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americanexceptionalism

Fugitives From Injustice

You poisoned my sweet water

You cut down my green trees

The food you fed my children

Was the cause of their disease

My world is slowly fallin’ down

And the airs not good to breathe

And those of us who care enough

We have to do something

Interesting how that song lyric from “Whatcha Gonna Do About Me?” was recorded more than 40 years ago by a rock group called Quicksilver Messenger Service. History does have this strange way of repeating itself, doesn’t it?

Americans surely have this superiority complex scholars define it as American Exceptionalism. We really do think that we not only know better than the rest of the world, but that we are better!

Every empire before us, whether it be the Romans, Dutch or British, all felt the same way. Look where they are now? Look where we are now for that matter.

We have military spending that surpasses any other in our history while our states and cities collapse. Millions of homes are underwater or foreclosed, pulling down the values of the rest of American housing, while the crooks and scoundrels who initiated this mess give themselves bonuses!

Your newspapers, they just put you on

They never tell you the whole story

We have a mainstream media that would make Pravda proud. Talk about embedded; these so-called journalists wouldn’t know the truth if it bit them in the ass!

What’s it going to take for folks to get off their duffs and onto the street corners? What I am suggesting is not revolution, rather evolution.When can we evolve as a people away from the consumerism, militarism, celebrity worship and servitude mentality? When can the 99.75 percent of us who are not mega millionaires and billionaires stop defending people like Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton (to name but two), who are?

I hear it wherever and whenever I broach the subject: “Oh, the rich deserve what they have. They earned it through hard work and risk.” Tell that to the cop who takes home 40 or 50 grand a year and has to walk through that doorway, not knowing who has what pointed at him in the dark.

Tell that to the fireman who rushes into the smoky apartment to save some poor soul. The fireman, like the cop, takes home in one year what the hedge fund manager pulls in one week!! Ever go to a nursing home to visit your relative? See that aide who wipes the crap off their asses and washes and cleans them? Well, that aide earns less than half of what the cop and fireman make.

School teachers, librarians, school psychologists, mental health counselors… folks who nurture or heal young and old minds alike — they are the first to be laid off in this depression called a recession. Yet, the paradox is that many of us turn a blind eye and deaf ear to what really causes our economic misfortune.

More than half of the federal taxes we all pay goes right into the troughs of the Military Industrial Empire and not back to we the people. Isn’t it time for that figure to be cut drastically and we close the 800+ overseas bases and bring the troops deployed worldwide home? Nixon himself, in a moment of candor to a young college protestor, referred to this American empire for what it had become: “a beast!”

We can go on feeding the beast by doing nothing or we can starve the beast with continuous protest, economic boycotts and simply educating our friends and neighbors with truth. It is later than you think!

I’m a fugitive from injustice

But I’m goin’ to be free

Cause your rules and regulations

They don’t do the thing for me

People gather in solidarity of the victims of a terror attack against a satirical newspaper, in Paris, Wednesday, Jan. 7, 2015. Masked gunmen shouting "Allahu akbar!" stormed the Paris offices of a satirical newspaper Wednesday, killing 12 people, including the paper's editor, before escaping in a getaway car. It was France's deadliest terror attack in living memory. (AP Photo/Thibault Camus)

#Paris #DisgustingFilth #tcot #Xenophobe #MightBeRightOnThisOne

In my previous article, I wrote about Liberals using the State’s Rights Argument to their advantage, in order to prevent the dismantling of Obamacare, or Gay Marriage, or any of the foundational pillars of the Civil Rights movement. Who is with me on that, ladies?

As much as they may not want to admit it, Conservatives, at their very core, are a ‘me first’ kind of person; consistently relying on anecdotal evidence to achieve an “Us Versus Them” mentality. Bill Maher calls it “The Bubble.” And it is as pervasive to the Conservative base as enjoying a 12 pack of Keystone Light whilst shooting off AR-15 rounds in preparation for Obama’s tyrannical apocalypse.

Racist. Angry. Xenophobes. #tcot

However, they may be right on this one. I’ll explain this later. But first, let me get into why I am writing this.

