Barney Frank – Out Of Another Closet!

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Jeremy Scahill: Media That Turned Jodi Arias Into Nancy Grace Christmas Ignored Bradley Manning

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Why have so many liberals been silent about NSA spying?

From The Guardian UK:

It’s not about Obama or party loyalty. It’s about the reality that public opinion on privacy versus security can change quickly, Friday 2 August 2013

Why hasn’t the left been able to rally support around opposition to domestic spying?

Tea Party candidates on the right have been able to generate excitement among GOP base voters with their calls to end the National Security Agency’s domestic spying program. Senator Rand Paul appears to have staked his entire potential presidential campaign on a brash defense of personal privacy (except when it comes to abortion). Libertarian-leaning Republicans in the House have been unapologetic in their criticism of the program, their own energy magnified by near-unanimous support from conservative talk radio and bloggers.

Those advocates of civil liberties (some of them quite new to the cause) have a convenient explanation for why Democrats have been less vocal and slower to criticize the collection of metadata from everyday American citizens: slavish devotion to President Obama, whatever policies he might champion.

This is an easy argument to make – and it goes both ways. Polling among Democratic and Republican voters shows a mirror-image of approval for Obama’s use of the tactic to Bush’s use of it. Since 2002, the number of Democrats who approved monitoring online activities has increased 12 points; among Republicans it has decreased 13 points. Since 2006, the number of Republicans who say the government should prioritize privacy over hunting terrorists has risen 22 points; Democrats who say the government should prioritize preventing terrorism over privacy has gone up 18 points.

The neatness of these changes in position is almost disturbing. It suggests that advocacy for civil liberties is a zero-sum game: there’s only so much libertarianism to be had at any given historical moment, there’s a ceiling on Americans’ ability to believe that the right to privacy is paramount. Indeed, as you might suspect from the numbers above, polling among all Americans on the balance of national security to privacy has neatly flipped as well. The percentage of voters that worry that the US will go “too far” in violating privacy rights in pursuit of terrorists versus “not going far enough” is now 56% percent versus 36%. In 2001, after the 9/11 attacks, it was 31% versus 55%.

It’s these numbers, rather than the occupant of the White House, that explains Democrats’ reluctance to move very aggressively in championing personal privacy – or, at least, it explains the difficulty in creating a lasting coalition around it. If at best, you will only get half the country to agree with you – and what’s more, different phrasing of the question or current events context shows inherent wobbliness on the issue – what politician will stick out his (or her) neck over it?

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How 40 Years of Union-Busting Has Failed America

From Slate:

Posted Friday, Aug. 2, 2013

Henry Blodget says he hates labor unions, but unless companies start raising wages we’re going to need them.

I would put this another way. If you turn back 30 or 40 years, the policy rationale for crushing labor union influence went something like this: In the short-term crushing private sector labor unions is going to lead to a surge in corporate profits, but profits are the fuel of investment and long-term economic growth. Companies with high profits have the capital necessary to invest. And the existence of large profit margins means there are profit opportunities to be exploited with new investment. It makes perfect sense. But it hasn’t happened, and profits have soared far in excess of investment.

You can look at this in different ways, but here’s corporate profits after tax minus net private investment:

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Medicare for All

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Conservative Are Driving Us to Suicide

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36 Senators Introduce Bill Prohibiting Virtually Any New Law Helping Workers

From Think Progress:

By Ian Millhiser
on August 2, 2013

More than three-quarters of the Senate Republican caucus signed onto legislation introduced Wednesday by Sens. Tom Coburn (R-OK) and Rand Paul (R-KY) that could render it virtually impossible for Congress to enact any legislation intended to improve working conditions or otherwise regulate the workplace. Had their bill been in effect during the Twentieth Century, for example, there would likely be no nationwide minimum wage, no national ban on workplace discrimination, no national labor law and no overtime in most industries.

Like many Tea Party proposals to neuter the federal government, Coburn and Paul’s bill is marketed as an effort to bring America back in line with a long-ago discarded vision of the Constitution. It’s named the “Enumerated Powers Act of 2013,” a reference to the provisions of the Constitution outlining Congress’ specific powers, and it claims to require all federal legislation to “’contain a concise explanation of the specific authority in the Constitution’ that is the basis for its enactment.”

