Tuesday, September 1, 2015

(Shady Ministering Is a Trump Ideal)  Conscience of a Poser  (Trump's Vulgarity A Big Selling Point with Evangelicals)  "W" Set a Tough Course Which All Republican Klown Kandidates Ache to Follow

Do you need any more insight into how easy it is to fool ignorant Americans (who constitute a much larger part of the voting population than anyone would care to believe)?

What I enjoy most from the article below is the commenters who are still incredulous that the Conservatives haven't learned anything about governing from their errors. As if they were "governing." Instead of getting rid of governing.

I sometimes wonder if any of these Republicans could watch the entire movie, "Schindler's List," without noticing themselves in the crowd of gunmen.

From the Paul Krugman article "A Heckuva Job:  Political Poseurs and Their Katrina Moment:"

"[Interestingly] in modern America, cults of personality built around undeserving politicians seem to be a Republican thing.

True, some liberals were starry-eyed about Mr. Obama but the glitter faded fast, and what was left was a competent leader with some big achievements under his belt – [like] the drop in the number of Americans without health insurance.

[Now] both the Republican establishment and the punditocracy have been shocked by Mr. Trump’s continuing appeal to the party’s base. He’s ludicrous; his policy proposals are unworkable - don’t people realize the difference between actual leadership and being a star on reality TV?

But Mr. Trump isn’t alone in talking policy nonsense - doubling America’s rate of economic growth, as Jeb Bush has promised he would, is a complete fantasy.

And while Mr. Trump doesn’t exude presidential dignity, he’s seeking the nomination of a party that once considered it a great idea to put George W. Bush in a flight suit and have him land on an aircraft carrier.

[So] predicting Mr. Trump’s imminent political demise is ignoring the lessons of recent history - poseurs with a knack for public relations can con the public for a very long time. Someday The Donald will have his Katrina moment, when voters see him for who he really is. But don’t count on it happening any time soon.”
Comments from Reader Supported News:
# tswhiskers 2015-08-31
Thank you, Mr. Krugman. Seriously, can anyone think of a Rep. candidate who could again, seriously govern this country? All the Rep. governors have left their states in terrible financial trouble. While the national debt is huge, at least Obama has the sense to realize that nations and households cannot be run by the same fiscal rules. Thank God! Think of Kansas, folks and be very grateful for that fact. Trump wants to give governing a try, but can anyone see him dealing with the premier of China? I think it's no accident that our last Rep. president who could govern was H.W. Bush. His son was a disaster; I also suspect that the great god Reagan did more delegating than governing. I foresee a Dem president in 2016 simply because enough people know there are few, if any, Reps. capable of coping with a govt. as big as the U.S. govt. I say again, can anyone who thinks the rich shouldn't be taxed, that the working class shouldn't be given a living wage, that Dems.,or those likely to vote Dem., should not be allowed to vote, that abortion and birth control are immoral and that Creationism belongs in a 21st cent. school curriculum, has no place in govt. at any level.
# reiverpacific 2015-08-31
My most startling "Katrina moment" was actually reading on the BBC that Dimwits of the Shrub die-Nasty had the utter, obviously narcissistic GALL to visit the Crescent City on the tenth anniversary of Katrina to "celebrate" he and his apology for an administration' s utter failure to do anything but call in their personal Praetorian Guard, the then named, fully-armed bunch of highly-paid thugs from the scum of death squads around the world, Blackwater who sought out whom they might devour from the desperate populace not sent off to tent cities in a Huston football arena or living under freeway underpasses. All this whilst they were hubristically and high-handedly brushing aside the despised Cuba's offer of free, qualified Medical help!
Of course if they were White, they were "Foraging", if black, "Looting"!
The dumb bastard's presence may explain a small portion of the almost incredible fact (to normal, thinking people at least) of the Jebberwocky's similar gall in becoming a presidential wannabe. As his mom, bonnie wee Barbara declaring "Why, these people are better off now, so why should I trouble my beautiful mind about them?" or words pretty close to that effect.
Incidentally, where was Rughead Trump with all his much-vaunted Billions at that time of real need? Buying or building Golf resorts I'll bet!

Comments from the "New York Times:"

Tim Kane Mesa, Az 13 hours ago
As an appetizer, the Bush Administration gave us 9/11, despite numerous strong warnings from Bill Clinton, Hart-Rudman report, Richard Clark, and a CIA report a month before the event, a month Bush spent on Vacation.
Hitler and Tojo never got closer than Hawaii to attacking the US but under Bush a man living in a cave in the poorest country in the world succeeded, spectacularly.

The city of New Orleans was wiped out, but it's worth pointing out that under Bush 3 American cities were devastated - Manhattan, New Orleans and Detroit. Thats a heckava trifecta Bushie.

For the main course, they lied the nation into an unnecessary war that spawned Isis. As a garnish they let Bin Laden get away.

For dessert Bush gave us the collapse of the financial system and for a post dessert cordial major economic implosion and job losses on the order of 800,000 a month and the near collapse of global civilization from which we are still recovering.

After all that, the GOP hasn't changed its policy preferences, they still hate and want to undermine the effectiveness of government, to cut taxes and deregulate, they still prefer supply side bias policies.

Why would any person in their right mind want republicans in government? Their policy prescriptions are complete failures and their candidates are destructive clowns. They have proven that they are more dangerous to our way of life that the terrorists, in fact by disenabling government, they enable terrorists.

Reality Based  Flyover Country 12 hours ago

The Republican Party can no longer be distinguished from its propaganda machine, without which it would collapse, wither and die. Honesty is impossible for a party committed to enriching and empowering the richest sliver of American life and doing so by endlessly redistributing wealth and income out of lower and middle income groups. After a while, say thirty-five years, even the dullest of their "low information" voter base are starting to notice who is getting rolled here; who the losers are. Surprise, sucker, it's you. Enter Donald Trump, reality television star and pitch-man, who doubles down on the trash talk which is the mother's milk of all Republican politics.

Don't expect an outbreak of sanity and honesty to break out from this hopelessly degenerated political party, from Trump or the rest. All you should expect are more tough-guy talk, more scapegoating, more none-too-subtle racist dog-whistles, more Reagan mythologizing, more fake scandals, more zombie/voodoo economic fakery, more talk about walls, less about bridges. This is a party addicted to its own lying, and it won't be changing because of, or in spite of, one grand-standing Know-Nothing buffoon. The only real question is whether or not the Republican Party death spiral takes the country down with it. It very well might.
Otto Winter Park, Florida 12 hours ago
Your expression "poseurs with a knack for public relations" reminded me of the description of Ronald Reagan's career in Rick Perlstein's The Invisible Bridge. Before I read Mr. Perlstein's work, I always wondered how this not-smart-enough-to-be-president guy managed to get to the White House. Now I understand. From his college days, Mr. Reagan focused on public relations to the exclusion of just about everything else. He was extremely good at p.r., and, consequently, he not only got to be president, but continues to be regarded by conservatives as a terrific role model. This in spite of his having driven the country into unprecedented debt, having inspired cuts in public support for education that currently result in massive personal debts for middle class students, and having shifted both tax rates and general attitudes in a way that benefits the 1% while hurting the rest of us economically. To me he is modern America's most successful "poseur with a knack for public relations."

Tomaso South Carolina 9 hours ago

We are a childish people. We love our P.T. Barnums and Elmer Gantrys, don't we? Create a composite GOP candidate, and you find a bizarre creature that is dealing three card Monte with one hand and pounding a Bible with the other. Let's hope that the people never learn - again! - that the taste of the bait is hardly worth the pain of the hook.

Linda  Oklahoma 8 hours ago
I wonder if the appeal of really dumb candidates stems from the poor education many Americans have. I don't mean that the schools aren't working - I mean that so many people seem proud of no education. I lived much of my life in a college town so I thought the world appreciated education and intelligence. Now I live in a very small town and people resent the college educated. They're more concerned with their children having fun than they are in what they learn. There is a huge anti-education, anti-science, anti-critical thinking in the this country and I believe this is why so many love candidates who say foolish things.

JABarry Maryland 9 hours ago
George W Bush has been a poseur all his life.

From a privileged drunk frat-boy, George posed as a member the Texas Air National Guard ... to avoid serving in Vietnam.

Next George posed as an oil businessman (underwritten by his daddy's wealthy friends) ... all disasters ending with a strong smell of corruption.

