Monthly Archive: September 2014

Sep 30 2014

Won’t Get Fooled Again?

The Khorasan Group: Anatomy of a Fake Terror Threat to Justify Bombing Syria

By Glenn Greenwald and Murtaza Hussain, The Intercept

9/28/14

As the Obama administration prepared to bomb Syria without Congressional or U.N. authorization, it faced two problems. The first was the difficulty of sustaining public support for a new years-long war against ISIS, a group that clearly posed no imminent threat to the “homeland.” A second was the lack of legal justification for launching a new bombing campaign with no viable claim of self-defense or U.N. approval.

The solution to both problems was found in the wholesale concoction of a brand new terror threat that was branded “The Khorasan Group.” After spending weeks depicting ISIS as an unprecedented threat – too radical even for Al Qaeda! – administration officials suddenly began spoon-feeding their favorite media organizations and national security journalists tales of a secret group that was even scarier and more threatening than ISIS, one that posed a direct and immediate threat to the American Homeland. Seemingly out of nowhere, a new terror group was created in media lore.



The genesis of the name was itself scary: “Khorasan refers to a province under the Islamic caliphate, or religious empire, of old that included parts of Afghanistan.” AP depicted the U.S. officials who were feeding them the narrative as engaging in some sort of act of brave, unauthorized truth-telling: “many U.S. officials interviewed for this story would not be quoted by name talking about what they said was highly classified intelligence.”

On the morning of September 18, CBS News broadcast a segment that is as pure war propaganda as it gets: directly linking the soon-to-arrive U.S. bombing campaign in Syria to the need to protect Americans from being exploded in civilian jets by Khorasan.



Orr then announced that while ISIS is “dominating headlines and terrorist propaganda,” Orr’s “sources” warn of “a more immediate threat to the U.S. Homeland.” As Orr spoke, CBS flashed alternating video showing scary Muslims in Syria and innocent westerners waiting in line at airports, as he intoned that U.S. officials have ordered “enhanced screening” for “hidden explosives.” This is all coming, Orr explained, from  “an emerging threat in Syria” where “hardened terrorists” are building “hard to detect bombs.”

The U.S. government, Orr explained, is trying to keep this all a secret; they won’t even mention the group’s name in public out of security concerns! But, Orr was there to reveal the truth, as his “sources confirm the Al Qaeda cell goes by the name Khorasan.” And they’re “developing fresh plots to attack U.S. aviation.”

Later that day, Obama administration officials began publicly touting the group, when Director of National Intelligence James Clapper warned starkly: “in terms of threat to the homeland, Khorasan may pose as much of a danger as the Islamic State.” Then followed an avalanche of uncritical media reports detailing this Supreme Threat, excitingly citing anonymous officials as though they had uncovered a big secret the government was trying to conceal.



Once the bombing campaign was underway, ISIS – the original theme of the attack – largely faded into the background, as Obama officials and media allies aggressively touted attacks on Khorasan leaders and the disruption of its American-targeting plots.



(W)hat was clear was that this group had to be bombed in Syria to save American lives, as the terrorist group even planned to conceal explosive devices in toothpaste or flammable clothing as a means to target U.S. airliners. The day following the first bombings, Attorney General Eric Holder claimed: “We hit them last night out of a concern that they were getting close to an execution date of some of the plans that we have seen.”

CNN’s supremely stenographic Pentagon reporter, Barbara Starr, went on air as videos of shiny new American fighter jets and the Syria bombing were shown and explained that this was all necessary to stop a Khorasan attack very close to being carried out against the west.



But once it served its purpose of justifying the start of the bombing campaign in Syria, the Khorasan narrative simply evaporated as quickly as it materialized.



On September 25, the New York Times – just days after hyping the Khorasan threat to the homeland – wrote that “the group’s evolution from obscurity to infamy has been sudden.” And the Paper of Record began, for the first time, to note how little evidence actually existed for all those claims about the imminent threats posed to the homeland.



Late last week, Associated Press’ Ken Dilanian – the first to unveil the new Khorasan Product in mid-September – published a new story explaining that just days after bombing “Khorasan” targets in Syria, high-ranking U.S. officials seemingly backed off all their previous claims of an “imminent” threat from the group. Headlined “U.S. Officials Offer More Nuanced Take on Khorasan Threat,” it noted that “several U.S. officials told reporters this week that the group was in the final stages of planning an attack on the West, leaving the impression that such an attack was about to happen.”



