Feb 072016
 

It has been a busy day today mostly doing research for two posts.  I managed a few small errands and came home to relax only to find my DVD player bit the dust.  It is one of those "turn it off, it's fine, turn it on, it's broken" kind of deals. I wonder if Mr Negotiator (Trump) could get me a good deal for a new one?  Tomorrow afternoon, I will be going to see my mother so there may not be a Squatch's Open Thread.

Short Takes

BuzzFeedhat-tip Monka B, Care2 — So, it seems some non-Americans have a few questions about what’s going on in American politics today.

1. First things first: In an American accent, “Iowa caucus” is pronounced “Iowa cock-us” which is also kind of how it feels.

First things first: In an American accent, "Iowa caucus" is pronounced "Iowa cock-us" which is also kind of how it feels.

Scott Olson / Getty Images

“Cock us today at 6:30pm.”

2. Iowa is the first state to vote in the seemingly endless process of the two parties in the US choosing their candidates for president, which at this stage feels like it’s been happening for about 57 years.

Iowa is the first state to vote in the seemingly endless process of the two parties in the US choosing their candidates for president, which at this stage feels like it's been happening for about 57 years.

Justin Sullivan / Getty Images

If the nomination process is like an army on a long, grim death march through a never-ending winter, this is the bit where they start eating the horses.

Click through for the rest of this hilarious take on the Iowa Caucuses as explained for the Brits.

University of British Columbia — Gustafsen Lake or Ts’Peten, a region close to 100 Mile House in British Columbia, in Secwepemec (Shuswap) territory, was the location of a stand-off in 1995 between the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) and sundancers and their helpers (Sundancers) conducting religious ceremony that lasted more than thirty days. Gustafsen Lake has been called the “largest paramilitary operation in Canadian history."

The Gustafsen Lake Stand-off stemmed from the longstanding conflict over Aboriginal land occupied by non-Aboriginal settlers without having first signed treaties. People who came to Gustafsen Lake for the Sundance chose to stay in defense of the land as events unfolded during the ceremonial period. They said the land is unceded and unsurrendered to the Crown. The RCMP and government representatives attempted to remove the Sundancers, or “Ts'Peten Defenders,” as tensions escalated between the Sundancers, a local rancher, government agents, and Aboriginal leaders who disagreed with the Sundancers' tactics and legal and religious views.

The siege at Gustafsen Lake has become a controversial event in Canadian history due to government militarization, RCMP smear campaigns, and successful efforts to spread misinformation about the Sundancers. The media were strategically excluded from all but official RCMP accounts of events, resulting in highly skewed reporting. Supporters of the “Ts’Peten Defenders” view the stand-off at Gustafsen Lake as symbolic of the continued efforts of the state to forcibly and violently assimilate Indigenous peoples. Gustafsen Lake is largely underrepresented in mainstream recollections of British Columbian and Canadian histories.

Gustafsen Lake occurred as another militarized stand-off was underway at Ipperwash/Aazhoodena.

Image from "Showdown at Gustafsen Lake," First Nations Drum. Reprinted in Smoke Signals from the Heart (2004) and used with permission from Totem Pole Books.

The Conflict

Starting in 1989 as part of a multi-year period cycle of ceremonial commitment, Sundancers would assemble every summer at a specific site near Gustafsen Lake, or Ts’Peten, to conduct the Sundance. The site was in ancestral Secwepemc territories and was prepared and respected as sacred by the Sundancers under the guidance of the designated Faithkeeper and camp spiritual leader Percy Rosette. The site was encompassed by grazing rights held by a non-Aboriginal American rancher, Lyle James, who used the land as cow pasture. James and the Sundancers had reached an agreement that the Sundancers would assemble at the Sundance arbour area every summer for the Sundance cycle period, provided they would not erect any permanent ceremonial structures.

In 1995, however, tensions escalated between the rancher and the Sundancers. The Sundancers had erected a fence to keep James’s cattle from defecating within the Sundance ceremonial arbour site, and James was not happy. James requested that the camp occupants leave, to which they explained they were unable to do until the Sundance was complete.  The Sundancers claimed that to breach or interrupt a multi-year Sundance commitment is a very serious matter. The Sundancers recall one night when cowboys on horseback rode through the camp and aggressively insulted and harassed them. Two RCMP officers, Native people chosen in keeping with the sensitive nature of the ceremony and prepared site, were then stationed at the Sundance to observe and keep the peace. The RCMP held the position that the conflict was of a personal nature between James and the Sundancers, and therefore they would observe, and not become directly involved. Approximately twenty to thirty of the Sundancers, which included non-dancing participants, stayed on: men, women and children. The Sundance itself went ahead without incident.

The conflict between James and the Sundancers raised larger questions about the land and outstanding Aboriginal title; The Sundancers declared the land unceded and unsurrendered, particularly as to the nature of the interest in the land that James had obtained from the Crown.  As time went on, the RCMP observers suggested that the Sundancers should vacate the site to avoid any further conflict with James. The Sundancers responded that they would not leave until their rights to the land were recognized, some saying they were prepared to die if necessary to protect the land. The Sundancers were concerned about the need to continue to use the site for their religious and spiritual purposes so as to complete the commitment period and Sundance cycle.

Click through for the rest.  Although this happened over twenty years ago, the issues raised have not been dealt with by the Canadian federal government.  Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, as part of his platform, wants to bring about new relationships and respect with and for Aboriginal peoples.  As such, the Ts'Peten Defence Committee has started a petition on Change.org calling for a National Inquiry into the Ts’Peten/Gustafsen Lake Standoff 1995.  I hope you'll sign the petition with me.

For those on Care2, I have also posted this petition at Gustafsen Lake Standoff Petition.

Salon — Donald Trump gave an interview this week all of his potential supporters should watch. In his own words, Trump lays bare the very reasons why he would be such a disastrous choice for president.  

