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Thursday Watercooler

By: Kit OConnell Thursday July 10, 2014 8:44 pm

 

Nikola Tesla

A museum in Tesla’s honor is closer to reality.

With tonight’s video we offer solidarity to the Detroit Water Brigade and its members who blockaded water shut off trucks today.

A group of ordinary Detroit residents acted early Thursday morning to intervene in the continuing shut-off of water at city residences. Among them were a retired religious sister, two pastors, a member of Detroit School Board, a veteran journalist, a building manager, and a local seminary professor. Several were grandparents of children in Detroit.

With a banner that read, ‘Stop the Water Shut-offs’ they blocked the 2660 East Grand Boulevard entrance to Homrich Wrecking Inc., the private corporation contracted to shut-off residential water service. Homrich is under at $5.6 million two-year contract.

The group appealed to Homrich workers to honor the international human right of access to water. They delivered copies of the June 1, 2014 complaint filed with the United Nations on behalf of Detroiters, along with the response of the UN Special Rapporteur on the Human Right to Safe Water and Sanitation which reads in part, ‘Disconnection of water services because of failure to pay due to lack of means constitutes a violation of the human right to water and other international human rights.’

Firedoglake is raising money for the Water Brigade and the people of Detroit. Please consider donating or sharing the campaign with your friends!

After opening up Tesla electric car patents, Elon Musk followed it up with another act of generosity today: honoring Nikola Tesla’s 158th birthday with a $1 million donation to the creators of a future Tesla museum. LiveScience reports:

For his 158th birthday, Nikola Tesla got a day named in his honor and a new science museum with $1 million in funding from billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk. Musk, the CEO of electric car company Tesla Motors and rocket company SpaceX, pledged the money in support of a new Tesla museum to be built on the grounds of the Serbian-American inventor’s laboratory at Wardenclyffe in Long Island, New York. The announcement was made today (July 10) at a birthday celebration on the historic site.

‘We’re happy to be gathered at the laboratory of Nikola Tesla, the person we’ve come to celebrate,’ a museum official said at the event. ‘Thank you, Elon Musk!’The Tesla Science Center at Wardenclyffe, located on the site where Tesla once built a 187-foot (57 meters) transmitter tower to experiment with sending messages and distributing wireless electricity, will feature his inventions and their impact on people’s lives today, museum organizers said. It will also include a hacker lab where people can build prototypes of their own inventions, and an innovation station where entrepreneurs can turn their ideas into real products.

The museum is the pet project of creator of popular webcomic The Oatmeal, who ran a successful crowdfunding campaign that raised over a million dollars to purchase and restore the site. But more was needed, leading to a comic challenging Musk to support the Tesla name and today’s success.

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VIDEO: Why A Majority of Brazilians Think The World Cup Is Bad For Brazil

By: Dennis Trainor Jr Wednesday July 9, 2014 8:18 pm

Originally Posted at PopularResistance.org

new Pew Poll finds shows that the “national mood in Brazil is grim following a year in which more than a million people have taken to the streets of major cities across the country to protest corruption, rising inflation and a lack of government investment in public services such as education, health care and public transportation, among other things.”

61% of Brazilians feel that hosting the World Cup is a “bad thing because it takes money away from public services” vs. just 34 percent who think it’s a “good thing because it creates jobs.” Thirty-nine percent say it will hurt Brazil’s international image, while only 35 percent think it will help.

In this episode of Acronym TV, Derek Poppert of Global Exchange talks with Dennis about his Re-Think The Cup series. In a recent piece from the series, “FIFA: Return The Beauty To The Beautiful Game,” Derek writes:

So who wins the World Cup? While it may seem that decision is still getting played out in stadiums across Brazil, FIFA president Sepp Blatter is surely laughing from his luxury suite.

The winner had already been decided well before the first match even began. FIFA’s 4 billion dollars in untaxed revenue from the event is the trophy.

It appears to be of little interest to Mr. Blatter or other FIFA execs that this trophy has come on the backs of 200,000 low-income people being forcefully evicted from their homes to make room for the event, 8 construction workers dying in the frenzied rush to erect stadiums on time, or 14 billion dollars in Brazilian taxpayer money being spent on the tournament in the face of poverty, inequality, and widespread social issues within Brazil.

David Ziron, author of Brazil’s Dance With The Devil, points out:

In Brazil, site of the 2014 World Cup, the FIFA-driven push to build new stadiums at a breakneck pace has led to the deaths of nine construction workers. FIFA’s demands for security and infrastructure may end up displacing as many as 250,000 poor people, who live in the favelas surrounding Brazil’s urban centers. The cost of the games continues to tick upward, the latest figures climbing as high as $15 billion. Brazil’s own 1994 World Cup star, Romário, called the 2014 tournament ‘the biggest heist in the history of Brazil.’