The key provision in this bill, however, would revive a discredited interpretation of the Constitution that America abandoned nearly eight decades ago. Although the text of the bill is not yet available online, a press release from Coburn’s office explains that it “[p]rohibits the use of the Commerce Clause, except for ‘the regulation of the buying and selling of goods or services, or the transporting for those purposes, across boundaries with foreign nations, across State lines, or with Indian tribes.’”

To translate this language a bit, in the late 19th Century, the Supreme Court embraced an unusually narrow interpretation of the Constitution’s provision enabling Congress to “regulate commerce . . . among the several states.” Under this narrow reading, which lasted less than half a century, the justices said that they would only permit federal laws that regulated the transport of goods for sale or a sale itself. Manufacturing, mining, production and agriculture were all held to be beyond federal regulation. This theory was the basis for several decisions striking down basic labor protections, including a 1918 decision declaring a child labor law unconstitutional.

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Current Political System Incapable of Meeting Social, Economic, Environmental Challenges

From Truth Out:

By Gar Alperovitz
Friday, 02 August 2013

It’s a commonplace sentiment that politics in America is broken. Each week brings more evidence of deadlock in Washington, of social and economic decay and of disillusionment. The debased nature of politics, however, is only the most superficial symptom of our problems. Beneath the surface-level partisan bickering, much deeper currents have begun to shift.

Recent polls, for instance, show that roughly 80 percent of Americans believe their Congressional representatives to be “more interested in serving the needs of special interests groups” than “the people they represent.” Almost four out of five believe a few rich people and corporations have much too much power. And only 37 percent – not much more than a third of the population – have confidence in the most solemn and august of American institutions, the Supreme Court.

It is clear that something different is going on – both with the economy and, more fundamentally, with democracy itself. The data on long-running trends are clear:

Real wages for roughly 80 percent of American workers have not gone up more than a trivial amount for at least three decades. At the same time, income for the top 1 percent has jumped from 10 percent of all income to roughly 20 percent. Put another way: Virtually all the gains of the entire economic system have gone to a tiny, tiny group at the top – for at least three decades.

Another disturbing trend: Almost 50 million Americans live in officially defined poverty. The rate is higher, not lower than in the late 1960s. Moreover, if we use the measuring standard common throughout the advanced world – half of median income – the number would be just below 70 million, and the rate almost 23 percent.

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Massive Toxic Black Cloud, Brought To You by the Koch Bros, Blows Over Detroit

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The first rule of fracking is: Don’t talk about fracking

From Grist:

By Claire Thompson
2 Aug 2013

The Hallowich children were just 7 and 10 years old when their family received a $750,000 settlement to relocate away from their home in Mount Pleasant, Penn., which was next door to a shale-gas drilling site. By the time they’re grown up, they may not remember much about what it was like to live there — the burning eyes, sore throats, headaches, and earaches they experienced thanks to contaminated air and water. And maybe it’s better if they don’t remember, since they’re prohibited from talking about the experience for the rest of their lives.

The terms of Stephanie and Chris Hallowich’s settlement with Range Resources included, like most such settlements do, a non-disclosure agreement preventing them from discussing their case or gas drilling and fracking in general. But the agreement’s extension to their children is unprecedented; one assistant law professor at the University of Pittsburgh called it “over-the-top.”

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports:

According to the transcript [of the settlement hearing], the Hallowichs’ attorney, Peter Villari, said that in 30 years of practicing law he never had seen a nondisclosure agreement that included minor children.

And, although he advised the Hallowichs to accept the settlement, he questioned if the children’s First Amendment rights could be restricted by such an agreement.

According to Villari, the settlement wouldn’t have gone forward unless the couple also signed a document stating their health was not affected by drilling operations. So all the record will show, as a spokesperson for Range Resources put it, is that “clearly the Hallowichs were not in an ideal situation in terms of their lifestyle. They had an unusual amount of activity around them. We didn’t want them in that situation.” Man, if you could get $750,000 just for having an “unusual amount of activity” near your home — say, the construction of some microapartments — development-related NIMBYism would cease to exist.

