Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Chelsea Manning, Dianne Feinstein and the Far Right's Magic "T" Word

by Nomad


Formerly known as Bradley, Chelsea Manning turned 27 years old earlier this month. He really doesn't have a lot to celebrate. Without a presidential pardon, the military whistle-blower who was convicted on 20 of 22 counts cannot expect to be a free person until he reaches the age of 63.

His crime is familiar to all of us now. He dared to disclose to the public that the US army, the CIA and Iraqi and Afghan forces committed human rights violations.
That was something that Manning never denied. When investigations tracked him down, he admitted to sending Wiki Leaks more than 700,000 confidential files, including U.S. embassy cables, Guantanamo detainee profiles, and footage of airstrikes that killed civilians. 

Unlike many famous spies of the past, his rationale wasn't based on ideological support of America's enemy, like the Rosenbergs or Jonathan Jay Pollard, and it wasn't based on some financial motive, like John Anthony Walker, Jr
In many ways, Manning is a prisoner of conscience.

Monday, December 29, 2014

How Christian Right's Defense of Family Helps Hide Russia's Biggest Problems

by Nomad

The same political evangelicals who have wasted taxpayer's money in the US are taking the Christian Right's homophobic defense of family show to Russia.

And there's a good reason why Putin and the Russian government supports the extreme conservative propaganda.


Back in February, Tony Perkins, the president of the Family Research Council (FRC), a far right Christian political organization, declared that the American Economy was doomed. It was only a matter of time.
The cause for the meltdown?  America's acceptance of gay rights, naturally.

Perkins' American Apocalypse 
In case you don't know, the Family Research Council- a tax-exempt 501(c)(3) charity- lobbies in Washington against all things homosexual in the name of supporting family values. "Homosexual conduct is," according to the FRC, "harmful to the persons who engage in it and to society at large, and can never be affirmed." 

Perkins' argument that acceptance of gay equality can actually cause the economy to tank is a new one. It works like this: Gay rights, Perkins predicts, will weaken the nation to such a point that Russia and China will feel emboldened to drop the dollar as an international currency standard. American money will be worthless.
Thereafter every time you open your purse or wallet all you will hear is a flushing sound.

Friday, December 26, 2014

Happy Holidays from Nomadic Politics

by Nomad




Torture vs Medical Ethics: Should Doctors that Assisted in CIA interrogations be Held Accountable?

by Nomad

Dick Cheney recently claimed that controversial procedures applied to detainees were a medically necessity. Experts dispute this and call for a full investigation of possible ethics violation and crimes committed by contracted physicians. 



Cheney's Attempt at Damage Control
Recently, ex-vice president Dick Cheney appeared on MSNBC's "Meet the Press." Following the release of the Senate report on CIA detention and interrogation program. Cheney was in full damage control mode.
In spite of his attempt, it was pretty clear that the master manipulator's tricks had worn tissue thin. 

During the interview, Cheney repeatedly tried in vain to use 911 as an excuse for what went on behind prison walls. Nobody has ever argued that the detainees were nice people but without a trial, they were still innocent. Nobody has ever argued that the things done on September 11 2001 should be forgotten or that we must do everything- within the law- to stop attacks.
Nevertheless, Cheney's argument was that the ends justified the means, even when those means included torture (as defined by various international treaties that the US is a party to.)

All in all, even Cheney's supporters were embarrassed by what amounted to what can charitably called "misrepresentations." When asked about one of the more inexcusable techniques used by the CIA, namely "rectal feeding  and "rectal hydration"

Cheney claimed these procedures were done only as a medical necessity.  Michael Hayden, former CIA director recently used the same rebuttal to torture allegations.

The Experts Respond
Of course, the defense was ridiculous but it also opened the door for yet another problem for the CIA and its contracted physicians. 

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Auld Lang Syne: European Courts and the Right to Be Forgotten

by Nomad

Censorship One of Internet's biggest stories of the year went practically unnoticed in the American press. A European court ordered Google to provide a means for individuals to control what has been written online about them.
At least, the ruling says, search engines cannot help search engine users find that information.


The desire to be remembered is, generally speaking, something most of us aspire to. However, when it comes to our online footprint, there are a lot of people who would strongly prefer to be forgotten. Although the event cannot entirely be erased from the vast public forum known as the Net, then at least we can try to separate our names (and our reputations) from the information. 

Should that photo of you when you weighed as much as a Volkswagen be a burden you must carry forever? Must a teenage shoplifter who has changed her ways in adulthood have the details of her pop up every time she looks for a new job? Should an admitted wife-beater have one incident ruin the rest of his life? What about a convicted bank embezzler who has served his time, does he have the right to be forgotten?