The topic turns to President Obama’s recent nuclear agreement with Iran.  Trump unwittingly displays for all to see that he simply does not understand the most basic elements of the agreement.

Trump proclaims his familiar boast that he is the best deal-maker ever and the best negotiator ever, and that the Obama administration completely botched the negotiation with Iran.  And then Trump graced us with an inside account of how he, as a master deal-maker, would have negotiated the agreement with Iran and obtained a much better outcome for America.

Primarily, Trump would have spared America from having to pay $150 billion to Iran.  

Unfortunately, however, there is one little problem with Trump’s entire analysis. And this problem is that the $150 billion was, in fact, readily available. The reason it was readily available is because all of this money actually belonged to Iran, not to America.  This was Iran’s own money.  This was Iranian money that America had seized and frozen. 

Following is an interview of Trump by CNN's Anderson Cooper where Trump demonstrates his lack of knowlege of the Iran Nuclear Deal.  You would think that a potential presidential candidate would be a little more knowlegable. Even I know that those were Iranian funds!

 

My Universe

I forgets nothing. I wait patiently. - Cat

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Jan 082016
 

I started out doing a short take for today's Squatch's Open Thread about TransCanada's NAFTA challenge, but things rather mushroomed.  TC covered TransCanada in his lead article while I chose to take a broader approach.

There are two actions that TransCanada Corp has announced it is taking in regards to the Keystone XL rejection:  

  1. a challenge under NAFTA against the US Government; and
  2. a lawsuit filed in US federal court in Houston, Texas.

National Post — TransCanada Corp. said Wednesday it intends to file a challenge under the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) seeking US$15-billion in damages from the United States government over President Barack Obama’s denial of the Keystone XL pipeline.  

In a 27-page notice of intent to pursue the NAFTA challenge, the Calgary-based pipeline company said Obama’s denial was politically driven, directly contrary to the conclusions of own administration’s studies, and in violation of U.S. obligations under the agreement.

From the Globe and Mail

Toronto trade lawyer Lawrence Herman said … 

“I’ve thought for some time that that this was a politicized issue, and there are good arguments that decisions affecting Keystone were based on political considerations. To the degree that that is so, TransCanada has a viable if not a strong case.”

Continuing from the National Post

In addition, the Calgary-based company filed a lawsuit in U.S. Federal Court in Houston claiming Obama’s decision to deny construction of Keystone XL exceeded his power under the U.S. Constitution.  

The lawsuit in Texas does not seek damages, but a declaration that the permit denial is without legal merit and that construction of the pipeline can proceed without further presidential action.  

TransCanada has pondered a NAFTA challenge for some time, but the Texas lawsuit — it names U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, Attorney General Loretta Lynch, Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Charles Johnson, Interior Secretary Sally Jewell — was not expected.

Some might remember that from the beginning, the Keystone XL and TransCanada Corp have been the focus of much talk, and not just over the water cooler.  Here are some of the Politics Plus articles going back to 2011: Keystone XL WOULD Increase Carbon PollutionKeystone XL DefeatedObama Rejects Keystone XL PipelineNew Keystone XL InvestigationDeck stacked for Keystone XLKeystone DelayedThe Keystone Debacle.

TransCanada has admitted in the past that it substantially inflated employment numbers in the US.  During the 2012 election campaign, Republicans were pushing the "Jobs, Jobs, Jobs" and invoked TransCanada as a jobs creator saying that there were tens of thousands of jobs.  Ib fact there would be a couple thousand temporary construction jobs and less than 100 permanent jobs.  Take into account that the EIS at one point was arranged and paid for by TransCanada.  Shame on TransCanada for trying to hide that conflict and on the State Department for allowing it. Here's a record of TransCanada's lobbying through the first half of 2013 . . . big money.

In Canada, former PM Stephen Harper and the Conservatives backed the Keystone XL.  DeSmog reported:

In October 2013 the Liberal party backed the Keystone XL pipeline and won confidence from oil industry supporters when Trudeau told the Calgary Petroleum Club, “Let me be clear: I support Keystone XL.”

But Trudeau also added, “Perhaps the greatest indictment of the [Conservative] government is this: it has had the better part of a decade to remove the barriers preventing the U.S. from approving this project.”

“The [Conservative government] poked and prodded, annoyed and irritated the Obama administration at every turn. Largely, I suspect, because they don’t know how to work with people who don’t share their ideology.”

 Both Dion and Trudeau indicated that although they support the Keystone XL, they respect the decision-making authority of the Obama administration — something the Harper government continuously strained diplomatic relations by failing to do. During his years of lobbying for the pipeline, Harper forcefully said he wouldn’t “take no for an answer” and called its approval a “no brainer.”

So both Canadian governments ultimately support the pipeline, the former government being more forceful, less respectful.

But there is also another NAFTA challenge that has been before the tribunal since 2013 — Lone Pine Resources Inc. v. Government of Canada.  From Global Affairs Canada

The claimant alleges that LPRC has contractual interests relating to five contiguous exploration licences for petroleum, natural gas and underground reservoirs (“exploration licences”) located near Trois-Rivières [see map below]. These interests stem from a farmout agreement signed with the holder of these exploration licences, a Canadian company named Junex Inc. Four of the exploration licences are located on land and one is located in the St. Lawrence River.

The exploration licence located in the St. Lawrence River was revoked following the coming into force, on June 13, 2011, of a Quebec law titled An Act to limit oil and gas activities (“Act”). The Act revokes exploration licences located in the St. Lawrence River and limits the area of those that cross the water’s edge to their land portion.

The Act was passed in response to the findings of a strategic environmental study on hydrocarbon development in the maritime estuary basin and the northwestern Gulf of St. Lawrence, which concludes that this environment is not conducive to hydrocarbon development activities. This study was preceded by numerous other studies that, since 2003, have been analyzing the impact of hydrocarbon exploration and exploitation activities on the biophysical and human environment of the St. Lawrence River.

