How to Make Oatmeal . . . Wrong

From The New York Times:


February 22, 2011

There’s a feeling of inevitability in writing about McDonald’s latest offering, their “bowl full of wholesome” — also known as oatmeal. The leading fast-food multinational, with sales over $16.5 billion a year (just under the GDP of Afghanistan), represents a great deal of what is wrong with American food today. From a marketing perspective, they can do almost nothing wrong; from a nutritional perspective, they can do almost nothing right, as the oatmeal fiasco demonstrates.

One “positive” often raised about McDonald’s is that it sells calories cheap. But since many of these calories are in forms detrimental rather than beneficial to our health and to the environment, they’re actually quite expensive — the costs aren’t seen at the cash register but in the form of high health care bills and environmental degradation.

Oatmeal is on the other end of the food spectrum. Real oatmeal contains no ingredients; rather, it is an ingredient. As such, it’s a promising lifesaver: oats are easy to grow in almost any non-extreme climate and, minimally processed, they’re profoundly nourishing, inexpensive and ridiculously easy to cook. They can even be eaten raw, but more on that in a moment.


Yet in typical McDonald’s fashion, the company is doing everything it can to turn oatmeal into yet another bad choice. (Not only that, they’ve made it more expensive than a double-cheeseburger: $2.38 per serving in New York.) “Cream” (which contains seven ingredients, two of them actual dairy) is automatically added; brown sugar is ostensibly optional, but it’s also added routinely unless a customer specifically requests otherwise. There are also diced apples, dried cranberries and raisins, the least processed of the ingredients (even the oatmeal contains seven ingredients, including “natural flavor”).

A more accurate description than “100% natural whole-grain oats,” “plump raisins,” “sweet cranberries” and “crisp fresh apples” would be “oats, sugar, sweetened dried fruit, cream and 11 weird ingredients you would never keep in your kitchen.”

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Gov. Walker Informed That Bill Targeting Unions May Cost State $46 Million In Federal Funds

So much for Republi-Nazi lies about being “fiscally conservative”.

From The Huffington Post:

By  Sam Stein

February 23, 2011

WASHINGTON — Budget referees and transportation officials in Wisconsin have informed Gov. Scott Walker (R) that if he were to pass his controversial anti-union legislation into law, he could be forfeiting tens of millions of dollars in federal funds for transportation.

Under an obscure provision of federal labor law, states risk losing federal funds should they eliminate “collective bargaining rights” that existed at the time when federal assistance was first granted. The provision, known as “protective arrangements” or “Section 13C arrangements,” is meant as a means of cushioning union (and even some non-union) members who, while working on local projects, are affected by federal grants.

It also could potentially hamstring governors like Walker who want dramatic changes to labor laws in their states. Wisconsin received $74 million in federal transit funds this fiscal year. Of that, $46.6 million would be put at risk should the collective-bargaining bill come to pass — in the process creating an even more difficult fiscal situation than the one that, ostensibly, compelled Walker to push the legislation in the first place.

The governor is certainly aware of this. While the potential loss of funds may have escaped the attention of many observers, sources familiar with the state’s transportation policy tell The Huffington Post that Walker’s office has been informed of the relevant legal language. Moreover, in an a nearly unnoticed report filed by the state’s Legislative Fiscal Bureau, the non-partisan budget scorekeeper, the stakes are laid fairly bare.

“According to information from the U.S. Department of Labor, the proposed changes in collective bargaining rights included under SS SB 11 could impact the ability of unionized transit systems in the state to receive existing federal transit aid, unless actions are taken to protect the collective bargaining rights of their employees,” the memo reads. “If the federal Department of Labor makes the determination that the changes under SS SB 11 affect the continuation of collective bargaining rights, and protections of transit employee’s wages, working conditions, pension benefits, seniority, vacation, sick and personal leave, travel passes, and other conditions of employment, the Federal Transit Authority could not provide federal transit funding under there provisions.” (See the full document below.)

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If the Feds Get Their Way, Big Pharma Could Sell Pot — But Your Dime Bag Would Still Send You to Jail

Because: The law of the land is Corporate Profits for the rich uber alles.

From Alternet:–_but_your_dime_bag_would_still_send_you_to_jail/

We should be very wary about the DEA allowing regulation and marketing of pharmaceutical products containing plant-derived THC.

By Paul Armentano

“[M]arijuana has no scientifically proven medical value.” So stated the United States Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) on page six of a July 2010 agency white paper, titled “DEA Position on Marijuana.”

Yet only four months after the agency committed its “no medical pot” stance to print, it announced its intent to allow for the regulation and marketing of pharmaceutical products containing plant-derived THC — the primary psychoactive ingredient in cannabis.

But don’t for a second believe the DEA has experienced a sudden change of heart regarding patients’ use of the marijuana plant — use that is now legal under state law in 15 states and the District of Columbia (although recently approved laws in Arizona, New Jersey, and Washington, DC still await implementation). Despite growing public support for medical marijuana legalization, America’s top anti-drug agency remains resolute that these hundreds of thousands of medi-pot patients are no more than common criminals, and their herbal remedy of choice is nothing more than the “Devil’s weed.”