There are serious questions about whether the Khorasan Group even exists in any meaningful or identifiable manner. Aki Peritz, a CIA counterterrorism official until 2009, told Time: “I’d certainly never heard of this group while working at the agency,” while Obama’s former U.S. ambassador to Syria Robert Ford said: “We used the term (Khorasan) inside the government, we don’t know where it came from….All I know is that they don’t call themselves that.” As the Intercept was finalizing this article, former terrorism federal prosecutor Andrew McCarthy wrote in National Review that the group was a scam: “You haven’t heard of the Khorosan Group because there isn’t one. It is a name the administration came up with, calculating that Khorosan … had sufficient connection to jihadist lore that no one would call the president on it.”

What happened here is all-too-familiar. The Obama administration needed propagandistic and legal rationale for bombing yet another predominantly Muslim country. While emotions over the ISIS beheading videos were high, they were not enough to sustain a lengthy new war.

So after spending weeks promoting ISIS as Worse Than Al Qaeda™, they unveiled a new, never-before-heard-of group that was Worse Than ISIS™. Overnight, as the first bombs on Syria fell, the endlessly helpful U.S. media mindlessly circulated the script they were given: this new group was composed of “hardened terrorists,” posed an “imminent” threat to the U.S. homeland, was in the “final stages” of plots to take down U.S. civilian aircraft, and could “launch more-coordinated and larger attacks on the West in the style of the 9/11 attacks from 2001.””

As usual, anonymity was granted to U.S. officials to make these claims. As usual, there was almost no evidence for any of this. Nonetheless, American media outlets – eager, as always, to justify American wars – spewed all of this with very little skepticism. Worse, they did it by pretending that the U.S. Government was trying not to talk about all of this – too secret! – but they, as intrepid, digging journalists, managed to unearth it from their courageous “sources.” Once the damage was done, the evidence quickly emerged about what a sham this all was. But, as always with these government/media propaganda campaigns, the truth emerged only when it’s impotent.

Sep 30 2014

Holder’s Record on Financial Crimes

The resignation of Attorney General Eric Holder was announced on Thursday afternoon by the White House. Mr. Holder was among Obama’s first nominees to the cabinet. The president-elect announced his selection on the same day he announced Hillary Clinton’s appointment as secretary of state, at a time when Guantanamo Bay closure, the torture of prisoners, and regulatory failure on Wall Street after the 2008 financial crisis was all looming in the air.

While his track record in the mainstream press today has been kind to him, painting him as the liberal voice in the Obama administration, his track record is less desirable. Mr. Holder signed off on the National Security Agency’s authority to sweep up the phone records of millions of Americans not charged with any crime. We remember him for the relentless pursuit of whistleblowers such as Chelsea Manning and Edward Snowden and Aaron Swartz. While these whistleblowers were upholding our constitution and the people’s right to know, he was not. He authorized the subpoena directed at journalists and approved the CIA killing of Anwar al-Awlaki, an American citizen working with al-Qaeda, instead of just having him arrested and giving him his day in court.

Transcript

Financial frauds had a friend in Holder

by William K. Black, Al Jazeera

September 26, 2014 6:00AM ET

Eric Holder was U.S. attorney general at a time when the world desperately needed the nation’s chief law enforcement officer to hold accountable the elite bankers who oversaw the epidemic of fraud that drove the 2008 global financial crisis and triggered the Great Recession. After nearly six years in office, Holder announced on Sept. 25 that he plans to step down, without having brought to justice even one of the executives responsible for the crisis. His tenure represents the worst strategic failure against elite white-collar crime in the history of the Department of Justice (DOJ).



In addition to the failure to prosecute the leaders of those massive frauds, Holder’s dismal record includes 1) failing to prosecute the elite bankers who led the largest (by several orders of magnitude) price-rigging cartel in history – the LIBOR scandal, in which the world’s largest banks conspired to rig the reported interest rates at which the banks were willing to lend to one another, which affected prices on over $300 trillion in transactions; 2) failing to prosecute the massive foreclosure frauds (robo-signing), in which bank employees perjured themselves by signing more than 100,000 false affidavits in order to deceive the authorities that they had a right to foreclose on homes; 3) failing to prosecute the bid-rigging cartels of bond issuances in order to raise the costs to U.S. cities, counties and states of borrowing money in order to increase banks’ illegal profits; 4) failing to prosecute money laundering by HSBC for the murderous Sinaloa and Norte del Valle drug cartels; 5)  failing to prosecute the senior bank officers of Standard Chartered who helped fund of terrorists and nations that support terrorism; and 6) failing to prosecute the controlling officers of Credit Suisse who for decades helped wealthy Americans unlawfully evade U.S. taxes and then obstructed investigations by the DOJ and Internal Revenue Service for many years.  

