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Reading Nietzsche in Starbucks

By John Grant

When the human waste of politics gets to piling up so deep you want to run screaming into the night, a good remedy is to fall back to the powerful historical minds and immerse yourself in some great writing. I ran into this dilemma last Sunday, after a morning of reading The New York Times about the continuing blackmail antics of Rep. John Boehner and Senator Mitch McConnell and their merry band of Teabag Republican cutthroats.

America's Big Speed-Up: No Wonder the Jobless Rate is Staying at Depression Levels

By Dave Lindorff

My wife Joyce and I were renting a car for the week this morning at a Hertz office just outside Philadelphia.  There was a line of people either waiting to pick up a vehicle, or to return one.  

The harried clerk behind the counter -- the only guy in the office -- was fielding calls while trying to serve the first guy in line, who was trying to rent a car for a vacation trip with his wife to North Carolina’s Outer Banks.  No sooner would the poor clerk sit down at the computer to start typing in the information from the man’s driver’s license than the phone would ring -- a phone that was located on a desk in a cubicle behind him, requiring him to get up and run around to the back cubicle.

The man at the counter, and others in the line, sighed audibly.

Congress

 

The latest from ThisCantBeHappening!:

To Hell with the Democrats!: Time to for Any Real Progressives in Congress to Bolt the Party and Start a New One

By Dave Lindorff

Jeff Greenwald has just written that President Obama, by playing a leading role in pushing for cuts in Social Security benefits as part of the whole kabuki-theater drama over the debt ceiling, and the alleged crisis of America’s national debt, has cut out the “soul” of the Democratic Party.

Nim & Noam

 

Charles M. Young

Why Can't Presidents and Media Tycoons Just 'Do the Right Thing'?

 

By Linn Washington, Jr.


U.S. President Barack Obama suddenly takes hard-line stances against his Republican political adversaries after over two years of meek accommodation.


International media mogul Rupert Murdoch suddenly exhibits uncharacteristic humility when dealing with escalating scandals in England and America erupting from vicious and illegal activities by employees of his many media entities.

Blowing It: Democrats, Unable to Be a Party of the People, are Sinking Themselves

By Dave Lindorff

The smoking ruin that is the the Obama White House, and the rotting corpse that is the Democratic Party, have, incredibly, together been boxed into a corner by, of all things, the certifiably insane Republican Party.

This amazing situation has resulted not through any brilliant strategy on the part of the Republicans, but by the self-inflicted wounds of the Democrats.

The Gaza Flotilla and the Blood-Dimmed Tide

By John Grant

What did it matter where you lay once you were dead? ... You just slept the big sleep, not caring about the nastiness of how you died or where you fell. Me, I was part of the nastiness now.

--Raymond Chandler, The Big Sleep

Lately, I find myself reading “noir” crime fiction and thinking about the genre as a way to explain the world. It may have something to do with the fact I’m an American critical of my government and losing hope that positive change is even possible. As hope evaporates, there seems less and less space between political reality and the criminal underworld. Or maybe it's the obverse of a militarist obsession with Tom Clancy and War On Terror thrillers.

The adherents of wealth, power and violence seem so entrenched and in control that those without power become doomed to ineffectual marginalization and, if they poke their heads up too far, in danger of having their intentions and actions criminalized.

Voodo Economics circa 2011: The Magic of BKS Numerology Roils Markets and also Government Policy-Making

By Dave Lindorff

It is part of America’s state religion, the Free Market fundamentalist religion that is accepted as gospel by all leading politicians, by the “brain trust” that sets goverrnment economic policy, and by the supposedly hard-nosed analysts who convince American investors where to put their money, that “markets know best.”

How then to explain the panicked reaction of investors and markets to the Labor Department’s monthly Bureau of Labor Statistics report on the latest monthly jobs and unemployment figures?

Family Feud: Blacks Battle Blacks over Criticism of Obama

By Linn Washington, Jr.

So, some black folks are bashing Princeton Professor Cornell West for his sharply phrased critiques of President Barack Obama’s failure to specifically address crisis- proportion problems in a long-suffering segment of American society: the black community.

Black supporters of the first African-American president echo the rationale advanced by Obama himself that he is the president of all Americans so addressing issues specific to African-American would be inappropriate.

However, that view side-steps the critical issue of the very American right to criticize a U.S. President.