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Food Not Bombs thrives even as it faces repression

From InfoShop News:

Contributed by: Admin
Saturday, August 03 2013

The San Francisco Police Department made history on August 15, 1988 when they made the first arrests ever for sharing food with the hungry. Nine volunteers arrived at the entrance to Golden Gate Park with organic vegan food prepared to share with the several hundred souls that were making the dense wooded park their home. A reporter with the San Francisco Chronicle learned of the the department’s plan to deploy 45 members of the Tactical Squad to Haight and Stanyan to arrest the cooks and shortly after noon the nine Food Not Bombs volunteers were captured, cuffed and driven off to jail. The activists sang “we will not be moved” as the police vans removed them from the scene.

After spending most of the night in a holding cell at police headquarters they were released to discover that the Chronicle had published a huge photo of riot police guarding the food from the hungry with a headline proclaiming “Nine Volunteers Arrested For Feeding the Homeless at Golden Gate Park.” The Food Not Bombs answering service on Polk Street was swamped with calls from people wanting to help. Offers of food, legal support, help with cooking and even commitments to risk arrest if necessary flooded in. The August 15, 1988 arrests marked a change in American societies view of the homeless and sparked a global movement. The San Francisco Police made over 1,000 arrests for the “crime” of “making a political statement” by sharing food with the hungry in public. Remove the Food Not Bombs banner and literature and provide your meals inside the National Guard Armory on the edge of the city or be arrested on felony conspiracy charges.

Twenty five years after the first arrest the act of showing compassion and effort to encourage the redirection of resources from war to providing for our community is as threatening to the authorities as it was in the summer of 1988. In response to the impact of Occupy Wall Street and other occupations over 50 cities in the United States have banned or passed laws restricting the sharing of food in public. Authorities are currently threatening to stop Food Not Bombs meals in Seattle, Portland, Boulder and Detroit. Yes Detroit, just as the city is filing for bankruptcy and has unimaginable need to feed its hungry the authorities are threatening to arrest Detroit Food Not Bombs.

Hunger and poverty are on the increase yet so is the desire to respond to the crisis. New Food Not Bombs groups form every week. Volunteers from Umuahia, Nigeria and New Paltz, New York asked to have their chapters included on today. Activists reported that there are over 100 groups in Indonesia and 30 chapters in the Philippines with the Davao City chapter posting photos of their 13th July 5th anniversary celebration on our Facebook last week. A new chapter started in the southern zone of Mexico City and groups in New Zealand announced their next Really Really Free Market.

The impact of the August 15, 1988 arrests continues to this day having inspired people to start the first wave of Food Not Bombs groups that in turn inspired others to start a chapter in their own communities so that there are volunteers recovering food, cooking vegan meals that they share with the public in over 1,000 cities around the world.

You can join this inspiring movement. The most important thing you can do is start or join an already active Food Not Bombs group in your community. To learn more you can visit or call us at 575-770-3377.

You may want to get a copy of our book “Hungry For Peace” to learn more about Food Not Bombs. You could also participate with the Food Not Bombs Free Skool in Taos, New Mexico to gain more experience.

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Federal solar energy program could save U.S. $50 billion per year by 2050

From Raw Story:

By CleanTechnica
Friday, August 2, 2013

Solar energy could supply one-third of all electricity demand in the Western US by 2050 while and massively cutting emissions – if the Department of Energy’s (DOE) SunShot Initiative succeeds.

Researchers made the bold prediction in “SunShot Solar Power Reduces Costs and Uncertainty in Future Low-Carbon Electricity Systems,” a study released this week by the University of California at Berkeley.

Using a detailed computer model that considered potential cost reductions through the SunShot Initiative and potential effects of proposed emissions reduction policies, the study found if DOE achieves its goal of reducing the cost of solar to $0.06 cents per kilowatt-hour to reach grid parity, it will displace natural gas, nuclear, and clean coal technologies while reducing emissions 80% below 1990 levels.

Solar Energy Could Save The Planet At A Modest Cost

The UC Berkeley team used SWITCH (Solar, Wind, Transmission, Conventional, and Hydro) a high-resolution electricity system planning model, to study what the future of solar energy could look like across the Western US. Fortunately, the outlook is bright for solar for states west of the Kansas-Colorado border and as far north as Alberta and British Columbia.

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Fight the farmers market backlash!

