Published: Sunday 13 January 2013
Four years after the massive bailout that rescued Wall Street, we look at the state of the financial sector with Rolling Stone’s Matt Taibbi and former financial regulator William Black

Four years after the massive bailout that rescued Wall Street, we look at the state of the financial sector with Rolling Stone’s Matt Taibbi and former financial regulator William Black. In a new article for Rolling Stone, Taibbi argues the government did not just bail out Wall Street, but also lied on the financial sector’s behalf, calling unhealthy banks healthy and helping banks cover up how much aid they were getting. The government’s approach to the banks came under new scrutiny this week after it reached an $8.5 billion settlement for improprieties in the wrongful foreclosures on millions of American homeowners, including flawed paperwork, robo-signing and wrongly modified loans. The settlement will end an independent review of all foreclosures, meaning the banks could be avoiding billions of dollars in further penalties, in addition to criminal prosecution.

Transcript:

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: We turn now to look at the state of Wall Street four years after the massive bailout and the news of this week’s mortgage settlements with the major banks. Matt Taibbi has just written a new piece for  READ FULL POST 7 COMMENTS

Published: Sunday 6 January 2013
New research by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the University of Colorado say methane — a potent greenhouse gas — may be escaping from gas sites at much higher rates than previously thought.

The controversial use of hydraulic fracturing, or "fracking," that is behind the country’s natural gas boom has come under scrutiny in the new Hollywood drama, "Promised Land," and met stiff resistance in New York state, where a four-year moratorium against the process could soon expire. Supporters say fracking is essential to U.S. energy independence, a way to revitalize depressed rural areas with new mining jobs and gas projects. But opponents warn that hundreds of millions of gallons of chemically treated water used in the process will pollute drinking water supplies and agricultural fields. New research by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the University of Colorado say methane — a potent greenhouse gas — may be escaping from gas sites at much higher rates than previously thought. To dive into this firestorm of debate, today we host a debate with two supporters of fracking and two opponents. We are joined by Kate Hudson, Watershed Program director at Riverkeeper, New York’s clean water advocate; Phelim McAleer, a filmmaker who produced a pro-fracking documentary called "FrackNation"; Daniel Simmons, director of state of regulatory affairs at the Institute for Energy Research; and Mayor Matt Ryan of Binghamton, New York, who is a former professor of environmental law and outspoken opponent of fracking.

Published: Thursday 27 December 2012
You may have heard about the internal problems at FreedomWorks, one of the country’s biggest tea party groups.

Former House majority leader Dick Armey attempted a coup within his own Tea Party-linked nonprofit FreedomWorks earlier this year. When that failed, he took an $8 million payout from a millionaire Republican donor to leave. The incident highlighted what is believed to be growing turmoil inside the Tea Party movement after it rose to prominence ahead of the 2010 election. We’re joined by Politico reporter Ken Vogel. "[Armey] did in fact take a hit when he decided to go all in with FreedomWorks and refashion himself as the Tea Party leader," Vogel says. "There has always been this tug of war in the Tea Party between national groups that have deep-pocketed contributors and benefactors and the actual grassroots."

Published: Thursday 27 December 2012
From the hallways of Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., to Afghanistan, to Somalia, the flood of U.S. weapons and ammunition fuels violence, death and injury.

 

While the final funerals for the victims of the Newtown, Conn., school massacre have been held, gun violence continues apace, most notably with the Christmas Eve murder of two volunteer firefighters in rural Webster, N.Y., at the hands of an ex-convict who was armed, as was the Newtown shooter Adam Lanza, with a Bushmaster .223 caliber AR-15 semiautomatic rifle. James Holmes, the alleged perpetrator of the massacre last July in Aurora, Colo., stands accused of using, among other weapons, a Smith & Wesson AR-15 with a 100-round drum in place of standard magazine clip. Standing stalwartly against any regulation of these weapons and high-capacity magazines, the National Rifle Association continues to block any gun-control laws whatsoever, and even trumpets its efforts to block the global Arms Trade Treaty, slated for negotiations at the United Nations this March.

On Christmas Eve, the same day as the attack in Webster, the U.N. General Assembly voted to move ahead with 10 days of negotiations on the Arms Trade Treaty, to commence March 18. Recall, it was last July that the Obama administration said it “needed more time” to review the proposed treaty, effectively killing any hope of getting a treaty passed and sent back to member nations for ratification. This was just one week after the Aurora massacre, and in the heat of a close presidential-election campaign. The NRA succeeded in helping to scuttle the global Arms Trade Treaty, delivering to President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton a letter opposing the treaty signed by 50 U.S. senators, including eight Democrats, and 130 members of the House of Representatives.

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Published: Thursday 20 December 2012
Strict laws were quickly put in place, banning semiautomatic weapons and placing serious controls on gun ownership. Since that time, there has not been one mass shooting in Australia.

 

The initial shock of the latest semi-automatic-weapon-fueled massacre has passed, but the grief only grows. Now the funerals occur with a daily drumbeat. It will take not 27, but 28 funerals, as the Newtown, Conn., shooter, Adam Lanza, took his own life after slaughtering his mother at home, then 20 children, aged 6 and 7, and six women at the Sandy Hook Elementary School who tried to protect them. Since President Barack Obama took office, there have been at least 16 major mass shootings, after which he has offered somber words of condolence and called for national healing. But what is really needed is gun control, serious gun control, as was swiftly implemented in Australia in 1996, after another gunman went on a senseless shooting spree. That massacre occurred in Port Arthur, Tasmania, and the shooter was from nearby New Town.

On April 28, 1996, Martin Bryant, a troubled 28-year-old from New Town, Tasmania, took a Colt AR-15 semiautomatic rifle to the nearby tourist destination of Port Arthur. By the time he was arrested early the next day, he had killed 35 people and wounded 23. The reaction in Australia was profound, especially since it was a nation of gun lovers, target shooters and hunters. The massacre provoked an immediate national debate over gun control. Strict laws were quickly put in place, banning semiautomatic weapons and placing serious controls on gun ownership. Since that time, there has not been one mass shooting in Australia.

Rebecca Peters took part in that debate. She is now an international arms ...