It’s not public pressure that’s motivating the agency to consider rescheduling an organic cannabinoid for the first time since the creation of the U.S. Controlled Substances Act of 1970. (Under this act, all prescription drugs are classified as schedule II, III, IV, or IV controlled substances, while all illicit substances are categorized as schedule I drugs.) And it’s not the recent publication of a series of FDA-approved “gold standard” clinical trials affirming the plant’s safety and efficacy that’s prompting the agency into action. (The DEA has so far refused to acknowledge these studies even exist.) Rather, the agency’s sudden call for regulatory change is inspired by far more politically influential forces: The DEA is responding to the demands of Big Pharma.

Rescheduling ‘Dronabinol’

The DEA initially made public its desire to recognize the use of marijuana plant-derived pharmaceuticals in a “notice of proposed rulemaking,” which appeared in the November 1, 2010 edition of the Federal Register.

The agency posted, “This proposed rule is issued by the Deputy Administrator of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) to modify the listing of the Marinol formulation in schedule III so that certain generic drug products are also included in that listing.” (Marinol is the brand name for dronabinol, a prescription pill approved by the FDA in the mid-’80s that consists of synthetic THC in sesame oil and is encapsulated in a soft gelatin capsule.)

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Out of Afghanistan, Now

From Common Dreams:

by James McGovern and Walter Jones

Published on Wednesday, February 23, 2011 by The Albany Times Union

No one, it seems, wants to talk about the war in Afghanistan. Last week the House debated a budget bill that is touted as reflecting new fiscal restraint, yet borrows tens of billions more for the war. In an hourlong State of the Union address last month, President Barack Obama devoted less than one minute to the conflict. Given the sacrifices our country has made for nearly 10 years, the phones in our offices should be ringing off the hook with calls from those who are tired of being told that the United States doesn’t have enough money to extend unemployment benefits or invest in new jobs.

There is no excuse for our collective indifference. At 112 months, this is the longest war in our history. More than 1,400 American service members have lost their lives in Afghanistan; over 8,800 have been wounded in action. Tens of thousands have suffered other disabilities or psychological harm.

Meanwhile in Afghanistan, our so-called ally, President Hamid Karzai, is corrupt. Transparency International recently ranked Afghanistan as the world’s third-most corrupt country, behind only Somalia and Burma. The Afghan military and police are not reliable partners, and al-Qaida is someplace else.

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Introducing The ‘American Dream’ Movement

From Huffington Post:

ByVan Jones
Senior Fellow, Center for American Progress, American Progess Action Fund
Posted: February 22, 2011 10:19 AM

Reposted in entirety with permission:

In the past 24 months, those of us who longed for positive change have gone from hope to heartbreak. But hope is returning to America — at last — thanks largely to the courageous stand of the heroes and heroines of Wisconsin.

Reinvigorated by the idealism and fighting spirit on display right now in America’s heartland, the movement for “hope and change” has a rare, second chance. It can renew itself and become again a national force with which to be reckoned.

Over the next hours and days, all who love this country need to do everything possible to spread the “spirit of Madison” to all 50 states. This does not mean we need to occupy 50 state capitol buildings; things elsewhere are not yet that dire. But this weekend, the best of America should rally on the steps of every statehouse in the union. and others have issued just this kind of call to action; everyone should prioritize responding and turning out in large numbers.

On Saturday, the powers-that-be (in both parties) should see a rainbow force coming together: organized workers, business leaders, veterans, students and youth, faith leaders, civil rights fighters, women’s rights champions, immigrant rights defenders, LGBTQ stalwarts, environmentalists, academics, artists, celebrities, community activists, elected officials and more — all standing up for what’s right.
Take Movement to a Higher Plane: Defending the American Dream

And we should announce that our renewed movement is more than just a mobilization to back unions or oppose illegitimate power grabs (as important as those agenda items are). Something more vital is at stake: our country needs a national movement to defend the American Dream itself. And the fight in Wisconsin creates the opportunity to build one.

After all, it is the American Dream that the GOP’s “slash and burn” agenda is killing off. We need a movement dedicated to renewing the idea that hard work pays in our country; that you can make it if you try; that America remains a land committed to dignity, justice and opportunity for all. Right now, this very idea is on the GOP chopping block. And we must rescue it now — or risk losing it forever.

America will not make it through this crisis healthy and whole if — at the first sign of trouble — we are willing to throw away millions of our everyday heroes. Our teachers, police officers, firefighters, nurses and others make our communities and country strong. Their daily work is essential to the smooth functioning and long-term success of our nation. An attack on them is an attack on the backbone of America.

Nobody objects to politicians cutting budgetary fat. But the GOP program everywhere is so reckless that it would actually cut muscle, bone and marrow, too. This approach is both shortsighted and immoral. We should rise up against it — in our millions.
GOP Cuts Muscle, Fat and Bone — Republicans Attack American Way

Both parties should be taking steps to solve the country’s problems in a balanced, fair and rational way. If deficits are truly the issue, then raising taxes and cutting spending both should be on the table, as tools. But Wisconsin’s governor recently handed out massive corporate tax breaks, reducing the state’s revenues. That move greatly added to the problem he now wants to fix by attacking essential services with a meat axe. A slew of GOP governors in places like Ohio are gearing up to take similar approaches.

