Saturday, February 26, 2011

News You May Have Missed, No. 4

1. If you cannot be the king, be the power behind the throne.

Who stands to benefit by destroying unions in the U.S.? It is large corporations, and corporate executives like the billionaire brothers who own the chemical and paper giant Koch (pronounced "coke") Industries, David H. Koch and Charles G. Koch. The Koch brothers partly created and financed a front organization called Americans for Prosperity. It has a budget of 40 million dollars a substantial amount of which was "donated" by the Koch brothers. And, state records showed that that Koch Industries of Wichita, Kansas, was one of the biggest contributors to the election campaign of (you guessed it) Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin. Tim Philips, President of Americans for Prosperity, said that even before Walker as sworn in, there were talk between Walker and the Koch subsidized organization concerning how to bust the unions.

The first thing that Walker did was cut taxes for corporations and the very rich thereby creating an enormous deficit when previously there had not been one. Then, came the pay-back to the union-hating Koch brothers. Walker blamed the deficit on the collective bargaining agreements by state workers unions. Representative Gwen Moore of Wisconsin said, "The Koch brothers are the poster children of the effort by multinational corporate America to try to redefine the rights and values of American citizens.

Both Walker and Americans for Prosperity are urging other Republican governors to join the Walker-Koch crusade to destroy the unions. Specific targets are Ohio, Indiana and New Jersey. Koch Industries directly contributed over $2,000,000 to political campaigns during the last election cycle, 92% of which went to Republicans.

2. Breast milk ice cream, anyone? A restaurant in The Covent Garden section of London is serving Baby Gag, a breast-milk ice cream. The dessert is churned from breast milk from Victoria Hiley, a 35 year-old London mother. The makers of the ice-cream claim that it is pure, organic, and all-natural. Before churning, the breast milk is pasteurized and both vanilla pods and lemon zest are added. Mrs. Hiley gets 15 pounds for every 10 ounces of breast milk. She calls the money an "inflation-beater". Each serving of Baby Gaga is sold for 14 pounds (about $24).

3. A magazine survey on American women and dieting detailed their nutritional and dieting habits and attitudes. The magazine surveyed women 18 and older. The results are:

· 25 percent did not post their faces on Facebook or had a friend to remove it because they thought they looked fat.

· 65 percent of women say the size they wear is a bigger deal than the number on the scale.

· To stay skinny, 71 percent of women would rather exercise every day and eat anything they want.

· About 47 percent of women admit dieting to their family and close friends, 32 percent don't tell anyone, 25 percent of women say someone has tried to sabotage their weight loss efforts.

· 86 percent prefer to get slim without anyone's help or interference.

· 7 percent of women say they never allow themselves to eat junk food.

· 22 percent said the hardest part about being on a diet is regularly following a workout plan.

· To drop stubborn pounds, 43 percent of women have skipped meals regularly, 39 percent have popped diet pills, 23 percent have gone on a crash diet, and 20 percent have exercised daily for two or more hours at a time.

· And, nearly 40 percent of women went on their first diet when they were in middle school or high school.

4. Three-quarters of the planet's coral reefs are threatened with destruction because of over-fishing, pollution and climate change, hundreds of scientists have reported. Their report, "Reefs at Risk", took three years to compile. The report also indicated that there are some attempts underway to try to protect at least some of the living organisms. Dr. Mark Spalding of The Nature Conservancy said, "If we don't learn from these successes then I think that in 50 years' time, most reefs will be gone." The head of the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Agency. Jane Lubchenco, said "This report serves a wake-up call for policy-makers, business leaders, ocean managers, and others about the urgent need for greater protection for coral reefs."

The main reason for that change has been a massive increase in damage from exploitative fishing, particularly in the Indian and Pacific Oceans. Altogether, more than half of the world's reefs are threatened by the ways in which fishermen use them.

Tackling issues such as fishing and pollution can keep reefs healthy in the short term. These range from simply catching more than nature can replace to the use of extremely damaging fishing methods such as dynamiting fish to stun or kill them - which also blasts coral formations and destroys them. Other major threats are pollution carried in rivers, coastal development, and climate change.

Regionally, southeast Asia is the worst affected region, with 95% of reefs on the threatened list.

5. An alcoholic drink a day can help prevent heart disease according to a 30 year Canadian study reported in the British Medical Journal. The study showed a 14% to 25% drop in heart disease in moderate drinkers of alcohol as opposed to those who never drank. Another report by the same Canadian research group showed that alcohol increased good cholesterol levels. Scientists at the University of Calgary reviewed 84 pieces of research done between 1980 and 2009 before coming to their conclusions. Professor William Ghali of The Institute for Population and Public Health at the University of Calgary said, "Our extensive review shows that drinking one or one to two drinks would be favorable." But, experts cautioned this was not a good reason to start drinking. "If you don't drink, this is not a reason to start. Similar results can be achieved by being physically active and eating a balanced and healthy diet…. There is this potentially slippery slope, most notably with social problems and alcoholic cirrhosis of the liver, but the overall mortality including cancer and accidents shows you would be better with alcohol ”, said Cathy Ross of the British Heart Foundation.