Holder and his defenders will respond to such charges by appealing to the size of the civil settlements the DOJ obtained from the major banks under his tenure. But his case is risible. First, the civil fines, while sounding large, would never be large enough to pose even the slightest risk that the banks’ capital would be impaired, because Holder and White House continue to embrace the too-big-to-fail doctrine, that the responsible banks are too important to the economy to allow the risk of their collapse. Such fines amount to the cost of doing business – a very lucrative one, in fact, for the controlling officers.

Second, the CEOs knew that they could trade off a slightly larger fine in return for complete immunity for themselves and other officers who might otherwise be flipped by federal prosecutors to testify against more senior officers. The fines, of course, would be paid not by the CEOs but by the banks they ran. Indeed, one of the lesser-known aspects of the crisis is that the DOJ almost never sued a banker (as opposed to a bank) and virtually never sought to claw back bankers’ fraud proceeds. It is telling that, as even Holder admitted last week, “A corporation may enter a guilty plea and still see its stock price rise the next day.”

Despite my grave misgivings, I proved too optimistic about Holder. I always thought he would prosecute at least one of the top bankers from the most infamous fraudulent lenders such as Citigroup, Countrywide, Ameriquest or Washington Mutual as a token legacy case. No, Holder refused to indict even one of them for leading any of the megabanks that engaged in fraudulent conduct that devastated the world economy. This is all well known, as I and other observers have explained repeatedly.  What is not as well known, however, is that Holder refused to indict even non-elite financial CEOs, for example, at midsize mortgage banks that specialized in making fraudulent loans. Instead, he prosecuted hundreds of bit players and spread the disgraceful double lie that mortgage fraud was largely an ethnic crime that was committed almost exclusively by primarily ethnic borrowers rather than the officers controlling the lenders. Holder’s legacy in this sphere is that he was the one chasing black, brown and Russian-American mice while white lions roamed free.

Sep 30 2014

Punting the Pundits

“Punting the Pundits” is an Open Thread. It is a selection of editorials and opinions from around the news medium and the internet blogs. The intent is to provide a forum for your reactions and opinions, not just to the opinions presented, but to what ever you find important.

Thanks to ek hornbeck, click on the link and you can access all the past “Punting the Pundits”.

Follow us on Twitter @StarsHollowGzt

Dean Baker: Eric Holder: The Reason Robert Rubin Isn’t Behind Bars

The big news item in Washington last week was Attorney General Eric Holder’s decision to resign. Undoubtedly there are positives to Holder’s tenure as attorney general, but one really big minus is his decision not to prosecute any of the Wall Street crew whose actions helped to prop up the housing bubble. As a result of this failure, the main culprits walked away incredibly wealthy even as most of the country has yet to recover from the damage they caused.

Just to be clear, it is not against the law to be foolish and undoubtedly many of the Wall Streeters were foolish. They likely believed that house prices would just keep rising forever. But the fact that they were foolish doesn’t mean that they didn’t also break the law. It’s likely that most of the Enron felons believed in Enron’s business model. After all, they held millions of dollars of Enron stock. But they still did break the law to make the company appear profitable when it wasn’t.

In the case of the banks, there are specific actions that were committed that violated the law.

John Nichols: A Supreme Court for Billionaires, Not Voters

n case there was any remaining confusion with regard to the precise political intentions of the US Supreme Court’s activist majority, things were clarified Monday. The same majority that has made it easier for corporations to buy elections (with the Citizens United v. FEC decision) and for billionaires to become the dominant players in elections across the country (with the McCutcheon v. FEC decision) decided to make it harder for people in Ohio to vote.

Yes, this Court has messed with voting rights before, frequently and in damaging ways. It has barely been a year since the majority struck down key elements of the Voting Rights Act.

But Monday’s decision by the majority was especially blatant-and immediate. One day before early voting was set to begin in Ohio on Tuesday, the Supreme Court delayed the start of the process with a decision that will reduce the early voting period from thirty-five days to twenty-eight days.