Published: Thursday 13 December 2012
On Friday, actors, musicians and activists are uniting to renew calls for clemency for one of America’s most well-known and longest incarcerated prisoners: Leonard Peltier

During the holidays, the atmosphere of goodwill and mercy traditionally extends all the way to the nation’s highest leaders, with presidents typically pardoning more prisoners than any other time in the year. On Friday, actors, musicians and activists are uniting to renew calls for clemency for one of America’s most well-known and longest incarcerated prisoners: Leonard Peltier. The Native American activist and former member of the American Indian Movement was convicted of abetting the killing of two FBI agents during a shootout on South Dakota’s Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in 1975. Peltier has long maintained his innocence; Amnesty International considers him a political prisoner who was not granted a fair trial. We air a never-before-broadcast video of Peltier from an interview by German journalist Claus Beegert.

Published: Thursday 13 December 2012
As he now faces 22 counts in a court martial that could land him in prison for the rest of his life, his lawyer argued in court that the case should be thrown out, based on his unlawful pretrial punishment.

 

Pfc. Bradley Manning was finally allowed to speak publicly, in his own defense, in a preliminary hearing of his court-martial. Manning is the alleged source of the largest intelligence leak in U.S. history. He was an intelligence analyst in the U.S. Army, with top-secret clearance, deployed in Iraq. In April 2010, the whistle-blower website WikiLeaks released a U.S. military video of an Apache helicopter in Baghdad killing a dozen civilians below, including two Reuters employees, a videographer and his driver. One month after the video was released, Manning was arrested in Iraq, charged with leaking the video and hundreds of thousands more documents. Thus began his ordeal of cruel, degrading imprisonment in solitary confinement that many claim was torture, from his detention in Kuwait to months in the military brig in Quantico, Va. Facing global condemnation, the U.S. military transferred Manning to less-abusive detention at Fort Leavenworth, Kan.

As he now faces 22 counts in a court martial that could land him in prison for the rest of his life, his lawyer argued in court that the case should be thrown out, based on his unlawful pretrial punishment.

Veteran constitutional attorney Michael Ratner was in the courtroom at Fort Meade, Md., that day Manning took the stand. He described the scene: “It was one of the most dramatic courtroom scenes I’ve ever been in. ... When Bradley opened his mouth, he was not nervous. The testimony was incredibly moving, an emotional roller coaster for all of us, but particularly, obviously, for Bradley and what he went through. But it was so horrible what happened to him ...

Published: Thursday 6 December 2012
From Typhoon Bopha in the Philippines to Superstorm Sandy in the United States, the web of climate activists is not tangled, but growing stronger, leading the way.

 

The 18th U.N. climate-change summit is taking place in the small but immensely wealthy Gulf emirate of Qatar, the largest per capita emitter of greenhouse gases in the world. Delegates, press, dignitaries and the legions of low-paid, foreign guest workers here at the opulent Qatar National Convention Center all pass under an enormous spider, a 30-foot-high cast-bronze statue called “Maman,” by the French-American sculptor Louise Bourgeois. It was chosen by the emir’s wife, and snapped up for a reported $10 million. The Obama administration has been accused, rightly, of derailing the UN climate negotiations in recent years, which makes the spider an appropriate symbol, as famously described by the lines from an 1808 poem by Sir Walter Scott,

“Oh! what a tangled web we weave

When first we practice to deceive!”

Here at the summit, referred to as the COP 18 (18th Conference of Parties), I met up with climate scientist Bill Hare, one of the lead authors of a new World Bank report, “Turn Down the Heat: Why a 4 Degree C Warmer World Must Be Avoided.” With the U.S. media focused on the so-called fiscal cliff, I asked Hare how the world’s historically largest emitter of greenhouse gases, the United States, could be expected to contribute to a global fund to combat climate change:

“We have a climate cliff. ... We’re facing a carbon tsunami, ...

Published: Monday 3 December 2012
Fast food workers walked off the job Thursday to strike against poor work conditions.

Fast-food workers walked off the job in New York City Thursday to hold a series of rallies and picket lines in what has been called the largest series of worker actions ever to hit the country’s fast-food industry. Hundreds of workers at dozens of restaurants owned by McDonald’s, Burger King, Taco Bell and others went on strike and rallied in a bid for fair pay and union recognition. Organizers with the Fast Food Forward campaign are seeking an increased pay rate of $15 an hour, about double what the minimum-wage workers are making. Workers and their allies demanded a wage that would let them support their families. Democracy Now! co-host Juan González spoke to many of the striking workers for his latest New York Daily News column, "One-day strike by fast-food workers at McDonald’s, Burger King and other restaurants is just the beginning."

AMY GOODMAN: Juan, your piece in the New York Daily News today on this one-day strike by fast-food workers at ...

Published: Tuesday 27 November 2012
The building was a factory operated by Tazreen Fashions, a subsidiary of the Tuba Group, which supplies Wal-Mart, Ikea and other major retailers in the United States and Europe

A clothing factory in Bangladesh that has ties to Wal-Mart suffered a massive fire Saturday that left at least 118 factory workers dead and scores injured. Wal-Mart is the largest buyer of garments from Bangladesh, which has a notoriously poor fire-safety record and has long suppressed worker’s attempts to improve their conditions. The building was a factory operated by Tazreen Fashions, a subsidiary of the Tuba Group, which supplies Wal-Mart, Ikea and other major retailers in the United States and Europe. The factory made polo shirts, fleece jackets and t-shirts. We speak to Scott Nova, executive director of the Worker Rights Consortium, which investigates conditions in factories around the world.

AMY GOODMAN: I want to bring our next guest into this conversation with another story related to Walmart, Scott Nova, Executive Director of the Worker Rights Consortium. And I want to talk a little about what happened in Bangladesh. A clothing factory in Bangladesh that has ties to Walmart suffered a massive fire Saturday that left at least 112 factory workers dead, scores injured. The building was a factory operated by Tazreen Fashions, a subsidiary of the Tuba Group which supplies Walmart, Ikea and other major retailers in the U.S. and Europe. The factory made polo shirts, fleece jackets, t-shirts. Scott Nova is Executive Director of the Worker Rights Consortium which investigates conditions in factories around the world. Welcome to Democracy ...

Published: Thursday 22 November 2012
The answer is simple, and increases the chances of security on all sides: End the occupation.

