05/12/2015 archive

Monsters Inc. – Starring Hillary T. Inevitable

Every now and then one of our “representative” leaders lets the mask slip and Americans get a peek at the monster behind the mask.  The monsters that represent us are well-known elsewhere in the world by the people who are variously invaded, bombed, incinerated by flying death robots, disappeared, held in gulags, tortured, sanctioned, starved, treated to heaping helpings of depleted uranium, attacked with banned weapons like white phosphorus, brutalized by   authoritarian dictators and puppets that our monsters support with weapons Made in America(tm). I could go on, but you get the picture.

One of the most memorable mask-slips of recent times was when the ghastly gasbag Madelaine Albright revealed the sociopathic policy of the Clinton administration – claiming that it was “worth it” to cause the deaths, estimated in a 1995 U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) report as 567,000 Iraqi children under the age of five, to bring Saddam Hussein to heel.

We win a big one

Democrats defy White House on trade pact

By Burgess Everett, Politico

5/12/15 3:08 PM EDT

In a stern rebuke to President Barack Obama, Senate Democrats rebelled against his trade initiative on Tuesday afternoon and voted against even opening debate on the bill.

Democrats have demanded additional worker protections before they would consider voting to approve fast-track trade powers for the president. Shortly ahead of the vote, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) rejected the demands, insisting he would not make any guarantees beyond a vote on the fast-track bill.

The ensuing Democratic filibuster sank the legislation on the Senate floor, 52-45, with 60 needed to pass. Trade proponents in both parties vowed to try to put the pieces back together, but with little more than a week before a Memorial Day recess and several expiring laws still to be addressed, the immediate future of Obama’s trade agenda is uncertain.

Republicans and White House officials have argued that enacting fast-track Trade Promotion Authority is critical for Obama’s ability to strike a massive trade deal with Pacific Rim countries.

“What we just saw here is pretty shocking,” said Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) immediately following the vote.

Democrats that are supportive of Obama’s trade efforts huddled on Tuesday afternoon to plot their strategy. After nearly an hour, led by Senate Finance Committee ranking member Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), the bloc of about 10 Democrats said McConnell has not offered them sufficient guarantees.

“The group is concerned about the lack of commitment to trade enforcement, which is specifically the customs bill,” Wyden told reporters after the meeting. “Until there is a path to get all four bills passed … we will, certainly most of us, will have to vote no.”

The customs provision in particular is viewed as veto-bait for the White House, potentially complicating the trade package’s future if it is approved. The measure could force the administration to designate China as a currency manipulator, which the White House fears would spark a trade war with Beijing.

Today, May 12th, Is Fibromyalgia Awareness Day

Every May 12th is Fibromyalgia Awareness Day. It is celebrated by raising awareness of the disease in the hopes of giving those who may be suffering with it some hope as well as provide opportunities for anyone to express support for those suffering with the disease.

fibro 5

So what exactly is Fibromyalgia? It sounds kinda funky, maybe even pretend? Isn’t this some sort of cop-out for lazy people or people with hypochondria?

The answer to the above is a resounding NO!

Fibromyalgia is a largely misunderstood disease that afflicts anywhere from 2-6% of our population (depending on source), primarily women but there have been concerns that the gender disparity may be that men tend to under report pain and fatigue.

Follow me below for more…

Abuse of (Trade) Authority

Love them or hate them and without passing any judgement at all on Israel or Palestine there is no denying that the American Israel Public Affairs Committee or AIPAC is one of the most powerful special interest lobbying groups on Capitol Hill which is why it’s so utterly unsurprising to read stories like this-

AIPAC-backed amendments add to trade bill turmoil

By Nahal Toosi, Politico

5/11/15 2:15 PM EDT

The trade legislation being debated on Capitol Hill is already highly contentious. Amendments added about Israel are raising the rancor even more.

The trade bill amendments aim to discourage foreign governments – in particular European ones – from boycotting, divesting from or putting sanctions on commercial activity linked to Israel and “Israeli-controlled territories.” They were inspired by the “BDS movement,” which was started a decade ago by Palestinian activists to put economic pressure on Israel to change its dealings with the Palestinians.