Making good use of a seasonal reference, we might ask:
Should old acquaintance be forgot, and never brought to mind?

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

The Black Hole - A Short Film

by Nomad


I thought you might enjoy something non-political. 




Sunday, December 21, 2014

Russian Cat Arrests: Pedigree Pussies Snatched in Lieu of Unpaid Taxes

by Nomad



A recent news story about Russian tax officials and cats as tax dodges exposes a badly-kept secret about the Russian economy. Corruption and widespread tax evasion has made real development next to impossible. The question is now whether Putin is really prepared to risk tackling the problem or not?


Here's a story from the St. Petersburg Times that caught my eye.

Herding Cats for Mother Russia
When Russian tax collectors demanded that a Novosibirsk resident pay back taxes of about 12,000 rubles  or (as of this minute) about $198, he explained the he had no money and no assets for them to take. So, The state tax officials threatened to seize the man's pedigree cat and its three kittens.

Russians have had to find creative ways to hide their already dwindling cash reserves. Apparently one way, tax inspectors claim, is to invest in expensive breeds of cats. According to the Interfax News agency,
When collection officials arrived at the young man's apartment, they initially found nothing to seize for his tax appears because the man was living with his parents, attended college and had no regular income, the Novosibirsk region's court marshals service was cited as saying in a statement by Interfax.

"Then a bailiff noticed a beautiful cat that the debtor was holding in his arms, and three small kittens of a British breed that were running around the house," the statement was quoted as saying. "Because the animals are pedigree and expensive, the representative of the law decided to place the cat brood under arrest."
The threat was enough to shake the loose change from the pet owner's pockets. As the bailiff was filling out the seizure order, the man unexpectedly found the money to pay his debt.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Why the Cuban Thaw Puts GOP in Danger of Losing Corporate Sponsors

by Nomad

Rejecting Obama's new policy for Cuba could be the biggest political blunder the Republican Party could make.
In 2016, American corporations will not forget  or forgive who  put the brakes on the significant business opportunities in Havana.


It's obvious that Republicans hate everything President Obama does. It's hard for them to deny it. And why should they? Being against President Obama has always been a vote catcher. Fox News misrepresents the issue, the Internet sites stir up the hate, the Republicans get the support from the un-informed voters and their corporate sponsors dish out the cash to ensure the Republican Congress will happily vote accordingly. It's a beautiful little machine.

Let the Rants Begin!

So it was no great surprise that when the president announced a restoration of diplomatic ties with Cuba, Republican politicians began to rant and foam at the mouth. 

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Approved Speech: Tennessee Town Bans Negative Remarks and Criticism on Social Media

by Nomad



Yesterday we reported how one Russian governor decided that the best way of handling the national economic crisis was by banned the use of the word "crisis." 
Such a backward idea, right?

Well, Americans shouldn't laugh too hard at those crazy Ruskies. Bloomberg recently reported that a similar effort in Tennessee to silence discussion that local government approves of. 

No Expectation of Privacy Whatsoever
Earlier this month, the town of South Pittsburg, Tennessee, near Chattanooga, passed a resolution that prohibits anybody professionally connected to South Pittsburg, from “publicly discuss[ing] information about other employees and/or volunteers not approved for public communication” on social media. This includes employees, volunteers, and contractors. 


The resolution also wags a finger against posting anything on a personal Facebook page or on Twitter that anybody might consider either defamatory or libelous. The policy states that citizens "should have no expectation of privacy whatsoever."

The Chatanooga Times Free Press supports the Bloomberg piece:
It applies to all city elected representatives, appointed board members, employees, volunteers, vendors, contractors and anyone associated with the town in an official capacity who uses social networks. The policy says those persons can't post anything negative about the city, its employees or other associates.
The officials said that the tough policy was necessary because over the past year, their work has been "hampered by criticism and lies on social media."
Mayor Jane Dawkins defended the action, saying that this was "not a new concept." 
Nobody is arguing that. The question is whether it is legal or wise.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Russian Governor Decides Banning a Word is One Way to Deal with Economy in Free Fall

by Nomad

When you happen to live in a country where the media is under the near-absolute control of the government, how would you know with utter certainty that your motherland is in the middle of a major crisis? 
It's all very simple, comrade.


An Inconvenient Moment 
An article in Russia Today provides us with the answer to the question above. While the world's news media are using words like "free-fall" and "meltdown" to describe the present state of the Russian economy, some officials inside the country have found a novel way to control the discussion:
Authorities in the Central Russia’s Kaluga Region have banned the use of the word ‘crisis’ in public and the measure is already helping to attract investors, according to the local governor.
The governor of Kaluga Oblast, Anatoly Artamonov, told the Russian News Service  
“It is possible that the crisis exists, but we forbid the use of this word.”
Artamonov preferred to use the term  "an inconvenient moment" to describe the historic crash of the Russian currency, which, despite all efforts by the Central Bank, has plunged more than 20% in just one day.

