Friday, October 31, 2014

READING FOR THE WEEKEND (Oct. 31, 2014)



Fellow Nobel Peace Laureates to Obama: Stain of U.S. torture is your job to repair (Common Dreams).

Casualties of The Gridiron ... a series of short story documentaries of retired NFL players who battle head trauma, crippling pain, and drug abuse (The Scene).

The crisis that changed Pope Francis, and the Catholic Church (Newsweek).

Idiot woman "improves" some of the country's most precious national parks with her "art" (Salon).


HALLOWEEN STUFF
13 facts you probably didn't know about Halloween (Business Insider).

Halloween trivia (Halloween Website).

Silly Halloween jokes for kids (RobynsFYI).

Silly Halloween jokes for the older crowd (Jokes4us).


THINGS WE SHOULD EMBRACE/CHEER
Unlike Walmart, Costco has no plans to cut employee benefits (Huffington Post).

What America can learn from Norway's success in regulating campaign finance (World.Mic).

How Germany managed to abolish university tuition fees (Epoch Times).


CONSERVATIVE  DELUSIONS ... AND REALITY 
Busted: More global warming denial "science" found to be unrealistic and inaccurate (Raw Story).

Standing tall in America. We're #1 ... When it comes to military budgets, knocking off wedding parties, military bases, etc. (Common Dreams).

Beautiful Disaster - The Republican hoax of the Texas Miracle (Progress Texas).

Kansas governor is forcing disabled people off Medicaid (Think Progress).

North Carolina's state of political hate (Center for Public Integrity).


INEQUALITY & SOCIAL MOBILITY
Grim numbers from the 2014 Global Wealth Report (Buzz Flash).

Compensation shrinks for all income groups - except the very highest (Al Jazeera).

7 things the middle class can't afford anymore (Wall St. Cheat Sheet).

Why can't we talk about social mobility (Prospect Magazine).


BRAZIL
Continuing Latin America's 'left turn,' Brazil's President Dilma Rousseff wins another term (Common Dreams).

In Brazilian city, homeless people face 'extermination' (Al Jazeera).


WHEN THE PRIVATE SECTOR HIDES BEHIND THE STATE
Jamie Dimon: U.S. must create a "safe harbor" where JPMorgan's corruption is not "punished" (William K. Black / New Economic Perspectives).

Booz Allen: the world's most profitable spy agency, or America's largest corporate welfare case (Bloomberg News)?

OK, this one's mine, but the taxpayer public subsidies for "private" market players pisses me off ... Why are we "privatizing" NASA (Mark Martinez Blog)?


MISCELLANEOUS
15 of the most awkward things to happen on a date (Huffington Post).

Dead babies near oil drilling sites raises questions for researchers (Denver Post).

For more teens, arrests by police replace school discipline (Wall Street Journal).

Paul Krugman's fear: "It's by no means clear" whether democracy or plutocracy will prevail in America (Salon).

- Mark

Thursday, October 30, 2014

WHY ARE WE PRIVATIZING NASA?


Earlier this week the unmanned and "privately" owned Antares rocket exploded off the coast of Virginia after launch. The failed Antares launch is part of NASA's on-going effort to privatize our nation's space program.


Going up in smoke in the $200 million launch put together by contractor Orbital Sciences Corporation includes 5,000 pounds of cargo for the International Space Station (ISS), and extensive property damage to NASA's launch facilities.

Already beset by lengthy delays through its contracts with privately owned SpaceX, which ferries food, supplies, and scientific experiments to the orbiting laboratory, the Antares explosion raises many questions about NASA's plan to privatize space projects.

Let's start with this. If NASA is helping to subsidize Antares missions with NASA facilities, classified or proprietary information, and manpower what does this say about the "privatization" of space? How can a firm be private when NASA and the American taxpayer are underwriting "private" adventures, especially when they screw up so spectacularly?