#Paris

It’s Friday night, Paris is 15 mins into its terror cycle. A friend calls me, “Turn on the TV, they are doing it again.” (They being anyone that is brown with a beard)

I am pretty much off work. No TV right now, but I scour the internet of course. Like many of us do at times like this, as Paris might be going through its own 9/11.

The refrain from the Right is already in full steam. No thinking, just pure Xenophobia in all its glory, “It’s Muslims, it’s ISIS, and they are already here in America.”

Never mind the fact that we kill ourselves 1000 times more efficiently than any Muslims do.

#DisgustingFilth

I found this article on Salon tonight amongst the turmoil, delivered to my Facebook wall, entitled as “Disgusting Filth.” I’ll be the first to admit, Salon does its fair share of click bait, but nonetheless I dove right in. Then from there, on into Twitter from the embeds within the article. Hoping to once again reaffirm “what filth the Right was up to,” surely politicizing tragedy once again. Something about, “if only the Eagles of Death Metal were strapping AR-15’s while performing their show, then none of this would have happened.”

All kidding aside, here’s a lovely one from Ann Coulter, my favorite. “Why does NO ONE say the obvious thing on TV?! It’s insane. Don’t want terrorism in US? Stop importing Muslims!”

I am not even going to go there. There’s simply no reason. “Importing” is enough said. True blather.

#tcot

Surprisingly, one of my favorite actors, James Woods, is leading the Twitter charge tonight. I was previously unaware of his passion as a #tcot.

I dig just a tad bit deeper than that, though. If you do, you’ll find that Mr. Woods has Retweeted this guy; and that person follows this guy, who is a person that auto Retweets this guy. And there you have it.

James Woods, esteemed actor > Retired Air Force Reaganite > Muslim Invasionist > White Nationalist.

All within 3 degrees of separation.

What’s startling is the groundswell of hatred in this country from the Conservative White base using Jesus as their broadsword towards Muslims, College Students, Black Lives Matter, Mexicans, Gays, the Homeless, and anyone with Federal Employment status other than Military.

Something we as Liberals, Progressives, and “logically minded” people need to be fully aware of. And I just don’t mean “acknowledge.” I literally mean “aware.” As in aware of why these people simply cannot help themselves. As in why do you need to be right on Twitter? What happened before Twitter? Did you call 75 people that day to tell them they were wrong?

The first step is recognizing the problem for what it is. It is an addiction. And like any addiction, whether that is social media, alcohol, drugs, porn, or the Fox echo-chamber, the addiction comes with high doses of denial of fact, a deeply rooted ‘Me vs. Them’ complex, and a large pile of bullshit anecdotal “Go To’s” (such as “I only smoke when I drink”).

All created and propped up by the cycle of addiction; to justify their thoughts and actions in a self-fulfilling prophecy of hatred, bigotry, self-loathing and ‘rightness’.

However, dear readers, an intervention to break this cycle of addiction doesn’t start off with “You’re an idiot and you’re wrong.” That Salon article, in other words, gets us nowhere. #DisgustingFilth

#Xenophobia

It’s Saturday morning. I wake up, grab coffee. ISIS has claimed responsibility. The identities of the attackers are still yet to be released. However, it is clear; they are most likely brown and have beards.

Is it homegrown terrorism? Imported from France to the Islamic Caliphate? Only to be exported back, as newly radicalized French citizens, cloaked in the Liberal Freedoms we take for granted every single day?

Muslims across the world are starting to understand what this looks like; and many are citing the Koran to combat the avalanche of ‘Rightness.’

“Whoever kills an innocent person it is as if they have killed all of humanity”

Quran 5:32

I don’t know about you, but this one feels like it’s the start of the tipping point, a precipice from which we cannot come back from, a global war of Crusader vs. Jihadi. It really does feel that way.

The reason why that is for me is because while I can understand the Middle East loathing America and its interventionist policies for now nearly 100 years; France has, by and large, abstained from America’s War on Terror. To be sure, the French also have, by and large, been advocates for a Palestinian State.

“On 20 January 2003, Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin said, ‘We think that military intervention would be the worst possible solution,’ although France believed that Iraq may have had an ongoing chemical and nuclear weapons program. Villepin went on to say that he believed the presence of UN weapons inspectors had frozen Iraq’s weapons programs. France also suggested that it would veto any resolution allowing military intervention offered by the US or Britain.”

