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Caliphate vs Caliphate… Obama’s wild goose chase

By: David Seaton Tuesday September 23, 2014 6:45 am

“Globalization is the caliphate of the financial markets”

Andrés Rábago’s quote is rather perfect.  Here is Wikipedia’s definition of the Muslim Caliphate:

Conceptually, a caliphate represents a sovereign state of the entire Muslim faithful, (the Ummah), ruled by a caliph under Islamic law (sharia).

Globalization being the universal rule of the financial markets under the laws of liberal economics, with the bankers being a collegiate “caliph” and “god” being written as “$”.

A fundamentalist reading of our system would go something like this: “there is no $ but the $ and the NYSE is its witness” to which its devotees would add, “peace be upon it”.

However, our system is bleeding charisma.

Charisma is a certain quality of an individual personality by virtue of which he is set apart from ordinary men and treated as endowed with supernatural, superhuman, or at least specifically exceptional powers or qualities. These are such as are not accessible to the ordinary person, but are regarded as of divine origin or as exemplary, and on the basis of them the individual concerned is treated as a leader. Max Weber

What is the heart of our system’s charisma? It’s symbol might be the Cornucopia or Horn of Plenty: our faith is based on our system’s heretofore eternal ability to create endless wealth and spread it around widely enough so its glaring inequalities were accepted painlessly.  This version of the economy has been in the tank since Lehman Brothers went down and the middle class of the developed countries, not having had the darshan of  “$” for quite a while are losing the faith.

Our economy’s inability without end to cut the mustard for the middle class is a gross betrayal of faith which might be compared to some future pope saying ex-catedra that God didn’t exist and that he had sold the Vatican to the Holiday Inn chain and was taking the proceeds and moving with his husband to the Bahamas. The tragic chaos and desolation of betrayed faith would shatter the lives of millions.

Thus under the rule of the global caliphate, the natives are restless: Scotland, Catalonia, even in the USA, where according to Reuters, one out of four Americans would like to “secede”, all this while thousands march worldwide to “save the planet”.  However, with Karl Marx on the “ash heap of history”, sitting there in the penalty box, waiting to get back in the game, it seems to me that, for the moment, the only revolution in town is Islamic…

Am I the only one to see a resemblance between Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and Pol Pot… between the Islamic State and the Khmer Rouge? With the difference that the Khmer Rouge were a relatively small group of whacked out Maoists in a tiny out of the way place like Cambodia and the IS (according to the CIA) consists of 31,000 well armed, well trained, fanatical, young men (and women) who come from all over the world, bankrolled by some of the most pious of Arab billionaires, armed with one of history’s most powerful ideologies, smack dab in the middle of the world’s most strategic real estate. “Bring ‘em on” said George W. Bush…. well now here they are.

What impresses me most is not all the beheading. We think this brutality is a message directed to us… it isn’t; it is a message for everybody except “us”. Americans might be shocked and disappointed to discover that after several centuries of  colonial oppression a great part of the world’s population can see a white man get his throat cut with total equanimity if not a certain schadenfreude.

What truly does impress me is that the CIA puts IS’s numbers at 31,000. This certainly is no a small group of terrorists.

Anyone with even a superficial knowledge of statistical sampling should shudder at that number. With only 30,624 Muslims randomly polled you would have a reliable indicator of the Ummah’s opinion on any subject, so it would be safe to say that for every young man (or woman) with enough courage and initiative to travel so far at so much risk of death, there must be thousands on thousands of young men (and women) who wish they had the guts to do so too.

Certainly these numbers tell us that even the most moderate Muslims could imagine a young family member involved, very much in the same way that moderate Irish or Basques could easily have a family member in the IRA or ETA and while they disapprove of what they do, they don’t stop loving them… As a friend of mine from a very rich family once told me, “blood is thicker than toothpaste”.

This means that our success in running down and exterminating the young men (and women) of the Islamic State may bring us much more trouble down the road than we have today.

A very reliable leading indicator of how wrong this could all go is the recent statement by Tony Blair advocating sending in ground troops… I’m waiting to hear what Bush thinks.

Cross posted from:


Without Intending to do so, Wisconsin Budget Request Strengthens Arguments for Taking Federal Medicaid Money

By: WI Budget Project Tuesday September 23, 2014 6:37 am


Without intending to do so, the Department of Health Services (DHS) budget request has substantially strengthened the arguments for expanding BadgerCare and taking federal funding available for that purpose, which would  erase much of the state’s currently projected Medicaid funding shortfall.  There are many compelling reasons to accept the federal funding, and the DHS budget request unveiled last week adds to that list.