6. The New York City Council has passed of the toughest anti-smoking laws in the U.S. It covers New York City's parks, beaches and even Times Square. The smoking ban covers 1,700 parks and 14 miles of public beaches plus boardwalks, marinas and pedestrian plazas like the one in the heart of Times Square. The ban goes into effect 90 days after Mayor Michael Bloomberg signs the bill. "This summer, New Yorkers who go to our parks and beaches for some fresh air and fun will be able to breathe even cleaner air and sit on a beach not littered with cigarette butts", Bloomberg said. There has been a smoking ban in restaurants and bars in New York since 2003."The statistics don't lie. Secondhand smoke kills," said City Council Speaker Christine Quinn. "With this bill, all New Yorkers can now breathe easier and breathe cleaner air. The expanded smoking ban will be enforced by the city's Parks Department. It has the power to slap violators with a "quality-of-life summons", a ticket for minor offenses like panhandling or public urination that carry a fine of under $100.

7. In 2004, The Republican Party ran on an anti-same-sex marriage platform ostensible because it could not run claiming to have captured Bin Laden, had success in Afghanistan, or found Weapons of Mass Destruction in Iraq. The hot-button issue generated support with Fundamentalist Christians and Bush managed to eke out a victory by 4 percent of the popular vote over John Kerry. And the Republicans passed legislation with Bush signed known as The Defense of Marriage Act. The law states that marriage is defined solely as a union between a man and a woman. But, what a difference 7 years makes. Hawaii became the 7th state to permit gay marriage. The Obama Administration announced that the Federal Justice Department would no longer defend the Marriage Act in Federal Court. Some leading Republicans said that the issue is dead. And, a poll indicated that for those 30 and below, about 60% have no problem with gay marriage. Besides Hawaii, the other states that permit same-sex marriage are Massachusetts, Connecticut, Iowa, New Hampshire, Vermont, and (from June 16 to November 8, 2008) California. The District of Columbia (Washington, D.C.) also grants licenses for same-sex marriages.

8. Researcher estimate that the world's largest mud volcano located in East Java, Indonesia, is likely to continue erupting for another 26 years. It first erupted in May, 2006, and at its peak was spewing 180,000 cubic meters of mud a day, or enough to fill 50 Olympic-sized swimming pools. The mud volcano has buried homes, schools and farmlands over an area of approximately five square miles. It has also left 13,000 families homeless. The volcano's name is Lusi, derived from the Indonesian word for mud, "lumpur", in combination with the place where the volcano is located, Sidoario.

Monday, February 21, 2011

News You May Have Missed, No. 3

1. A mystery has been solved. What happened to all of the oil that spilled into The Gulf of Mexico as a result of the BP oil-spill. Oil is heavier than water so most of the oil sank to the sea floor. The result is that a massive dead zone on the Gulf floor in which marine life was virtually wiped out. That was the finding of a December submarine investigation around the spill site. It was hoped that oil-eating microbes would eat the oil on the sea bed, but it did not. The head of the Federal agency in charge of the health of The Gulf said that she thought most of the oil had gone. And, in early February, Kenneth Feinberg, the government's oil compensation fund czar, repeated what BP officials have maintained, that all will be well in the Gulf by 2012. Finally, the Federal agency chief's, Feinberg's and BP's statements got heavy coverage in the U.S. media, but the eye-witness account got very little and slow coverage.

2. Where was the biggest protest rally in the word in the last few weeks? It wasn't in Egypt where the protests toppled the 30 year rule of Hosni Mubarak. Nor was it in London, Bahrain, Yemen, Beijing, Shanghai, or Libya all of which had sizable crowds protesting a variety of issues. It was in Madison, Wisconsin, U.S.A. where 40.000 people gathered at the state capital to protest the Republican right-wing Governor Scott Walker's attempt to unilaterally eliminate all state government workers unions because of a deficit which he created. By doing so, the Governor would end all state worker's rights, benefits, wage scales, pension rights, and collective bargaining agreements. It would also deny state workers health insurance as part of their wage package. That would mean that a state worker making $50,000 a year would immediately lose 10% of income ($5,000) in order to buy health insurance. However, the Governor's and the legislator's health insurance, perks and benefits paid for by Wisconsin tax-payers would go untouched and be maintained. The Governor caused the deficit crisis when he came into office by taking a balanced budget and creating a huge budget deficit when he and his Republican legislature passed tax cuts aimed at the rich. Ironically, Wisconsin was the first state to allow collective bargaining for state employees.