“The Palestinian people want to be free of the occupation,” award-winning Israeli journalist Gideon Levy summed up this week. It is that simple. This latest Israeli military assault on the people of Gaza is not an isolated event, but part of a 45-year occupation of the sliver of land wedged between Israel and the Mediterranean Sea, where 1.6 million people live under a brutal Israeli blockade that denies them most of the basic necessities of life. Without the unwavering bipartisan support of the United States for the Israeli military, the occupation of Palestine could not exist.

At the time of this writing, the overall Palestinian death toll of the seven-day assault, dubbed Operation Pillar of Cloud by the Israel Defense Forces, is more than 116, more than half of them civilians, including 27 children and 11 women. Hamas has fired hundreds of rockets from Gaza into Israel, which, to date, have killed three Israeli civilians.

President Barack Obama said on Sunday, “There is no country on earth that would tolerate missiles raining down on its citizens from outside its borders. So, we are fully supportive of Israel’s right to defend itself from missiles landing on people’s homes and workplaces and potentially killing civilians.” 

“No one questions that right,” responds ...

Published: Thursday 15 November 2012
As the movement for that strong social safety net grows around the world, and locally here at home, the mandate is clear: Austerity is not the answer.

Amaia Engana didn’t wait to be evicted from her home. On Nov. 9, in the town of Barakaldo, a suburb of Bilbao in Spain’s Basque Country, officials from the local judiciary were on their way to serve her eviction papers. Amaia stood on a chair and threw herself out of her fifth-floor apartment window, dying instantly on impact on the sidewalk below. She was the second person in two weeks in Spain to commit suicide as a result of an impending foreclosure action. Her suicide has added gravity to this week’s general strike radiating from the streets of Madrid across all of Europe. As resistance to so-called austerity in Europe becomes increasingly transnational and coordinated, President Barack Obama and the House Republicans begin their debate to avert the “fiscal cliff.” The fight is over fair tax rates, budget priorities and whether we as a society will sustain the social safety net built during the past 80 years.

The general strike that swept across Europe Nov. 14 had its genesis in the deepening crisis in Spain, Portugal and Greece. As a result of the global economic collapse in 2008, Spain is in a deep financial crisis. Unemployment has surpassed 25 percent, and among young people is estimated at 50 percent. Large banks have enjoyed bailouts while they enforce mortgages that an increasing number of Spaniards are unable to meet, provoking increasing numbers of foreclosures and attempted evictions. “Attempted” because, in response to the epidemic of evictions in Spain, a direct-action movement has grown to prevent them. In city after city, individuals and groups have networked, creating rapid-response teams that flood the street outside a threatened apartment. When officials arrive to deliver the ...

Published: Thursday 8 November 2012
Accused U.S. army whistleblower is willing to plead partially guilty if the government is willing to pursue lesser charges.

Accused U.S. Army whistleblower Bradley Manning has offered to submit a partial guilty plea on charges of leaking classified documents to WikiLeaks in return for the government agreeing to pursue lesser charges. Manning’s attorney David Coombs says he is prepared to plead guilty to some of the charges, but not the entire case as a whole. Manning is reportedly ready to admit to leaking the documents to WikiLeaks, but is refusing to plead guilty to the charges of espionage or aiding the enemy. He has been held in military custody since May 2010 following his arrest while serving in Iraq. We are joined by Denver Nicks, author of the book, "Private: Bradley Manning, WikiLeaks, and the Biggest Exposure of Official Secrets in American History."

Published: Thursday 8 November 2012
“People organized around this country, fighting for a more just, sustainable world. Now the real work begins.”

The election is over, and President Barack Obama will continue as the 44th president of the United States. There will be much attention paid by the pundit class to the mechanics of the campaigns, to the techniques of microtargeting potential voters, the effectiveness of get-out-the-vote efforts. The media analysts will fill the hours on the cable news networks, proffering post-election chestnuts about the accuracy of polls, or about either candidate’s success with one demographic or another. Missed by the mainstream media, but churning at the heart of our democracy, are social movements, movements without which President Obama would not have been re-elected.

President Obama is a former community organizer himself. What happens when the community organizer in chief becomes the commander in chief? Who does the community organizing then? Interestingly, he offered a suggestion when speaking at a small New Jersey campaign event when he was first running for president. Someone asked him what he would do about the Middle East. He answered with a story about the legendary 20th-century organizer A. Philip Randolph meeting with President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Randolph described to FDR the condition of black people in America, the condition of working people. Reportedly, FDR listened intently, then replied: “I agree with everything you have said. Now, make me do it.” That was the message Obama repeated.

There you have it. Make him do it. You’ve got an invitation from the president himself.

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Published: Thursday 1 November 2012
Amy Goodman is joined by Greg Jones, and Jeff Masters to discuss Super Storm Sandy.

Forecasters say Hurricane Sandy is a rare hybrid superstorm created by an Arctic jet stream from the north wrapping itself around a tropical storm from the south. Jeff Masters, director of meteorology at the Weather Underground, warns that such a "Frankenstorm," as it is called, is an outgrowth of the extreme weather changes caused by global warming. "When you do heat the oceans up more, you extend the length of hurricane season," Masters says. "There’s been ample evidence over the last decade or so that hurricane season is getting longer — starts earlier, ends later. You’re more likely to get these sort of late October storms now, and you’re more likely to have this sort of situation where a late October storm meets up with a regular winter low-pressure system and gives us this ridiculous combination of a nor’easter and a hurricane that comes ashore, bringing all kinds of destructive effects." We’re also joined by climate scientist Greg Jones from Southern Oregon University

AMY GOODMAN: We’re on the road in Medford, Oregon, at Southern Oregon Public Television, but the story today is on the East Coast, as we continue our coverage of Hurricane Sandy, a massive storm that could impact up to 50 million people from the Carolinas to Boston. New York and other cities have shut down schools and transit systems. Hundreds of thousands of people have already been evacuated. Millions could lose power over the next day.

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Published: Thursday 1 November 2012
As power is restored to the millions without it, there is a power that cannot be taken from us.

 

Millions of victims of Superstorm Sandy remain without power, but they are not powerless to do something about climate change. The media consistently fail to make the link between extreme weather and global warming. Through this catastrophe, people are increasingly realizing that our climate has changed, and the consequences are dire.