In addition to studies on hydrocarbon development in the St. Lawrence River, the Government of Quebec devotes considerable resources to documenting and assessing the environmental and socio-economic impacts of the shale gas industry. Since February 2011, reports from Quebec’s Bureau d’audiences publiques sur l’environnement (“BAPE”) and studies conducted as part of strategic environmental studies have been establishing the existence of risks to the biophysical and human environment tied to shale gas development activities involving hydraulic fracturing.

Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Seaway map 1959.png

One thing to note, the St Lawrence River freezes each winter westward from Québec City, creating additional risks.  You can also review the Lone Pine Resources' challenge at the Council of Canadians website. 

Both of these challenges to the sovereignty of our two nations by corporations need to be put in their place . . . in the dumpster.  Trade agreements like NAFTA, TPP, TTIP, TISA and CETA are nothing more than corporate power grabs.  Where are the people in all these agreements?  . . . slaves to corporations.

See lists of NAFTA challenges at the following sources:

  1. Global Affairs Canada, and
  2. US Department of State.

 

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Dec 192015
 

It has been a quiet day fortunately.  A hair cut and nap and reading.  The weather was very wet this afternoon and will likely continue that way tomorrow.  I won't even go near a mall . . . total insanity!

Puzzle — Today’s took me 3:29 (average 5:48). To do it, click here. How did you do?

Short Takes

Huffington Post — Canada’s refugee policy is world class, and the big secret behind its success is its private sponsorship program, according to a former Toronto mayor.

“I think at the end of the day the absolute brilliance of the Canadian refugee program is that it relies on private groups to support the refugees and integrate them into Canadian society,” John Sewell, who helped resettle tens of thousands of people in the city decades ago, told The Huffington Post Canada in an interview.

“No other country has this kind of program,” he said. “It’s absolutely brilliant.”

In the late 1970s, the federal government began to feel pressure to increase its intake of Indochinese refugees uprooted by the Vietnam War.

vietnam refugees

It was around this time, in 1978, when Canada’s private sponsorships program launched. Since then, citizen groups have fundraised millions to support refugee families both financially and emotionally for upwards to a year.

The program has helped resettle over 200,000 refugees across the country.

I was involved in my church's sponsorship committee in the late '70s when we supported a Vietnamese family.  It was a lot of work but so worthwhile. My ESL student is a refugee from South Sudan via Uganda and I know I am making a difference.  People helping people is what life should be about.  Here is a Care2 petition urging the US Congress to legalise private sponsorship which I hope you'll sign.  Just click on the link and it will open a new page with the petition.

http://www.thepetitionsite.com/605/374/216/tell-u.s.-to-legalize-private-sponsorship-of-refugees/

Alternet — Can you imagine him? Here is, in other words, a dark-skinned, bearded, unkempt Middle Eastern Jew, acting all kinds of suspicious, ranting on street corners and hanging around with prostitutes and fanatics, rejecting money, violence and the ruling class, seen by Muslims as the divine precursor to their prophet as he lures the innocent and the seditious into his lawless cult of pacifism and peace.

Jesus -DeusCristoeosPobres 

Jesus - Black-Liberation-Theology-Another-Jesus-Devine-Racism-James-H-Cone

 

Jesus in America, today? Almost certainly to be shunned, feared, derided. Depending where he wandered, also likely harassed, spit upon, even beaten – that is, if he was allowed into the country at all.

Looks quite like a Muslim, you see. Might be an ISIS sympathizer. Definitely radicalized. Got a Facebook feed full of strange proclamations, rapturous interventions, cryptic references to how you’re to seek the divine within, silly. Who knows what he might be up to?

Do you doubt it? Of course you can’t. I mean, just look at him.

Many years ago, I was introduced to liberation theology which Wikipedia describes as  

…"an interpretation of Christian faith out of the experience of the poor…an attempt to read the Bible and key Christian doctrines with the eyes of the poor",[1] or "the message of the gospels", restored from "the first three centuries [of Christianity in which] it was … a pacifist … religion of the poor".[2] Detractors have called it Christianized Marxism.[3]

We don't hear the term liberation theology very often any more but nonetheless, I certainly see Jesus in that light, not as the right wing evangelical supply-side Jesus, the complete antithesis of the authentic Jesus.  The author concludes:

But the sad truth is, the real, dark-skinned, pacifist prophet, the hippie mystic Jesus of yore, preaching peace, loving thy enemy, inner divine wisdom? He wouldn’t come anywhere near America today.

Too many guns, you see. He wouldn’t have a prayer.

I am not proselytising, but rather trying to demonstrate the difference between the authentic Jesus and the right wing evangelical supply-side Jesus that is seen in Republican politics.

Mother Jones — "The end of JONAH signals that conversion therapy, however packaged, is fraudulent—plain and simple," David Dinielli, deputy legal director for the Southern Poverty Law Center, said in a statement. The center filed the lawsuit on behalf of the plaintiffs.  

In a pretrial decision in February, Judge Bariso wrote, "The theory that homosexuality is a disorder is not novel—but like the notion that the earth is flat and the sun revolves around it—instead is outdated and refuted." 

How long will it take to ban all conversion therapy?  Being gay or lesbian or transgendered is not a learned behaviour or chosen lifestyle.  Who in their right mind would choose to be discriminated against, denied opportunities etc? Good judgement!

My Universe — 

santa cat:

 

A couple of years ago, Dandelion on Care2 shared this humourous video with me and I have been singing it ever since.

 

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Nov 282015
 

I slept in today and did it ever feel good.  Saturdays should be like that from time to time.  I'm off to pick up some tastey buns that look like cinnamon rolls but instead have pesto and cheese.  They are oh so good!

Puzzle — Today’s took me 3:11 (average 4:52). To do it, click here. How did you do? 

