Find it here:   

Campaign Stops September 16, 2012, 11:57 pm 9 Comments

Is Poverty a Kind of Robbery?


New Haven

In her presentation on Sept. 7 at a symposium on inequality at Yale, Alice Goffman, an assistant professor of sociology at the University of Wisconsin, talked about the winter of 2011-2012, which she spent living in Detroit among the very poor. Goffman described some of the effects of extreme poverty by quoting the words of a Detroit resident to whom she gave the pseudonym "Marqueta":

Your fingers get slow, you know, your whole body slows down. You can't really do much, you try to put a good face on for the kids, but when they leave you just keep still, keep the covers around you. Almost like you kind of fold into the floor. Like you're just waiting it out. You don't really think about too much.… November your stomach is crying at you but by December you know, you start to just shut down…. Around 3 you get up for the kids. Put the space heaters, so they come home and it's warm in here.

There are further manifestations of the suffering on the east side of Detroit, according to Goffman:

The cold, hunger, and the depression that accompanies them both, makes for a certain moral relativism. Lots of people have written about what people become willing to do under conditions of uncertainty and extreme duress. Sailors who are lost at sea, or people in war. By the end of Detroit's winter people become willing to do to things that they would not have considered in the more plentiful months. Like stealing, or selling their bodies.

Underneath the statistics, hidden behind the desolation of the poor in the poorest big city in the United States, lies one of most intractable political dilemmas of our era: Can the Democratic party, the party of the left, address issues of poverty and want in today's political environment? For example, can they talk about hunger?

Hunger has grown sharply since the financial collapse of 2008, although it is felt acutely by a relatively small percentage of the population. In 2007, 12.2 percent of Americans experienced what the Department of Agriculture describes as "low food security," including 4 percent who fell into the category of very low food security. By 2011, the percentage of those coping with low food security rose to 16.4 percent, and those experiencing very low food security went up to 5.5 percent.

The U.S.D.A. defines "low food security" as a lack of access "at all times to enough nutritious food for an active, healthy life." It defines "very low food security" as individuals going without or with very little food "at times during the year because the household lacked money and other resources for food."

Looked at through the calculus of contemporary partisan politics, the U.S.D.A. data demonstrates that in 2011 low food security was a problem for just under one in eight whites ­ a matter of concern but for many white voters, a virtually invisible issue. Very low food security affects the lives of only one in 24 whites.

For African Americans, low food security is a problem affecting one in four, and one in ten experience very low food security. The percentage of Hispanics who experience low food security is higher than the percentage of blacks, although the percentage of Hispanics suffering very low food security is slightly lower.

Here is the 2007 U.S.D.A. data broken down by race and ethnicity:
[] United States Department of AgricultureCLICK TO ENLARGE

And here is the parallel data for 2011:
[] United States Department of AgricultureCLICK TO ENLARGE

The issue of hunger sheds light on the broader politics of poverty.

Democrats have concluded that getting enough votes on Nov. 6 precludes taking policy positions that alienate middle-class whites. In practice this means that on the campaign trail there is an absence of explicit references to the poor ­ and we didn't hear much about them at the Democratic National Convention either.

Republicans, in turn, see taking a decisive majority of white votes as their best chance of winning the presidency. The 2012 electorate is likely to be 72% white, according to a number of analyses. In this scenario, Republicans need to get at least 62 percent of the white vote to win, and Democrats need to get 38 percent or more of the white vote.

Elijah Anderson, a sociologist at Yale and the author of several highly praised books about race and urban America, including "The Cosmopolitan Canopy," organized the symposium. When I asked him about the Democrats' problems in addressing poverty, Anderson wrote back in an email:

Apparently, the Republicans have backed the Democrats, and President Obama in particular, into the proverbial racial corner. It is a supreme irony that Obama, the nation's first African-American President, finds himself unable to advocate for truly disadvantaged blacks, or even to speak out forthrightly on racial issues. To do so is to risk alienating white conservative voters, who are more than ready to scream, "we told you so," that Obama is for "the blacks." But it is not just the potential white voters, but the political pundits who quickly draw attention to such actions, slanting their stories to stir up racial resentment. Strikingly, blacks most often understand President Obama's problems politically, and continue to vote for him, understanding the game full well, that Obama is doing the "best he can" in what is clearly a "deeply racist society." It's a conundrum.

The issue of race helps to explain another development in academia as well as in the public debate: the near abandonment of the once powerful tradition of exposing the exploitation of the poor.

Matthew Desmond, an assistant professor of sociology at Harvard, another speaker at the Yale symposium, described the extensive history of landlords, lenders and employers profiting from the rent and labor of slum dwellers. Desmond posed a question:

If exploitation long has helped to create the slum and its inhabitants, if it long has been a clear, direct, and systematic, cause of poverty and social suffering, why, then, has this ugly word ­ exploitation ­ been erased from current theories of urban poverty?

