New Rules Would Rein In Nonprofits’ Political Role

From The New York Times:  http://www.nytimes.com/2013/11/27/us/politics/new-campaign-rules-proposed-for-tax-exempt-nonprofits.html?hp&_r=0

By
Published: November 26, 2013

he Obama administration on Tuesday moved to curb political activity by tax-exempt nonprofit organizations, with potentially major ramifications for some of the biggest and most secretive spenders in American politics.

New rules proposed by the Treasury Department and the Internal Revenue Service would clarify both how the I.R.S. defines political activity and how much nonprofits are allowed to spend on it. The proposal covers not just television advertising, but bread-and-butter political work like candidate forums and get-out-the-vote drives.

Long demanded by government watchdogs and Democrats who say the flow of money through tax-exempt groups is corrupting the political system, the changes would be the first wholesale shift in a generation in the regulations governing political activity by nonprofits.

The move follows years of legal and regulatory shifts, including the Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling in 2010, that have steadily loosened the rules governing political spending, particularly by those with the biggest bank accounts: corporations, unions and wealthy individuals.

But the proposal also thrusts the I.R.S. into what is sure to be a polarizing regulatory battle, with some Republicans immediately criticizing the proposal on Tuesday as an attack on free speech and a ploy to undermine congressional investigations into the agency’s handling of applications from Tea Party groups.

“Before rushing forward with new rules, especially ones that appear to make it harder to engage in public debate, I would hope Treasury would let all the facts come out first,” said Representative David Camp of Michigan, the chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee.

Political spending by tax-exempt groups — from Crossroads Grassroots Policy Strategies, co-founded by the Republican strategist Karl Rove, to the League of Conservation Voters — skyrocketed to more than $300 million in 2012 from less than $5.2 million in 2006, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

Much of the money has been funneled through chains of interlinked nonprofit groups, making it even harder to determine the original source.

And unlike political parties and “super PACs,” political nonprofits are permitted to keep the names of donors confidential, making them the vehicle of choice for deep-pocketed donors seeking to influence campaigns in secret.

The new rules would not prohibit political activity by nonprofits.

Continue reading at:  http://www.nytimes.com/2013/11/27/us/politics/new-campaign-rules-proposed-for-tax-exempt-nonprofits.html?hp&_r=0

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Conservative think tank appalled when guys with MBAs take over

From Salon:  http://www.salon.com/2013/11/26/conservative_think_tank_appalled_when_guys_with_mbas_take_over/

Heritage staffers for some reason don’t like their organization being treated like a common school or corporation


Tuesday, Nov 26, 2013

Julia Ioffe has a piece in the New Republic explaining the recent history of the Heritage Foundation, once the most influential conservative think tank in Washington, D.C. — perhaps the most influential think tank of any kind anywhere, for a few years — and now essentially a very large email list and activist PAC/pressure group.

Many people noticed how much the organization had changed during the recent government shutdown/”defund Obamacare” fight, a giant waste of everyone’s time and general self-inflicted disaster engineered and designed by Heritage Action, the 501(c)(4) “pressure group” Heritage launched in 2010. On the right, there was much consternation over the direction this once-respected think tank had taken. Truth be told, Heritage was always mostly political hacks, they just used to be effective political hacks with a realistic agenda. What was different now was the cheerful absense of any coherent and/or achievable goal — beyond fundraising and image-boosting for Heritage Action itself. Many blamed this on new Heritage president Jim DeMint, a former congressman not particularly known for his intellect, but Ioffe says the new tone at Heritage, and the tactics of Heritage Action, were both largely directed by Michael Needham, a 31-year-old former Giuliani staffer brought on to be the CEO of Heritage Action when it launched.

Needham is a child of privilege, the Manhattan-raised son of a banker and a Saks executive. Basically the minute he was hired to run Heritage Action, he began acting like any up-jumped MBA with an executive position. He and his lieutenant, “a 31-year-old evangelical named Tim Chapman who had a few years experience working on the Hill,” promptly took over the organization, assisted by DeMint, who took over as president when his kindly old predecessor retired.

“I was always struck at how they felt absolutely no intellectual modesty,” says the former veteran Heritage staffer. “They felt totally on par with people who had spent thirty years in the field and had Ph.D.s.”