George followed his business failures up by borrowing money to purchase an interest in the Texas Rangers so he could pose as an owner.

Skipping ahead we find George posing as the 43rd president of the United States ... after his little brother Jeb! suppressed votes in Florida and his father's friends on the Supreme Court ordained him.
George posed as president for 8 painful years - painful to working Americans. During that time George was busy mostly taking vacations. George's big posing moments were: looking like a deer caught in headlights while the twin towers were collapsing; landing on an aircraft carrier to declare mission accomplished while Americans continued long after to die; George looking out a window while flying over New Orleans - later declaring Brownie did a heck of a job; George hiding in the White House as the economy collapsed and the world's financial markets went into a tailspin.

George is but one poseur that Republicans call leaders. Their current field of fools are all giving us their best poses in an attempt to fool the American public into believing they are presidential. Fool me once shame on you ... fool me twice shame on America.
Sherr29    New Jersey 7 hours ago

Bush showing up in NO ten years after a disaster that he mishandled which killed 1800 people is just one more reason to know that he was the worst president in US history - stupid, clueless, and incredibly totally unaware of how many disgusting images he gave us over the years. From the "fly by" of NO, to the bullhorn on the debris of WTC which his negligent administration allowed to happen, to his appearance on an aircraft carrier in a flight suit with the huge "Mission Accomplished" sign behind him, he has insulted us. We all knew that he'd ducked the Vietnam war and was AWOL from his "service" in the Texas Air National Guard and still he had the guts to "pretend" and wear the uniform of men who really were fighting in Iraq and dying in the war he his neocon buddies and his Dracula VP cooked up. He's a disgrace and if he had an iota of awareness, he'd have sat in his Houston cave on the ten-year anniversary date of when he allowed NO to drown.

Trump Hosts Televangelists Who Fleece Their Flocks
At a much-ballyhooed rally in Alabama — practically the buckle of the Bible Belt — Trump began integrating a pro-Evangelical message into his stump speech. The hook? Trump said the Bible is the best book ever written. In fact, it’s even better than his own book, “The Art Of The Deal.” Next up? He’ll host a bevy of televangelists for a media-friendly confab at the Trump Tower. They will focus on the reasons why God wants you to be rich and, therefore, why Trump is a-okay with the Almighty. 

Inside the Most Expensive Nuclear Bomb Ever Made
There is a certain irony to American politicians debating the Iran Nuclear Deal while the US is simultaneously building the most expensive and technologically advanced nuclear weapon in human history. Engineers working at Sandia National Laboratories have developed the B61-12 nuclear weapon. Unlike typical “free-fall” gravity bombs, it’s a guided nuclear bomb with "dial-a-yield" technology that allows its explosive force to be adjusted from anywhere between 50,000 tons of TNT to a low yield of “just” 300 tons. Thus far, no word on whether Iranian inspectors will be allowed “anytime, anywhere” access to the program.

How a New Battery Revolution Will Change Your Life
Cheap and effective energy storage has been a missing link between renewable energy and its viability as a significant, if not deadly, challenge to hydrocarbon-fueled electricity. But that may be about to change. High efficiency batteries are moving out of the lab and into production at gigafactories. And the storage business has become a $33 billion global industry that generates nearly 100 gigawatt-hours of electricity per year. This rapid growth could fuel a “democratization” of power that allows anyone to capture wind and solar energy, store it for long periods and, eventually, unplug from the hydrocarbon monopoly.

Trump Hosts Televangelists Who Fleece Their Flocks

Donald Trump, who meets next month with a group of televangelists, has strong ties to the prosperity-promising prophets of the quick buck — because of course he does.

Donald Trump isn’t exactly a Sunday School poster child.

He recently told a group of Iowa conservatives that he’s never asked God for forgiveness, he referred to communion as “my little wine” and “my little cracker,” and he refused to tell one reporter what his favorite Bible verse was and whether he preferred the Old or New Testament.

But while Trump’s comments may sound tone-deaf and stilted to some audiences, there’s one Christian subculture where he fits right in:   televangelists.

The real estate mogul will huddle next month with a group of of hair-teasing, microphone-toting, prosperity-promising prophets of the quick buck. Though the meeting isn’t officially billed as a campaign event, it’s widely reported as part of an effort on Trump’s part to reach the faithful (and, in this case, the gullible).

And it suits him.

Trump palling around the televangelist world of get-rich-quick promises, multiple marriages, and questionable coiffures is, well, perfect. His decision to host these leaders at Trump Tower in Manhattan suggests he may see faith the way he sees other endeavors:  as a way to lure big audiences with glitzy promises that are less than reality-based. Much like his outreach to the more mainstream evangelical community, he’s been connected with the televangelist set for quite a while.

"The Wall Street Journal" broke the news of the meeting, reporting that Trump is huddling with “a group of Evangelical Christian leaders at his office” on September 28. The event is being arranged by no run-of-the-mill evangelical, though; its reported host is televangelist Paula White.

And attendees got their invites from a public relations expert who specializes in boosting televangelists’ profiles. Sheila Withum of Withum & Co. Media Ministry Development Consultants, who sent out the invitations last week, told "The Daily Beast" her group has been representing televangelists for about 30 years—managing their public relations, helping them get airtime, and helping produce broadcasts.

White, who hosts a TV show called Paula White Today on The Word Network and pastors New Destiny Christian Center in Apopka, Florida, is one of the most prominent and controversial televangelists on the tube, drawing massive audiences and a congressional investigation. She took the helm at that church after its former shepherd died of a heroin and cocaine overdose.

Trump and White have been friends for years, which makes sense because they have a lot in common. In addition to having their own popular TV shows, they’re on their third marriage—Trump’s to former model Melania Trump, and White’s to the keyboardist for Journey.

Trump has been a guest on her programming numerous times, and they seem to be big fans of each other. He’s called her “a beautiful person, both inside and out,” and recommended that viewers read her book You’re All That:  Understanding God’s Design For Your Life so they would “be ready for great success.” White has compared him to “a diamond that reveals a new facet each time it is turned in the light,” according to "The Tampa Tribune."

Preach, Paula.

“Pastor Paula White will explain why God wants you to be wealthy,” said a press release for the event, which also promised Trump would teach attendees how to get and stay rich.
White, like Trump, is also a big fan of cash. She’s typically characterized as a proponent of the prosperity gospel — a theologically suspect approach to Christianity whereby pastors (often before huge congregations or on TV broadcasts) tell listeners that God wants them to become very wealthy, and that if they just give “a seed” to said pastors’ ministries, they’ll reap great financial returns and be blessed.

White’s e-store features a sermon called “Why God Wants You Wealthy.” Of course, Donald Trump wants people to be rich as well, which is why White once offered her viewers — for a ministry contribution of $25 — a copy of Trump’s book Why We Want You to Be Rich. Everyone wants you to be rich! Praise the Lord!

White’s website has all sorts of interesting deals. One (your correspondent’s personal favorite) is called the “2015 Atonement Package.” The would-be atoned receive a special CD and booklet, as well as “a beautiful miniature ornate Ark of the Covenant” and a banner with Psalm 91:4 written on it. All those goodies will be yours if you “sow a prophetic ‘COVER AND SHIELD’ seed offering of $914.”

The two TV stars are quite public with their shared affinity for money. In 2007, they both appeared at a “Real Estate and Wealth Expo” in Atlanta.

“Pastor Paula White will explain why God wants you to be wealthy,” said a press release for the event, which also promised that Trump would teach attendees how to get and stay rich.

White’s shady ministering attracted the attention of the U.S. Senate in 2007. That year, Senator Chuck Grassley started a three-year investigation into six televangelism ministries, including White and "Daily Beast" favorite Creflo Dollar.

None of the ministries investigated faced penalties or sanctions.

A second ministry that faced Grassley’s scrutiny will have a face at the meeting with Trump next month. Benny Hinn, a prominent prosperity-gospel televangelist, also was named in that investigation. And he was named on the Trump invite.

“Due to previous travel commitments, Pastor Benny Hinn is unable to personally attend; however, a senior representative of his ministry will be present,” said Ronn Torossian, a spokesman for Benny Hinn Ministries.

It might have been awkward if Hinn attended. He and White caused quite a hubbub in 2010 when paparazzi photographed the the two TV preachers walking through Rome hand-in-hand — despite the fact that he was married to someone else at the time. Hinn insisted the two had not known each other biblically.

