Saturday, April 30, 2011

Sunday Classics preview: "Love is a thing that has victims"


Get past the cinematic razmataz and you get to the "Fugue for Tinhorns" from the film version of Guys and Dolls, with Stubby Kaye and Johnny Silver, who originated the roles of Nicely-Nicely Johnson and Benny Southstret on Broadway, and Danny Dayton as Rusty Charlie. We're going to be hearing more from Nicely-Nicely and Benny in a moment.

No chatter tonight, just -- as promised last night -- the title songs from the three shows we sampled. As regular readers know, we like wherever possible to start at the beginning, so why don't we start with an overture? -- Ken

Overture and "How To," from How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying (1961)

Robert Morse (J. Pierrepont Finch), vocal; Elliiot Lawrence, cond. From the Original Broadway Cast recording




So THAT'S what's been holding us back in Afghanistan: the wrong underwear


Once we get the underwear right, everything
in Afghanistan should fall into place.

Passed along without further comment (well, almost), from our pal Al Kamen in the Washington Post. -- Ken

Ballistic underwear for troops in Afghanistan

"Based on analysis in theater," the solicitation notice says, such underwear will drastically improve casualty recovery and reduce secondary infections."

"An Army marches on its stomach," said Napoleon , or maybe it was Frederick the Great . But the Marines in Afghanistan will soon, one would hope very soon, be marching more safely -- in their new ballistic underwear, designed to better protect them from injuries from improvised explosive devices.

The Pentagon this month put out a rush order solicitation, spotted by our colleague Walter Pincus, for "27,500 ballistic undergarments" for $2 million, noting that "ballistic underwear is currently being used by British forces" in Afghanistan "and they have significantly less injuries" to their privates as a result.

This is especially important in such places as Helmand province, where patrols in agricultural areas must be done on foot on narrow, often mined, paths along irrigation canals and such.

The double -weave silk underwear, which looks pretty much like bicycle shorts, is not bulletproof. But it will block out smaller particles or "blast fragments" and thus lessen damage in the groin area and to the femoral artery.

In addition, the undies have an antibacterial treatment that should reduce the risk of infection. The Marines say no source except the British supplier "provides a battlefield tested undergarment," though "we expect more sources to enter the marketplace" in the future.

Sounds as if they want immediate delivery, like maybe yesterday.

Well, obviously supporting our troops means . . . er, supporting their privates.

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Sometimes Trade Policies Work-- But Only When Regulations Are Enforced, Which Is Very Rare Indeed


Obama's corporatist trade policies are barely distinguishable from the cruel and failed trade policies rammed down America's throat by Reagan, the two Bush catastrophes, and Clinton. Perot had the giant sucking sound talking point exactly right. So it's with a great deal of pleasure I can announce that Obama-- who is currently pushing the NAFTA-like trade agreements Bush made with South Korea, Panama and Colombia (all absolutely against the interests of workers)-- actually did something right on trade for a change.

True, it was way back in 2009, but it's paying off for America now in a big way. Back then the new Administration "imposed duties on surging imports of subsidized tires from China. The three-year plan was designed to provide relief for U.S. tire manufacturers under Section 421 of U.S. trade law, the first time the law had been used since its inception."
Only one year after the import duties were applied, a study by the Alliance for American Manufacturing (AAM) found that the U.S. tire industry had already reversed a significant decline. Sales were up, and workers were being hired.

The latest demonstration of the effectiveness of the 421 ruling is that Continental AG plans to build a new consumer tire manufacturing plant in the United States. The company says the planned plant will help cover rising tire demand in North America: "These plans are further proof for the depth of the turnaround that the Passenger and Light Truck Tires Division has achieved in the Americas region by means of determination and perseverance."

I guess that helps explain why China spent so much money financing right-wing PACs trying to elect Republicans supportive of China's economic expansion, particularly Ron Johnson (R-WI) and Pat Toomey (R-PA) and why they contributed so heavily to making sure John Boehner would replace Nancy Pelosi as Speaker.

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How Have Those Town Hall Meetings Been Working Out For Big Business' Congressional Shills?


As you've been reading all week, and as you can see in the compilation clip above, not all that well. And yesterday another teabaggy freshman, Rick Crawford of Arkansas, became just the latest to feel the wrath of his constituents, angry at Crawford's vote to gut Medicare. At his first-ever congressional town hall, Crawford followed suggestions from the GOP conference call from earlier in the week insisting that all questions be pre-screened. When audience members kept shouting at him he just announced "We're done," stalked away from the podium imperiously, and left the meeting.

Others are trying to lie their way out of their own black-and-white voting records-- and not just about wrecking Medicare. Cornered like rats by their constituents, several Republicans-- each of whom has voted several times to extend billions of dollars to Big Oil in taxpayers subsidies-- have publicly said they now (as opposed to last month) support the Democratic position: ending subsidies to Oil giants. Even Boehner, who has now backed away from it, said Big Oil "ought to be paying their fair share." Paul Ryan and Daniel "Taliban Dan" Webster were screamed into submission by angry constituents at town hall meetings. But will Boehner ever let Congress vote on ending corporate welfare to Big Oil? See all that red? It represents the portion of the campaign contributions that went to Republicans from each Oil company. (The blue, where there is any, is what went to Democrats, overwhelmingly Blue Dogs.) You tell me if that's a vote that will ever take place.

And in case you're pointing at the teensy weensy patches of blue... forget it. Those were bribes to Blue Dogs like Dan Boren, Jim Matheson and Mike Ross to keep them voting with the GOP and undermining Democratic initiatives within the caucus.

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Mixing Oil And Coffee-- To Elect Republicans


When I was a child I hated the treacley bitter-sweet taste of Coffee-Time in my milk. But it's the closest I ever came to drinking a cup of coffee. Nope-- never had one. But lately we've been revisiting the Republican filibuster of the anti-speculation rules passed by the House in terms of oil and gas. In reality the attempt to get sociopath Wall Street speculators under control was about commodities in general, not just gasoline. And the damage they're doing to the American economy may be a dream come true for GOP election planners in terms of wrecking the economy but... the price of gasoline isn't the only commodity being driven through the roof because of the filibuster. Take coffee.

Starbucks is the biggest coffee chain in the world so, of course, they're concerned that coffee prices have hit a 34-year high last week. CEO Howard Schultz points out that food prices are rising across the board. He points out that there is absolutely no problem with supply.
Q: It's all about speculation you've been quoted saying?

Well I just gave a key note address at the National Coffee Association in New Orleans about a month ago. I met one-on-one with key suppliers. There wasn't one supplier that indicated to me that there was any supply issue. So we're living at a time right now where financial speculation index funds, hedge funds have created a rush of very, very high prices. And not only coffee, corn, sugar, cotton and obviously oil, and unfortunately it has to hit the consumer. We're working very hard not to put us in a situation where there's going to be pain for the customer.

Q: So you're holding back passing it on to the customer?

We are. We've also told the Street that regardless of where coffee prices go, we'll be able to navigate through this in 2012 but it's challenging.

Q: How do you manage the volatility in the meantime?

Well, I think there are other ways we can mitigate costs and we've lots of different levers. The fact that just this year alone, we have significant cost pressures. We are having a great year. We've been doing this for forty years. We've seen other cyclical changes. The only difference this time is there's no supply issue.

Q: If coffee prices continue to push higher, will it turn consumers off drinking coffee?

Well I think the question you have to ask yourself is the elasticity of pricing. And I think given the economic downturn, and the pressure on global consumers, we all have to be very conscious of it and that's why I don't want to raise prices.