If a foreign power conspired to inflict this much damage on America’s first responders and essential infrastructure, we would see it as an act of war.

And if a foreign dictator unilaterally announced that his nation’s workers no longer had a seat at the bargaining table in their own country, the U.S. establishment would rightfully go bananas.

If Republicans would oppose that kind of thuggery abroad, how can they champion it here at home? How can they accept for the American people what they would denounce for the people of any other nation on Earth?

GOP governors in multiple states are advancing schemes to erase the long-standing rights of American employees to choose a union and bargain collectively. We need to call these outrageous plots what they are: un-American and unacceptable. They are not just assaults on workers; they are assaults on the American Way itself.

This Is Our ‘Tea Party’ Moment — In a Positive Sense

It is time to draw a line in the sand — nationally. Someone has to stand up for common sense and fairness. It is time to use all nonviolent means to defend the American people and our American principles from these abuses.

If we take a bold and courageous stand, over time, we can win. Make no mistake about it: this is our “Tea Party” moment — in a positive sense.

In fact, we can learn many important lessons from the recent achievements of the libertarian, populist right. Don’t forget: even after the Republican’s epic electoral defeat in 2008, a right-wing uprising was still able to smash public support for “new New Deal” economics. Along the way, it revived the political fortunes of the GOP.

A popular outcry from the left could just as easily shatter the prevailing bipartisan consensus that America is suddenly a poor country that cannot possibly help its people meet our basic needs.
America Is Not a Poor Country — We Suffer From Poor Leadership

The truth is that we don’t live Bangladesh or Malawi. America is not a poor country. The public has just been hypnotized into believing that the richest and most creative nation on Earth has only two choices in this crisis: massive austerity (as championed by the Tea Party/Republicans) or SEMI-massive austerity (as meekly offered by too many DC Democrats). It is ridiculous.

Fortunately, the people in Wisconsin know that. So they are fighting courageously. Their efforts could blossom into a compelling, national force for the good — offering a powerful alternative to those false choices.

And while our re-born movement needs to be as clear and bold as the Tea Parties, we must base our efforts on a deeper set of American values.

The Tea Party attached itself to only a single American principle. And it identifies itself with only one moment in our distant past: the Boston Tea Party, symbolizing “no taxation without representation.”
‘American Dream’ Movement Rooted in a Deeper Patriotism

That is an important moment and concept. But the notion of “negative liberty” (“don’t tread on me!”) is only one principle among many that make our country great. Other equally vital American values and ideals (like justice, opportunity, fairness and democracy) have gone largely undefended and unheralded, in this recent crisis. That ends — now. Our rising movement should stand for the full suite of American values and principles.

And the American ideal most in need of defense is our most essential one: the American Dream.

The steps needed to renew and redeem the American Dream are straightforward and simple:

  • Increase revenue for America’s government sensibly by making Wall Street and the super-rich pay their fair share.
  • Reduce spending responsibly by cutting the real fat – like corporate welfare for military contractors, big agriculture and big oil.
  • Simultaneously protect the heart and soul of America – our teachers, nurses and first responders.
  • Guarantee the health, safety and success of our children and communities by leaving the muscle and bone of America’s communities intact.
  • Maintain the American Way by treating employees with dignity and respecting their right to a seat at the bargaining table.
  • Rebuild the middle class – and pathways into it – by fighting for a “made in America” innovation and manufacturing agenda, including trade and currency policies that honor American workers and entrepreneurs.
  • Stand for the idea that, in a crisis, Americans turn TO each other – and not ON each other.

A Return to the Moral Center

These are not radical notions. They are the common sense ideas that form the core of who we are as a nation. We can rally Americans, once again, to stand up for these values. We can make America, once again, a land where it is safe for everyday people to dream.

We will prevail because — in truth — we are not in a right-wing period of American history, nor are we in a left-wing period. We are simply in a volatile period.

And during times like these, we can take comfort in knowing that a great nation will ultimately pull its answers — not from its ideological extremes — but from its deep, moral center.

By standing up for dignity, equal opportunity and fair play, the Wisconsin workers have found their way to America’s great moral center. They have shown us all, at last, the way back home. By standing with them, we reclaim what is best in our country.

April 15, 2009, marked the beginning of the national movement to remember the Tea Party and pull America to the ideological right.

Let Saturday, February 26, 2011, mark the beginning of the national movement to renew the American Dream and return us to the moral center — where everybody counts, and everybody matters.

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Workers Sickened at Apple Supplier in China

I’ve never been a Mac-addict.  I’ve been a PC fan since I first laid hands on the IBM PC and before that I was trying to build an S100.

I’ve never liked Apple’s monopolistic practices and closed structure.  I am pretty DIY when it comes to computers and with a couple of exceptions my name is the name that goes on the box.

And yeah I use Microsnot OS and Office as well as Adobe products.  But I could use Linux if I wanted to.