“A friendship did develop,” he said after the news broke, according to "Charisma Magazine". “Hear this:  No immorality whatsoever. These people out there are making it sound like we had an affair. That’s a lie.”

He did ask his congregation for forgiveness, though, and said he told White they couldn’t be friends anymore.

Visitors to Hinn’s site will find lots of opportunities to plant money-seeds that will definitely blossom into future wealth, as well as enlightening reads like “50 Critical Cancer Answers” and “How to Dominate the Prophetic Realm.” One wonders what the prophetic realm has to say about President Trump’s first 100 days.

This meeting could end up feeling more like a reunion than anything else. Darrell Scott, a pastor from Cleveland who has a congregation of 5,000 as well as a TV ministry, will also be among Trump’s visitors on September 28.

It won’t be his first time meeting the mogul. Scott said he met with Trump at Trump Towers four years ago, along with his wife and two other ministers. He said they prayed for Trump and that he was impressed with Trump’s humility.

“He humbled himself to the prayer,” Scott told "The Daily Beast". “When I say he put himself in a position of humility, he did. And he didn’t have to do it. He was no different from anyone else that we prayed for in any of our churches on any Sunday.”

“He was in agreement with the prayer and he said ‘Amen’ like we did at the end,” Scott added.


Do we need to send "seed" money to stay in those good graces?

Monday, August 31, 2015

How Local Organizing Is Accomplished Well for the Good (Go Germany!)   (Governments Need To Be Swept Clean? No Progress on Poverty Possible Without Political Integrity) Philanthropyism Exposed As Self-Serving and Poverty Deepening

While attacks against refugee homes dominate the headlines, a new movement to aid asylum seekers is taking root in Germany. From medical care to security services, locals are organizing what the state won't.
. . . The day has only just begun, but the phone in Anja Damerius' office at the University of Siegen is already ringing off the hook. An elderly woman wants to read books to refugee children: "Yes, of course!" Damerius says into the receiver. "When are you available?" A family from the neighborhood wants to distribute food. "Come over." Toys? "Please drop them off at the church, our garage is full."
. . . Siegen University rector Holger Burckhart, who is also vice-president of the German Rectors' Conference, says that given their status as public institutions, universities have a responsibility to help. "We are part of social life and can give something back to society here." According to Burckhart, the students are getting a clearer sense of the scale of the world's crises.
. . . The University of Siegen is an example of a popular movement taking place across Germany. From Munich to Berlin, Dresden to Hanau, tens of thousands of people are standing up to help refugees:  high school and university students, workers, retirees.
. . . Reports about extreme-right attacks on refugee shelters have been heaping shame upon Germany for months. The Federal Criminal Police Office has counted 199 attacks against refugee housing in the first half of this year -- almost three times as many in the first six months of 2014.
The helpers from Siegen and other cities and regions embody a different Germany: solidary, empathetic, happy to lend a hand. The volunteers are less visible and less loud than the agitators and arsonists. But they are efficient, and there are lots of them.

In 2014, researchers at Berlin's Humboldt University and at Oxford University polled 460 volunteers along with 80 aid organizations that work with refugees. They found that roughly 70 percent more people have been volunteering for projects in recent years. According to the research, over one third of the volunteers invest over five hours per week.
. . . It's a Thursday afternoon in August and Hagen Kopp, a 55-year-old warehouse worker, is sitting in a stuffy room in an office building in Hanau, in the central German state of Hesse. He is wearing an earring in his ear and a T-shirt reading "No person is illegal." The eight-hour Alarm Phone shift has only just begun.
For two years, Kopp monitored the death of the refugees in the Mediterranean for the Watch the Med project. After 366 people drowned in a shipwreck near the Italian island of Lampedusa in October 2013, he no longer wanted to simply describe the catastrophe on Europe's outer borders. He wanted to put a stop to it.
Together with colleagues from Watch the Med, he founded Alarm Phone, an unofficial emergency number, last fall. The activists take emergency calls from refugees on the high seas who have become stranded on their odyssey to Europe. Other helpers are waiting for phone calls alongside Kopp:  Noori, from Afghanistan, Newroz, a Kurdish woman and Asefaw, a man from Eritrea. Hundreds of volunteers are now working for the project, not just in Hanau but in different countries in Europe and North Africa.

Those Germans.

Some of them at least are going to teach the rest of us how to take care of our fellow human beings.

Whether we like it or not. (Thanks, Jan!)

Hats off!

And back in the good-ole-U.S. . . . talk about commoditizing everything!

Leave it the good samaritans  (or samaritans out for the goods?) in the USA USA USA!!!

Bankers Are Buying Baltimore's Debt, Charging Families Crazy Interest Rates, Then Taking Their Homes

By Alice Ollstein, Think Progress
29 August 15

he death of Freddie Gray in police custody in Baltimore and the ensuing protests brought the nation’s attention to the economic devastation that continues to grip the city. Now, new data shows powerful hedge funds are profiting off of struggling families in Baltimore by buying up debts as small as $250, charging high interest rates, and taking their homes when they fail to pay. A report just released by the research and advocacy group HedgeClippers documents how the Wall Street hedge fund Fortress Investment Group and the Los Angeles-based Imperial Capital bought up hundreds of these small liens this year — on everything from an unpaid water bills to delinquent property taxes — and could take property worth tens of millions of dollars if the families can’t pay
Once the hedge funds buy up these small debts, they reap an 18 percent interest, according to the Baltimore-based research group The Abell Foundation. More fees pile up after four months, and if the families can’t pay, they lose their homes. An analysis of those impacted in 2014 found the families had been living in their homes an average of 21 years. Half were elderly, more than a third were disabled, and the majority were African American.
State Delegate Cory McCray, a Democrat who grew up in and represents Baltimore, told Think Progress he has gotten a handful of phone calls this year from constituents on the cusp of losing their home over an unpaid water bill.
The hedge funds reaping these profits in Baltimore are also major donors in national elections.

Imperial Capital’s directors have lavished money on Mitt Romney and other Republican candidates in past races. This year, Several employees of the Fortress Investment Group gave the maximum legal amount to Hillary Clinton’s campaign, and its director Michael Novogratz has poured hundreds of thousands of dollars into backing Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Charles Schumer (D-NY), and other Democrats in congressional races over the past few years.

When did education become so obvious a profit-making enterprise?

And who is behind these "socialism for the rich" efforts?

It's All Part of Capitalism:  How Philanthropy Perpetuates Inequality 

Saturday, 29 August 2015
By Eleanor J. Bader, Truthout | Book Review

Pro Bono?

Mikkel Thorup, Zero Books, 2015
Danish historian Mikkel Thorup's latest book skewers philanthropic capitalism. Whether criticizing individual businesspeople, celebrities, corporate-giving programs or sales that benefit a particular constituency or presumed social good, Thorup argues that philanthropy perpetuates inequality by deflecting efforts to distribute wealth and power more equitably.
He's absolutely right, of course. That said, the book is jargon-heavy and dense and would have benefited from concrete examples to illustrate exactly how philanthropies stoke injustice and serve the 1%.

Thorup is best on theory, and he begins by offering a definition:

Philanthropic capitalism is the idea that capitalism is or can be charitable in and of itself. The claim is that capitalist mechanisms are superior to all others [especially the state] when it comes to not only creating economic but also human progress; that the market and market actors are or should be made the prime creators of the good society; that capitalism is not the problem but the solution to all the major problems in the world; that the best thing to do is to extend the market to hitherto private or state processes; and, finally, that there is no conflict between rich and poor, but that the rich is [sic] rather the poor's best and possibly only friend.
The prevalent notion that the rich are somehow deserving of the wealth they've acquired and are smarter, more creative, luckier and somehow better than the rest of us underpins these conclusions, and Thorup lambastes media presentations that fail to mention personal connections, as well as tax policies, "odious speculation," questionable business practices, low wages and the rank exploitation that governs most financial gain.

Take Donald Trump - vulgar, racist and rolling in dough - who is currently riding the high wire of public opinion, at least among Republicans. Although Thorup does not mention Trump by name, The Donald perfectly illustrates one of the book's central arguments: that there is less questioning of the economic system or its profiteers than there might be. Examples of men and women who've soared, moving from poverty to power and from dropout to CEO, abound as if they were the norm rather than the exception.