The following are four aspects of the budget request that bolster the arguments for expanding BadgerCare eligibility for adults up to 138% of the federal poverty level (FPL).  Although the first point noted below is reason enough to take the federal funding, a closer reading of the DHS budget request reveals other reasons why the strong arguments for expanding BadgerCare are now even stronger.

1)  The $760 million in additional state revenue needed simply for a cost-to-continue budget – The DHS budget request seeks an increase of $760 million in state General Purpose Revenue (GPR) simply to maintain current Medicaid and BadgerCare benefits.  A WCCF summary of the DHS document explains the primary reasons for that increase, and the next two items in this blog post also shed light on a couple of the factors.  Finding that much additional funding will be extremely difficult at a time when the state is facing a $1.8 billion structural deficit (which means that $1.8 billion of new revenue is needed in 2015-17 before the state can set aside any funding for spending increases).  Expanding BadgerCare would take a very large bite out of the Medicaid shortfall and would help avoid deep cuts in Medicaid eligibility or services.

2) A large increase in projected enrollment of childless adults – The budget request indicates that DHS now expects the number of childless adults enrolled in BadgerCare to reach 145,000 by the end of the current fiscal year.  That’s almost 50% more than DHS projected during budget deliberations, and 10,000 more than DHS assumed when the department revised its enrollment projections in late June!  As that number grows, so do the potential savings from expanding BadgerCare and taking the increased federal funding (which would finance 100% of spending for childless adult coverage in 2015 and 2016, and 95% in 2017).  Based on the assumptions made in the budget bill about average per member costs, we calculate that the state share of covering 10,000 additional childless adults will be roughly $41 million GPR in 2015-17, which is a factor that the Legislative Fiscal Bureau didn’t take into consideration in its August estimate of the potential savings of a BadgerCare expansion.  Expanding BadgerCare to 138% of the federal poverty level would cut that incremental cost to about $1.3 million if the expansion is in effect by July 1, 2015, or to about $11 million GPR if the change were delayed until January 2016.

3) A widening gap between the regular Medicaid match rate and the federal match for expansion states – In contrast to the federal matching rate for Medicaid expansions, which is fixed by statute, the regular federal match rate for each state fluctuates and is declining in Wisconsin.  That federal share, known as the federal Medical Assistance percentage (FMAP), is determined by a formula and automatically declines when a state’s median income is increasing. According to the DHS budget request, the federal Medical Assistance percentage (FMAP) for Wisconsin is falling from slightly over 59% in federal fiscal year (FFY) 2014 to slightly under 58% in FFY 2017. A 1.1 percentage point drop might not sound like much of a difference, but the DHS document indicates that it is expected to cost Wisconsin $188 million during the next biennium.  The FMAP decline in 2015-17 was only partially accounted for in the LFB’s August calculation of the substantial savings from expanding BadgerCare to 138% of FPL.  I estimate that the latest FMAP estimate will increase the potential savings of a Medicaid expansion by roughly $1 million more in 2015-17 than the LFB calculated.

4) Demonstrating flaws in the logic behind the Governor’s rejection of the Medicaid funds – The Governor contends that it would be risky to accept the increased Medicaid funding, but the DHS request illustrates one of the flaws in that line of argument. The much higher federal match rate for expansion states is locked in by statute, and that helps make the federal share of Medicaid expansion spending more secure than the regular federal match rate, which is gradually declining. In addition, the Governor’s alternative plan relies on another source of federal funding – the subsidies for Marketplace insurance plans – to finance coverage of parents the state cut from BadgerCare.  As I noted in a previous blog post, over the next couple of years there are more reasons to fear the elimination of that subsidy funding than the federal funds for Medicaid expansions.

To sum up, the Fiscal Bureau estimated in August that expanding BadgerCare to 138% of the federal poverty level would save state taxpayers $261 million to $315 million in the next biennium, even if the expansion doesn’t take effect until January 2016.  Based on the latest enrollment estimates in the DHS budget request and their assumptions about the federal match rate, we estimate that the lower end of the potential savings is $31 million GPR more than the LFB indicated (or $41 million more if the change took effect by July 1, 2015).  To close the $760 million hole in the Medicaid budget, it’s critically important for Wisconsin to expand BadgerCare and accept the increased federal funding.