Hmm. Why shouldn’t they? What good is a Ph.D. compared to the education received by an MBA with a useful business degree?

Continue reading at:  http://www.salon.com/2013/11/26/conservative_think_tank_appalled_when_guys_with_mbas_take_over/

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A Basic Income is Not a Crazy Idea

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How Wall Street Turned America Into Incarceration Nation

From Alternet:  http://www.alternet.org/corporate-accountability-and-workplace/how-wall-st-turned-america-incarceration-nation

Transforming poorer neighborhoods into desirable real estate for the new elites often requires getting rid of the poor: jail becomes the new home for many.

By Les Leopold
November 25, 2013

The U.S. leads the world in prisoners with 2.27 million in jail and more than 4.8 million on parole. Minorities have been especially hard hit, forming 39.4% of the prison population, with one in three black men expected to serve time during their lifetimes.

How is it that our land, supposedly the beacon of freedom and democracy for the rest of the world, puts so many of its own people into prison?

We usually attribute the prisoner increase to a combination of overt racism and Nixon’s war on drugs, followed by Rockefeller’s “three strikes” legislation in New York, and then the 1984 Sentencing Reform Act with its mandatory sentences. While racism and these laws certainly provide ample opportunity to incarcerate millions for violating senseless prohibition laws, they do not tell the whole story.

Racism was just as virulent, if not more so, long before the dramatic rise in prisoners set in during the 1980s and 1990s. Just because there are draconian laws on the books, it doesn’t explain why they are so dutifully enforced. It also doesn’t explain why so many are willing to risk prison, knowing the increasing odds of getting caught.

If we dig deeper, we’ll see that the rise in incarceration corresponds with the rise of financialization and the dramatic increase in Wall Street incomes. Of course, just because trend lines on charts rise and fall together doesn’t mean one causes the other. But this correspondence is much more than coincidence.

In fact, we could show you a dozen other trends lines about financialization, wealth and the rising incomes of America’s elites that follow the same patterns over similar years as the incarceration rate. What is the connection?

‘Unleashing’ Wall Street destroys manufacturing, older urban areas and black America’s upward mobility

By the end of the 1970s, our policy establishment embarked upon a new experiment to shock the nation out of stagflation (the crushing combination of high unemployment and high inflation). To do so, neo-liberal economists successfully argued that Wall Street should be deregulated and that taxes on the wealthy should be cut to spur new entrepreneurial activity that would enrich us all.

Continue reading at:  http://www.alternet.org/corporate-accountability-and-workplace/how-wall-st-turned-america-incarceration-nation

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Petitioning Southern Poverty Law Center: Monitor Gender Identity Watch as a Hate Group

From Change.org:  https://www.change.org/petitions/southern-poverty-law-center-monitor-gender-identity-watch-as-a-hate-group-2

Secular Woman

As a feminist organization, Secular Woman promotes gender equality. We stand against and combat sexism, hate, intolerance, and misogyny.

Transgender women are women.

Cisgender women are women.

We do not, in any way, view the existence of transgender women, genderqueer individuals or transgender men as a threat to the safety of women, female identity, or the goals of feminism.

As intersectional feminists we acknowledge the privilege that cisgender people experience. We aim to dismantle the axis of oppression that this represents.

Unfortunately, not all who claim the label “feminist” agree with us.  They do not represent us and we reject their actions and views as unethical and devoid of reason.

We stand in opposition.

Members of our community have been targeted by trans-exclusionary radical feminists (TERFs). Personal information such as former names, current legal names, and photographs have been compiled and displayed on the website “Name the Problem”.  Several of the entries are self-attributed to “Pegasus” (“PegasusBug” is a pseudonym of Cathy Brennan, the head of Gender Identity Watch). This information was presented alongside reports describing rapists and batterers of women.

Countless others, including members of transgender advocacy groups have reported similar treatment, as well as other alarming behavior, such as Cathy Brennan contacting employers, schools and medical doctors of transgender women, girls and young men.

This is unacceptable.

It is anathema to our vision of a future in which women have the opportunities and resources they need to participate openly and confidently in every aspect of society.

Cathy Brennan’s tactics, as described, are reprehensible, reckless, and irresponsible as they have the potential to embolden violence and harassment of those she targets and to result in job loss and other discrimination informed by the open knowledge of the target’s transgender status.

