Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Warning To Democratic Candidates: The GOP Is Doctoring Your Wikipedia Pages

>



You can contribute to Mike Olbermueller's campaign here

America Rising LLC-funded America Rising PAC, a right-wing front group for the Republican Party, is pretty much acknowledged to be one of the shadiest political operations in the country, the bottom of the barrel for the anti-American right. The cover up their donors-- although the Koch brothers are known to be funneling huge sums into their operations-- but cross referencing contributions from some GOP groups show that they are being partially financed by the House Republicans' Young Guns, the NRCC, the NRSC, Karl Rove's Crossroads organizations, Citizens United, and American Action Network. They may be true believers, but they're peddling their malevolent crap and vicious, misleading attacks for profit. Their primary goal in life-- after making a profit for themselves-- is smearing Hillary Clinton and raising doubts about her in the minds of easily-influenced middle-of-the-roaders.
Founded by former Romney campaign manager Matt Rhoades, and former Republican National Committee operatives [Tim] Miller and Joe Pounder, America Rising LLC doesn’t report its earnings to the Federal Election Commission. But many of its clients, including campaigns and third party groups, do disclose payments to America Rising, prompting the group to open its own books this week before a key filing deadline. The $1.3 million sum only includes earnings from political groups that report to the FEC, including American Crossroads, American Action Network, Young Guns, Citizens United, the National Republican Congressional Committee, and the National Republican Senatorial Committee. It does not include the firm’s corporate and individual clients; that information is not publicly available.

…“America Rising PAC has been successful at raising the funds necessary to run a robust earned media communications effort that has been leading the way in taking on Hillary Clinton ahead of her potential presidential bid,” Miller added in the Time statement. “We plan to significantly expand the groups digital footprint in the coming months targeting both Hillary and Democrats facing tough midterm elections in 2014.”
Much of their vitriol-for-pay is hilariously ineffective and banal-- like this silly, knee-jerk attack on Mike Obermueller no doubt inspired by polling numbers that show Obermueller ready to beat right-wing douche bag John Kline-- but their real goal is too please the partisan fanatics who write them checks… so why should they care that they look like fools?

Much of what they do isn't all that apparent. They're a sneaky, shady bunch and BuzzFeed caught them doctoring Democratic politicians' wikipedia pages. Technically, they're not breaking any rules because they are transparent if you know exactly what you're looking for and have endless time to search around on wikipedia back pages. So they make negative changes pushing their right-wing clients' agendas and talking points and then buried on linked pages is a disclaimer admitting a "possible conflict of interest."

This is the America Rising user contribution page that lists the sleazy little trick they're playing, a trick that will make wikipedia useless for people trying to use Wikipedia for serious research. Who saw Kenneth Anger's classic 28 minute film Scorpio Rising? Not you? Here's your chance. You're welcome.



Labels: , , , , ,

Who Will Control The Senate? Will It Be Destructive Conservatives Working For The One Percent?

>


Always the fount of Beltway conventional wisdom, the Washington Post's Fix headline parroted exactly the messaging the DSCC and NRCC want to push: These five races will decide control of the Senate. And the conventional wisdom hive-mind comes up with… Alaska (Begich vs Sullivan), Colorado (Udall vs Gardner), Iowa (Braley vs Ernst), North Carolina (Hagan vs Tillis) and Kansas (Roberts vs Orman). Like most of the Post's election coverage-- other than Greg Sargent's worthwhile insights-- its another droll, worthless horserace regurgitation.

Progressives, like the people who read DWT for the most part, aren't victims of Beltway manipulation. We stand up to it. There are good reasons none of the DSCC priorities are on that page linked in the last sentence. Progressives are seeking a better Senate, not one crippled by conservative Democrats too scared about losing their seats in red states in 6 years to push forward a progressive vision for America's problems. Yes, we want to see the Democrats in control of the Senate, but we want to see progressives in the Senate, not conservatives and not weak hacks with no core values. Politicians' careerism is not a factor.

If Shenna Bellows and Rick Weiland win, respectively, in Maine and South Dakota, it won't just mean that Democrats retain control of the Senate, it means there will be two more strong, independent-minded progressives standing with Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, Jeff Merkley, Sherrod Brown, Tammy Baldwin, Al Franken, Ed Markey, Mazie Hirono, Chris Murphy, Barbara Boxer and Brian Schatz, seeking not narrow partisan gain but actual solutions to the problems working families would like to see addressed from a perspective other than the ones being pushed by fat cats and their well-paid lobbyists.

The Beltway conventional-wisdomists-- and their lame media mouthpieces-- wrote off both states before the election season even began. Susan Collins was "unbeatable" and South Dakota is deep red. Wrong and wrong. The newest polling again shows Shenna gaining on Collins despite the DSCC refusing to stop wasting all their money and desperate efforts on their pet conservative candidates in lost causes Georgia and Kentucky. In the last 6 weeks, Collins' has dropped another 13%. The more Mainers see how Collins has swung right since Olympia Snowe retired, the more they're turning away from her. That's why the DSCC should be spending some of those millions they're wasting in Kentucky and Georgia up in Maine.

And they should tell Harry Reid to get over his childish rivalry with Tom Daschle and get behind Rick Weiland, their best chance to hold the Senate. Yesterday, Beltway imbeciles were quoting one of the most ridiculous and wrong-headed polling firms in the country, Nielson Brothers (not related to Nielson the ratings firm), to make the spurious claim that Republican Larry Pressler is the best vehicle to beat Mike Rounds. Yes… silly season.

One thing is certain in South Dakota-- most voters neither like nor trust Mike Rounds-- and for good reason. And the more South Dakotans hear about Rounds' EB-5 visa selling scandal, the more upset they get that this crook might end up as their senator. Blue America is working on turning the song below into an effect broadcast ad. If you want to help us run it, please contribute here. If you want to help Rick and Shenna directly… that's what this page is for.





UPDATE: Harry Reid Must Be Insane

Here at DWT we've been writing about how Reid is throwing away South Dakota's Senate seta because of his childish pique at Tom Daschle. No one else has covered it… until this morning. Bob Cusack and Jessica Taylor at The Hill have finally acknowledged the damage Reid is doing to the Democrats' chances to hold the Senate.
Daschle is expressing frustration with the Senate majority leader (D-Nev.) for refusing to endorse Rick Weiland, a former Daschle aide who is running for the South Dakota seat held by retiring Sen. Tim Johnson (D).