ISIS, Weapons Makers, Thugs Benefit from This Crime

By: David Swanson Tuesday September 23, 2014 5:13 am

President Obama is bombing the opposite side in Syria from the side he swore we needed to attack one year ago, and those pleased by this declare that he is “doing something.”

U.S. polls suggest that the same people recognize that this something will make the U.S. more likely to be attacked and nonetheless favor this action. This is unthinking fear produced by slick beheading videos for audiences too distracted to notice that the Iraqi government, Saudi government and numerous other U.S. friends and allies behead. And are we to imagine that when Obama kills a 16 year old American and the 6 kids near him his head remains intact? Should we pretend that the people being killed by U.S. missiles right now aren’t losing their heads?

This action is illegal under the UN Charter, Kellogg-Briand Pact, and U.S. Constitution. This action is immoral as it fuels violence that needs to be reduced. This action is knowingly, maddeningly counterproductive, guaranteed to build hostility to the United States, which is already so hated that ISIS openly advocates for a U.S. attack on it. This action by this White House is what ISIS wants and what weapons makers want. It is not what the people of Syria or Iraq or the world want. It further shreds the rule of law while dumping gasoline on a fire of U.S. creation.

What’s needed is, contrary to what your television suggests, not to “do nothing” or love beheadings. What’s needed is an arms embargo. The U.S. ships 79% of the weapons shipped to the Middle East, not counting the weapons of the U.S. military. An arms embargo could be 79% successful with just one country participating, and others could certainly be brought to do so.

What’s needed is actual aid on a massive scale, restitution to the people of the region for the crimes of the U.S. government. An aid program sufficient to make the United States beloved rather than hated would cost a lot less money than the missiles and bombs for which price seems to be no concern at all.

What’s needed is diplomacy. The U.S. government is happy to talk with Syria or Iran or Russia when the object is war. Why can it not talk to them when the object is peace?

Our Constitutional scholar Nobel peace laureate no-dumb-wars end-the-mindset president will be protested today at the White House and at his appearance in New York, and should be protested everywhere he goes.

Congress members should not know a moment’s peace, but should be taught that cowardice is not a campaign strategy. None who voted for weapons to Syria should be returned to Washington next year.

War as a first resort, as our biggest public program, as the be all and end all of U.S. foreign policy is a form of insanity that has no redeeming feature. War is our top destroyer of the natural environment, of the economy, of civil liberties, of self-governance, and of morality. This is a case of a doctor trying to cure the world while suffering from a deadly and highly infectious disease that in his own mind is the epitome of health.

You can’t cure war fever with more war. You can only get to peace through peace.

Stop the bombing.


Stop the Bombing: Bravery in an Evil Cause Is Evil

There will be a protest of the new war at 10 a.m. Tuesday in front of the White House. Some thoughts on the context of this latest decision to bomb yet another country are below.

Following a screening of Phil Donahue’s film Body of War in Washington, D.C., on Monday, during which the United States began illegally bombing Syria, Donahue engaged in an interesting exchange with one of those audience members who asks a question and a dozen follow-up questions.

Donahue had belittled drone pilots as sitting at desks with cups of coffee. This member of the audience shouted out that that was unfair, that drone pilots were often engaged in perfectly legitimate murders, and that drone pilots were serving their country just the same as the U.S. Army veteran who is the focus of the film.

The film and its director treat this Army veteran as having honorably served a worthy cause even while describing the war as unjustified and a horrible decision. So, if a ground troop in an immoral illegal war is to be thanked and honored, not just respected and sympathized with, why not thank and honor drone pilots?

Donahue’s response to this sort of logic was that the drone pilot is less brave.

At the end of an exchange on that theme, Donahue reached a conclusion that ranked various types of troops based on their levels of bravery, and possibly also of suffering. That last point ran into trouble, as the questioner pointed out the PTSD rates among drone pilots who do in fact sometimes see their victims more than do troops who are physically closer to the action.

But bravery remained standing at the end of the discussion as a contributor to the level of morality.

In my view, this is madness, as Bill Maher lost his job for pointing out. Nobody was braver or more immoral than the 911 terrorists. Bravery in a good cause is admirable. Bravery in an indifferent cause is aesthetically nice, but morally indifferent. And bravery in an evil cause is evil. I made this case to Donahue after the event, and he said that he actually agreed with me.

