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Tuesday Watercooler

By: Kit OConnell Tuesday April 15, 2014 8:15 pm

 

A jar of medical grade Purple Diesel cannabis

Medical cannabis for prisoners … and cocaine addicts in Uruguay.

Tonight’s video is “Why is ketchup so hard to pour?” from TED-Ed.

Ever go to pour ketchup on your fries…and nothing comes out? Or the opposite happens, and your plate is suddenly swimming in a sea of red? George Zaidan describes the physics behind this frustrating phenomenon, explaining how ketchup and other non-Newtonian fluids can suddenly transition from solid to liquid and back again.

Being able to refer to ketchup as a non-Newtonian fluid sounds like it could be fun conversation at the right parties.

We’ve covered Uruguay’s efforts to legalize cannabis frequently here on Firedoglake. A recent tidbit via Mint Press News: prisoners in Uruguay will be able to get medical marijuana with a prescription. Not only that, they might use cannabis to treat cocaine addiction, rather than sending addicts to jail! Via Huffington Post:

‘Jail is not a very suitable place for someone to safely overcome drug addiction,’ Leonel Briozzo, the country’s undersecretary for public health, said in an event at the U.N. Briozzo called for ‘new strategies for drug addiction treatment, especially for harder drugs like “pasta base.” And in that sense, we harbor a possible hope that medical marijuana can play a role in this as well.’

‘Pasta base’ — also known as ‘paco’ — is cocaine base paste, a byproduct of the cocaine refining process. The cheap drug swept through Uruguay and neighboring Argentina during the 2000s, leaving public health officials struggling to control its fallout.

Research on medical marijuana’s efficacy in treating addiction to other, ‘hard’ drugs like pasta base appears limited. But other countries, such as Colombia, have begun considering projects seeking to use marijuana to treat addicts.

‘The idea isn’t that marijuana will substitute for what is obviously a much harder and more dangerous drug, but that marijuana can help reduce the anxieties when you go off that drug,’ said Coletta Youngers, an associate at the International Drug Policy Consortium.

Bonus: Our Rad Justice System,” a comic from Matt Bors.

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Den Plirono Delegation from Athens Visits Barcelona

By: GREYDOG
Den Plirono members holding a banner

Vassilis Papadopoulos, Linda Ross (aka greydogg) and Theodosis Temzelidis

Posted by greydogg, 99GetSmart

A delegation from the Den Plirono (“I Won’t Pay”) Movement in Greece met Friday, April 4, 2014, in Barcelona with Linda Ross and other activist comrades to deepen relations between the civil disobedience movements of the two countries.

Vassilis Papadopoulos, president of the Movement, and Theodossis Temzelidis, member of the political secretariat of the Movement, represented Den Plirono in Barcelona.

Linda Ross is a well-known activist who has supported the Den Plirono Movement in many ways and is now living in Barcelona.

During the meeting, they exchanged experiences between the movements of the two countries and laid the foundations for the further deepening of relations. 

The delegation of the Movement will meet with other political forces in the region.

Greece and Spain are in the midst of the storm of the capitalist crisis. Common problems include the closing of stores in Barcelona as in Athens and in other cities of the two countries.

The solution to the problems of 99% of the people can be found in the common struggle of the peoples of Europe and the overthrow of the system of exploitation through the assertion of human rights.

The people united will never be defeated.

Den Plirono movement:

Europe: Copycats and the Arrow of Time

By: Deena Stryker Monday April 14, 2014 7:25 am
Closeup of 6 o'clock portion of an antique clock face, with hour and minute hands at 4:30.

Time’s arrow pulls Europe forward.

I’ve often written about the application of the modern physics principle — that the arrow of time is irreversible — to world affairs and politics in general. Today it is combined with copycat behaviors, thus becoming all the more important to understand

As Ukrainians pursue the historically-dictated split of their country, the West once again joining with Poland while the largely Russian-speaking East either becomes independent or joins again with Russia, using popular brute force not seen in Europe since the Second World War — or perhaps the Russian Revolution — European demonstrators fed up with Brussels and IMF imposed austerity are obviously thinking ‘We can do that, too!’

Ever since the end of World War II, in which Communist and Socialist parties across Europe played a major role in resisting and undermining German occupation, trade unions have provided the left with a strong backbone, allowing workers to demand and obtain benefits American workers cannot even imagine. Their resilience continues to be seen every day on images of demonstrations across the European continent against levels of unemployment that hitherto had not existed in the welfare states.