This brings us to the next fallacy: that government efforts to ameliorate poverty are bureaucratic, inefficient and ineffective. The flip side of this is that business, with its unwavering fixation on the bottom line, is the opposite, and that by applying market principles to social ills, society can be cured of what ails it. Indeed, this idea is repeated with such regularity that it is almost universally accepted throughout the United States and Europe.

Concomitantly, the belief that individual consumption can change the world - buy "green" and save the planet, buy "red" and help those with HIV/AIDS - in lieu of social movements, is similarly absurd. "Are people really suffering and dying of preventable diseases because affluent Westerners have failed to consume enough products?" Thorup snipes. "Is the environment, and the climate most of all, best served by 'smarter' consumption?" Or would the planet be in better shape if we shopped less and conserved more?

Thorup gives a resounding "yes" to this rhetorical question.

At the same time, he nurtures great skepticism, bordering on contempt, for celebrities such as U2's Bono, actress Angelina Jolie and music producer Bob Geldof, for using their wealth to draw attention to social problems. "They may criticize unrepresentative power," Thorup writes, "but are so themselves. They may criticize inequality but are dependent upon it themselves. They may ally themselves with the poor in campaigns but their lives are spent rubbing shoulders with the rich and mighty."

Thorup calls their actions "spectacle politics" and perhaps they are. But I'm not convinced since these folks are not obliged to do anything for anyone. Ever. And while their work is certainly not the solution to poverty, illness or want, I don't believe that it deserves the drubbing Thorup metes out. Still, this is a small criticism.

More important are facts, and Thorup reminds readers that the world's richest 85 individuals earn more than the bottom 50 percent of the world's people. Philanthropy is not poised to do anything about this obscenity. That's where community organizers and organizations, as well as government, come in. With its power to tax the rich, rein in corporate abuse and support the creation of necessary social and cultural institutions, government can work for the majority and enhance our lives.

Right now, however, state and city governments pander to corporations and the rich for money to build and maintain schools, endow museums and build housing for the poor. And community organizations, including the alternative press, are forced to follow suit, as well. In fact, if my inbox is representative, it's obvious that groups far and wide are constantly on the lookout for benefactors to keep them going, with no contribution too small to matter.

It shouldn't be this way, says Kim Klein, author of Fundraising for Social Change. "We have become a medieval patronage society in which we depend on the largesse and generosity of the super wealthy for way too much," Klein told "Truthout" in an email.

"Mark Zuckerberg's donation to the Centers for Disease Control [and Prevention] to help fight Ebola was very helpful, but do we really want one of the most major public health issues of the last few years to depend for resolution on the gifts and grants of private individuals and foundations? Ditto education. There needs to be much more conversation about the role of government, of taxes, of philanthropy - of what should be funded privately, what should be funded publicly, and what can be funded at a net gain by both?"

I am certain that Thorup would wholeheartedly agree.
Bill Rood
Study after study has shown that charitable contributions (as a percentage of income) are inversely proportional to the income of the donor. The wealthy typically give a lower percentage of their income to charity than do the poor.
But what truly infuriates me is the volume of "philanthropic" donations that go to foundations and think tanks that are often under the continued control or at least heavy influence of the donor. Thus, institutions like Cato, the Heritage Foundation, the Ford Foundation, the Brookings Institution etc provide the core of the huge propaganda machine that convinces people that "the rich are somehow deserving of the wealth they've acquired and are smarter, more creative, luckier and somehow better than the rest of us." Except I disagree with the reviewer's inclusion of "luckier." This propaganda holds that wealth has absolutely nothing to do with "luck" but is always the result of intelligence, creativity and preparation for the opportunity that will inevitably arise after a good dose of patience.

An example for Thorup, is the recent statement by New York Commissioner of Education, as reported at Diane Ravitch's blog:  "If the poorest 144 schools don't improve in 1 year, I'll turn them over to ...charters." As everyone knows, students in poverty, don't perform well academically. Instead of addressing the systemic problem, the political appointees plot, using poorly designed tests (like those tied to Common Core standards) and arbitrary cut scores, to document failure so, business and, Eli Broad trainees can takeover.
Charter school debt returns 18%, in interest payments, to Wall Street. The very rare, touted, charter school "success" stories, are the result of venture philanthropic spending on the schools, like Fordham Institute's sponsored schools, in Ohio, and Eva's schools in N.Y.C..
After business milks dry taxes intended for schooling, education can be turned over to the for-profit Bridge International Academies (backed by Zuckerberg and Gates), and monopolistic or oligopolistic business pricing should be expected.
It's important to note that the schools that the education deformers choose for their own children, reject the deformer design.

In today's world it's called trickle down economics. Instead of the government helping the poor and middle class they help the rich to the tune of eight billion to big oil. Billions of dollars to the pharmaceutical companies in grants and trillion to the defence industry when we go to war. Fighting birth control so they have more soldiers. Hell you got guns all over the place people smoking in every movie I see. When they were hot on smoking they made them stop smoking on screen so it wouldn't encourage people not to smoke and I see people smoking more and more. The fact is they just don't care about the people and this is what advertising has done for the USA. I don't know about you but I feel the burn. The only way to control capitalism is socialism. Fascism protects it and communalism replaces it. We all know what happens when capitalism has no control.

Lincoln also warned that we would have to fight the persistent threat from the "divine right of kings". It is the divine right of a king like Gates, to replace the education of the serfs, with a privatized and corporatized (Common Core)education system, as he has done with the assistance of Pres. Obama's Secretary of Education and the World Bank. Neither, national Republican nor Democratic politicians, support public education which is why the turnover of the public's school assets and revenues, to business, receives no national media attention and citizens are unaware of it.
The for profit, schools-in-a-box, backed by Gates/Zuckerberg/Pearson, called Bridge International Academies, illustrates international power of the American oligarchs. The deal between Pearson and Microsoft to develop curriculum for Common Core illustrates the power of corporate owners in the U.S..

As far as people not being aware of what is happening with education, most people are not aware of many things that our government does at home and abroad. Between the corporate media, Madison Avenue propaganda machine people are either sidetracked by shiny objects, or they use up all their energy fighting with each other. Those racial divisions and political divisions are egged on and supported.
People going on Twitter and Facebook and giving their two cents with a few characters are supposed to be politically engaged. Most of the time it is nothing more than an exchange of insults.
As far as charity is concerned, America is a celebrity obsessed country and most people think it is just great and wonderful when their loved celebrities do some charitable work. There was also a time when celebrities went to Africa to adopt poor children. It practically became a craze. I suppose this is the way America helps the poor. Adopt a few poor children on the one hand and kill them with bombs and drones on the other hand or starve them to death via sanctions.

I believe that the psychology/sociology behind the "charity-while-ensuring-poverty" contradiction is crucial for people to understand. To unravel the complex web we've woven and become tangled in, a prerequisite is always to clearly recognize what our behaviours/thoughts actually say about us as individuals and as societies.
The wealthy, many of which contribute greatly to charity, believe they are upright citizens behaving morally and justly. Assuming most/all of these wealthy are centrist voters, contributors to PACs and other political lobby organizations, it is clear that their political objectives DO NOT include the economic changes that will eradicate poverty. Unfortunately, it is not just the super wealthy that are in this group - anyone who has enough funds can add to the push for this continuation of poverty.
The refusal of these people to look in the mirror and clearly see this reflection is a root cause of this pervasive contradiction. Presumably the cognitive dissonance is unbearable. Likely too, their peers are also not fond of such reflections which challenge their self images, their social standing and superiority, and their debasement masquerading as leadership.
Examining centrist politics, this lack of actual integrity, of any real character which is wise, compassionate and loving is a root cause of so much suffering. This clearly IS human-caused suffering - there is no way to hide from this. Additionally, the intentional failure to bring the deepest and most socially beneficial realizations of world religions into the body politic, really constitutes a schizophrenia where the life actually lived is psychotic because it is detached from actual reality. This contradiction has become the norm.
The solution then is to demand real integrity in our politics, something that has never been tried. Our governments need to be swept clean. There will be no further progress on poverty reduction without the birth of political integrity. It all starts with the individual voter - we can't wash our hands of this mess until our vote reflects the policies of morality and social justice. Don't vote center. Don't cooperate with the politics that cultivates human suffering while pretending its a virtue. And I thank all of those who refuse to go quietly into the night.