The idea that bravery redeems participation in evil is war-thinking. Participation in evil can be understood and sympathized with but not redeemed.

Another audience member on Monday evening pointed out something useful about U.S. polling: Americans believe that bombing Syria will make attacks on the United States more likely (indeed, experts agree and history seems to solidly confirm it) and at the very same time, Americans believe that Syria should be bombed.

A willingness to endanger one’s self and family and neighbors and millions of people in order to be tough is an irrational and apparently macho position.

This culture of machismo is not without humanity, but that humanity is horribly misinformed. We’re not told by the big corporate media about the 95% of deaths in U.S. wars that are the deaths of non-Americans.

The brilliant Peter Kuznick pointed out at Monday’s event that as states require women to watch movies about fetuses before having abortions, they could require people to watch Body of War before wars.  I wish they would. It’s a powerful movie. But there’s been no Ludlow Amendment and people don’t get to vote on wars. And we’re now being sold a war on the claim that it won’t kill Americans.  If we don’t acquire the knowledge that wars also kill non-Americans and that non-Americans matter, we’ll be susceptible to manipulation into the idea that a war is a character choice, a matter of expressing and demonstrating bravery.

Following discussion of the film on Monday, we heard stories of bravery in noble causes from five whistleblowers who had put their lives and welfare at risk to advance peace, justice, public safety, the rule of law, and honest government. Their names are Jesselyn Radack, Marsha Coleman-Adebayo, Thomas Drake, William Binney, and Kirk Wiebe. They talked about morality, not machismo. Here’s video of them in Baltimore on Sunday.

A sixth speaker on the topic of speaking out was Phil Donahue, who lost his job at MSNBC for dissenting from war fever in 2003. He heartily denounced the dishonesty and sycophancy of corporate media on Monday. He also came back to the topic of bravery, rightly pointing to the five panelists next to him as the highest examples of moral courage.

Now there’s a useful phrase:moral courage. Let’s celebrate only that kind.

I spoke at an event Monday morning at American U. at which I asked people to raise their hands if they thought war was good for us and character building, or if they thought some wars were necessary, or if they thought all war was unjustified. The crowd was roughly evenly split between the last two choices. Not a single person accepted the notion (popular 100 years back) that war is good for us. But this unscientific poll was conducted in a room of peace studies students and opponents of war. What would the whole U.S. public say?

After the event I spoke with Medea Benjamin about the just-begun bombing campaign, and she remarked, “This is exactly what ISIL wants. They’re trying to get the U.S. involved in a war. There are already U.S. troops in combat and this will mean more. We shouldn’t fall into the trap of another immoral and unwinnable war.”

Medea and I will be protesting this new war at 10 a.m. on Tuesday in front of the White House along with National Campaign for Nonviolent Resistance.  We encourage you to join us or to demonstrate locally. Your Congress members and Senators have fled Washington in order to pretend the blood is not on their hands. Take your message of peace to them where they can be found.

Over Easy: To Market To Market ….

By: cmaukonen Tuesday September 23, 2014 4:50 am

Silex Coffee maker

Well I have just finished a cup of coffee brewed in my new vacuum stove top coffee maker. Not unlike to old Silex one my grandmother had. I am not coffee connoisseur by any stretch of the imagination, so would not know if it does any better job of brewing coffee than any other method.  But I always thought it was nifty to watch it in the morning on my grandmother’s stove, with the water bubbling up tp the top and then being sicked back down in the bottom.

This one I got from Amazon and is made in Taiwan. As is most things that are no made in China or Japan.

As I said in the title to market, to market as Wednesdays are generally my market days, when I make my trip to The West Side Market.   The West Side Market is Cleveland’s oldest market and for my money the best place for meats, fruits and vegetables. Not to mention breads, cookies, cakes, sausages, poultry … you name it. With venders for just about anything. Dairy, pasta, Mexican, fish and even Asian.

There is also one area that sells only imported items like teas and spices.

Not a place for anyone with an eating disorder that’s for sure. The only other market of this type I have been to was the Reading Terminal Market in Phillie. and that was when I was much younger.

It has venders that specialize in locally grown meats and vegetables and organic GMO free.  I like to go on Wednesdays as it is less crowded then but can become a real zoo before a Holiday, with parking a challenge. Though they do have a good sized parking area.

The West Side Market is where I get my meats and chicken and Italian meat balls. But you have to be early for some things like baked goods, as they sell out very quickly.