European workers are also well aware of the role militarism plays in diminished social welfare, as EU countries have allowed themselves to be increasingly co-opted by Washington since 9/11. Although Vladimir Putin correctly noted the similarity between Kosovo’s right to independence and that of Crimea, the crisis in Ukraine is different from the nineteen-nineties war in Serbia.  Serbia lay in the heart of a Europe that was merely in the process of becoming united. Ukraine’s only claim to belong to a united Europe lies in its long history of being part of Poland; but it has an even longer history of being part of Russia. As for today’s Europeans, the fact that Ukraine looms as a putative relative inevitably dares them to show that they are just as capable of putting their bodies where their convictions are.

So much for the copycat aspect of the situation. As for the irreversibility of the arrow of time, this refers to the fact that once a trend is set in motion, it continues until it reaches a bifurcation point, when it can ‘dissipate’ (in the language of physics) to something different. What direction bifurcations take is unpredictable, but is usually influenced by previous history. Translated, this means that as revolts gather steam, the likelihood of them being stopped through negotiation or compromise is slight because each side is propelled inexorably forward. Revolutions and wars are the most obvious examples of bifurcations.

Nick Turse: The Pentagon, Libya, and Tomorrow’s Blowback Today

By: Tom Engelhardt Thursday June 16, 2011 7:43 am

This article originally appeared at TomDispatch.com. To receive TomDispatch in your inbox three times a week, click here.

A protester holds a sign reading 'NO MORE'

As the United States encourages insatiability in countries like Libya, it creates tomorrow’s enemies.

Be careful what you wish for.  In 2011, a Libyan rebellion began against autocrat Muammar Gaddafi.  It undoubtedly reflected the wish of many Libyans for a new world of their own without his heavy hand or that of his secret police and secret prisons. Wishing to be rid of a ruler long seen as a nemesis, Washington, in tandem with its NATO allies, joined the fray at a moment when it looked like the rebels might otherwise be going down. Without consulting Congress, and so of course without a declaration of war, President Obama brought in the planes, drones, and Tomahawk missiles. Air power certainly helped turned the tide and then hasten the fall of the autocrat.  Only one problem: what came next.

The aftermath proved to be a slowly devolving Libyan nightmare filled with militias of every sort, including jihadist ones. The results have been grim, including of course the death of a U.S. ambassador. In the meantime, weaponry from Gaddafi’s looted arsenals, ranging from modern assault rifles to antitank weapons and even shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missiles, soon began spreading to Mali, elsewhere in North Africa, and later as far as Egypt and Syria, as well as into the hands of “extremists and criminals.” The result has been a regional boost for exactly the jihadist forces the U.S. opposes most fervently, while for Libyans, it was the saddest story of all.  A recent poll indicates that, with a desperately weak central government and marauding militias, “more than one-third of Libyans report feeling unsafe going to the market, school, or work,” while 40% of women feel that way simply leaving their houses heading anywhere.  In response, Libya has been transformed into a gun-toting society, with firearms in nearly 30% of Libyan homes (though, according to that same poll, most Libyans “would happily give up their arms in an environment of a well functioning military and police and with an improvement in general security”).

Given the unsettling results of the 2011 intervention thus far, you might imagine that Washington and the Pentagon would think twice about what in the world to do next and perhaps adjust their approach. As events of the twenty-first century have made all too clear, however, there is no genuine learning curve in Washington when it comes to such things.  The only response is always, in some fashion, more of the similar, if not the same. Today, Nick Turse explores a new Pentagon scheme to train up a force whose Libyan recruits will be drawn from already existing and often notorious militias as a supposed future bulwark for the weak central government. It’s one of those plans that may sound sensible in Pentagon briefings but has “cockamamie” written all over it.  It practically comes with a bound-to-fail guarantee stamped on it and an assurance that it will increase the misery of Libyans.  Writ small, it seems to go to the heart of the distinctly underreported U.S. pivot to Africa which, as Turse has so vividly and repeatedly shown, is proving to be largely a machine for destabilizing the continent, stoking extremism, and creating the conditions for blowback. Of course, given the way Washington thinks, those results offer a guarantee of their own: a self-perpetuating employment program for the U.S. military into the distant future. Tom

Washington Fights Fire With Fire in Libya
How Not to End Violence in a War-Torn Land
By Nick Turse

Is the U.S. secretly training Libyan militiamen in the Canary Islands? And if not, are they planning to?