One meteorologist who defies the norm is Dr. Jeff Masters, who founded the weather blog Weather Underground. As Sandy bore down on the East Coast, I asked Masters what impact climate change was having on hurricanes. He said: “Whenever you add more heat to the oceans, you’ve got more energy for destruction. Hurricanes ... pull heat out of the ocean, convert it to the kinetic energy of their winds.”

Masters’ blog became so popular, it was purchased by The Weather Channel. As Sandy moved up the coast, Masters continued with our interview: “When you do heat the oceans up more, you extend the length of hurricane season. And there’s been ample evidence over the last decade or so that hurricane season is getting longer—starts earlier, ends later. You’re more likely to have this sort of situation where a late-October storm meets up with a regular winter low-pressure system and gives us this ridiculous combination of a nor’easter and a hurricane that comes ashore, bringing all kinds of destructive effects.”

Mitt Romney must rue that line in his Republican National Convention speech, days after Hurricane Isaac narrowly ...

Published: Thursday 25 October 2012
The Golden State’s labeling law just might set the gold standard for food safety for us all.

“What is food to one, is to others bitter poison.”—Lucretius, Roman poet (95 B.C.-55 B.C.) 

If California were a country, with its population approaching 40 million, it would be among the 30 most populous nations on Earth. The economic, political and cultural impacts of California on the rest of the United States are huge. That is why citizen ballot initiatives in California—and any state law, for that matter—can carry such significance. Of the 11 initiatives before the 2012 California electorate, one drawing perhaps the most attention is Proposition 37, on the labeling of food containing genetically modified organisms, or GMOs. Whether or not this ballot passes could have a significant impact on how our food system is organized, favoring small, local organic-food producers (if it passes), or allowing for the increased expansion of large, corporate agribusiness (if it fails).

The initiative is straightforward, requiring that genetically modified foods be labeled as such. The official California voter guide summarizes Prop. 37 this way: “Requires labeling of food sold to consumers made from plants or animals with genetic material changed in specified ways. Prohibits marketing such food, or other processed food, as ‘natural.’ Provides exemptions.” More than 1 million signatures were gathered in order to put the proposition on the ballot.

The group promoting the initiative, Yes on Proposition 37 California Right to Know, has garnered thousands of endorsements, from health, public-interest, consumer, and farm and food advocacy groups, among others. Prop. 37 spokesperson Stacy Malkan, a longtime advocate for environmental health, told me: “It’s about our right to ...

Published: Thursday 18 October 2012
Imagine if we had a functional electoral system, with genuine, vigorous, representative debates.

 

You may have noticed that the Green Party presidential candidate, Dr. Jill Stein, was absent from the “town hall” presidential debate at Hofstra University the other night. That’s because she was shackled to a chair in a nearby New York police facility, along with her running mate, Green Party vice president nominee Cheri Honkala. Their crime: attempting to get to the debate so Stein could participate in it. While Mitt Romney uttered the now-famous line that he was given “whole binders full of women” while seeking staff as newly-elected governor of Massachusetts in 2002, the real binders were handcuffs used to shackle these two women, who are mothers, activists and the Green Party’s presidential ticket for 2012.

I interviewed Stein the day after the debate, after their imprisonment (which ended, not surprisingly, not long after the debate ended). She told me: “We are on the ballot for 85 percent of voters. Americans deserve to know what their choices are. The police said they were only doing job. I said, ‘This is about everyone’s jobs, whether we can afford health care, whether students will be indentured.’ There are critical issues left out of the debate. Ninety million voters are predicted to stay home and vote with their feet that neither Barack Obama nor Mitt Romney represent them. That’s twice as many voters than expected for either of them.”

Even if Stein and Honkala hadn’t been hauled off a public street and handcuffed to those chairs for eight hours, Stein’s exclusion from the debate was certain. The debates are very ...

Published: Tuesday 16 October 2012
Amy Goodman speaks to Susan Scott, who owns land where the pipeline will run; actress Daryl Hannah, who was arrested there last week and has long been active in protests against the pipeline; and Tar Sands Blockade coalition spokesperson Ron Siefert.

A standoff is underway in Texas over construction of the Keystone XL oil pipeline, which would run oil from the Canadian tar sands fields to U.S. refineries on the Gulf Coast. In a protest now entering its fourth week, dozens of environmental activists working with local Texas landowners have blocked the pipeline’s path with tree sits and other nonviolent protests. We speak to Susan Scott, who owns land where the pipeline will run; actress Daryl Hannah, who was arrested there last week and has long been active in protests against the pipeline; and Tar Sands Blockade coalition spokesperson Ron Seifert.

Transcript:

AMY GOODMAN: We begin today’s show in Texas, where a standoff is underway over construction of the Keystone XL oil pipeline, which would run tar sands oil from Canada to U.S. refineries on the Gulf Coast. While President Obama delayed a final decision on the pipeline until after the November election, he has already approved TransCanada’s plans for the southern portion of the project. But as the pipeline route makes its way down from Cushing, Oklahoma, it’s run into resistance in Winnsboro, Texas, about two hours east of Dallas. In a protest now entering its fourth week, dozens of environmental activists working with local landowners here have blocked the pipeline’s path with tree sits and other nonviolent protests. Recently, actress Daryl Hannah and a 78-year-old East Texas farmer were arrested while protesting the clearance of her land seized by eminent domain. This is Eleanor Fairchild, speaking ...

Published: Tuesday 2 October 2012
At the site of the 2007 massacre that left 32 people dead at Virginia Tech, Amy Goodman is joined by Colin Goddard, who survived the attack with four gunshot wounds.

On the eve of the first presidential debate, President Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney are being urged to address the problem of gun violence. Wednesday’s debate is taking place less than 10 miles from the site of the Columbine school shooting and 15 miles from the Aurora theater where 12 people were killed in July. At the site of the 2007 massacre that left 32 people dead at Virginia Tech, we’re joined by Colin Goddard, who survived the attack with four gunshot wounds. Goddard recounts his survival of the massacre and his backing of a campaign with fellow victims for presidential candidates to address gun violence. “The first presidential debate of this election is happening literally miles from both Columbine High School and Aurora, Colorado — two of the worst shootings in our country’s history,” Goddard says. “This is the debate about domestic policy. If there ever is a time to pose a question about gun policy in America to our candidates for president of this country, then this debate that’s happening on Wednesday is the time to do it.”