  Reid last year declared Weiland was “not my choice” in the race, and this summer added, “We are going to lose in South Dakota, more than likely.”

Asked if those comments hurt Weiland’s chances, Daschle told The Hill, “Well, it certainly hasn’t helped.”

Adam Jentleson, a spokesman for Reid, fired back on Monday: “It’s sad that Sen. Daschle is working against Senate Democrats’ interests rather than working to preserve the Democratic majority that Sen. Reid restored.”

The dispute between Reid, who succeeded Daschle as the Senate’s top Democrat, is highly unusual. It is also rare for a Democratic leader to withhold support for a Democratic nominee in a Senate race.

Daschle said he urged Reid to back Weiland a few months ago. Pressed on the details of that conversation and why Reid hasn’t endorsed, Daschle responded: “You’ll have to talk to Sen. Reid. I don’t want to be critical. Harry Reid has a job to do and he’s made decisions that he thinks are the correct ones and I’m not going to second-guess him. I hold a different point of view.”

Democratic campaign officials last year tried to convince former Rep. Stephanie Herseth Sandlin (D) to run in South Dakota, but she opted against it.

Former South Dakota Democratic Party Chairman Ben Nesselhuf admitted that the “relationship between the [Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee] and Rick Weiland didn’t start off strong,” but said that might have been designed to keep the door open for Herseth Sandlin to change her mind.

“That upset them when Weiland jumped in and messed with their timetable,” said Nesselhuf, who is now managing the congressional race for Democrat Jim Mowrer against Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa).

…In an email on Monday, a DSCC official stated in an email, “The DSCC has endorsed Rick. Rick attended the DSCC’s big retreat on Martha’s Vineyard earlier this year. The DSCC has also conducted polling on Rick’s behalf.”

It’s unclear, however, when the DSCC endorsed Weiland and whether it was publicly announced.

Asked if the DSCC should spend money in South Dakota, Daschle said that’s a “judgment [DSCC] has to make. I think it’s going to prove a very good investment.”

…Lincoln County Democratic Party Chairman Ryan Casey, who led the unsuccessful “Draft Brendan Johnson” movement to recruit the retiring senator’s son into the race, was brushed back by national Democrats who wanted the Blue Dog Herseth Sandlin to run.

“It’s understandable why the national Democratic Party needs to pick their horses to run with, but on the other hand, they sit in their ivory tower in Washington, D.C., and they don’t always appreciate the sentiment of active Democrats in the state and what they believe and want in candidates to represent them.”

“In my opinion,” said Casey, “it’s been frankly an unprofessional approach-- and kind of pouting, for lack of a better word.”
If the jackass in the picture up top looks like Harry Reid, it was meant to. The best part of this feud for South Dakota voters, though, is that if Weiland does win, he will be 100% free of any Reid influence ever.

Labels: , , , , ,

Monday, September 29, 2014

Regulatory Capture-- A Story Of Democratic Dysfunction In The Face Of Increasingly Unfettered Capitalism

>

This is far more true today than it was in 1902

Last week's most important story wasn't that mini-states Belgium, the U.K. and Denmark are joining in the bombing of airforceless ISIL-- or even the birth of Charlotte Clinton Mezvinsky. The biggest news was broken by Ira Glass on NPR's This American Life. That one and change long YouTube at the bottom is the entire show but I suspect NPR will persuade Google to take it down so… if they do, you can listen to it here too and you can read the transcript here. And remember as you listen to one outrage after another, the Fed refused to speak on the record except to send a short comment saying that begins with "The New York Fed categorically rejects the allegations being made about the integrity of its supervision of financial institutions."

The story is about a Fed whistleblower, attorney Carmen Segarra-- and impressive compliance officer with degrees from Harvard, Cornell and Columbia-- who secretly recorded 46 hours of interaction between crooks at Goldman Sachs and the regulators who systematically are programmed to let them get away with it. Her goal was to expose the sickening deference by Fed regulators to the banksters that were supposed to be overseeing. A report the Fed commissioned in 2009 had already shown that there were a whole rang of alarming problems that had to be dealt with and weren't being addressed. In Glass' words, "what they found were a whole range of problems, all of them distressing to read about. They found deference to the banks, they found an unwillingness to take action, extreme passivity, and they found what experts call 'regulatory capture.' Regulatory capture is when a regulator gets too cozy with the company he’s supposed to be monitoring. He’s a watchdog who licks the face of an intruder, and plays catch with the intruder, instead of barking at him." The report shows how ineffective the Fed had become "And," says Glass, "one of his recommendations was to hire a new kind of employee: outspoken, unafraid, somebody who would not get captured" (i.e., Carmen Segarra). Her recordings, asserts Glass "raise serious questions about whether the Fed has changed enough since 2008 to protect us from another financial disaster."

Segarra's stint at Goldman for the Fed started with a comment from a Goldman exec saying that "once clients were wealthy enough, certain consumer laws don't apply to them," which Goldman denies was said and then claims the exec didn't really mean it. Early into the job the top Fed regulator at Goldman, a captured whore for the bank named Mike Silva, warned her that if she made waves, she'd be "frozen out" of the Fed. He also told her everything between the Fed and Goldman depended on perception rather than reality. She was stunned. Keep in mind that "employees of the Fed do go to work for banks. A quick Internet search reveals at least seven former Fed bank examiners who now work at Goldman. They include the colleague who, according to Carmen, asked her to change her meeting notes."
Carmen says she was so shaken by these incidents-- someone telling her she didn’t hear something she knew she heard, another colleague asking to alter minutes that Carmen believed were accurate, and then the Fed’s top guy at Goldman telling her that perceptions are more important than reality-- she says it was like reality itself was being questioned at the Fed. She realized she wanted a clear record of what was really happening in case there were ever any disputes about it. So she went to the Spy Store, bought a tiny audio recorder, put it on her keychain, and started switching it on secretly at important meetings.

…Segarra: "[T]hey were all sort of afraid of Goldman and I think they were a little bit confused as to who they were working for. What I was sort of seeing and experiencing was this level of deference to the banks. This level of fear. And just not really showing a lot of interest in putting two and two together."

According to Beim’s report, this culture of fear paralyzed the Fed in the years leading up to the financial crisis and prevented it from taking action. It’s not that the Fed regulators didn’t notice the problems accumulating in the financial system that eventually brought it down.

