Tuesday, March 31, 2015

"Water is Not a Human Right" Sez Corporation

A Nebraska farmer confronts an oil and gas committee, demanding they drink his well water if they think fracking is harmless. Do they? Let's Watch.

You’ve no doubt seen this one. Monsanto lobbyist says their pesticide is safe to drink but refuses to drink it and runs away. (Reported by RawStory)

OK OK… apparently he’s not a paid lobbyist. He’s only a paid shill. Can someone explain the difference? (I wonder why Newsweek decided to parse this one? Did they get a call from a Monsanto lawyer?)

The point is this: Water is not a human right. Nestlé has told us this, so it must be true. People do not have a right to get a drink of water. Water is a corporate right, not a human right. Want to live? Pay the corporation that owns the water.

(Here's the backstory.)

(Here's the film.)

Corporate ownership of water is the future. (From the Guardian.) Wherever possible corporations are finding things people need to live and cornering the market on them.

This has been happening for the past 50 years, bit by bit, ever since Reagan and Thatcher and before that (it's their legacy, their gift to humanity), working its way through corporate-controlled legislatures and being ruled on by corporate-owned judges and supreme courts.

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Monday, March 30, 2015

More Observations On America's Nuttier Half

The only Republican presidential hopeful who isn’t a man has a strange opinion of working Americans. (Raw Story reports Carly Fiorina thinks working Americans watch porn all day.)

Conspiracy Theories shape the way the Right looks at the world. (Vox reports on the GOP rumor that Harry Reid got on the wrong side of the mob.)

(I wonder what Republicans would say if Scalia showed up with a black eye?)

Is this more or less bizarre than the rumor I told you about last week––that Obama tried to drop a nuclear bomb on Charleston? (Bloomberg reported on that GOP rumor.)

How’s the Supreme Court looking after a few decades of libertarian rule? (Salon's take on where SCOTUS is headed.)

Don’t worry. Scalia is so perfect he can just wing it. What does it matter if a few more innocent people are executed? Tony doesn’t know any of them. (Slate reports on Scalia's casual approach to death penalty appeals.)

Meanwhile, how’s our brilliant and always perfect private sector doing?

Private for-profit prisons find it’s more profitable to feed inmates garbage… actual garbage. Food that’s been thrown in the garbage. Brilliant. (Think Progress reports on the for-profit prison diet plan.)

Republicans believe every task that involves repairing society’s ills or dealing with pain and fear of death is a wonderful profit opportunity.

What happens when the task is less important than the profit? The Republican half of the U.S. doesn’t believe we have any obligation to treat other Americans with respect. Other Americans are just a profit opportunity. America’s problems are only a business model, nothing more.

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Friday, March 27, 2015

Republican Nuttiness

New Arizona law passed by Republican legislature requires doctors to tell women that abortions can be reversed and to urge them to do so. (Reported in SLATE)

Arizona legislator (Republican) proposes law that would require all Arizonans to go to church. (Reported in the Arizona Republican)

In Oklahoma (in case you missed it) a Republican has proposed a law that would require persons wanting to get married to get permission from a clergyman. (Reported by the religion site PATHEOS)

Wisconsin billionaires appear able to pay governor money and have their taxes disappear. They get unions to disappear too. (in the Milwaukee Journal-Star)

(You save big money for the Menards, in Milwaukee Magazine)

Republicans believe bizarre rumor that Obama tried to nuke Charleston SC. (Reported in Bloomberg, which has obviously decided weird stories about a weird political party have to be reported)

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Thursday, March 19, 2015

A Cunning Plan To Make America Fail

The GOP Plan Looks Like A Conspiracy To Make America Fail

97 of the 100 poorest counties in the US are in Red States. True? Certainly factual. (PolitiFact) The interpretation might depend on your politics. Rural tends to mean poor. It also tends to mean Republican. Why? That is very hard to understand. Which doesn’t make it untrue nor does it make the voting habits of those poor counties seem rational. But it does supply a rationale for the leaders who like to have stupid people under their supervision, in their electorate.

Republican hero Scott Walker has led Wisconsin toward the worst end of the economic spectrum (National Memo). Why do Republicans admire that? The money men admire it because it means they’re sucking the maximum amount of wealth and income away from the majority who work for a living. Their spare change can persuade the victims that it’s a great thing for them.