Opponents have a range of concerns with the amendments, which sailed through House and Senate committees. Some support the BDS movement, arguing it is a peaceful, grass-roots campaign that should not be targeted by U.S. trade law. Others, including some who oppose the BDS movement, are more worried about the legislation’s use of the phrase “Israeli-controlled territories.” They argue it’s a veiled reference to Israeli settlements in the West Bank – and that its use is an attempt to use U.S. law to legitimize Israel’s control over disputed land that Palestinians claim for a future state.

Several of the opponents express concern that the American Israel Public Affairs Committee backs the provisions, which would appear to shift the pro-Israel group’s position on the settlements. AIPAC has in the past avoided taking a formal position on the settlements, whose existence and expansion the U.S. government has generally opposed.

“In our view, these are not anti-BDS measures,” said Dylan Williams, vice president of government affairs for the left-leaning pro-Israel group J Street. “These are pro-settlement measures.”

Williams pointed out that many European countries actively promote trade with the state of Israel itself, suggesting that “the very target of these provisions are the European measures narrowly aimed at illegal settlement activity in the West Bank.”

Jewish Voice for Peace federal policy organizer Rabbi Joseph Berman also blasted the settlement-related implications and added that the amendments “are harmful to prospects for peace as well as principles of free speech.”

Members of the various activist groups have been contacting lawmakers and officials in the Obama administration to stop the provisions. They said that it appears some lawmakers are unaware of the implications of the language and may be reluctant to challenge a measure cast as pro-Israel.

Even without the Israeli-related elements, the multifaceted trade bills, which would in part give greater authority to the president, are already causing deep fissures in Congress. They are being debated as the U.S. negotiates major trade deals with European and Asian countries.

President Barack Obama insists the trade legislation will help boost the U.S. economy, but he faces resistance from many of his fellow Democrats, while finding support from many Republicans who normally loathe him.

Lara Friedman, director of policy and government relations for Americans for Peace Now, said AIPAC’s descriptions of what the provisions really mean are “utterly disingenuous and dishonest” and that by supporting the amendments the group is crossing a line by trying to protect the settlements. She supplied POLITICO with a screenshot of an earlier version of AIPAC’s online statement on the legislation, in which the group referred to Israel or “her territories.”

An AIPAC source, who would not comment on the record, insisted the amendments have nothing to do with settlements. In the latest version of the statement on its site, AIPAC writes that, while many Arab states have long avoided doing business with Israelis, the primary threat is now coming from Europe, “where some governments are initiating efforts to boycott Israel, divest from Israel and threaten sanctions on companies that operate there.” Requests for AIPAC comment on the screenshot were not immediately answered.

Obama has in recent days urged Democrats to get on board with the overall trade package. But Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid has suggested he will block the GOP majority’s plans to press forward with the bills. And Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is expected to set up a vote Tuesday that would officially open debate whether to give the president the greater trade authority he seeks.

Reid’s maneuvering could buy activists more time to get support from lawmakers to change the language.

“For us this is a matter of education (and) … making clear what a shift this would be for U.S. policy,” Friedman said. “If you actually believe that U.S. policy should be to support a two-state solution, this is inconsistent with that.”

Now, tell me that TPP is not just a pig in a poke for Plutocrats and D.C. insiders to lard up.

The Truth Is Out There, We Just May Never Find It

All truths are easy to understand once they are discovered; the point is to discover them.

Galileo Galilei

The American people and the world have been lied to so many times by government officials from the president on down that it’s hard to tell when they are telling us the truth. So the truth becomes subjective because we are denied the facts and evidence. The article written in the London Review of Books by Pulitzer prize winning investigative journalist Seymour Hersh, who exposed the cover-up of My Lai massacre and the torture at Abu Grhraib, has serious cast doubt on the governments version of the assassination of Osama bin Laden on May 2, 2011 and the propaganda of the movie version of that event.

NBC News has now corroborated part of Mr. Hersh’s report regarding the advanced knowledge of Pakistani officials and the possibility the Pakistani intelligence service knew of bin Laden’s whereabouts.

The U.S. government has always characterized the heroic raid by Seal Team Six that killed bin Laden as a unilateral U.S. operation, and has maintained that the CIA found him by tracking couriers to his walled complex in Abbottabad, Pakistan.

The new revelations do not necessarily cast doubt on the overall narrative that the White House began circulating within hours of the May 2011 operation. The official story about how bin Laden was found was constructed in a way that protected the identity and existence of the asset, who also knew who inside the Pakistani government was aware of the Pakistani intelligence agency’s operation to hide bin Laden, according to a special operations officer with prior knowledge of the bin Laden mission. The official story focused on a long hunt for bin Laden’s presumed courier, Ahmed al-Kuwaiti. [..]

