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Archive for November, 2010

WikiLeaks U.S. Embassy Cables: New Documents Released

AP/The Huffington Post First Posted: 11-28-10 01:36 PM   |   Updated: 11-28-10 03:19 PM

This article is being updated.

WASHINGTON — The New York Times and The Guardian have published a selection of the 250,000 classified State Department documents provided to them by the online website WikiLeaks. The WikiLeaks website appeared to be inaccessible, and WikiLeaks said in its Twitter feed that it was experiencing a denial of service attack. WikiLeaks also provided the documents to Spain’s El Pais, France’s Le Monde, and Germany’s Der Spiegel.

According to The New York Times, the cables reveal how foreign leaders, including Israel’s defense minister Ehud Barak and Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah, urged the U.S. to confront Iran over its nuclear program.

“The cables also contain a fresh American intelligence assessment of Iran’s missile program,” The Times reports. “They reveal for the first time that the United States believes that Iran has obtained advanced missiles from North Korea that could let it strike at Western European capitals and Moscow and help it develop more formidable long-range ballistic missiles.”

Haaretz reports that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attempted to pressure the U.S. into military action against Iran by exaggerating its nuclear capabilities:

Meanwhile, another cable shows that a 2009 claim by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that Iran was months away from achieving military nuclear capability was dismissed by the Americans as a ploy.According to German weekly Der Spiegel, which also received advance information from WIkiLeaks, a State Department official says in a classified cable that Netanyahu informed the United States of Iran’s nuclear advancement in November 2009, but that the prime minister’s estimate was likely unfounded and intended to pressure Washington into action against the Islamic Republic.

Perhaps more embarrassing to U.S. officials is the revelation, according to The Guardian that U.S. diplomats spied on UN officials, including Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon:

A classified directive which appears to blur the line between diplomacy and spying was issued to US diplomats under Hillary Clinton’s name in July 2009, demanding forensic technical details about the communications systems used by top UN officials, including passwords and personal encryption keys used in private and commercial networks for official communications.

MORE HERE

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5 Ways to Deal With Your Conservative Relatives This Thanksgiving

How does one deal with the conservatives at the family table while avoiding a massive food fight? Stay calm and relaxed, and follow these simple guidelines.
November 24, 2010 |

Maybe your brother-in-law works on Wall Street and declares he wants to see the Bush tax cuts extended indefinitely as he scoops himself a generous portion of mashed potatoes. Or perhaps your aunt mentions, while checking on the turkey, that Sarah Palin is her role model and she can’t wait to follow her Rupert Murdoch-sponsored book tour from city to city. Or maybe, over a slice of pumpkin pie and coffee, your grandfather suggests that the Tea Party’s ideas aren’t half bad, and he likes that Rand Paul fella because he’s really getting the government out of people’s Medicare.

Given this month’s volatile political climate, chances are someone’s going to break the no politics/no religion rule and say something to make your blood boil as you sit around the table this Thanksgiving. When that cringe-inducing moment arrives, whether it’s over appetizers or dessert, you want to defend the honor of progressives and their ideas without coming across as snotty, snarky, or out of touch. And without letting the situation devolve into violence. (You’re a pacifist, right?)

As tempting as it will be to ask sarcastic questions about teabagging and what kind of scones are served at Tea Parties, that will only get you so far. And you don’t want to ruin your appetite. It’s Thanskgiving, after all.

So how does one deal with the conservatives at the family table while avoiding a massive food fight? Stay calm and relaxed, and follow these simple guidelines.

MORE HERE

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Happy Thanksgiving Justice Bloggers!

Have a safe and fun holiday!

Suzie-Q

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Why Do Americans Keep Getting Suckered By Right-Wing Lies?


Until progressives change the mind sets of the tens of millions who believe right-wing mythology, elections will be disappointing regardless of who is in the White House.
November 21, 2010 |

Ideas don’t happen on their own. Throughout history ideas need patrons.” —Matt Kibbe, president of Freedom-Works, a tea party advocacy group, quoted in Jane Mayer’s piece on the Koch brothers in The New Yorker.

Almost half of the public is either misinformed or subject to unanswered right wing narratives. If I believed that there was a chance of Sharia law being imposed in the United States I too would be gravely concerned. If I believed that most Europeans and Canadians had inferior health care to that of average Americans, I too would be against health care reform. If I believed that man-made global warning did not exist or that there were nothing we could do about it and that environmental efforts were responsible for unemployment I’d be against cap and trade. If I believed that prisoner abuse would make my family significantly less likely to be killed by terrorists, my thinking about torture would be different. And if I believed that the problems with the economy had been caused by too much government instead of too little, that my personal freedom was threatened by the government instead of large corporations, I’d probably be in a tea party supporter and a Republican.