Why Immunity for Bush and Cheney May Not Be the Final Word

by Nomad

Claims of immunity might have so far protected former Bush officials (including the ex-president and former vice president Dick Cheney) but as this post explains, treaty obligations demand that action be taken. 



In light of the revelations of CIA torture, some people have rightfully begun asking why the people involved- who have admitted that they authorized the interrogation techniques- should not be held accountable. Isn't it clear that the things done were illegal? 
How is it possible that a US government official, like Dick Cheney, can escape accountability even though he/she had all but admitted human rights crimes, as defined by international standards
The exact legal means for escaping accountability wasn't recently devised especially for the Bush administration. It was, in fact,  established back in 1988.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

A Look at Obama's Progress on Homelessness In the Face of Conservative Parsimony

by Nomad


Let's begin with something obvious but often forgotten. Everybody has a story, even the homeless.


How Conservatives Dealt with Problems
The conservative news media channels like Fox News has repeatedly declared that homelessness under Obama has increased. Things they say, are far worse now because of liberal policies. Things were so much better, so the narrative goes, under Reagan. 
In fact, this is a usual type of lie promoted by the "fair and balanced" network.


Monday, December 15, 2014

Free and Downloadable: Senate Report on CIA Detention and Interrogation Program

by Nomad

As any techno-activist will tell you "information wants to be free." To honor that idea, I have made available the Senate's controversial report that has been creating some fearsome aftershocks since last Tuesday. 


One week ago, the Senate released its so-called CIA torture report. It strongly criticized the policy of "enhanced interrogations" for captured detainees and suspected terrorists. After a lengthy investigation, the summary alone came to over 500 pages. 

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Human Rights: What Your Government Doesn't Want You to Know

by Nomad

How can human rights be upheld when so few people are even aware of what they actually entail?
How can governments be held accountable when they have convinced their citizens that there may be certain times and certain situations when humans don't deserve their inherent rights?


Ideals that Bind Us Together


What with the revelations of last week, most people in the US might have missed the fact that last Wednesday was an important date. In 1950, the United Nations designated October 10 "Human Rights Day." Admittedly, every day should be a human rights day, this particular day is meant to remind us 
"that each one of us, everywhere, at all times is entitled to the full range of human rights, that human rights belong equally to each of us and bind us together as a global community with the same ideals and values."
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called upon member nations 
"to honour their obligation to protect human rights every day of the year. I call on people to hold their governments to account. "
Only the day before, the Senate released a demoralizing and shocking report on CIA practices during the Bush Administration. It revealed to the American people and to the whole world even a superpower could justify the shocking forms of torture.
So, these allegations of violations of human rights could not possibly have come at a worse time.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Motivated!: George W. Bush and the Hucksters

by Nomad


Last month, I saw an article that I have been meaning to pass along to you. 
First, here's some information about what it means, financially speaking, to be an ex-president.  

The Financial Joys of Being an Ex-President
According to CNN, when a president leaves the White House he remains on the government payroll, receiving an annual pension of about $200,000, health care, paid official travel and an office. The rent on a office fit for an ex-president has to impress and therefore tends to be both swanky and pricey. (The rent on Clinton's New York City offices reportedly run at half a million.) 
All of these it's probably needless to say are taxpayer-funded benefits.

Even for a person as illiterate and as bumbling as George W. Bush, apparently there are plenty of people out there that still can't get enough of the man. His last book, (in which he boasted-among other things- of authorizing torture) reportedly earned him $7 million for the first 1.5 million copies of "Decision Points." (Without the benefit of the conservative book selling tricks, Clinton bested Bush with his own memoirs which netted him $15 million advance.)

Then there is the speech-making circuit. It's not exactly hard work but it is an easy way to earn a year's salary in a day. George Bush, since leaving office has made a tidy fortune.

Getting Motivated!
Ok, now for the story I was telling you about.
Joseph L. Flatley, writing for Whowhatwhy.com, learned how former president George W. Bush found another way to supplement his income since he  moved out of the White House. (Although it is not particularly new news, I thought you'd find it interesting.)

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Showdown: Why the Truth on CIA Torture May Become Obama's Greatest Challenge

by Nomad



No nation is perfect. But one of the strengths that makes America exceptional is our willingness to openly confront our past, face our imperfections, make changes and do better. -- President Obama on the release of Senate Intelligence Committee's CIA use of enhanced interrogation techniques


This week, in the hallowed halls of Congress, a moan and a shudder could be heard when the Senate released its findings on the truly horrifying excesses of CIA interrogations used upon suspected terrorists following the 911 attacks. 