Refusal to afford transgender women inclusion, safety, and civil rights is a form of misogyny that is antithetical to feminism.

We invite fellow feminists and secularists, as well as others concerned, to proactively affirm the inclusion of all women as women.  Condemn the toxic ideologies used to rationalize hate, fear, and discrimination based on gender.

Stand with us in petitioning the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) to track the activities of Cathy Brennan’s Gender Identity Watch as a hate group in accordance with SPLC’s stated mission.
Signed in Solidarity,

Secular Woman
Stop Abuse Online
Skepchick
Trinity Aodh, Melody Hensley, M. A. Melby, Veronica K. Berglyd Olsen, Kim Rippere, Mary Ellen Sikes, Dana Lane Taylor

Click Here To Sign Petition

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AB1266 Referendum Drive: So Far, Not So Good For Privacy For All Students Coalition

From Trans-Advocate: http://www.transadvocate.com/ab1266-referen dum-drive-so-far-not-so-good-for-privacy-for-all-students-coalition.htm

By Autumn Sandeen
November 22, 2013

Reposted with Permission

The Secretary of State’s office described the process and procedure for qualifying the School Success And Opportunity Act (AB1266) for referendum on the November, 2014 ballot:

Thumbnail link: California Secretary Of State Report On Referendum to Overturn Non-Discrimination Requirements for School Programs and Activities (November 21, 2013)

Once the requisite number of signatures has been collected, they must be filed with the appropriate county elections official(s). Counties then have eight working days to report the raw count of signatures to the Secretary of State.

 

If the raw count of signatures equals 100% or more of the total number of signatures needed to qualify the initiative measure, the Secretary of State notifies the county elections officials that they will have to randomly sample signatures for validation, to ensure petitions were signed by registered voters. If the result of the random sample indicates that the number of valid signatures represents between 95% and 110% of the required number of signatures to qualify the initiative measure for the ballot, the Secretary of State directs the county elections officials to verify every signature on the petition. This process is referred to as a full check of signatures. If the total number of valid signatures is less than 95% of the number of signatures required to qualify the initiative measure, the initiative measure will fail to qualify for the ballot. If the number of valid signatures is greater than 110% of the required number of signatures, the initiative measure is considered qualified without further verification. Spreadsheets containing the progress of an initiative in the signature verification stage are updated regularly.

The most recent spreadsheet was released on November 21, 2013.

So with the process and procedures in mind, to qualify California’s AB1266 for a referendum in November of 2014, the Privacy For All Students coalition {which includes the Pacific Justice Institute (PJI)}needed to turn in petitions with 504,760 valid signatures of registered California voters. The coalition reported that they turned in petitions with about 620,000 signatures.

The numbers posted by the Secretary Of State’s office spreadsheet show that 547,984 petition signatures have been raw counted to date, and random checking of petitions so far has indicated a signature validity rate of 72.49%. To succeed, the Privacy For All Students coalition would need a final validity rate of 81.4% to reach the 504,760 valid signatures of registered voters mark to qualify AB1266 for a referendum.

“With only 5 counties yet to report the raw number of signatures turned in, the total raw number is 547,984.” said one of the number-crunching LGBT advocates watching this signature count closely. “Four of the remaining counties are small. Amador County has a population of 38,091. Kings County has a population of 151,364. Mariposa County has a population of 17,905. Mono County has a population of 14,348. Only yet-to-report San Bernardino County is a population center, with a population slightly over 2 million.”

The advocate noted that Kern County (where the city of Bakersfield is located), was “a particular fail.” That county only had a signature validity rate of 69.7%.

Qualification of a November, 2014 referendum to repeal AB1266 looks to be depending heavily on 1.) the raw count of signatures provided to the Secretary of State from San Bernardino County and 2.) the signature validity rate of those signatures in that county. If the signature validity rate out of San Bernardino County isn’t high enough to raise the overall validity rate up by 9 percentage points, then the effort to put AB1266 up for referendum will have failed.

It’s far, far too soon to say that the petition drive to put AB1266 up for a vote has failed, but at this point it’s not looking good for the Privacy For All Students coalition.