Short Takes

The New Yorker  On Saturday, at 2:08 A.M. local time, an American AC-130 began to bomb a hospital run by Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders), in Kunduz, Afghanistan. According to accounts from doctors and nurses, the air strike continued for more than an hour, in fifteen-minute waves. The hospital burned for hours afterward; photos and videos from the scene show the structures illuminated by flames from within. “We tried to take a look into one of the burning buildings,” a nurse named Lajos Zoltan Jecssaid, in a statement distributed by M.S.F. “In the Intensive Care Unit, six patients were burning in their beds.” At least twenty-two people, ten patients and a dozen staff members, were killed by the strike or by the fires that the bombs started. 

Click through for some of the questions that still need answering, even almost 2 months later.

Common Dreams — Doctors Without Borders is challenging the Pentagon over the findings of internal probes into the bombing of a hospital in the Afghan city of Kunduz on October 3, saying the military's conclusions offer "more questions than answers" and that claims of "human error" simply don't correspond to the available facts.

"The frightening catalogue of errors outlined today illustrates gross negligence on the part of U.S. forces and violations of the rules of war," said MSF director general Christopher Stokes. (Photo: Andrew Quilty/Foreign Policy)

Pentagon spokesman Gen. Wilson Shoffner said "some individuals have been suspended from their duty positions" for failing to follow "rules of engagement" and are awaiting disciplinary action. 

Sorry, but not good enough General Shoffner.  Click through to see the log of calls made by MSF Kabul to the OCHA Civil Military liaison in Afghanistan, among others. 

Foreign Policy — As  the powerful American gunship circled over the densely packed Afghan city of Kunduz on the night of Oct. 3, the crew was flying blind, with little prior intelligence as to where potential Taliban targets were located and without access to key video or electronic communications systems, which were down for much of the mission.  

‘Human Error’: U.S. Troops Suspended Over Kunduz Hospital Strike

The exterior of the bombed out Kunduz hospital that was staffed by MSF.

Brig. Gen. Wilson Shoffner, spokesman for the NATO command in Kabul, said members of the crew of the AC-130 gunship “did not follow the rules of engagement” in launching the 29-minute attack, and have been suspended from their duties pending possible disciplinary action.  

The mistakes on Oct. 3 began even before the plane took off from base. An investigation by the U.S. military has found that the gunship launched without being briefed on “crucial mission materials, including no-strike info that would have determined the coordinates of the hospital,” Campbell said. The investigation also found that the crew relied almost entirely on a physical description of the building, as opposed to grid coordinates, which led to the strike on the wrong building.

And when all is said and done, will anyone truly be held accountable for this tragedy?  The MSF is calling for an independent investigation by the International Humanitarian Fact-Finding Commission (IHFFC).  I was reading that the MSF has called this a war crime.  

When all is said and done, there should be no wrist slaps or suspensions. There should be real accountabilty including an international trial at The Hague, substantial prison time right up the line (not just those flying the mission that should not have been), reparations and fines.

There is a petition at Change.org signed by 542,102 supporters with a goal of 1 million signatures, asking Obama to consent to "an independent international investigation into the events of October 3 by the International Humanitarian Fact-Finding Commission (IHFFC), the only permanent body set up specifically to investigate violations of international humanitarian law."

YouTube Pardoning of the Thanksgiving turkeys

My Universe — Simon has a sister and she has a dog!  This should be a PSA!

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Nov 242015
 

It has been a busy day, first with physio and then teaching.  All was going well, although I was very tired, until we received a call from from my student's 10 year old son.  His middle school was in lock down because there was one, maybe two men with guns near the school.  That put everybody on edge until it was over and I could get over to the school to pick him up.  That stretched out my day and my planned cat nap had to wait.  But all is well that ends well.  Men with guns, other than police constables, is not something we are used to, thankfully.

Puzzle — Today’s took me 3:12 (average 5:01). To do it, click here. How did you do? 

Fantasy Football

              Points
Rank Team Status W-L-T Pct Stk Waiver For Against
1

Monster MashersMonster Mashers

009

7-3-0 .700 L1 7 1,002.34 748.84
2

BALCO BombersBALCO Bombers

018

7-3-0 .700 W4 9 950.96 793.22
3

Progressive UnderdogsProgressive Underdogs

027

6-4-0 .600 W2 8 1,016.66 906.92
4+1

Lefty HillbilliesLefty Hillbillies

018

6-4-0 .600 W1 6 948.50 844.04
5-1

MittsMagicJockMittsMagicJock

018

6-4-0 .600 W1 5 926.22 796.88
6+2

Purple DemonPurple Demon

018

5-5-0 .500 W3 4 948.16 970.96
7-1

Size 9 StompersSize 9 Stompers

018

5-5-0 .500 L1 3 851.08 851.16
8-1

Playing without a helmetPlaying without a helmet

036

4-6-0 .400 L3 2 824.80 953.40
9

TomCat Teabag TrashersTomCat Teabag Trashers

009

3-7-0 .300 L3 10 884.98 1,059.66
10

endthegopendthegop

009

1-9-0 .100 L9 1 633.20 1,061.82

* Rank change shown is from week 9 – 10

Short Takes

Truth in Mediah/t Lona Goudswaard — In this episode of Truth in Media, Ben Swann explores the origin of ISIS that has already been long forgotten by American media. Swann takes on the central issue of whether or not ISIS was created by "inaction" by the United States government or by "direct" action.

Although this video is 8 months old, it bears watching again and again until we get it straight and can hold politicians, no matter the party, accountable.

Alternet — “The Pfizer-Allergan merger would be a disaster for American consumers who already pay the highest prices in the world for prescription drugs,” Sanders said, in a statement issued by his U.S. Senate office. It also would "allow another major American corporation to hide its profits overseas.”

Click through for the rest of the story.  I kept hearing about this proposed sale on the radio as I went about my business.  What makes this deal different from most so far (I'm sure that others will follow) is that Allergan, the Irish company, is making the purchase thereby getting around US laws regarding "inversions".  Bernie is right to call on Obama to squash this.

