April 26, 2015

Widespread opposition to drones

Widespread Opposition to Drones 

Toddlers using tablets and smart phones

Washington Times - A new medical study reveals that the tiniest Americans are tapping on smartphones and tablets even before they learn to walk or talk, and by 1 year of age, one in seven toddlers is using devices for at least an hour a day.

The research found that even a third of the babies under a year could scroll down the screen, while a fourth managed to actually call someone.

“We didn’t expect children were using the devices from the age of 6 months. Some children were on the screen for as long as 30 minutes,” says Dr. Hilda Kabali, lead author of the study, which was conducted among 370 parents and their babies at a pediatrics clinic in the Einstein Medical Center in Philadelphia.

Mobile devices are becoming babysitters. Dr. Kabali found that 60 percent of the parents in the study allowed their toddlers to play with mobile media when it was time to run errands, almost three fourths did the same while they did chores. Another 65 percent used the device to “calm the child”, a third used it to put the child to sleep.

“By 1 year of age, 14 percent of children were spending at least one hour per day using mobile media, 26 percent by age 2, and 38 percent by age 4. Only 30 percent of parents reported discussing media use with their child’s pediatrician,” the study found.

The decline of the evangelical right

Chris Kromm, Facing South -   Indiana sparked a national debate over so-called "religious freedom" bills, a controversy that soon flared up in other states across the South and country.

A similar bill stalled in the Georgia House amidst the backlash. In Arkansas, Governor Asa Hutchinson, a Republican, signed that state's Religious Freedom Restoration Act only after substantial revisions, although civil rights advocates say it still doesn't go far enough. North Carolina's Governor Pat McCrory, who is also a Republican, said he won't support his state's proposed RFRA bill, which scholars and activists say would allow for a wider range of discriminatory practices based in religion.

As many quickly pointed out, these measures aren't new: A federal "religious freedom" act passed in 1993. After the Supreme Court ruled in 1997 that it couldn't be enforced at the state level, states moved to pass their own versions, with momentum building in the wake of court decisions legalizing same-sex marriage.

The newest batch of RFRA laws go further than their predecessors. As Think Progress and others have noted, while the federal and early state RFRA laws focused on blocking state actions that supposedly put a "substantial burden" on religious beliefs, measures like the one passed in Indiana are rare in extending the law's purview to disputes between private parties, such as a business and a customer. While support for same-sex marriage is still lower in many Southern states, over time the needle has moved

But another reason for the strong public backlash to the Indiana bill and other recent measures is evolving attitudes. Part of this changing sentiment is being chalked up to shifting views about gay marriage and LGBT rights, especially among millenials. While support for same-sex marriage is still lower in many Southern states, over time the needle has moved—albeit slowly—in the South and country to growing acceptance and support.

There's another factor that may be playing into changing views about gay rights and "religious freedom" bills, which hasn't received as much attention: the declining clout of white evangelicals, especially in their stronghold in Southern states.

Politically, white evangelicals have been the driving force—in numbers, attitudes, and resources—behind anti-LGBT legislation. But after a period of growth in numbers and political influence in the 1980s and 1990s, white fundamentalist Christians have seen the size of their congregations dwindle, eroding their political clout as well.

In October 2014, shortly before last year's midterm elections, Robert Jones of the Public Religion Research Institute published a report in The Atlantic that summarized this decline and its political implications:
In recent years, for example, the Southern Baptist Convention, the largest evangelical denomination in the country, has reported steady declines in membership and new baptisms. Since 2007, the number of white evangelical Protestants nationwide has slipped from 22 percent in 2007 to 18 percent today ... A look at generational differences demonstrates that this is only the beginnings of a major shift away from a robust white evangelical presence and influence in the country. While white evangelical Protestants constitute roughly three in ten (29 percent) seniors (age 65 and older), they account for only one in ten (10 percent) members of the Millennial generation (age 18-29).
... Jones sees the decline of white evangelicalism in the South and nationally as stemming from two sources: changing demographics, including new immigrant communities with different religious traditions, and a younger generation that increasingly identifies as "unaffiliated" when asked about their relationship to organized religion.