David Beim: "So I could just read the fear of speaking up list of quotations. And it goes like this: 'Don’t want to be too far outside from where management is thinking. The organization does not encourage thinking outside the box. After you get shot down a couple of times, you tend not to go there anymore. Until I know what my boss thinks, I don’t want to tell you.'"
Silva eventually summarily fired Segarra for forcing the Fed to confront the very inconvenient reality that Goldman, on of the most conflicted "legalistic" criminal enterprises in history had no conflict of interest policy. Silva-- the literal definition of regulatory capture, left not long afterwards and went to work for GE Capital. Segarra is suing the Fed and Silva for wrongful termination. Writing for Fortune Shawn Tully reported that Segarra says her spineless bosses at the New York Federal Reserve stymied her efforts to reform what she regarded as the storied institution’s rampant conflicts of interest and that is why she was fired. Those spineless bosses are still saying they "categorically reject the allegations being made about the integrity of its supervision of financial institutions."

I wonder if the Fed regulators would work better if they were incentivized with a percentage of the fines they got out of the criminal banksters. Or firing squads.



Labels: , , , , ,

Any wonder our spooks can't get all that intelligence stuff right? They're mainlining, er, Buttfucks coffee

>


Paulie (Tony Sirico) undergoes culture shock -- okay, he goes kind of nuts (there's much worse to come than we see in this clip) -- as he accompanies Pussy ("I'm fuckin' Rockford over here"), under orders from Tony, tracking down the year-old Saturn belonging to AJ Soprano's science teacher Mr. Miller (stolen from the school parking lot), having turned up a lead that one of the malefactors was wearing a uniform from, you know, Buttfucks, in "46 Long," the epic Episode 2 (written by David Chase) of The Sopranos.

"I have no idea what they do. I just know they need coffee, a lot of it."
-- a (security-cleared) barista at the coffee dispensary
inside a major U.S. security agency

by Ken

Washington Post newsfolk are of course known for their fearlessness and forthrightness, which perhaps explains why political reporter Emily Wax-Thibodeaux is so bold as to refer to a coffee franchise ensconced in the headquarters of a certain well-known American spy agency as "the BYK [rhymes with the actual name, withheld by me for reasons of national-security] Buttfucks [name withheld by me for reasons of corporate-coffee-schlepper security]." I feel more comfortable referring to it as, perhaps, Emily tells us the store receipts do: "Store Number 1."

Time was when, er, Buttfucks refused to allow its name or corporate trademarks to be used by some crazy new HBO show that wanted to stage several scenes in, er, Buttfucks stores, as noted in the caption above, and the writers found the inspired work-around of having the place referred to as, er, Buttfucks.

Now it turns out that one of the biggest-volume, er, Buttfucks stores services -- under conditions of extreme security, the heavily caffeinating ladies and germs of the, er, BYK. There are so many unutterably delicious deatils in Emily's account that I think we need to turn the proceedings over to her.
At CIA Starbucks, even the baristas are covert

By Emily Wax-Thibodeaux
Washington Post reporter

The new supervisor thought his idea was innocent enough. He wanted the baristas to write the names of customers on their cups to speed up lines and ease confusion, just like other Starbucks do around the world.

But these aren’t just any customers. They are regulars at the CIA Starbucks.

“They could use the alias ‘Polly-O string cheese’ for all I care,” said a food services supervisor at the Central Intelligence Agency, asking that his identity remain unpublished for security reasons. “But giving any name at all was making people — you know, the undercover agents — feel very uncomfortable. It just didn’t work for this location.”

This purveyor of skinny lattes and double cappuccinos is deep inside the agency’s forested Langley, Va., compound.

Welcome to the “Stealthy Starbucks,” as a few officers affectionately call it.

Or “Store Number 1,” as the receipts cryptically say.

The baristas go through rigorous interviews and background checks and need to be escorted by agency “minders” to leave their work area. There are no frequent-customer award cards, because officials fear the data stored on the cards could be mined by marketers and fall into the wrong hands, outing secret agents.

It is one of the busiest Starbucks in the country, with a captive caffeine-craving audience of thousands of analysts and agents, economists and engineers, geographers and cartographers working on gathering intelligence and launching covert operations inside some of the most vexing and violent places around the world.

One female agent said she occasionally runs into old high school and college friends in line at Starbucks. Until then, they didn’t know they worked together. Such surprise reunions are not uncommon. Working at the agency is not something you e-mail or write Facebook posts about, she said.

Normally, during the day, the bestsellers are the vanilla latte and the lemon pound­cake. But for officers working into the night, whether because of a crisis or they are dealing with someone in a different time zone, double espressos and sugary Frappuccinos are especially popular.

“Coffee culture is just huge in the military, and many in the CIA come from that culture ,” said Vince Houghton, an intelligence expert and curator at the International Spy Museum. “Urban myth says the CIA Starbucks is the busiest in the world, and to me that makes perfect sense. This is a population who have to be alert and spend hours poring through documents. If they miss a word, people can die.”

The nine baristas who work here are frequently briefed about security risks.

“We say if someone is really interested in where they work and asks too many questions, then they need to tell us,” the supervisor said.

A female barista who commutes from the District before sunrise said she initially applied to work for a catering company that services federal buildings in the region, not knowing where she might be assigned. She said she underwent extensive vetting “that was more than just a credit check.”

The 27-year-old woman was offered a job and told that she would be working in food services in Langley. On her first morning of work, she recalled, she put a location in her GPS and nothing came up. So she called the person who had hired her and got an explanation of the address. “Before I knew it, I realized I was now working for the Starbucks at the CIA,” she said.

Unfortunately, she can’t boast about where she works at parties. “The most I can say to friends is that I work in a federal building,” she said.

She said she has come to recognize people’s faces and their drinks. “There’s caramel-macchiato guy” and “the iced white mocha woman,” she said.

“But I have no idea what they do,” she added, fastening her green Starbucks apron and adjusting her matching cap. “I just know they need coffee, a lot of it.”
Of course if those hard-working souls of the, er, BYK wanted some drinkable coffee, they would run some sort of black op to replace the, er, Buttfucks outlet with, say, a Dunkin' Donuts.
#

Labels:

Changing Our Dumb Discourse And Ending Austerity

>


by Alice Marshall

I want to thank the entire DownWithTyranny community for the terrific work you do supporting progressive candidates for office. As we all know to our cost, it is very difficult for progressive candidates to raise sufficient funds to be competitive. The DownWithTyranny community not only raises funds, but through its Blue America page, and this blog, offers them visibility. It is easier to raise funds if there is evidence of online support, which brings me to the subject of this post.