3. A man in Baldwin, Pennsylvania, has a novel way to profess his faith in Jesus. It is by violating the law and by disturbing his neighbors. Carl Behr has built a 24 foot illuminated cross on his front lawn. His neighbor, Lisa Fera, lives across the street from Behr and said the cross's lights are strong enough to light up a great deal of the surrounding area and shines directly into her home. Fera maintains that the cross was built after she complained about Behr parking vehicles from his construction firm in front of her residence. Town officials said the cross was illegal and a violation of town ordinances. "I'm not removing the cross regardless," Behr said. "No man is going to tell me about God." Rev. Robert Walkup of the Baldwin United Presbyterian Church asked to comment about the illuminated cross said, "The question I would ask is: Is his individual expression purely for individual motives. To live a moral life, we live with others. The primary rule here would be: Are either of them showing love and concern for their neighbors? How is that Christ-like?"

4. Scientists have conducted the first cosmic census of planets in our galaxy. They have estimated that the number of plants is at least 50 billion in the Milky Way. At least 500 million of those planets are where life could possibly exist. The numbers were extrapolated from the early results of NASA's Kepler telescope. whose mission it is to seek out planets.. The powerful telescope does this by spotting planets as they pass between Earth and the star it orbits.

5. A new report from the Children’s Defense Fund states that young people have lost more ground economically than any other age group over the last three decades. The report paints a grim economic picture for the futures of young workers and young families. However, Black young people and young families fare the worst according to the report. The widening income inequality and declining real incomes of young Black families with children raise serious questions about the economic and social futures of their children. Furthermore, the number of young adults ages 16 -29 who were “underutilized” in the labor market grew substantially between 2000 and 2010. And, between 2007 and 2010, the number of young people 16 to 29 officially unemployed rose by nearly 80 percent. These are the young people who are jobless but actively looking and available for work, no longer looking for work but still wanting to work, or underemployed in part time jobs but want to work full time. Black young adults, and especially Black males, had the highest labor underutilization rates, at 40 percent and 43 percent respectively.

The deteriorating labor market has also resulted in another problem—a rise in “mal-employment” among young college graduates, meaning more of them are holding jobs in occupations that don’t require much schooling beyond high school. And this ultimately hurts younger and less educated workers too, as mal-employed college graduates often displace their less educated peers from these jobs. These gaps based on educational attainment widened between 2000 and 2010, reducing the opportunity for young adults without post secondary schooling to form households, marry, and support their children in young families.

6. Ancient human bones found in an archaeological site, Gough's Cave, in southwestern England not only show signs of cannibalism but also seem to have served another gruesome purpose, providing the raw material for so-called "skull cups." The skulls of the dead were apparently turned into goblets and may have been used for drinking blood, or potent drinks during rituals performed over 14,000 years ago. "By our standards, it's quite difficult to imagine having to butcher a dead body," said Silvia Bello, a scientist at London's Natural History Museum and leader of the research on the bones. But she added, "Somebody else judging what we do with our dead may find it horrible.... [These findings] just show how interesting human beings are and how diverse they are."

7. Yes, you have hard it endlessly. Smoking may lead to lung cancer, heart disease and stroke. But, did you know that research by scientists and doctors have proven that it is a leading causes of many other diseases? For instance, smokers are three times more likely to develop macular degeneration, the irreversible loss of vision and a major cause of blindness in the developed world. It also can cause severe forms of tuberculosis; rheumatoid arthritis; autoimmune diseases like lupus, hyperthyroidism, and multiple sclerosis; bone loss; erectile dysfunction; and excessive stomach gas, heartburn, and acid reflux. In the United States, an estimated 24.8 million men (23.1 percent) and 21.1 million women (18.3 percent) are smokers. The latest estimates for persons age 18 and older show. that among whites, 23.5 percent of men and 20.6 percent of women smoke,. among blacks, 25.6 percent of men and 17.8 percent of women smoke, among Hispanics, 20.7 percent of men and 10.7 percent of women smoke, 9.9 percent of Asian adults smoke, and 24.3 percent of American Indian and Alaska Native adults smoke.

Globally, The World Health Organization (WHO) reports that about one-third of the male population smokes. Smoking related diseases kill one in every 10 adults globally, or causes about four million deaths annually. By 2030, if current trends continue, smoking will kill one in six people. Every eight seconds, someone dies of tobacco use. Smoking is on the rise in the developing world but falling in developed nations. Among young teens (ages 13 to 15), about one in five smokes worldwide. Peer-review studies reveal that teenagers are heavily influenced by tobacco advertising. Among regions, the Western Pacific Region which covers East Asia and the Pacific, has the highest smoking rate in the world with nearly two-thirds of men smoking.