And, should the referendum signature drive to repeal AB1266 fail, that would be very, very good news for California’s trans youth.


Update: The Secretary of State’s office released a new spreadsheet dated November 22, 2013. The new report has a raw number count for San Bernardino County of 63,348 signatures. The new report updated the overall signature validity rate to 75.46%.Again quoting my the number-crunching LGBT advocate source:

If the repeal people turned in 620,000 signatures as they said (right now it stands at 613,120), they will need a final validity rate of 81.41% to hit the required 504,760 valid signatures.

If the random checks come in at under 95% of 504,760 valid signatures, it’s over and we won.

If the random checks come in at above 110% of 504,760 (essentially impossible), this part is over and we go to the ballot.

In between those two percentages, the state will force an actual count of every single signature (as opposed to a random check) to see if 504,760 of the approximately 620,000 are valid.

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Tackling Violence Against Women and Girls: An Urgent Priority

From Huffington Post:  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/helen-clark/tackling-violence-against-women-and-girls_b_4338056.html


11/25/2013

Today is the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women — a day which reminds us that violence against women continues to be destructive and pervasive. Ranging from domestic violence and child marriages to the use of rape as a tactic of war, violence against women kills as many women between the ages of 15 and 44 as cancer, is a grave assault on many more women and girls and imposes high economic and social costs on societies.

In responding to gender-based violence, the financial costs to health systems, social services, the justice sector and indirect costs, such as those of lost productivity, burden countries around the world. From Chile, where intimate partner violence is estimated to drain as much as two percent of the country’s GDP, to the United States, where the cost of domestic violence is estimated to exceed $12.6 billion per year, violence against women imposes high costs on both its victims and society.

Yet, when women are able to live in a safe and secure environment, they can participate effectively in the economy and society. This helps overcome poverty, reduces inequalities and is beneficial for children’s nutrition, health and school attendance. Every woman and girl has the right to live in safety in her home and community.

At UNDP, we address the problem of gender-based violence in partnership with other organizations, including NGOs and civil society. We aim to contribute to reducing violence and to promote women’s economic, legal, social and political empowerment. Through our programs, we provide legal and psychological support to victims, and we target the underlying causes of violence.

Improving women’s access to the justice system and to legal aid is vital. In conflict and post-conflict countries where justice systems, security and the rule of law have broken down, women are particularly at risk. To counter this, in countries such as the Democratic Republic of the Congo, we are helping to strengthen the justice sector so that the many cases of rape and violence committed by combatants can be addressed. Impunity for perpetrators must end.

In addressing sexual and gender-based violence, it is important to know more about the entrenched attitudes and values which perpetrate it. A recent joint report by UNDP, UN Women, UN Population Fund and UN Volunteers surveyed 10,000 men in Asia and the Pacific. It found that 80 percent of men who admitted to committing rape in rural Bangladesh and China cited a sense of sexual entitlement as their motivation. Of those who perpetrated the violence in those countries, the vast majority never faced any legal consequences.

Continue reading at:  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/helen-clark/tackling-violence-against-women-and-girls_b_4338056.html

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Transgender women in women’s restrooms: A purely imagined harm

From Zinnia Jones:  http://freethoughtblogs.com/zinniajones/2013/11/transgender-women-in-womens-restrooms-a-purely-imagined-harm/

By Zinnia Jones
Nov. 12, 2013

This August, California passed the School Success and Opportunity Act, a law mandating that transgender students must be included in school activities on the basis of their identified gender rather than their assigned sex. This includes playing on sports teams consistent with their gender, as well as the use of facilities such as bathrooms and locker rooms.

Conservative groups predictably painted this as an outrage, raising the terrifying possibility that trans girls might use girls’ restrooms – which is supposed to be a problem for some reason. Frank Schubert, a strategist behind numerous state campaigns against marriage equality, is now leading an initiative to overturn the law. The National Organization for Marriage, following a lengthy series of failures to achieve any of their marriage-related aims, has decided it would be easier to attack trans kids.

But of all the groups that have lined up to oppose this law, perhaps none have been as vocal – and as dangerous – as the Pacific Justice Institute. On their website, Pacific Justice immediately began seeking plaintiffs who felt they were somehow wronged by this new law, and were willing to challenge it in court. Having apparently no success in their search, they had to go all the way to Colorado to find the supposed victims they needed as the face of their campaign.