I agree to a large extent. Not only is philanthropy a concoction of the overclass, as usually they only give to other rich people, but charity is another concoction of the religious class, as they only give to themselves. Society should not beg for philanthropy or charity, but society itself is the author and giver when social needs arise.

Many of the very rich assume that they are rich because they deserve to be and can handle money better than ordinary "folks" can. Andrew Carnegie built libraries all over the USA to "better" the populace, but was fiercely against workers' power or unions or minimum wages, as the poor would just waste the money they got on frivolities. Notice Bill Gates supporting charter schools; most of the projects are decided by the "donors".
We see this so often when Black people, or women, are assumed to be unable to make good decisions in their own lives.

Yes, frivolities like food, clothing, shelter and medical care.

Especially medical care today.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

(Artificial Unintelligence)  NC a Leader in Progressive Policies? Ask Duke  (Bucking the Market? Socialism for the Rich)  KKK's Rule of National Park Service Continues?  (Bush FEMA Treachery Pays!)

NC is a real leader in important matters today. Cutting taxes and unmercifully slashing the funding of state universities and public education institutions.

Those outstanding legislators in the NC General Assembly raised taxes on citizens at the bottom of the wealth pyramid by passing lots of regressive taxes, and largely abolished those on corporations and other wealthy citizens.

And the deficit is cured!

On the backs of poor people (who now get almost no social services (or quality education) any more from their state government to which they have faithfully paid taxes for many years (let alone Medicaid)).

The governor, you know, used to be on Duke's payroll.

Some say he still is.

Kansas does not stand alone.

Back east in North Carolina, researchers and engineers at UNC-Charlotte are scrambling to figure out a way to properly deal with 264 billion pounds — that’s 264,000,000,000 pounds, for clarity — of highly toxic coal ash which has accumulated in the state, all of which belongs to Duke Energy. The ash is currently being stored in 32 large holes in the ground, but these holes were constructed without liners, which means the poisons from this terribly bounty — chromium and arsenic top the list — are finding their way into the water table.

Maybe they can move it to safer, lined storage basins. Maybe they can utilize other chemicals to stop the threat of the current chemicals. The situation has become a political and industry football in North Carolina, and while the lawmakers butt heads with the business magnates, while the researchers and engineers labor to find a fix, the water around those 264 billion pounds of awful gets dirtier, and dirtier, and dirtier.

Despite all this, some 15 states are currently petitioning in Federal court to thwart President Obama’s Clean Power Plan, which seeks to cut carbon emissions from power plants within the next 15 years. These states include West Virginia, Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Nebraska, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Wisconsin and Wyoming.

. . . The leadership in those states dismiss the hard reality of climate change, and likely won’t believe in it until the rain turns to ashes and the seas swallow the coasts … and perhaps, not even then. Greed dies hard, even when the rivers have turned to soot and the tap water catches fire.

All this, along with all the other spills and explosions, the ravages of fracking and the Keystone XL pipeline with its gruesome tar sands oil augurs toward an irrefutable truth: We are killing ourselves with coal, with chemicals, with carelessness and with greed. The people behind all this don’t care, and won’t care until they are made to. Navajo Nation activists literally chased a sitting US senator down the road and off their lands in an attempt to force the issue.

What will you do?

Artificial Unintelligence

By Paul Krugman, "The New York Times"
29 August 15
n the early stages of the Lesser Depression, those of us who knew a bit about the macroeconomic debates of the 1930s, and realized how relevant the hard-won insights of Keynes and Hicks were to the post-financial crisis world, often felt a sense of despair. Everywhere you looked, people who imagined themselves sophisticated and possessed of deep understanding were resurrecting 75-year-old fallacies and presenting them as deep insights.

A lot of water has passed under the bridge since then, and I at least no longer feel the same sense of despair. Instead, I feel an even deeper sense of despair — because people are still rolling out those same fallacies, even though in the interim those of us who remembered and understood Keynes/Hicks have been right about most things, and those lecturing us have been wrong about everything.

So here’s William Cohan in the "Times," declaring that the Fed should “show some spine” and raise rates even though there is no sign of accelerating inflation. His reasoning:


From WhoWhatWhy:

Financial Markets are Not Free – They’re One of the Last Bastions of Socialism

Former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher once said, “you can’t buck the market.” But, as "The Guardian" points out, that’s exactly what the world’s financial policymakers are doing with zeroed-out interest rates, quantitative easing, and through policies that mitigate much-needed corrections to market bubbles. But they are quickly running out of options and, therefore, Maggie’s Iron Law of the Market may be enforced regardless of their market-friendly approach.

Reconstruction and the National Park Service

[ 25 ] August 28, 2015 |
Ku Klux Klan member, Tennessee, 1868

This is a good piece summarizing the one area of U.S. history that the National Park Service has done a terrible job commemorating, which is, not surprisingly, Reconstruction.
The NPS does a really commendable job of remembering the American past, especially given its increasingly limited resources spread out over increasing numbers of parks. But Reconstruction is a major gap. The first reason is obvious – that for so long the popular historical interpretation of the period was one most popularly told in "Birth of a Nation."

But this open white supremacy was always challenged by African-Americans and in recent decades the popular memory has shifted. Except among conservative white people, which still means memory of the period is extremely charged. The NPS is moving toward some new sites that would remember the brief, aborted attempt to create something like a racial democracy in the post-Civil War period. What has to happen now that did not happen in 2003 when the last time an effort to create a Reconstruction site took place is to not allow the Confederate heritage organizations to have a seat at the table. This is the equivalent of allowing Neo-Nazi organizations to have a role in deciding on official historical remembrance of the Holocaust.

I do believe we will see, at the very least, Obama simply name a Reconstruction-era National Monument before he leaves office. A congressional bill would be preferable because it would show that there is a broader understanding of what Reconstruction is really about but given the rise of radical white supremacist Republicanism in the last decade, this feels unlikely to me. Moreover, I am concerned that the NPS is still bringing representatives of the Sons of Confederate Veterans into meetings. Why? They should be excluded entirely. They are never going to agree and don’t have a legitimate viewpoint to begin with.

From WhoWhatWhy:

Is the US Ready for an Endless War Against the Islamic State?

"Foreign Policy" examines the growing gap between the realities on the ground in Syria and Iraq, and the grand plans of policymakers in Washington. The gap was laid bare this week when it was revealed that intelligence reports may have been dressed-up to make it look like US efforts against the Islamic State were having a greater impact than the evidence suggests. It is starting to look like Uncle Sam is on an all too familiar slippery slope.

INVESTIGATION - The Last Word on Katrina:  Treachery at Bush’s FEMA Pays Handsomely

How the Botchees Made Out Like Bandits

Hurricane Katrina left massive devastation and FEMA’s response was highly criticized — but about the other parties involved? Photo Credit: US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration / Wikimedia
(Click on photo to enlarge.) Hurricane Katrina left massive devastation and FEMA’s response was highly criticized — but about the other parties involved? Photo Credit: US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration / Wikimedia
Michael Brown, the disgraced head of FEMA during Hurricane Katrina
The real story of how and why this hopelessly unqualified individual was placed in this sensitive post
A web of self-interest, undergirded by a philosophical contempt for government and the governed.


The Anti-Government Folks Cash in on Government

If being ostensibly “anti-government” while playing a leading role in government is tricky, it all pays off on the back end. Nobody knows that better than Allbaugh, whom Newsweek described as having “the hide of a rhino” when it comes to criticism of conflicts of interest.

Once he left FEMA, he moved quickly to make up for years of privation in the public sector, forming the Allbaugh Company with his wife, Diane, an attorney. She had begun laying the groundwork from the moment they arrived in Washington, DC, repeating a pattern she’d established in Texas. In the summer of 1996, just a year after moving to the Lone Star State, Diane had signed on as a lobbyist with a number of large corporate clients — mostly energy firms, with pressing business before the state — while her husband held a highly visible position as the governor’s top aide.

When the newspapers reported the story, Governor Bush’s office hastened to announce new rules, and Diane declared an end to her lobbying career. However, she was soon ensconced in a ‘non-lobbying’ position with a law firm, representing some of the very same companies.