Like I said, I don't drink coffee. But even though I drive a Prius, I do use some gas and I'm following the way the GOP and their allies have been driving up the price (while driving down the economy). Thursday Robert Reich called out Exxon-Mobil, one of the biggest contributors to the Republican Party of any entity on earth. The taxpayer-subsidized corporation made $10.7 billion in profits since January, a gigantic spike over last year. And, although Exxon denies it, Reich makes the point that it's very much related to the increase in the price of oil and he makes the case that there are a lot of ways taxes could be better used than GOP insistence that it be handed over to Big Oil. Remember, for all his whimpering about when cornered like a rat in his town halls, Ryan's budget bestows another $40 billion in our taxes on the big oil conglomerates!
This gusher is an embarrassment for an industry seeking to keep its $4 billion annual tax subsidy from the U.S. government, at a time when we’re cutting social programs to reduce the budget deficit.

It’s specially embarrassing when Americans are paying through their noses at the pump.

Exxon-Mobil’s Vice President asks that we look past the “inevitable headlines” and remember the company’s investments in renewable energy.

What investments, exactly? Last time I looked Exxon-Mobil was devoting a smaller percentage of its earnings to renewables than most other oil companies, including the errant BP.

In point of fact, no oil company is investing much in renewables-- precisely because they’ve got such money gusher going from oil. Those other oil companies also had a banner first quarter, compounding the industry’s embarrassment about its $4 billion a year welfare check.

American Petroleum Industry CEO Jack Gerard claims the gusher is due to the “growing strength in our economy.”

Baloney. If you hadn’t noticed already, this is one of the most anemic recoveries on record. $4-a-gallon gas is itself slowing the economy’s growth, since most consumers are left with less money to spend on everything else.

Gerard then claims the giant earnings “reflect the size necessary for [American] companies to be globally competitive with national oil companies” around the world.

Let’s get real. The crude oil market is global. Oil companies sell all over the world. The price of crude is established by global supply and demand. In this context, American “competitiveness” is meaningless.

Republicans who have been defending oil’s tax subsidy are also finding themselves in an awkward position. John Boehner temporarily sounded as if he was backing off-- until the right-wing-nuts in the GOP began fulminating that the elimination of any special tax windfall is to their minds a tax increase (which means, in effect, the GOP must now support all tax-subsidized corporate welfare).

Boehner is now trying to pivot off the flip-flop by reverting to the trusty old “drill, drill, drill” for opening more of country to oil drilling and exploration. “If we began to allow more permits for oil and gas production, it would send a signal to the market that America’s serious about moving toward energy independence,” he says.

This argument is as nonsensical now as it was when we last faced $4-a-gallon gas. To repeat: It’s a global oil market. Even if 3 million additional barrels a day could be extruded from lands and seabeds of the United States (the most optimistic figure, after all exploration is done), that sum is tiny compared to 86 million barrels now produced around the world. In other words, even under the best circumstances, the price to American consumers would hardly budge.

Whatever impact such drilling might have would occur far in the future anyway. Oil isn’t just waiting there to be pumped out of the earth. Exploration takes time. Erecting drilling equipment takes time. Getting the oil out takes time. Turning crude into various oil products takes time. According the federal energy agency, if we opening drilling where drilling is now banned, there’d be no significant impact on domestic crude and natural gas production for a decade or more.

Oil companies already hold a significant number of leases on federal lands and offshore seabeds where they are now allowed to drill, and which they have not yet fully explored. Why would they seek more drilling rights? Because ownership of these parcels will pump up their balance sheets even if no oil is actually pumped.

Last but by no means least, as we’ve painfully learned, the environmental risks from such drilling are significant.

Let’s not fool ourselves-- or be fooled. There’s no reason to continue to give giant oil companies a $4 billion a year tax windfall. Nor any reason to expand drilling on federal lands or on our seashores.

But there are strong reasons to invest in renewable energy-- even in a time of budget austerity. Use the $4 billion this way. And why stop there? Why not a windfall profits tax to the oil companies, to be used for renewable energy?

Senator Bernie Sanders has very similar feelings and he sent Obama letter this week demanding real action on speculators. “The skyrocketing cost of gasoline is causing severe economic pain to millions of Americans who have already suffered through the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression," he wrote, going on to ask the president to intercede with the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, the federal regulatory body that has failed to rein in the rampant speculation artificially driving up oil prices.
The Wall Street reform law enacted last year required the commission to impose so-called position limits, which would restrict the amount of oil that speculators could trade in the energy futures market. The law called for the tough new regulations to take effect by Jan. 22. The commission balked. Now, three months later, the price of gasoline has gone up 80-cents a gallon because of the commission’s hands-off approach to the markets it is supposed to regulate.
Only two of the five sitting commissioners support strong limits that the new Wall Street law envisioned. It takes three commissioners to adopt a new rule. The president, Sanders said, should insist that the law be enforced and demand the immediate resignation of commissioners who refuse to do their job.
“I urge you to make it clear to the CFTC that they must obey the law and establish strong oil speculation limits as soon as possible,” the senator wrote. “I would also urge you to ask for the immediate resignation of any CFTC commissioner who refuses to obey the law and nominate someone else who will.”

And this morning President Obama addressed the nation on radio agreeing that taxpayer subsidies for oil companies should end. He contradicted the shrill oil company claims that their profits don't go up when the price of gasoline is jacked up.
Of course, while rising gas prices mean real pain for our families at the pump, they also mean bigger profits for oil companies. This week, the largest oil companies announced that they’d made more than $25 billion in the first few months of 2011-- up about 30 percent from last year.

Now, I don’t have a problem with any company or industry being rewarded for their success. The incentive of healthy profits is what fuels entrepreneurialism and helps drives our economy forward. But I do have a problem with the unwarranted taxpayer subsidies we’ve been handing out to oil and gas companies-– to the tune of $4 billion a year. When oil companies are making huge profits and you’re struggling at the pump, and we’re scouring the federal budget for spending we can afford to do without, these tax giveaways aren’t right. They aren’t smart. And we need to end them.

...[I]nstead of subsidizing yesterday’s energy, we should invest in tomorrow’s – and that’s what we’ve been doing. Already, we’ve seen how the investments we’re making in clean energy can lead to new jobs and new businesses. I’ve seen some of them myself -- small businesses that are making the most of solar and wind power, and energy-efficient technologies; big companies that are making fuel-efficient cars and trucks part of their vehicle fleets. And to promote these kinds of vehicles, we implemented historic new fuel-economy standards, which could save you as much as $3,000 at the pump.

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Friday, April 29, 2011

Sunday Classics preview: "Rip, rip, RIP the Chipmunks off the field"


Follow the fold and stray no more,
stray no more,
stray no more.
Put down the bottle and we'll say no more.
Follow, follow the fold.

(Before you take another swallow --)
Follow the fold and stray no more,
stray no more,
stray no more.
Tear up your poker deck and play no more.
Follow, follow the fold.

To the meadows,
where the sun shines,
out of the darkness
and the cold.

Follow the fold and stray no more,
stray no more,
stray no more.
If you're a sinner and you pray no more,
follow, follow the fold.
From the Original Broadway Cast recording of Guys and Dolls

by Ken

Nothing fancy here -- tonight we've got three wonderful songs, or rather four if you count the one above, which is really cheating (I couldn't help myself!), since it's ripped out of context. We'll put that right on Sunday.

Our songs tonight have something blindingly, embarrassingly obvious in common, apart from the fact that they're all funny, and that they're the kinds of songs that have a way of burrowing into your brain and staying put. If you recognize them and know where they're from, fine; if not, just as fine. You should know by now that it'll all sort out in the end, or more likely in about five minutes. In tomorrow night's preview we'll pin down the sources, which will be the very titles of tomorrow's songs.