On October 13, the Christian Broadcasting Network published a story claiming that a transgender girl had been harassing other girls in restrooms at Florence High School in Colorado. From the very beginning, this story was suspiciously light on details. No further information was given as to the specific nature of the alleged harassment. No individuals involved were identified or even quoted. No evidence was provided that any of this had actually taken place. The “story”, if you can call it that, came down to nothing more than a vague allegation – and half of the very short article was devoted to grandstanding and self-promotion by Pacific Justice.

Following its publication, this story was uncritically syndicated by news outlets around the world, including Fox News and the Daily Mail. Fortunately, Cristan Williams of Transadvocate.com took the time to contact the school superintendent, Rhonda Vendetti, and find the facts surrounding this supposed incident. When asked about the story, Vendetti stated: “to our knowledge and based on our investigation, none of those things have actually happened. We do have a transgender student at the high school and she has been using the women’s restroom. There has not been a situation.” She further added: “There has not been an incident of harassment, or anything that would cause any additional concern.”

In other words, the Pacific Justice Institute’s story appeared to be more of a non-story, and likely nothing more than a false accusation. The Daily Mail subsequently removed the article from their website. But the exposure of their fabricated story didn’t stop Pacific Justice from continuing to pursue it anyway. Within days, they issued a very revealing clarification of their earlier claims: “It is our position that the intrusion of a biological male into a restroom for teenage girls is inherently harassing and intimidating.”

Continue reading at:  http://freethoughtblogs.com/zinniajones/2013/11/transgender-women-in-womens-restrooms-a-purely-imagined-harm/

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Becoming A Feminist

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Op-ed: A Loophole for Discrimination

From The Advocate:  http://www.advocate.com/commentary/2013/11/19/op-ed-loophole-discrimination

Can religious exemptions still knock the wind out of ENDA’s sails?

BY Ian Thompson
November 19 2013

As is now well known, history was recently made in the U.S. Senate with the 64-32 vote to pass the Employment Non-Discrimination Act. In the hours leading up to this landmark moment for LGBT Americans, senators by a vote of 55-43 rightly rejected an attempt to expand ENDA’s religious exemption.  The amendment, proposed by Republican Patrick Toomey of Pennsylvania, would have created an entirely new rule that it isn’t a part of any other federal or state law barring workplace discrimination. It could have allowed even for-profit companies (your friendly neighborhood Chick-fil-A, for example) to discriminate against LGBT workers and applicants if the owners claimed the business was “affiliated” with a particular religion.

The bipartisan rejection of the Toomey Amendment was a critical victory against efforts to misuse religious liberty as a license to discriminate against LGBT people. However, before we engage in too much self-congratulation, it is important to remember that ENDA’s existing religious exemption remains cause for concern.

In an op-ed I wrote for The Advocate in May, I explained that ENDA’s religious exemption could provide religiously affiliated organizations — far beyond houses of worship — with a blank check to engage in employment discrimination against LGBT people. It would allow these organizations to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity under ENDA — in any job and for any reason. Right now these organizations are allowed to prefer people of their own faith so that the organizations can require those who carry out their work to share their faith. But the organizations are not allowed to discriminate based on sex, race, or national origin under existing law. So the ENDA exemption essentially says that anti-LGBT discrimination is different — more legitimate — than discrimination against individuals based on their race or sex.

Magnifying these concerns is the reality that some courts have, for example, said that religiously affiliated hospitals count as “religious organizations” that would be eligible for the exemption. The implications for LGBT workers at these hospitals are stark. A hospital often employs hundreds, if not thousands, of workers, and may be one of the largest employers in a particular city or town. Should ENDA exclude from its protections LGBT doctors, nurses, clerical staff, janitors, and cafeteria employees simply because they work at a hospital with a religious affiliation?

Continue reading at:  http://www.advocate.com/commentary/2013/11/19/op-ed-loophole-discrimination

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Bernie Sanders Might Just Have to Run for President

From The Nation:  http://www.thenation.com/blog/177247/bernie-sanders-might-just-have-run-president#

John Nichols
on November 19, 2013

Bernie Sanders is not burning with presidential ambition. He doubts that he would consider bidding for the nation’s top job if another prominent progressive was gearing up for a 2016 run that would provide a seriously-focused and seriously competitive populist alternative to politics as usual.