Unless and until progressives change the mind sets of the tens of millions of people who believe right-wing mythology, who never read the New York Times or listen to NPR, who never watch any TV news other than Fox, future elections will have disappointing results for progressives regardless of who is in the White House.

Even Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert have limits to their ability to de-program those who have been indoctrinated by conservative orthodoxy. As David Bromwich recently wrote in New York Review of Books, “You can learn from them why the wrong ideas are funny, but you cannot learn why the wrong ideas are wrong.”

Changing minds is more of an art than a science. Polling and focus groups are reasonably accurate at determining how people already feel, but the idea that every message to educate or convert can be mathematically tested is illusory. Even more dangerous is the notion that public opinion somehow comes from the sky and is thus impossible to influence. The right wing knows better.

MORE HERE

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Bernanke Calls On Congress To Help The Economy — For At Least The Fourth Time In Five Months

Huff Post

William Alden & Shahien Nasiripour

First Posted: 11-20-10 09:01 AM   |   Updated: 11-20-10 01:55 PM

NEW YORK — For at least the fourth time since June, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke publicly urged Congress to combat the lackluster recovery by increasing government spending, a recommendation that has gone unheeded by lawmakers.

In a speech at a conference of central bankers in Frankfurt, Bernanke once again said the Fed cannot save the economy on its own. The Fed’s recent move to add to its ballooning balance sheet by committing to buy up to $600 billion of government debt faces “limits” to its effectiveness, Bernanke said. The rest of the government, the chairman added, could aid the Fed’s efforts by hammering out a plan for stimulative spending. The right kind of spending, he noted, could help reduce the budget deficit over the long-term by first boosting economic growth.

“[I]n general terms, a fiscal program that combines near-term measures to enhance growth with strong, confidence-inducing steps to reduce longer-term structural deficits would be an important complement to the policies of the Federal Reserve,” Bernanke said Friday, according to his written remarks.

The fiscal policy recommendation came directly after Bernanke acknowledged it isn’t his job to make such policy proposals. “The Federal Reserve is nonpartisan and does not make recommendations regarding specific tax and spending programs,” the chairman noted.

The official parameters of his job, though, have not stopped Bernanke from engaging in backseat driving. At least four times since June — on June 9, July 21, July 22 and now Friday — he has urged lawmakers to increase spending to jumpstart the lagging economy.

But policy makers have proved to be unable to agree upon such a plan — or even propose one that’s viable. The rest of the nation has suffered as a result, as near-10 percent unemployment continues to hobble the economy. Democrats recently lost control of the House of Representatives, and a substantial part of their majority in the Senate. Voters said the dismal economy was their top concern.

To combat an ineffectual Washington establishment, the Fed has taken matters into its own hands. By buying up to $600 billion of government debt, the central bank hopes to increase the flow of money through the economy. Critics of the program, which is intended to lower interest rates and encourage corporate spending, have said the cheap money will not convince businesses to create jobs.

MORE HERE

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As stimulus funds near end, new pain will begin

by Ronald J. Hansen – Nov. 21, 2010 12:00 AM
The Arizona Republic

If people didn’t like the federal stimulus, they may hate when it’s gone.

As the year winds down, the $862 billion plan to rescue the economy from the depths of the recession enters a new phase in which tax cuts and credits expire and countless hard-to-replace construction projects will end. Thousands of workers in some states could lose their jobs.

The political power shift brought about by the midterm elections has likely settled any lingering doubts that the stimulus will largely run out, as scheduled, in the coming months. A smaller package of federal aid that passed in August, primarily for teachers, also will rapidly disappear. With the new Republican majority in the House next year, there will be little support for similar additional measures.

Worries about the national debt and a negative view of the stimulus augur a new period when more businesses must survive on their own and governments must tighten their belts. The austerity will be widely felt.

Nearly every worker in the nation will see slightly slimmer paychecks as $400 individual tax cuts are slated to end this year.

Tax credits, such as those offering incentives for energy-efficiency improvements for homeowners, also are set to lapse at year’s end. The earned-income tax credit, which rewards the working poor, will no longer include funding for those with a third child.

MORE HERE

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Rolling Stone feature discusses issues explored in The American Ruling Class

facebook July 16, 2009

by Alive Mind

The American Ruling Class has never been more relevant to the current news cycle or to the collective consciousness of the American public. Goldman Sachs is announcing record profits and it is the subject of a big Rolling Stone expose in which Matt Taibbi discusses “The Great American Bubble Machine,” stating, “The first thing you need to know about Goldman Sachs is that it’s everywhere. The world’s most powerful investment bank is a great vampire squid wrapped around the face of humanity, relentlessly jamming its blood funnel into anything that smells like money.” Does Goldman Sachs still rule the world? Find out the back story with the feature documentary, The American Ruling Class.