Has the Bastille not represented the shining light and beacon for all of humanity for the last 225 years? What, if anything, does the French Revolution mean to you? How did it transform the entire the world through one single man, Thomas Jefferson?

Someone, who I might add, has been grievously misquoted time and again… and now by our esteemed actor friend.

#paris

A government big enough to give you everything you want is strong enough to take everything you have. —– Thomas Jefferson

#NiceOne #CollegeTry @RealJamesWoods #tcot

#MightBeRightOnThisOne

Whether you think Mr. Woods is looney, misinformed, or simply wrong doesn’t matter. What matters is that it is his perception, his take, his foundational belief system. And just like the drug addled brain of the junkie starting off the conversation with Conservatives, with “Disgusting Filth,” furthers no agenda. It only strengthens the resolve of the addict; that the world is out to get them, and that we, as Liberals, are simply “Sheeple of the Lamestream Media”.

The echo-chamber at Fox News has a far stronger grip than you can possibly imagine.

Bill Maher, of who I am a giant fan, interviewed a moderate Muslim feminist last night on Real Time. Her name is Asra Nomani, and she is awesome. She is speaking out against the atrocities of Islamic extremism towards women; laying it on the lap of the Saudi government. And while I do agree with her and Bill, as I often do, this is still the same old narrative. This narrative still speaks to something more pervasive… “Us vs. Them”

The interview starts out with challenging liberals to stand by their values and belief systems. And while noble in its approach, this is still much of the same reaffirmation of ‘Rightness;’ much like our Conservative base does all day on Twitter.

As the interview continues along, Bill and Asra move to a more nuanced and contextualized discussion of the issues at hand. That yes, Muslims ARE the ones doing this, but to what degree can we call them “Islamic Terrorists.” She tells a story of Islamic crazies killing her fellow journalist in Pakistan who is Jewish, and Bill then pivots to the larger issues of religion in general.

Basically, more storytelling that there “are also good, moderate Muslims,” and we need to support and encourage that narrative in the Middle East, while wholly condemning the current Sharia-based version we are looking at. No small task.

And the reason it is no small task is the current version of America we are dealing with. And my answer to that may surprise you.

My point is this. Mr. James Woods was right the moment he laid the down the gauntlet of bigotry. IT WAS ISIS. It IS Islamic fundamentalists doing this. And everyone knows it, on both sides of our political class, and on both sides of the global precipice of Crusader vs Jihad.

But what should we do about it? Continue our bombing brigade? Commit to boots on the ground? I certainly don’t think so. I would prefer what I call reverse social and religious indoctrination, to engender Arabs and Muslims as contributing members of the overall fabric of a community, at scale, and with government funding. But that’s certainly not going to happen right now.

Right now, the real problem is this: most of Europe is certainly starting to think that the Americans have the only viable course of action available to them. War, racial and religious profiling, endless anecdotal dogma; and shades of the Holocaust right around the corner.

I for one am tired of telling people they are crazy, or idiots, or just plain wrong. It will never change their minds, has only a passing sense of gratification, and comes with a lingering tinge of anger and frustration for the rest of the day.

However, could you imagine how the world would change if we were able to break this cycle here in America and in Europe? If we actually formed a united front of acceptance towards Islam? This would require that we concede the validity of their viewpoint in order to break the chain of addiction to Jihad. Can you imagine how powerful it would be if we broke free of our own Liberal repression of those who speak the truth? Could we bring ourselves to do this even when that truth is racist and Islamopobic?

James Woods was actually right, wasn’t he?

So I offer the solution that it’s finally time for the Left to engage the Right, and for the Right to do the same. We must concede the validity of each other’s viewpoints, and in doing so hopefully break the cycle of addiction to War, bigotry, and “Rightness.” To me, this is the only way for “Them” to open up their minds to “Us.”

And once both sides open their minds and join together to address the very real issues that are facing us, perhaps we can finally deal with extremists without demonizing everyone else who shares the same skin color, home country or religion. Can the Left and the Right ever reach this point? Or will we simply keep bickering until the fear of ISIS succeeds in completely tearing our country apart?