There isn't even anything fancy to say about the recordings. In all cases we've got the Original Broadway Cast plus something more recent.

I can't begin to tell you how much I love our first song. I wonder how many thousands of times I've listened to it. I don't think we need to say any more about it for now than that one of these guys is an authentic Groundhog, while the other is (sssh!) faking it.

"Grand Old Ivy"

Rudy Vallee and Robert Morse, vocals; Elliot Lawrence, cond.




"Language is a virus," says Tom Tomorrow, and there appears to be no vaccine against or treatment for Andrew Breitbart's lies


Language is a virus
[Don't forget to click to enlarge.]


Well, yes, when they're among themselves, or think they're safely among their own kind, free of intruders from the Outside World Where Reality Exists, they are apt to relax their guard and, amid the outpourings of psychotic delusion, speak their own actual (psychotically deluded) beliefs. Otherwise, not so much.

Just the other day I wrote about historian Rick Perlstein's terrific new Mother Jones piece, "Inside the GOP's Fact-Free
," which concludes:
Sure, there will always be liars in positions of influence -- that's stipulated, as the lawyers say. And the media, God knows, have never been ideal watchdogs -- the battleships that crossed the seas to avenge the sinking of the Maine attest to that. What's new is the way the liars and their enablers now work hand in glove. That I call a mendocracy, and it is the regime that governs us now.

An ongoing demonstration of the infotainment noozemedia's indiiference-slash-incompetence-slash-collusion is the continued existence of serial liar Andrew Breitbart. While the Right continues to destroy the lives and careers of decent people by flagrantly twisting their words into weapons for the wackos' propaganda of poison, there appears to be no lie, or rather network of lies, too extreme to turn them into pariahs among decent humans.

So naturally here is the vile Breitbart at it again, and being treated with respect rather than universal choruses of "Liar!" "Scumbag!" "Devil!"

Ned Resnikoff has worked out some of the details for Media Matters:
Breitbart Starts Big Push To "Go After Teachers" With His Trademark Deception

April 29, 2011 1:59 pm ET by Ned Resnikoff

Andrew Breitbart is at it again.

A week after he promised to "go after the teachers and the union organizers," his website started running a series of choppy, heavily edited videos taken from labor studies courses taught at the University of Missouri-St. Louis and the University of Missouri-Kansas City. The posts promoting these videos claim, among other things, that the professors "instruct students on how fear, intimidation, and, even, industrial sabotage are important and, often, necessary tools," and that they teach their students that the US flag is "racist."

But given Breitbart's history of dishonesty and his declared intention to "go after" teachers and unions, do we have any reason to think Big Government's claims are credible?

In a word, no. And in fact a quick review of the full context of these clips reveals that Breitbart is up to his old tricks again.

The fraudulent editing is neatly laid out onsite, if you're up for the gory details.

Why do they lie? Because there are propaganda victories to be won, and no price to be paid.

Why are they allowed to continue lying? Because the people whose job it is to call them out are (take your pick) stupid, lazy, incompetent, or outright corrupt. (This is not multiple-choice. Pick as many answers as you like.)



He's to be interviewed by the paper's Robin Abcarian. (He's got a book out, remember, presumably on the theory that the world isn't beset with enough misinformation, not to mention disinformation.) The event, originally scheduled for the Campus Center Ballroom at 12:30, has been moved to Etc. Stage at 3:30. I'm totally unfamiliar with the venues, so I don't know what if any bearing that may have, and I haven't been able to find any explanation.

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It’s Time to Close California’s Nuclear Power Plants... A Guest Post By Norman Solomon


A few weeks ago Blue America endorsed Norman Solomon for the North Bay seat Lynn Woolsey is expected to give up next year. People have asked me why the rush and pointed out that some of the other candidates are "liberals" too, "like Norman." There are very few people "like Norman." He's not just a movement progressive-- rather than a "liberal too"-- his is a voice that has helped define what the progressive movement in America is. If you can, please consider making a donation to Norman's campaign. As you'll be able to see from the guest post below, it's not likely he'll be funded by any of the utilities who have given generously to the "liberals too" running against him for the nomination.

It’s Time to Close California’s Nuclear Power Plants

By Norman Solomon

The facts all point to this “inconvenient truth”-- the time has come to shut down California’s two nuclear power plants as part of a swift transition to an energy policy focused on clean and green renewable sources and conservation.

The Diablo Canyon plant near San Luis Obispo and the San Onofre plant on the southern California coast are vulnerable to meltdowns from earthquakes and threaten both residents and the environment.

Reactor safety is just one of the concerns. Each nuclear power plant creates radioactive waste that will remain deadly for thousands of years. This is not the kind of legacy that we should leave for future generations.

In the wake of Japan’s Fukushima nuclear plant meltdown, we need a basic rethinking of the USA’s nuclear energy use and oversight. There is no more technologically advanced country in the world than Japan. Nuclear power isn’t safe there, and it isn’t safe anywhere.

The perils to people are clear. In a recent letter to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Senators Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein noted that “roughly 424,000 live within 50 miles of the Diablo Canyon and 7.4 million live within 50 miles of the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station.”

As someone who was an Obama delegate to the 2008 Democratic National Convention, I believe it would be a tragic mistake for anyone to loyally accept the administration’s nuclear policy. The White House is fundamentally mistaken in its efforts to triple the budgeting of federal loan guarantees for the domestic nuclear power industry, from $18 billion to $54 billion.

Our tax dollars should not be used to subsidize the nuclear power industry. Instead, we should be investing far more in solar, wind and other renewable sources, along with serious energy conservation.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission is a nuclear-friendly fox guarding the radioactive chicken coop. The federal government has no business promoting this dangerous industry while safe and sustainable energy resources are readily available.

The fact that federal law imposes a liability cap of about $12 billion on a nuclear power accident is a reflection of the fact that those plants are uninsurable on the open market.

As a candidate for Congress in the district that includes Marin and Sonoma counties, I intend to make this a major campaign issue. It remains to be seen whether my one declared opponent, Assemblyman Jared Huffman, will join me in urging a rapid timetable for the closure of California’s nuclear power plants.

Huffman has ties to California’s nuclear-invested utility PG&E. Between 2007 and 2009, according to campaign finance data compiled by nonpartisan, he received $11,100 from PG&E, which owns and operates the Diablo Canyon nuclear plant.

While Huffman and other state lawmakers in February signed a letter to a federal commission on America’s nuclear future citing seismic “concerns which deserve to be more closely examined,” the time for equivocation on nuclear power is long past. We don’t need yet more study on whether to operate nuclear plants on fault lines.

People want bold and responsible leadership as we face up to the well-documented realities of nuclear power on this fragile planet.

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Is Ryan Worried-- Or Are The Millions Of Dollars He's Gotten From Wall Street Lobbyists Making Him Feel Secure?


Rachel was amazing the other night in her analysis of the creeping corporatist (AKA- fascist) takeover of our country. Watch it. And get your friends to watch it. I'm not suggesting you watch it because it's so scary; I'm asking you to watch it because this is our country and if we let them take it away from us, we'll deserve what follows.