The question becomes, then: Are sports on this scale a net positive or negative for human beings as a whole?

atv soccer fan

Kids today …

By: cmaukonen Wednesday July 9, 2014 5:49 pm

If You Go Down To The Woods Today
A bloke called Jerm – flickr creative commons

I have a very difficult time relating to kids. My childhood was so vastly different from theirs in just about every way imaginable, it isn’t funny. No high tech toys, just TV, telephone and radio. I grew up in northeastern Ohio in a very small town, or rather township of Burton Ohio, in Geauga County.

Initially, in the first house my father built, a small two bedroom affair on State Road 87, Kingsman Road. Lived there until I was six years old and we had two brothers younger than me. I was the oldest, first born. My father then bought land on Butternut Road not far from there and built a much larger place on three acres of land. Nearly all of it wooded, most heavily so.  The road was a dirt road at the time and had very little traffic. The parcel was but a small part of a larger wooded area that went back for another 5 to 10 acres. On one side was a field that later became a dirt parking lot to a small golf coarse the son of the original owner of all the land there put in.

The original lands was part of one or two farms and an old coal mine, the entry to and ventilation hole for which you still find today. As we got older, my siblings and I had pretty much free rein of the woods, and except in the winter, it was the area of choice for whatever fun we chose to have – with small springs, run-off gullies, trees, fields…you name it. My rural education came from there, along with having friends that lived on farms – some worked regularly, some not. Barns and silos and farm animals of all sorts. Pigs and goats and chickens and cows and ..  We even had loan of two goats from some friends for awhile, which I loved.

My city education came from visiting my cousins who lived on the west side of Cleveland at West 84 street and Denison, in a very blue collar neighborhood, all the houses built in the 1920s, two-story type. My cousin Matt and I would travel on bikes all around the west side, sometimes driving my grandmother to distraction – she lived there as well.

Conversely, they would come out to our place in the summer for a few weeks, and also on the weekends when my aunt and uncle would work on a house in Burton they owned and rented out. Once when I was around 10, my father bought a Chevy Microbus and we began camping across Pennsylvania in the state parks on our way to visit my grandparents who lived outside of Philadelphia. One year my cousin Matt came with us as well.

All this came to an end in the fall of 1963 when my father decided to move the family down to Florida, eventually choosing Coral Gables. While waiting for the real estate agent to sign on a house, my father had a brain hemorrhage and died. After getting the estate settled and living with my grandparents outside Philly, my mother moved us to Naples, Florida, which at that time was not much bigger than Burton Ohio.

Now where is this all leading? And how does it all relate to today’s kids?

I often go the the various Cleveland Metro Parks reservation to hike a bit and take pictures, like I did today. I often see parents with kids by the hand and strollers and – like today – some on a field trip, today’s group from a summer camp up in Mentor, Ohio.

Most here know me as a geek from previous diaries, but when I was young, and even now, the geeky radio and electronics was primarily a winter thing. Summer was outside in the woods. There were no parents or grownups around. Nobody to make sure we did not fall into the pond and drown; f we got bit or fell out of a tree; if we survived [and I know of no one who did not] we got talked to [chewed out] for being such a dumb ass. It was a learning experience. So when I see kids being hand-held through their exposure to nature, I feel sorry for them and afraid for them. They likely will not experience nature in the raw, like I did.

As a child I was very very fortunate in this. I appreciate nature and respect nature and am very comfortable with nature. Most of those like me and of my generation were not protected from the world, but encouraged to explore it; not to see the world only as something to satiate out insatiable appetites.

I feel sad about kids today.

U.S. Out of Germany

By: David Swanson Wednesday June 1, 2011 7:37 am
The Join Multinational Training Center in Germany

US bases in Germany are a key part of the war machine.

If Germany hasn’t had enough, we in the United States sure have.

Despite the supposed ending of World War II, the U.S. still keeps over 40,000 armed soldiers permanently in Germany.

Despite the ending of the Cold War, the U.S. still spies on the German government with relentless malevolence and incompetence, building on the fine tradition in which the CIA was created.

Germany has kicked out the latest CIA “station chief” — a job title that seems to give one’s career the longevity and utility of a Defense Against the Dark Arts professor at Hogwarts.

Does Germany need a better CIA station chief? A reformed NSA? A properly reviewed and vetted U.S. occupation?