Think Progress — The mayor of Dallas is pushing back against politicians who say Americans should be skeptical ofSyrian refugees, saying he is “more fearful” of armed white men than people fleeing civil war in the Middle East.

Speaking to MSNBC on Saturday morning, Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings was asked to discuss the growing anxiety over Syrian refugees entering the United States, purportedly over concerns they could be potential agents for militant groups such as ISIS. Rawlings staunchly rejected the assertion that Syrians are somehow uniquely prone to violence, saying he is more concerned with the rise of white supremacy and the recent flurry of mass shootings committed by white men.

Click through for the rest and a video from the Rachel Maddow Show.  

My Universe — h/t to John Gray, Care2

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Oct 312015
 

HANAUER

Several years ago now, TC had a short take featuring the billionaire Nick Hanauer.  I was very impressed with Hanauer and his clarity of thought on who the job creators were.  A billionaire was recognising the middle and working class people as integral parts of society and the economy.  In the article, you'll read about his background.  But even better, you'll be able to share his perspective.

I see pitchforks.

At the same time that people like you and me are thriving beyond the dreams of any plutocrats in history, the rest of the country—the 99.99 percent—is lagging far behind. The divide between the haves and have-nots is getting worse really, really fast. In 1980, the top 1 percent controlled about 8 percent of U.S. national income. The bottom 50 percent shared about 18 percent. Today the top 1 percent share about 20 percent; the bottom 50 percent, just 12 percent.

But the problem isn’t that we have inequality. Some inequality is intrinsic to any high-functioning capitalist economy. The problem is that inequality is at historically high levels and getting worse every day. Our country is rapidly becoming less a capitalist society and more a feudal society. Unless our policies change dramatically, the middle class will disappear, and we will be back to late 18th-century France. Before the revolution.

And so I have a message for my fellow filthy rich, for all of us who live in our gated bubble worlds: Wake up, people. It won’t last.

If we don’t do something to fix the glaring inequities in this economy, the pitchforks are going to come for us. No society can sustain this kind of rising inequality. In fact, there is no example in human history where wealth accumulated like this and the pitchforks didn’t eventually come out. You show me a highly unequal society, and I will show you a police state. Or an uprising. There are no counterexamples. None. It’s not if, it’s when.

Many of us think we’re special because “this is America.” We think we’re immune to the same forces that started the Arab Spring—or the French and Russian revolutions, for that matter. I know you fellow .01%ers tend to dismiss this kind of argument; I’ve had many of you tell me to my face I’m completely bonkers. And yes, I know there are many of you who are convinced that because you saw a poor kid with an iPhone that one time, inequality is a fiction.

* * *

The most ironic thing about rising inequality is how completely unnecessary and self-defeating it is. If we do something about it, if we adjust our policies in the way that, say, Franklin D. Roosevelt did during the Great Depression—so that we help the 99 percent and preempt the revolutionaries and crazies, the ones with the pitchforks—that will be the best thing possible for us rich folks, too.

Click through for the rest of Hanauer's memo to the rest of his fellow Zillionaires.

 

These videos are from 2014 and 2015 respectively, and the article is from 2014, but the background of the discussion doesn't change, whatever the year.

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Oct 052015
 

Mother Jones has an excellent article about the coal industry and one of its big players, Don Blankenship.  As the former CEO of Massey Energy Co., Blankenship is charged with conspiracy to violate safety laws, defrauding the federal government, securities fraud and making false statements to the Securities and Exchange Commission.  If convicted in this corporate accountability case, he could face 31 years in prison.  Not enough in my opinion for the misery and death he created and left in his wake.  Perhaps his golden parachute, nay platinum parachute he received from Massey Energy Co in 2010 when he left, will be taken back and distributed to the families of miners killed at a Blankenship operation.  That would be an attempt at justice for those families.

COAL TRAIN 4        COAL TRAIN 2

…he was a harsh taskmaster whose cutthroat management style transformed what was once a modest family business into the region's largest coal producer.  

Blankenship cultivated an image as a Mingo County son made good—a good ol' boy who ran a multibillion-dollar company from a double-wide trailer. And he saw himself as a heroic figure who brought jobs to the depressed enclaves of his native West Virginia. But with his gaze fixed on the bottom line, Blankenship crushed the mine workers union that was baptized in his backyard. Voluminous court records and government investigations show that he presided over a company that padded its profits by running some of themost dangerous workplaces in the country. Massey polluted the waterwaysthat had sustained Blankenship's forebears, rained coal dust on the schoolyards where his miners' children played, and subjected the men he grew up with in southern West Virginia to unsafe working conditions.

A mascot of the coal industry's worst excesses, Blankenship pumped millions of dollars into West Virginia's political system to promote an anti-regulatory agenda and curry favor with state lawmakers and officials.

The irony is that, even at the nadir of Blankenship's power, his ideology is ascendant. He transformed West Virginia not just physically (entire towns have been wiped out by Massey's footprint), but politically. Now, by playing off fears of creeping government involvement, the coal industry has strengthened its grip on state politics. Lawmakers friendly to the industry, with financial support from Blankenship, have won sweeping victories at the ballot box and used their mandate to roll back health and safety regulations while trumpeting the survival-of-the-fittest capitalism that was Blankenship's gospel. The man on the mountaintop may have fallen, but the widespread impact of his legacy shows no signs of diminishing.  

Down the road from Upper Big Branch, a memorial funded in part by Alpha touted the job-creating legacy of the coal industry. By a back entrance to the now-shuttered mine was a more informal installation—29 hard hats and two mourning angels. Their wings were solar powered.  

 

 MTN TOP COAL          MTN TOP COAL 2

These are pictures of mountain top removal . . . from lush forested mountain tops to wastelands that resemble tar sands mines like those in Alberta.