We are all acutely aware of how embarrassing our public discourse has become. By the time campaign season begins the parameters of permissible debate, as defined by the Very Serious People are narrow and the best policy options are deemed controversial,  not  serious, and off the table. If we are to reclaim our national discourse, this needs to change.

In particular the debate over the federal budget is completely bogus. We are forever told that we are in danger of going broke. Somehow there is always money for bail outs, quantitative easing, more surveillance, another war, but no money for goods and services that people actually want. Joe Firestone, lambert strether, and I, propose are putting together an economics talk show that will explain what real fiscal responsibility looks like.

Deficit fear mongers are like the medieval doctors who thought that bleeding a patient would let out impurities and make them better. Bleeding the economy by reducing the federal deficit has only made things worse. The 1998-2001 budget surplus was the longest surplus since the 1927-1930 surplus. It is not a coincidence that our two worst economic collapses came in the aftermath of budget surpluses.

We propose an economics talk show that will examine the world from the point of view of Modern Monetary. Modern Monetary Theory is a school of economics asserting that:
The currency itself is a simple public monopoly;

Governments provision themselves by creating taxes that cause people to sell real goods and services toget the funds they need to pay their taxes and then by purchasing the goods and services they desire with their otherwise worthless currencies;

Since the economy needs the government’s money to pay its taxes, the value of the currency depends on the prices government. pays when it spends;

For a given size of government, unemployment is the evidence that the government is either overtaxing the economy, or spending too little to compensate for any residual desire to save;

Governments with fiat currencies create money at will when they spend, and destroy money when taxes are paid, further indicating that taxes function to regulate the economy, and not to collect revenue per se;

The currency is a governmental tool that in a democracy is created and maintained to promote public purpose, and to provide for the general welfare.
From an MMT point of view, the entire debate about the federal budget and finance is predicated upon a series of false beliefs, the greatest fallacy being the idea that some purpose would be served by a balanced budget.

We propose a talk show that would expose the lies of austerity week by week, story by story, so that ordinary people would understand that all the current suffering is completely unnecessary and how to remedy our situation. Please help us, please help make Real Fiscal Responsibility Today a reality.


Labels: ,

Frequent Flyer Miles… Alan Grayson To The Rescue?

>




Few people know that Congressman Alan Grayson clerked for both Antonin Scalia and Ruth Bader Ginsburg, respectively the most right-wing and the most progressive justices on the current Supreme Court. We first started to get to know Grayson when he began a primary campaign against Charlie Stuart, a Chamber of Commerce type good ole boy conservative Democrat for the Orlando congressional seat held by Republican Rik Keller. Blue America endorsed Grayson, who was running as an anti-war candidate, but didn't win the primary that time, beaten by the Establishment; and immediately started preparing to run in 2008. He was the top Blue America candidate in that winning race, again running on a principled peace platform and on his record of holding war profiteers accountable-- and to this day he's the candidate our donors have given the most to. We're backing him again this year and encouraging him to run for higher office in the future as well.

We're raised well into the six figures for Grayson. In Republican circles donors get all sorts of special favors for that-- primarily special interest legislation, earmarks in bills (although Republicans stopped calling it that a few years ago) and even the ability to write their own pet projects into federal bills. Democrats who raise that kind of money get favors too-- like sleep-overs in the Lincoln bedroom or, to be completely honest, the same type of shady, slimy business the Republicans are up to. But that isn't what we get from Grayson. I can call him up for travel advise. Grayson's been to every country in the world-- and Antarctica. When Roland and I went to Mali, we didn't ask him where to stay in Bamako, the capital city, or Timbuktu, the biggest tourist draw-- you can find those on dozens of online travel sites-- but Grayson was able to tell us where to stay in off the beaten track towns like Bangiagara and Sangha, where few tourists ever venture.

Grayson, a Member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, is the most well-traveled Member of Congress. He serves on the Subcommittee on the Middle East and North Africa and on the Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere. He's racked up something like ten million frequent flyer miles. So it shouldn't surprise anyone that he's paid attention to some of the shenanigans perpetrated by the airlines who systematically mislead consumers-- Delta is the worst-- and misrepresent their offerings to the public. This year Grayson is introducing legislation to regulate the programs and keep the airlines from cheating the flying public. A crafty spokesperson for the airline industry trade organization claims that "Carriers are completely transparent regarding loyalty programs both on their websites and in direct communication with their customers." Do you know any travelers who would agree?
In the 33 years since American Airlines (AAL) launched the mileage craze with its AAdvantage program, frequent-flyer miles have become a critical revenue source for U.S. carriers. The airlines sell billions of dollars worth of miles each year to banks, retailers, and other marketers that use them to entice customers. Today, more miles are earned from credit cards and other loyalty programs than from actual flying. Millions of people who rarely fly are keenly attuned to boosting their mileage balances.

The top frustration of frequent-flyer program members is needing more miles than they expected for an award, followed by sudden rule changes, according to a survey of 1,600 miles collectors earlier this year by MileCards.com, a credit card comparison site.

...Grayson maintains that airline competition kept the programs relatively unchanged for mileage collectors throughout the 1980s and ’90s, with most award travel seats offered at starting rates of 25,000 miles. In recent years, especially as airlines have gone bankrupt and restructured, the carriers’ push for profitability has made the programs far less generous to consumers than they once were.

Irate members of Delta Air Lines’ (DAL) SkyMiles program began calling those miles “SkyPesos” several years ago, owing to difficult redemptions and their perceived lack of value. Delta has announced several changes for 2015, including offering more seats at lower mileage levels, to try to make SkyMiles more competitive with the programs at United Airlines (UAL) and American.

Next year, Delta and United will begin considering annual spending in their rewards calculation, not just the distances that travelers cover, so customers who spend more money will get more miles. Awards for most international business- and first-class seats on partners of the Big Three U.S. carriers have also soared within the past year. Those changes and others in recent years have caused many miles collectors to rethink the value of trying to amass miles for free airline travel.

Regardless of how much consumer irritation airline miles generate, the Transportation Department probably lacks a “leverage point” to delve too deeply into new regulations for the programs, says Tim Winship, editor of FrequentFlier.com. But he says the department will be able to push airlines to offer more advance notice of program changes that are negative for consumers.