Some venders don’t even open on Mondays but are Wednesday, Friday and Saturday only. I have yet to get anything there that was not fresh and the venders are always very nice and helpful. Often giving advise how best to prepare their meats etc.

West Side Market

The market is located in a semi gentrified area of Cleveland called Ohio City. I say semi gentrified since the area is nicer than most, it’s not what I would consider up-scale.

West Side Market Interior

At the corner of West 25 Street and Lorain Av, you easily see Progressive Field and downtown Cleveland.

I have just shopped for my meats and what not for the next two weeks so likely not go until next week. Good thing as I always buy too much there.

What’s on you minds Fire Pups ? Off topic is topic here.


Boston Bombing News: Whistleblower Whitehurst and Other FBI Problems

By: lauraw Tuesday September 23, 2014 4:31 am

A few threads back we were discussing the Tsarnaev defense’s Motion for Continuance. In Exhibit G attached to this motion, explosives expert Frederic Whitehurst stated that the thousands of photos and video he had been given “did not appear to depict all of the evidence from the crime scene.” (Certainly an interesting and suggestive statement.)

Jane commented that Dr. Whitehurst is an FBI whistleblower, a fact I believe deserves a bit more attention.

According to Wikipedia, Frederic Whitehurst has a PhD in chemistry in addition to a JD. He joined the FBI in 1982 and worked as a Supervisory Special Agent in the FBI Lab from 1986 to 1998. During his employment, the Bureau touted him as the world’s top explosives expert.

FW eventually went public as a whistleblower, citing both procedural errors and misconduct. He was suspended in 1997. In 1998 he officially resigned from the bureau and received a settlement of more than $1.16 million. In exchange, he dropped a lawsuit which alleged that the FBI had retaliated against him for his actions. The bureau issued the following statement: ‘’Dr. Whitehurst played a role in identifying specific areas to be examined, and some of the issues he noted resulted in both internal and external reviews.’’

Dr. Whitehurst is currently Executive Director of the Forensic Justice Project, part of the National Whistleblower Center. This project specializes in making sure that innocent people are not convicted due to the misuse of forensic science.

FW and the Feds.  According to this article, FW originally was troubled with what he saw as widespread contamination of evidence in the FBI lab. He ultimately accused several colleagues of manipulating evidence to favor prosecutors. In a 2009 documentary titled Lockerbie Revisited, FW described the FBI lab itself as a “crime scene,” where at least one unqualified colleague would routinely alter scientific reports.

“Incited by Whitehurst’s numerous allegations, the Department of Justice and Office of the Inspector General carried out an investigation into the practices and alleged misconduct of the FBI lab culminating in a report released in April 1997.” This investigation looked into a number of high profile cases including the 1993 World Trade Center bombing and the 1995 Oklahoma City Bombing.

“The DOJ agreed with some [of FW’s allegations], dismissed others, and provided their suggestions into the future course of the FBI lab.”

Among these suggestions was the following: “Records of all case files must be thorough in their recount of the examiner’s data and analysis and must be easily retrieved upon request.” Has this particular resolution been adhered to?

Consider FW’s complaints in Exhibit G: “Much like the reports themselves, the manuals and protocols are labeled in such a way that I have had to take an inordinate amount of time to go through each file simply to determine what is in it … So far I have not seen any validation documentation for any of the protocols I have reviewed. Attempting to find these documents among the documents I have received is extremely time consuming due to the complexity of the file labeling as well as the sheer number of documents that must be read … Another of my tasks is to determine whether the defense should hire experts in specific fields. However, I am unable to give an accurate recommendation unless and until I have been able to review the analysts’ reports … Without knowing what may be provided in the future, I cannot say with any confidence when my work will be done.”

Tip of the Iceberg? The bureau’s carrying out of its good resolutions is further brought into doubt by a July 2014 Washington Post article about the FBI lab’s hair and fiber unit.

“Nearly every criminal case the FBI and DOJ has reviewed during a major investigation that began in 2012 … has involved flawed forensic testimony. The review … was cut short last August when its findings ‘troubled the bureau.’ … The probe resumed once the DOJ inspector general lambasted the FBI for the delay in this investigation … Reviews were completed and notifications offered for defendants in 23 cases, including 14 death-row cases, that FBI examiners ‘exceeded the limits of science’ when linking hair to crime-scene evidence.”