From Alternet

Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. had this to say about Blankenship in a report on EcoWatch last fall:

Don Blankenship once boasted to me that it was impossible to conduct mountaintop removal mining without violating the law. He prided himself on his cold-blooded capacity for turning America’s purple mountains majesty into coal company cash. His criminal mind allowed him to view the human beings of Appalachia as disposable production units. He is a sociopath and gangster whose gift was felonious greed and a stone-cold heart that allowed him to put his yearning for money and power ahead of human lives. Those qualities had great value to his friends and investors: the Wall Street robber barons. But they were poison and destruction to the noble communities of coal country.  We can’t bring back the towns he destroyed, the lives he took, the mountains he flattened, the rivers he poisoned, but there is some consolation in knowing that he’s getting what he deserves: three hots and a cot and long days in the company of fellow criminals of lesser appetites and lesser distinction.

Blankenship's trial has begun with the jury selection expected to be completed by today.  I understand that he has top notch counsel and is pleading innocent to all charges.  I wonder how far his cultivated political connections will get him?  Any doubt that he is a Republican!

 

Please sign the Protect Communities from Hazardous Coal Mining Waste prepared by the Sierra Club.

MTN TOP COAL 3

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Sep 232015
 

This afternoon, I spent some time looking at Racel Maddow tapings as well as some other worthy videos on YouTube.  That's when I came across the video of Bernie Sanders speaking at Liberty University.  Here it is, approximately 53 minutes in length, speech and a Q&A.  It is refreshing to see someone, especially a politician, that acknowledges that he can't be all things to all people.

 

 

What do you think about his stance on family values . . . moral values?  I was suitably impressed.

Feel the Bern!

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Sep 152015
 

Today has been a long day for me, taking my mother to a specialist doctor's appointment.  In July, she had botox injections for muscle spasticity as a result of dementia.  I am happy to report that the shots have made a difference to her pain level and quality of life.  The problem today . . . the doctor's office is on the third floor and there is only one elevator.  Sometime after we arrived, the elevator broke down so anyone in a wheelchair is stuck waiting.  There we waited for 2 hours.  That set my day back.  The good part . . . at least we weren't stuck IN the elevator!

Fantasy FootballI hope that this works out.

            Points
Rank Team W-L-T Pct Stk Waiver For Against
1

Playing without a helmetPlaying without a helmet

1-0-0 1.000 W1 10 118.24 116.10
2

Progressive UnderdogsProgressive Underdogs

1-0-0 1.000 W1 9 102.86 70.20
3

Monster MashersMonster Mashers

1-0-0 1.000 W1 8 98.12 89.62
4

MittsMagicJockMittsMagicJock

1-0-0 1.000 W1 7 89.04 79.56
5

endthegopendthegop

1-0-0 1.000 W1 6 83.24 80.94
6

Purple DemonPurple Demon

0-1-0 .000 L1 5 116.10 118.24
7

BALCO BombersBALCO Bombers

0-1-0 .000 L1 4 89.62 98.12
8

Lefty HillbilliesLefty Hillbillies

0-1-0 .000 L1 3 80.94 83.24
9

Size 9 StompersSize 9 Stompers

0-1-0 .000 L1 2 79.56 89.04
10

TomCat Teabag TrashersTomCat Teabag Trashers

0-1-0 .000 L1 1 70.20 102.86
 

It would appear that TC and I are at the bottom of the league.  He has an excuse.  What's mine?

PuzzleToday’s took me  3:44 (average 4:51).  To do it click here.  How did you do?

Rolling Stone — This is the present, and the future, of climate change. Our overheated world is amplifying drought and making megafire commonplace. This is happening even in the soggy Pacific Northwest, which has been hard-hit by what's been dubbed a "wet drought." Despite near-normal precipitation, warm winter temperatures brought rain instead of snow to the region's mountains. What little snow did hit the ground then melted early, leaving the Northwest dry — and ready to burn in the heat of summer.

The national data is as clear as it is troubling: "Climate change has led to fire seasons that are now on average 78 days longer than in 1970," according to a Forest Service report published in August. In the past three decades, the annual area claimed by fire has doubled, and the agency's scientists predict that fires will likely "double again by midcentury."

The human imprint on the bone-dry conditions that lead to fire is real — and now measurable. According to a major new study by scientists at Columbia and NASA, man-made warming is increasing atmospheric evaporation — drawing water out of Western soil, shrubs and trees. In California alone, the epic drought is up to 25 percent more severe than it would have been, absent climate change. And this impact doesn't respect state borders. The study's lead author, Columbia scientist Park Williams, tells Rolling Stone, "There's the same effect in the Pacific Northwest."

Standing near fire lines in late August, Inslee vowed to extinguish the blazes in his state. But the governor also called on Americans to confront an enemy fiercer and more insidious than fire itself. He declared, "We've got to attack this at its source: carbon pollution."

The fiery future is upon us. Pervasive drought and record temperatures — July was the warmest month ever physically recorded on planet Earth — have turned forests from Fresno to Fairbanks into tinderboxes. In Alaska, more than 5 million acres burned — surpassing the 10-year average for the entire country. With months left in the fire season, the blazes of 2015 have already scorched more than 8 million acres, according to the National Interagency Fire Center — a record pace, likely to top the 9.8 million acres that burned in 2006. "Some of these fires that are in these forested areas could burn until it snows," said NIFC spokeswoman Jessica Gardetto.  …

For a glimpse of the future, look north, to Alaska and the Arctic — which President Obama, during a visit to Anchorage this summer, highlighted as "the leading edge of climate change." Soaring temperatures and an early-melting snowpack have brought raging wildfires to landscapes that have not been kissed by flame for millennia. "Climate change is no longer some far-off problem," Obama declared. "It is happening here. It is happening now."