William K. Black: Financial frauds had a friend in Holder

Eric Holder was U.S. attorney general at a time when the world desperately needed the nation’s chief law enforcement officer to hold accountable the elite bankers who oversaw the epidemic of fraud that drove the 2008 global financial crisis and triggered the Great Recession. After nearly six years in office, Holder announced on Sept. 25 that he plans to step down, without having brought to justice even one of the executives responsible for the crisis. His tenure represents the worst strategic failure against elite white-collar crime in the history of the Department of Justice (DOJ).  [..]

In addition to the failure to prosecute the leaders of those massive frauds, Holder’s dismal record includes 1) failing to prosecute the elite bankers who led the largest (by several orders of magnitude) price-rigging cartel in history – the LIBOR scandal, in which the world’s largest banks conspired to rig the reported interest rates at which the banks were willing to lend to one another, which affected prices on over $300 trillion in transactions; 2) failing to prosecute the massive foreclosure frauds (robo-signing), in which bank employees perjured themselves by signing more than 100,000 false affidavits in order to deceive the authorities that they had a right to foreclose on homes; 3) failing to prosecute the bid-rigging cartels of bond issuances in order to raise the costs to U.S. cities, counties and states of borrowing money in order to increase banks’ illegal profits; 4) failing to prosecute money laundering by HSBC for the murderous Sinaloa and Norte del Valle drug cartels; 5)  failing to prosecute the senior bank officers of Standard Chartered who helped fund of terrorists and nations that support terrorism; and 6) failing to prosecute the controlling officers of Credit Suisse who for decades helped wealthy Americans unlawfully evade U.S. taxes and then obstructed investigations by the DOJ and Internal Revenue Service for many years.  

Eugene Robinson: Get the Authorization

President Obama should call Congress back to Washington for a special session to vote on authorizing war against the Islamic State. If he does not, Congress should return on its own to conduct this vital debate.

Do your jobs, everybody.

As legal justification for the war, Obama relies on two measures, passed more than a decade ago, that authorized U.S. military action against al-Qaeda and the Iraqi regime of Saddam Hussein. To state the blindingly obvious, things have changed.

The Islamic State is not al-Qaeda. While the 2001 authorization for war against Osama bin Laden’s terrorist group encompasses “associated forces,” al-Qaeda refuses to have anything to do with the Islamic State. And the 2002 authorization for war in Iraq-targeting a government that no longer exists-says not a solitary word about airstrikes in Syria.

Peter Rugh: After the People’s Climate March, It Is Time to Demand More

The 400,000 people who packed Manhattan’s Central Park West for the People’s Climate March on September 21 have all gone home to their apartments, farms, cabins and lobster boats. They’ve returned to Pine Ridge Indian Reservation and the Wet’suwet’en territory in British Columbia, to the Philippines and the Pacific Islands. The “U.N. Climate Summit” banner that, last week, formed the backdrop for the impassioned speeches of 120 heads of state – and Leonardo DiCaprio – has been taken down. Debate in the newly renovated General Assembly Hall has turned to terrorism – a different kind of security threat than that posed by drought and rising sea levels. The metal barricades erected against protesters who flooded the heart of global capitalism at last Monday’s Flood Wall Street demonstration have been cautiously removed by the New York Police Department. Frostpaw the polar bear has gone to jail.

The summit convened by U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, which served as the inspiration for the People’s Climate March and Flood Wall Street, occurred ahead of conferences scheduled for Lima in December and Paris in 2015, where new long-term agreements for reducing greenhouse gas emissions will be hammered out. If we are to believe 98 percent of the world’s scientists, the future of human subsistence on this planet hinges on the strength of the pacts world governments will forge. Precious time will tell what the lasting impacts of the demonstrations will be, but already the protests that shook New York and much of the world (there were over 2,000 People’s Climate Marches globally) appear to have left their mark upon upper echelon spheres of powe

Wendall Potter: Improving the ‘Patient Experience’ By Eliminating the Big Insurance Company

Health care provider organizations that are working directly with employers like Boeing — and cutting out the insurance company middlemen — believe they can do more than save money for those employers. They’re confident they can also improve both health care quality and service for workers and their families in ways that insurance companies cannot.

Employers are starting to realize that insurers might not be, as they have claimed, “part of the solution” to achieving a more patient-centered health care system. In fact, in some ways they have been part of the problem.