From Salon:

Critics mock their pretensions, smells, even the space they take up. But they have very real benefits for cities

Saturday, Aug 3, 2013

What would my forefathers say if they knew I waited for two hours to get into a fish market? They would probably find it ridiculous; perhaps you do too. I didn’t even buy a fish.

But I wasn’t the only one. At 3:30 a.m. on a recent Tuesday, dozens of people had assembled outside the gates of Tokyo’s Tsukiji Market. The attraction on this steamy summer morn — like the day before, and the day after — was the ritual auction of the tunas, the fish that feed the world’s biggest city. The event has drawn such an audience in recent years that market officials have capped daily attendance at 120 people. But for those who make it in, a show awaits. This January, a 489-pound tuna sold for a record $1.7 million.

There are markets, and then there is Tsukiji, the Tokyo Metropolitan Central Wholesale Market, the epicenter of the global fishing trade and, more affectionately, Tokyo’s pantry. Tens of thousands of buyers, sellers and other parties report here each morning. Approximately four million pounds of fish, from hundreds of different species, changes hands here daily – that’s one out of every five fish caught in the world. It’s the world’s second-biggest food market (after Rungis, outside Paris), and largest fish market. Aficionados liken a visit to a religious experience. Anthony Bourdain called it “life-altering.” Environmentalists shudder at this most vivid manifestation of overfishing, a hard-to-grasp concept made real by the sight of one million fish packed in ice, the sound of frozen bluefins carved up by the bandsaw.

Tsukiji doesn’t quite “explain the world,” as the cliché goes, but like ancient haruspices, we can read signs in its harvest. Its defining qualities are the same ones we value in the city as a whole: 24-hour time; limitless selection; international relevance. In a city teeming with examples of superlative human density, including the world’s two biggest train stations, the world’s busiest subway system, and a skyline with few comparisons, Tsukiji is a source of local pride and foreign fascination.

And Tsukiji is not just a microcosm of the city, a lesson in global economics, a primer on marine life or a sensory spectacle. It’s a study in one of the most obvious challenges of urban life: how do you feed a city where over 30 million people live within 30 miles of city hall?

After a century in which the cities of the developed world sought to banish wholesale markets from their streets, attention to food is resurgent. Many young Americans, in particular, have a passion for food and farming that baffles their parents and peers. In American cities, where the shift to the supermarket was strongest, the backlash has produced street markets, urban farms, community-supported agriculture and a burgeoning interest in the infrastructure of food production and distribution.

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Tens of Thousands of Pipeline Miles at Risk of Pegasus-Style Rupture That Spewed Tar Sands Into Arkansas Town

From Common Dreams:

Review of Pegasus pipeline found known ‘manufacturing defects’ likely cause of Mayflower oil spill

Lauren McCauley

The March 29 rupture of Exxon Mobil’s Pegasus pipeline—which flooded a Mayflower, Arkansas neighborhood with over 200,000 gallons of tar sands oil—was likely caused by known “manufacturing defects,” with grave implications for the tens of thousands of similarly built pipelines still in the ground and operating, according to a review released Thursday.

An examination of the 70-year-old Pegasus pipeline and its 22-foot-gash found that the pipeline failure “resulted from an original manufacturing defect of the electronic resistance welded (ERW) pipe,” according to a spokesman from the Hurst Metallurgical Research Laboratory.

Citing an ongoing investigation, both Exxon and the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) waited nearly a month after receiving the report before releasing the details to Arkansas newspaper Log Cabin Democrat Thursday.

Implications of the report are significant as it shows that pipelines “similarly manufactured, and in the same era as the ruptured line in Mayflower, are inferior and susceptible to failure,” the Democrat reports.

A pipeline industry insider who declined to be named told Common Dreams that there are “tens of thousands of miles of pipeline in the ground and operating from the approximate vintage” as the Pegasus pipeline.

“The fact of the matter is, any pre-1970s pipeline was manufactured with old technologies,”  John Tynan, Watershed Protection Manager with Central Arkansas Water, told Common Dreams.

“The only way to eliminate their risk is to completely remove the pipelines and shut down the operation,” he added.

A 1998 assessment of ERW pipelines conducted by the National Institute of Standards and Technology under the U.S. Department of Commerce found that pipelines manufactured in the 1940s using the ERW technique are “inherently susceptible to seam failures.”

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