Ryan looks cool, calm and collected, even when the voters in his southeast Wisconsin are booing and screaming at him. That's because he is Wall Street's golden boy, doing their dirty work-- and being generously compensated by them. He's taken more cash from the financial sector-- and in a shorter amount of time-- than any politician in the history of Wisconsin. He knows that those millions of dollars will be used to flood WI-1 with all kinds of lies and distortions to get him reelected. I've spoken with almost every plausible politician in that part of the state and they've all shied away from taking Ryan on because of the size of his warchest. He's never had a serious opponent in a reelection battle. Never! My favorite example was in 2006, when Jeffrey Thomas, the orthopedic surgeon-- a good man who was ahead of his time on healthcare-- was the Democratic Party challenger for the 4th consecutive time against Ryan. Notice the disparity in campaign spending-- Ryan spent $1,316,881 (most of it from PACs and corporate sources) and the champion of the Democratic Party... $1,687. If you watched the Maddow clip above, you're probably thinking you're seeing a pattern. You are.

Still, the intensity of the anger from senior citizens (read: "dependable voters") against Ryan's Randian plan to gut Medicare and Medicaid-- not to mention Social Security, which he's been more squirrely about-- even has him twisting in the wind a bit-- and trying to lie his way out of a well-documented record. He claimed at one of his overflowing town hall meetings this week that he favors ending subsidies to Big Oil. The audience applauded. But he was lying again-- not a half--truth... and out and out lie, at least based on his voting record. Just this year alone, Ryan voted to extend billions of dollars in taxes to the uber-profitable oil industry. Nor does his budget, which targets the poor and the elderly, go anywhere near targeting Big Oil.

As recently as March 1, Ryan voted against a Democratic motion that would have specifically repealed taxpayer subsidies for big oil. Of course all 236 Republicans voted against it! And so did the 13 Democrats who feed at the same oily trough as the GOP-- conservative swine like Jason Altmire (Blue Dog-PA), John Barrow (Blue Dog-GA), Dan Boren (Blue Dog-OK), Mike Ross (Blue Dog-AR), Dennis Cardoza (Blue Dog-CA), Jim Costa (Blue Dog-CA), Jim Matheson (Blue Dog-UT)... you know the cast of characters.

When I spoke with Kenosha County Supervisor Rob Zerban a few weeks ago, he assured me that he has absolutely zero interest in going to Congress to behave like one of these Ryan-like Blue Dogs. When I asked him to name some Democrats he admires, after quoting a Bernie Sanders speech verbatim, he started talking about the working family kinds of legislation Tammy Baldwin and Gwen Moore-- both of whom represent districts abutting WI-1-- have been proposing. Last night he did his first national TV interview. Chris Hayes, sitting in for Lawrence O'Donnell on MSNBC, invited him on. He explained how Ryan has let down residents of southeast Wisconsin long before his toxic budget made Ryan a household name. And he explained why he calls Ryan "Pink Slip Paul."

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How Much Daylight Is There Between Teabaggers And Classic Fascist Dupes?


Yesterday we got the morning off to a strange start with a look into the resurgence of American fascism. The arrest and brutalization of my friend Nicole Sandler at an Allen West town hall meeting in Florida this week got me thinking in that direction. Looking back at the first 4 months in office of extremist right wing governors Scott Walker (WI), Rick Snyder (MI), John Kasich (OH), Paul LePage (ME) and Rick Scott (FL) made me realize we had only just scratched the surface.

Although he eventually enlisted in the Army and served in France and Germany, my father started World War II as an FBI agent. His job was tracking down American Nazis who sympathized with Germany in the Midwest. There's a lot known about the Japanese-Americans who were rounded up and interred in concentration camps in the West but much less known about the German-Americans who were not rounded up for their ethnicity but who were arrested for their treasonous activities on behalf of the Fatherland and on behalf of fascist ideology, an ideology that was very well represented at all levels in the U.S. government, before the War and after the War.

How could Americans be fascists or be pro-Nazi? Hard to fathom for most people in retrospect but there were fascist senators and congressmen... lots of them and they weren't hiding in the closet. And there were fascists marching in the streets on big American cities and holding pro-Nazi rallies. Hitler's movement had a "populist" veneer and there is a long tradition of right-wing populism in the U.S. as well, long before the Tea Party reared it's head. Let me quote from Glen Yeardon's and John Hawkin's book The Nazi Hydra In America about how fascism is a top-down revolution (just the way our teabagger commotion has been):
Fascism is a rebellion or revolt by the elite to preserve their social economic status. This is the primary reason fascism begins during periods of economic turmoil. While the large number of followers of fascism such as Hitler's Brown Shirts came from the middle and lower classes, the elite of German society controlled the party. It was only after Hitler assured the prominent business leaders of his opposition to socialism and unions that he gained power.

In 1945, after the war was already won, the U.S. War Department was still so concerned about fascism in the ranks that it began an educational program-- Program 64-- that warned soldiers how to spot domestic fascists and immediately pointed out that "pitting religion, racial and economic groups against one another in order to break down the national unity is a devise of the divide and conquer technique used by Hitler to gain power in Germany... In the United States native fascists have often been anti-Catholic, anti-Jew, anti-Negro, anti-Labor and anti-foreign born."

Fascist politicians in Congress-- mostly, though not exclusively, Republicans-- and their corporatist backers went bonkers and were eventually able to force the War Department to terminate the program. Fascists in Congress? Sure. Just the way we have fascists like Paul Broun (R-GA), Michele Bachmann (R-MN) and Louie Gohmert (R-TX) today, Roosevelt certainly had his share to deal with-- not to mention an attempted coup d'etat from the duPont family.
Perhaps the two greatest enemies that Roosevelt faced in Congress were Republican Senator Gerald Nye from North Dakota and Democratic Congressmen Martin Dies from Texas. Both headed congressional committees vital to preparation for the war that was coming. Burton Wheeler of Montana would be a close third. Both had two traits in common with each other and the other pro-fascists members. All of these members of Congress would abuse their franking privileges, mailing propaganda opposing the war or even propaganda from pro-fascists groups to thousands of constituents. The second thing in common was their willful association with pro-fascists groups.

Nye’s opposed all major defense measures in the Senate. He led the fight against Lend Lease and he openly collaborated with many groups seeking appeasement regardless of their political leanings. On the floor of the Senate he charged that the British and not German submarines had sunk the Robin Moor, only later did he withdraw the baseless charge. He initiated a probe of Hollywood, but the investigation failed after he admitted that he had not seen the movies that he had labeled as "war propaganda." He arranged for a Bund member to air his defeatist views before the Senate and later used his congressional frank to mail copies of the speech to thousands. As a member of Congress, he was perhaps the biggest booster for the American First Committee.

Nye also praised the virulent anti-Semitic Gerald Smith for publishing  The Cross and the Flag,

Dies was the first chairman for the new committee, that of Un-American Activities and he set about immediately to sabotage the intended use of the committee, to investigate the subversion activities of pro-fascist groups.

No better example of this act of sabotage of the Dies Committee can be found than in the appointment of its first chief investigator, Edward Sullivan. Sullivan was exchanging confidential messages with the German High Command in 1938, the year of his appointment. In fact, Sullivan was high in the ranks of the Ukrainian-American fascist groups. He greeted members of the Bund with a "Heil Hitler" and had denounced FDR’s administration as a Jewish Communist plot. Sullivan had one other trait endearing him to the right wing extremists; he had been a former labor spy for the Railroad Audit and Inspection Company.

He was soon replaced with another right wing extremist, J. B. Matthews. Upon leaving the Dies committee, Sullivan immediately rejoined a fascist Ukrainian group.

Instead of investigating pro-Nazis, the committee set about investigating and compiling an extensive blacklist of liberals and anti-fascists. Throughout the war the committee carried on a vicious attack on the Roosevelt administration, charging that various agencies were packed with Reds and denouncing America’s fighting allies.