Providence-Swedish Health Alliance, a not-for-profit, hospital-based accountable care organization (ACO), will soon be providing both coverage and care to many Boeing employees, along with UW (University of Washington) Medicine — without an insurance firm. Officials at Providence-Swedish told me Boeing chose to work with them directly in part because of the firm’s desire to ensure their employees had a “better patient experience.” While cutting costs and improving quality of care were priorities, improving service and reducing hassles that have become synonymous with insurance company interactions was equally important to Boeing.

>/div>

Sep 30 2014

The Breakfast Club (Freedom)

Welcome to The Breakfast Club! We’re a disorganized group of rebel lefties who hang out and chat if and when we’re not too hungover  we’ve been bailed out we’re not too exhausted from last night’s (CENSORED) the caffeine kicks in. Join us every weekday morning at 9am (ET) and weekend morning at 10:30am (ET) to talk about current news and our boring lives and to make fun of LaEscapee! If we are ever running late, it’s PhilJD’s fault.

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This Day in History

Breakfast Tunes

Sep 30 2014

On This Day In History September 30

This is your morning Open Thread. Pour your favorite beverage and review the past and comment on the future.

Find the past “On This Day in History” here.

September 30 is the 273rd day of the year (274th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 92 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1791, The Magic Flute, Die Zauberflote, an opera in two acts composed by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart to a German libretto by Emanuel Schikaneder, premiered in Vienna at the Freihaus-Theater auf der Wieden. Mozart conducted and Schikaneder played Papageno, while the role of the Queen of the Night was sung by Mozart’s sister-in-law Josepha Hofer. This was Mozart’s last opera.

Sep 30 2014

TDS/TCR (Naked)

TDS TCR

Racism: Catch It!

I thought we were going to fix the sound.  We did.

The real news and next week’s guests below.

Sep 29 2014

Dispatches from the New! Improved! War

Baris Karaagac is a lecturer in International Development Studies at Trent University, in Ontario.

Transcript

The U.S. has begun its bombing campaign in Syria, ostensibly against the Islamic State, only a year after a failed effort by President Obama to initiate a bombing campaign against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Fighting between IS and various armed groups has brought about 140,000 Syrian Kurdish refugees across the border into Turkey. A member of NATO, Turkey has been playing a major role for the past couple of years in facilitating aid, armaments, transportation to Syrian rebel groups that had been fighting Assad. Though the Turkish government has said it will not be joining the broad coalition in the war against the Islamic State, being on the border with Syria, it is without question a major player here.

Vijay Prashad is the George and Martha Kellner Chair in South Asian History and Professor of International Studies at Trinity College.

Transcript

Funny thing for the American president to talk about adhering to international laws. Also, Mr. Obama at the UN said that the large nations should not trample small ones in pursuit of what he called “territorial ambition”. These are curious statements coming from the American president at this time. There’s no UN resolution that allows the United States to carry out operations in Syria. You’ll remember that in Libya in 2011 there was a great hoopla made about the importance of getting a UN resolution. Here there was no attempt to get any resolution. They simply bombed in Syria. The question of international norms or international resolutions, you know, coming from Mr. Obama is not really about whether there are international norms or resolutions to uphold.

But why is Mr. Obama saying this? What is his audience? It’s plain that the American right wing, the Republicans and some sections of the Democratic Party, don’t really care about international norms. They believe in the executive authority of the president. They don’t even believe the United Nations or international law should play any role vis-à-vis American policymaking.

And then you have the world community. You know, when they hear things like big countries shouldn’t trample small countries, people keep thinking of Iraq. I mean, from 1991 till the present, Iraq sovereignty has been trampled by the United States. However you define territorial ambitions, it need not be a country that’s right next to the U.S. for it to exercise its extraterritorial or territorial ambitions. So most people around the world would not see the credibility of that statement.

I think this particular gesture comes towards the liberal wing of the American population that’s maybe a little anxious about this escalation into warfare. You know, there are people who are saying that they voted twice for Mr. Obama and they are now feeling a great sense of regret, not only over Guantanamo, etc., but now perhaps the entry into a new war in West Asia.

Liberal base sours on Obama

By Justin Sink, The Hill

09/26/14 06:00 AM EDT

Obama has taken a number of steps in recent months that put him out of step with the coalition of young adults, women and minorities that helped him win the White House.

The problems began last year with revelations about the National Security Agency’s top-secret surveillance programs – the same kind of programs that were condemned on the left during the George W. Bush years.