But if the fundamental issues that are of concern to the great mass of Americans—“the collapse of the middle class, growing wealth and income inequality, growth in poverty, global warming”—are not being discussed by the 2016 candidates, Sanders says, “Well, then maybe I have to do it.”

This calculation brings the independent senator from Vermont a step closer to presidential politics than he has ever been before. With a larger social-media following than most members of Congress, a regular presence on left-leaning television and talk radio programs—syndicated radio host Bill Press greeted the Sanders speculation with a Tuesday morning “Go, Bernie, Go!” cheer—and a new “Progressive Voters of America” political action committee, Sanders has many of the elements of an insurgent candidacy in place.

But the senator is still a long way from running.

In interviews over the past several days, Sanders has argued with increasing force that the times demand that there be a progressive contender in 2016.

“Under normal times, it’s fine, if you have a moderate Democrat running, a moderate Republican running,” the senator told his hometown paper, the Burlington Free Press. “These are not normal times. The United States right now is in the middle of a severe crisis and you have to call it what it is.”

So, says Sanders, there must be a progressive alternative to the conservative Republican politics of cruelty and cuts and the centrist Democratic politics of compromise with the conservatives.

“[The] major issues of this country that impact millions of people cannot continue to be swept under the rug,” Sanders told Politico on Monday. “And if nobody else is talking about it, well, then maybe I have to do it. But I do not believe that I am the only person that is capable of doing this.”

The independent senator has high praise for Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren, who has recently been talked up by some progressives as a prospective primary challenger to the front-runner for the party’s 2016 presidential nomination, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Unlike Clinton, Warren has a reputation for taking on Wall Street, big banks and corporate CEOs, and Sanders hails the Massachusetts senator as a “real progressive.” But Warren says she is not running.

Continue reading at:  http://www.thenation.com/blog/177247/bernie-sanders-might-just-have-run-president#

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Noam Chomsky: America Is a Terrified Country

From Alternet:  http://www.alternet.org/noam-chomsky-america-terrified-country

Noam Chomsky discusses American terror abroad, dire income inequality at home, and what to do next.

By Catherine Komp
November 20, 2013

This is an excerpt from the just released 2nd edition of Noam Chomsky’s  OCCUPY: Class War, Rebellion and Solidarity published by  Zuccotti Park Press. Reprinted from Truthout.org. with permission.

Free Speech Radio News producer Catherine Komp interviews Noam Chomsky.

Noam Chomsky is amongst the world’s most cited living scholars. Voted the “world’s top public intellectual” in 2005, he is perhaps best known as a critic of all forms of social control and a relentless advocate for community-centered approaches to democracy and freedom. Over the last several decades, Chomsky has championed a wide range of dissident actions, organizations and social movements. In this excerpt from the just-released expanded edition of the  Zuccotti Park Press book, Occupy: Class War, Rebellion and Solidarity, Chomsky speaks with Free Speech Radio News about media control, fear, indoctrination and the importance of solidarity.

Catherine Komp: It’s been twenty- five years since the publication of your and Edward Herman’s acclaimed book Manufacturing Consent. How much do you think has changed with the propaganda model, and where do you see it playing out most prominently today?

Noam Chomsky: Well, ten years ago we had a re-edition and we talked about some of the changes. One change is that we were too narrow. There are a number of filters that determine the framework of reporting, and one of the filters was too narrow. Instead of “anti-communism,” which was too narrow, it should have been “fear of the concocted enemy.” So yes, it could be anti-communism—most of that is concocted. So take Cuba again. It’s hard to believe, but for the Pentagon, Cuba was listed as one of the military threats to the United States until a couple of years ago. This is so ludicrous; you don’t even know whether to laugh or cry. It’s as if the Soviet Union had listed Luxembourg as a threat to its security. But here it kind of passes.

The United States is a very frightened country. And there are all kinds of things concocted for you to be frightened about. So that should have been the filter, and [there were] a few other things, but I think it’s basically the same.