The world is warming most toward the poles, and temperatures in Alaska have been increasing nearly twice as fast as the rest of the country in the past 60 years — up almost three degrees. And the state's average fire season has increased by more than a month — 35 days — since the 1950s. "We can detect the climate-change influence on fire," says Glenn Juday, a forest ecologist at the University of Alaska-Fairbanks, who points to three indicators all on the upswing: "the area burned, the severity of the burning and then the frequency." 

Rolling Stone

Earlier today, I was thinking about all the wildfires in western Canada and the western US.  Australia has also found itself with severe drought and wildfires.  It seemed to me that it is one big "chicken and the egg" situation.  Drought makes for tinder dry conditions; human activity and severe lightning storms bring wildfires; wildfires generate carbon pollution in the air which generates climate change . . . and the cycle rolls on.  This is a long article but worth the read.  We must break the cycle which means making fossil fuel decisions, and of course that means keeping Republicans out of the White House and Conservatives out of Parliament. Everyday people like you and I need to have a bigger say in the sustainability of the planet, not greedy corpoations.

Daily KosThis is a short piece.  An "Awesome cartoon about Bernie Sanders @ Liberty Univ".

Daily Kos

Now that is a genuine WWJD!  I think that would really confuse Kim Davis and the Republicans.

Alternet — “Richard is sentenced to death because he’s poor,” Glossip’s new attorney Donald Knight told the Guardian. “Not very many people can afford a death penalty defense. That should scare everyone.”

With 60 more days, his attorneys say they could gather more evidence to present a petition allowing them to litigate in a court that could grant a new trial or a clemency review. 

Alternet

In my book, the death penalty is never OK.  It is state sanctioned murder.  I think we all know where TC stands on this.

My UniverseThis is how I feel about TC's shoes!

Damn, they are soooooooooooooooooooooooo big!

 

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Aug 282015
 

This anonymous essay comes from a friend of a friend with whom I do volunteer work.  I do not know who she is.  However, I have heard many stories from people who believed in the criminal justice system in this country, until they or a member of their family learned first hand that their experience was the polar opposite of what they had believed.  This is one mother’s reaction to such an experience.

July 26, 2015

0828thematrix5What I want people to know is what I’ve learned over the past two years – how my life is upside down both philosophically and emotionally. Philosophically, because what I learned, believed about our justice system is just thrown under the bus. I am angry. Angry at people who are charged with our wonderful, ideal system and have perverted it and made us all accomplices in torture and harm. We were standing shoulder to shoulder with prison guards who abuse prisoners; DAs and police who lie, who give up honesty and integrity to convict.

We became part of the problem. Only we didn’t even realize there was a problem. They lie. They suck us in to be their accomplices. We asked no questions. We believed them. No. We believed the idea of a system. We believed they were the embodiment of truth. They kept us safe from people who would harm us, who were really terrible people.

But what do they do? “Lose” evidence, lie to protect themselves, serve as judge and jury to convict whom they have decided is guilty. Screw looking at evidence. How did they get to the place where they are in such a hallowed system of our country, protecting our country’s ideals, being the keeper for those ideals and now corrupting those ideals.

Am I naïve? Not now. Was I? Yes. But I’m in the company of the majority of our country. I listen over and over and OVER again to “I had no idea how this system works! I was shocked to learn how it really works.” Problem is – no one does know until it happens. No one believes until it does happen.

I’m angry that I was blindsided. Is it my fault? Should I have known better? WHY SHOULD I!?!! Where’s the disconnect here? That our system as taught to high-schoolers is just too much of a fairy tale? I should know better than to believe such a fairy tale could actually work? Are the people in the justice system just laughing at me for being so naive?

Or is the disconnect in how people have subverted the ideal? The people who have gotten used to having it their way? People who have decide they are smarter than tedious “truth and justice” and will improve a hopelessly naïve system?

Are we in The Matrix*? They have created this fake world that they’ve sold us on that every thing is right in our world, that they have the knowledge and expertise to keep it the ideal it is.

But behind their words and assurances that create the perfect illusion is a world of crumbling, moldy, derelict laws. A blighted world wildly out of control with more and more laws, penalties, and incarcerations for longer and longer times. A world destroyed with smoking embers, blown out, burned down buildings, haunted people. Out of sight behind the illusion they create with their paternalistic, mesmerizing lies! Do we choose to believe their lies because it’s just easier? No! I think we believe because we truly believe that they are the pillars of our justice system. We hear their excuses—which they call “reasons”—and that reinforces what we already instinctively believe.

But now pieces of their façade may be cracking. Can they hold it together and continue to make us believe their fake world? We know what is really behind their world of “safety, justice and truth”. We’ve seen and heard the destroyed lives, the money taken from society and spent to warehouse people and then return wasted people with wasted lives and difficult options. The LIES – The harm – The self-supporting arguments.

What will it take to bring down the phony façade of a tough on crime, retribution, vengeance model of justice and return us to where most people already think we are: convicting wrong-doers but with consideration of mitigating or extenuating circumstances, incarcerating only people who are a threat and then rehabilitating them so they can live as successful citizens. Giving people a chance to pay for their crime and then re-joining society. Being humans helping humans.

My passion. I want people to know what I’ve learned. I want to shock them awake to what our criminal justice system has become. No, ladies and gentlemen, it is not what you believe it is.

Unfortunately, most of you will never really find that out. No, it’s not fortunate that you will never have a loved one, or yourself, caught up in this horrible system. It’s not fortunate that you’ll never have an accusation made at you of something you never did. It’s not fortunate that you get to keep living oblivious to how our criminal justice system has lost its way in mandatory sentencing. Because unless you are unfortunate enough to have personal contact with this devastating system, you won’t try to do something about it.

(From Wikipedia: The Matrix movie depicts a dystopian [an imaginary community or society that is undesirable or frightening] future in which reality as perceived by most humans is actually a simulated reality called "the Matrix", created by sentient machines to subdue the human population,)

Personally, I find what she has to say both believable and compelling.