Because as it stands right now, the Bastille is calling us back to the City of Lights, and it is time for the French to show us how bright they really can shine. It is my sincere hope we’re capable of following their example.

#PARIS

boxstore12515

Box Store & Two Party America

Baby boomers like myself remember urban ‘Main Street America.’ In our neighborhoods of Brooklyn N.Y, we had the appearance of little villages. The main shopping avenues were lined with Mom and Pop retail stores. You wanted bread…. we had Italian, Jewish and German bakeries. You wanted fruit….. you went to the neighborhood fruit and produce store. Needed women’s wear….. a ladies shop. We had men’s shops, tailors to fit you for a suit or pants, handbag stores, leather shops, jewelry shops.. hardware stores…. paint stores …. neighborhood pharmacies, where they delivered your medicine… coffee shops….. pizza parlors….. Jewish Delis, German Delis, Italian pork stores….. Anything you wanted you could get on Main Street.

Some entrepreneurs came up with an idea, after WW2, to house many different types of purveyors under one roof….. a Super Market.   My mom would take me along with her as she shopped, and the Bohack or A & P was definitely on her list. She would buy her dry and canned foods, and other non-perishable essentials at these stores….. but she also stopped into the local fish store, produce store, Italian bakery, pork store and butcher shop as well. You see, the Super Markets were important…. but not exclusive for the very best of food items. So, what happened that we now find ourselves in this current state of Box store  USA?

Wal-Mart was able to house countless types of  products under one giant roof, at great discounts  for many items… but not all. Soon after, other entrepreneurs opened a slew of mega stores like BJs, Home Depot, Lowes, Target, K- Mart, Staples, Office Depot causing many local Mom and Pop retailers to fade away. ‘Progress’   they called it. “One Stop shopping is easy and  convenient”  they argued….. “Saves you money too!” Of course, quality and service consistently got worse and worse. Ask anyone over 50 years of age about the differences between the local food and dry goods stores of their youth, compared with  today’s mega markets and box stores. For a few hundred bucks a year in savings Americans have followed the piper over the cliff. The box stores are …… God! 

Politics has taken the same route as the box store revolution. The only difference is that this 2 Party Scam has been going on for well over 150 years. It seems each time a new and interesting 3rd Party movement begins in America the two party monster swallows it up or subverts it completely. In the early 20th century, after the Gilded Age’s corruption and greed transformed America into a two tier economic system (sound familiar? ) the Socialist and Communist movements gathered steam. They were outspoken about the U.S not entering into the phony WW 1, which was basically a battle amongst the rich of Europe ( with the poor doing most of the fighting and dying ). Both major political parties stood silently by as protest leaders were arrested for treason, jailed and even deported. Then we had the ‘ Palmer Raids ‘ during the 1920s, after the Russian Revolution. This was the forerunner of the McCarthy ‘ Red Scare ‘ period of the late 40s and early 50s which was the forerunner of the assault on civil liberties by the Bush gang after 9/11 and during the Iraq invasion. Remember, it wasn’t just the right-wing Republicans who were following Bush & Cheney while waving their flags. The majority of Democrats bought into the lies and jingoism as well, voting to give  the Bush/ Cheney gang the right to preemptive war. Make no bones about it,  the Democrats acquiesced due to political expediency. The karma those fakers and cowards now carry, from the myriad of dead soldiers and civilians… to those countless torn bodies limping around Iraq, Afghanistan and Walter Reade hospital, is a sad testament indeed. 

How can things change? Many progressive thinkers sound the trumpet to ‘Educate, Educate, Educate.’ Yet, the deck is stacked against any sort of  progressive 3rd Party movement, as it is against those Mom and Pop retailers who attempt to stand tall vs. the boxstores. Perhaps it is time to become more proactive. It is time to initiate mass boycotts of the 2 Party System, by running candidates as Independents until 3rd Parties can get on the ballots more easily. Perhaps it is time to boycott the boxstores more and more. Shouldn’t we who care also boycott the corrupt banks, as well as the corporations who make money from war? How about this: Boycott the corporations who give great sums of money to politicians from both major parties.  Maybe then some sense of sanity will return to America. Maybe then we can finally get money totally out of our electoral process, allowing the other dominoes to tumble as well.

qatar

Qatari Labour Reforms: Words but No Actions

Words but no actions. That is Amnesty International’s evaluation of promised Qatari labour reforms on the fifth year of the awarding of the 2022 World Cup hosting rights to the Gulf state.