8. In Canada's Northwest Territories' Ekati mine, a flawless 78-carat rough diamond was discovered and sold to a dealer in Antwerp, Belgium. The diamond sold for $2.8 million which is a record for Canadian stones. It's also not clear if the stone will be cut and set. Stones lose a significant amount of weight when cut.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Correcting American Historical Myths

All nations have a popular history filled with correct history, simplistic facts, myths and popular perspectives which bear no relationship to reality. And, The United States is no exception. The problem is that when inaccuracies are viewed as facts and when euphemisms are used in place of accurate words, a sanitized, white-washed and chauvinist view of history not only is viewed as reality but affects contemporary policy and discourse.
Currently, in the U.S., five of the Supreme Court justices are fond of saying that they are strict constructionists, in other words, literalists and appliers of what the founding fathers meant. And in Texas and elsewhere, the state textbook review board wants a more pro-U.S. point-of-view inserted in history books. Finally, The Republican Party ultra-conservative fringe group, The Tea Party, wants to "take back the government" to make it more in line with historic attitudes and values.
In line with all of this, here are some facts worth pondering:
1. (Myth: The Founding Fathers wanted democracy.) All revolutions are led by radicals. The Founding Fathers of the U.S. were radical and treasonous. The real cause of The Revolution was many wealthy merchants and land-owners refused to pay taxes for their own defense against Indians and The French.
2. (Myth; All of the North American British colonies rebelled against Britain.) There were not 13 British colonies in on North America north of The Caribbean. There were 18 . Besides the 13 which fought against the British, there were others which remained loyal: Newfoundland, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Quebec, and The Eastern Townships (Ontario). Repeated attempts to get the other colonies to join in The Revolution failed.
3. ( Myth: Slavery was not an issue in the American Revolution.) About 25,000 freed slaves served with The British forces in the hope that they could end slavery in the colonies. if the British won.) At the end of the war, many settled in New Brunswick which wound up having the largest population of free "Negros" in North America.
4. (Myth: All Americans rejoiced at the end of The Revolution.) About 65,000 Loyalists left to go to Canada after The Revolution ended.
5. (Myth: The Founding Fathers were religious and wanted a strong Presidency.) Many of the Founding Fathers were skeptical about organized religion. They understood that when government and religion are intertwined, disaster ensues. They believed that religion was a private matter.
They clearly did not want an "imperial" presidency and wanted most governmental power to be in the people's representatives. Washington insisted on the term, "Mr. President". Jefferson insisted on a simple handshake instead of bowing. (George W. Bush did indulge in handshakes and in full view of the person then used Purell to wipe his hands clean- an insulting gesture in the eyes of many.) And, no American should bow or curtsy before royalty. (No American did until Nancy Reagan bowed on bended knee before Queen Elizabeth .)
6. (Myth: The Founding Fathers wanted The Constitution to be the guiding principles of the U.S. for all time.) Thomas Jefferson and others of his day believed that The Constitution should be changed every twenty years to reflect changes in thinking and to keep up with the times. He and the others never dreamed that the 1787 Constitution would be carved in stone and would be the chief law of the land forever.
7. (Myth: The American Indians refused to be civilized.) American history textbooks use euphemisms to describe what European settlers did to American natives. The fact is it was their land . they were overpowered in the greatest land-grab in world history, and the U.S. is guilty of a genocide against The American Indian. They were deprived of their land, given small pox infected blankets, send on forced marches, made to settle in barren and inhospitable lands, and almost wiped out as a people. It was not until the late 1920s that Indians were granted citizenship. Meanwhile, Canada granted safe refuge to Indians that managed to cross the western border between the U. S. and Canada. Repeated attempts to return the fleeing Indians who faced sure death failed because Canadian authorities would not allow it.
8. (Myth: The Civil War was a noble cause.) Most of the U.S. calls it The Civil War. The secessionist South calls it The War between the Sates in a deliberate attempt to ignore the real causes of the war, the election of abolionist Abraham Lincoln and the issue of slavery. Confederate Heroes Day is celebrated in Texas. Robert E. Lee, the Confederate General, has a state holiday in Georgia. There are Confederate Memorial Days in Alabama, Mississippi and South Carolina. Jefferson Davis, the President of The Confederacy is honored with a state holiday in Alabama. Not one secessionist state honors Abraham Lincoln for preserving The Union and there are no Civil War memorial days in any Northern or Western state.
9. (Myth: Mexico brought the Mexican-American War upon itself.) Without provocation, The United States invaded Mexico and even captured the capital, Mexico City. As a result of a treaty with Mexico, The United States acquired California, Arizona, Utah, Nevada, portions of New Mexico and Colorado, and annexed the Republic of Texas- fully one-third of Mexico at that time.
10. (Myth: If The Americans had not taken Hawaii, the Japanese would have.) Japan was not a factor in the American take-over of Hawaii. Hawaii was a sovereign nation and kingdom. America businessmen had U.S. warships sail into Honolulu harbor and then they instigated a coup to overthrown the Queen. She was held prisoner in her own house and accused of treason for her resistance to the take-over. Eventually, Hawaii was made a "territory" (a euphemism for "colony"). After the attack on Pearl Harbor, repeated attempts at statehood failed because of Hawaii's great number of minorities and its preference for the Democratic Party. It was only after heavily Republican Alaska was admitted to the Union as the 49th state was Hawaii allowed statehood.
11. (Myth: All American citizens are treated equally under the law.) America had concentration camps in World War Two. Japanese-American citizens on the west coast had their belongs confiscated (never to be returned) and were placed in ram-shackle dusty, unclean prison camps for much of the war. They were guarded by armed guards who had orders to kill them if they tried to escape. Their only crime was their Japanese heritage. In spite of the fact that the U. S, was at war with both Germany and Italy, nothing similar was done to German or Italian-Americans. Nor was it done to the sizable Japanese community in Hawaii where the Pearl Harbor attack took place.
12. (Myth: The U.S. practices what it preaches.) America, the champion of democracy and the right of self-determination, has colonies. Among them are American Samoa, Guam, The Northern Marianas , Puerto Rico, The U.S. Virgin Islands, and Midway. Among its former colonies and territories are The Philippines, and The Panama Canal Zone. The U.S. also holds Guantanamo Bay in Cuba in perpetual lease of one dollar a year paid to the Cuban government. Cuba never cashes the check and wants Guantanamo back, but the U.S. says no. The only other nations to hold colonies or territories abroad are France and Great Britain.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