The Narrative Dissolves
A quick review of the 600-page executive summary of the report explained why Republicans had been doing all they could to block its release. From torture techniques that involved threats to suspect's children and forced enemas, ice water baths and threats to use drills as torture devices, to CIA lies about the successes, the report could hardly be more damaging to the Republican narrative. 

The New York Times has helpfully made a list of the most important findings:
  • The C.I.A.’s interrogation techniques were more brutal and employed more extensively than the agency portrayed.
  • The C.I.A. interrogation program was mismanaged and was not subject to adequate oversight.
  • The C.I.A. misled members of Congress and the White House about the effectiveness and extent of its brutal interrogation techniques.
  • Interrogators in the field who tried to stop the brutal techniques were repeatedly overruled by senior C.I.A. officials.
  • The C.I.A. repeatedly under-reported the number of people it detained and subjected to harsh interrogation techniques under the program.
  • At least 26 detainees were wrongfully held and did not meet the government’s standard for detention.
  • The C.I.A. leaked classified information to journalists, exaggerating the success of interrogation methods in an effort to gain public support.
The Washington Post has also compiled a list of the most egregious acts found in report. Here are some of the items:
For the more cynical, the fact that the report was released at all is a bit of a shock. Certainly it is long overdue and could easily have been classified so utterly that the American public- at least this generation- would never have seen it. 
Its release also turns the tables on a lot of the Republican talking points about exposing the imaginary scandal of Benghazi. 

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

How We Came to Accept Police Brutality as the Norm 2/2

by Nomad


In Part One of this two part series we discussed the origins of the present problem between the black community and law enforcement. Reagan's get-tough on crime was based on a theory that came with some direct warnings about the potential for discrimination. The president chose to ignore them.

Reagan's anti-crime crusade led to giving law enforcement more freedom to do their job. At least that was how it was portrayed in conservative circles at the time. That policy was called "pro-active policing." 

Problems with Pro-Active Policing
An  ultra-conservative American libertarian think tank, The Cato Institute, paints a very different picture of the policy today. A site run by that organization, which attempts to highlight police misconduct, describes pro-active policing as..
the use of nearly autonomous elite police units that are trained to be more aggressive than regular officers as a response to gang and drug related violence by targeting people they suspect of being criminals before they commit crimes. These units are encouraged to use whatever tactics they can get away with in order to get results, those results being a high arrest rate.
Like the later preemptive strike doctrine of the Bush era, it is easy to see in retrospect how easily pro-active policing could be abused. The danger of this practice was that notion that police should be responsible for preventing crime before it happens. How is that even possible? 
Well, one description might remind you of the sci-fi film "Minority Report"
In proactive policing, law enforcement uses data and analyzes patterns to understand the nature of a problem. Officers devise strategies and tactics to prevent or mitigate future harm. They evaluate results and revise practices to improve policing. Departments may combine an array of data with street intelligence and crime analysis to produce better assessments about what might happen next if they take various actions.
This high tech description however tends to gloss over the more controversial aspect, a highly visible street presence which is intended to intimidate criminals before they commit crimes.  The more intimidating, the better.
Ironically, what developed over time was a gang mentality of thugs within the police force.
These teams tend to be close-knit and insular, trained to use highly aggressive tactics with very little oversight, and taught to think and act like the gang members and drug dealers they investigate while under cover.
In other words, the balance between the lawless and the lawful was so blurred that it was difficult to see which element was the greater threat to the community. The police force- especially when made up of white officers- took all of the appearances (as well as the mentality) of an occupying military.  

Monday, December 8, 2014

How We Came to Accept Police Brutality as the Norm 1/2

by Nomad

With all the protests around the country against abusive law enforcement, it is a good time to ask how we as a country got into this situation. Is it simply a matter of racism permeating police departments or does it go deeper?
With all of the safeguards hard-wired into the Constitution, how could we have allowed it to happen?

A Simple Question of Trust
Where justice is denied, where poverty is enforced, where ignorance prevails, and where any one class is made to feel that society is in an organized conspiracy to oppress, rob, and degrade them, neither persons nor property will be safe.    Frederick Douglas
There's been a lot of superficial analysis about the reasons for the nationwide protests in the wake of the Brown and Garner cases. The fact that US law enforcement can literally get away with murdering unarmed citizens in front of witnesses has shocked the nation. 
(In fact this phenomenon has been going on for decades and if anything, the patience of the black community is the truly surprising aspect.) 