There is change. Free Speech Radio didn’t exist when we wrote the book, and there are somethings on the Internet which break the bonds, as do independent work and things like the book I was just talking about when we came in, Jeremy Scahill’s Dirty Wars, which is a fantastic piece of investigative reporting on the ground of what actually happens in the countries where we’re carrying out these terror campaigns. And there’s a lot of talk about drones, but not much about the fact that they are terror weapons.

Continue reading at:  http://www.alternet.org/noam-chomsky-america-terrified-country

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Republicans will keep heading right!: What the media doesn’t comprehend

From Salon:  http://www.salon.com/2013/11/19/republicans_will_keep_heading_right_what_the_media_doesnt_comprehend/

Chattering classes are convinced Chris Christie will move GOP to the center. This totally misunderstands history


Tuesday, Nov 19, 2013

Chris Christie’s recent reelection victory has touched off a round of predictable nonsense in the chattering classes. Just as surely as it was obvious that groupthinking Democrats were foolishly giving Christie a pass in advance of the election, groupthinking elites across the spectrum are now touting variations on the idea that Christie — a supposed “moderate” — is just what the GOP needs to steer it back to the center, restoring its political relevance and winning the White House, just like Clinton did with the Democrats in 1992.  Of course, the notion that Christie’s a moderate is absurd, as Elias Isquith quickly pointed out here at Salon the day after the election.

The media may eventually fall back to a more plausible take: that Christie, like George W. Bush before him, is a governing conservative, not a burn everything down conservative. It’s a distinction that’s not always easy to make when you look too closely at results (“Heckuva job, Brownie!”), and it’s definitely situational in the long view, in light of Corey Robin’s devastating demolition of the myth of “Burkean Conservatism” in “The Reactionary Mind,” where he dwells and expands upon just how un-Burkean Burke himself became in “Letters on a Regicide Peace.” But in the here-and-now, that difference certainly may register in terms of ability to soothe big business as a whole, and appeal beyond the base — especially when the media helps out, as it did during 1999 and 2000, painting Bush as a bipartisan Washington outsider (ignoring both President Pa, and Senator Grandpa) while falsely smearing Al Gore as a liar.

But it’s a good deal harder to remake the other half of the narrative into anything close to reality.  Clinton definitely helped move the Democratic Party right (passing NAFTA, diminishing labor’s influence in favor of Wall Street, signing onto Gingrich’s version of “welfare reform”), no question about that — although his populist campaign, “putting people first,” sent a rather different message. But to the center? That’s a mighty hard claim to square with the massive defeat the Democrats suffered two years later — losing the House for the first time since 1954, losing a majority of state governors for the first time since 1970 and losing control of a plurality of state legislatures for the first time since a 20-20 split in 1969 — losses that took more than a decade to fully recover from.  The Democrat’s 1994 landslide losses ought to be enough to disrupt, if not refute the “move to the center” narrative. But for various reasons it’s like catnip to the chattering classes. They just can’t let go of it. Considering its attractiveness as a mirror-image narrative for what the GOP is facing now, a more critical look at what actually happened with the Democrats in the ’80s and ’90s is something that’s long overdue.

To begin with, the “move to the center” narrative is implicitly based on the “median voter” school of political science analysis, which paradoxically assumes that low-information median voters are the crucial drivers in U.S. politics, while at the same time assuming they’re sophisticated enough to move incrementally left or right, in careful calibration to how parties and candidate present themselves. The most potent, coherent counter theory comes from political scientist Thomas Ferguson, laid out in his 1995 book, “Golden Rule: The Investment Theory of Party Competition and the Logic of Money-Driven Political Systems.” Ferguson builds on Mancur Olson’s insight in “The Logic of Collective Action” that small groups with specific self-interested goals are more readily organized for political action than large groups representing broader, common interests.

Continue reading at:  http://www.salon.com/2013/11/19/republicans_will_keep_heading_right_what_the_media_doesnt_comprehend/

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Singapore-sized chunk of ice breaks away from Antarctica and is now adrift

From Raw Story:  http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2013/11/23/singapore-sized-chunk-of-ice-breaks-away-from-antarctica-and-is-now-adrift/

By David Ferguson
Saturday, November 23, 2013

A chunk of ice the size of the island nation of Singapore broke off of the continent of Antarctica late last month and is currently adrift at sea.