That’s what I asked a spokesman for U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM). “I am surprised by your mentioning the Canary Islands,” he responded by email.  “I have not heard this before, and wonder where you heard this.”

As it happens, mention of this shadowy mission on the Spanish archipelago off the northwest coast of Africa was revealed in an official briefing prepared for AFRICOM chief General David Rodriguez in the fall of 2013.  In the months since, the plan may have been permanently shelved in favor of a training mission carried out entirely in Bulgaria.  The document nonetheless highlights the U.S. military’s penchant for simple solutions to complex problems — with a well-documented potential for blowback in Africa and beyond.  It also raises serious questions about the recurring methods employed by the U.S. to stop the violence its actions helped spark in the first place.   

Ever since the U.S. helped oust dictator Muammar Gaddafi, with air and missile strikes against regime targets and major logistical and surveillance support to coalition partners, Libya has been sliding into increasing chaos.  Militias, some of them jihadist, have sprung up across the country, carving out fiefdoms while carrying out increasing numbers of assassinations and other types of attacks.  The solution seized upon by the U.S. and its allies in response to the devolving situation there: introduce yet another armed group into a country already rife with them.

The Rise of the Militias

After Gaddafi’s fall in 2011, a wide range of militias came to dominate Libya’s largest cities, filling a security vacuum left by the collapse of the old regime and providing a challenge to the new central government.  In Benghazi alone, an array of these armed groups arose.  And on September 11, 2012, that city, considered the cradle of the Libyan revolution, experienced attacks by members of the anti-Western Ansar al-Sharia, as well as other militias on the American mission and a nearby CIA facility.  During those assaults, which killed Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three other Americans, local armed groups called on for help or which might have intervened to save lives reportedly stood aside.

Jesus can’t get a few winks and God can’t buy Infiniti

By: patrick devlin Tuesday April 15, 2014 12:00 pm

 

Cross posted at the demise

Alarmed at the thought of poor shelter-less citizens invading the public’s well-kept city benches, citizens in Davidson, NC motivated by their “concerned for the safety of the neighborhood” have reported to local officials that a vagrant has set up camp in front of St. Alban’s Episcopal Church.

The vagrant, an art installation by Timothy Schmalz, is a life size bronze of a man, sheltering himself against the cold with a makeshift blanket, sleeping on a park bench called “Homeless Jesus”. An indication that the bronze sleeping vagrant is the Christ, the homeless wandering religious philosopher of the first century who challenged the people of his time to “give up all you own and follow” and, in later centuries, was exalted as the “king of kings”, are nail wounds on his exposed bare feet. The bronze is accompanied by a plaque with the gospel verse from Matthew; “as you did it to one of the least of my brothers, you did it to me.”

Rev. David Buck, St. Alban’s minister, told USA Today that the life-size statue that beckons viewers to become part of the work by leaving space on the ‘park bench’ for a single person to sit “makes people think about their faith commitment and the plight of the homeless in this country.” Rev, Buck feels that the art work, which is on church property, reflects the church’s commitment to social justice. Buck said that it is important to remember that “faith expresses itself not in beautiful buildings only, but mainly in care for those less fortunate, the marginalized.”

The artist had originally attempted to gain the cooperation of St. Michael’s Cathedral in Toronto and St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York (both Catholic churches) to display the art work, but had been turned down by both churches.

Concerned citizen Cindy Castano Swannack, who called the police to report the loitering artwork, when advised that the homeless person was actually art that had found a home, said she disagreed with the depiction of Christ as a vulnerable fellow human stating that Jesus was “not a vagrant” and not someone “who needs our help.”

As North Carolina citizens were coming face to face with a homeless Jesus, God himself sued the national credit reporting company Equifax for taking actions to prevent the deity from accessing Infiniti.

God Gazarov, who has a godly credit score of over 720, states in court documents that Equifax has prevented him from securing financing for the Infiniti that he wants to jump in and take for spin around the known universe, or at lease Brooklyn.

Gazarov, a Russian citizen who shares his first name with his grandfather, claims that Equifax has blocked him from accessing his credit file and score because security measures that the company uses refuse to accept that his given name, God, is his real name.