A Pew poll this summer found that, despite Obama’s efforts to explain and reform the surveillance programs, 58 percent of so-called “solid liberals” continued to oppose the NSA efforts.

Concerns about the president’s use of military force, meanwhile, have intensified with the rise of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

Liberals largely elected President Obama in 2008 on the promise he would extract the U.S. from Middle East conflicts, and the prospect of a new military campaign is not sitting well with many of them.



Since announcing that he would delay executive action on immigration reform until after the midterm elections, Obama’s numbers have plummeted with Hispanic voters. In an NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll, 47 percent of Latino voters approved of the president’s performance, down 15 points over the past 20 months.

Sep 29 2014

Punting the Pundits

“Punting the Pundits” is an Open Thread. It is a selection of editorials and opinions from around the news medium and the internet blogs. The intent is to provide a forum for your reactions and opinions, not just to the opinions presented, but to what ever you find important.

Thanks to ek hornbeck, click on the link and you can access all the past “Punting the Pundits”.

Follow us on Twitter @StarsHollowGzt

New York Times Editorial Board: A Group Shout on Climate Change

The marchers and mayors, the ministers and presidents, have come and gone. So what is the verdict on Climate Week, the summit meeting on global warming convened by the United Nations secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, in New York?

The meeting was not intended to reach a global agreement or to extract tangible commitments from individual nations to reduce the greenhouse gases that are changing the world’s ecosystems and could well spin out of control. Its purpose was to build momentum for a new global deal to be completed in December 2015, in Paris.

In that respect, it clearly moved the ball forward, not so much in the official speeches but on the streets and in the meeting rooms where corporate leaders, investors, Silicon Valley entrepreneurs and state and local officials pressed the case for stronger action.

PAul Krugman: Our Invisible Rich

Half a century ago, a classic essay in The New Yorker titled “Our Invisible Poor” took on the then-prevalent myth that America was an affluent society with only a few “pockets of poverty.” For many, the facts about poverty came as a revelation, and Dwight Macdonald’s article arguably did more than any other piece of advocacy to prepare the ground for Lyndon Johnson’s War on Poverty.

I don’t think the poor are invisible today, even though you sometimes hear assertions that they aren’t really living in poverty – hey, some of them have Xboxes! Instead, these days it’s the rich who are invisible.

But wait – isn’t half our TV programming devoted to breathless portrayal of the real or imagined lifestyles of the rich and fatuous? Yes, but that’s celebrity culture, and it doesn’t mean that the public has a good sense either of who the rich are or of how much money they make. In fact, most Americans have no idea just how unequal our society has become.

Trevor Timm: Mr President, will you tell us the truth? 8 questions we must ask Obama about secret war

Because the air strikes in Iraq didn’t work, but the US is bombing Syria now. Because the model is a failure. Because he hasn’t had to answer for anything yet

In case you missed it, the US military expanded its war on Isis into a second country this week. And, no, you didn’t miss President Obama giving an interview or taking any questions about the air strikes – because he didn’t, and he hasn’t. Since all acts of war deserve questioning, here is what every reporter and citizen might ask the American president about a military campaign that has been conducted, thus far, by way of misleading euphemisms and possibly illegal rationale.

Robert Kuttner: Bridging the Chasm

For half a century beginning with Franklin Roosevelt, there was a direct connection between the problems that afflicted American society and the remedies on offer from our democratic system.

High unemployment? The New Deal, the World War II mobilization, and the postwar boom took care of that.

Stagnant wages? With unions, growing productivity, minimum wage laws, and other regulation of labor standards — American real wages tripled.

Education? The G.I. bill, massive investment in public universities, community colleges, and later in public elementary and secondary education produced a better educated and more productive population. And until the 1980s, public higher education was basically free.

Robert Reich: Raising Most People’s Wages

I was in Seattle, Washington, recently, to congratulate union and community organizers who helped Seattle enact the first $15 per hour minimum wage in the country.

Other cities and states should follow Seattle’s example.

Contrary to the dire predictions of opponents, the hike won’t cost Seattle jobs. In fact, it will put more money into the hands of low-wage workers who are likely to spend almost all of it in the vicinity. That will create jobs.

Conservatives believe the economy functions better if the rich have more money and everyone else has less. But they’re wrong. It’s just the opposite.