News You May Have Missed, No. 2

1. Belgium had general elections 8 months ago, there was no decisive winner. And since then, Belgium's parties been unable to form a governing coalition. As a result, the partners of Belgian politicians are being urged to go on a sex strike until a government is formed. Socialist senator Marleen Temmerman, who is also a gynecologist, said after a week of a similar sex ban in Kenya in 2009, a government was formed. But, the idea of '"sex strikes" goes back to ancient times. In the Ancient Greek comedy by Aristophanes, "Lysistrata", the female characters withheld sex from their husbands to bring an end to the Peloponnesian War. In more recent times, women in Pereira, Colombia, in 2006 organized a "strike of crossed legs", to pressure the city's gangsters to give up their guns.
2. Malaysia has a campaign to stop Muslims celebrating Valentine's Day. The anti-Valentine's Day campaign by the country's Islamic authorities goes back to a fatwa issued in 2005. Deputy Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin said that celebrating of the holiday was "not suitable" for Muslims. And, Wan Mohamed Sheikh Abdul Aziz of the government-run Department of Islamic Development said, "Valentine's Day is synonymous with vice activity." Labeling it a "trap" that could encourage immoral behavior, several Malaysian states carried out checks on hotels to stop young couples having premarital sex. However, Malaysians of other faiths were exempt from the ban. Muslims make up nearly two-thirds of Malaysia's 28 million population.
3. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia spoke behind closed doors at a "conference" organized by Representative Michele Bachmann to The Tea Party members of Congress. No one present would say what Scalia said. This is on top of recent revelations that Justice Clarence Thomas attended chemical giant Koch's fundraising sessions devoted to building and funding a corporate movement, and Thomas' wife is a co-founder and active Tea Party member. Likewise, Justice Alito is an on-going fundraiser for right-wing political causes. It was also recently revealed that three Federal appellate judges sit on the board of an organization that offers expense-paid trips to western resorts for judges who agree to attend a seminar on how to rule in favor of corporations. Finally, in the Fifth Circuit, which will hear appeals arising out of the BP oil disaster, ten of the court's sixteen judges hold oil investments and the court’s chief judge, Edith Jones, holds as much as $330,000 in oil investments and frequently attends pro-corporate junkets. In the past, the U.S. at least paid lip-service to the concept of an independent judiciary and to the idea that "justice is blind."
4. Two and one-half million deaths or 4% of all deaths around the world can be attributed to alcohol abuse according to The World Health Organization. It claims more deaths that HIV/AIDS, violence or tuberculosis every year. The report also said that alcohol abuse was a contributing factor to over 60 diseases, contributes to child abuse, to workplace absenteeism, and to accidents. Also, it is more prevalent in men than in women. Problems with violence resulting from binge drinking is common in Brazil, Kazakhstan, Mexico, Russia, South Africa and Ukraine. In Russia and the former nations of the U.S.S.R., every fifth death is related to irresponsible drinking. The world's highest alcohol consumption levels are in developed countries and higher-income areas such as western and eastern Europe. But, even though Western European has the highest alcohol consumption rate, alcohol-related mortality rates are comparatively fairly low.
The WHO report also included the following information: In 2005, the average person 15 years and older drank 6.3 liters of alcohol. Almost 29 percent of the alcohol consumed worldwide annually is homemade. More than 11 percent of drinkers engage in binge drinking. Globally 45 percent of alcohol consumed is in the form of spirits. Countries with large Muslim populations consume the least alcohol. And, surveys have shown that when alcohol taxes go up, drinking rates go down.
5. U.S. marine archaeologists have found the sunken whaling ship belonging to the captain who inspired Herman Melville's novel, Moby Dick. The remains of the vessel which was called Two Brothers was found in shallow waters off Hawaii. The remains of the vessel were found by American researchers about 600 miles north-west of Honolulu, Hawaii, in a remote chain of islands and atolls. The wooden vessel had disintegrated but the researchers found harpoons, a hook for stripping whales of their blubber, and cauldrons used to turn blubber into oil.
6. Yale University has signed an agreement to return to Peru some 5,000 Inca artifacts removed from the Machu Picchu ruins high in The Andes by American explorer Hiram Bingham in 1912. Peru had argued during the dispute that the artifacts were lent in 1911 but never returned. The Peruvian government filed a lawsuit against Yale in 2008. Yale maintained that it had returned those relics which it borrowed, but it had full ownership of many others. There were protest marches in Peru and a letters by Peruvian Presidents Alan Garcia of Peru and Barack Obama of the U.S. The relics (stone tools, ceramics, and human and animal bones) will be housed in a new The International Centre for the Study of Machu Picchu and Inca Culture in the city of Cuzco.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas

When the only African-American Justice to ever sit on The Supreme Court, Thurgood Marshall, died in 1991, then President George H. W. Bush had a problem. It was whether to replace Marshall with another black man or a white. Compounding the problem was that he was facing and heavily Democratic Senate and also there were not too many African-Americans who were Republicans or right-wingers from which to chose. However, if he were to select a black nominee, he might have an easier time with the Senate confirmation and the media. In the end, he selected a little-known judge from the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals who sat in that court for 13 months, Clarence Thomas.
The twenty years that Clarence Thomas has been an Associate Justice has been mark by hypocrisy, inconsistencies, and scandal.

1. During his confirmation hearings, there were allegations of sexual misconduct by his assistant, Anita Hill. She stated under oath that Thomas, a married man, made sexual statements and advances to her. In addition, records found in a D.C. video store indicated that he rented porn. Nevertheless, Thomas who apparently lied under oath at the hearing was narrowly confirmed by The Senate, 52-48. Among those who voted "yes" was very liberal, Ted Kennedy.

2. In the 20 years he has sat on The Supreme Court, Thomas has not spoken one word or asked one question during legal arguments before The Court. He maintains that he is too "intimidated" to speak.

3. Justice Thomas seldom speaks in public and never gives interviews. He says that is because he "distrusts the media."

4. Thomas has a virtually identical voting record on The Court as Justice Anonin Scalia. There has been much speculation about this centering around a "follow the leader" mentality on the part of Judge Thomas who sometimes is called "Scalia's understudy".

5. The judicial philosophy of Clarence Thomas is described as that of a "textualist", one who seeks to uphold what he sees as the original intent of the writers of The Constitution and U.S. statutes. Yet, he went against that philosophy when he ignored that The Constitution clearly says that elections are a state matter and delivered The Presidency to the son of the President who selected him for The Court in spite of the fact there was a state re-count in progress and George W. Bush lost the popular vote.

6. Ayn Rand was novelist from the 1930s through the 50s. Her most famous books are Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead. Rand was a fierce opponent of all forms of collectivism including fascism, communism, socialism and the welfare state. She was a favorite in Catholic schools and extreme right-wing circles. She was or is admired by Ronald Reagan, Joe McCarthy, Rush Limbough, Glenn Beck, Ron Paul, and even some Tea Party Protestors. Justice Thomas so admires the works and philosophy of Ayn Rand that he requires all of his assistants and staffers to read her work.

6. Thomas sided with the Republican majority of the court in saying that corporations have the same rights as citizens and that it was ok to ignore the phrase "in order to have an organized militia" as the reason given by the framers of The Constitution to have the right to bear arms. He has also consistently voted to restrict government from regulating from regulating manufacturing and agriculture. But, his libertarian views stop when it comes to abortion (Thomas is a Catholic- as is every Republican on The Court) or when it comes to growing marijuana even for medicinal uses.

7. Over a 5 year period, Clarence Thomas deliberately did not report his wife's income on their joint tax return which he signed. His wife, Virginia, had income from a conservative think tank, The Heritage Foundation. The undeclared income amounted to $686,589. (Virginia Thomas is also a reactionary Republican and a co-founder of The Tea Party.) Deliberate failure to report taxable income is a Federal crime and an impeachable offense. Thomas has since amended his tax forms and has suffered no consequences for this deception or his illegal behavior.