No better example of the opposition Roosevelt faced can be found than in the fight over the establishment of the draft. Nye led the battle, and succeeded in greatly reducing what FDR had envisioned. Originally Roosevelt had planned on two years of universal service for all Americas, both men and women. Service would not have been necessary in the armed forces alone, but through a combination of all government agencies. To be fair, the support for the draft was bipartisan as was the opposition to it. The most opposition came from congressional members from the midwest and high plain states. The bill passed on September 16, 1940 authorizing the draft for one year only. The following year the bill to extend the draft passed the House by a one-vote margin. There were 182 Democrats and 21 Republicans voting in favor of extending the draft and 65 Democrats and 133 Republicans voting against the draft.

There is no better way to establish the fascist nature of many of these congressmen than quoting them. One such Congressman and Steuben Society member was Republican House member John Schafer from Wisconsin. His congressional record was one of complete opposition to any defense measure. In speaking with Carlson, investigative reporter posing as a pro-fascist, Schafer was quoted as follows talking about a revolution against democracy:

"The Bloody kind. There will be purges and Roosevelt will be cleaned right off the earth along with the Jews. We’ll have a military dictatorship to save the country."

Schafer leaves little doubt as to his feelings about democracy in the quote. Another Senator, Republican Rufus Holman from Oregon, openly praised Hitler on the floor of the Senate. The small excerpt below from the speech leaves no real doubt as to his pro-Nazi views.

"I doubt if the right is all on one side among the present belligerents. At Least Hitler has broken the control of the international bankers and traders over the rewards for the labor of the common people of Germany.

In my opinion it would be advantageous if the control of the international bankers and traders over the wages and savings and the manner of living of the people of England could be broken by the English people, and if the control of the international bankers and traders over the wages and savings and the manner of living of the people of the United States could be broken by the people of the United States."

...Another of the pro fascist was Senator Robert Reynolds a Democrat from North Carolina, who also openly praised Hitler on the floor of the Senate. Reynolds was a resident of Asheville, the home of Pelly’s Silver Shirts. Reynolds spoke glowingly about fascism as the following quote shows.

"The dictators are doing what is best for their people. I say it is high time we found out how they are doing it, and why they are progressing so rapidly.

Hitler has solved the unemployment problem. There is no unemployment in Italy. Hitler and Mussolini have a date with destiny. It is foolish to oppose them so why not play ball with them."

Reynolds was friends with the American Nazi George Deatherage and Gerald Winrod. Reynolds with the backing of Burton Wheeler rose to become chairman of the Senate Committee of Military Affairs. In April 1940, Reynolds provided the Nazi agent, Simon Koedel with detailed confidential information about France’s ports. The transfer of such information to Nazi agents was nothing short of treason.

Besides using the Senate floor as a sounding board for Falangist propaganda, he is perhaps better known for his anti-alien views. Reynolds believed that aliens was at the heart of all of America’s problems and organized a posse of youths from age ten to eighteen called the Border patrol to catch alien crooks.

Reynolds maintained his position in the Senate until 1944. By then the Democratic Party by then had enough of the fascist infiltrator and chose another figure popular in North Carolina to seek Reynold’s seat in the primary. Rather than face certain defeat Reynolds retired.

Another of the fascist supporters in congress was the Democrat Senator, Rush Holt from West Virginia. Holt was the youngest person ever elected to the senate. He had won election in 1934 as a backer of the common man and the New Deal. Shortly after being elected, Holt began criticizing the New Deal eventually becoming one of the harshest critics of FDR. By the end of his term, he was an outright advocate of fascism. In the 1940 primary, Holt faced two other challengers for his seat after losing support from the Democrat National Committee. He finished third in the primary.

The two examples of Holt and Reynolds provide a stark difference between the Democratic and Republican parties. The Democratic Party would attempt to purge the fascist from their ranks in the primary, unlike the Republican Party, which made no such attempts, to purge fascist from their ranks, and even encouraged the Nazis with anti-Semitic campaigns.

I know I mentioned the fascist attempted coup against Roosevelt above, something they certainly don't teach in high school American history classes-- nor even in college classes. I included a link that tells the story but I just want to point out how working and middle class people are used by the ruling elite to do their bidding-- how it was done then and how it's still done now. Connecticut bond salesman Gerald MacGuire, a Wall Street fascist, says "newspapers," below, just imagine him saying "Fox News." Here's MacGuire talking to General Smedley Butler, who the fascists thought they had recruited to lead the coup, about how they would force Roosevelt to claim he was too sick to go on being president:
"You know the American people will swallow that. We have got the newspapers. We will start a campaign that the President's health is failing. Everyone can tell that by looking at him, and the dumb American people will fall for it in a second…" The businessmen also promised that money was no object: Clark told Butler that he would spend half his $60 million fortune to save the other half.

And what type of government would replace Roosevelt's New Deal? MacGuire was perfectly candid to Paul French, a reporter friend of General Butler's: "We need a fascist government in this country… to save the nation from the communists who want to tear it down and wreck all that we have built in America.  The only men who have the patriotism to do it are the soldiers, and Smedley Butler is the ideal leader. He could organize a million men overnight."

...If this sounds too fantastic to believe, we should remember that by 1933, the crimes of fascism were still mostly in the future, and its dangers were largely unknown, even to its supporters.  But in the early days, many businessmen openly admired Mussolini because he had used a strong hand to deal with labor unions, put out social unrest, and get the economy working again, if only at the point of a gun. Americans today would be appalled to learn of the many famous millionaires back then who initially admired Hitler and Mussolini: Henry Ford, John D. Rockefeller, John and Allen Dulles (who, besides being millionaires, would later become Eisenhower's Secretary of State and CIA Director, respectively)... They disavowed Hitler and Mussolini only after their atrocities grew to indefensible levels.

The plot fell apart when Butler went public. The general revealed the details of the coup before the McCormack-Dickstein Committee, which would later become the notorious House Un-American Activities Committee. The Committee heard the testimony of Butler and French, but failed to call in any of the coup plotters for questioning, other than MacGuire. In fact, the Committee whitewashed the public version of its final report, deleting the names of powerful businessmen whose reputations they sought to protect. The most likely reason for this response is that Wall Street had undue influence in Congress also. Even more alarming, the elite-controlled media failed to pick up on the story, and even today the incident remains little known.

I'd watch Glenn Beck very carefully-- it's either a fascist political movement or religion for him next. Meanwhile, this is what incipient American fascism looks like... in Michigan; Henry Ford would be so, so proud.

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Thursday, April 28, 2011

Jean Shepherd Tonight: The thrill-packed conclusion of "Duel in the Snow, or Red Ryder Nails the Cleveland Street Kid"


by Ken

Tonight, after Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3, our story reaches its epic climax. As we left off last night, with Christmas bearing down on Ralph, and his fevered dream of the promised land of "a Red Ryder BB gun with a special Red Ryder sight and a compass in the stock with a sundial," on one of the last days of school before the break he has spilled his guts in a surprise in-class writing assignment, a theme written on blue-lined paper from this Indian Chief tablet -- on the subject "What I Want for Christmas"! It elicits a B from Miss Bodkin, along with the comment: "You'll shoot your eye out. Merry Christmas."
I stuffed my tattered dreams back into my geography book and gloomily watched other, happier, carefree, singing kids who were going to get what they wanted for Christmas as Miss Bodkin distributed little green baskets filled with hard candy. Somewhere off down the hall the sixth-grade glee club was singing "Oh little town of Bethlehem, how still we see thee lie . . ."

Mechanically my jaws crunched on the concrete-hard rock candy and I stared hopelessly out of the window, past cut-out Santas and garlands of red and green chains. It was already getting dark. Night falls fast in Northern Indiana at that time of year. Snow was beginning to fall, drifting softly through the feeble yellow glow of the distant street lamps while around me unbridled merriment raged higher and higher.