Instead, Desmond argued, contemporary urban poverty research

pivots upon the concept of a lack. Structural accounts emphasize the inner city's lack of jobs, social services, or organizations. Cultural accounts emphasize the inner city's lack of role models, custodial fathers, and middle-class values. Although usually pitted against one another, structural and cultural approaches share a common outlook: that the inner city is a void, a needy thing, and, like supplies lowered into the leper colony, that its problems can be solved by filing the void with more stuff: e.g., more jobs, more education, more social services.

This approach, Desmond contends, results in the misjudgment that proposals to lessen poverty by raising the minimum wage or improving welfare benefits would be sufficient. Not so, says Desmond, who spent months exploring evictions of the poor ­ white and black ­ in Milwaukee: "In a world of exploitation, such an assumption is anything but obvious."

When Desmond began his Milwaukee fieldwork, he

wondered why middle- and upper-class landlords would buy and manage property in some of Milwaukee's roughest neighborhoods. And the end of my fieldwork, I wondered why they wouldn't. As Sherrena [Tarver, one of the landlords he spoke to] would tell me the first time we met, "The 'hood is good. There's a lot of money there.… A two bedroom is a two bedroom is a two bedroom. If it's nice enough, and the people are O.K. with their living arrangements, they're gonna take it. They are at our mercy right now. They have to have a place to stay.

At the height of the housing collapse, Tarver saw an opportunity. "This moment right now," she told Desmond, "it's going to create a lot of millionaires. You know, if you have money right now, you can profit from other people's failures. … I'm catching the properties. I'm catching 'em."

Desmond backs up his argument ­ that cash transfers to the poor get siphoned off by landlords ­ with evidence from his study of evictions:

If Milwaukee evictions are lowest each February, it is because many members of the city's working poor dedicate some (or all) of their Earned Income Tax Credit to pay back rent, the majority paying steep fees to receive early payments through refund anticipation loans. The E.I.T.C., it would seem, is as much a benefit to inner-city landlords and H&R Block as it is to working families. In fixating almost exclusively on what poor neighborhoods lack, social scientists and policymakers alike have overlooked a fact that never has been lost on landlords: that there is good money to be made by tapping into the riches of the slum.

Desmond makes the case for the elevation of

the concept of exploitation to a more central position within the sociology of inequality. For who could argue that the urban poor today are not just as exploited as they were in generations past, what with the acceleration of rents throughout the housing crisis; the proliferation of pawn shops, the number of which doubled in the 1990s; the emergence of the payday lending industry, boasting of more stores across the U.S. than McDonald's restaurants and netting upwards of $7 billion annually in fees; and the colossal expansion of the subprime lending industry, which was generating upwards of $100 billion in annual revenues at the peak of the housing bubble? And yet conventional accounts of inequality, structural and cultural approaches alike, continue to view urban poverty strictly as the result of some inanity. How different our theories would be ­ and with them our policy prescriptions ­ if we began viewing poverty as the result of a kind of robbery.

Desmond's presentation raises another question: How different would the nation's politics be if either party, or at least the Democrats, added the concept of economic exploitation to its repertoire?

Not only would doing so risk inflaming the issue of race, but it would put at risk existing sources of campaign finance on which both parties are dependent. The finance-insurance-real estate sector is the single largest source of cash for the Democratic Party, $46.3 million in the current election cycle, and for the Republican Party too, at $67.7 million.

This dependence on moneyed interests effectively precludes exploitation as a theme for either major party to develop. These sources of campaign cash would dry up if they became the target of policies or positions they found threatening.

Even as polarization poses more sharply defined choices to the voter, pressing issues remain off limits. Poverty and hunger have been dropped from the agenda. The range of policy and electoral choices remains confined to what fits comfortably into a world of muted ethical concern, a world in which moral relativism has permeated society not so much from the bottom up, as from the top down.

The unshackling of moneyed interests ­ in the name of first amendment rights ­ from restraints on campaign contributions has, in fact, constrained the free speech of the disadvantaged. It empowers those whose goal is to hinder consumer-protection legislation, to forestall more progressive tax rates and to quash populist insurgencies.

This skewing of the odds in favor of the rich comes at a time when the Democratic Party is already inhibited by accusations that it likes to foment "class warfare" and to play "the race card." The result has been a relentless shift of the political center from left to right. The two most recent Democratic presidents, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, have pursued agendas well within this limited terrain. There is little reason to believe that Obama, if he wins in November, will feel empowered to push out much further into territory the Democrats have virtually abandoned.

Thomas B. Edsall, a professor of journalism at Columbia University, is the author of the book "The Age of Austerity: How Scarcity Will Remake American Politics," which was published earlier this year.