8. Seventy-four members of Congress have asked Thomas to recues himself from ruling on the constitutionality of the recently passed Health Care Bill. Under Federal Law he must do so if there is a conflict of interest. And, there is a conflict rooted in his wife anti-health care lobbying and her advertising herself as a person who has "experience and connections" to those who want to use the courts to overturn the law. Who is that "connection"? It is her husband. So, both the justice and his wife have a clear conflict of interest and financial interest in over-turning the law. He has so-far refused. Violating Federal Law is an impeachable offense.

The fact is that Clarence Thomas should have never been appointed to The Supreme Court. He is a right-wing ideologue who puts his personal philosophy above that of the welfare of people. He marches in lock-step with the most reactionary forces on The Court justifying his position by saying this is his own understanding of what was the intentions of The Founding Fathers- all men, all wealthy, all land-owners, all rebels, and most of whom were anti-Catholic, prejudiced and slave-owners. Finally, Thomas has committed impeachable offenses, ignores inconvenient portions of The Constitution in his rulings, and is self-serving and corrupt.

Justice Thomas has served 20 years on The Supreme Court and is 62 years-old. The likelihood that he will serve another 20 years on the nation's highest court is a good one. That such a person can be on The Supreme Court for 40 years is a national disgrace and rivals the judicial bias, corruption and sham justice found in a Banana Republic.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Political Humor

Now that Sarah Palin has discovered how to make big money, it is just a matter of time before we will be treated to Palin; The Musical- with songs like "Tea Party for Two"; "Alaska, I Betcha!"; "Moose-meat"; "Half-baked Alaska"; "We're in the Money"; "The Black in The White House"; "Thank You, John McCain"; and Bristol's solo: "I'm Cock-Eyed for What's in Levi's Levis".

Monday, February 7, 2011

News You May Have Missed, No. 1

1. The Catholic Church has issued a document how to convert witches (wiccans) to Catholicism. This is on the heels of an announcement that The Vatican his started a commission to convert aliens from outer space.
2. Former President George W. Bush has cancelled a speaking engagement in Switzerland because several human rights groups called for his arrest for his authorizing torture. In a face-saving attempt, the Bush people claimed that the cancellation was because of the threat of mass protests. But, Europe has a strong tradition of prosecuting war crimes and human-rights violations, most recently arresting former heads of state Chile's Pinochet and Serbia's Milosevic. There were similar calls for Bush's arrest when he visited Canada, but the Canadian government did not follow through on the demands. Bush is rapidly becoming the first American President who is seen both as a war-criminal and an international pariah.
3. Glenn Beck said that the upraising in Egypt signals the start of the end of the world as told by The Bible.
4. As part of the Republican publicity stunt celebrating the 100 Anniversary of Ronald Reagan's birth, the wealthy right-wing Republican Grover Norquest who openly detests government loves Reagan so much that he suggested that one of the Dakotas to be named just Dakota and the other to be re-named Reagan. This is from the man who said the he wanted to turn the government into a little ball and flush it down the toilet and advocated that Republicans close down the government again.
5. Senator Joseph Lieberman (I, CT) the day after he announced his retirement repeatedly insisted that there were Weapons of Mass Destruction found in Iraq. When it was pointed out to him by the interviewees on MSNBC that even former President Bush said that there were no WMDs found in Iraq, he persisted and became condescending. In a poll of Connecticut citizens, 90% approved of his not running for another term .
6. The world is becoming a heavier place, especially in the West. Obesity rates worldwide have doubled in the last three decades even as blood pressure and cholesterol levels have dropped, according to three new studies. People in Pacific Island nations like American Samoa are the heaviest. Among developed countries, Americans are the fattest and the Japanese are the slimmest.
7. The nay-sayers about global warming cite the terrible snow storms in Mid-West, New York and New England as proof that global warming is a fraud. In fact, it is further proof that it is not. When temperatures rise there is more moisture in the air. When that occurs, the moisture descends to Earth with greater force causing thunderstorms when it is hot and heavy snow storms when it is cold.
8. Superman is now British. For the first time in movie history, a foreigner has been tapped to play the quintessential American hero. Warner Bro. chose British actor Henry Cavill to play "the man of steel" in it new Superman movie. Apparently the American studio could not find one American actor to play the part. Most other nations prevent foreign actors from performing in their countries. And, any given moment, 99% of American actors are unemployed.
9. Malawi is a small nation on the coast of East Africa. It is also one of the five poorest nations in the world so Malawi has many problems with which to deal. In an effort to acquire cleaner air, the government is debating a ban on farting. You read that right. Farting.
10. Finally, Sarah Palin is copyrighting her name and image. If the copyright is granted, that would mean her name or likeness could not be used on any commercial purpose without her approval and without her receiving a percentage of the profits from any sales. It is further proof of Sarah Palin being the first politician to create political business- Palin, Inc. The copyrighting guarantees that Palin gets money from items such as coffee mugs, dolls, tee-shirts, etc, with her picture on it. But because she is sure to say no, it also makes it virtually impossible to have commercially-produced anti-Palin posters, banners, and tee-shirts using the same name and pictures without violating the copyrights. Ironically, Palin, who is an advocate of less government, is using a government function to make money and control dissent. But, that is situation-normal in right-wing politics.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Ronald Reagan

