Pacific Scoop

Undernews: January 16, 2011

Column – Undernews

Attorneys Carl J. Mayer and Bruce I. Afran filed a complaint Friday in the Southern U.S. District Court in New York City on my behalf as a plaintiff against Barack Obama and Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta to challenge the legality of the Authorization …

Undernews: January 16, 2011

Since 1964, the news while there’s still time to do something about it


Chris Hedges sues to stop use of military in civilian policing

Chris Hedges – Attorneys Carl J. Mayer and Bruce I. Afran filed a complaint Friday in the Southern U.S. District Court in New York City on my behalf as a plaintiff against Barack Obama and Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta to challenge the legality of the Authorization for Use of Military Force as embedded in the latest version of the National Defense Authorization Act, signed by the president Dec. 31.

The act authorizes the military in Title X, Subtitle D, entitled “Counter-Terrorism,” for the first time in more than 200 years, to carry out domestic policing. With this bill, which will take effect March 3, the military can indefinitely detain without trial any U.S. citizen deemed to be a terrorist or an accessory to terrorism. And suspects can be shipped by the military to our offshore penal colony in Guantanamo Bay and kept there until “the end of hostilities.” It is a catastrophic blow to civil liberties.

To read Chris Hedges’ legal filing aimed at overturning a new law that would allow the indefinite detention of U.S. citizens deemed terrorism suspects, click here. To read the law itself, click here.

I spent many years in countries where the military had the power to arrest and detain citizens without charge. I have been in some of these jails. I have friends and colleagues who have “disappeared” into military gulags. I know the consequences of granting sweeping and unrestricted policing power to the armed forces of any nation. And while my battle may be quixotic, it is one that has to be fought if we are to have any hope of pulling this country back from corporate fascism.

SOPA shelved

The Hill – House Oversight Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) said early Saturday morning that Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) promised him the House will not vote on the controversial Stop Online Piracy Act unless there is consensus on the bill.

“While I remain concerned about Senate action on the Protect IP Act, I am confident that flawed legislation will not be taken up by this House,” Issa said in a statement. “Majority Leader Cantor has assured me that we will continue to work to address outstanding concerns and work to build consensus prior to any anti-piracy legislation coming before the House for a vote.”

The announcement comes just hours after Judiciary Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas), SOPA’s sponsor, made a major concession to the bill’s critics by agreeing to drop a controversial provision that would have required Internet service providers to block infringing websites.

SOPA is designed to go after foreign websites that offer illegal copies of music, movies and TV shows with impunity. Even without the provision allowing sites to be blocked, the bill would empower the Justice Department and copyright holders to demand that search engines delete links to sites “dedicated” to copyright infringement. Ad networks and payment processors would be prohibited from doing business with the sites.

Washington legislators considering a state bank

Olympian – The idea of a state bank a favorite of the Occupy movement that sees it as an alternative to Wall Street has strong support among the Democrats who control the state House. Speaker Frank Chopp called it a top priority last week in a speech opening this year’s session of the Legislature.

“I think people see this as a form of empowerment, that we’re going to try to do something in our state to regain control over the safety of our finances,” said David Spring, a community-college instructor from North Bend who has spoken at Occupy rallies.Skeptics wonder where the money would come from to accomplish the bank’s goals, such as making low-interest loans to college students and to local governments for public works.


While poverty gradually declined in the decades since King’s death — 32.4 million Americans lived below the threshold in 1986, the year the King holiday was first celebrated — the numbers have climbed in recent years as the economy soured. Today, as the nation celebrates MLK Day for the 27th time, 46.2 million of its people have slid into the misery that King spent his final years fighting, with blacks experiencing the highest rate of any group: 27 percent. – Mercury News, CA

Canada’s Liberal Party endorses pot legalization

Why do foundations see so many problems and so few opportunities?

Sarah Lutman, Arts Journal – I wasn’t sure whether or not problemization was a word until I looked it up and found that it is one. Problemization is to consider or treat as a problem.