Published: Thursday 27 September 2012
You may never have heard of Sensata Technologies, but in this election season, you’ve probably heard the name of its owner, Bain Capital, the company co-founded and formerly run by Mitt Romney.

 

Freeport, Ill., is the site of one of the famous Lincoln-Douglas debates. On Aug. 27, 1858, Abraham Lincoln and Stephen Douglas debated there in their campaign for Illinois’ seat in the U.S. Senate. Lincoln lost that race, but the Freeport debate set the stage for his eventual defeat of Douglas in the presidential election of 1860, and thus the Civil War. Today, as the African-American president of the United States prepares to debate the candidate from the party of Lincoln, workers in Freeport are staging a protest, hoping to put their plight into the center of the national debate this election season.

A group of workers from Sensata Technologies have set up their tents in a protest encampment across the road from the plant where many of them have spent their adult lives working. Sensata makes high-tech sensors for automobiles, including the sensors that help automatic transmissions run safely. Sensata Technologies recently bought the plant from Honeywell, and promptly told the more than 170 workers there that their jobs and all the plant’s equipment would be shipped to China.

You may never have heard of Sensata Technologies, but in this election season, you’ve probably heard the name of its owner, Bain Capital, the company co-founded and formerly run by Mitt Romney. When they learned this, close to a dozen Sensata employees decided to put up a fight, to challenge Romney to put into practice his very campaign slogans to save American jobs. They traveled to Tampa, Fla., joining in a poor people’s campaign at a temporary camp called Romneyville (after the Hoovervilles of the Great ...

Published: Thursday 20 September 2012
Fracking as a political issue, like that tap water, is catching fire.

 

Western Pennsylvania is considered the birthplace of commercial oil drilling. On Aug. 27, 1859, Edwin Drake struck oil in Titusville, Pa., and changed the course of history. Now, people there are busy trying to stop wells, and the increasingly pervasive drilling practice known as fracking. Fracking is the popular term for hydraulic fracturing, the technique used to extract natural gas from deep beneath the earth’s surface. Fracking is promoted by the gas industry as the key to escaping from dependence on foreign oil. But evidence is mounting that fracking pollutes groundwater with a witches’ brew of toxic chemicals, creating imminent threats to public health and safety. It has even caused earthquakes in Ohio. As people mark the first anniversary of Occupy Wall Street, popular resistance to the immense power of the energy industry is on the rise.

Underlying the problem of fracking is, literally, the Marcellus Shale (which is formally called, coincidentally, the Marcellus Member of the Romney Formation). This massive, underground geologic formation stretches from upstate New York across Pennsylvania and eastern Ohio, through West Virginia, Tennessee and parts of Virginia. Unlike the easily extracted crude oil of Saudi Arabia, the natural gas in the Marcellus Shale is captured in tiny pockets, and is hard to get at. In order to extract it with what the industry considers efficiency, holes are drilled thousands of feet deep, which then turn a corner and continue thousands more feet, horizontally. The detonation of explosive charges, coupled with the infusion of high-pressure fluids, fractures the shale, allowing the gas to bubble up to the surface.

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Published: Thursday 30 August 2012
“In their case, the company laying them off and sending their jobs overseas is Bain Capital, co-founded by the Republican presidential nominee, Mitt Romney.”

 

Four hardy souls from rural Illinois joined tens of thousands of people undeterred by threats of Hurricane Isaac during this week’s Republican National Convention. They weren’t among the almost 2,400 delegates to the convention, though, nor were they from the press corps, said to number 15,000. They weren’t part of the massive police force assembled here, more than 3,000 strong, all paid for with $50 million of U.S. taxpayer money. These four were about to join a much larger group: the more than 2.4 million people in the past decade whose U.S. jobs have been shipped to China. In their case, the company laying them off and sending their jobs overseas is Bain Capital, co-founded by the Republican presidential nominee, Mitt Romney.

We met the group at Romneyville, a tent city on the outskirts of downtown Tampa, established by the Poor People’s Economic Human Rights Campaign in the spirit of the Hoovervilles of the Great Depression. A couple hundred people gathered before the makeshift stage to hear speakers and musicians, under intermittent downpours and the noise of three police helicopters drowning out the voices of the anti-poverty activists. Scores of police on bicycles occupied the surrounding streets.

Cheryl Randecker was one of those four we met at Romneyville whose Bain jobs are among the 170 slated to be off-shored. They build transmission sensors for many cars and trucks made in the United States.  Cheryl was sent to China to train workers there, not knowing that the company was about to be sold and the jobs she was training people for included her own.  I asked her how it ...

Published: Thursday 23 August 2012
While publicly touted as a law intended to inhibit voter impersonation at the polls, its real intent was explained in a rare moment of candor by Pennsylvania House Majority Leader Mike Turzai, who,bragged, “Voter ID, which is going to allow Governor Romney to win the state of Pennsylvania: Done.”

 

People remember 1929 as the year of the stock-market crash and the beginning of the Great Depression, the global economic disaster which remains the only one in history that dwarfs the one in which we now find ourselves. It was also the year Martin Luther King Jr. was born, who wouldn’t live to see 40 years. And it was the year that Langston Hughes graduated from Lincoln University, outside Philadelphia.

Hughes, the grandson of abolitionists and voting-rights activists, was an African-American writer. His poem “A Dream Deferred” begins:

“What happens to a dream deferred?

Does it dry up

like a raisin in the sun?

Or fester like a sore—

 

And then run?”

Hughes left Lincoln University, one of the 105 historically black colleges and universities in the U.S., and spent the rest of his life campaigning for civil and human rights. He died in 1967, two years after President Lyndon Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act into law.

Almost 80 years after his graduation, Lincoln students eagerly awaited the opportunity to cast their vote, many no doubt for the first major-party African-American candidate for president, Barack Obama. For years, the Chester County Board ...

Published: Thursday 9 August 2012
“It’s the consensus, not the gridlock, that’s the problem.”