Grayson says many of the recent program changes have been made with little or no warning, which often requires travelers to spend more miles for an award trip. American made such a change on June 1. “Announcing a program change today that takes effect today sticks in the craw of most consumers, and rightfully so,” Winship says. Eric Fraser, a miles collector and Phoenix attorney who specializes in federal regulatory issues, says the department is likely to be most interested in whether airlines properly notify program members of pending changes. “This is an area where the DOT sniffing around could just have an immediate benefit, even if they don’t start to write rules,” Fraser says.

Ideally, Grayson says, the airlines should be forced to give at least one year’s notice of major program changes and to offer at least one seat on every flight available at the lowest mileage level. “If you’re going to have a program like this at all, it’s got to be an honest program,” he says. “Every human being comes with a built-in cheat detector. They know when they’re being cheated; they know when they’re being deceived.”

Still home of the most useless frequent flyer program

Labels: ,

Are You Ready To Upgrade The U.S. Senate? Let's Start In Maine Where We Have A Clear Choice

>




It's almost the end of the quarter-- and you know what that means-- hundreds of e-mails from the DCCC and DSCC and their careerist candidates begging for money. Please tell them you already gave-- through Blue America-- to individual candidates whose agendas you believe in and whose values you share.

As you probably know, we’ve supported Shenna Bellows' entirely grassroots campaign for Senate in Maine this cycle more than any other candidate, and now we’re asking you to step up again. She’s running as an outspoken, unapologetic progressive in a blue state that voted for President Obama twice. Her opponent, Susan Collins, is out of step with Maine’s economic needs and won’t tell voters where she stands on the big issues. It’s time for Shenna to join progressive champions like Elizabeth Warren, Jeff Merkley, Sherrod Brown and Bernie Sanders in the U.S. Senate and give Maine a big upgrade in representation.

Shenna is running the kind of campaign that makes progressives stand up and cheer. She’s outraising Susan Collins more than three to one in small-dollar donations, according to OpenSecrets, and she hasn’t taken a nickel of corporate PAC money. She walked 350 miles across the state this summer to hear from real Mainers and bring their stories to Washington where they need to be heard. She’s running full steam ahead on universal health care, investing in our economy, a higher minimum wage, student loan reform, and a national Human Rights Act that extends Maine’s strong LGBT protections to every American man, woman and child.

In other words, as a first-time candidate, Shenna Bellows is setting a standard a lot of incumbents should be trying to meet.

Shenna’s a strong candidate because of her values and her background-- she’s the working class daughter of a carpenter and a home health care nurse-- but also because of her experience fighting for privacy and civil rights. Those fights are hardly over in Washington, and we need her there fighting to restore our liberties. As the head of the American Civil Liberties Union of Maine for eight years, Shenna worked hard to protect the people of her state from law enforcement overreach. Her own website tells you everything you need to know:
Abuses of power like the Patriot Act, REAL ID, the NDAA, NSA spying, and domestic drone surveillance threaten our democracy. When the government spies on its own people, we, the people, lose trust in our government. We can restore trust and a sense of community by restoring our constitutional freedoms.


In Maine, I led a coalition to pass groundbreaking privacy laws to require warrants before law enforcement accesses email or phone communications. As United States Senator, I will work with Republicans and Democrats alike to repeal the Patriot Act and restore checks and balances on government spying. I’m proud to have been called “the Elizabeth Warren of civil liberties,” and that’s exactly the kind of senator I intend to be.
Needless to say, you don’t find a record like that every day. We need Shenna Bellows in the Senate, standing with our most dependable leaders and bringing her passion and principles to a legislative body that’s short on both right now.

One last thing about this race you need to know: Susan Collins is nervous. When she started running a recent television ad trying to claim credit for ending the government shutdown, Shenna didn’t let it pass. She put out a web video (up top) telling voters the other half of the story-- the half where Susan Collins voted with the tea party to hold the government hostage and hurt businesses in her own state. Now Susan Collins is backpedaling and trying to convince reporters her votes meant the opposite of what they meant. She can’t defend her record, so she’s trying to ignore it. Voters aren’t buying it, and we need to help Shenna hold her accountable for voting against her own state.

Shenna Bellows is the future of the U.S. Senate. She’s the future of progressive politics. There’s no one we’re more excited to support this year, and we hope you’ll join us-- right here and right now.


Labels: , , ,

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Double Trouble For Cameron As One Conservative Defects To The Fascists And Another Resigns In A Sex Scandal

>




Just under a month ago, we reported how Conservative Member of Parliament Douglas Carswell had ditched the Tories and joined the fascist-oriented UKIP. The libertarian-leaning Carswell resigned from Parliament, triggering a by-election, in which he is favored to win-- and become the UKIP's only Member of Parliament. Earlier today he was joined by another Tory Member, Mark Reckless, a drunkard and former UBS Warburg stock crook, the Member for Rochester and Strood, southeast of London in north Kent. Like Carswell, he dumped the Conservative Party, joined UKIP and triggered a by-election by resigning his seat. He did it rather dramatically, as both parties of the right-- the Conservatives in Birmingham and UKIP in Doncaster-- were starting their annual conventions.

It was a bad day for Cameron, who also lost a Cabinet minister in another Conservative Party sex scandal-- this one based on a fake Twitter account set up specifically to ensnare randy Conservative legislators. Civil Society Minister Brooks Newmark was the one the Sunday Mirror caught. Newmark, who is very wealthy, 56 years old, married and has 5 children, was forced to resign after he sent an Anthony Weiner-like photo of himself to a male newspaper reporter posing as a horny conservative girl. He attempted to set up an offline liaison with "her," although when first confronted, he denied everything before looking at the clear evidence and realizing his political career was over.

Reckless' defection was an even worse blow for David Cameron, coming at the start of a conference that was the kickoff to the Conservative reelection campaign.


Reckless, who told cheering UKIP delegates yesterday that “the leadership of the Conservative Party is part of the problem that is holding our country back,” said he’s resigning his seat in the House of Commons. He then plans to run as a UKIP candidate in a special election in his district. He’s following in the footsteps of Douglas Carswell, the first Tory to defect a month ago, who’s running for re-election for UKIP in his Clacton constituency to the east of London on Oct. 9.

Cameron condemned Reckless’s move today, telling BBC Television’s “Andrew Marr Show” that “to act in a way that makes a Conservative government less likely is senseless and counterproductive.” Carswell and Reckless are two people who “want to leave the European Union no matter what,” he said in Birmingham, central England, the venue for the Tory conference. He called the news from the UKIP conference “frustrating.”