The article goes on to quote NYU forensic expert Erin Murphy: “I see this as a tip-of-the-iceberg problem. It’s not as though this is one bad apple or even that this is one bad-apple discipline. There is a long list of disciplines that have exhibited problems, where if you opened up cases you’d see the same kinds of overstated claims and unfounded statements.”

We’ll Be Good Now. We Promise. Reading about the Bureau’s good resolutions to clean up their act bring to mind their COINTELPRO program, which ran between 1956 and 1971, and then officially ended. This program targeted various subversives, anti-war protestors and civil rights activists. In the name of national security, bureau operatives employed forgery, false info planted in the media, harassment, wrongful imprisonment and illegal violence.

After the whistle was blown on this program in 1971, the Bureau promised to stop doing that stuff. But, quite obviously, they are still doing it. I am sure they feel that these dirty tricks are more necessary than ever, because of all the dangerous Muslims in the Homeland.


The Tsarnaev defense has a distinguished researcher  participating in the guilt-phase portion of the case. Dare we hope he will again challenge the supposedly “inviolable” word of the FBI?

Former Obama and Bush Undersecretaries for Imperialism Agree, the U.S. Needs More Military and Weapons.

By: Big Al Monday September 22, 2014 5:21 pm

In the bipartisan fashion we’ve come to expect from both major parties when it comes to war, imperialism and the Military Industrial Complex, the former undersecretaries for defense under Bush (Eric Edelman) and Obama (Michele Flournoy) have written a joint letter begging for more tax dollars for the U.S. imperialist war machine and by extension, the Military Industrial Complex.

First they build up the reason. They start with lies like Russia invaded Ukraine, the threats we face in the Middle East and with China.  Then probably without realizing it they  state what the U.S. and NATO war machine has caused this century.

“the United States faces perhaps the most complex and volatile security environment since World War II.”

Ya, you helped do that Michele and Eric. You guys are so special.  You’ve helped create a pretty messy situation here on Planet Earth.

Then they post the problem.

“But scant attention has been paid to ensuring that we have a robust and ready military, able to deter would-be aggressors, reassure allies and ensure that any president, current or future, has the options he or she will need in an increasingly dangerous world.”

You see, it was that dang Budget Control Act of 2011 which has caused across the board cuts to the national budget, including war and imperialism spending. We knew this was coming. The full court press is now on to prep Congress and citizens for what comes next. They want more money for war and imperialism and it’s going to have to come out of other programs, like maybe Social Security or Aid to the Handicapped. We still have that other thing to worry about, the national debt.  I think the thinking goes that if we don’t have the most expensive war and imperialism budget ever imagined then we’re all going to get killed so we won’t be able to retire anyway. Damned if you do, damned if you don’t man.

They even had a Commission, the National Defense (War and Imperialism) Panel and they wrote a report.  They always write reports.

“The commission’s report concluded that, without budgetary relief, the U.S. armed forces soon will be at high risk of not being able to accomplish the national defense strategy.”

Face it, these people and their friends want to rule the world with the U.S. military.  That’s what it’s all about.  They say the U.S. will soon not be able to do all it’s war and imperialism stuff if we don’t give them more money. We could actually go back to how we were just after Vietnam they say, a hollow force that could barely destroy Grenada or Lichtenstein.   This comes after a ten year military buildup envisioned by the neocons with their Project for a New American Century (PNAC), Rebuilding America’s Defenses which was dutifully implemented by Congress under Bush and Obama.  By the way, the two former undersecretaries published their article on Foreign Policy Initiative (FPI), the neocon successor organization to PNAC.

They talk about those U.S. interests again.  There are evidently U.S. interests in every fucking corner of the planet. They never really explain what those interests are but they assure us that defending them with war and imperialism will keep us all safe and prosperous. I get goosebumps when I read that.

“Hi, I’m Big Al, and I’m safe and prosperous.” I’m also a citizen of an Imperialist country that goes around the planet killing people for it’s “interests”.

Their demand?

“That’s why the National Defense Panel urged — and we reiterate today — that Congress and the president repeal the Budget Control Act immediately, end the threat of sequestration and return, at a minimum, to funding levels proposed by then-Defense Secretary Robert Gates in his fiscal 2012 budget.”

So this is coming after the election along with the continued austerity that will be placed on domestic programs, including Social Security. The stakes could not be higher for the Military Industrial Complex they say, and our nation’s security is at risk. Actually the stakes could not be higher for the American citizens and the rest of the world’s security is at risk, particularly those “we” want to kill and subjugate.  This would be a good time to have a national conversation about the role the United States should play on this planet.  Can the citizens force the ruling class to allow us a say in the matter?  Do enough citizens even care?