Yeah Apple products are seductively designed, sleek and pretty but I’m a hippie and practical.  I can’t see paying twice as much for pretty over something with more memory, bigger hard drive and screws that lets me open my laptop’s case and pop in a different drive or more memory.

The computers I built last year blow the socks off anything we could have gotten for the same money with a brand name on the case and I know the parts that went in were the best I could afford and individually researched rather than lining the pockets of the Corp suits with initials.

Which brings us to Apple and it exploitation of virtual slave labor in China:

From The New York Times:

Published: February 22, 2011

SUZHOU, China — Last week, when Apple released its annual review of labor conditions at its global suppliers, one startling revelation stood out: 137 workers at a factory here had been seriously injured by a toxic chemical used in making the signature slick glass screens of the iPhone.

Apple, describing it as a “core violation” of worker safety, said that it had ordered the contractor to stop using the chemical and to improve safety conditions at the plant. Apple also said that it would monitor the medical conditions of those workers.

But in interviews last weekend, nearly a dozen employees who say they were harmed by the chemical said they had never heard from anyone at Apple.

Instead, they said the contractor — a Taiwanese-owned company called Wintek — had pressed them and many other affected workers to resign and accept cash settlements that would absolve the factory of future liability, charges the company denied.

“We hope Apple will heed to its corporate social responsibility,” said Jia Jingchuan, 27. He said exposure at the Wintek plant to the chemical, known as n-hexane, had left him with nerve damage and made him so hypersensitive to cold that he now must wear down-insulated clothing even indoors. “Usually someone my age doesn’t wear this type of pants,” he said raising his voice. “Only 50- or 60-year-old men wear something like this.”

On Monday, however, a Wintek spokesman denied that the company was pressing workers to resign or sign papers absolving the company of future liability.

The company said it was working with medical professionals to assess the health of workers. Jay Huang, the spokesman, even suggested that Wintek would pay for medical care should the symptoms persist after workers resign.

“Wintek’s policy of handling this is to put workers’ benefit as the first priority,” he said.

Kristin Huguet, a spokeswoman at Apple’s headquarters in Cupertino, Calif., declined to discuss the Wintek case but said the company was committed to the highest standards of social responsibility in its supply chain. “We require our suppliers to provide safe working conditions, treat workers with dignity and respect and use environmentally friendly manufacturing processes whenever our products are made,” she said.

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As for me I was factory certified on the Apple II, Apple III, Lisa and Mac.  I remember what lying shits apple technical used to be.  Especially about Lisa.

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Hundreds rally at Iowa Capitol over labor laws

From Raw Story:

By Eric W. Dolan
Tuesday, February 22nd, 2011

Over 500 activists gathered at the Iowa Statehouse in Des Moines to show solidarity with the protesters in Wisconsin and rally against legislation that would limit state workers’ bargaining rights.

“This is not an assault on public workers,” Ken Sagar, president of the Iowa Federation of Labor, told The Associated Press. “This is an assault on the middle class.”

Legislation introduced to the Iowa House would prevent public workers from negotiating health benefits with their employers and also decrease their pensions.

“There are people who think that you have all gathered here today just because of something that’s happening in Wisconsin,” Congressman Bruce Braley said at the protest. “But you know and I know that the real reason we’re here today is because the middle class and working women are under attack and it’s our job to stand up and set the record straight.”

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In gay rights victory, Obama administration won’t defend Defense of Marriage Act

From The Washington Post:

By Jerry Markon, Ed O’Keefe and Sandhya Somashekhar
Washington Post Staff Writers
Wednesday, February 23, 2011; 2:56 PM

The Obama administration announced Wednesday that it will no longer defend the constitutionality of the federal government’s ban on recognizing same-sex marriages, a rare legal reversal and the latest in a series of political victories for gay rights activists.

The Justice Department had appealed the decision of a federal judge in Massachusetts who struck down the Defense of Marriage Act in July, saying it was obligated to defend federal statutes. The 1996 law defines marriage from the federal perspective as between a man and a woman, which means same-sex married couples are denied access to marriage-based federal benefits.

In an extraordinary change, Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. said Wednesday that he and President Obama had determined – after an extensive review – that the law’s key section is unconstitutional. “Given that conclusion, the President has instructed the Department not to defend the statute” in court, Holder said in a statement.

Administration officials said the review was triggered by a court-imposed filing deadline in two new legal challenges to the Defense of Marriage Act, filed in federal courts in New York and Connecticut.

The change in position came after intense lobbying of Justice Department and White House officials by gay rights groups and the American Civil Liberties Union, according to activists familiar with the White House’s thinking. “There has been an all-out effort to get them to do the right thing,” said one activist, who spoke on condition of anonymity to describe internal deliberations.

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‘Use live ammunition’ against Wisconsin protesters, Indiana official says… Or Why I am Glad We Have The Second Amendment

I have never understood liberal gun grabbers.  Especially the ones who are so trusting of the police.

Me… I hate the police.  Mostly they are misogynistic, homophobic, racist pigs who protect the rich and only rarely the poor.  They are the kids who bullied me in school only grown up with badges, clubs and guns as well as the power to arrest, lie and imprison.