…Reckless told UKIP delegates in Doncaster, northern England, that he believes the premier is only using the pledge of a referendum “as a device.” He said voters had been “ripped off and lied to.”

A ComRes Ltd. poll for the Sunday Mirror and Independent on Sunday newspapers put UKIP support at 19 percent, in third place behind the Tories’ 29 percent and Labour’s 35 percent. Forty-three percent of UKIP backers voted Tory in 2010. ComRes interviewed 2,003 adults Sept. 24-26. It didn’t specify a margin of error.

…Reckless’s move presents Farage with the prospect of UKIP gaining its first two elected members of Parliament within a few weeks. Carswell is the clear favorite with bookmakers to be re-elected in Clacton.

The latest defector took 49.2 percent of the vote in his district in Kent in the 2010 general election, more than 20 percentage points ahead of the second-placed Labour Party candidate.

Still, “the seat is much less natural UKIP territory than Clacton, Rob Ford, co-author of :Revolt on the Right," a study of the party, said in an interview. "All hell will break loose if the Tories lose there. They gave up in Clacton, but they have to crush Reckless here."

Reckless told reporters he thinks he has "a fighting chance" of re-election, though Rochester is "not even in the top 100 of Conservative seats vulnerable to UKIP" in the 650-member House of Commons.
Should be a fun election campaign!



Labels: , ,

What right-wing scumbags say vs. what they actually do, PA edition

>




by Ken

I love this.

By way of background, I have an e-mail screen name that wound up being used mostly for political mailings, including campaign stuff. Do I have to tell you what an incredible amount of sludge it draws? I dread even looking at the list of new posts, and manage to do it periodically only so I can keep the sludge from piling up. Meaning that when I do attack the mail list, my mindset is delete, delete, delete.

I still don't know what prompted me to open this particular item. Now I see that Joe Sestak's name is in the "from" column, and that might have gotten me to open it, because I have a heap of respect for the admiral, but I could swear that I didn't notice his name there -- it wasn't until after I'd started looking at this wonderful graphic that I noticed the source. I didn't even realize Joe was running for the seat. Of course it's still a long way to 2016, but from what I know about Joe, we and the Senate need him a whole lot more than he needs any of us.

Once I started reading the graphic, I was simply delighted. This sort of thing is so damned characteristic of the Far Right -- they jump on issues their polling, or maybe their common sense, tells them are voter-friendly, in complete defiance of their entire political history. And since the public is by and large, shall we say, underinformed, and gets what it accepts as "information" mostly from sources that could hardly be less informative, the broad mass of voters have no idea what sorts of rotten scum they're not only electing but reelecting.

To anyone with a working brain it was obvious when Pat Toomey slithered into what had been that scumbag Arlen Specter's seat that he was an unusually toxic variety of "For Plutocrats Only" pondscum. And from my view of the campaign that Joe Sestak ran in 2010, first for the Democratic nomination, then in the general election, I thought it was terrific. Just brimming over with really carefully considered positions on a staggering array of issues that aren't the sexy hot-button ones often seem used to divert popular attention from real issues but in fact deal with the way our lives are actually led.

Naturally hardly anyone except me seems to have paid any attention. Just remember that the next time you hear someone complain about lack of substance in political campaigns. Come to think of it, this kind of complaint seems itself to have become old-fashioned. More and more, the country seems to accept that  campaigns are all about handicapping the horse races amid psychotic blithering about issues that have some reality but not in the form that the blitherers blither about, which is mostly more noise from the Great Right-Wing Noise Machine.

Which is just a fancy round-about way of saying, again, that I really love this chart, all the more welcome now that the media seem to have acquiesced to the general elimination of any consideration of reality or real life in our political campaigns, giving in in large part to the right-wing demand that reality be outlawed, to be replaced by their elaborate grid of delusions and lies. In fairness, the response of official Democratic organs like the Senate House campaign committees is mostly: If you want lies and delusions, we can give you those too, even if ours, being second-hand, are kind of wrinkly and worn.

Why is why I'm that much more grateful for a voice trying to be heard saying, "Hey, folks, here's just a bit of a reality check."


UPDATE: IF YOU WANT TO CONTRIBUTE --

I should have included the link if you want to contribute to Joe Sestak's challenge to Senator Toomey. Here it is.
#

Labels: , , , , ,

Staten Island Mafia Thug/GOP Congressman "Mikey Suits" Grimm-- The Israeli Connection

>

2 greedy-obsessed arch criminals claim to be victims

Back in January, we noted that Benjamin Netanyahu was using the Israeli government to cover up for some of Mafia thug Michael Grimm's criminal activities. Grimm, a former FBI agent who went over to the Gambino crime family and then managed to get elected to Congress from-- where else?-- Staten Island, has been indicted a 20 relatively benign counts relative to a long and sordid career in crime. Polls show that voters in the Staten Island and Bay Ridge parts of New York's 11th CD are ready to reelect him a month before his trial is about to begin.

Grimm's hometown paper, The Advance, reported back then that high ranking Israelis were pressuring multimillionaire celebrity Rabbi Yoshiyahu Pinto-- who counts LeBron James, Anthony Weiner, Jay Schottenstein, chairman of the American Eagle Outfitters, p.r. executive Ronn Torossian, and talk show host Donny Deutsch among his followers-- to not cooperate with the FBI investigation into Grimm's illegal campaign fundraising about Pinto congregants. Grimm's partner in crime, Ofer Biton, who worked for Pinto, has already plead guilty to related crimes and is cooperating in the Grimm investigation. This morning, the New York Post reported FBI leaks on the Israeli connection and that in 2011 during a scandal-marred trip to Israel, Grimm described attending "an intimate meeting" with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
A top official in Israel tried to intimidate the rabbi who claims Staten Island Rep. Michael Grimm shook him down for donations, sources familiar with the investigation told The Post.

The FBI is investigating allegations by Orthodox mystic Yoshiyahu Yosef Pinto, who testified against Grimm in 2010.

In 2011, then-Israeli Justice Minister Yaakov Neeman, a follower of the rabbi, visited Pinto at his home in the city of Ashdod in southern Israel and told him that if he continued to cooperate with the FBI, “you’re going to have a disaster in Israel,” a source told The Post. “In Israel they’re going to ruin you.”

“The rabbi started off as a victim and did the right thing by seeking out law enforcement, and now has been victimized once again,” said Arthur Aidala, Pinto’s Manhattan lawyer. He has been joined by famed attorney Alan Dershowitz, who is a follower and longtime friend of the rabbi.