Qatar’s failure to enact wide-ranging reforms heightens the risk of its hosting rights being called into question against a backdrop of legal investigations into the integrity of its bid and world soccer body FIFA presidential elections that could spur increased pressure on the Gulf state in FIFA’s bid to put a massive corruption scandal that involves Qatar behind it.

In a statement, Amnesty researcher Mustafa Qadri, asserted that “too little has been done to address rampant migrant labour abuse. Qatar’s persistent labour reform delays are a recipe for human rights disaster… Unless action is taken – and soon – then every football fan who visits Qatar in 2022 should ask themselves how they can be sure they are not benefiting from the blood, sweat and tears of migrant workers.”

Mr. Qadri noted further that FIFA had “played its part in this sorry performance” given that it was aware of the labour issues when it awarded the World Cup to FIFA. He said FIFA needed to work with Qatar and business to address the issue.

Prince Ali Bin Al Hussein, a frontrunner in next February’s presidential election, has warned that FIFA could revisit Qatar’s hosting rights if it failed to follow through on promises to improve the living and working conditions of migrant workers working on World Cup-related construction sites. He said human and workers’ rights were important criteria in the awarding of the tournament, which together with the Olympic Games is the world’s foremost sporting mega event.

“As an Asian, I am asking that they (Qatar) have to abide by that. I have seen suggestions from Qatar especially in terms of workers’ rights that they want to move ahead but FIFA has to guarantee that they do so. Because that is the basis of how we should be. Football can be a right conduit to serve the society and that for me is the most important thing,” Prince Ali said.

FIFA’s corruption scandal has so far led to the indictment in the United States of 14 serving and former FIFA executives as well as suspension of the group’s president, Sepp Blatter, and European soccer chief Michel Platini.

It has also sparked a Swiss investigation into the awarding in December 2010 of the tournament to Qatar and the 2018 World Cup to Russia. The US Department of Justice proceedings could be expanded to include the Qatari bid, which has been tarred by allegations of corruption and bribery.

Qatar initially built goodwill by responding positively to criticism by trade union and human rights activists who described its regime for migrant worker force that constitutes a majority of the Gulf state’s population as ‘modern slavery.’ Qatar’s kafala or sponsorship regime puts employees at the mercy of their employers.

The goodwill has since largely been wasted by Qatar failing to forcefully follow through on promised reforms. In a first positive fallout from the awarding of the tournament, Qatar broke with the Gulf practice of barring entry to the country or imprisoning its critics. Instead, it opened its doors to the likes of Amnesty, Human Rights Watch and the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC).

As a result, the 2022 Supreme Committee for Delivery& Legacy alongside Qatar Foundation and Qatar Rail adopted labour standards applicable for all their contracts that significantly improved workers’ living and working conditions but stopped short of abolishing the kafala system. That may help to assuage FIFA’s next president but will not convince Qatar’s critics who argue that the standards need to be enshrined in national law rather than only applicable to a limited number of Qatari institutions. It raises questions about Qatari sincerity and the value of engagement.

In its statement, Amnesty noted that Qatar has backtracked on promises to implement limit changes by the end of this year. Among other things, Qatar has postponed until the end of next year expanding its labour inspector force as well as limited changes of the kafala system. The changes moreover fail to abolish one of the most onerous facets of kafala, the need for an employee to obtain his or her employer’s consent to change jobs.

A series of related events have called into question the effectivity or the sustainability of the kafala system and cast a further shadow over how Qataris, who constitute a minority of the Gulf state’s population, approach communal affairs.

Qatar last month introduced a long-delayed wage protection system that requires businesses to pay workers on time by direct bank deposits. Yet, several hundred employees of Drake & Scull in a rare work stoppage that is banned in Qatar went on strike last week in a dispute over unpaid wages.

Moreover, heavy rains that last month led to flooding, including of Qatar’s newly opened $15 billion Hamad International Airport, prompted an investigation into the quality of construction and a temporary ban on contractors and workers leaving the country.