I’ve been thinking about this a lot. The reason is that increasingly when you look at a foundation’s grant guidelines you are asked: “What problem are you trying to solve?”

I wonder what effect this culture of pathology, of diagnosis and treatment, is having on the nonprofit sector in general and the cultural sector in particular. Do foundations increasingly see themselves in the role of a sort of benevolent physician, identifying social “disease” and using their grants as the medication needed for wellness to be achieved? Not that long ago, a primary framework for organized philanthropy was one of ideas and experimentation; the mindset was one of risk capital and the ability to fuel new ideas that are interesting and should be tried. . . .

I think that people working in the arts see the world through the lens of human potential and not through the lens of disease (or human failing). I wonder whether this accounts for the widening chasm between foundation priorities and arts giving (arts grantmaking is shrinking as a proportion of overall grantmaking, down 21% between 2008 and 2009). Perhaps the reason is that those in the cultural sector are unwilling (and unable) to re-orient their deep-seated belief in human potential to satisfy an analysis by those who look at society and see what’s wrong, rather than what’s right.

A sculpture exhibit you can acually touch

Walters Art Museum, Baltimore – “Please DO NOT touch” is the message that we are all used to seeing on signs near works of art in most museums. This is necessary to preserve the art, but we all want to touch. This show invites you to touch…and hold, and stroke and to think about why and how physical contact with works of art can be so satisfying. As a continuation of the Walters’ partnership with The Johns Hopkins University Brain Science Institute, this installation incorporates 12 works of art from the collection and 22 models for visitors to touch and rate. This melds research interests of Steve Hsiao, a John Hopkins neuroscientist specializing in the many facets of touch, with those of Joaneath Spicer, Walters curator of Renaissance and Baroque art, exploring the new importance of touch in the Renaissance, specifically the popularity of collecting statuettes and other objects, including new hand-held technology.

Visitors will learn about this new interest on the part of Europeans around 1500, in art that was pleasurable to hold¬such as a statuette of Venus the ancient goddess of love that nestles into your hand¬and objects apparently made to fit in the hand such as the earliest watches or the evolving shape of the personal firearm.

The special appeal of this installation, however, will surely be the opportunity to join in comparative experiments with statuettes (replicas) and other thought-provoking hands-on touch comparisons. What types of surfaces do you prefer? Does knowledge of the subject of a sculpture influence how you react to it? What happens to our satisfaction in a piece if something about it changes? What is the impact of sight on the sense of touch? Visitors will register their preferences through “touch pads,” thereby reminding visitors of yet another aspect of touch as a vehicle for communication. To extend an awareness of touch and how painters have taken advantage of our sensitivity to touch, photographic details of paintings and sculptures throughout the museum will provide visitors with incentives to explore the topic further on their own. With the assistance of the Maryland State Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped, all text materials will be available in Braille and visits by the visually challenged can be scheduled.

Britain, US big economic losers over past five years; Russia, Brazil, India, China big winners

Obama rediscovers religion just in time for election

Keith Koffler, White House Dossier – President Obama and his family headed out to church for the third time in a month, the latest sign that the president may be using religion to boost his image as the campaign heats up.

Obama has rarely gone to church since becoming president. But last month he and his family walked across Lafayette Park in front of the White House to attend services at St. John’s Church. They attended Christmas services at a Marine Base in Hawaii and today were at Zion Baptist Church in DC.. . While it’s possible the trips to church a part of some kind of renewed personal religious commitment, they are also consistent with Obama’s increased use of religious imagery as part of his public profile.

During two recent annual events – the televised Christmas in Washington gala and the lighting of the National Christmas Tree, Obama invoked specifically Christian themes he had shunned in the past.

The Christian narrative is appealing to a key demographic that fled Democrats en masse during the 2010 midterm election – white working class voters. Obama will need to bring as many members of this group back into the fold if he hopes to prevail in critical swing states like Indiana, Ohio, North Carolina, and other must-win states in the Midwest and the South.