…A year after Neeman’s visit, Pinto, who divides his time between Ashdod and Manhattan, was charged with extortion in Israel. In October 2012, he was placed under house arrest, accused of paying a senior police official in exchange for information on an investigation which involved him and a branch of his charity, Shuva Israel.

Two weeks ago, Pinto struck a deal with Israeli authorities to plead guilty.

Pinto’s supporters say the guilty plea was made under duress when Israeli authorities threatened to press charges against Pinto’s ailing wife.

And they characterized the rabbi’s payments-- several hundred thousand dollars-- to senior police commander Ephraim Bracha as aid to a loyal follower. In fact, Pinto was open about the payments to his FBI handlers who even informed Israeli authorities, said the source.

…A close associate of the rabbi wrote a check for $135,000 to RDT, a consulting firm controlled by Torossian, according to court papers. More money flowed in from other followers. By May 2010, Biton had invested $500,000 in a business venture as a first step to securing a US investor’s visa. Torossian has denied any wrongdoing.

When the demands for money continued, Pinto and his wife reached out to Grimm, a former Marine and FBI agent who had been introduced to the rabbi by Biton. It’s unclear how Biton and Grimm knew each other.

Grimm promised to make the problems with Torossian and ­Biton go away if the rabbi prevailed upon his supporters to donate to Grimm’s first run for Congress in 2010, according to the source.

A large portion of Grimm’s donations for the November 2010 election came from the Orthodox Jewish community. There were accusations that some donations were over the $4,800 limit prescribed by federal campaign-finance rules and were made by foreign nationals, who are prohibited from donating.
It isn't just the New York City (and Staten Island) press that's covering the Grimm-Pinto scandal. Israeli media is following the whole sordid mess as well. Today, right after The Post published its report, Israelis were reading that it was Alan Dershowitz, Pinto's attorney, who had leaked the details of the case. This report claims The Post omitted 2 very key details in its report:
1. Rabbi Yoshiyahu Yosef Pinto's associates allegedly stole millions of dollars in food and other donations earmarked for Holocaust surviviors. It was a criminal investigation into those thefts from the Hazon Yeshaya charity that allegedly promted Pinto to try to bribe senior police officers to get inside details of that investigation.

2. Cops recorded the key bribe-– $100,000 in Swiss francs-– being given. The recipient was wearing a wire. The person who delivered the bribe was Pinto's wife, who served as Pinto's bag man. She tried to commit suicide after she and her husband were arrested shortly after the attempted bribe.

Knowing those key facts makes Pinto a much less likable figure, and makes the spin of much of The Post's reporting ring false-– which is likely why The Post left those facts out.

Who is guilty here? Grimm? Pinto? Biton? Ne'eman? Likely all of them and many more. To present Pinto as a victim is bizarre.

The only true victims in this sordid tale are the hundreds of poor elderly Holocaust survivors who died hungry because of the Hazon Yeshaya embezzlement.

Labels: , , ,

Ghost of Sunday Classics: Who is the author of Hoffmann's misfortunes?

>


Her mother's portrait sings to her --
Erin Wall as Antonia, Lyric Opera of Chicago, 2011
VOICE OF ANTONIA'S MOTHER: Antonia!
ANTONIA: Heavens!
MIRACLE: Listen!
VOICE: Antonia!
MIRACLE: Listen!
ANTONIA: God! My mother! My mother!
VOICE: Dear child, whom I am calling
as in olden times,
it's your mother, it's she;
hear her voice!
Dear child, whom I am calling, etc.

Felicity Palmer (ms), Voice of Antonia's Mother; Jessye Norman (s), Antonia; Samuel Ramey (bs), Miracle; Staatskapelle Dresden, Jeffrey Tate, cond. Philips, recorded 1987-89

Christa Ludwig (ms), Voice of Antonia's Mother; Edita Gruberová (s), Antonia; James Morris (bs-b), Miracle; Orchestre National de France, Seiji Ozawa, cond. DG, recorded c1986

Patricia Kern (ms), Voice of Antonia's Mother; Beverly Sills (s), Antonia; Norman Treigle (bs), Miracle; London Symphony Orchestra,Julius Rudel, cond. ABC-EMI, recorded July-Aug. 1972

by Ken

As I indicated in last night's preview, here we are for one more week with Offenbach's Tales of Hoffmann.

I'm going to try to keep my prattling to a minimum. I just felt we needed a better focus on the unfortunate life situation poor Hoffmann has situated himself in. At one point he asks the students whether they would like to know who is "the author of my misfortunes," presumably having in mind Councillor Lindorf, whom he casts as the bass-baritone "villain" in his three tales -- and who is in fact busily engaged in sabotaging Hoffmann's current grand passion, for the great actress La Stella. But by the end of the opera, I think we have a better idea -- apparently better than Hoffmann himself has -- who the author of most of his misfortunes is.


AN EVIL GENIUS AT WORK

Read more »

Labels:

Why Should The Arabs Continue To Roam Endlessly In A Political Wilderness Of Their Own Making?

>


Yesterday I happened to pass a TV set while a nice MSNBC was trying to get through her job by interviewing Hisham Melhem, the thoroughly Americanized Lebanese journalist and Al Arabiya News Washington bureau chief. She may not have known it-- trying desperately to keep whatever he was talking about inside the time she was allotted to to with this guy-- but it was an interesting interview, not the questions, of course, but what Melhem had to say.

As best I could tell, he wound up on her show because of an article he had penned for Politico last week, Within Our Gates-- Arab Civilization Has Collapsed. It Won't Recover In My Lifetime. That's certainly irresistible bait for TV news bookers! Especially since it was an American-oriented apology for Obama's decision to along with Military Industrial Complex demands to drag America into another war in the Middle East, or, as Melhem puts it "Obama is stepping once again-- and with understandably great reluctance-- into the chaos of an entire civilization that has broken down." Comfortingly, he's not a big fan of the world that once gave us algebra, astronomy, coffee, universities, guitars, military marching bands… and socialized medicine.
Arab civilization, such as we knew it, is all but gone. The Arab world today is more violent, unstable, fragmented and driven by extremism-- the extremism of the rulers and those in opposition-- than at any time since the collapse of the Ottoman Empire a century ago. Every hope of modern Arab history has been betrayed. The promise of political empowerment, the return of politics, the restoration of human dignity heralded by the season of Arab uprisings in their early heydays-- all has given way to civil wars, ethnic, sectarian and regional divisions and the reassertion of absolutism, both in its military and atavistic forms. With the dubious exception of the antiquated monarchies and emirates of the Gulf-- which for the moment are holding out against the tide of chaos-- and possibly Tunisia, there is no recognizable legitimacy left in the Arab world.