How could we have let ourselves get into this position?

Texas Wants to Execute This Mentally Ill Man: Will SCOTUS Step In?

By: Jose Cornejo Monday September 22, 2014 8:36 am
Scott Panetti

Scott Panetti

Ron Honberg of the National Association of Mental Illness begins his recent op-ed for the National Law Journal describing a situation so strange that one assumes it is fiction:

A person diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia is accused of murdering his in-laws. He insists on defending himself without counsel and wears a TV-Western cowboy costume while on trial for his life. He attempts to subpoena the Pope, John F. Kennedy and Jesus Christ. He rambles incomprehensibly, scares the jurors by pointing an imaginary rifle at them, and he believes the judge is a devil worshiper.

Yet this case is all too real. The trial was allowed to go forward and Scott Panetti, the person with extreme mental illness described above, was sentenced to death by the State of Texas.

Years later, attorneys for Panetti argued that mental illness made him unfit for execution, taking his case all the way up to the U.S. Supreme Court in Panetti v. Quarterman (2007). Panetti won his case, which was sent back to the lower courts for reconsideration.

One might think that winning at the Supreme Court might have been enough to save Panetti from death row, but Honberg says Panetti’s attorneys are now asking the Court to hear his case again.

As Honberg explains:

The Supreme Court explicitly recognized that the views of mental health experts would be critical in further proceedings in Panetti’s case. Yet, in spite of the court’s directive, the Fifth Circuit and the district court ignored the diagnostic features and clinical realities of [Panetti’s] long-standing psychotic disorder.

The whole op-ed is worth a read. By the end, one can’t help but wonder: How in the world can somebody so obviously mentally ill still be considered sane enough to be executed?

Taylor and Appel: The Subprime Education Scandal

By: Tom Engelhardt Monday September 22, 2014 8:05 am

[Note for TomDispatch Readers: My thanks to all of you who responded to my recent offer and donated $100 for a signed, personalized, hot-off-the-presses copy of my new book, Shadow Government: Surveillance, Secret Wars, and a Global Security State in a Single Superpower World, soon to be on bookstore shelves everywhere.  Each donation of this sort is a way to keep this site alive and kicking. And you can still be the first on your block to have a copy, so click on our donation page and check out the offer!  In the meantime, here’s what Rebecca Solnit, who introduces today’s post and whose new Dispatch Book, Men Explain Things to Me, has become an indie bestseller (just going into its fourth printing!), has to say about Shadow Government: “This is a book about secrets and surveillance, but I’m here to tell you one secret its contents won’t. For more than a dozen years, Tom Engelhardt and his website or blog or post-newspaper wire service have been one of the great forces on the side of clarity, democracy, openness, and really good writing. Tom himself, a legendary book editor, is also one of the country’s most eloquent and tenacious political writers, electronically publishing three essays a week for all these years and writing many of them himself. This collection, focused on the new Orwellianism, is some of the finest writing and finest public service gathered together in book form for your portable pleasure and outrage.” Tom]

We used to hear more often about those malignant institutions serving, or rather plaguing, the poor: the loan sharks who charged 100% or more per year in interest, the furniture or radios that ended up costing several times their value on the installment plan. Two or three decades ago, however, we didn’t think of an education as being part of the landscape of predation upon the poor. Now, as Astra Taylor and Hannah Appel explain, when it comes to a new crew of “for-profit” colleges, higher education has gone hyena and is tearing at the financial flesh of the poor.

Even mainstream institutions can be sketchy these days, if you look closely enough. Most liberal arts college programs give their students a vague, if exhilarating, sense that the best possible outcome of their vocation is practically an inevitability, and yet there are far from enough tenure-track jobs, top galleries, or niches on bestseller lists for all the people being educated.

Though people make it in all these fields, they are a tiny minority.  So many others pay their dues and get little for it, except whatever is inherently meaningful in their education, which won’t, of course, lighten their loan burden at all.

Once upon a time, it was different. The radicalism of the 1960s, for instance, should be chalked up in part to the great freedom of youth at a time when the fat of the land seemed inexhaustible and the safety net unbreakable. The two radicals I know who became wanted fugitives in the 1970s and then tenured faculty members (now retired with pensions) operated in a more forgiving era — and a more affluent one.