This kind of outright stupidity and greed and bad planning may explain why America’s worst enemy is America itself. (New Yorker article)

The Republicans’ (and their rich clients’) uniting principals are 1. kicking the working poor off healthcare and 2. keeping unregistered immigrants outside the law so they can go on hiring them for slave wages. There is an really cruel, greedy, heartless beauty to this. (New York magazine article explaining the GOP plan to replace Obamacare.)

This is only a winning strategy because they have all the money and money buys advertising and advertising creates fear.

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Wednesday, March 18, 2015

The Climate Change Denial Business

The businesses who profited from the cancer delivery system known as cigarettes knew for decades how lethal they were, but they engaged in a long, deliberate and very successful coverup, bribing and intimidating scientists and lying to the news media and in sworn testimony. That was their business model.

We are seeing it again today, not with a lethal product line but with the careful and well-funded denial of what scientists have been warning us about for more than a decade: that our climate is warming because of fossil fuel use. And because civilization itself depends on existing climate patterns, rainfall patterns and temperature ranges this denial is endangering the survival of human life as we know it. We and our children are being put at grave risk to allow the fossil fuel giants to squeeze huge profits from peak oil. They don’t care what history might say about them because, as George W. Bush said “by the time that happens we’ll be dead.”

There's a new film out about the Denial Business. It's called MERCHANTS OF DOUBT. Big Oil is paying to suppress it.

Here are the main perpetrators in the climate change denial business, as reported by a Pulitzer Prize winning climate news service.

In The Guardian today: the Kochs refuse to testify about their climate change denial apparatus. Are the powerful allowed to plead the Fifth on the extinction of the human species?

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Monday, March 16, 2015

Wealthiness is next to Godliness

Jesus became a serious pure-market capitalist in the 1930s. Before then most Americans believed the Bible nonsense Jesus allegedly said about the wealthy man and the eye of the needle and about how we should feed and clothe the poor in His name. Boy did Jesus fool us! An excellent piece in today's NYTimes explains the history.

For a while not many people believed the truth about Jesus in a three-piece suit and expensive shoes. Eisenhower, who was a Republican, kept FDR’s New Deal in place and went right on taxing top earners more than working stiffs. American prosperity was broad and stable. Working people lived in nice safe neighborhoods with decent schools.

That changed with Reagan. Reagan had allies among the TV prophets who earned millions off of faithful viewers living in mobile home parks. The Reagan revolution, with Jesus’ almighty help, put working people back in difficulties, flattened working incomes, forcing families to have two earners to get by. Taxes on top earners went way down. Government help dried up for most of us but ballooned for special industries preferred by Republicans and Jesus, like weapons manufacturing and predatory lending. Who said you couldn’t worship both God and Mammon? (Hint: it was Jesus. And he was apparently wrong.) Christianity Today has an interesting piece explaining the so-called Prosperity Gospel. (Do you see any mention of Jesus weeping?)

This right wing alliance of wealth and Christianity is downright unholy. Its home is in the Republican Party. They’re the same ones who funded the Citizens United lawsuit making secret million dollar political donations sacred. (They’re also the ones funding the fight against affordable healthcare, because––as Jesus said––sickness and fear of death are best managed as a business model, a source of profits.) The Theocracy Watch website tracks this creepy phenomenon.

An interesting example: Joel Osteen, who lives in a $10.5 million property in Houston, which is a step up from the $3 million property he still owns. Jesus must really really really love him and not like the rest of us much. There's his house, on a map of the star's homes in Houston.

John Hagee is another one of these Elmer Gantrys. Less handsome, but mesmerizing. Intelligent responsible people used to laugh at charlatans like this. The powerful have learned these preachers are a good way to keep a leash on the working masses. American Prospect tells Hagee's story of Jesus-Went-To-Business-School.

There are a lot of busy churchy people out there who’ve carefully revised the Revised Standard Version of the Bible to explain why wealth and money and getting ahead of your neighbor is a true sign of God’s blessing. All of us would rather be Saved and own an expensive car than be Saved and live hand to mouth. People are very good at rationalizing themselves out of being kind to the poor. It’s much more rewarding and pleasant to ignore them. It’s nice to be rich without feeling any obligation to anyone else. The easiest way to do this is to believe the poor are wicked. Even though Jesus said the opposite.