Indeed, why should NASA, which has already given us the very successful Space Shuttle and Apollo missions suffer because a divided and inept Congress freezes budgets and argues over NASA's larger mission (but still finds the money to facilitate privatization)? Why is NASA helping a "private" company go through their data to help them find out why Antares exploded?  Who's paying for all this privatization?


Though NASA will continue doing business with the Orbital Sciences Corporations and ScienceX, here's my final question (in this post): With over 1,000 unmanned space missions carried out by more than 30 distinct NASA programs since 1958, why are we outsourcing unmanned missions - that NASA used to do in its sleep - to "private" companies that need massive federal support and subsidies to survive?

My regular readers, and those who have read my book, know the answer to this.

- Mark

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

THE U.S. COURT SYSTEM ... THE AVATAR OF THE RICH AND POWERFUL IN AMERICA?


After affirming that corporations are people who can spend as much as they want to voice their opinion, the U.S. Supreme Court's decisions in the Citizens United (2010) and McCutcheon (2014) cases continues to assault the integrity of democracy in America. It's also reinforcing the claim that "money is the mother's milk of politics."




Only this time the damaging effects of the two decisions are now creeping into our judicial system.

A team of independent researchers from the Emory University School of Law has released a stunning report - "Skewed Justice" - that documents the role of money in state judicial elections since the Citizens United decision came out in 2010. It's not good. The research documents two things:

1. CAMPAIGN ADS AFFECT JUDICIAL DECISIONS: The study found the more TV ads that aired during a state's supreme court judicial election season, the less likely justices are to vote in favor of criminal defendants. 
2. POLITICAL MONEY IMPACTS CRIMINAL DECISIONS: In states that once banned corporate and union spending on elections - bans that were removed by Citizens United - now have justices who are less likely to decide in favor of criminal defendants after the Citizens United decision.

Put another way, state level jurists - whether they acknowledge the trend or not - are being cowed by the threat of political ads because of the money powerful political and corporate interests can bring to the table. The impact this is having on our civil liberties is slow, but cannot be understated. As the authors of "Skewed Justice" note, "the influence of money has spread from civil cases to criminal cases, in which the fundamental rights of all Americans can be at stake."




Unfortunately, because of the corporate leanings of the Roberts-led U.S. Supreme Court, things aren't much better at the next level.

Writing in the NY Times, Thomas B. Edsall argues that the Roberts-led court has become a powerful legal escort for corporate and moneyed interests - a corporate and elite avatar, of sorts.


Political cartoon after the McCutcheon v. FEC, 2014.

Specifically, the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling in Citizens United (and then in McCutcheon) has effectively created a two-tiered system of justice in America - one for the well off, and one for the poor. By reaffirming that corporations are people, who can spend as much as they want, our nation's highest court has given corporate and financial elite groups a megaphone to make their political case.




By protecting and enhancing the political power of the rich when it comes to campaign finance, and then restricting the political leverage of the poor and minorities in voting rights cases, one thing has become clear: Our Roberts led U.S. Supreme Court is now taking sides, and don't care who sees it.

- Mark

WHAT'S WRONG WITH AMERICA? IT'S PRETTY SIMPLE

Senator Elizabeth Warren (D- MA), explaining what's wrong with democracy in America.


- Mark 

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

THIRD WORLD HEALTH CARE IN AMERICA - KNOXVILLE, TENNESSEE EDITION

According to some very vocal members in the GOP, if you want great health care you need to stop being poor. From The Daily Show ...


- Mark 

KEEP THIS IN MIND WHEN YOU VOTE NEXT WEEK


If you want to see the accomplishments in chart form, click here.

- Mark 

IS LOUISIANA CONFISCATING PRIVATE LAND, AND HANDING IT TO BIG OIL? YOU BE THE JUDGE

By now many of you might have seen the two maps that show what's been happening to the state of Louisiana as the ocean creeps inward, and slowly absorbs portions of the state. In fact, since 1932 - according to the U.S. Geological Services - the state of Louisiana has lost just under 1,900 square miles of low lands to the Gulf of Mexico.

Louisiana's two states: The one we see in textbooks (left) and the one that's disappearing (right). 