That doesn't mean that white evangelical faith is extinct in the South; far from it. And due to successful efforts to build religious-right organizations over the last three decades, white Christian conservatives are still a well-organized force in the electorate. But if current trends continue, white conservative Protestants are destined to be a less formidable feature of the Southern political landscape in the years to come.

Baltimore plans to shut off water to 25,000 residents

Popular Resistance - On April 1, Baltimore started turning off water to 150 households a day. The city plans to turn off 25,000 residences in total. There are commercial and public entities in Baltimore that owe $15 million, but they are not losing their access to water.

Baltimore has a history of overcharging residents. This resulted in a $4.2 million refund to about 38,000 residents in 2012.

Beginning in July 2013, Baltimore is raising water rates by 42% over a three year period.

Residents of Baltimore are concerned about the water shut offs for a number of reasons. Questions have been raised about whether this is a move to privatize the city’s water system and whether the shut offs are related to gentrification efforts.

Only three Howard Johnsons left

 One of the Last 3 Remaining Howard Johnson's Restaurants Closes

Yahoo Food -  According to NPR, one of the last three Howard Johnson’s restaurants closed its doors this week. Located in Lake Placid, N.Y., the restaurant opened in April of 1956. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette writes that the owners of the Lake Placid location are getting old and their children are “not interested” in taking over. So, they sold the restaurant to new owners who plan to turn the building into a “high-end roadside diner.”

Howard Johnson’s — which was often referred to as HoJo’s — was “the most successful of the early chain restaurants in the United States.” At one point there were nearly 1,000 of them across the country. HoJo’s was so popular that it used to sell a line of frozen foods. The chain was perhaps most famous for its signature orange roof and range of 28 ice cream flavors. The restaurant even makes an appearance on Mad Men, the hit TV show set in the 1960s.

However, business declined in the 1980s as more and more competitors entered the market with “fresher, more appealing menus.” Regardless, the restaurant still evokes a deep sense of nostalgia for for those who dined there as children, especially Baby Boomers. Two older businessmen tell NPR, that they came to the restaurant as boys, and then brought their own kids. One of them adds, “It’s a landmark — everyone has good memories.” For those who want to dine at a Howard Johnson’s, the two remaining locations are in Bangor, Maine and Lake George, N.Y

Department of Good Stuff: Politics


It's easier to fight for one's principles than to live up to them - Alfred Adler

The war of the terrified

From our overstocked archives

Sam Smith, 2013 - As news continues to gather of NSA’s abuse of the Constitution and those it is meant to serve, I find myself thinking of castles again. As I noted some time back:

The medieval  bifurcation of society into a weak, struggling, but sane, mass and a manic depressive elite alternately vicious and afraid, unlimited and imprisoned, foreshadows what we find today – leaders willing, on the one hand, to occupy any corner of the world and, on the other, terrified of young men with box cutters.
Similarly, many years ago some people built castles, walled cities and moats to keep the terror out. It worked for a while, but sooner or later spies and assassins figured how to cross the moats and opponents learned how to climb the walls and send balls of fire into protected compounds. The Florentines even catapulted dead donkeys and feces over the town wall during their siege of Siena.

The people who built castles and walled cities and moats are all dead now and their efforts at security seem puny and ultimately futile – unintended monuments to the vanity of human presumption.

Yet, like the castle-dwellers behind the moats, our elite is now spending huge sums to put themselves inside prisons of their own making.

While the NSA’s activities and similar offenses against the American people have been rightfully attacked for their criminal nature, hardly any attention is given to the fact that the same people who can destroy, damage and eliminate are also driven by paranoia and a fear that their present power is precarious and perhaps transitory. It is not an accident that the White House and Capitol grounds are the most heavily policed public spaces in America.
In 2009 I wrote:

After 9/11 the Capitol turned into an armed camp. The Capitol Visitors Center, under construction, was modified to serve as a bunker for members of Congress in case of an attack and the Capitol police force soared to three officers per member of Congress with the greatest number of police per acre of any spot in America. In the end the visitor’s center/bunker would cost over $600 million, just slightly less than the city’s new baseball stadium. Perhaps the most telling change was when the Capitol police, as a security measure, moved all tourist bus traffic a few blocks away. In essence, the police declared the lives of residents of 3rd & 4th Streets less important than those of officials working at or near the Capitol.