Another mass murder, another shooting spree, leaving bodies bullet-riddled by a legally obtained weapon. This time, it was Oak Creek, Wis., at a Sikh temple, as people gathered for their weekly worship. President Barack Obama said Monday, “I think all of us recognize that these kinds of terrible, tragic events are happening with too much regularity for us not to do some soul-searching.” Amidst the carnage, platitudes. With an average of 32 people killed by guns in this country every day—the equivalent of five Wisconsin massacres per day—both major parties refuse to deal with gun control. It’s the consensus, not the gridlock, that’s the problem.

The president’s press secretary, Jay Carney, said, “We need to take common-sense measures that protect Second Amendment rights and make it harder for those who should not have weapons under existing law from obtaining weapons.” It’s important to note where Jay Carney made that point, reiterating the phrase “common sense” five times in relation to the President’s intransigence against strengthening gun laws, and invoking “Second Amendment” a stunning eight times. He spoke from the James S. Brady Press Briefing Room in the White House, named after one of Mr. Carney’s predecessors, shot in the head by John Hinckley during the attempted assassination of President Ronald Reagan in 1981. Brady survived and co-founded with his wife the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence. After each of these massacres, the Brady Campaign has called for strengthened gun control.

This latest mass ...

Published: Thursday 2 August 2012
“Thanks to a last-minute declaration by the United States that it “needed more time” to review the short, 11-page treaty text, the conference ended last week in failure.”

 

Quick: What is more heavily regulated, global trade of bananas or battleships? In late June, activists gathered in New York’s Times Square to make the absurd point, that, unbelievably, “there are more rules governing your ability to trade a banana from one country to the next than governing your ability to trade an AK-47 or a military helicopter.” So said Amnesty International USA’s Suzanne Nossel at the protest, just before the start of the United Nations Conference on the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT), which ran from July 2 to July 27. Thanks to a last-minute declaration by the United States that it “needed more time” to review the short, 11-page treaty text, the conference ended last week in failure.

There isn’t much that could be considered controversial in the treaty. Signatory governments agree not to export weapons to countries that are under an arms embargo, or to export weapons that would facilitate “the commission of genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes” or other violations of international humanitarian law. Exports of arms are banned if they will facilitate “gender-based violence or violence against children” or be used for “transnational organized crime.” Why does the United States need more time than the more than 90 other countries that had sufficient time to read and approve the text? The answer lies in the power of the gun lobby, the arms industry and the apparent inability of President Barack Obama to do the right thing, especially if it contradicts a cold, political calculation.

The Obama administration torpedoed the ...

Published: Thursday 26 July 2012
“Perhaps, if sane laws on gun control, including the ban on high- capacity magazines, were in place, many in Aurora who are now dead or seriously injured would be alive and well today.”

James Holmes, the alleged shooter in the massacre in Aurora, Colo., reportedly amassed his huge arsenal with relative ease. Some of these weapons were illegal as recently as eight years ago. Legislation now before Congress would once again make illegal, if not the guns themselves, at least the high-capacity magazines that allow bullets to be fired rapidly without stopping to reload. Holmes bought most of his weaponry within recent months, we are told. Perhaps, if sane laws on gun control, including the ban on high- capacity magazines, were in place, many in Aurora who are now dead or seriously injured would be alive and well today.

The facts of the assault are generally well-known. Holmes allegedly burst into the packed theater during the 12:30 am premier of the Batman sequel “The Dark Knight Rises,” threw one or two canisters of some gas or irritant, which exploded, then began to methodically shoot people, killing 12 and wounding 58.

“Everybody sort of started screaming, and that’s when the gunman opened fire on the crowd, and pandemonium just broke out,” Omar Esparza told me. He was in the third row, with five friends out for a birthday celebration: “He started opening fire on the audience pretty freely, just started shooting in every direction, that’s when everybody started screaming, started panicking. A lot of people had been hit at that point at those initial few rounds, and that’s when everybody sort of hit the floor and started to exit.”

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Published: Thursday 19 July 2012
“From Picasso’s “Guernica” to Luis Iriondo Aurtenetxea’s self-portrait with his mother, to the efforts of Oier Plaza and his young friends, the power of art to turn swords into plowshares, to resist war, is perennially renewed.”

Seventy-five years ago, the Spanish town of Guernica was bombed into rubble. The brutal act propelled one of the world’s greatest artists into a three-week painting frenzy. Pablo Picasso’s “Guernica” starkly depicts the horrors of war, etched into the faces of the people and the animals on the 20-by-30-foot canvas. It would not prove to be the worst attack during the Spanish Civil War, but it became the most famous, through the power of art. The impact of the thousands of bombs dropped on Guernica, of the aircraft machine guns strafing civilians trying to flee the inferno, is still felt to this day—by the elderly survivors, who will eagerly share their vivid memories, as well as by Guernica’s youth, who are struggling to forge a future for their town out of its painful history.

The German Luftwaffe’s Condor Legion did the bombing at the request of Gen. Francisco Franco, who led a military rebellion against Spain’s democratically elected government. Franco enlisted the help of Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini, who were eager to practice modern techniques of warfare on the defenseless citizens of Spain. The bombing of Guernica was the first complete destruction by aerial bombardment of a civilian city in European history. While homes and shops were destroyed, several arms-manufacturing facilities, along with a key bridge and the rail line, were left intact.

Spry and alert at 89, Luis Iriondo Aurtenetxea sat down with me in the offices of Gernika Gogoratuz, which means “Remembering Gernika” in the Basque language. Basque is an ancient language and is ...

Published: Thursday 12 July 2012
“As Rajoy was making his announcement in parliament, the miners were in the streets, joined by thousands of regular citizens, all demanding that government cuts be halted. ”

As Spain’s prime minister announced deep austerity cuts Wednesday in order to secure funds from the European Union to bail out Spain’s failing banks, the people of Spain have taken to the streets once again for what they call “Real Democracy Now.” This comes a week after the government announced it was launching a criminal investigation into the former CEO of Spain’s fourth-largest bank, Bankia. Rodrigo Rato is no small fish: Before running Bankia he was head of the International Monetary Fund. What the U.S. media don’t tell you is that this official government investigation was initiated by grass-roots action.