Compounding the First Amendment criticism issue is the reality that Obama has addressed issues important to specific groups, including gays and women. He has even been addressing the issues of his political adversaries, the Republicans, like his embracing their demands for deficit reducing austerity by slashing services to the most needy.

America is a Sick Country

By Dave Lindorff

In ways little and huge, it is clear that we live in a nation, a culture and a society that is terminally ill.

The latest outrage -- the likely execution of a Mexican convicted in Texas of the brutal slaying of a 16-year-old girl in blatant violation of a universally adopted international treaty that requires that as a foreigner he be able to notify his home country’s consulate of his case -- is evidence of this sickness, which appears to have both physical and mental aspects.

As a journalist I have traveled widely in the world, often in police states like China or Laos, and I have always trusted in the fact that if I ran afoul of those police, at least I could count on the fact that the authorities would be legally bound to notify my embassy, so that I could get international attention and, hopefully, legal assistance.

July 4th - Celebrations Cannot Hide Damaged Democracy

By Linn Washington, Jr.

Given the stark desperation stalking so many communities around an America oozing from miseries embedded in the stagnant economy, it’s almost an inane exercise to contemplate the state-of-democracy in this nation on July 4th -– Independence Day.

All of the flag waving, fireworks and fun of this national holiday can’t mask the disturbing fact that democracy in America is under unprecedented onslaught from forces intent on engaging in economic exploitation comparable to the colonial crown domination that compelled Americans to rebel against England over two hundred years ago.

Examples of this onslaught abound with one of the most pronounced being federal and state level elected officials – overwhelming Republican – bludgeoning and eliminating benefits that have aided the middle class and the poor, in the name of budget balancing austerity, while simultaneously battling to protect the profits and assets of the wealthy.

Thoughts on July 4th: Our Incredible Shrinking Constitution

By Dave Lindorff

Tomorrow is the anniversary of the day that the nation’s founders, gathered in Philadelphia a few miles from my house (which as it happens was already standing and about 28 years old already at the time), at great personal risk, signed the Declaration of Independence, with its ringing declaration that all men--Americans and everyone else, too--are born equal and are endowed with certain inalienable rights, among them life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

Five years ago at this time, I was just starting my road trip promoting my book, The Case for Impeachment (St. Martin’s Press, 2006), which documents the wholesale assault, by then President George W. Bush, and his chief consigliere, Vice President Dick Cheney, on those bold concepts and on the subsequent Constitution and Bill of Rights which those same founders set up as the guiding principles of this nation.

The Gaza Flotilla: Fear of Unscripted Non-Violent Action

By John Grant

Israel and its international operatives are working overtime to stop the 10-ship Gaza flotilla from leaving Athens. The Audacity Of Hope, with 40 Americans on board, tried to leave the harbor Friday only to be chased down and threatened by an armed Greek Coast Guard boat and forced to return to a dock. Trumped-up charges may be brought against the captain of the boat. Greece is now prohibiting all boats from leaving. Another boat had a propeller shaft cut and a third was equally disabled by some kind of sabotage. Others have suddenly been plagued with questions about their insurance or their seaworthiness. Israel has openly threatened to bar news organizations with reporters onboard a flotilla boat from entering Israel for ten years. The US government has made vague threats that it might charge US citizens in the flotilla with something.

Chill Bill: The US Military's A/C Bill for Iraq and Afghanistan Gives Me the Shivers

By Dave Lindorff

The United States Military is spending $20.2 billion a year for air-conditioning the troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Read that again please: $20.2 billion just to provide air-conditioning for our troops in these two desert countries.

How much is $20.2 billion?

Well, I live in Pennsylvania, where the eighth-largest school district in the country, here in Philadelphia, is about to lose 1300 of its 11,000 teachers--that’s 12% of the teaching staff in an already overcrowded school system, because the state’s Republican governor and legislature want to cut some $500 million in education funding from the state’s $27-billion budget. That military air-conditioning bill could not only restore those teachers by closing the $400 million budget deficit facing the Philadelphia School District. It could almost fund the entire budget of the state! In fact, it could probably fund the school budget deficit in almost all the school districts in the nation.

The BLS

By Laura Leigh

You learn many interesting things traveling on public lands following the wild horse issue in the American West.