What does Germany get out of this deal?

Protection from Russia? If the Russian government weren’t demonstrating a level of restraint that dwarfs even that of the Brazilian soccer team’s defense there would be full-scale war in Ukraine right now. Russia is no more threatening Germany than Iran is preparing to nuke Washington or the U.N. is confiscating guns in Montana.

Germany must gain something, surely? Perhaps protection from evil Muslims dehumanized in the manner that U.S. war marketers first developed for the dehumanization of Germans 100 years ago? Surely Germans are smart enough to have noticed that violent resistance to foreign aggression targets the nations responsible, not those declining to take part. Hosting bases of the military that gives Israel the weapons with which it slaughters the people of Gaza, whatever else it may be, is decidedly not a security strategy.

So what does Germany gain? The warm feeling that comes with knowing that all those acres and facilities with which so much good could be accomplished are being donated to the wealthiest nation on earth which refuses to care for its own people, chip in its share for the poor of the world, or slow its push for the destruction of the globe’s climate even as Germany leads in the other direction?

Come on. Germany is a battered wife, a victim of Stockholm syndrome, a schizophrenic accomplice unwilling to relinquish its gang membership.  Germany should know better.  Germany should throw out the rest of the CIA and 40,000 members of the U.S. military and their families.

What does the United States get out of this codependent criminality?

A launching area closer to numerous nations it wishes to attack? That’s a desire of the Pentagon, and of Chuck Hagel who claims that ISIS is a threat to the United States because he no doubt conceives of the United States as existing wherever it maintains troops (which is just about everywhere). That is not a desire of the U.S. public.

An unaccountable recklessly funded institution that makes enemies of allies, prevents cooperation across borders, destroys the rule of law and diplomatic initiatives, and erodes the rights of people at home and abroad in order to spy on governments, corporations, and those first to beginning murmuring their displeasure (and for all we know, soccer coaches as well)? Many of us are willing to forego this benefit.

The U.S. war machine does not, in fact, benefit the nations it occupies or the nation in whose name it occupies. It endangers both, strips away the rights of both, damages the natural environment of both, impoverishes both, and devotes the energies of both to destructive enterprises or mutual disagreements that distract from the necessary work of actual defense from actual dangers, such as the industrial destruction of our air, land, and oceans.

Pulling U.S. troops out of Germany would be the clearest signal that the United States, which has engaged in 200 military actions during the “post-war period,” is ready at long last to actually end the war.

Immigration Reform Update: There Are No Brown Aliens

By: MikeBohrer
Three indigenous children with a llama walk a dirt road.

One simple solution for an immigration crisis.

I’ve had it with politicians in this country—most of whom are descended from other parts of the world—telling brown people where they can and cannot go on this continent. In just a few generations, the natives of this land have gone from being proud and free, to being called “aliens” by a bunch of transplants.

Therefore, I think that whoever can prove they are a descendant of the indigenous peoples of the Americas, who wandered with impunity for tens of thousands of years before Europeans introduced the concept of borders, should be able to do so again. They will no longer be an “illegal” in their homeland, but instead be granted a new “Pueblos Indígenas” status. When they work, buy goods or purchase a home, they must pay taxes. And when they break the law they must pay the consequences. But they can no longer be locked up for standing on the soil of their ancestors.

“But I don’t want my tax dollars going to a whole new bunch of takers, we can’t afford that burden,” my pasty-white, far-right friends would say.

Takers? Imagine if someone took your way of life—your land, your culture, your religion, your customs and laws—and supplanted it with their own. What amount of taking would be too much? A burden? With every influx of new people that come to America, we become more diverse, and diversity has always been one of our greatest strengths. And since we would no longer have the expense of chasing them around, catching them, detaining them, giving them a hearing, and deporting them, it’s unclear what this would actually cost.

To sum, they’re brown, they’re tired, they’re poor, they’re huddled in masses, and they’re yearning to be free. Oh what the heck, why not.

Remember When Fox News Wasn’t a Right-wing News Channel? Neither Do I

By: Robert Greenwald Sunday November 14, 2010 7:02 pm

A dozen years ago, as the U.S. was pulled into war in Iraq by President George W. Bush, Fox News was not just any television network. It proudly blared the White House’s lies coming with singular warmongering fervor. Remember? The terrorists had ties to Iraq. Saddam wanted the bomb. Saddam had the bomb. He could hit us in 45 minutes.

Cover of Outfoxed documentary.

10 years later, Fox News still serves a damaging far-right agenda.