In the Words of NWA “Fuck da Police”

That said. Fuck the liberals who want to disarm the people at the bottom of society.  You really don’t give a shit about the violence of poverty or the violence the thugs in blue do. Fuck the platitudes about Ghandi and Martin Luther King and our being non-violent in the face of murderous thugs.

I grew up in the 1950s and had a shotgun by 12 that I used to kill rabbits and partridges.  But citizens being able to own guns is not about hunting.  Thomas Jefferson and the Founding Fathers who put the second amendment didn’t say anything about hunting or target shooting.

But they had plenty to say about the ability of people to defend themselves against tyranny.

The funny thing is there is something else I remember about the 1950s and 1960s and that is how the liberals never said shit about taking the guns away from people when it was the Klan terrorizing black folks, murdering and lynching them.

It was only when the Black Panthers started carrying guns openly that the hue and cry about gun ownership arose.

It has only gotten louder since the ratcheting up of the oppression of the poor.

Reagan was the first Republi-Nazi I remember calling  for the police to murder unarmed protesters.  But he was not the first.  Murdering protesters has been a common practice in America, from Haymarket Square to the Ludlow Mine Strike and many lesser known labor struggles.

I have never understood the resistance on the part of radicals towards being able to defend themselves.  After I was raped and nearly murdered I studied the martial arts and hung out at the Women’s Building where they were so timid about women’s ability to defend themselves from violence that they taught ineffectual self-defense classes. No one dared speak about the best form of self defense for the smaller, weaker and less given towards violence, the handgun.

All the babble about how violence never solves anything and how non-violence is more moral leaves me baffled.  If this is the case why do nations have militaries and why do the police have guns? Why did it take World War II and the Nazis destroying the power of the colonialist nations to end Great Britain’s ability to rule over India?  How come the non-violence of Dr. King seemed to lead only to the lynching of civil rights workers until the cities started burning?

I am not calling for violence.  The right wing Republi-Nazis are.  All I am is saying is that we should be able to defend ourselves against the violence of the right wing and the corporate fascist state if non-violent protest is met with violence.

From Raw Story:

By David Edwards
Wednesday, February 23rd, 2011

One official in Indiana suggested over the weekend that riot police should use deadly force on those protesting Wisconsin Republican Gov. Scott Walker’s plan to strip unions of their rights.

A Saturday tweet from Mother Jones reported on the likelihood that police would soon be clearing the Wisconsin Capitol building of demonstrators.

“Use live ammunition,” a Twitter user named JCCentCom replied.

When confronted, the Twitter user stood by his words, insisting that the protesters were “political enemies” and “thugs.”

“[A]gainst thugs physically threatening legally-elected state legislators & governor? You’re damn right I advocate deadly force,” he wrote.

Mother Jones‘ Adam Weinstein later discovered that JCCentCom was a deputy attorney general at the Office of the Indiana Attorney General.

From the writings on his blog Pro Cynic, it seemed that this wasn’t the first time Cox had used over-the-top rhetoric against those he disagreed with.

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Tom Morello plays at Madison, Wisconsin

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“US Uncut” Calls Out Corporate Tax Deadbeats

From Truth Out:

Tuesday 22 February 2011

by: Allison Kilkenny

This work by Truthout is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 United States License.

A few weeks before he died, Howard Zinn had lunch at the Warwick Hotel in Manhattan with New York Times columnist Bob Herbert. Their topic of conversation was, of course, social justice.

“If there is going to be change, real change,” Zinn told Herbert, “it will have to work its way from the bottom up, from the people themselves. That’s how change happens.”

A year later, the streets of London erupted with citizens who were engaging in Zinn’s favorite pastime: active democracy. Students gathered in protest at Parliament Square, but there were also other protests in Oxford, Scotland, Glasgow, Cambridge, Birmingham and Leeds. Across the region, students displayed their frustration with a government that sought to triple tuition fees, effectively pricing young men and women out of their educations.

The UK government’s message was clear: Sorry, there’s not enough money for the little people. Yet, it soon became clear there should have been enough funds to cover the educations of Britain’s youth, and to provide housing for every poor man, woman and child in the country. However, there were some entities – corporations – that were committing the equivalent of economic treason, and that is why the UK is currently experiencing a shortfall in tax revenue.

UK Uncut, a grassroots movement compromised of average citizens, organized in an effort to figure out where the money had gone. As The Nation reports, hey made some startling discoveries:

All the cuts in housing subsidies, driving all those people out of their homes, are part of a package of cuts to the poor, adding up to £7 billion. Yet the magazine Private Eye reported that one company alone – Vodafone, one of Britain’s leading cellphone firms – owed an outstanding bill of £6 billion to the British taxpayers. According to Private Eye, Vodaphone had been refusing to pay for years, claiming that a crucial part of its business ran through a post office box in ultra-low-tax Luxembourg. The last Labour government, for all its many flaws, had insisted it pay up.