I would later tell people that I knew exactly where the war on terror ended: 2nd Street. Living four blocks further to the east, there would never be the slightest sign that my safety was of any concern to the White House or Homeland Security.

It was an important lesson that made me realize the War on Terror was not about protecting me, but about protecting those extremely frightened men and women who ran our government, our major corporations and other large institutions. It was not about me, but about easing the fear of some Republican congressman from Idaho who was scared shitless.

The bipartisan politics that have brought us to this place has also ruined our economy, destroyed jobs and endangered the environment. Neither castles nor mass wiretapping can avoid the consequences of such behavior. Are our leaders in Washington as afraid of us as they are of Al Qaeda? Is this why they want to know what our emails say?

Here’s Wikipedia’s description of the late years of the Middle Ages:

Troubles were followed in 1347 by the Black Death, a disease that spread throughout Europe during the following three years. The death toll was probably about 35 million people in Europe, about one-third of the population. Towns were especially hard-hit because of their crowded conditions. Large areas of land were left sparsely inhabited, and in some places fields were left unworked…Urban workers also felt that they had a right to greater earnings, and popular uprisings broke out across Europe….

 Meanwhile, the ultimate protection of the elite, the castle, was under attack. As one historian notes:
 After the 16th century, castles declined as a mode of defense, mostly because of the invention and improvement of heavy cannons and mortars. This artillery could throw heavy cannonballs with so much force that even strong curtain walls could not hold up.
And not much later things like the French and American revolutions further damaged the once comfortable role of the nobility.

Which doesn’t mean it didn’t try to recover. One could argue that the Southern Confederacy was an attempt to reinstitute the values of the Middle Ages over those created in a new American republic the previous century.

And one can argue that the First American Republic, which ended about three decades ago, has drifted so far out of our moral, political and  philosophical consciousness that a cabal of maniacally greedy corporations, a new GOP confederacy, and a Democratic Party that sold its soul to campaign contributors has successfully headed us back towards a society of nobles and castles, without even the feudal responsibilities toward the less powerful that its predecessors had accepted.

And there are things that NSA wiretaps can’t tell. Like when is climate change going to start causing spontaneous rebellion? When is labor going to rediscover its true foe? And when are food and water shortages going to energize revolt as is occurring in Egypt?

For the sane and still semi-autonomous parts of America – those places Thomas Jefferson called our “little republics” – substantial potential and security remain because we still cling to values, relationships and feelings that guided our nation through its first two centuries. I live in a small town in Maine and am repeatedly stunned by how much better my daily life is compared to the larger America I read, think and write about. These are two massively different places, and I, fortunately, live in the right one. Were I playing the game of the one percent in New York, Washington or Los Angeles it would be a whole different story.
There is a huge strength in this difference of place and purpose that, in the end, could save America. Those of us in the little republics – whether geographic, ethnic, or cultural – need to recognize this power and find ways to work together so that when the one percent has to confront the reality of its failure, there will still be an alternative America worth reviving.

April 25, 2015

Now anti-Israel boycott provision shows up in TPP

Popular Resistance - U.S. lawmakers are quietly advancing legislation that would penalize international participation in the growing movement to boycott, divest from, and sanction (BDS) Israel for human rights abuses against Palestinians.

With little notice, anti-BDS directives were injected into the “Fast Track” legislation that passed the Senate Finance Committee Wednesday night, despitebroad opposition to the bill, which gives the administration of President Barack Obama authority to ram though so-called “free trade” deals.

An amendment, included in the bill and sponsored by Senator Ben Cardin (D-Md.), stipulates that, as a principle of trade negotiations, the U.S. should put pressure on other countries not to engage in BDS against Israel of any kind, including refusal to do business with settlements.