John Kirby , the director for this film, also posts on the Providence Journal and has done an article on “Building What”. The ad and “Geraldo-at-Large” spot can be seen on the family-members’ campaign Web site, .buildingwhat.org.

The movie, about an hour and a half, can be seen on HULU

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Cable news reached an all new level of self-satire and hackery this week as various daytime “serious” anchors mindlessly repeated the phrase “touch my junk” over and over. Years of journalism training, internships and advanced education and they’re repeating “touch my junk” in the context of a videotaped airport security fracas.

And, speaking of journalistic integrity, “touch my junk” was featured between repeat airings of the brain-shrinkingly stupid commercial for abstinence featuring “The Situation” and Bristol Palin, both of whom are famous for their, you know, virginity. But good job, anyway, cable news people. Nailed it. You must be very proud.

Meanwhile, the TSA airport security segments on cable news have been prompted by two sources.

First, a blog entry by a would-be airline traveler who rightfully refused to submit to both a naked backscatter scan and, subsequently, a manual pat-down at San Diego International. The blogger videotaped much of the process and, as is heard on the video, exclaimed, “If you touch my junk, I’ll have you arrested.” The full description of this confrontation can be found at the blogger’s website.

Second, and not surprisingly, the broader TSA body scanner story has been egged on by a week’s worth of screamer headlines and “Big Sis” snark from Matt Drudge because, as Mark Halperin famously put it: “Drudge rules our world.” (“Big Sis” is Drudge’s too-clever nickname for DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano.)

Before I get into why this is so twisted, I should mention here that, in theory, I actually agree with Drudge about the body scanners and some of the (often purely cosmetic) increased security measures at airports.

The full body scanners, also known as millimeter wave scanners, are an obvious and very creepy violation of privacy and, despite what Homeland Security and the TSA are suggesting, the freakish naked images can, in fact, be saved and leaked. Not surprisingly, there is also untold health issues involved with being bombarded from head to toe with radiation. And, oh yeah, the scanners really wouldn’t have stopped terrorists like the Underwear Bomber because the scanners aren’t very good at picking up “low-density materials like plastics, chemicals, and liquids — precisely what the underwear bomber had stuffed in his briefs,” according to Mother Jones magazine.

Ultimately, and for all of these reasons, vocal opposition to the naked body scanners transcends ideologies and political affiliations — lately at least (more on that presently). But the opposition isn’t making much of a dent in terms of rolling back this unconstitutional security measure: a new CBS poll released today shows that 81 percent of Americans favor the use of the scanners. Sad.

(more…)

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9/11 Families Ask: What Happened to the Third Building That Collapsed in the WTC Attacks?

A new ad campaign featuring the family members of 9/11 victims, which does not focus on conspiracy theories, is getting serious treatment in the mainstream media.
Via:  AlterNet–  November 15, 2010 |

A new television ad campaign featuring the family members of 9/11 victims has succeeded in garnering what 9/11 activists have lacked for years: serious treatment in the mainstream media.

Granted, that media was Fox News host Geraldo Rivera, who in a former iteration ran a Jerry Springer-like daytime talk show. That and, the last time Rupert Murdoch’s conservative-tilted television channel seriously talked about issues pertaining to 9/11, they were calling for a public official’s resignation over a signature on one of the “9/11 truth” petitions.

Still, at the end of his serious-yet-brief treatment of questions surrounding the collapse of World Trade Center 7 (WTC 7, pictured), Rivera admitted that the activists had made him “much more open minded” about questions surrounding 9/11.

Rivera spoke in response to an ad playing in 30-second bytes on screens all around New York City, which does not focus on conspiracy theories. It does not feature hip-hop beats in the background or winded, red-faced protesters dressed in black shouting at reporters. It doesn’t even mention President George W. Bush, former Vice President Dick Cheney or the systemic failures in America’s air defenses.

Instead, it puts the spotlight on people who lost family members in the 2001 attacks. Patriotic background music plays as viewers are gently reminded that not two, but three buildings collapsed on 9/11.

“Although the official explanation is that fire brought down building seven, over 1,200 architects and engineers have looked into the evidence and believe there’s more to the story,” they say.

Then they implore viewers to help them seek justice, for their families, simply by visiting a web site: buildingwhat.org.

Their campaign’s name, “Building What?” was allegedly taken from the response offered by New York Supreme Court Justice Edward H. Lehner, when asked if he knew about WTC 7.

VIDEO AND MORE HERE

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