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Jun 202015
 

Yesterday I completed all the little tasks that I have been putting off and paid bills.  I also cleaned my email boxes, a herculean task in itself, as I typically receive over 300 items on any given day.  The plan for the weekend is to blog, relax and do some solar basking.  Maybe I’ll even feel rested by Monday.

Jig Zone Puzzle:

Today’s took me 2:12 (average 4:45).  To di it, click here.  How did you do?

Fantasy Football Recruiting:

We still need two new players for Lefty Blog Friends, our fantasy football league.  How about you?  For more information, click here.

Short Takes:

From The New Yorker: The Presidential candidate Donald Trump blasted Pope Francis on Friday, arguing that the Pontiff’s recent call to save the planet had largely overshadowed his “far more reckless” call to feed the poor.

“Look, if the Pope wants to spout off about climate change, that’s his prerogative, I guess,” Trump said. “But when he starts talking about feeding the poor, that is totally dangerous and irresponsible.”

“Every other candidate is ripping the Pope’s comments about climate change,” he added. “I’m the only one in this race who seems to have noticed his truly crazy talk about feeding people.”

Trump said that, as President, it would be his job not to feed the poor “but to keep them from getting into the country in the first place.”

“We need to build a wall they’re too hungry to climb,” he said.

Andy has found the place where Trump’s soul should be. But Republicans have ass-souls instead of souls.  Trump must think that Jesus fed 5,000 billionaires.

From Daily Kos: On Wednesday night, nine African-Americans were gunned down by a vile, racist killer as they attended a Bible study class at Charleston’s historic Emanuel AME church. And now Charles Cotton, a "dedicated" board member of the NRA—perhaps tiring of his political soul mates’ attempts to shift the blame from racism to religious intolerance for the mass murder—decided to weigh in with his own explanation of who was really to blame for this horrific act of domestic terrorism: One of the murder victims. In a discussion on TexasCHLforum, it is pointed out that one of the victims was State Senator Clementa Pinckney. Said Cotton of the murdered public servant and pastor of the church:

And he voted against concealed-carry. Eight of his church members who might be alive if he had expressly allowed members to carry handguns in church are dead. Innocent people died because of his position on a political issue.

I think I’m going to puke.

From Crooks and Liars: I’ll bet this is not that unusual. What’s unusual, I think, is that the student finally refused to comply:

A former Delaware State University volleyball player is now suing her old school for allegedly serving up religious discrimination.

Natalia Mendieta claims she lost her athletic scholarship after she refused to attend church or participate in Bible studies – optional activities that were reportedly made mandatory by her coach.

Had this been a religious institution or religious college, this would not be an issue. The focus of this lawsuit is on a taxpayer supported state university.

The allegation is that a newly hired coach violated a student’s first amendment rights.

The coach should be immediately fired. However, I worry that, if she is, she might end up in Congress.

Cartoon:

0620Cartoon

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Jun 192015
 

I’m still very tired after yesterday’s visit to the Orthopedist, but not so much so that I come empty handed.  One thing really impressed me about them.  When I was done, I had to wait for the LIFT bus for an hour and a half in a small alcove on the ground floor.  Knowing I would be stuck there people from their office came down to check on me three separate times.  I consider that superior service.

Jig Zone Puzzle:

Today’s took me 2:29 (average 4:53).  To do it, click here.  How did you do?

Fantasy Football Recruiting:

We still need two new players for Lefty Blog Friends, our fantasy football league.  How about you?  For more information, click here.

Short Takes:

From MoveOn: Ideas to Save the Economy: End Mass Incarceration

 

The Reich on the left is right again, as I know so well. I would add a #5. Switch from retributive justice to restorative justice. This is the tenth and final video of the series. Click through to MoveOn to share it from there. Bringing this series to you has been a privilege.

From Daily Kos:

In 2014, I published two stories about the surreptitious attempts by the Koch brothers to bribe their way into the academic freedom and integrity of FSU/Florida State University. The most recent story can be found in this link. For several years, FSU students, along with faculty, alumni, and concerned citizens have been adamantly dissenting the Koch influence on campus. One of the many dedicated and relentless activists in the movement is Ralph Benton Wilson. This week he contacted me with some promising news:

"FSU students have released a report (May 28th) revealing new evidence regarding the university’s agreement with the CFK/Charles Koch Foundation. Not only does the report find that the Koch agreement violates FSU’s donor policy but, contrary to university claims, the agreement was found to violate academic policy by a 2011 faculty senate investigation whose numerous findings appear to have been suppressed until being published in the student report. (Other suppressed findings include the manner in which the agreement was "forced" upon the department through threats and intimidation despite severe faculty dissent.)"

"The student report makes several recommendations which have been submitted as public comment in FSU’s current review of its donor policy. As of June 4, FSU has conceded to half of the recommendations in the student report, but we are continuing to pressure them to accept the remaining recommendations. A new public comment period is open until midnight, June 25. We are calling on the public to submit comment so that we may once and for all have a donor policy that protects FSU from the undue influence of any donor."

Wilson also sent several links, which I have included below.

If the Koch Brothers are trying to steal FSU and convert it to a propaganda mill, you can be sure they are doing so all over. Check locally to make sure you’re colleges and universities are not forced to teach only how to suck … nevermind.

From Media Matters: Fox’s Steve Doocy: It’s Extraordinary That Charleston Church Shooting Is Being Called A Hate Crime

Barf Bag Alert!!

 

I don’t know where they got that "pastor", but because is title is "Bishop" I have a pretty good guess. The Republican Reichsministry of Propaganda, Faux Noise, is acting as if SC did not already have a long history of racist violence against black churches, so they can misrepresent this incident as part of the left wing war, which does not exist, against Christianity. Not only that, the shooter is clearly a White Supremacist.

Cartoon:

0619Cartoon

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