Friday, April 30, 2010

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Why Aren’t Tea Partiers Protesting Arizona’s Big Government Overreach On Immigration?

Tea Party activists go out of their way to insist that they’re not partisan, racist, or filled with hate; they’re just patriots who want to stop a “socialist” government machine from controlling their daily lives.
The new immigration law in Arizona should be ripe for the Tea Parties to take up. SB-1070 is the “broadest and strictest immigration measure in generations,” giving police unprecedented power to detain anyone they suspect of being an undocumented immigrant and making “the failure to carry immigration documents a crime.” Even traditionally far-right figures like former Colorado congressman Tom Tancredo and former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee have worried that the law might lead to racial profiling abuses by the government.
But as the Washington Post’s Eugene Robinson notes, this Tea Party support hasn’t materialized:
Activists for Latino and immigrant rights — and supporters of sane governance — held weekend rallies denouncing the new law and vowing to do everything they can to overturn it. But where was the Tea Party crowd? Isn’t the whole premise of the Tea Party movement that overreaching government poses a grave threat to individual freedom?It seems to me that a law allowing individuals to be detained and interrogated on a whim — and requiring legal residents to carry identification documents, as in a police state — would send the Tea Partyers into apoplexy. Or is there some kind of exception if the people whose freedoms are being taken away happen to have brown skin and might speak Spanish?
Not only are Tea Partiers not speaking out against SB-1070, they’re actively supporting it. The Arizona Tea Party Network called on its members to support Brewer’s big government. In fact, the sponsor of SB-1070 is state Sen. Russell Pearce (R), a Tea Party backer.
According to a new survey directed by University of Washington political scientist Christopher Parker, white Tea Partiers tend to be “predisposed to intolerance,” pointing to a possible reason the movement has been reluctant to join with immigration reform activists:
For instance, the Tea Party, the grassroots movement committed to reining in what they perceive as big government, and fiscal irresponsibility, also appear predisposed to intolerance. Approximately 45% of Whites either strongly or somewhat approve of the movement. Of those, only 35% believe Blacks to be hardworking, only 45 % believe Blacks are intelligent, and only 41% think that Blacks are trustworthy.Perceptions of Latinos aren’t much different. While 54% of White Tea Party supporters believe Latinos to be hardworking, only 44% think them intelligent, and even fewer, 42% of Tea Party supporters believe Latinos to be trustworthy. When it comes to gays and lesbians, White Tea Party supporters also hold negative attitudes. Only 36% think gay and lesbian couples should be allowed to adopt children, and just 17% are in favor of same-sex marriage.
Also, if Tea Partiers really do feel like they’ve been taxed enough already, they should support immigration reform. As Andrea Nill has reported, “In January, the Immigration Policy Center and the Center for American Progress found that legalizing undocumented immigrants through comprehensive immigration reform would generate $4.5 to $5.4 billion in additional net tax revenue within three years. The study predicted that ultimately the benefits of immigration reform would go beyond pure tax revenue and would yield at least $1.5 trillion in cumulative U.S. gross domestic product over 10 years.”

Monday, April 26, 2010

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Saturday, April 10, 2010

In an interview last night, President Obama responded to former Alaska governor Sarah Palin’s criticism of his nuclear weapons policy, saying, “the last I checked, Sarah Palin is not much of an expert on nuclear issues” “If the secretary of defense and the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff are comfortable with it, I’m probably going to take my advice from them and not from Sarah Palin,” said Obama.