Qatar appeared to be underlining de facto segregation in a move that cast a further shadow over its sincerity about labour reform with Doha’s Central Municipal Council set to vote on barring single men from entering malls on at least one day a week. Most of Qatar’s migrant workers arrive leaving their families behind in their home countries. Under the proposal, they would be unable to visit malls on the one day a week that they are off.

Malls are alongside sports facilities Qatar’s main venue for public relaxation and entertainment. In another facet of de facto segregation, those facilities are off limits to migrant workers. Qatari institutions that have adopted improved standards like the supreme committee are building separate sports facilities for workers in cities that are exclusively built for them.

“This looks like discrimination by stealth. It will certainly have a detrimental effect,” warned Human Rights Watch Gulf researcher Nicholas McGeehan.

While Qatar’s national soccer team has recently performed well and invested heavily in grooming potential foreign players, Guardian reporter Robert Booth noted recently that the Gulf state has ignored a potentially significant talent pool in its own backyard: soccer-crazy migrant workers.

Qatar “should scout the migrant camps for football stars, make the best of these citizens and throw them into national sides. It would be a statement of intent,” Mr. Booth said.

The politics of its citizenry being a majority in its own country is what complicates labour reform that many Qatar’s fear would open a Pandora’s Box of foreigners demanding more rights that ultimately could threaten Qatari control of their culture, society, and state. Wasting goodwill and the calling into question of the sincerity of Qatar’s declared intentions threatens, however, to deprive the Gulf state of the time and space it needs to enact reforms its critics were willing to grant it.

forestfire12115

Only We can Prevent Forest Fires

We have a small amount of our original forest left in the US, but we still have a great deal of woodlands. There is a school of forest managers who advocate so-called “controlled burns” to create a healthier forest.

Such a poor idea. Has anyone mentioned global warming to those forest experts?

Forest fires are exactly wrong when we consider that. Fire adds instantly to high airborne carbon content and thus is a driver of global warming, exactly what no one needs.

If we clearcut the forests, we lose the lungs of the Earth, the ecosystem that sequesters so much carbon and gives us so much oxygen. And the same is true every time we burn a portion of the forest. Are there alternatives to pumping those megatons of carbon into our carbon-overloaded atmosphere?

People need paper, building material, and many other products from the forest. People need jobs working in the woods and with the woodlands products. Fire destroys raw material and any jobs harvesting that raw material, plus jobs creating the added value to woodland products, from newsprint to framing lumber and much more. We cannot afford to waste material satisfying some theoretician’s hobby horse about the ancient role of fire. These are not ancient times.

How can we maximize all the benefits and minimize all the downsides?

First, create permanent Forest Stewards camps for public woodlands, patterned at least in part on the Civilian Conservation Corps of the 1930s. Cancel a couple of big ticket items that the Pentagon wants and split the savings between tax relief for middle and lower income taxpayers and a program to employ Forest Stewards. The austere minimum-wage barracks life is well suited for those hungry for work—I would have loved it in my late teens and twenties. They would thin and clean forests using sustainable practices, never clear cuts, and they would leave no slash behind. In some areas, we could even bring back selective logging hauled out by teams of draft horses. Labor-intensive sustainable practices with mustering-out benefits like education would skill up the American workforce and radically reduce nonproductive ranks while mitigating global warming and enhancing forest health.

Second, create a mix of power plants with state-of-the-art carbon-fixing scrubbers, paper manufacturing, lumber and veneer mills, to economically benefit from the ongoing harvest operations. Each element of a hybridized value-added management program would help pay for the overall operation. Young people would learn a great deal from older skilled workers and beneficial products would help society instead of massive choking clouds of polluted smoke from “controlled burns.”

In this way, the forests would be managed for diversity, old growth untouched, understory trees utilized, with small clearings that would never cause killer landslides or stream-destroying erosion. This could be a public-private-nonprofit partnership resulting in a win for everyone and a long term sustainable way to preserve and even regain some of America’s amazing old growth, while employing and training a workforce dedicated to—and benefiting from—clean sustainable forestry practices.

We can disagree on many things in our country, but no one would be sorry to see the magnificent forests of America make a long-term comeback. Fire is not the way. We can be creative instead of destructive.

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