There's no shame in vulgar wealth anymore. It's holy. It's a sign that Jesus loves you. Nobody hides it anymore. Why should they? Their tax rate is so low. Wall Street pros make more in a day than most people earn in a year. Which might explain why the bonuses given out in 2014 — $28.5 billion worth — were twice the combined earnings of all full-time minimum-wage workers in the US.

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Friday, March 13, 2015

Does Poverty Make You Less Moral?

Greece is in a worse position re Europe than Germany was after WW2. Germany had invaded and destroyed much of the continent. Greece has simply suffered a financial setback. Why is Greece in a worse position? (The New York Times discusses the Greek situation succinctly here.)

Germany could at least argue that failure to forgive its debts would cause it to invade its neighbors a third time. Would Greece be better off if it was an armed aggressor?

Why do we associate solvency with morality? Why are you more moral when you have more money?

It has to do with the hostages you hold.

Wall Street banks created havoc in the world economy by committing crimes, but they were bailed out. Why? Were they Too Big To Fail or Too Big To Jail or both?

(A judge writes about this in the LATimes. And Rolling Stone did an excellent piece about this in 2013.)

Germany may not have been solely guilty for the First World War, but it did cause and perpetrate the Second. And yet their argument in 1953 was valid. So is Greece’s. Germany of all countries should know this. Having a strong hand doesn’t make you the best moral arbiter.

In Ferguson, Missouri the mostly black citizens were targeted by police and city government as an easy revenue source. That revenue source meant the city could take less in taxes from property owners. If you are rich the system does you favors. If you are poor the system sees you as prey. Greece is the people of Ferguson, and the people of Ferguson are Greece.

Are the systems of government there to serve people? There’s a verb that has two possible meanings. There was a Twilight Zone episode where a book treasured by a ruling class of aliens was titled To Serve Man. It ended up being a cookbook, instructions how to serve humans as food in different and interesting ways.

Economics and justice sometimes turn on this kind of convenient misunderstanding. The powerful find it easier to misunderstand these things and profit from the misunderstanding.

The immorality and viciousness of the city government of Ferguson has been demonstrated and certified by the Justice Department. But it’s happening all over the country. Poverty or alienness makes innocent people easy prey, allowing police and city governments to take their property and extract fines from them with no law broken and no charges placed.

(The New Yorker described this in a riveting piece last year. I didn't believe such things happened legally in this country. They do.)

Being poor or being less than rich is becoming a crime in this country. Who and what have we become?

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Thursday, March 12, 2015

The Terrible Horrible No-Good Very Bad Party

I can’t decide how to characterize the GOP these days.

Are they the stupid party?

The New York Times, not prone to such language, called them idiots after their letter to Iran.

Alternet reports on the author of that letter, Tom Cotton (R-Arkansas), telling an uninsured constituent not to use Obamacare because Russian mobsters would steal her identity...


Or are they the incredibly insanely horrible party?

Raw Story reports on a GOP candidate in Indiana expressing frustration that nobody has the guts to let people just wither and die. (Death panels, anyone?)

Vox is reporting that Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) promised if he were president he would send troops into Congress. (Would he wear knee pants and lace like Oliver Cromwell?)

From DailyKos: A state senator in Missouri has raised a few eyebrows for subjecting two abused girls with severe emotional problems to exorcisms. When the exorcisms failed to work as expected he gave one of the girls to a friend who raped her. He insists that he is the victim.

Raw Story: Former Republican presidential candidate Pat Robertson recently advised a caller to his television program to quit her job because working alongside Buddhists might infect her with Buddhism. Buddhism being a kind of disease.

It hasn’t always been this way. A new book reviewed in the Washington Post describes how the Republican Party used to be the practical party, the party that got things done, the progressive, problem-solving party. It’s been downhill since Eisenhower.

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Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Language Held Hostage

The Guardian today has a trenchant discussion of the Rick Scott banning of the term Climate Change in Florida, written by Jeb Lund.

If words don’t exist the problem goes away. At least that's the Republican belief.