STARTING SUNDAY NIGHT: A major DWT late-night event, which will require a full seven nights

We dip into one of the treasure troves of American letters, and in a special guest commentary read rapturous tributes from the likes of Virginia Woolf, H. L. Mencken, and F. Scott Fitzgerald. But after all those encomia, ventures our commentator, "there is one more salient point" about this material:
It is funny. The fact has gone unmentioned, or been taken for granted, by Mrs. Woolf, Mencken, Fitzgerald, and others as they studied the literary or scientific aspects of the book. But [it] knocked the country head over heels in the first place because people laughed at it, so intensely that the echoes have been accepted at face value ever since.



From the DWT Science Desk: Just because you think you're awake doesn't mean all of your brain really is


Well, whose brains did you expect them to test? Right-wingers'? The researchers needed brains that function somewhat like human ones.

"Such tired neurons in an awake brain may be responsible for the attention lapses, poor judgment, mistake-proneness and irritability that we experience when we haven't had enough sleep, yet don’t feel particularly sleepy. Strikingly, in the sleep-deprived brain, subsets of neurons go offline in one cortex area but not in another -- or even in one part of an area and not in another."
-- U. of Wisconsin neuroscientist-psychiatrist Giulio Tononi

by Ken

"Tired neurons caught nodding off in sleep-deprived rats" is the headline on the release issued yesterday by the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH, one of the National Institutes of Health, or NIH), the source of the above quote from the audaciously adorable Dr. Tononi. The subhead is: "Performance decline belies seeming wakefulness -- NIH-funded study."

(Dr. Tononi and his colleagues report their findings in the April 28 issue of Nature, of which only an asbtract is available free online. Curious how much it would cost to buy the article, I clicked on the link, only to discover that I would have to register for a free account to get any further information. For laughs I tried to register, but got only gibberish for the choices of required information like Affiliation/Employer, Job Title, and Industry. Could their e-form really tell that I'm not really a serious-type person?)

Now I don't suppose the mental defectives of the Right, whose lives are consecrated to never understanding anything, would understand why the NIH would be funding such a study. Hey, who gives a rat's behind about rat's brains, after all? But then, they could hardly have done the study using, say, right-wingers' brains. They need brains that function somewhat like human ones. (I wouldn't be surprised to learn that right-wingers are especially touchy regarding research into compromised brain function.)

For the benefit of people who actually have some interest in understanding human beings and the world around us, and not least our brains, which are our only means of understanding that world around us, here's how the NIMH release encapsules the study findings:
A new study in rats is shedding light on how sleep-deprived lifestyles might impair functioning without people realizing it. The more rats are sleep-deprived, the more some of their neurons take catnaps -- with consequent declines in task performance. Even though the animals are awake and active, brainwave measures reveal that scattered groups of neurons in the thinking part of their brain, or cortex, are briefly falling asleep, scientists funded by the National Institutes of Health have discovered.

This should make it all clear, I think. (You can click on it to enlarge it a bit, if you think that'll help.)

It should hardly come as a surprise that sleep deprivation is a bad thing, a very bad thing. Scientists have been trying to drum that into us for ages now, warning that a lot more than just those of us with diagnosed sleep disorders are suffering varying degrees of sleep deprivation. Sleep deprivation seems to have become a normal state in our go-go-go modern world. What's new here, as far as I can tell, is some appreciation -- at least in the rat brain -- of the brain mechanism whereby parts of it may go sleepytime when the contraption as a whole is officially "awake."

"Previous studies had hinted at such local snoozing with prolonged wakefulness," the NIMH release says. "Yet little was known about how underlying neuronal activity might be changing."
To learn more, the researchers tracked electrical activity at multiple sites in the cortex as they kept rats awake for several hours. They put novel objects into their cages — colorful balls, boxes, tubes and odorous nesting material from other rats. The sleepier the rats got, more subsets of cortex neurons switched off, seemingly randomly, in various localities. These tired neurons' electrical profiles resembled those of neurons throughout the cortex during NREM or slow wave sleep.

And yet, going by their EEGs and their behavior, the little dickenses were awake. This "neuronal tiredness," the report insists, is not to be confused with "more overt microsleep – 3-15-second lapses with eyes closing and sleep-like EEG — that is sometimes experienced with prolonged wakefulness." The researchers consider it "more analogous to local lapses seen in some forms of epilepsy." And "having tired neurons did interfere with task performance":
If neurons switched off in the motor cortex within a split second before a rat tried to reach for a sugar pellet, it decreased its likelihood of success by 37.5 percent. And the overall number of such misses increased significantly with prolonged wakefulness. This suggests that tired neurons, and accompanying increases in slow wave activity, might help to account for the impaired performance of sleep-deprived people who may seem behaviorally and subjectively awake.

The researchers are speculating that "tired neurons might nod off as part of an energy-saving or restorative process for overloaded neuronal connections."

It seems to me that there are potentially large implications for the knowledge that "being awake" doesn't necessarily mean what we've normally taken it to mean, and the hope is that with increased understanding will come some notion of how to deal with it.

Already an alarm has sounded for NIMH Director Thomas R. Insel:
Research suggests that sleep deprivation during adolescence may have adverse emotional and cognitive consequences that could affect brain development. The broader line of studies to which this belongs, are, in part, considering changes in sleep patterns of the developing brain as a potential index to the health of neural connections that can begin to go awry during the critical transition from childhood to the teen years.

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Open Borders Closing? Passports Becoming Harder To Get?


We were feeling lucky. We were about the close the deal on a fantastic villa in Damascus for the summer just when the Middle East exploded in protest. We've been wanting to visit Damascus forever but we wisely decided to put it off in case the protests spread from Egypt. Did they ever! So we were proud of ourselves that we had the foresight to forego the charms of Beit Al Kamar and plan a trip around Nepal and Tibet instead. Tibet can be sketchy in the best of times and Nepal has had some troubles of it's own (and only has 16 hours a day of electricity in the capital city). But these trips have an inertia of their own and right now our bags are practically packed and we're totally ready to rock. And then, trouble in Shangri-La.
China is stepping up security measures throughout ethnic Tibetan areas following a crackdown on unrest around a monastery in Sichuan province, in a sign of growing tension in the region.

Residents of Gannan Tibetan autonomous prefecture reached by telephone on Sunday reported that armed patrols in the streets had been increased.

One said a truck with “troops” was standing in front of the Labrang monastery in Xiahe, a mainly Tibetan-inhabited town in the area in southern Gansu province.

A resident in another area, the Deqen Tibetan autonomous prefecture in Yunnan province, said local authorities has intensified pressure on Tibetan residents. “Cadres have been making more visits to the villages, and talking about harmony and patriotism,” the person said. Local residents also reported a greater presence of armed police and soldiers in nearby towns.

Beijing drastically increased troop presence in Tibet amid its crackdown on the uprisings in the area in early 2008 as it did following ethnic Uighur riots in Xinjiang the following year, so armed police patrols and deployments at strategic spots are not an unusual sight in these areas. But the residents’ descriptions suggest that those forces are staging a show of strength.

It comes amid a growing country-wide crackdown on dissent which has peaked with the detention of Ai Weiwei, the outspoken artist, as the government frets about a wide array of challenges to its grip on power.

But Tibet is seen by the political leadership as fundamental to the country’s stability and national integrity with religious minorities encouraged to stay in line. Last week’s oil price protests by striking truck drivers in Shanghai, the world’s busiest port, was a reminder of the potent threat posed by inflation.

The latest security measures come in the wake of unrest at Kirti, a Tibetan monastery in Sichuan province, which could mark the biggest unrest in the region since the uprising and the subsequent crackdown in March 2008. The government says the riots back then left 22 dead but exile groups say several times that number were killed, many by security forces.