Why spend resources to prevent disasters, when there’s so much more money to be made cleaning up after them?
Now, in Washington, she jumped into the K Street fray, becoming “of counsel” to Barbour, Griffith & Rogers, which Fortune magazine described at the time as the country’s most powerful lobbying firm.

The shop’s founder, Haley Barbour stayed involved with the firm while playing a key role in the privatization of government services, as chairman of the Republican National Committee during Newt Gingrich’s “Contract with America” revolution. Then he served as chairman of Bush’s 2000 presidential campaign advisory committee.

He left the company in 2003, became governor of Mississippi, and ended up on television talking about how his citizens were suffering from Katrina.

No one thought to point out how the Allbaugh-Brown-Barbour model of disaster management had set the stage for the calamity. A cynic might formulate that model like this: Why spend resources to prevent disasters, when there’s so much more money to be made cleaning up after them?

Shaw Group: $100 Million x 2 out of Katrina

Consider the Shaw Group, a Baton Rouge engineering and construction firm. On August 15, 2005, with hurricane season getting under way, Allbaugh became a lobbyist for Shaw, which had already begun advertising for workers to staff its rebuilding projects — even before Katrina struck.

After the levees broke, Shaw, which had not been a FEMA contractor during the Clinton years, received two separate $100 million federal clean-up contracts and saw its stock price shoot up 50 percent in a few weeks.

Nevertheless, when the DC newspaper The Hill asked about the remarkable good fortune of Allbaugh’s clients, his spokesperson, Patti Giglio, replied, “The first thing he says when he sits down with a client is, Don’t hire me if you’re looking for a government contract.’”

AshBritt Inc: $568 Million out of Katrina

Maybe that’s why AshBritt Inc. didn’t hire Allbaugh. Instead, the Florida-based environmental services firm hired Barbour Griffith — a client of Allbaugh’s wife — and was selected by the Army Corps of Engineers to help lead the Katrina clean-up effort. The contract, worth $568 million, was signed just before the hurricane hit.

It’s interesting that, back in 2002, when an ice storm hit Allbaugh’s native Kay County, Oklahoma, he arranged a conference call with county officials, who ended up choosing the Florida-based AshBritt over other firms with much lower competing bids.

(AshBritt was much in the news following Katrina, with a range of local publications raising questions about the company’s operations, its transparency, and its spectacular growth during the Bush years — all through lucrative contracts to subcontract to other firms that do most of the actual clean-up work.)

AshBritt’s president, Randal R. Perkins, said in an interview that he did not recall the 2002 conference call, and noted that his firm doesn’t deal directly with FEMA. “FEMA doesn’t contract directly, they just pay the bills,” he said. As for Allbaugh, Perkins said, “I know him, but I wouldn’t say that we are friends.”

Allbaugh “Vets” Dick Cheney

Allbaugh’s web of self-interest ranges from disasters to energy to real estate. And the self-serving links involve not just him, his wife, Brown, and Barbour but also the vice president and the president.

Haley Barbour advised the Bush-Cheney campaign on strategy in 2000 while Joe Allbaugh was campaign manager. During the transition, Allbaugh vetted Cheney’s qualifications to be vice president.

After the election, Allbaugh served on Cheney’s secret energy task force, the National Energy Policy Development Group (NEPDG), while his wife was “of counsel” at the Barbour firm and being paid as a “consultant” by Reliant Energy, Entergy, and Texas Utilities Co.

Diane Allbaugh said she did no lobbying. But Barbour, on behalf of an electricity-producing client, successfully pushed NEPDG to recommend that the new administration renege on a campaign promise to limit carbon-dioxide emissions from power plants. Bush, citing the task force “findings,” complied.

KBR: $61 Million Out of Katrina

The Allbaughs and Cheneys are literally so at home with each other that, on first arriving in Washington, the Allbaughs bought Cheney’s townhouse in McLean, Virginia. During the house tour, Cheney must have pointed out the revolving doors. Among Allbaugh’s biggest clients is Cheney’s former employer, Halliburton, whose Kellogg, Brown and Root subsidiary got at least $61 million worth of Katrina business.

When Allbaugh left FEMA he did not, however, restrict himself to the domestic disaster business — and it was a business. Instead, he cast a wider net into the entire Homeland Security/Defense sector, stressing his implied connections in the Department of Homeland Security, the Pentagon, and the White House. His departure from government, in March 2003, took place precisely as the invasion of Iraq unfolded.

Iraq: More Money to be Made

Allbaugh formed — with Barbour Griffith and numerous ex-officials of the Reagan and Bush 41 administrations — a company called New Bridge Strategies. It secured contracts in Iraq the moment hostilities commenced.

He also formed Blackwell-Fairbanks, a lobbying joint venture with Andrew Lundquist, with whom he had served on vice president Cheney’s secret energy task force.  Clients had included the aerospace giant Lockheed Martin. On required forms, Blackwell-Fairbanks would later report that it had lobbied both the offices of the president and of the vice president.

Governor Haley Barbour — who in early September 2005 dismissed criticism of FEMA’s response to Katrina as “all cooked up by the news media and a few enemies of George Bush” — declined this reporter’s interview request.

Water, Water, Everywhere–but Not a Drop to Drink

Even the most cursory examination of the process through which FEMA awarded contracts would uncover decisions that carried little public benefit. One such example might be the agency’s abrupt 2003 decision to award an exclusive contract for water supplies in emergencies.

Prior to the Allbaugh-Brown reign, FEMA had handed out water contracts to a variety of companies. One of the recipients, not surprisingly, was Nestle Waters North America, easily the continent’s biggest producer, with 15 brands of bottled water and 23 bottling facilities in the U.S. and Canada.

Then, without explanation, FEMA went sole-source, picking a little-known, family-run firm called Lipsey Mountain Water. The company, based in Norcross, Georgia, had just 15 full-time employees, no production capacity, and no distribution network. Instead, it was aggressively soliciting other companies to supply its needs.

“The father and son came in and said, ‘We want you to sell us water,’” recalled Kim Jeffery, president and CEO of Nestle Waters North America. “I said, ‘Why would I do that? I have a contract with FEMA.’ He said, ‘Because we have the contract now.’”

Lipsey trumpeted a sophisticated computer system that would supposedly ensure speedy water deliveries and justify its exclusive five-year contract. But the system did not work so well during the crisis, according to some in the industry.

Joe Doss, president of the trade group for water suppliers, said his members were besieged with reports of delays in water deliveries after the hurricane, and that within one 24-hour period they voluntarily trucked in 1.5 million bottles. (And again, when Hurricane Wilma swept through Florida in late October 2005, Lipsey distribution sites turned people away without water days after the event.)

Lipsey Mountain Water may be new to the world of federal water contracts, but its principals are not new to politics.

The Gun Connection

The Lipseys are a politically connected family that gives to both political parties and owns one of the country’s largest gun wholesalers. The gun lobby is still the nation’s most powerful, as acknowledged by Dick Cheney, who addressed the National Rifle Association’s 2004 annual meeting and noted from the podium:

“I’m … delighted to see my good friend, former director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Joe Allbaugh. Joe is here this evening. It’s always good to have a firearm if you get into real trouble — but the next best thing is Joe Allbaugh.”

It is worth noting that the chaos in New Orleans featured home and business owners very publicly brandishing firearms–the disaster was certainly good publicity for gun makers.

In November, 2005, the Pentagon confirmed that its inspector general was investigating Lipsey in response to complaints received by Congress from truck drivers, trucking brokers, and ice producers who did much of the actual work under Lipsey’s contract. They said Lipsey had not paid their bills or even answered their phone calls. (Company president Joe Lipsey III did not respond to a list of questions that he had requested from this author following an interview request.)

Only through the painstaking unraveling of connections like these, are we likely to grasp the truth about the secret conflicts of interest that waste billions of public dollars and undermine the country’s readiness to respond to natural and man-made disasters.

Such inquiries are not welcome, of course. Instead, we put on our horse blinders. The Administration’s motto might easily be “Nothing to see here, folks, move along quickly, please.”

Indeed, when a National Public Radio interviewer posed questions about the handling of the storm to Vice Admiral Thad Allen, whom President Bush had assigned to take over the Katrina response from Michael Brown, Allen said that there was no point in dwelling on the past, and added,

"I would say that the longer the discourse continues about what might or might not have happened and the political issues surrounding that — I think at some point it starts to devalue the work of a whole lot of FEMA workers out there that are working very, very hard for the American public.”