The increasingly large doses of religion added to the Obamas’ public profile has been accompanied by other Average Joe-pleasing displays of middle class virtuousness, like Michelle shopping at Target or the president heading to Best Buy to purchase gifts for his daughters and to PetSmart to get a bone for the dog.

New frontiers in greed

Oregon Live – Rim Publications is bullish about the newspaper industry.

The Bellevue, Washington-based company and its affiliates have in the past two years bought or started up six weekly newspapers in the Northwest. It could buy as many as 50 more in the Western states, said Rim co-founder Stephen Routh.

Routh is also CEO of Bellevue-based Northwest Trustee Services Inc., whose one-stop shopping business model has made it the largest foreclosure trustee in the region. Owning newspapers will reduce costs for Northwest Trustee’s lender clients and could make foreclosures more profitable for Routh’s firm.

Oregon and most other states require that lenders or their trustees run a series of legal notices in the local newspaper before they auction off a foreclosed home. These legal ads, which generally cost $500-$2,000, are one of the largest expenses of the foreclosure process.

Huntsman wipes site clean of anti-Romney material

Top Romney contributors

From Open Secrets

Click for big version.

Romney’s Bain Capital got big taxpayer bailout

Boston Globe, July 2011 – Politico released an ad left over from Romney’s unsuccessful Senate race against Senator Edward M. Kennedy that takes Romney to task for a $10 million loan forgiveness granted in 1993 to his Bain & Co. by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. The Kennedy camp’s ad, based on a 1994 Globe story, blasts Romney for using a “federal bailout’’ to save troubled Bain & Co.

The ad, which was never broadcast, was released to Politico by a former Kennedy strategist. The ad contends Bain & Co., the consulting firm Romney was trying to save from the brink of bankruptcy, “was rescued with a federal bailout of $10 million’’ and that Romney and others “made $4 million on this deal.’’

According to the 1994 article, Romney basically negotiated about a $10 million reduction in the $38 million the firm owed the failed Bank of New England, which had been taken over by the FDIC, a federal agency funded by insurance premiums paid by banks. The $4 million represented interest the firm did not have to pay as a result of the loan forgiveness, the Globe reported. Other Bain & Co. creditors also agreed to debt reductions.

Israel’s discrimination against women becoming big issue

NY Times – In the three months since the Israeli Health Ministry awarded a prize to a pediatrics professor for her book on hereditary diseases common to Jews, her experience at the awards ceremony has become a rallying cry.

The professor, Channa Maayan, knew that the acting health minister, who is ultra-Orthodox, and other religious people would be in attendance. So she wore a long-sleeve top and a long skirt. But that was hardly enough.

Not only did Dr. Maayan and her husband have to sit separately, as men and women were segregated at the event, but she was instructed that a male colleague would have to accept the award for her because women were not permitted on stage.

Though shocked that this was happening at a government ceremony, Dr. Maayan bit her tongue. But others have not, and her story is entering the pantheon of secular anger building as a battle rages in Israel for control of the public space between the strictly religious and everyone else.

At a time when there is no progress on the Palestinian dispute, Israelis are turning inward and discovering that an issue they had neglected the place of the ultra-Orthodox Jews has erupted into a crisis.

And it is centered on women.

“Just as secular nationalism and socialism posed challenges to the religious establishment a century ago, today the issue is feminism,” said Moshe Halbertal, a professor of Jewish philosophy at Hebrew University. “This is an immense ideological and moral challenge that touches at the core of life, and just as it is affecting the Islamic world, it is the main issue that the rabbis are losing sleep over.”

The list of controversies grows weekly: Organizers of a conference last week on women’s health and Jewish law barred women from speaking from the podium, leading at least eight speakers to cancel; ultra-Orthodox men spit on an 8-year-old girl whom they deemed immodestly dressed; the chief rabbi of the air force resigned his post because the army declined to excuse ultra-Orthodox soldiers from attending events where female singers perform; protesters depicted the Jerusalem police commander as Hitler on posters because he instructed public bus lines with mixed-sex seating to drive through ultra-Orthodox neighborhoods; vandals blacked out women’s faces on Jerusalem billboards.