This analysis also uses another underused term: Regulatory Capture. Regulatory Capture is the main plank in the Republican platform. We should know what it is, and it should be discussed more in print and on TV…of course our news media is a prisoner too.

The power of money and influence shapes our laws, but it also shapes our thoughts by shaping our language. Why do conservatives, deregulators and pure market capitalists own the language? Because they own everything. Pulitzer prize winning financial journalist David Cay Johnston discusses the problem with his usual clarity and insight.

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Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Are they Nixonians or Confederates?

47 Republican senators sent a letter to Iranian leaders warning them not to sign any nuclear agreement with President Obama, saying they would not honor such an agreement after Obama left office. This sort of thing is not supposed to occur. Party politics are supposed to end at the water’s edge. But this sort of thing has happened before.

Vox does a good job of summarizing here.

In 1968, the Nixon campaign worried that President Johnson’s peace negotiations would succeed in ending the Vietnam War and win Humphrey the election. So Nixon sent an envoy to South Vietnam and persuaded the South Vietnamese to scuttle the peace talks, saying Nixon would give them a better deal when he was elected. He was elected, probably because the talks failed (it was a very close election) and the war went on for several more years, costing hundreds of thousands more lives, and ripping our nation apart.

When the evidence became public years later, Politico reported it here.

In 1980 the Reagan campaign worried that President Carter might be successful in negotiating the release of the hostages held in Iran, helping his re-election effort. So Reagan sent an envoy to persuade the Iranians to hold the hostages because Reagan would give them a better deal when he was elected. He was elected. The hostages were released the day he was sworn in.

The fairly complete story of the Reagan scheme is told here.

Reagan went on to do other deals with the Iranians who took American hostages. He traded arms for hostages. Those arms were used by Mideast terrorists. The profits from the arms sales were funneled to our own terrorist death squads in Central America. When he was elected, George H. W. Bush pardoned everyone involved in this illegal activity. Some of them served in the George W. Bush administration, where they were involved in the justification of torture and other unAmerican policies.

Because the Iran Contra Affair played out in public, we can see the film footage. Reagan pled forgetfulness and was anointed a saint by the Republican Party.

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Sunday, March 08, 2015

Is Dishonesty The Best Policy?

Scott Walker is so good at driving Wisconsin into the ground he’s become a Republican superhero. People in Wisconsin love him for what he’s doing to them. Lower wages––hooray! Fewer jobs––hooray! Dumber citizens––hooray!

A conservative from the Daily Beast explains why this is so exciting(!!!)

“We create our own reality” ~Karl Rove (Meaning torture is what they say it is. If they do it it must not be torture.)

The New York Review of Books has an article describing how hard it was for the CIA to believe the White House really was giving them permission to torture.

If it takes a top scientist to understand how Republicans are lying, does it mean most people will keep believing the lies?

An interview in Salon explains a lot, but it won't be read much by people in working class bars.

Conservatives are beginning to worry that Google will begin giving a higher ranking to pages that don’t contain lies and misinformation about things like science, math, economics and law. Lying about these things is the GOP’s best strategy.

"Save us GOOGLE! You're our only hope!"

(Or: Can a kid who closes his eyes while he flies really blow up the Death Star?)

Republicans will need to hope Americans will stubbornly ignore the truth. The diehard Republican voters are a safe bet. They’re obedient. They ignore what they’re told to ignore. For them, dishonesty is the best policy. Ignorance is bliss.

Republican leadership says to states: ignore the federal laws you don’t like. The Confederacy lives!

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Friday, March 06, 2015

The March of Stupid

Republican Chairman of the House Science and Technology Committee: "Why immunize my kids? They aren’t sick." (From Mother Jones)

James Inhofe, Republican Chair of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee: “How can there be global warming? It’s cold out today." (Reported at Vox.com)

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Monsters Inc

An Alaska congressman offers “a modest proposal” (From CBSNews)

Arkansas Republican believes government help is worse than child molestation (From Raw Story)

What we have is a political party who think facts and math and science should fit their superstitions

(The anti-truth wing of the Republican Party explained via Alternet)

The Creationist Wing of the Republican Party (the part with the steering wheel) would be hilarious if they weren't so scary. "Were you there? Then you can't say!" (From Raw Story)

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