Racism in the country's police departments has been blamed. A broken-down justice system has also been pointed to. In fact, it's all of those things but there's a deeper problem as well:  A lack of trust in the law enforcement agencies by the black and minority communities. 
This lack of trust has been further reinforced by a lack of credibility of the oversight process after possible violations have occurred.
It's not something that should be under-estimated. Trust is the glue that holds the entire justice system together. Without trust, the entire structure of law and order collapses pretty quickly. Now America has begun to question whether we might not have bestowed too much trust in law enforcement.  

Every time a case of police brutality goes unpunished, it becomes a double failure for the entire justice system. Firstly, from the offense itself and secondly, by the damage it does to public trust.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Teddy Roosevelt and the Death Knell of the Republic

by Nomad


Roosevelt Teddy Quotation Justice

It often surprises me how clear-sighted so many of our leaders of the past seemed compared to the muddled-headed ideas of the present day. The fight against oligarchy and corporate-rigging of our political system did not begin with this generation. We have walked this way about a century ago. However, because of the general ignorance of our own history, we have been deprived of the wisdom and support of our elders. 

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Cable News in Decline: Here's Why Time is Running Out for Fox News

by Nomad

If the capitalist model is based on supply and demand, what will happen when there is nobody left to buy your product? That the situation facing Fox News.


Fox News, as one writer noted,  has built its success by "selling a conservative political product to an older audience."
The average age of the audience is over 68 years old. That's average, mind you. Not only are the Fox News viewers the oldest, they are also  the most misinformed. They are also likely to remain that way the longer they continue to watch. 
In many ways, tuning into Fox News is a lifestyle choice. The average viewer of the channel tends not to have an active agenda and can devote much more time watching television news. On the other hand, a younger audience would more likely spend more time on the Internet or engaging with people socially.

Frank Rich, writing for New York Magazine, called Fox News a politically conservative 'retirement community.' When looking at the long-term viability of the network, that's something to consider.

The Slow Sinking of the Viewership

Last spring it was reported that the ratings for the cable news channel for the ideal consumer (25-54 age group) is at its lowest point in 12 years. As one blogger pointed out:
The average age of Bill O'Reilly's audience is a shocking 72.1 years old. Well, Megyn Kelly (perhaps because of that hip "y" in her first name) has brought that figure all the way down to 71.7 years old. That's a decrease of 0.4 years—almost 5 months younger! At this rate, they should make it to that prime 25-54 demographic some time in the year 2525. (If man is still alive!)
Programming executives at the network must be scrambling for solutions. There was a recent shake-up in which Megyn Kelly replaced Sean Hannity in the prime time slot. 

But if they thought the Megyn Kelly would be the way to attract a younger audience, then the problem of who needs to be replaced goes much deeper than just anchors. 
All that programming sleight of hand did was make the old men salivate from the heady combination of sensational looks, perkiness, and mean-girl aggression.
As the blogger noted: young people are not going to tune in given that they are just going to be fed the same stream of lies, distortions, and evasions no matter who the talking head might be. 
So, the real question is: 
What happens when there aren’t enough young people tuning in to replace the elderly audience?

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Ebola's Other Victims: The Orphans the Epidemic Left Behind

by Nomad

As the Ebola epidemic continues to claim lives in West and Central Africa, one of the indirect effect has been the children orphaned by the humanitarian crisis.

What does the future hold for these children? The answer lies in how much help they receive now.


Meet 8-year-old Lamin Borbor, one of the hundreds of orphaned children in Ebola-ravaged Sierra Leone. After losing both parents to Ebola, Lamin's new home is the Interim Care Centre (ICC) in Kailahun town, in the east of the country.  
In a recent news article, Lamin told a reporter for IRIN:
"I was brought here because I had nobody to take care of me. My parents died of the Ebola virus. but I have no fear [because] the people are taking good care of me at the centre."
Meanwhile Sierra Leone's Ministry of Social Welfare, Gender and Children's Affairs (MSWGCA) and international agencies struggle to find solutions for the orphans of Ebola. Although the Kailahun ICC is being managed by the government. the funding comes from organizations such as Save the Children and UNICEF

At this time it is the only center in Kailahun but a second facility for Ebola orphans has been opened last month in Port Loko, in the north of the country. Most doctors consider this to be ground zero for the epidemic in West Africa. At the moment, at least.

So how many children like Lamin are there? The exact numbers of Ebola orphans from all of the stricken countries is hard to place. (That's also true of the actual number of Ebola victims.) Three days ago, one UK charity, Street Child, released a report that estimates that in Sierra Leone alone it has left 7,000 children without parents. They also admit that that's probably a very conservative estimate.