Fox even overshadowed the pro-war New York Times where with the help of Judith Miller, the paper spewed distortions, launched partisan attacks and slammed Bush’s critics as naïve, unpatriotic traitors. Other media, and even members of Congress, followed Fox’s lead. They all assumed that Fox was a legitimate news organization. It wasn’t. Yet that mistake about Fox’s power and impact was wreaking terrible consequences for our democracy and the media.

I felt that Fox had to be exposed with facts and broadcast clips for what it was: a partisan propaganda shop masquerading as news network. Other media and the public had to be educated that Fox was acting as the media arm of the America’s political right wing. It was anything but “fair and balanced.”

I knew what I wanted to do. I had made dozens of movies for TV, cable and feature films. We had to investigate Fox and expose it for what it was to real journalists. We could use new tools—crowd-sourced investigations, digital video recorders, and editing software. We could distribute it using the Internet, online DVD sales and social media. In March 2003, America invaded Iraq. The following year was a presidential election. We had to move quickly and couldn’t rely on traditional movie theaters or TV. We didn’t.

In July 2004, we released our documentary film, Outfoxed, which relies on Fox News’ own words and methods to let people see Fox for what it was. Today, a decade later, we are re-releasing the film with a new section adding context. It’s worth reflecting on what we did, the impact the film had, and what’s left to do—why it’s still very relevant today.

As Texas’s Tea Party Sen. Ted Cruz said in a June New Yorker magazine profile, “In both law and politics, I think the essential battle is the meta-battle of framing the narrative.” That perfectly describes Fox’s mission: recast news from a right wing perspective, only support Republican prescriptions, and attack the opposition. In Outfoxed, we showed how Fox does that so that Americans could understand how partisan propaganda works.

We began by assembling a team that started watching Fox seven days a week. Our team, mostly volunteers recruited by MoveOn.org, followed shows and commentators. We taped everything, such as when Bill O’Reilly said we were winning in Iraq or when he stammered out vicious attacks on anti-war activists. We noted their rhetoric, tone, presentation, techniques and noticed something above all else: Fox’s unattributed accusations. When Fox wanted to assert a right wing talking point or use a guest as a prop to launch an attack, their hosts would say, again and again, “Some people say…” It’s a clever ruse. The “some people” was Fox CEO Roger Ailes and his Republican friends. What they “say” was indistinguishable from political attack ads and smears.

I remember seeing that for the first time in the editing room and almost fell off my chair. I was surprised at how often they did it. We also had sources inside Fox’s newsroom who had grown weary of Fox’s journalistic pretensions. They gave us dozens of memos from senior Fox editors. For the first time, we had written proof of Fox telling its reporters what to say and how to say it. Never say sniper in a script, the memos said, always say sharpshooter. Never mourn a soldier’s death, its writers and analysts were told. They were the shock troops in a right wing propaganda war.

Rebecca Gordon: A Nation of Cowards?

By: Tom Engelhardt Wednesday July 13, 2011 12:46 pm

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

A protester in an orange GITMO jumpsuit with zip-tied hands.

Who will answer for yesterday’s acts of torture? Or today’s?

It sounded like the beginning of a bad joke: a CIA agent and a U.S. Special Operations commando walked into a barbershop in Sana…

That’s the capital of Yemen in case you didn’t remember and not the sort of place where armed Americans usually wander out alone just to get a haircut.  Here’s what we know about the rest of this mysterious tale that surfaced in the U.S. media in early May (only to disappear again shortly thereafter): according to unnamed “American officials,” two armed Yemeni civilians entered that barbershop with the intention of “kidnapping” the Americans, who shot and killed them and were then “whisked” out of the country with the approval of the Yemeni government.

For today, set aside the mystery of what in the world was actually going on in that barbershop and just consider the fact that when “they” do it to “us,” there’s no question about what word to use.  It’s kidnapping, plain and simple.  When we do it to “them” (even when the they turn out to be innocent of any terror crimes), it’s got a far fancier and more comfortable name: “rendition” or “extraordinary rendition.”  When they bust into a barbershop in a tony district in the capital city of Yemen, no question what they have in mind.  When we do it in MilanBenghaziTripoli, or other major cities, sometimes with the collusion of the local police, sometimes with the help of the local government, sometimes with no locals at all, we’re just “rendering” our victims to “justice.”