Yet no one devalued the work of the rank and file of FEMA workers more than Joe Allbaugh, Michael Brown, and their boss, President Bush. And the discourse the administration wished to avoid was, and is, urgently needed.

Today, FEMA’s front line troops still struggle with the long-term legacy of Katrina and the task of rebuilding the agency. Meanwhile, long after the debacle he left behind, Joe Allbaugh was traveling the world, soliciting business, and even the disgraced Brown had moved into the consulting trade.

Ten years after Katrina, Allbaugh claims clients in a host of countries, and provides dozens of services, from Emergency Response Preparedness to “Navigating complex bureaucratic organizations” to Public Safety and Infrastructure. Brown is also a consultant to business, and hosts a radio show on a major Denver station, which advertises that “Ex-FEMA Director Michael Brown brings the full brunt of his sense of humor and political intelligence to bear on the issues of the day.”

As for George W. Bush — he was never seriously held to account for any of this.

Nor unseriously.

It really didn't quite rate up there with Bush looking under cocktail tables for the WMD.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

A Pony's In There Too? (Well, All Righty!) Brownie Still Good Jobbing It! (New Orleans Much Whiter and Richer By Careful Design)  Occupy Peace?   You Never Know

The Solutions Project

Click it!

After all, these are important people, so they deserve to be treated with respect, right?


Professor Paul Krugman gives us a compliment.

About time!

If people consistently make logically incoherent, ignorant arguments, the duty of a commentator is to say just that - not to mislead readers by pretending that these people are serious and making sense. You shouldn't make gratuitous insults - I have never, to my knowledge, declared that someone's mother was a hamster and his father smelt of elderberries. But ignorant is as ignorant does, no matter how much influence you have.
Where I've been getting pushback lately is in my pronouncements that the whole Republican field of presidential hopefuls is talking nonsense about economic policy. That's a terrible thing to say, I'm told. But what if it's true? And, of course, it is.
Consider a couple of recent entries. Jeb Bush, the supposedly sensible candidate, has been pushing the utterly ludicrous claim that he can deliver 4 percent economic growth; so now Mike Huckabee, another G.O.P. candidate, is trying to one-up Mr. Bush by promising 6 percent. Well, I can beat all of them: Whatever they're promising, I promise the same - plus a pony.
Meanwhile, Rand Paul is decrying the irresponsibility of US fiscal management - why, the United States hasn't been debt-free since 1835. Clearly, disaster looms, and has been looming for 180 years. But that's nothing: Britain hasn't been debt-free since at least 1692. More than three centuries, spanning the Industrial Revolution and much more, of crippling irresponsibility. Just you wait!
Should Mr. Paul, Mr. Bush and Mr. Huckabee be treated with respect here? If they're outliers, which G.O.P. contenders actually do deserve respect?
I know that it's disturbing to read columns that portray the entire Republican field as a bunch of cranks.
But it would be a dereliction of duty, and basically an act of dishonest reporting, to pretend that they aren't. I'm all for respect here - but the people who deserve respect, in the form of honest assessment, are my readers.

Speaking of a dereliction of duty . . . .

Anyone thinking of Brownie (and our favorite Bush Boy - "W") this weekend? I know I am.

After Katrina, Disgraced Former FEMA Director Continued Disaster Aid. It Didn’t Go Well.

by Emily Atkin

Michael D. Brown sounded incredulous. I had just asked him about how his life was going now, and he said it was going well. I said I was glad. 

“No you’re not. You think I’m an idiot,” he countered. “That I was the total screw-up.”

A lot of people do think Brown is a screw-up. He’s the guy at the center of that infamous quote from the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina:  “Brownie, you’re doing a heck of a job.”

If you don’t remember it, it was said 10 years ago this week by President George W. Bush, a few days after Katrina devastated the Gulf Coast. At the time, “Brownie” was the director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, and his reputation in the media was that he wasn’t doing a “heck of a job” at all. In fact, he was facing serious criticism for his handling of the federal government’s response. One notable failure was a $100 million stockpile of ice that never got delivered, ordered by FEMA for stranded victims’ food and medicine. The agency’s former practice of delivering ice for non-medical purposes during emergencies is one that Brown strongly opposes today.

“It was a program where we spent tens of millions dollars a year on ice! That’s a waste of money,” he said.

It’s not a government responsibility to make sure an individual American citizen is able to keep their bologna cold in the refrigerator.”

Brown resigned as FEMA’s director shortly after the “Brownie” quote hit the press. But he remained adamant that his reputation had been unfairly tarnished, as he does to this day. On our phone call, Brown said the the perception that he’s a “total screw-up” is incorrect. “We actually did a good job despite all the negative press, considering everything that was going on,” he insisted.

Do You Know What It Means to Love New Orleans?

28 August 2015

. . . Ten years ago Friday, a storm half the size of Texas hit that old blues town in the teeth, and the ocean rose, and the sky fell, and the jazz stopped in jangled discordance, and everyone ran for their lives.
And the people were abandoned. It took George W. Bush and his mob of hapless brigands days simply to get water to dying citizens in one of the most important and iconic cities on the continent. Why? Because the people were Black, and poor? Because Bush and his people were incompetent beyond the bounds of useful language? Because greedy people plundered the levee budget to the tune of nine figures to "fund" the Iraq war prior to the storm? Yes, in my humble opinion, on all three counts.
. . . Ten years ago, the sea rose up and did damage the likes of which we've never seen. People were scattered to the wind, the Lower 9th Ward was subsumed and then devoured by developers, fast after the buck to be plucked from the wreckage left behind by good people in flight. Wreckage upon wreckage.

Reflections on New Orleans' Uneven Recovery

Friday, 28 August 2015
By Staff

Mary Reynolds Babcock Foundation | Video
New Orleans' politicians are slapping themselves on the back for a job well done, clinking glasses and proclaiming the city to be better off than it was before Hurricane Katrina pummeled the coastline ten years ago. But are they right?
The numbers paint a markedly less triumphant picture of the postdiluvian decade. According to a Data Center analysis, of the million-plus residents displaced by the storm, more than a hundred thousand still haven't returned – most of them black.

The African-American share of New Orleans' population has dropped from 67 to 59 percent, and the white population has jumped from 27 to 31 percent. Some lifelong residents are trying to keep that demographic shift from affecting the cultural landscape.

"The city is different. It doesn't look the same," said Jeremiah Group Lead Organizer Jackie Jones. "We had a lot of folks who came in after the storm and they took up residency here. And I think people here in New Orleans do not want to lose the heritage, the culture, and I think they are willing to have their voices heard and to do the work that's necessary to keep some things in place."
The Data Center recently released the New Orleans Index at 10, which graded the rebuilding efforts of the eight-parish metro area in four main categories: economic growth, the inclusion of low-income populations in the recovery, quality of life and sustainability.

The report card was mixed. It found infrastructure investments and an influx of federal money benefitted the overall economy with an entrepreneurship boom. The region also made significant strides in educational and criminal justice systems. Revenue flowing to arts and culture nonprofits were four times the national average.
But the region scored abysmally on measures such as poverty, violent crime, incarceration rates, affordable housing and income inequality. New Orleans' poverty rate was a crushing 27 percent, and black families were suffering the most. Researchers found white households' median income to be on par with the national average, but the median income for black households was 20 percent lower than black households nationally.
The income disparity was 54 percent, well above the national average of 40 percent. To exacerbate matters, wages have not kept up with the ballooning housing, property tax and flood insurance costs, and the city does not have the authority to raise its minimum wage above the federal baseline of $7.25. "The stagnant post-Katrina income for the poorest New Orleanians suggests that many are not benefiting from the New Orleans economic recovery," concludes the study.
. . . Another facet to a fair recovery has been the fight to keep the million-plus residents who fled New Orleans enfranchised. "One of the most interesting memories of Katrina was trying to ensure that everyone that had been displaced would be able to participate in the elections," said Shelton. "It was really important because it meant that you still mattered and you still counted and that even though you weren't here, that there was this possibility that you could come back, that we were gonna figure it out, we were gonna fix the city of New Orleans better than it was before and that you would have a place in whatever that solution was."

Here's Bernie Sanders making the same arguments about the mistreatment of the Greek citizens that I and many others have for years. And, yes, these arguments apply to the U.S. as well.