Another Clinton Foundation deal under fire

Yahoo - The New York Times is suggesting Hillary Clinton took actions as secretary of state because of financial donations that were made to the Clinton Foundation by Russians pushing for a Canadian uranium company. Related Stories

The Times reported in an explosive piece  that Canadian records show the chairman of Russian-owned Uranium One gave over $2 million in donations to the Clinton Foundation, which the Clintons’ didn’t disclose. At the same time, Russia pushed for control of a Canadian Uranium company.

A Kremlin-connected bank promoting stock in the company also reportedly paid Bill Clinton $500,000 for a speech in Moscow. Eventually, the Russian-Canadian uranium deal was approved.

“Whether the donations played any role in the approval of the uranium deal is unknown,” the Times writes. “But the episode underscores the special ethical challenges presented by the Clinton Foundation, headed by a former president who relied heavily on foreign cash to accumulate $250 million in assets even as his wife helped steer American foreign policy as secretary of state, presiding over decisions with the potential to benefit the foundation’s donors.”

How Harvard and Yale cook the books for the One Percent


Campaign for buses in Irsrael on the Sabbath

NY Times - It started as a bit of sarcastic whimsy: Israelis frustrated with the lack of public buses on the Jewish Sabbath and holidays hijacked the Facebook page of the transportation minister during Passover and turned it into a shared-ride board.

Nadav Maor wanted a lift to the country’s northern tip, with “room in the trunk” for some equipment. Miki Ezra Stranger needed to get to Friday night dinner at her grandmother’s house in Kiryat Motzkin from Ramat Gan, a journey of about 70 miles. Hamutal Adler, a single mother of two, was more flexible: “Just want a bit of beach,” she wrote.

None connected with a ride, but they did manage to catapult the issue to the forefront of political conversation, reviving a thorny debate about the role of religion in the Jewish state.

The minister, Yisrael Katz, derisively dismissed the ride-seekers as leftist sore losers after conservatives’ success in elections last month. Then it got more personal: Protesters surrounded Mr. Katz’s house, and a leftist Parliament member introduced legislation to ban him from using his state-issued Chrysler minivan when the buses are not running. Photo A bus station in Tel Aviv, which once banned horse-drawn carriages on Saturdays. Credit Oded Balilty/Associated Press

“Public transportation is a necessity: I think it should be like electricity or water or gas,” said Omry Hazut, 27, who started the Facebook protest. “State and religion, this bond, is broken a lot of times, but only if you can afford it. If you can afford a car, you can pull the switch and start it on Saturday, but if you can’t, you won’t have any option of leaving your house.”

As Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu tries to stitch together a new governing coalition that is expected to be made up of rightist and religious parties, a continuing struggle over Israeli identity is in the balance. The debate over transportation is part of a larger one over a so-called nationality bill that seeks to redefine the relationship between Israeli democracy and Jewish character, which was among the divisive issues that helped collapse Mr. Netanyahu’s previous coalition last fall.

The rise of boutique warfare

From our overstocked archives

Sam Smith, 2014 - As a general rule, I like to have a little time to get ready for the next global crisis. Stuff like deciding which side I’m on, how to pronounce the participants’ names and so forth. While I know some people get turned on by rapid developments, and it does save Wolf Blitzer from having to spend so much on Viagra, but for others it’s a bit like turning into the wrong movie theater auditorium and finding huge pink and orange monsters leaping at you when you expected to find a reflective Judy Dench.

I know sometimes – as with 9/11 – it can be a little difficult to forecast these things, but I gather, just for example, that Hillary Clinton was stirring up the Ukraine thing back when she was Secretary of State and the CIA was secretly encouraging various protests in Venezuela. They forgot to tell us.

Even George Bush gave us more days to think about invading Iraq. And there was a time – way back in the early 1940s- when a president actually went to Congress and got it to declare war before we found ourselves involved in a major international conflict. But observing the constitutional requirement went out of style and our presidents increasingly acted like the people we were supposed to be horrified by.

The Vietnam disaster was a real blow: Nearly 60,000 American deaths for reasons no one could adequately explain. But the cutback in deaths in Iraq and Afghanistan didn’t work either. In part, a younger generation had come to see war as an electronic game to play rather than a reality in which to perish.