A revised survey paints a far grimmer picture. Accounting for the current death toll, under-reporting of cases within the population, and data reports from local teams, the organization estimates there are at least 20,000 children in the region who have been effectively orphaned by Ebola – left with no-one to care for them. 
It is simply impossible to know. Many children living in rural areas may be unaccounted for, while many others end up on the street or are living with neighbors temporarily. Some parentless families are being raised by older siblings.

In contrast to the aid organizations' estimate, the IRIN news report:
Nationwide, more than 3,400 children have been directly affected by the virus, including at least 89 children who have lost one parent and more than 795 who have lost both parents to Ebola, according to the MSWGCA/UNICEF-led Family Tracing and Reunification (FTR) network. There are no accurate figures for the number of separated children, a spokesperson for FTR said.
Whatever the true figures, it is clear that the Ebola orphan crisis will become a long term social problem for a nation that already has more than its share of problems.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Here's Why Rudy Giuliani Would Rather Talk about Black-on-Black Crime than Ferguson

by Nomad

Remarks on the recent events in Ferguson, Missouri by Rudy Giuliani have caused a bit of a stir in the media. Some have charged him with showing his racist side.

For those who know Giuliani's record as mayor of New York, nothing he has said is much of a surprise.   


Rudy's Rude Remarks

As the former mayor of New York City Rudy Giuliani  earned a reputation as a hard-as-nails tough guy who cleaned up the city of crime. It's an image he likes to promote and it plays well with his conservative base. So when he was asked to comment on the recent events in Ferguson, Missouri, his remarks were bound to be blunt and to hit a nerve with some people. If that was his intention, then he certainly succeeded. 

On a TV news show, he told a black reporter that white police officers wouldn't be in black communities if "you weren't killing each other" and that "there is virtually no homicide in the white community." The word "you" is presumably short for "you black people."
The fact is that I find it very disappointing that you're not discussing the fact that 93 percent of blacks in America are killed by other blacks.
The Atlantic Monthly thoroughly decimated Giuliani's contention that police officers are the saviors of the black community. Journalist Ta-nehısı Coates wrote with a full helping of sarcasm:
It's almost as if killers tend to murder people who live near them. Moreover, it seems that people actually hold officers operating under the color of law to a different standard. This is an incredible set of insights, which taken together offer a revelation so profound, so far-reaching, that it must not be wasted on our shiftless minority populations.  
Unable to stop himself, Giuliani made other thoughtless statements. Following the decision not indict the police officer Darren Wilson, Giuliani said that he'd prosecute witnesses whose stories contradict Wilson's account. As if the police officer's account of the event - the defendant, in this case- was a standard by which all other eye-witness accounts should be judged. 
To be sure these were offensive remarks and they came at the wrong time. Yet, as any New Yorker will tell you, statements like this are pure Giuliani. 

Actually, as they would also tell you, the remarks hide an ugly truth about Giuliani.


Saturday, November 29, 2014

Investor Revolt at News Corp: Will the Murdoch Dynasty be Dethroned?

by Nomad


After NewsCorp investors staged a revolt at the annual shareholders meeting last week, CEO and founder Rupert Murdoch barely managed to retain control over his company.
The source of the dissatisfaction revolves around the structure of the company, and the Murdoch family's ability to lead the company.


If reports are accurate, things apparently got hot and heavy at a recent News Corp shareholders meeting last week. According to an article in  The Sidney Morning Herald, Rupert Murdoch just barely survived a  revolt at the annual meeting of investors. At issue, was the Murdoch family control of the company, which sparked widespread displeasure among a large number of stockholders.

The company structure allows the Murdoch family to control around 40 per cent of the company's vote while actually owning 14 per cent of News Corp. In this way, they have been able to keep an iron grip on the company. That has,  as the article notes, lead "to accusations it is run more like a family fiefdom than a conventional public company." 

Furthermore, some investors charge that such a structure provides Murdoch family with significant control of News Corp while passing the risks onto the other investors. 
One investors at the meeting called it "“fundamentally undemocratic."
"This kind of governing structure may be exactly what we'd expect in Cuba or North Korea, but it is at odds with good governance practices here," Bill Dempsey, chief financial officer of the New York-based Nathan Cummings Foundation, told Mr Murdoch at Friday's meeting
Shareholders proposed that the company's controversial dual-class voting structure be reformed. They proposed scrapping the present structure and replacing it with a one share, one vote system. Although the motion was narrowly defeated, it was a sign that all is not well behind the ramparts of the News Corp fortress.

Notably, even one of the companies key investor, the Saudi Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, (worth an estimated $27 billion) also voted in favor of restructuring the company. It marked the first time in 17 years that Al-Waleed, News Corp's second largest single investor, has voted in opposition of Murdoch. 