But when the Conservatives came to power, David Hartnett, head of the British equivalent of the Internal Revenue Service, apologized to rich people for being “too black and white about the law.” Soon after, Vodafone’s bill was reported to be largely canceled, with just over £1 billion paid in the end.

Once news of the theft reached the people, UK Uncut’s ranks swelled. They staged peaceful sit-ins that shut down Vodafone’s stores. Following the successful protests, the group shifted its attention to one of Prime Minister David Cameron’s official advisers, Sir Philip Green.

As The Nation notes, Green, the ninth-richest man in the UK, is also a shameless tax dodger:

Although Green lives and works in Britain and his companies all operate on British streets, he avoids British taxes by claiming his income is “really” earned by his wife, who lives in the tax haven of Monaco. In 2005, the BBC calculated that he earned £1.2 billion and paid nothing in taxes – dodging more than £300 million in taxes.

UK Uncut pointed out that the school sports partnership, one of the programs axed under Cameron’s recently implemented cuts, could have been saved if Green was made to pay his taxes.

These kinds of lucid examples of corporate theft spoke to the public. More protests and occupations broke out, inspiring journalist Johann Hari to declare in The Nation that this is how the United States might build a progressive Tea Party. Here were real people exercising the method Zinn advocated his whole adult life: average people, building from the bottom up.

Now, the UK Uncut movement has come to America. US Uncut just recently launched, but there are already chapters springing up across the country. The whole thing is moving faster than Carl Gibson, the director of US Uncut’s founding chapter in Mississippi, could have ever hoped for.

“This is snowballing so quick,” said Gibson. “I made the Twitter page and Facebook group and invited a few friends and said, ‘Guys, we’ve got to do something about this,’ and this is right after I read the article about UK Uncut in The Nation that had the ten steps to launching a US Uncut movement, and I got busy.”

Now, Gibson is helping to coordinate movements in twenty states. UK Uncut helped him organize a unified day of protest against the banks. He’s spoken with BBC World and The Guardian. Additionally, Gibson says certain US Uncut participants have reached out to the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) in order to bridge the divide between liberalism’s two great abandoned resource pools: the poor and labor.

“I think this just indicates that people are so, so ready for a movement like this to come out,” he said, “especially when you consider how the right-wing has stolen the mantle of populism in order to preach corporate propaganda and get people to protest against their own economic self-interest in the Tea Party movement.”

As part of their efforts to nurture their fledgling counterpart, UK Uncut is helping Gibson locate those easy-to-recite tax dodging figures that captured the attention of Brits everywhere. The figures shouldn’t be difficult to find.

The IRS estimates that individuals and corporations currently hold $5 trillion in tax haven countries. Nearly two-thirds of corporations pay no taxes at all, and the great vampire squid, Goldman Sachs, which received $10 billion dollars in taxpayer money during the bailout, negotiated their tax rate down to one percent. The entire tax haven scam costs taxpayers as much as $100 billion per year.

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To help illustrate the massive hole this con game leaves in the budget, consider that President Obama made the recent decision to end the year-round Pell Grant policy in order to save $3.4 billion in 2011 and $4.2 billion in 2012. Another example: The National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) and the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) are braced for more than $6 million in cuts, a shortfall that could easily be made up if the US recovers just .06 percent of the annual taxes owed to it by tax haven criminals.

Some of the worst corporate offenders are Hewlett-Packard, Verizon, Chevron, Ford, ExxonMobil and Bank of America. The biggest dodger is General Electric (GE), which, during a time of national economic crisis, actually made money on their tax filing in 2010. Though the company generated $10.3 billion in pretax income, it recorded $1.1 billion in tax benefits. Forbes calls this GE’s “uncanny ability to lose lots of money in the US and make lots of money overseas, where tax rates are lower.” Such activity is also known as tax dodging, but publications like Forbes prefer to avoid such shrill language.

Conservatives frequently cite the fact that America’s corporate tax rate is 35 percent, which is higher than the average of other industrial countries, but that doesn’t take into account these kinds of tax evading practices. In fact, 115 companies on the S&P 500 pay less than 20 percent in taxes, and that doesn’t take into account the 37 companies, such as Citigroup and American International Group (AIG), that receive more in credits than they ultimately pay out (companies that pay less than five percent in taxes include Boeing and Amazon).

In 2010, if you made between $34,001 and $82,400, your marginal tax rate was 25 percent. That means you paid more in taxes than a company like Carnival Corporation – the entity behind the floating eyesores of Carnival cruises – which, over the last five years, has paid only 1.1 percent of its cumulative $11.3 billion in profits, according to The New York Times. You even paid more if you were in either of the next two lowest income brackets. For singles earning between $0 and $8,375, the marginal tax rate is 10 percent – a positively patriotic sum considering that income won’t keep an individual above the poverty line, and yet would cause any Fortune 500 CEO to experience cardiac arrest.

Despite these glaring instances of stolen revenue, the right has been marvelously successful at using astroturfing campaigns to create its Tea Party, a movement that is more likely to focus on illegal immigration than foreign tax havens (unsurprisingly, given that large corporations like Koch Industries bankrolled such endeavors).