The NBC News sources who confirm that a Pakistani intelligence official became a “walk in” asset include the special operations officer and a CIA officer who had served in Pakistan. These two sources and a third source, a very senior former U.S. intelligence official, also say that elements of the ISI were aware of bin Laden’s presence in Abbottabad. The former official was emphatic about the ISI’s awareness, saying twice, “They knew.”

Another top official acknowledged to NBC News that the U.S. government had long harbored “deep suspicions” that ISI and al Qaeda were “cooperating.” And a book by former acting CIA director Mike Morrell that will be published tomorrow says that U.S. officials could not dismiss the possibility of such cooperation.

None of the sources characterized how high up in ISI the knowledge might have gone. Said one former senior official, “We were suspicious that someone inside ISI … knew where bin Laden was, but we did not have intelligence about specific individuals having specific knowledge.”

MSNBC’s Chris Hayes, host of “All In,” interviewed Mr. Hersh and spoke with NBC News Chief Foreign Affairs Correspondent Andrea Mitchell about these new reports.

Again, this is all subjective. People will believe or disbelieve either version based on their own prejudices. Just remember this cold hard fact: many of the people who are disputing Mr. Hersh are proven liars.  

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: The March Trade Deficit and the Trans-Pacific Partnership

The jump in the March trade deficit, coupled with the weak job numbers for the last two months, should highlight the importance of including rules on currency in trade agreements. Such rules could ensure that the dollar does not remain over-valued and prevent the economy from reaching full employment.

The basic story would be fairly simple if so many people did not deliberately try to confuse issues. There are four types of demand in the economy, consumption, investment, government spending, and net exports. Note that the category is “net exports,” not exports.

The point is that we create demand for the economy as a whole when we export more goods and services than we import. If we import more than we export, which means we run a trade deficit, then we are actually losing demand from trade. Our current trade deficit of more than $500 billion a year has the same effect on demand in our economy as if consumers took $500 billion from their paychecks each year and stuffed it under their mattress rather than spend it. This money is creating demand in other countries, not in the United States.

Richard (RJ) Eskow: Social Security, Ten Years From Now

For the Huffington Post’s 10th anniversary I was invited to predict what Social Security might look like 10 years from now. That future is filled with both possibility and shadowed by danger. [..]

The past 10 years have shown us that, when it comes to the politics of Social Security, we can make major progress as a nation. But they also teach us that Social Security is not safe from the predations of career politicians in either party looking to make a short-term deal, please wealthy backers, or follow the misguided consensus of well-funded policy insiders.

The future of this vital and popular program is in our hands. It can be strengthened if we fight for it. It can also be taken from us, piece by piece, if we don’t. The responsibility for Social Security’s future, as always, lies with us.

Robert Reich: Raising the Minimum Wage Is Step One in Making the Economy Work for the Many, Not Only the Few

A basic moral principle that most Americans agree on is no one who works full time should be in poverty, nor should their family.

Yet over time we’ve seen significant growth in the “working poor” – people working full time, sometimes even 60 or more hours each week, but at such low wages that they remain impoverished.

What to do?

One step is to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour. This is winnable. A powerful movement is fighting for $15 an hour and they’re winning new laws in cities and states, and forcing companies to raise wages.

Wendell Potter: Court Case Shows How Health Insurers Rip Off You And Your Employer

If you think you’re paying too much for employer-sponsored health coverage, you might want to forward this to the HR department. It’s possible, maybe even likely, that your health insurer has been ripping off both you and your employer-to the tune of several million dollars every year-for decades.

Many Americans, according to various polls, blame Obamacare for every hike in premiums despite the fact that the rate of increase for most folks was actually greater before 2010, the year the law went into effect.

Health insurers are delighted that many folks blame Obamacare for rate increases because it deflects attention away from them and, according to documents made public in a recent lawsuit against a big Blue Cross plan, the questionable activities they’ve been engaging in for years to boost profits.

It turns out that one of the reasons workers have been paying more for their coverage is allegedly a common practice among insurers: charging their employer customers unlawful hidden fees.

John Dear: Everyone Has to Practice Nonviolence Now

The death of unarmed Freddie Gray in police custody and the subsequent riots in Baltimore demonstrate the profound systemic injustice in our country, as well as the complete misunderstanding and widespread hypocrisy about nonviolence.