Thursday, November 27, 2014

The Other Side of Anger: The East St. Louis Race Riots of 1917

by Nomad


All of us were shocked by the scenes of police cars being rocked and burned and rioters on the street, of St. Louis County businesses being looted and left in smoking heaps.However, go back to the same city nearly a hundred years before and we see a very different story. Here's the full story of the East St. Louis Race Riots of 1917.


History, if nothing else, teaches us perspective. That's a failure of the modern news coverage which seems to race from one shock to the next without putting anything into any kind of context.

Images of mayhem are broadcast over and over. Experts are interviewed on an hourly basis. The Ferguson events are yet another example of this magnifying effect. That's not to say that what has gone on isn't important.
Clearly it is.

However, if we fly to the opposite side of the same city back and go back nearly a century ago, we can see the other side of the coin.

Exodus from the South

It is the summer of 1917 and the place is East St. Louis
For the black laborer, the conditions in the Deep South, with its Jim Crow laws and the prevailing atmosphere of oppression, offered very little enticement to stay. Despite federal laws which were supposed to provide equal protection and due process, the African American in the South at that time was considered a second-class citizen. 
As one source points out, all Southern states had some form of Jim Crow laws. Segregation was a way of life for black in the South, affecting every social activity, not merely schools, but also in restaurants, theaters, parks, and hospitals. All these restrictions were held in place by a justice system that favored the white race in every way. And when injustice was challenged, the KKK was on hand to provide the intimidation to keep the "coloreds" in line.

It was a time of great demographic changes. Around 1910, African Americans had constituted more than half the population of South Carolina and Mississippi, and more than 40 percent in Georgia, Alabama, Texas and Louisiana. The Black exodus had rendered the South essentially without a labor force. In the North, cities that once been virtually all white at the turn of the century now became centers of urban black culture.

Factories in the North offered great opportunities for men willing to work, especially in 1917 with America about to enter the World War. Between the years 1916 through 1918, an estimated 400,000 African Americans left the South in to take advantage of a labor shortage in the wake of the First World War.

During that spring, African Americans from the South were moving to St. Louis at the rate of  2,000 a week. And this influx presented the Northern manufacturers an ultra-cheap source of labor. That was to prove to be an excellent bargaining chip against unhappy union workers. 

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Musical Sanity Break: Eric Whitacre and the Virtual Choir

by Nomad

This is certainly a time that calls for a little harmony and calmness. For that reason, I wanted to take a moment to introduce you to a special person.


Meet Grammy-winning American composer and conductor, Eric Whitacre. Although you might not have heard of him before, The Daily Telegraph has called Whitacre a "rare thing, a modern composer who is both popular and original."

He has won numerous awards for his work, including awards from the Barlow international composition competition, American Choral Directors Association, American Composers' Forum
But that's only half of the story.

By combining his choral, orchestral and wind ensemble music, the power of the Internet and thousands of talented strangers- as well as Whitacre's determination- his Virtual Choir projects have  pushed the boundaries and inspired the world. 

I will let him explain the concept in this 2011 TED lecture the rest of the details.


Sunday, November 23, 2014

How the Facts about Benghazi Bring an End to the Republican Lying Game

by Nomad


After two long years of investigating the Benghazi incident, the Republicans were forced to admit that all of the slanderous claims made against Obama and his administration were, in fact, untrue.
Nobody wants to talk about holding anybody to account now.


This week the last chapter in the pathetic Benghazi attack saga was finally written.
Hopefully. 
After years of constant (some said faked) outrage about the tragic events in September 2012, the final report by the Republican Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence was very quietly released. It should have been big news. The mainstream media however barely reported it. 
That's not a surprise perhaps since this report- direct from the Committee itself- absolutely vindicated the Obama administration's version of events.

The investigations really started on that night with presidential candidate Mitt Romney's famous smirk. For a president seeking re-election, the timing of the Libyan event couldn't have been worse. The tragedy allowed the Republicans to paint the entire administration as incompetent, careless, and able to react to an unfolding crisis. Weak leadership, in a word.

Unfortunately, Romney overplayed his hand and his opportunism backfired miserably, leading one commentator to call the candidate's press conference   "one of the most craven and ill-advised tactical moves in this entire campaign." 
Fox News however called Romney's remarks about the Benghazi attack a demonstration of his "Reaganesque commitment to American resolve in our might."
On that night, the battle lines were drawn.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Why an Oil Company Plans to Sue County for $1.2 Billion After Voter-Approved Fracking Ban

by Nomad

Following a vote against fracking and other enhanced oil extraction processes, voters and local officials in one California county are learning what happens when you cross an ambitious corporation.


Local government officials in central California's San Benito County have every reason to feel bullied and bruised by recent events in the area. 