A Reading from The Book of Reagan:
Then Queen Nancy understood the signs of the heavens and counseled King Reagan. Thus spoke she: Go forth to the walls which doth divide the kingdom and speak saying "King Gorbachev, tear down this wall!" And, it shall be that the wall will tumble down and the Gorbachev Kingdom will be destroyed. And, it was so.
Here endeth the lesson. Thanks be to the Republican and ever-fundamentalist God.
February 6 will mark the 100th anniversary of the birth of Ronald Reagan, and during the surrounding days there will be events, commentaries, and television shows commemorating the day and celebrating the 40th president. The Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation and the University of Southern California are holding an academic conference on the Reagan legacy. And, Sarah Palin will deliver the keynote address at an event at Reagan's former ranch in Santa Barbara, California. There will be an plans to name schools, libraries and public buildings in honor of the former President whom Republicans are bent on elevating to the greatest President in modern times and perhaps in U. S. History. It is all a testament to the cult of celebrity, and the power of myth and myth-makers.
The facts are these concerning Ronald Reagan and his Presidency:
1. Reagan was a second-rate actor who was propelled into prominence by doing GE commercials for Death Valley days, a black-and-white TV show in 19…
2. Reagan was a union activist and a Democrat until his "awakening", an event created by his desire to hold political office in California, a state at that time more conservative than it is today.
3. As President, Reagan is credited by conservatives with the collapse of The Soviet Union. Nothing could be further from the truth. The Soviet Union was in serious trouble and collapsed from internal causes. It was faced with a bloated military which proved to be ineffectual when it got bogged down in an unpopular war in Afghanistan. The economy was in serious decline and "Made in the USSR" became an international joke. Also, there were serious nationalist movement all over the Soviet Union and her satellite nations. Finally, Gorbachev's attempts at reform failed and the communist Russian empire fell apart.
4. Reagan is credited by Republicans with restoring the U.S. economy and greatness. They laud something called "Reganomics". Simply put, it is the idea that by cutting taxes and spending. The fact is though inflation and unemployment fell during the Reagan years, Reagan, who raised taxes after he cut them, saddled the nation with large deficits and did little as a massive wave of de-industrialization hit working class Americans. And, during the Reagan years, wages for middle- and low-income families dropped. The spiral downward for worker, the tax cuts, and the massive deficits continue to this very day.
5. The Reagan administration routinely made common cause with despots, racists and dictators. It did business and never voiced objection to the fascist, anti-Semitic, and torturing generals of the Argentine junta. It backed human-rights abusing governments throughout Latin America. The administration tried to cover up a massive massacre of civilians in El Salvador because it backed its right-wing military dictatorship . It resisted efforts to oppose and isolate the racist leaders of apartheid South Africa, instead opting for something called "constructive engagement" with the white minority government of Pretoria. It endorsed the dictatorship of Ferdinand Marcos in the Philippines. Much of this was done in the name of anti-communism, revealing that Reagan had little concern for human rights, justice, freedom or democracy.
6. The Reagan Administration supported a supposedly secret war in Central America, aiding the Nicaraguan contras fighting against the elected socialist government of Nicaragua. Reagan referred to the contras as "freedom fighters" and the CIA produced an "assassination manual" for the contras.
7. The Administration's involvement in its covert war in Nicaragua led to The Iran-Contra Scandal during which the administration secretly sold weapons to Iran to gain the release of hostages held by terrorist groups. At the same time, the Reagan people were strenuously pressuring U. S. allies to not sell such weapons to Iran, and while official saying The Administration would never negotiate with terrorists. White House aides used money raised from the Iranian arms deals to furnish arms to the contras. This was all done to get around a Congressional law banning support of the contra. This deliberate violation of the law was an impeachable offence . (There was no stomach in Democratic Congress to go after another Republican President so soon after Nixon and the Reagan people knew it.)
8. The Reagan Administration was unashamedly anti-union and also instituted tax credits for private segregated schools. And, Reagan Administration once declared ketchup was a vegetable and tree cause air pollution.
9. Scandals plagued the Reagan years. Among them a savings and loan scandal caused by The Administration's lack of regulation and a hands-off approach to banking and Wall Street.
10. According to Reagan's son, The President showed signs of Alzheimer's by the end of his first term in office. Also, Reagan would frequently nod off at meeting and rely of his wife's astrologer's astrological readings in making his decisions.
Reagan's mantra was that it was "Morning in America". But, there was little sunshine that morning and a lot of dark clouds.
Wanna bet Palin does care or not say any about this? You betcha!