Everyone has to practice nonviolence. Everyone. From the people on the streets to the police, to church ministers and parents, but also our media spokespeople and elected officials. Including the president. And the military. Everyone, everywhere. The days of war, killing, shootings, bombings, torture, executions and nuclear weapons are coming to an end. The days of violence are over. Everyone has to practice nonviolence. That is our only future–if we are to have a future. [..]

After Baltimore, Ferguson, Iraq, and Afghanistan, the evidence is in. Violence has failed. The days of violence and war are over. Dr. King and Gandhi were right; nonviolence is our only option.

Every one of us has to start practicing nonviolence. If we all take up where Gandhi and King left off, we can build a new grassroots movement of nonviolence that will lead to a new culture of peace.

TBC: Morning Musing 5.12.15

Good Morning! I have 3 articles for you on the NSA’s speech recognition program today.

First, an intro on the program:


Most people realize that emails and other digital communications they once considered private can now become part of their permanent record.

But even as they increasingly use apps that understand what they say, most people don’t realize that the words they speak are not so private anymore, either.

Top-secret documents from the archive of former NSA contractor Edward Snowden show the National Security Agency can now automatically recognize the content within phone calls by creating rough transcripts and phonetic representations that can be easily searched and stored.


On This Day In History May 12

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.

Click on images to enlarge

May 12 is the 132nd day of the year (133rd in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 233 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1937, George Denis Patrick Carlin was born in the Bronx. He was raised by his mother in Morningside Heights which he and his friends called “White Harlem” because it sounded tougher. He was raised Irish Catholic and educated in Catholic schools. He often ran away from home. After joining the Air Force while stationed in Louisiana, Carlin became a DJ in Shreveport starting on his long career in entertainment. Carlin rose to fame during the 60’s and 70’s, generating the most controversy with his famous “Seven Dirty Words”:

Shit, Piss, Fuck, Cunt, Cocksucker, Motherfucker, and Tits. Those are the heavy seven. Those are the ones that’ll infect your soul, curve your spine and keep the country from winning the war.

His arrest and the subsequent FCC rulings ended up in the Supreme Court which upheld the right of the FCC to regulate the public airways. In the ruling it called the routine “indecent but not obscene”.

In 1961, Carlin was also present in the audience the night that Lenny Bruce was arrested in San Fransisco for obscenity. He was arrested, as well, after the police, who were questioning the audience, asked Carlin for ID. He said he didn’t have any because he didn’t believe in government-issued ID’s.

We all know the rest. His popularity as a comic and “commentarian” on politics, religion and social issues made him a popular guest on late night talk shows. His death in  June 22, 2008 saddened many. He left behind his second wife, Sally Wade, whom he married after his first wife Brenda died of liver cancer in 1997. He left a daughter by his first marriage, Kelly.

Happy Birthday, George, you are missed.

The Daily/Nightly Show (Milli Vanilli)

Your Mama

Tonightly we have softball (not that it doesn’t happen often enough) with Will Packer, Rachel Feinstein, and Mike Yard (who presumably can hit for it).



Oh, you didn’t seriously think I’d pass up an opportunity to talk about steroid abuse and the serious consequences it has to your health and sex life.

This week’s guests-

John Legend is probably on to talk about Lip Sync Battle and I am going to indulge you with a little rant of mine.

You see, the last concert I was at (though the company was engaging and we both had a good time I hope) was a totally horrid affair where I was herded into a barn-like expanse with nary a scrap of seat $10 nachos and $8 beer if you cared enough to stand in line for about an hour.

Then the acts started and it was just like a badly synced video (and I’ve produced enough to know) as the perfomers came on stage and danced listlessly and hardly bothered to pretend their cordless mole mikes and intruments were even turned on.

In short it was just like getting stoned in your skeevy friend’s basement and watching them dance around in their underwear playing air guitar to an 8 track that had been sitting on the dashboard for far too long and paying $100 for the privilege.

Not that I don’t appreciate the gesture mind you, but I suspect even my host was vastly disappointed and if they’re reading this (which is possible) I want to emphasise I’m grateful for the experience and the company.  On the other hand I’ll not be buying tickets to an Arianna Grande concert any time soon as much as I admire her talent as a singer and actress.

Girl, you know it’s true.

Two Mumford & Sons web exclusive videos below.  That and the real news.