In West Virginia, Coal Miners' Slaughter

by: Michael Winship, t r u t h o u t | Op-Ed
The high cost of energy in America was paid in human lives this week, with the deaths of more than two dozen miners in a massive explosion at the Upper Big Branch coal mine in West Virginia. It's the worst mine disaster in a quarter of a century.
Upper Big Branch is owned by Massey Energy Company, which operates 47 mines in central Appalachia. According to the Los Angeles Times, it employs nearly 6,000 and in 2009 reported revenues of $2.3 billion, with a net income of $104.4 million.
At the center of this week's catastrophe is Massey's president and CEO Don Blankenship, a man so reviled nowadays he had to be escorted away by police when he and other company officials tried to address a group of distraught family and friends outside the Upper Big Branch mine in the early morning hours after the explosion. The crowd hurled invective - and a chair.
Blankenship hates unions (Upper Big Branch is a non-union mine), thinks global warming is a figment of our imaginations and that those who do believe in climate change are crazy; supports destructive, mountain-top-removal mining; serves on the board of the conservative, free market U.S. Chamber of Commerce and now, lucky us, shares his pearls of right-wing wisdom via Twitter. "America doesn't need Green jobs," he tweeted pithily last month, "but Red, White, & Blue ones." David Roberts of the environmental magazine Grist described him as "the scariest polluter in the U.S. ...The guy is evil and I don't use that word lightly."
Just one example of Massey Energy's earlier history of environmental malfeasance was described in a May 2003 issue of Forbes Magazine: "In October 2000 the floor of a 72-acre wastewater reservoir built above an abandoned mine in Kentucky collapsed, sending black sludge through the mine and out into a tributary of the Big Sandy River. The sludge killed fish and plants for 36 miles downstream. Water supplies were shut down in several towns for a month. In total, 230 million gallons spilled out, 20 times the volume of the crude oil from the Exxon Valdez. Lawns nearby were covered in as much as 7 feet of muck...
"... The reservoir had shown signs of leaking right before the accident and Massey failed to report that fact to regulators as required, according to the U.S. Mine Safety & Health Administration. The cleanup has cost $58 million so far."
This week's Upper Big Branch mine disaster is the latest in a string of environmental and safety-related calamities linked to Massey and Blankenship. In 2008, the company paid a $20 million fine to the Environmental Protection Agency, and that same year, a Massey subsidiary, the Aracoma Coal Company, pled guilty to safety violations and agreed to $4.2 million in civil penalties and criminal fines connected to the 2006 deaths of two miners in a fire.
According to The New York Times, "After the fire broke out, the two miners found themselves unable to escape, partly because the company had removed some ventilation controls inside the mine. The workers died of suffocation. Federal prosecutors at the time called it the largest such settlement in the history of the coal industry."
The Upper Big Branch mine has a long history of violations. Last month alone it was cited by the U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration for 53 safety violations, many of them for inadequate venting of dust and methane and improperly maintained escape passages. Last year, the Times reports, "the number of citations against the mine more than doubled, to over 500, from 2008, and the penalties proposed against the mine more than tripled, to $897,325." So far, only $168,393 of those fines have been paid.
Blankenship's response? "Violations are unfortunately a normal part of the mining process," he told a radio interviewer. West Virginia and federal laws were toughened after the Sago mine disaster in 2006 that killed 12 men. But as the number of safety citations has increased, so, too, has the number of appeals by the mining companies, and while that long bureaucratic process unfolds, it's business as usual.
Blankenship and Massey Energy play our political system like a country fiddle, a system corrupted by money and influence. A certified public accountant (he's actually in the national CPA hall of fame - I'm not kidding), Blankenship apparently sees the world as one big balance sheet, with human life an expendable commodity and - especially if they're judges or other officials - something to be bought and sold. The non-partisan Center for Responsive Politics says that since 1990, those associated with Massey and its political action committee have given more than $300,000 in campaign contributions to federal candidates. And in 2006, according to the National Institute on Money in State Politics, Blankenship spent more than $100,000 trying to elect pro-business candidates to the West Virginia state legislature.
But it's in the courthouse that Blankenship has really tried to spread the wealth. In 2008, photos were published of him wining and dining West Virginia Supreme Court Justice "Spike" Maynard along the Riviera. They were popping corks in Monaco as Massey Energy was before the court appealing a $50 million judgment that had been won by smaller mining companies charging Massey with fraud. Subsequently, Maynard recused himself from the case and was defeated for re-election. Now he's running for Congress.
Blankenship had better luck when he went on the offensive against West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals Justice Warren McGraw, creating a PAC called "And for the Sake of the Kids." He contributed $3 million and created campaign ads described by USA Today as "venomous." They made particular hay with a case in which Justice McGraw was part of a majority that voted to free a mentally disturbed child molester, who got a job as a school janitor.
McGraw was defeated by Blankenship's candidate, Brent Benjamin. When the appeal of the $50 million came before the court, ABC News reports, "Justice Benjamin refused to recuse himself from the case and twice provided the deciding vote in Massey's favor. The jury verdict against Massey was overturned."
So egregious were Benjamin's actions that even the current United States Supreme Court, so heavily pro-business in its recent decision-making, was appalled. It ruled that the judge and Blankenship were out of line. Even so - and even with Benjamin finally recusing himself - on a third vote, Massey again won its appeal.
When you can't beat 'em, buy 'em. Meanwhile, miners working for Massey Energy and Blankenship continue to risk their lives deep below the earth, digging out the fuel that helps keep our lights burning at the price of never knowing if the tiniest of sparks will ignite the next fatal explosion.