Now Barack Obama sits on a sofa watching David Letterman as he decides during commercials which wedding in Pakistan to disrupt with drones, The front line and the Iron Curtain have disappeared – instead, and unnoted in the media, we now have troops in 150 countries. Meanwhile the State Department and CIA search for surrogate victims – aka protestors – to bring down regimes it doesn’t like. And even the Pentagon is adapting.

William Hartung of the Center for international Policy notes:

“Secretary of Defense Hagel said that we should no longer size U.S. military forces to engage in ‘prolonged conflicts’ like those in Iraq and Afghanistan. In doing so, he was essentially acknowledging the fact that spending trillions of dollars and losing thousands of lives in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have not made anyone safer. The majority of Americans understand this, and won’t support similar interventions any time soon.”

The downside of the rise in boutique warfare is that we no longer know which battles we’re about to enter and nobody asks us what we think about it.

On the plus side, boutique warfare can result in far fewer deaths. But given the nearly one hundred percent failure in judgment of those who have chosen our conflicts over the past half century, you really don’t want Hillary Clinton and Zig Brzezinski helping to create a potentially disastrous conflict with Russia without at least a few public opinions, say, from real Ukraine experts.

Iraq, Afghanistan, Venezuela, Libya, Syria, Ukraine.

They sound more like destinations for the British empire in its final days rather than displays of American exceptionalism.

The problem with boutique warfare is not only that it is bad strategy, unconstitutional and has the potential to explode into far more serious conflict, it is designed by those who have an extraordinary record of error.

They are, thus, not only dumb but dumb and dangerous, and that’s a deadly combination.

What's happening:

Popular Resistance - A national conference on “The Future of Left & Independent Politics” will be held in Chicago on May 2 and 3.  The conference will bring together left-wing politicians, activists, and organizations to share experiences, discuss strategies, and plan new election challenges to the corporate controlled two party system.  The two day conference will feature panels, workshops, and discussions for “candidates, individuals, and organizations committed to a non-sectarian left political alliance in opposition to the two-party system of corporate-capitalist rule.” A draft agenda is available on the conference’s web site.

Why H Clinton is quiet about TPP


780,000 gay marriages

LA Times - A Gallup poll  found that nearly 2 million adults are part of a same-sex couple, of whom about 780,000 are married.

Sandlers' jokes are not even funny

These Are the Jokes That Caused Actors To Walk Off Adam Sandler's Set 

The real economy: Child poverty

Popular Resistance - America’s wealth grew by 60 percent in the past six years, by over $30 trillion. In approximately the same time, the number of homeless children has also grown by 60 percent.

... The U.S. has one of the highest relative child poverty rates in the developed world. As UNICEF reports, “[Children's] material well-being is highest in the Netherlands and in the four Nordic countries and lowest in Latvia, Lithuania, Romania and the United States.”

Over half of public school students are poor enough to qualify for lunch subsidies, and almost half of black children under the age of six are living in poverty.

Nearly half of all food stamp recipients are children, and they averaged about$5 a day for their meals before the 2014 farm bill cut $8.6 billion (over the next ten years) from the food stamp program.

In 2007 about 12 of every 100 kids were on food stamps. Today it’s 20 of every 100.


Child abuse Kansas style

Ben Swann - On March 24, cannabis oil activist Shona Banda‘s life was flipped upside-down after her son was taken from her by the State of Kansas. The ordeal started when counselors at her 11-year-old son’s school conducted a drug education class. Her son, who had previously lived in Colorado for a period of time, disagreed with some of the anti-pot points that were being made by school officials. “My son says different things like my ‘Mom calls it cannabis and not marijuana.’ He let them know how educated he was on the facts,” said Banda Banda successfully treated her own Crohn’s disease with cannabis oil.