Feel the Bern!

Sen. Bernie Sanders:  From Greece to Puerto Rico, the Financial Rules Are Rigged to Favor the 1% 

Friday, 28 August 2015
By Amy Goodman, Democracy Now! | Video
Democratic presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders recently convened a panel of economists in Washington to discuss the debt crisis in Greece and throughout the world. In his opening statement, Sanders talked about the debt crisis in Greece as well as in Puerto Rico. "It is time for creditors to sit down with the governments of Greece and Puerto Rico and work out a debt repayment plan that is fair to both sides," Sanders said. "The people of Greece and the children of Puerto Rico deserve nothing less."

 . . . SEN. BERNIE SANDERS:  [What] we are here today to talk about is the very, very important issue regarding the ongoing debt crisis in Greece and the way that people and governments all over the world are struggling with too much debt. This is — we’re going to be focusing on Greece, but, in truth, this issue goes beyond Greece. And countries that are struggling not only with too much debt, too much inequality, and too little growth and income.

Today, as I think all of you know, there is a very, very serious economic situation unfolding in Greece. In many ways, Greece today resembles the United States of the 1930s in the midst of the worst depression, economic downturn in the history of our country. The Greek economy has basically collapsed, and the people of Greece are trapped in a very, very deep depression.

I want to begin by expressing my solidarity with the people of Greece, where five years of cruel and counterproductive austerity policies, policies demanded by the European Central Bank, the European Commission and International Monetary Fund, have left the people of Greece facing a full-blown humanitarian crisis. In my view, there is no more obvious example of the failure of austerity policies than what is going on in Greece. 

For more than five years, Greece has cut pensions. Greece has slashed its government workforce. Greece has made deep spending cuts that have eviscerated its social safety net. In other words, despite what we have been led to believe by many in the media, Greece has not gone on a shopping spree. It has not overfunded its government. Rather, it has imposed massive spending cuts that have caused devastating pain to some of its most vulnerable people. It has done this because its creditors, led by Germany, have insisted that austerity is the only way to dig Greece out of its debt.

As a result, today, Greece has the highest levels of inequality and the worst unemployment rates in Europe. The official unemployment rate is 26 percent — 26 percent. Youth unemployment in Greece today is more than 50 percent. More than 30 percent of the people in Greece are living in poverty. And the Greek economy is 25 percent smaller, has shrunk by 25 percent over the last five years. That is really quite incredible.

Instead of solving the problem, austerity, in my view, has made a bad situation much worse. Greece has seen its debt-to-GDP ratio shoot up from about 120 percent to about 175 percent today. And now to, quote-unquote, "fix" the problem, the troika wants Greece to borrow more money and make deeper cuts to wages, pensions and other social programs.

In January, as you all know, the people of Greece stood up and said, "Enough is enough." They elected a new government, known as Syriza. Their promise: to end the harsh austerity policies — that was their campaign pledge — by increasing their minimum wage, by increasing job production, by protecting the most vulnerable against pension cuts, and ensuring that the wealthiest people in Greece started paying their fair share of taxes, a very serious problem in that country. But instead of working with the new government to find a rational path forward, the troika demanded more austerity than ever.

On July 5th, the people of Greece spoke once again: In an overwhelming show of solidarity with their government, 61 percent of the people of Greece said no to more austerity for the poor, for the children, for the sick and for the elderly. Yet, instead of working with the Greek government on a sensible plan that would allow Greece to improve its economy and pay back its debt, Germany and the troika continued to push Greece to accept even greater austerity.

They want even deeper pension cuts; an increase in the regressive VAT tax from 13 percent to 23 percent; automatic budget cuts if the Greek economy underperforms; privatization of state assets, including the electricity grid; deregulation of the transportation, rail, pharmaceutical and other sectors in the economy; weakening of trade unions. In other words, the people of Greece are being told that their voices, which they cast in two elections, really do not matter, that their misery does not matter, that an entire generation of young people who are unemployed or underemployed does not matter, that the sick and the elderly do not matter, that democracy itself does not matter. And that, to my perspective, is unacceptable.

I believe that this plan is simply unsustainable. In my view, austerity has failed, and continuing with austerity means the Greek economy will continue to fail its people. Unemployment, poverty and inequality will increase from already obscene levels.

And maybe, just maybe, some people are beginning to wake up to this reality. In a confidential report that was made public earlier this month, officials from the IMF warned that the IMF could not take part in any new bailout for Greece unless the Greek government was offered a substantial debt relief package as part of any new deal. In light of this report, it is time for the troika to provide the Greek government with the flexibility it needs to create jobs, raise wages and improve its economy. Without a substantial improvement in its economy, Greece will never escape its debt crisis.

And let us not forget a little bit about history. Let us not forget what happened after World War I, when the Allies imposed oppressive austerity on Germany — on Germany — as part of the Versailles Treaty. And I think all of you who know anything about history understand what happened. And that is, the Germany economy collapsed, unemployed skyrocketed, people were pushing their money around in wheelbarrows to buy a loaf of bread. And the result of all of that massive discontent was that Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party won an election and took power. And you all know the results of that.

What many people do not know about Greece today is that the party that finished third in the Greek — recent Greek election is called Golden Dawn. This is a party which some people call a neo-Nazi party, but other people believe that it is nothing "neo" about it. It is a Nazi party, which came in third place in the recent election. In my view, we should learn from history. And we should understand that when democracy fails, when people vote for something and cannot get what the government promised because of outside forces, this leads to massive discontent, it leads to contempt for democracy, and it opens the path for right-wing extremist parties, like Golden Dawn.

Finally, let us remember that one of the main reasons why Greece was unable to take on so much debt was because it had help from Goldman Sachs, who helped disguise the nature of the Greek debt.

Today, when we talk about debt, we should appreciate that something similar is happening right now in Puerto Rico, where the government there is struggling with unsustainable debt, and a group of hedge fund billionaires are demanding austerity in Puerto Rico.

They are demanding the firing of teachers, the closing of schools, so that they can reap huge profits off the suffering and misery of the children and the people of Puerto Rico. It is time for creditors to sit down with the governments of Greece and Puerto Rico and work out a debt repayment plan that is fair to both sides. The people of Greece and the children of Puerto Rico deserve nothing less.

Over 70 years ago, the major economic leaders of 44 countries gathered at a hotel in Bretton Woods, New Hampshire, to establish international economic and financial rules. As a result of that conference, the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank were established.

I think it is clear to anyone who has taken a look at this situation that the rules regarding our international financial system today are rigged in favor of the wealthy and the powerful at the expense of everyone else. Today, 85 of the wealthiest people in this world own more wealth than the bottom half of the world’s population, over 3 billion people.

By next year, Oxfam has estimated that the top 1 percent of the world’s population will own more wealth than the bottom 99 percent of the world’s population. In my view, we have got to begin — and I hope this forum today is a start in that process — a serious discussion about how we change our international financial rules to expand — expand economic opportunity and reduce income and wealth inequality, not only in Greece and in Puerto Rico, but throughout the world. The global economy is simply unsustainable when so few have so much and so many have so little.


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Fight For Peace, Not For War

Occupy Peace
Paul Craig Roberts

Commentators are bemoaning the death of the American peace movement. However, Gerald Celente is in the process of reviving it. You can participate on September 20 at High Noon in Kingston, New York, at the intersection of Crown and John Streets, the four most historic corners in the United States with pre-Revolutionary stone buildings on every corner. Many historic happenings occurred in Kingston.
This is not a mere rally or prayer meeting. Celente is giving a solution — an Action Plan. Go to www.occupypeace.us and become acquainted with the program.
You don’t have to worry about being beaten by goon thugs or tasered, or tear gassed, or arrested, because the Mayor of Kingston, Shayne Gallo, is supporting Occupy Peace. The streets are legally blocked off by the Mayor of Kingston.
This is what you will miss if you are not there: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AoiLW9m3i7I
People are forever asking for solutions. Celente has solutions. Go and support them.
During the two days prior to Occupy Peace, the Trends Research Institute is holding a conference in Kingston that will examine the current trends unfolding in the world. I am speaking on Friday. The three days together provide a rare opportunity to both learn and to stand up for peace.
Listen to Steven Whitaker’s song https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=36gwr25M0Js and show up at Gerald Celente’s Occupy Peace www.occupypeace.us.