Jason Edward Harrington: Take it from an airport security agent: it’s OK to laugh at toothpaste terror threats

You know what’s not funny? Government officials who use shoe, underwear and even cupcake bomb scares as an excuse to drop bombs of their own

The other day in Syria, the US conducted air strikes on a relatively unknown and possibly non-existent entity called the Khorasan group, which sounds more like a job-killing consulting firm than a people-killing al-Qaida spinoff. It was a surprise plot point in the campaign against Isis that left the kind of Strangelovian headlines that have become par for the course in the War on Terror. Take this one, from the Independent: “Syria air strikes: Khorasan Group ‘were working to make toothpaste bombs and explosives that could pass through airport security'”. Or this one: “Khorasan Group plotted attack against US with explosive clothes”.

This isn’t the first time the plane-flying public has gotten word of cavity-fighting and/or sartorial threats to international airliners: the concept of the toothpaste bomb first surfaced during the Sochi Olympics earlier this year, and the clothes-dipped-in-liquid-explosives menace came to attention back in August 2013. And of course, just a few months ago, there was speculation about the need for airline passengers to fear an iBomb. The only thing that changed between then and now is that anonymous officials slapped a name on the alleged masterminds behind these absurd plots, and then dropped bombs on them.

Sep 29 2014

TBC: Morning Musing 9.29.14

So, I posted this short rant on my Facebook wall yesterday and I thought it might be a decent discussion piece:

only humans could be arrogant enough to think that we could destroy or damage large parts of earth’s ecosystems and natural defenses and not manage to change the earth detrimentally. we have paved over, removed, and added things to the land, air, and water, which, even when naturally occurring, do not occur at the rates and levels we have contributed to them.

the earth may have had natural rhythms and periods of warming and cooling, but that’s when left alone with what earth had on its own. what we’ve done to it over the past couple centuries in the name of making our lives easier and some of us richer, cannot – absolutely cannot – have not had any effect. i don’t need any friggin graphs, charts, or studies to tell me that. i just need to not be stupid to know it.

only humans could be arrogant and stupid enough to believe that all we’ve done to it would not make a detrimental difference in the earth’s well being. arrogant and stupid, that about sums us up.

Jump!

Sep 29 2014

On This Day In History September 29

This is your morning Open Thread. Pour your favorite beverage and review the past and comment on the future.

Find the past “On This Day in History” here.

September 29 is the 272nd day of the year (273rd in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 93 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1547, Miguel de Cervantes, author of Don Quixote, is born this day near Madrid.

Cervantes led an adventurous life and achieved much popular success, but he nevertheless struggled financially throughout his life. Little is know about his childhood, except that he was a favorite student of Madrid humanist Juan Lopez, and that his father was an apothecary.

In 1569, Cervantes was living in Rome and working for a future cardinal. Shortly thereafter, he enlisted in the Spanish fleet to fight against the Turks. At the Battle of Lepanto in 1571, he took three bullets and suffered permanent damage to his left hand. Later, he was stationed at Palermo and Naples. On the way home to Madrid in 1575, he and his brother Roderigo were captured by Barbary pirates and held captive in Algiers. Cervantes was ransomed after five years of captivity and returned to Madrid, where he began writing. Although his records indicate he wrote 20 to 30 plays, only two survive. In 1585, he published a romance. During this time, he married a woman 18 years younger than he was and had an illegitimate daughter, whom he raised in his household. He worked as a tax collector and as a requisitioner of supplies for the navy, but was jailed for irregularities in his accounting. Some historians believe he formulated the idea for Don Quixote while in jail.

In 1604, he received the license to publish Don Quixote. Although the book began as a satire of chivalric epics, it was far more complex than a simple satire. The book blended traditional genres to create a sad portrait of a penniless man striving to live by the ideals of the past. The book was a huge success and brought Cervantes literary respect and position, but did not generate much money. He wrote dramas and short stories until a phony sequel, penned by another writer, prompted him to write Don Quixote, Part II in 1615.

Cervantes died in Madrid on April 23, 1616. In honor of the date on which both Miguel de Cervantes and William Shakespeare died, UNESCO established April 23 as the International Day of the Book. (Shakespeare and Cervantes, however, did not actually die on the same day, as the April 23 date for Shakespeare is Julian calendar (Old Style) and the April 23 date for Cervantes is Gregorian calendar (New Style) as those were the calendars in effect in England and in Spain, respectively, at that time. The Gregorian calendar was then ten days ahead of the Julian.)  

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