Just the facts: Democrats & Republicans like same size government

Progressive Review – Contrary to what you have heard from Republicans – and are likely to continue to hear – neither the GOP nor the Democrats like to grow or cut the federal government. In fact, over the past fifty years, the non-uniformed government personnel count has varied by no more than 19%.

The highest civilian employment occurred under LBJ and Reagan. Obama’s employment levels have been below that of Reagan for every year except 1982, when Regan had 6,000 fewer employees than Obama at his peak.

The big change in employment has come in the uniformed military. So why has the Pentagon’s budget continued to soar? Mainly because it has shifted from funding troops to subsidizing defense contractors.

Three House members linked to VIP Countrywide special loans

Another use for your PC


Warning: Mitt Romney comes with John Bolton

National Journal – As Mitt Romney’s newest foreign-policy surrogate, former U.N. Ambassador John Bolton made it immediately clear Friday that he’s prepared to be one of the fiercest attack dogs of President Obama.

“He’s not only the most radical president in history domestically; he is the first president, Republican or Democrat, at least since Franklin Roosevelt, who didn’t get up every morning thinking first about what threats the United States faces,” Bolton said of Obama to an audience here. “He just doesn’t care about national security the way other presidents did.”

EPIC – FOIA Documents Reveal Homeland Security is Monitoring Political Dissent

Earnings from Afghan opiium soar 133% in one year

Matt Damon and mother turn down award from union tied to Teach for America

NY Times – The actor Matt Damon and his mother, a professor of education, turned down an award from the country’s largest teachers union after reading an opinion article that the union’s president had co-authored with the founder of Teach for America.

Writing that she was “confused by your collaboration” with Teach for America, Dr. Nancy Carlsson-Paige said she and her son, Mr. Damon, no longer desired to be nominated for the National Education Association’s Friend of Education Award.

In the opinion piece that Dr. Carlsson-Paige referred to, Dennis Van Roekel, president of the N.E.A., and Wendy Kopp, founder of T.F.A., urged the importance of evaluating and improving teacher training programs across the country. Yet in her e-mail to Mr. Van Roekel, Dr. Carlsson-Paige said she finds this message somewhat disingenuous on the part of T.F.A.

“I am very familiar with TFA and believe that its short-term, minimal training of teachers undermines teacher quality and harms children who too often get an inadequate education with its teachers,” the e-mail states.

Already a celebrity in the entertainment arena, Mr. Damon became one in the education world during a rally in Washington last July, where he publicly opposed the emphasis on standardized testing in public schools and the pressure educators are under to teach to those tests.

Mitt, the Socialist

Craig Crawford – Romney now says big government is anti-American but he wasn’t shy about feeding on the federal trough when he got the chance. As a self-described “capitalist” he successfully lobbied the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. to forgive his company’s debts.

Romney’s rescue of a business consulting firm was achieved in part by convincing the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. to forgive roughly $10 million of the company’s debt. — The Boston Globe (10/25/1994).

When a steel mill Romney had bought failed, thanks to massive debt he had saddled it with, his firm — Bain Capital — got the feds to bail out the mill’s pension plan, while he walked away with huge profits.

A federal government insurance agency had to pony up $44 million to bail out the company’s underfunded pension plan. Nevertheless, Bain profited on the deal, receiving $12 million on its $8 million initial investment and at least $4.5 million in consulting fees. — Reuters

Romney now equates any attacks on his business dealings as an assault on free enterprise. But his version of capitalism was all about relying on government to cover his losses. Sounds more like socialism to me.

11 telling economic charts from 2011

Paul approves of invasive government when it’s invading women

Santorum, Perry, and Gingrich fail to make Virginia primary ballot, judge rules


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