Gibson blames the propaganda from networks like Fox News for brainwashing the lower classes into fighting against their own interests, yet he’s optimistic about the future. The US Uncut web site is up and growing, as are its Facebook group and Twitter page. “It’s time for the people to speak up and do whatever we can,” said Gibson.

When my Citizen Radio partner and I interviewed Zinn in his home a couple months before he died, we asked him why it’s so important for students to have an intimate understanding of history.

“To me, understanding history is a matter of life and death,” he said. “If you don’t understand history, you’re a victim.” By that, he meant that if citizens didn’t understand their own history of exploitation at the hands of robber barons and tycoons, who fought for deregulation at the expense of their employees in order to accumulate larger profits, they would be doomed to repeat those tragedies. Now here we are in 2011, and an entire movement branded as a populist uprising is screaming about illegal immigrants and Obama’s birth certificate while corporations rob the country blind.

Luckily, it seems as though enough sane Americans are learning the correct history lessons from their brothers and sisters in struggle. Here’s hoping US Uncut never forgets its history.

US Uncut’s official website is They are also on Facebook and Twitter.

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Madison labor raises the stakes

From The Socialist Worker:

Robin Gee, an editor at Madison Area Technical College, member of American Federation of Teachers Local 3872 and delegate to the Madison-area South Central Federation of Labor, reports on efforts to block Gov. Scott Walker’s union-busting bill.

February 22, 2011

FOLLOWING A weekend that included one of the largest protests in Wisconsin history, labor activists and the Madison-area labor council are organizing to oppose all provisions of Gov. Scott Walker’s union-busting “budget repair bill.”

About 40 labor and student activists gathered February 21 to discuss next steps in building a “no concessions” campaign against Walker’s bill, which would not only strip public-sector unions of meaningful collective bargaining rights, but also slash pay by forcing public employees to cover 12.6 percent of their health insurance costs and contribute 5.8 percent of their pay toward their pensions. The bill would also force 65,000 people off the Medicaid rolls and gut BadgerCare, the health care program for low-income children.

Our group, which named itself the Kill the Whole Bill Coalition, was formed in part to counter some union officials’ public offer of concessions. Marty Biel, executive director of American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Council 24, has stated publicly that his union would be willing to accept cuts in pay and benefits, and even bow to a two-year “freeze” in collective bargaining if Walker agrees to return to bargaining in 2013.

But that’s not acceptable to many public-sector workers in Wisconsin, who would see their income slashed by as much as 20 percent under Walker’s plan. And with the huge numbers of non-union working people actively in support of our struggle, it’s important that we stand in solidarity with the most vulnerable people in our state.

That same sentiment was shared by delegates to Wisconsin’s South Central Federation of Labor (SCFL), the umbrella organization for unions representing 45,000 workers in the six-county area around Madison. When I announced of the formation of the Kill the Whole Bill Coalition, the news was welcomed with cheers.

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Wisconsin Gov. Walker Throws Gasoline on the Fire

From Huffington Post:

Ethan Rome
Executive Director, Health Care for America Now
Posted: February 22, 2011

Gov. Scott Walker’s attack on Wisconsin’s middle class and his plan to take away the rights of public service workers is wrong. It’s certainly wrong for the governor to work for corporate special interests like the infamous Koch brothers instead of the people of Wisconsin. And his threat Tuesday of “dire consequences” was disingenuous and irresponsible, especially since his draconian attack on the freedom of employees to have a voice at work has nothing to do with balancing the state’s budget.

It’s time for the governor to stop fighting with public employees, put aside his partisan agenda and help Wisconsin move forward. The governor should work with the unions and both political parties and remember that this is not about winning a fight – it’s about getting things done.

In Indiana, for example, that’s what Republican Gov. Mitch Daniels has decided to do. Ideologically, Daniels and Walker are kindred spirits, and the Indiana governor is no friend of workers. But Daniels decided this is not the right time to declare war on workers. According to the Indianapolis Star, Daniels signaled Tuesday that “Republicans should drop the right-to-work bill that has brought the Indiana House to a standstill for two days and imperiled other measures.”

Wisconsin’s governor has created an unnecessary impasse. Gov. Walker has driven 14 Democratic state senators into hiding because it’s the only way they can force a pause in the legislative process. He is staring out his office window at unprecedented protests by thousands of Wisconsinites from all walks of life. Recent polls show the public is not on his side. Everyone understands that Gov. Walker’s claims about the state budget are a pretext to take away peoples’ rights and shrink Wisconsin’s middle class. This is no way to lead a state. The governor should work across party lines to solve this problem so Wisconsin lawmakers can move on to other issues – including the budget for the coming fiscal year.

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More US companies covering transgender surgery…

Um Err No SRS is for people with Transsexualism, Not Transgenderism

Fuck the GLAAD Style Guide…  gettting SRS is the dividing line between people with transsexualism and people with transgenderism.

From 365 Gay

By The Associated Press
02.22.2011 4:00pm EST

(San Francisco) When Gina Duncan decided to undergo the medical treatment that would make her a body into a woman’s body, she had plenty to fear. The reactions of her children, her professional colleagues and friends. How her body would respond to hours on the operating table. If, at the end of it, she would look female enough so strangers wouldn’t gawk.