Is it any surprise that, like the vermin that take over a ruined city, the heirs to this self-destroyed civilization should be the nihilistic thugs of the Islamic State? And that there is no one else who can clean up the vast mess we Arabs have made of our world but the Americans and Western countries?

No one paradigm or one theory can explain what went wrong in the Arab world in the last century. There is no obvious set of reasons for the colossal failures of all the ideologies and political movements that swept the Arab region: Arab nationalism, in its Baathist and Nasserite forms; various Islamist movements; Arab socialism; the rentier state and rapacious monopolies, leaving in their wake a string of broken societies. No one theory can explain the marginalization of Egypt, once the center of political and cultural gravity in the Arab East, and its brief and tumultuous experimentation with peaceful political change before it reverted back to military rule.

…The polarizations in Syria and Iraq-- political, sectarian and ethnic-- are so deep that it is difficult to see how these once-important countries could be restored as unitary states. In Libya, Muammar al-Qaddafi’s 42-year reign of terror rendered the country politically desolate and fractured its already tenuous unity. The armed factions that inherited the exhausted country have set it on the course of breaking up-- again, unsurprisingly-- along tribal and regional fissures. Yemen has all the ingredients of a failed state: political, sectarian, tribal, north-south divisions, against the background of economic deterioration and a depleted water table that could turn it into the first country in the world to run out of drinking water.


Just before his appearance on MSNBC he published an article, follow-up to the Politico piece, in Al Arabiya News that he wanted to talk about but that his host had no knowledge of. His critique of an Arab world that "continues to reproduce the values of patriarchy, mythmaking, conspiracy theories, sectarianism, autocracy and a political/cultural discourse that denies human agency and tolerates the persistence of the old order" sparked a huge response. Lucky for him, he's not living among beheaders. "The overwhelming response," he asserts "was positive, even though my analysis of Arab reality was bleak and my prognosis of the immediate future was negative."
Arabs were not the only victims of colonialism, and with the exception of Algeria which gained its independence from France after a savage war, colonialism in the Arab world was not as devastating as it was in Africa. Egypt and India were colonized by the same power and gained sovereignty after the Second World War. And both are plagued with demographic overweight. But for most of its independent life Egypt was ruled by a strong military leader, while India maintained its democratic rule-- strained at times-- even when its military achieved victories in wars with Pakistan and it managed difficult political transitions after the assassinations of some of its elected leaders. India, despite its economic and social inequalities, produces science and knowledge in its universities and in Bangalore, its high technology capital.

There are no such universities in Egypt. In 1960 the GDP per capita for South Korea and Egypt were almost equal, $155 and $149 respectively and their populations were practically identical, 25 million and 27 million respectively. By 2012 the gap is frightening. The GDP per capita in South Korea has reached $16,684 with a population of 50 million. In comparison, Egypt’s GDP per capita has grown only to $1,976, and its population has tripled to 82 million. What went wrong in Egypt and what went right in South Korea is a tale of political will and good and bad governance. South Korea invested heavily in education and in its corporations and revolutionized industrial productivity by empowering women and incorporating them in the labor force. By contrast Egypt did not improve the quality of its educational system, and invested heavily in non-competitive industries.

Arab states have had more than their share of military dictators who enforced their absolute authority and decimated their societies and ruined their economies even in those countries that enjoyed considerable hydrocarbon deposits such as Iraq, Libya and Algeria. They ruled in the name of Arab Nationalism and they manipulated religious authorities and symbols (Saddam Hussein was the most outrageous offender in this regard), while exploiting sectarian, ethnic and tribal fissures.

Others such as the Assads in Syria and Ali Abdallah Saleh in Yemen adopted the same ways. The military rulers and autocrats of Asia, such as Park Chung-hee of South Korea and Lee Kuan Yew, of Singapore, who are credited with putting their countries on a trajectory of industrialization and wealth, look very benign when compared with Arab despots like Hussein whose wars and invasions caused the death of at least half a million people, or the Assads, who are responsible for the death of more than a quarter of a million people. Even the awful depredations of Augusto Pinochet, the dictator of Chile, pale in comparison with the bloody deeds of his Arab contemporaries. At least Pinochet did not wreck the Chilean economy and some credit him with turning Chile into a major economic power in Latin America.

There is one benign Arab autocrat whose legacy in part explains why Tunisia, of all the countries that went through an uprising is on the path of good governance. Tunisia’s president Habib Bourguiba, abolished polygamy and enacted a series of laws and secular reforms in 1956, giving women the right to vote and access to higher education, the right to file for divorce, and access to employment opportunities. Modern Tunisia has maintained a secular tradition and a polity more tolerant than its neighbors. Bourguiba benefited from Tunisia’s legacy of reform which goes back to the reign of the reformer Khayr al-Din Pasha al-Tunisi in the 1870’s. Tunisia was a trail-blazer when it became the first Arab country to outlaw slavery in 1846, one year before Sweden and, astonishingly 17 years before the United States. This legacy of secularism and empowering women is one of the reasons why Islamists were kept at bay and prevented from monopolizing political power after the overthrow of President Bin Ali.

…During the heyday of Arab Nationalism, many Arab intellectuals entered into a Faustian deal with the custodians of power in their world. They accepted a deal in which they will not agitate for freedom and democracy, until the Nationalist fought their supposedly historic battles with the forces of Arab reaction, Israeli usurpation and Western imperialism. All the battles were lost, and with them the hopes of freedom and democracy.

Today, the world of millions of Arabs is collapsing; whole societies are consumed by the flames of sectarianism, political fragmentation and economic disenfranchisement. The indefatigable Sadik Al-Azm is still at it, always probing and always deconstructing. He is now part of a smaller minority of such intellectuals, living and writing and publishing mostly in the west. And unless Arab intellectuals and activists engage in a no holds barred debates similar to what happened in Beirut after 1967, in which all their political, cultural and religious inheritance is put to critical inquiry, the Arabs will continue to roam endlessly in a political wilderness of their own making. But if you are looking now for a vibrant debate, about what ails the Arab world today, and if you are searching for a liberal open Arab city for Intellectuals to engage in critical introspection, you will be searching in vain.

Labels: , ,