Measure J
In a November ballot, a referendum known as Measure J was put before its citizens. That initiative was a proposed ban on all "enhanced petroleum extraction such as fracking, cyclic steaming and well acidizing along with all petroleum activities in rural residential zones."

Supporters argued a so-called fracking ban was necessary to prevent possible environmental impacts. According to Measure J supporters, the toxic chemicals used in the extraction process had the potential to cause cancer and other illnesses through groundwater and watershed contamination. The impact to endangered species in a nearby national park was also cited as a cause for worry. 

The Washington-D.C.-based Center for Biological Diversity pointed out 
“These enhanced recovery methods include steam extraction, acid extraction, and hydraulic fracturing ("fracking"). Although all of these methods involve chemistry not used in traditional oil and natural gas extraction, in California none of them is regulated or tracked any differently than are the traditional methods. Statewide, there is no requirement that companies declare the chemicals used in their extraction operations, or even that they are using enhanced extraction methods. Any regulation on these activities therefore (need to be) enacted at the county level.”
Finally, Measure J supported also noted  in quake-prone California,  the possible impact of fracking  on fault-lines should be matter of grave concern. Even in areas where there is little seismic activity, where fracking has been used, there has been a dramatic increase in the number of tremors. San Benito County already has its risks. The notorious San Andreas Fault runs through the region. 

Opposing the ballot initiative was in Newport Beach- based, Citadel Exploration. The oil company, founded in 2006, was set to begin its Project Indian in the Bitterwater area near Pinnacles National Park. In 2013, the company had received approval from county supervisors, over the objections of environmental groups, for a this limited pilot project.

While still in the testing and initial production stage, the oil drilling project was expected to recover an estimated millions of barrels of heavy (11-14 gravity API) oil. Alongside the oil companies were local farmers ready to sign lucrative real estate deals. The company pointed out that strictly speaking the technique to be used was not fracking

It turned out to be a showdown between environmental groups and powerful corporations which reportedly spent $2 million in advertising to defeat the initiative. That's not surprising. Armen V. Nahabedian, President and CEO of Citadel Exploration. has talked up the project
"Having worked on this project for over seven years, I can't overstate the importance and magnitude of our discovery at Project Indian."
When the measure passed by a strong majority (57.36%) in this month, citizens might have thought that would have been the end of the matter. As of Jan 1 next year, because of the vote, all enhanced extraction practices are to be banned and existing projects would have up to three years to comply with the provisions. 
End of story? 
Not quite.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

The Extinction of Compassion: A Tale of Empires and Elephants 2/2

by Nomad

Here's the conclusion of the historical tale of the last days of the Roman Republic and the revenge of the slaughtered elephants. We will also compare those brutal times to our own.

In the first of this two-part series we recounted how the ambitious masters of Rome were step by step destroying the Republic. In public spectacle in 55 BC, the audience, so used to bloodshed, were suddenly unexpectedly repulsed by the cruel slaughter of 18 elephants, who had begged in vain for mercy. Instead of applauding Pompey, the sponsor of the celebrations, the disgusted citizens of Rome denounced and cursed him.  
Let's watch the rest of this classic tragedy play out.

Destinies Fulfilled
It didn't take long for the Gods to answer the calls of revenge from the dying elephants and the curses of the Roman public. Within two years, the First Triumvirate tottered and collapsed.
The intermarriage ties between Caesar and Pompey- Pompey was married to Caesar's daughter Julia- dissolved upon her tragic death in childbirth.

First to die was Marcus Crassus, one third of the three-way alliance. After a military disaster in the East against the Parthians, his troops mutinied in Syria, and was later murdered while trying to arrange a humiliating peace negotiation. According to accounts from one Roman historian, his particularly gruesome death at the hands of his enemy was meant to be a testament to his greed. Molten gold was supposedly poured down his throat while he still alive.

A showdown between Caesar and Pompey now seemed all but inevitable.

For five more years, Pompey managed to hold onto Rome. That all quickly unraveled when Caesar returned from successfully conquering of Gaul (modern day France) with his sizable armies and considerably more wealth. Certainly enough to bribe whomever stood in his way.
In open defiance of Senate orders to bring his troops into Rome and to come alone and unprotected, Caesar and his armies continued a march south, crossing the Rubicon. That act was a declaration that he would no longer take orders from the Senate.

The political crisis had now become an all-out civil war. After losing battles in Spain and Greece, Pompey's hold on power became less and less convincing. With the Roman people' and the city armies' allegiance unreliable, Pompey had little choice but to flee (along with much of the Senate) to Egypt, with hopes of later re-establishing control. From there, he presumably planned to cut all grain shipments to Rome and force Caesar into negotiations.
It was not to be.

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