After her son spoke out about medical marijuana, he was detained, and police launched a raid on Shona Banda’s home. “Well, they had that drug education class at school that was just conducted by the counselors… They pulled my son out of school at about 1:40 in the afternoon and interrogated him. Police showed up at my house at 3… I let them know that they weren’t allowed in my home without a warrant… I didn’t believe you could get a warrant off of something a child says in school.” Banda continued, “We waited from 3 o’clock until 6 o’clock. They got a warrant at 6 o’clock at night and executed a warrant into my home. My husband and I are separated, and neither parent was contacted by authorities before [our son] was taken and questioned.”

“They subsequently conducted a raid and then called me when the raid was over letting me know that there was a list of items they took on my kitchen table, I was allowed to go home, and [an officer] gave me his word I would not be arrested in person or at work and that charges would be given to me in a postcard in the mail. I have not been charged with anything at this point, but I have a hard time believing that it’s OK for them to interrogate my child without parental consent for hours,” said Banda. A report by The Human Solution International notes that officers found 2 ounces of cannabis and an ounce of cannabis oil during the raid.

Banda then described the actions that the State of Kansas began to take in an effort to take her son from her, “On the 24th, he was taken into custody. That was on a Tuesday. He was taken out of town Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. Friday we had a temporary hearing… and temporary custody was granted to my ex. Now the only reason why temporary custody was granted to my ex is because the judge said something to the effect that the amount of cannabis found in my home was going to possibly be felony charges and it was pointless letting the child return home to his mother.” She believes that the state is trying to take her son away and said, “The state is trying to deem it to where [Shona's ex-husband] is not fit and I’m not fit and they’re trying to take custody of our child.”

“For him to have spoken up in class I can’t be upset about because he hears me daily on the phone talking with people, encouraging people to speak up and speak out. We did have the talk about how it’s not OK to bring this up in Kansas, because it’s a different state [than Colorado]. It’s very confusing for a child,” said Banda, noting how difficult it can be for children to understand how something could be considered legal medicine in one state and contraband in another.

Sheldon Adelson spends the weekend trying to buy the Republican Party

Major liberal group raises questions about Clinton Foundation

Common Cause - Citing concerns about potential conflicts of interest and the influence of hidden overseas donors, Common Cause called on presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton and the Clinton Foundation to commission an independent and thorough review of all large donations to the foundation and to release the results.

"As Mrs. Clinton herself observed earlier this week, voluntary disclosure is not enough," said Common Cause President Miles Rapoport. "A report in Thursday's New York Times indicates that the Clinton Foundation violated an agreement to identify all of its donors. The foundation's omissions create significant gaps in the information that voters need to make informed decisions at the polls."

To ensure that the audit is complete, Rapoport said the foundation should enter into a contractual agreement with auditors to open its books fully and to make public the complete report of their review.

And to further guard against potential conflicts of interest, the foundation should stop accepting donations from foreign governments and foreign corporations, he said.

"There already is too much 'dark money' in our elections, in the form of spending by supposedly independent nonprofit groups that are not required to disclose their donors and operate as sort of shadow campaigns," Rapoport said. "The Clinton Foundation and any other foundations tied to a candidate or his or her family provide one more way for potential donors to gain access and curry favor from candidates — without the public knowing about it. That lack of transparency creates a clear risk of undue influence and conflicts of interest."

While the Clinton Foundation has garnered headlines this week, Rapoport noted that at least one other apparent presidential hopeful, Republican Jeb Bush, has close ties to a foundation. The former Florida governor created the Foundation for Excellence in Education and last year turned over its leadership to former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice; it should initiate and make public the same kind of independent review Common Cause is recommending for the Clinton Foundation, Rapoport said.

Though Mrs. Clinton has severed ties with the Clinton Foundation, her husband and daughter remain active in its operations.

"Six years ago, at Mrs. Clinton's confirmation hearing for her appointment as secretary of state, then-Sen. Dick Lugar observed that 'that foreign governments and entities may perceive the Clinton Foundation as a means to gain favor with the secretary of state.' He was right, and his remarks remain relevant today as Mrs. Clinton seeks the presidency," Rapoport said.

Coming to an office near you?


"Fun seating" as part of Dow Jones' new office plan
A video shows other scary aspects