You learn that after standing in sub-zero temperatures, attempting to document winter roundups, that returning to the relative warmth of your parked vehicle can make your glasses crack. You learn that chemical toe warmers are good as wrist, neck and “slip into your coveralls attach to your underwear” warmers as well. You learn that rattlesnakes don’t always rattle.

You learn the maneuvers the federal government will attempt to hide their actions when “managing” America’s wild herds: Maneuvers that range from lying about facility contracts to a roadblock on a remote dirt road operated by armed men who stop three woman from seeing the wild horses being captured.

On June 19, 1971 both houses of Congress passed the Wild Free Roaming Horse and Burro, act without a single dissenting vote. That act read:
 

Solidarity and Resistance: My Cuba Years (1987-920

Ron Ridenour

Part III: My Cuba Years (1987-92)

(This article is Part II of journalist Ridenour’s political autobiography, "Solidarity and Resistance: 50 Years With Che.")

Grethe Porsgaard and I fell in love, in 1979. She was from Denmark and vacationing in Los Angeles. I traveled to her homeland, in 1980, where we married. At my behest, we made a go of it in her country. A major factor in that decision was that my former wife had taken our children, whose upbringing we had been sharing, from me, and had turned them against me. It would have been a negative way to begin a new love life living close to that madness. Although Grethe and I ended our marriage after several years, we remain friends.

Israel and the Roots of Disaster

By John Grant

Two veteran friends of mine will be on one of the ships planning to leave Athens next week to challenge the Israeli sea blockade of Gaza. The Israeli government, after attacking a previous flotilla in May 2010 and killing nine people, has said it will use violence if necessary to prevent the ships from entering what any reasonable person by now should agree are Palestinian waters.

This confrontation should not be necessary. The Israeli military occupation over Palestinian life should have been eased and sovereign rights established for Palestinians long ago. The crisis of Palestinian status has reached the level of a disaster, and like the creation of Israel itself it is more than a Jewish problem: It is a world problem.

Journalism with a Smerc: Gullibility and Fiction at the Philadelphia Inquirer

By Dave Lindorff

Let me state from the outset: I have no problem with soldiers who inflate their war stories, any more than I am bothered by anybody who likes to spice up the tale of a youthful exploit.

It’s different though, when exaggerations are exploited for personal gain, like what Connecticut Senator Richard Blumenthal did with campaigned on the outrageous claim that he was a Vietnam War combat veteran when he really wasn’t.

My grandfather, William Lindorff, earned a Silver Star in World War I, where he was an ambulance driver on the front lines in France. My father, a Marine in World War II, says that his dad never once talked about that medal. Now, I’d say that’s a real hero.

A Pakistani Perspective: Is US Threat to Block Pakistan ‘Aid’ a Blessing In Disguise?

By Yasmeen Ali

“Pakistan must do more.”

That statement by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has become a laugh line in Pakistani drawing rooms.

The 9/11 attacks resulted in 2,996 deaths -- 246 on the planes,2606 in towers and on ground, 126 at the Pentagon. The attacks justified an invasion of Afghanistan, the Iraq War and also attacks on the America’s “ally in war on terror,” Pakistan.

The US has come a long way since. The policy of extrajudicial killings survived the Bush/Cheney era and has intensified from an estimated 45 attacks under Bush to 200 under Obama.

Few of those killed in these attacks have been militants. Most have been civilians. Indeed, according to the New American Foundation, only 2% of deaths have been of militants. But hey, that’s ok. That’s why the term “collateral damage” was coined, right?

The FBI Loosens Up

By John Grant

Some years ago, I was photographing a constitutional law professor for a magazine article on his book, and while I composed my shots I employed the usual half-minded topical banter to keep things on course. The professor was pretty progressive and knew I was a veteran antiwar activist. I was muttering something about constitutional rights.

In the lens, I noticed him chuckling at something, so I pulled my eye away from the camera and looked at him. He was grinning now.

“John, you know they abrogated the Constitution long ago,” he said, his tone a bit patronizing but also mixed with camaraderie and humor.

“Oh, yeh!” I said. “I forgot about that.” We both laughed, and I went on with the shoot.
I couldn’t help thinking about that conversation as I read the story in The New York Times about the new powers being given to individual FBI agents to snoop on citizens they subjectively deem dangerous.