According to Tibetan rights groups, a 60-year-old Tibetan man and a 65-year-old woman died at Kirti when they, together with other local residents, tried to prevent security forces from removing hundreds of monks from the monastery last Thursday.

More than 300 monks were taken away on army trucks on Thursday night, and more monks were removed on Friday, said Free Tibet, a US-based group, citing sources in Aba prefecture, where Kirti is located.

“As the monks were being driven away in large trucks, the group of lay people – mainly in their sixties or older-- who had been standing vigil at the monastery gate were beaten “mercilessly” by police,” said the International Campaign for Tibet, citing local sources. It quoted an exiled Kirti monk as saying people had their arms and legs broken.

Meanwhile Tibetans in eastern Tibet have been staging a widespread and high-intensity boycott of Han-owned vegetable stores to protest high prices Chinese store owners are charging Tibetans. These are the kinds of conditions under which the Chinese stop issuing tourist visas. We're nervous.

It would be a lot less stable if we just went to Paris or Rome, right? Well, kind of, but even Europe is going through some serious changes right now. Other than the adoption of the Euro itself as a common currency, the biggest deal in tying the European countries together as a nascent super-state is the Schengen Agreement which allows for passport-free travel between the member states. It made it as easy to go from Germany to Portugal as from Vermont to Virginia. It looks like the exodus of thousands of North Africa refugees to Italy is upending Schengen. Sarkozy and Berlusconi have called for a "partial reintroduction of national border controls across Europe, a move that would put the brakes on European integration and curb passport-free travel for more than 400 million people in 25 countries."
Earlier this month, Berlusconi's government outraged several EU governments, including France, by offering the migrants temporary residence permits which, in principle, allowed them to travel to other member states under the Schengen agreement. An Italian junior minister said on Sunday that Rome had so far issued some 8,000 permits and expected the number would rise to 11,000.

Launched in 1995, Schengen allows passport-free travel in most of the EU, Switzerland, Norway and Iceland. But the documents issued by the Italian authorities are only valid if the holders can show they have the means to support themselves, and French police have rounded up or turned back an unknown number of migrants in recent days.

On 17 April, Paris blocked trains crossing the frontier at Ventimiglia in protest at the Italian initiative. "Rarely have the two countries seemed so far apart," said Le Monde in an editorial on Monday.

Yet, with both leaders under pressure from the far right, French and Italian officials appear to have agreed a common position on amending Schengen so that national border checks can be reintroduced in "special circumstances."

...Sarkozy, low in the polls and hoping for re-election next year, is threatened by the Front National and its leader, Marine Le Pen, who calls for the total scrapping of Schengen.

Berlusconi, whose poll ratings have also been sliding, is dependent for his majority in parliament on the xenophobic Northern League, one of whose leaders, Roberto Maroni, is Italy's interior minister.

Even before the exodus from Tunisia, gains by far-right, anti-immigrant parties in north Europe had put Schengen under strain. Centrist parties in Germany, Austria, Belgium and the Netherlands have all tried to appease the far right by threatening to re-erect national border controls.

This is a big step backward for Europe, a tightening of border controls that many recognize as an early step in the rise of authoritarianism. It's a movement that the U.S. isn't exactly immune to either. In fact, this week the State Department is tightening up on the ability of Americans to get passports.
The U.S. Department of State is proposing a new Biographical Questionnaire for some passport applicants: The proposed new  Form DS-5513 asks for all addresses since birth; lifetime employment history including employers’ and supervisors names, addresses, and telephone numbers; personal details of all siblings; mother’s address one year prior to your birth; any “religious ceremony” around the time of birth; and a variety of other information.  According to the proposed form, “failure to provide the information requested may result in … the denial of your U.S. passport application.”

The best reporting I've seen on this so far isn't on CNN or MSNBC but at BoingBoing which points out that "the form itself remains a Kafkaesque impossibility for most people to complete."
It seems likely that only some, not all, applicants will be required to fill out the new questionnaire, but no criteria have been made public for determining who will be subjected to these additional new written interrogatories. So if the passport examiner wants to deny your application, all they will have to do is give you the impossible new form to complete.

It's not clear from the supporting statement, statement of legal authorities, or regulatory assessment submitted by the State Department to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) why declining to discuss one's siblings or to provide the phone number of your first supervisor when you were a teenager working at McDonalds would be a legitimate basis for denial of a passport to a U.S. citizen.

Would you consider me paranoid if I admitted I've been feeling for the last few years that the ruling elites think all this easy travel has gotten out of hand and that they want to dial it back... a lot?

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Jamie Oliver Victory Over L.A. School District Food Bureaucrats


A couple weeks ago we brought up Jamie Oliver's beef with the L.A. School system: namely they've been serving up (government sanctioned) garbage to the students and they were working hard to prevent him from practicing his activist reporting about it. Tuesday things took a turn for, what certainly appears to be, the better.

Jamie had made a big deal out of the extremely unhealthy flavored milk L.A. Unified serves and, on the Jimmy Kimmel show (above), School Superintendent John Deasy announced they had decided-- on their own (in-fact-they-were-planning-on-doing-it-before-they-ever-heard-of-the-damn-hippie), he emphasized-- to petition the Board of Ed to stop serving it. The two even seem to be grooving on each other, wouldn't you say?
Elimination of the flavored milks in the schools has been a grinding point for Oliver as he took time to present a very graphic illustration on how much sugar is consumed within the school district’s lunch program. In one of his previous shows, Oliver actually filled an entire buss full of sugar to share how much sugar kids consume.

Last night’s announcement has had sweeping results in Los Angeles. Fans of Oliver have applauded the decision as parents are looking to see what else might be done to actually improve the quality of lunch served to the children.

We need Jamie to focus his efforts on the DFA next because I suspect we'll be seeing even more of this, apparently under either a mainstream conservative like Obama or under any reactionary Republican.
Amidst all the destructive activities taking place in our world today that deserve attention, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has decided instead to make it a personal mission to destroy the businesses and livelihoods of those trying to help people through natural medicine.

On Thursday, April 14, 2011, dozens of agents from the FDA, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), and the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) conducted an unprovoked, full-scale raid on Hood River, Ore.-based Maxam Nutraceutics, a company that produces and sells nutritional supplements primarily for autism spectrum disorders (ASD) and Alzheimer's disease.

The thugs stole hundreds of thousands of dollars in products, machinery, office supplies, files... whatever they could get their paws on.

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Dan Boren-- Leading Democrats Astray For Boehner


Last year Alabama Blue Dog Bobby Bright had the worst voting record of any Democrat in the House-- voting far more frequently with the GOP than with the Democrats on issues with partisan divisions. Blue America reminded his Democratic constituents of some of his votes against their interests and his margin in the blue areas of his district fell down and he was defeated. His replacement as the worst Democrat in the House is someone never far from that appellation anyway, Oklahoma corporate whore, Dan Boren.

According to ProgressivePunch's algorithm, Boren was worse than just the worst Democrat. His abysmal 15.87 score-- meaning he's voted with the GOP over 84% of the time-- is worse than two dozen Republicans! Boehner and Cantor have been able to count on Boren for nearly every important vote in the House. He's more reliable for them than extremist teabaggers Tom McClintock (R-CA) and Justin Amash (R-MI) and worse than rubber stamp corporate shills like Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), John Campbell (R-CA), Tom Petri (R-WI), Connie Mack (R-FL) and Steven LaTourette (R-OH). He has the exact same voting score as Dean Heller (R-NV), the newly appointed Republican Senator from Nevada. That's how much the GOP approves of Boren's voting score!