Gazarov says in his complaint that the company has denied his existence for more than 2 years, and his credit history, as reported by the company, is as empty as Christ’s tomb, preventing Gazarov from getting approved for credit cards and loans. Gazarov said that Equifax customer service personnel have even suggested that he change his first name to facilitate smoother credit transactions.

Equifax said that it was working with God to resolve problems with his account. The company says it “has processes in place to help ensure that businesses and individuals requesting access to credit are who they say they are. These processes flag standalone names that generally may not be associated with the valid openings of credit accounts.”

Gazarov’s attorney said that the company now, after the revelation of the court action, may indeed be ready to acquiesce and admit the existence of God.

Warrant reveals more fetishes of a #Scranton, PA Roman #Catholic priest

By: Ms. Pinky Stanseski Tuesday April 15, 2014 1:11 am
The back of a iPhone 4 including its camera lens and flash

Police searched the iPhone and other devices of a Catholic priest accused of sexual abuse.

Sexually violent predator Father Altavilla, a Roman Catholic Diocese of Scranton Priest charged with touching a teenage girl in 1998 told detectives he frequently searches the internet for depictions of women being raped.

Catholic Priest & his iPad & iPhone

The search warrant application for his iPhone, iPad & other devices revealed that Father Altavilla confessed to Lackawanna County Detectives Jennifer Gerrity & Vincent Uher on the day of his arrest that he struggled with a fetish involving feet, pantyhose, chloroform, and strangulation. He took pictures of the feet of teenage girls, including his victims, then he kept the pictures in a bag inside his residence.

Cryptic message

Father Altavilla consented to authorities permission to search his residence & they seized his computer & iPhone. Detective Uher saw a message in plain view indicating the author of a message to Father Altavilla was “haunted for years” & the author still remembers waking up with Father Altavilla. It is unknown if the message was in text, tweet, wall post or e-mail form, but Lackawanna County Assistant DA Jennifer McCambridge confirmed the woman who Father Altavilla is accused of raping in 1998 did not send the message. The Pennsylvania State Police are still analyzing the contents of Father Altavilla’s computer and everything else they seized. Father Altavilla will face his preliminary hearing on Rape & corruption of minors on 4/30/2014.

Ukraine Teeters on the Brink of Civil War and Invasion, or Not

By: Ohio Barbarian Sunday April 13, 2014 7:30 am
Russian anti-nazi propaganda poster from WWII shows nazis fleeing a Russian tank.

“The West keeps underestimating the intelligence, resourcefulness, and courage of the Russian people.”

Ethnic Russians began seizing government buildings and police headquarters in several cities in eastern Ukraine weeks ago.  Just in the last day, shots have been fired and there have been a few deaths reportedBBC speculates on whether Russia is orchestrating the protests, While this morning on ABC’s This Week, Obama’s Ambassador to the United Nations, Samantha Power, came right out and accused Russia of doing exactly that on the grounds that they are just too well-coordinated for the local ethic Russians to have done on their own.

Just like the Obama Administration said about the largely bloodless secession by Crimea a few weeks ago. But really? If the majority ethnic Russians in the Crimea could pull it off, why not their cousins in eastern Ukraine? It seems the West just keeps on underestimating the intelligence, resourcefulness, and yes, courage of the Russian people. Napoleon did it. Czar Nicholas II, who really should have known better, did it. Hitler did it, and now Obama appears to be doing it. Will they never learn?

For its part, the right wing Ukrainian government in Kiev threatened a blood bath, but backed down some over the last day. Meanwhile, the protests continue, the occupations of government buildings continue, and the ethnic Russians show no signs of backing down, as this article about what is going on in Donetsk attests. Why should they?

They don’t want to be ruled by a bunch of hyper-Ukrainian nationalists who want to essentially make them second-class citizens, and are quite understandably leery of a government with openly Fascist and even neo-Nazi elements. Besides, they know full well that if the Kiev government actually does try for a forceful and bloody crackdown, Vladimir Putin won’t hesitate to send the Russian Army to their rescue. Even if military forces loyal to the Kiev regime resisted as best they could, I estimate the Russians could successfully invade and occupy the eastern third of Ukraine in a matter of days.