NASA satellite images taken on Oct. 28 and Nov. 13 show the before and after images of the break.

A crack was first detected in the pine island glacier years ago. Gradually it deepened into a rift and now, a full detachment from the continental mass.

Scientists say the city-sized iceberg measures roughly 35 by 20 km. (22 by 12 mi.) and that it is anybody’s guess whether the iceberg will stay trapped in Pine Island bay or get set adrift in the Southern Ocean.

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U.S. Methane Study Says Emissions 50 Percent Higher Than EPA Estimates

From Huffington Post:  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/11/25/us-methane-study-emissions_n_4339308.html

By SETH BORENSTEIN
11/25/13

WASHINGTON (AP) — The United States is spewing 50 percent more methane — a potent heat-trapping gas — than the federal government estimates, a new comprehensive scientific study says. Much of it is coming from just three states: Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas.

That means methane may be a bigger global warming issue than thought, scientists say. Methane is 21 times more potent at trapping heat than carbon dioxide, the most abundant global warming gas, although it doesn’t stay in the air as long.

Much of that extra methane, also called natural gas, seems to be coming from livestock, including manure, belches, and flatulence, as well as leaks from refining and drilling for oil and gas, the study says. It was published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science.

The study estimates that in 2008, the U.S. poured 49 million tons of methane into the air. That means U.S. methane emissions trapped about as much heat as all the carbon dioxide pollution coming from cars, trucks, and planes in the country in six months.

That’s more than the 32 million tons estimated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Administration or the nearly 29 million tons reckoned by the European Commission.

“Something is very much off in the inventories,” said study co-author Anna Michalak, an Earth scientist at the Carnegie Institution for Science in Stanford, Calif. “The total U.S. impact on the world’s energy budget is different than we thought, and it’s worse.”

EPA spokeswoman Alisha Johnson said her agency hasn’t had time to go through the study yet, but hopes it will help “refine our estimates going forward.”

While the world has a good handle on how much carbon dioxide is pumped into the air, scientists have been more baffled by methane emissions. They have had to use computer models to estimate how much methane is going into that air.

Continue reading at:  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/11/25/us-methane-study-emissions_n_4339308.html

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Arctic Storms, Warming Mean More Methane Released

From  Climate Central:  http://www.climatecentral.org/news/storms-warming-mean-more-arctic-methane-being-released-16775

By November 24th, 2013

Underneath the Arctic Ocean sits a large reserve of methane, a potent greenhouse gas. Understanding how much of that is making it to the atmosphere is an important but relatively new area of research. The latest findings published on Sunday in Nature indicate that more could be escaping than previously thought, thanks in part to stormy weather.

The East Siberian Arctic Shelf is a swath of land underneath the shallows of the East Siberian Sea, which is part of the Arctic Ocean. It stretches for 2 million square miles and contains large deposits of methane hydrates, which are frozen deposits of highly concentrated methane.

When the hydrates melt, they turn into methane gas, a greenhouse gas that is 25 times more potent than carbon dioxide. Methane hydrates are found throughout the world’s oceans but generally under hundreds of feet of water. That means as they melt, there’s more time for the gas to disperse and mix with the surrounding ocean water. But because the East Siberian Arctic Shelf is much shallower, with an average depth of 150 feet, there’s more of a chance for that methane gas to reach the surface. That’s why understanding how much methane is stored in the shelf and if those stores are stable is so important to climate researchers.

Some scientists suggested earlier this year that a massive release of methane from the shelf, referred to as a “methane bomb,” could cause abrupt climate change and cost the global economy $60 trillion. That claim has been met with much skepticism, in part because the amount of methane the shelf is currently releasing and the conditions it’s stored under aren’t fully understood. The remoteness, logistics and inclement weather have impeded scientists’ research access to the region until fairly recently and data has been sparse.

That, however, is beginning to change.

“In 2003, we started from zero observational data on methane available for this area,” Natalia Shakhova, an Arctic researcher at the University of Alaska and lead author of the new study, said. Her previous work built a body of evidence for how methane leaked from the seabed while her new study refines the numbers a bit more and finds that strong storms can help stir methane up the water column quickly and release it into the atmosphere.

Continue reading at: http://www.climatecentral.org/news/storms-warming-mean-more-arctic-methane-being-released-16775

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