The Occupy movement in Spain is called M-15, for the day it began, May 15, 2011. I met with one of the key organizers in Madrid last week on the day the Rato investigation was announced. He smiled, and said, “Something is starting to happen.” The organizer, Stephane Grueso, is an activist filmmaker who is making a documentary about the May 15 movement. He is a talented professional, but, like 25 percent of the Spanish population, he is unemployed: “We didn’t like what we were seeing, where we were going. We felt we were losing our democracy, we were losing our country, we were losing our way of life. ... We had one slogan: ‘Democracia real YA!’—we want a ‘real democracy, now!’ Fifty people stayed overnight in Puerta del Sol, this public square. And then the police tried to take us out, and so we came back. And then this thing began to multiply in other cities in Spain. In three, four days’ time, we were like tens of thousands of people in dozens of cities in Spain, camped in the middle of the city—a little bit like we ...

Published: Monday 9 July 2012
The DOJ blocked Texas’ voter ID law in March, saying it will disenfranchise at least 600,000 voters -- a disproportionate number of which are Latinos and other minority groups.

The Justice Department and the Texas Legislature are squaring off in court today over the state's controversial voter ID law. The law requires voters to show photo identification at the polls, and Texas hopes to implement it before the November election. The DOJ blocked Texas' voter ID law in March, saying it will disenfranchise at least 600,000 voters -- a disproportionate number of which are Latinos and other minority groups. Currently, 16 states have passed restrictive voting laws that have the potential to impact the 2012 election, including vital swing states such as Florida and Pennsylvania. We speak with Robert Notzon, the Legal Redress Chair for the Texas State Conference of the NAACP and co-counsel in a lawsuit challenging Texas' voter ID law; and Ari Berman, who covers voting rights for The Nation and Rolling Stone magazines. "Not only is Texas such a large state but it has probably the strictest voter ID law on the books right now," Berman says. "You can vote with a handgun permit but not a student ID. Hispanics are anywhere from 46% to 120% more likely to not have an ID than white voters. In some ways it really is 'As goes Texas, so goes the nation' in terms of demographic change and the Republican response."

Published: Thursday 5 July 2012
“The U.S. news media have a critical role to play in educating the public about climate change.”

 

Evidence supporting the existence of climate change is pummeling the United States this summer, from the mountain wildfires of Colorado to the recent “derecho” storm that left at least 23 dead and 1.4 million people without power from Illinois to Virginia. The phrase “extreme weather” flashes across television screens from coast to coast, but its connection to climate change is consistently ignored, if not outright mocked. If our news media, including—or especially—the meteorologists, continue to ignore the essential link between extreme weather and climate change, then we as a nation, the greatest per capita polluters on the planet, may not act in time to avert even greater catastrophe.

More than 2,000 heat records were broken last week around the U.S. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the government agency that tracks the data, reported that the spring of 2012 “marked the largest temperature departure from average of any season on record for the contiguous United States.” These record temperatures in May, NOAA says, “have been so dramatically different that they establish a new ‘neighborhood’ apart from the historical year-to-date temperatures.”

In Colorado, at least seven major wildfires are burning at the time of this writing. The Waldo Canyon fire in Colorado Springs destroyed 347 homes and killed at least two people. The High Park fire farther north burned 259 homes and killed one. While officially “contained” now, that fire won’t go out, according to Colorado’s Office of Emergency ...

Published: Thursday 28 June 2012
“Now, close to 100 years later, it may take a popular movement to amend the Constitution again, this time to overturn Citizens United and confirm, finally and legally, that corporations are not people.”

“I never bought a man who wasn’t for sale,” William A. Clark reportedly said. He was one of Montana’s “Copper Kings,” a man who used his vast wealth to manipulate the state government and literally buy votes to make himself a U.S. senator. That was more than 100 years ago, and the blatant corruption of Clark and the other Copper Kings created a furor that led to the passage, by citizen initiative, of Montana’s Corrupt Practices Act in 1912. The century of transparent campaign-finance restrictions that followed, preventing corporate money from influencing elections, came to an end this week, as the U.S. Supreme Court summarily reversed the Montana law.  Five justices of the U.S Supreme Court reiterated: Their controversial Citizens United ruling remains the law of the land. Clark’s corruption contributed to the passage of the 17th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Now, close to 100 years later, it may take a popular movement to amend the Constitution again, this time to overturn Citizens United and confirm, finally and legally, that corporations are not people.

Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission is the case in which the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that corporations can contribute unlimited amounts of funds toward what are deemed “independent expenditures” in our elections. Thus, corporations, or shadowy “super PACS” that they choose to fund, can spend as much as they care to on negative campaign ads, just as long as they don’t coordinate with a candidate’s campaign committee. That 2010 ruling, approved by a narrow 5-4 majority of the court, has profoundly altered the electoral landscape—not only for the presidential ...

Published: Thursday 14 June 2012
“Unless people fight to dramatically expand voter participation, not just prevent the purges, our democracy is in serious danger.”

As the election season heats up, an increasing number of states are working to limit the number of people who are allowed to vote. Already we have a shamefully low percentage of those eligible to vote actually participating. Florida, a key swing state, is preparing for the Republican National Convention, five days of pomp promoted as a celebration of democracy. While throwing this party, Florida Republican Gov. Rick Scott, along with his secretary of state, Ken Detzner, are systematically throwing people off the voter rolls, based on flawed, outdated Florida state databases.

Many eligible Florida voters recently received a letter saying they were removed and had limited time to prove their citizenship.  Hundreds of cases emerged where people with long-standing U.S. citizenship were being purged. According to the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida, “of those singled out to prove their citizenship, 61 percent are Hispanic when only 14 percent of registered Florida voters are Hispanic,” suggesting an attempt to purge Latinos, who tend to vote Democratic. Recall the year 2000, when then-Florida Secretary of State Katherine Harris systematically purged African-Americans from voter rolls. The U.S. Justice Department has ordered Detzner to stop the purge, but he and Gov. Scott promise to continue. The Justice Department has sued the state in federal court, as have the ACLU and other groups.

For Georgia Congressman John Lewis, efforts to limit access to vote are not just bureaucratic. “It is unreal, it is unbelievable, that at this time in our history, 40 years after the Voting Rights Act was ...