This is the equivalent of losing the entire state of Delaware.

Yeah, I know Delaware's a small state, but it's still a state. Worse, Louisiana is poised to lose another 1,750 square miles to the ocean - an area larger than the state of Rhode Island - by  2064.

While losing your state to the ocean is a big deal, here's what's really bothering people in Louisiana. It turns out that as Louisiana sinks, farmers and families of the lost land are losing control of mineral rights to land that belonged to them but has been lost to eroding shorelines.


Worse, the families are losing their rights to the state of Louisiana, who says it has a public duty to seize land that sinks underwater, which they then hand over to the oil industry.

In Louisiana state law says that all 'navigable' water ways, and the land below it, be placed in the public trust, to be held and protected by the state of Louisiana (then we have the fracking-linked earthquakes and sinkholes in Louisiana; another story for another day).




There's much more to this story, which you can read here.

- Mark

Monday, October 27, 2014

THE REAL FRAUD BEHIND THE GOP'S VOTER ID LAWS EXPOSED BY REAGAN APPOINTED JUDGE

This should have been posted last week ...



For more on this story click here. For more on why voter ID laws have nothing to do with electoral fraud - and is really just an elections theft and voter intimidation tactic - click here, here, and here.

- Mark 

READING FOR THE WEEK (10-27-14)


Bring in the clowns ... oh, wait, they're already here. The House GOP's crumbling anti-Obama lawsuit (MSNBC).

The science behind why Fox News viewers are the most misinformed people in America ... authoritarian personalities have an emotional need for outlets that affirms what they already believe, and allow them to escape factual challenges to their beliefs (Alter Net).

Charter school power brokers turns public education into private profit centers (Nation of Change).

Drinking a 'medium' soda every day can age you as much as smoking (Mother Jones).


THIS STUFF SHOULDN'T BE HAPPENING
Man calls a suicide prevention hotline, SWAT team shows up and kills him (Free Thought Project).

Proposed Arizona law would allow employers to fire women for using whore pills (Jezebel).

Defense attorney: Vanderbilt football player was too drunk to rape (Jezebel).

Fox co-host says young women shouldn't vote or be on juries because "they don't get it" (Addicting Info).

Ooops ... Less than 4% of all Pakistanis killed by CIA drone strikes were listed as al-Qaeda members (Nation of Change).

Now congressional Republicans are digging through scientists' grant proposals (Mother Jones).

Texas detention center staff accused of sexual assault on women detained by the Department of Homeland Security for immigration (Russian Times).


VOTER ID CRAP
In Texas, it's easier to buy an assault weapon than to vote (Buzz Flash).

The next time someone says Voter ID laws don't keep people from voting, show them this (Addicting Info).

Texas election judge had to turn away 93-year-old veteran because of strict voter ID law (Think Progress).

With voter ID on hold, here's what Wisconsin Republicans have planned for election day (Think Progress).


CALIFORNIA DREAMING
Fracking threatens millions of Californians (Truth Out).

Sorry, California. Winter isn't going to fix your drought (Mother Jones).


THIS IS A GOOD START
Scientists just discovered how to determine if water contamination comes from fracking (Nation of Change).

Bolivia passes 'Law of Mother Earth' which gives rights to our planet as a living system (Bullhorn).

Let us all pray that at least Texas and Mississippi secede ... It's a start (Ring of Fire).


MISECELLANEOUS
Afghan Army Ranger veteran: Why do we keep thanking the troops (Common Dreams)?

This is what happens when the War on Drugs/Terror gets out of hand ... government seizure and extortion (Forbes).

The Impulse Society: How our growing desperation for instant connection is ruining us (Alter Net).

21 road rage facts and stats (Brandon Gaille).

- Mark

OBAMA vs. REAGAN, II: RESPONSES TO DEADLY VIRUSES

So, you want to criticize President Obama's response to Ebola?


FYI, here's the link to an earlier Reagan vs. Obama post on the economy. And, yeah, Obama's eating Reagan's lunch in that area too.

- Mark