And, of course, he goes beyond just the voting when it comes to showing fealty to all the extremist positions embraced by the GOP. He's far to the right-- across the board-- of any other Blue Dog. In fact Boren, a poster boy for the NRA wrote one of the worst of the gun-loon bills of the year. Is was so extreme that there were even a couple of Republicans who couldn't vote for it!

Boren's amendment passed the House 277-149, with the support of a disgraceful 41 Democrats, mostly Blue Dogs but also some cowardly types from "gun states." Boren's bill-- which was eventually killed in behind the scenes congressional negotiations (a clue that even the GOP leadership though Boren's extremist was too dangerous and deranged-- had nothing to due with "gun states" though. His intention was to prevent the ATF from regulating the deadly, if not catastrophic, firearm sales along the Mexico border. Specifically, what Boren was proposing was to stop ATF from tracking bulk sales of assault weapons headed to Mexico.
But sometime before the final deal was announced on Friday night, lawmakers stripped the rider from the bill. The move came after concerned lawmakers and even Mexico's Ambassador to the United States lobbied congressional leadership and the White House to strip the language from the bill.

"ATF is already chronically underfunded and has been without a confirmed director since 2006 as a result of inaction by past sessions of Congress," New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, a co-chair of the coalition Mayors Against Illegal Guns, said in a statement. "We welcome this sign that leaders in Washington may be ready to step up and help law enforcement save lives."

Instead of railing against the regular cast of characters who can always be counted on to support these kinds of lunatic pieces of legislation-- and did-- like slimy Blue Dogs John Barrow (GA), Heath Shuler (NC), Mike Ross (AR), Jim Cooper (TN), Mike McIntyre (NC), Joe Donnelly (IN) and Jim Matheson (UT), let's look at some House Democrats being pushed forward towards higher office who also joined Boren in his efforts-- Shelley Berkley, the Democratic nominee for the Nevada Senate seat and Martin Heinrich, the favorite to get the Democratic nomination for the open Senate seat in New Mexico. When the DSCC approaches you for support for these two, be sure you understand what you're voting for-- not just people willing to stand up for Second Amendment gun ownership rights-- important to their constituents-- but people without the moral backbone to oppose the bloody drug war along the Mexican border. or do you think voters in New Mexico and Nevada would be outraged if Mexican drug lords couldn't be arsenals of assault weapons here?

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Allen West, Heywood Broun And Another Resurgence Of American Fascism



It's ironic that one of America's more blatantly fascist congressmen, Allen West, was elected in one of the most Jewish districts in the South. His outburst about how women are "neutering men" made me go back to political scientist Lawrence Britt's classic delineation of the characteristics of fascism. The characteristic I was looking for was #5-- "Rampant Sexism"-- but as I started reading through them, I started thinking, uncomfortably, about slippery slopes:
1. Powerful and Continuing Nationalism
Fascist regimes tend to make constant use of patriotic mottos, slogans, symbols, songs, and other paraphernalia. Flags are seen everywhere, as are flag symbols on clothing and in public displays.

2. Disdain for the Recognition of Human Rights
Because of fear of enemies and the need for security, the people in fascist regimes are persuaded that human rights can be ignored in certain cases because of "need." The people tend to look the other way or even approve of torture, summary executions, assassinations, long incarcerations of prisoners, etc.

3. Identification of Enemies/Scapegoats as a Unifying Cause
The people are rallied into a unifying patriotic frenzy over the need to eliminate a perceived common threat or foe: racial, ethnic or religious minorities; liberals; communists; socialists, terrorists, etc.

4. Supremacy of the Military
Even when there are widespread domestic problems, the military is given a disproportionate amount of government funding, and the domestic agenda is neglected. Soldiers and military service are glamorized.

5. Rampant Sexism
The governments of fascist nations tend to be almost exclusively male-dominated. Under fascist regimes, traditional gender roles are made more rigid. Opposition to abortion is high, as is homophobia and anti-gay legislation and national policy.

6. Controlled Mass Media
Sometimes to media is directly controlled by the government, but in other cases, the media is indirectly controlled by government regulation, or sympathetic media spokespeople and executives. Censorship, especially in war time, is very common.

7. Obsession with National Security
Fear is used as a motivational tool by the government over the masses.

8. Religion and Government are Intertwined
Governments in fascist nations tend to use the most common religion in the nation as a tool to manipulate public opinion. Religious rhetoric and terminology is common from government leaders, even when the major tenets of the religion are diametrically opposed to the government's policies or actions.

9. Corporate Power is Protected
The industrial and business aristocracy of a fascist nation often are the ones who put the government leaders into power, creating a mutually beneficial business/government relationship and power elite.

10. Labor Power is Suppressed
Because the organizing power of labor is the only real threat to a fascist government, labor unions are either eliminated entirely, or are severely suppressed.

11. Disdain for Intellectuals and the Arts
Fascist nations tend to promote and tolerate open hostility to higher education, and academia. It is not uncommon for professors and other academics to be censored or even arrested. Free expression in the arts is openly attacked, and governments often refuse to fund the arts.

12. Obsession with Crime and Punishment
Under fascist regimes, the police are given almost limitless power to enforce laws. The people are often willing to overlook police abuses and even forego civil liberties in the name of patriotism. There is often a national police force with virtually unlimited power in fascist nations.

13. Rampant Cronyism and Corruption
Fascist regimes almost always are governed by groups of friends and associates who appoint each other to government positions and use governmental power and authority to protect their friends from accountability. It is not uncommon in fascist regimes for national resources and even treasures to be appropriated or even outright stolen by government leaders.

14. Fraudulent Elections
Sometimes elections in fascist nations are a complete sham. Other times elections are manipulated by smear campaigns against or even assassination of opposition candidates, use of legislation to control voting numbers or political district boundaries, and manipulation of the media. Fascist nations also typically use their judiciaries to manipulate or control elections.

I also like this one: "Any action by a government that places the rights of a corporation or a group of elites above the rights of the people is a step toward fascism." This tweet about long-lost Tennessee made me think about it:

Needless to say, the legislation is sponsored by Republicans, Jamie Woodson of Knoxville in the state Senate and Glen Casada of Franklin in the House. It would allow corporations to make direct contributions to political candidates.
House Democratic Caucus Chairman Mike Turner noted that foreign-based corporations also would be allowed to contribute under the bill, though House sponsor Rep. Glen Casada, R-College Grove, said they will have to have a Tennessee presence to do so.

...Woodson said the move is a logical response to a U.S. Supreme Court decision last year that struck down a federal law barring corporations from making independent expenditures in political campaigns. The Tennessee Legislature last year approved a law allowing independent expenditures in state campaigns.

The new bill goes beyond that to authorize corporations to directly give money to candidates and political parties for the first time in Tennessee, which has had a longstanding ban on direct corporate contributions.

The bill also would raise the current maximum contribution that can be given to a candidate, which has remained unchanged since 1995, according to Woodson. The limits would be raised annually based on inflation.

...The bill also will repeal current law that limits the total amount an individual can donate to all candidates ($40,000) and PACs ($61,400).

Heywood Broun, founder of the Newspaper Guild, was a journalist who championed the cause of the underdog during the Roaring Twenties, when the plutocracy was nearly unchallenged in America. His definition of fascism-- which was a tangible threat at the time, included this: "I think that it is not unfair to say that any businessman in America, or public leader, who goes out to break unions is laying the foundation for fascism. Hello Scott Walker. Hello Rick Scott. Hello Rick Snyder. Hello Paul LePage. Hello John Kasich. It's ugly but looking away doesn't make it go away; it just makes it uglier.

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