Published: Thursday 7 June 2012
“Scott Walker’s win signals less a loss for the unions than a loss for our democracy in this post-Citizens United era, when elections can be bought with the help of a few billionaires.”

 

The failed effort to recall Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker is widely seen as a crisis for the labor movement, and a pivotal moment in the 2012 U.S. presidential-election season. Walker launched a controversial effort to roll back the power of Wisconsin’s public employee unions, and the unions pushed back, aided by strong, grass-roots solidarity from many sectors. This week, the unions lost. Central to Walker’s win was a massive infusion of campaign cash, saturating the Badger state with months of political advertising. His win signals less a loss for the unions than a loss for our democracy in this post-Citizens United era, when elections can be bought with the help of a few billionaires.

In February 2011, the newly elected Walker, a former Milwaukee county executive, rolled out a plan to strip public employees of their collective-bargaining rights, a platform he had not run on.  The backlash was historic. Tens of thousands marched on the Wisconsin Capitol, eventually occupying it. Walker threatened to call out the National Guard. The numbers grew. Despite Walker’s strategy to “divide and conquer” the unions (a phrase he was overheard saying in a recorded conversation with a billionaire donor), the police and firefighters unions, whose bargaining rights he had strategically left intact, came out in support of the occupation. Across the world, the occupation of Tahrir Square in Egypt was in full swing, with signs in English and Arabic expressing solidarity with the workers of Wisconsin.

The demands for workers rights were powerful and sustained. The momentum surged toward a demand to ...

Published: Tuesday 5 June 2012
“At least 27 people have been killed in three consecutive days of U.S. drone strikes inside Pakistan, part of a new wave of attacks over the past two weeks.”

At least 27 people have been killed in three consecutive days of U.S. drone strikes inside Pakistan, part of a new wave of attacks over the past two weeks. The surge in drone strikes comes just a week after the New York Times revealed that President Obama personally oversees a “secret kill list” containing the names and photos of individuals targeted for assassination in the U.S. drone war. We go to London to speak with Chris Woods, award-winning reporter with the Bureau of Investigative Journalism in London, who heads the Bureau’s drones investigation team. Under the Obama administration’s rules, “any adult male killed in effectively a defined kill zone is a terrorist, unless posthumously proven otherwise,” Woods says. “We think this goes a long way to explaining the gulf between our reporting of civilian casualties in Pakistan and Yemen and the reporting of credible international news organizations, and the CIA’s repeated claims that it isn’t killing [civilians], or rather, is killing small numbers. ... If you keep assuring yourself that you’re not killing civilians, by a sleight of hand, effectively, by a redrafting of the term of 'civilian,' than that starts to influence the policy and to encourage you to carry out more drone strikes.” Woods adds that the latest attacks “indicate not just a significant rise in the number of CIA strikes in Pakistan, but an aggression for those strikes that we really haven’t seen for over a year.”

 

Published: Thursday 31 May 2012
“This week’s developments bear crucially on the public’s right to know, and why whistle-blowers must be protected.”

 

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange’s protracted effort to fight extradition to Sweden suffered a body blow this week. Britain’s Supreme Court upheld the arrest warrant, issued in December 2010. After the court announced its split 5-2 decision, the justices surprised many legal observers by granting Assange’s lawyers an opportunity to challenge their decision—the first such reconsideration since the high-profile British extradition case from more than a decade ago against former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet. The decision came almost two years to the day after Pvt. Bradley Manning was arrested in Iraq for allegedly leaking hundreds of thousands of classified U.S. government documents to WikiLeaks. The cases remind us that all too often whistle-blowers suffer, while war criminals walk.

Assange has not been charged with any crime, yet he has been under house arrest in England for close to two years, ever since a “European Arrest Warrant” was issued by Sweden (importantly, by a prosecutor, not by a judge). Hoping to question Assange, the prosecutor issued the warrant for suspicion of rape, unlawful coercion and sexual molestation. Assange offered to meet the Swedish authorities in their embassy in London, or in Scotland Yard, but was refused.

Assange and his supporters allege that the warrant is part of an attempt by the U.S. government to imprison him, or even execute him, and to shut down WikiLeaks. In April 2010, WikiLeaks released a U.S. military video that it named “Collateral Murder,” with graphic video showing an Apache helicopter unit killing of at least 12 ...

Published: Thursday 24 May 2012
Leading thousands of protesters in a peaceful march against NATO’s wars, each veteran climbed to the makeshift stage outside the fenced summit, made a brief statement and threw his or her medals at the gate.

 

Gen. John Allen, commander, U.S. Forces Afghanistan, spoke Wednesday at the Pentagon, four stars on each shoulder, his chest bedecked with medals. Allen said the NATO summit in Chicago, which left him feeling “heartened,” “was a powerful signal of international support for the Afghan-led process of reconciliation.” Unlike Allen, many decorated U.S. military  veterans left the streets of Chicago after the NATO summit without their medals. They marched on the paramilitarized convention center where the generals and heads of state had gathered and threw their medals at the high fence surrounding the summit. They were joined by women from Afghans for Peace, and an American mother whose son killed himself after his second deployment to Iraq.

Leading thousands of protesters in a peaceful march against NATO’s wars, each veteran climbed to the makeshift stage outside the fenced summit, made a brief statement and threw his or her medals at the gate.

As taps was played, veterans folded an American flag that had flown over NATO military operations in Bosnia, Kosovo, Serbia, Afghanistan and Libya and handed it to Mary Kirkland. Her son, Derrick, joined the Army in January 2007, since he was not earning enough to support his wife and child as a cook at an IHOP restaurant. During his second deployment, Mary told me, “he ended up putting a shotgun in his mouth over there in Iraq, and one of his buddies stopped him.” He was transferred to Germany then back to his home base of Fort Lewis, Wash.

“He came back on a Monday after two failed suicide attempts in a three-week period. They kept him overnight at Madigan Army Medical Center at Fort Lewis. He met with a psychiatrist the next day who deemed him to be low to moderate risk for ...

Published: Monday 19 September 2011

In an extended interview with Noam Chomsky--noted activist, linguist, and philosopher--Democracy Now! asked the professor about his views on the positions of the GOP presidential candidates. Dr. Chomsky said that while he is no fan of President Obama, the positions of most Republican candidates on issues such as climate change are "utterly outlandish."

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