Now and Then - Not much difference

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Death, Lies and Videotape

[Caution: graphic video not suitable for work or children. Full-length version here.]

By nonny mouse

On the fifth of April, WikiLeaks released a classified US military video from an Apache helicopter gunship as it killed over a dozen people in the Iraqi suburb of New Baghdad in 2007, including two Reuters new staff, as well as seriously wounding two young children. One of the journalists, gravely wounded in the attack, was then shot in a second barrage as he tried to crawl away, and his body run over by a Humvee. Since the attack, Reuters had been attempting to obtain this video through the Freedom of Information Act, without success. Now it is public for the first time.
Wikileak’s organisers were given the footage by an unnamed source, which they then decrypted and posted on-line. So far, the Pentagon has had no response. The high-quality video, according to BBC’s Adam Brookes in Washington, appears to be authentic, and includes the recording of the pilot’s radio transmission and troops on the ground. Wikileaks has also published a statement from Reuters news editor-in-chief David Schlessinger saying that the video was ‘graphic evidence of the dangers involved in war journalism and the tragedies that can result’.
Wikileaks has complained of surveillance and harassment by the US and other governments, primarily for their role in leaking documents on sensitive subjects, from the assassination of human rights lawyers in Nairobi, photos of murders committed in Tibet followed by a mass attack on Swedish servers by Chinese computers in retaliation, threats by the head of Germany’s BNP of prosecution over a report of CIA involvement in Kosovo,and more. This tiny blogsite, which won Amnesty International’s 2009 media award, is nearly broke and has depended on donations from human rights groups, journalists, technology experts and simply concerned individuals for survival, a ludicrous game of David and Goliath of the internet.
But it seems someone within the DoD or US Army Counterintelligence or CIA or somewhere still believes in the public’s right to know what our elected government is up to. According to documents leaked to Wikileaks, even our own government has conspired to shut down the organization, including exposing sources and identifying whistleblowers and retaliating by termination of employment, criminal prosecution, defamation of the organization to weaken its credibility. The lessons of Valerie Plame and the Freedom of Information Act be damned.
Be warned. This video is not for the faint-hearted. I watched the whole thing. It made me feel ill, but I watched it all. It's the least I could do for those people who lost their lives. At one point you can even see one of the men from the van trying to rescue the wounded journalist looking up at the helicopter, he knew it was there. He knew what he was risking, and tried to help anyway. The bravery of that man is astounding. And he died. If it were left up to our own government, he would have died without you or I or anyone else ever knowing, our ignorance the biggest weapon in any military arsenal. If this ungodly, horrible war is ever to end, it is not only the public’s right to know what we have done and are still doing in Iraq, and Afghanistan, it is our responsibility to demand to know.
What truly bothers me is the absolute callousness of the conversation going on in the Apache helicopter. Beyond the 'fucking prick' and the 'bastards' comments, it's the laughter, particularly during the shooting as if it's all just a video game, cheering each other on as the wounded journalist crawls on the ground, willing him to reach for a ‘weapon’ so they can shoot him again, laughing when his body is run over by a military truck. The comment when the crew realized children have been wounded was shocking: ‘Well, it’s their own fault for bringing their kids to a battle.'
Bringing their kids to a battle? Those children live there! This wasn't a 'battlefield' - it was just an ordinary neighbourhood that got pasted by an American helicopter, twice. We brought the war to them. Where the hell were the kids supposed to have been? Loma Linda? Ann Arbor? Tampa?
Continue reading »

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Happy Easter