What the Orlando mortgage banker didn’t have to be anxious about was how she would pay for two of her surgeries. Her employer of 10 years, Wells Fargo, included breast augmentation and genital reconstruction as coverable expenses under its employee health plan. Duncan was told the San Francisco-based bank already had had 16 other employees transition to new genders and assigned a benefits specialist to walk her through the process.

“They had a template in place, and it was surprisingly supporting and mentally encouraging,” said Duncan, 55, who four years later still works for Wells Fargo. “So much of what I’d heard involved people who ended up losing their job, losing their family, losing their friends, becoming destitute.”

With little fanfare, more and more large corporations, including Coca-Cola, Campbell Soup and Walt Disney, have expanded their insurance coverage to meet the needs of transgender workers. The trend follows a concerted push by transgender rights advocates to get employers and insurers to see sex reassignment the way the American Medical Association does – as a medically indicated rather than an optional procedure.

“We understand people simply get appendicitis, and it is something our community deals with through insurance,” said Andre Wilson, who counsels companies on transgender issues as a senior consultant with San Francisco-based Jamison Green & Associates. “That’s what we need to understand about transsexualism. Not everybody will be diagnosed with Gender Identity Disorder, and in fact, few people will be. But the people who are diagnosed with it really need treatment.”

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Lady Gaga Takes Target to Task for Little LGBT Monsters

From Truth Dig:

So, Lady Gaga struck a deal with Target to release a special version of her new album, “Born This Way,” which rankled some of her core devotees, as the retail giant had made a supersized slip-up in the political arena with contributions to a political action committee linked to an anti-gay candidate in Minnesota. However, it seems that Gaga was a step ahead of her would-be critics on this one, as she made a special arrangement with Target before signing on the dotted line.  —KA

That discussion was one of the most intense conversations I’ve ever had in a business meeting,” Gaga says. “Part of my deal with Target is that they have to start affiliating themselves with LGBT charity groups and begin to reform and make amends for the mistakes they’ve made in the past…our relationship is hinged upon their reform in the company to support the gay community and to redeem the mistakes they’ve made supporting those groups.”

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Target’s Public Relations Vice President On Company’s Relationship With Lady Gaga, LGBT Initiatives

From Billboard:

February 18, 2011 – Record Labels | Retail | Rock & Pop

By Bill Werde (@bwerde on Twitter)

What follows is an edited transcript of Billboard Editorial Director Bill Werde’s interview with Target Vice President of Public Relations Dustee Tucker Jenkins, regarding the company’s partnership with Lady Gaga to release an exclusive edition of the singer’s forthcoming “Born This Way” LP.

WERDE: During my interview with Lady Gaga, I said, “I think some people are confused about your deal with Target, because the company has a track record of financially supporting some politicians who haven’t been so friendly to the issues of some of your fans, and yet that’s who you ended up doing a retail deal with. I think it would be meaningful if you wanted to address it.” She said, “Part of my deal with Target is that they have to start affiliating themselves with LGTB charity groups, and begin to reform and make amends for the mistakes they’ve made in the past. And that was one of the most intense conversations I’ve ever had in a business meeting. I wasn’t comfortable with it at first. But [manager] Troy [Carter] and I sat down with them and we had a wonderful meeting. I don’t want to say too much, but I can say that our relationship is hinged upon their reforming the company to support the gay community and to redeem the mistakes they’ve made in the past in supporting those groups.” So that’s pretty specific: She said she had a conversation with the entire executive group, she said her relationship with Target is hinged upon reforming the company to support the gay community, and to redeem the mistakes they’ve made in the past in supporting those groups. I don’t believe she’s really spoken about this before, and I want to make sure that we properly contextualize it, that we represent it fairly.

JENKINS: We appreciate the opportunity to set the record straight. I can talk about what she said specifically. But maybe let me take a step back and just help you understand. As you know, Target has partnered with a variety of different artists: the Black Eyed Peas, Keith Urban, Taylor Swift [among others]. So we’ve partnered as a company with a variety of different artists, and we’re constantly looking for artists that appeal to our shoppers — we call our shoppers “guests.” And when you look at who our guests are, that represents a variety of different perspectives, types of music, and one thing that we really appreciated about Gaga from the beginning is that her fanbase is unmatched. Target as a company has had a strong commitment to fostering an [equitable] culture, and we look to promote diversity in everything we do. So understand that we are a company with 350,000 team members across the United States. So at the heart of that company are various perspectives, various backgrounds. And someone like Lady Gaga showcases a broad range of those different hearts and minds of our guests, as well as our team members. So we were thrilled about this opportunity to do the partnership.

We’ve also as a company had a long history of giving back to our community. We give 5% each week back to our communities in various forms, and that equates to about $3 million a week. So it’s a sizable amount for any corporation, and it’s been a commitment that we’ve had since the company’s founding. We have recently said internally that we have always supported various organizations within the LGBT community, but we have committed to almost half a million dollars already for 2011. So, and I can give you some of the groups specifically that we’re supporting. And that’s Project 515

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