And there’s not a damned thing Obama or western Europe can do about it. Neither the American nor European militaries are going to allow a direct military confrontation with Russia–Ukraine is just not worth risking a nuclear war over, period. Besides, it lies in what has long been considered Russia’s sphere of influence.

Probably the best thing that could happen for Obama is for eastern Ukraine to go the way of Crimea, with little bloodshed, and for him to just shut up about it. Somehow, I don’t think he’s that smart. Maybe the Kiev government is. Time will soon tell.

Anyway, crisis or no crisis, it’s a beautiful day in northeastern Ohio, and I have errand to run and (gasp!) yardwork to do. I’m off, but I’ll be back. And have a nice day.

In Plain Sight: The Rise of Corporate Democrats in California

By: Gary Cohn Tuesday April 15, 2014 10:59 am

Marin County is one of California’s most liberal regions and, with its iconic redwoods and stunning coastline, it is also a power center for environmental activism. And so, when a bill to give the state Coastal Commission authority to levy fines against shoreline despoilers came for a vote in the state Assembly in 2013, it was taken for granted that Marin’s new Assemblyman, Marc Levine, would vote for passage. That didn’t happen. Instead, the San Rafael Democrat sat out the single most important vote for his constituents that year – which helped doom the measure.

But Levine was not finished. In Sacramento he would abstain or skip votes on bills helping farm workers and creating a bill of rights for domestic workers. He has also voted against legislation requiring economic impact reports for big box stores and requiring more rate-increase disclosure from Kaiser Permanente. That Levine keeps at arm’s length the progressive values of the 10th Assembly District, which includes much of equally liberal Sonoma County, should come as no surprise. During his two Assembly campaigns he has received hundreds of thousands of dollars from some of the state’s largest business interests.

Levine

Assemblyman Marc Levine

What is baffling is that Levine, who declined to comment for this article, is neither a DINO (a conservative who is a Democrat in name only) nor a farm belt centrist. He remains a committed suburban liberal. One, that is, who happened to attend a local Mitt Romney rally in 2012 and who felt at ease appearing at a Republican Lincoln Dinner last year. Levine is also no aberration. Rather, he is part of a new breed of Democrat, one exceedingly attentive to big business while tone-deaf toward the Democratic Party’s traditional base, which includes union workers, environmentalists and public school advocates.

At the very moment that California’s Republican Party is melting into electoral irrelevancy, Levine and other hybrid Democrats are appearing in all corners of the state. Their ranks include Bill Dodd, a Napa County Supervisor and former Republican who is running as a Democrat for a wine country Assembly seat, and Palmdale Assemblyman Steve Fox, another erstwhile Republican. Fox, who says he is proud to have earned the California Chamber of Commerce’s highest approval rating for a Democrat, tells Capital & Main that the Democratic Party’s becoming friendlier to business is a positive development.

“We’re pulling the party to the center, towards being more business friendly,” Fox says.

Assembly candidate Steve Glazer

Assembly candidate Steve Glazer

Then there’s Orinda city councilman Steve Glazer, a former top advisor to Governor Jerry Brown, who recently worked as a consultant to the California Chamber of Commerce and its Jobs Political Action Committee. Glazer is currently running for an Alameda County Assembly seat and has fiercely challenged the right of transit workers to strike.

“I am trying to redefine what it means to be a Democrat,” Glazer told Capital & Main. “I think you can be a financial conservative and be a strong Democratic officeholder.”

The rise of what might be called the Corporate Democrat can only be partly explained by shrinking GOP delegations in Sacramento. It is also the product of redistricting and effects of the “top-two primary,” by which members of the same political party can win the top two primary positions and then face off in November. These two structural changes were approved by voters in, respectively, 2008 and 2010. Since then, powerful corporations, agricultural associations and other political high rollers have been turning away from their traditional Republican partners and placing more and more of their chips on the Democratic end of the table – specifically, on  candidates like Marc Levine. These changes are only now catching the attention of Democratic electeds and activists, who see a coming fight for the soul of their party.

“Democrats, we are just as guilty of getting sucked into the influence of money and power about which we criticize Republicans,” state controller candidate Betty Yee told Democrats at the party’s annual state convention last month. Yee, who is a member of the State Board of Equalization, expanded on her wake-up call in an interview.

“What’s different now is the wholesale moderation of Democratic positions on issues we used to own – education, income inequality and poverty,” Yee says.