The CIA in particular and more recently U.S. special operators have made global kidnappings — oops, renditions — a regular beat since 9/11.  A kind of rampage, actually.  As it happens, whatever it can’t do these days, the “sole superpower” still has the ability to make the global rules to its own liking.  So when we wield the “R” word, it couldn’t be more “legal” or at least, as U.S. experts will testify, the only reasonable way to go.  Of course, when others wield the “K” word, can there be any question of the nastiness or illegality of their acts?  Here’s a guarantee: not a chance.  Any judge-jury-and-executioner-rolled-into-one approach to the world (as with, for instance, the CIA’s drone assassination campaigns) is an ugly way to go and will look even uglier when other countries adopt the latest version of the American Way.  As with torture (oops, sorry again, “enhanced interrogation techniques”), making global kidnapping your loud and proud way of life is a dangerous path to take, long term, no matter how bad the bad guys are that you may be rendering to justice.

Rebecca Gordon, author of Mainstreaming Torture, a new book on the American way of enhanced interrogation techniques, is here to remind us not only of those facts, but of an even uglier one.  While the Obama administration washed its hands of torture (global assassination campaigns being its claim to fame), its top officials didn’t think it worth the bother to dismantle the elaborate torture system created in the Bush years, which means that, with another flick of the switch somewhere down the line, off we’ll go again. Tom

The 25th Hour 
Still Living With Jack Bauer in a Terrified New American World
By Rebecca Gordon

Once upon a time, if a character on TV or in a movie tortured someone, it was a sure sign that he was a bad guy. Now, the torturers are the all-American heroes. From 24 to Zero Dark Thirty, it’s been the good guys who wielded the pliers and the waterboards. We’re not only living in a post-9/11 world, we’re stuck with Jack Bauer in the 25th hour.

In 2002, Cofer Black, the former Director of the CIA’s Counterterrorism Center, told a Senate committee, “All I want to say is that there was ‘before’ 9/11 and ‘after’ 9/11. After 9/11 the gloves come off.” He wanted them to understand that Americans now live in a changed world, where, from the point of view of the national security state, anything goes. It was, as he and various top officials in the Bush administration saw it, a dangerous place in which terrorists might be lurking in any airport security line and who knew where else.

90 Palestinians, 0 Israelis Die, But Obama Fights UN Condemnation of Israel’s Air War (Updated)

By: fairleft Wednesday May 11, 2011 12:10 pm
A photo of the U.N. Security Council chambers.

Will the U.N. Security Council condemn Israel’s air offensive on Gaza?

Should the headline be “76 Gaza Dead But _U.S._ Fights UN Condemnation“? (Updated to 90 at 7:45 p.m. ET, see comment 12). No, I don’t think so, the buck stops at President Obama’s desk. Here’s the news about maneuvering against possible UN condemnation of the bombing (whose victims are 80% civilians):

Jerusalem and Washington are trying to prevent the UN Security Council from condemning Israel’s air offensive in the Gaza Strip, in which dozens of Palestinian civilians have been killed, Israeli diplomats said Thursday. The Security Council is due to meet at 10 A.M. New York time to discuss the fighting between Israel and Hamas.

…Israeli diplomats say the United States is working with the council’s members, particularly Jordan, to ensure that the panel does not condemn Israel. Jordan represents the Arab countries in the Security Council.

Note that the UN deliberations are happening more or less now, as I write this. More news on the civilian killing:

Medical officials in Hamas-dominated Gaza said at least 60 civilians, including a four-year-old girl and boy, aged 5 who were killed on Thursday, were among the 76 Palestinians who have died in Israeli attacks since Tuesday.

…’The Jews say they are fighting Hamas and fighting gunmen while all the bodies we have seen on television are those of women and children,’ said Khaled Ali, 45, a Gaza taxi driver.

Rocket salvoes on Israel – the military said 442 projectiles have been fired since Tuesday, including nearly 100 on Thursday alone – have caused no fatalities or serious injuries.

Why Is It Happening?

Of course we don’t know, but a UK Guardian analyst has this well-informed take: IDF’s Gaza assault is to control Palestinian gas, avert Israeli energy crisis. The article’s subheading: “Israel’s defence minister has confirmed that military plans to ‘uproot Hamas’ are about dominating Gaza’s gas reserves.” This is the kind of sensible, evidence-rich, ‘follow the money’ analysis that generally works for me…

Of course, the war can also be seen as normal national politics in Israel. Netanyahu has been pressured from the far right, after the killing of three Israeli teenagers in occupied Palestine, to kill Arabs. So, he is doing so. That’s the kind of country Israel is. Of course, the entire very well-publicized “search for three kidnapped teenagers” story was artificial in the extreme, and apparently employed precisely to whip up the ‘kill Arabs’ frenzy that then ostensibly pressed Netanyahu to do just that. So, I don’t buy the ‘he was pressured from the far right’ reasoning.