Tell Federal Judge Filipe Restrepo He Needs to Go Back and Study His Constitution

By Dave Lindorff

Federal Judge Filipe Restrepo, a man with a solid history as a defender of civil liberties and civil rights, and a defense attorney by training and private practice experience, seems sadly to have gotten a bit thin-skinned after donning the robes of a federal judge.

As my colleague Linn Washington wrote earlier this week, the judge lost it when Hampton Coleman had the effrontery to write a 28-word letter to Restrepo questioning the judge’s integrity and his commitment to “blind justice,” and warning that “we the people” would be “watching and listening very carefully” to the judge.

Israel and the Delusion of Separateness

John Grant

“A human being is part of the whole called by us universe, a part limited in time and space. We experience ourselves, our thoughts and feelings, as something separate from the rest, a kind of optical delusion of consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from the prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.”

This 1954 quote from Albert Einstein hangs on the wall in my house. It seems to me truth distilled down to its most humble and indisputable essence. The more I read it, the more fundamental and inescapable its wisdom seems.

Here Come da Judge: US Marshals Mangle Free Speech Rights with Unusual Crackdown

By Linn Washington Jr.

Hampton Coleman, a military veteran, felt secure in his constitutional free speech rights until a few weeks ago when three U.S. Marshals showed up at his Delaware home issuing demands Coleman considered threats.

Those U.S. Marshals, two male and one female from Philadelphia, came to Coleman’s home last month accusing him of sending a threatening letter to a federal magistrate judge.

“Why would I put my name and address on a letter containing a threat? I’m not crazy,” Coleman said during a recent interview.

Those Marshals warned Coleman to not send any more letters to U.S. Magistrate L. Felipe Restrepo.

Coleman claims the Marshals service is overreacting to his three-sentence, 28-word letter voicing concern about bias he felt Restrepo had exhibited in a race discrimination case handled by that judge, who ordinarily has a reputation for fairness.

Coleman attended an April 2011 hearing in that case.

Here Come da Judge: US Marshals Mangle Free Speech Rights with Unusual Crackdown

By Linn Washington Jr.

Hampton Coleman, a military veteran, felt secure in his constitutional free speech rights until a few weeks ago when three U.S. Marshals showed up at his Delaware home issuing demands Coleman considered threats.

Those U.S. Marshals, two male and one female from Philadelphia, came to Coleman’s home last month accusing him of sending a threatening letter to a federal magistrate judge.

“Why would I put my name and address on a letter containing a threat? I’m not crazy,” Coleman said during a recent interview.

Those Marshals warned Coleman to not send any more letters to U.S. Magistrate L. Felipe Restrepo.

Coleman claims the Marshals service is overreacting to his three-sentence, 28-word letter voicing concern about bias he felt Restrepo had exhibited in a race discrimination case handled by that judge, who ordinarily has a reputation for fairness.

Coleman attended an April 2011 hearing in that case.

Double-Dip Recession: It Can't Happen...But It's Happening

By Dave Lindorff

It was just as recently as a year ago that the authorities in politics, business and academe were stating boldly and confidently that the nation's economy was on the mend, and that there was no chance of a backslide into recession again.

Take Lakshman Achuthan and Anirvan Banerji who are, respectively, co-founder and chief operating officer and co-founder and chief research officer of ECRI, the Economic Cycle Research Institute.

"The good news is that the much-feared double-dip recession is not going to happen," they said on CNN on Oct. 28, last year. "After completing an exhaustive review of key drivers of the business cycle, ranging from credit to inventories and measures of labor market conditions, we can forecast with confidence that the economy will avoid a double dip."

Scottish Court to Rule on Whether Anti-Israel Protesters are 'Anti-Semitic'

By Ken Ferguson

Cupar, Scotland--This county town of Fife, is not exactly a news hot spot. Probably the last big story here was the landing of Italian
balloonist Vincenzo Lunardi nearby in 1785 at the end of a 43-mile flight from
Edinburgh.

However the small town’s sleepy Sheriff court is about to host a key
legal case involving a US student from New York and two anti Israeli
protestors who have been charged with racism.

For the information of US readers, in Scotland the Sheriff isn’t some John Wayne figure with the star on his chest, but is rather the bewigged judge presiding over the local court.

This case centers on an incident at nearby St. Andrews University, where
two students are facing racially aggravated conduct charges after
allegedly making comments and gestures critical of the State of Israel
and its flag.

Press reports are already in danger of prejudging the case, with

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