Click here to view progressive events in and near Chester County. Agenda view (upper right of calendar) is easiest to use.
These local progressive bloggers are featured here regularly:
* Lawrence Davidson (see also To the Point Analyses and Facebook)
* John Grant (see also This Can’t Be Happening)
* Barnacle Bill
* David Long
* Lisa Longo (see also Lisa Longo
* John Mason (see also The Mason Missile)
* Bill McLaughlin
* Karen Porter
* Nathaniel Smith (see also Politics: A View from West Chester)
* Jessica Weingarten (“DocJess” at Democratic Convention Watch)
To see their writings on this site, click on their names above or in Categories (right sidebar). If you would like to suggest a blogger to join us, whether blogging at an extant site or yet without a site, please contact us.
by Nick Hopkins and Matthew Taylor, The Guardian, 12/3/13
Editor tells parliamentary committee that stories revealing mass surveillance by UK and US have prompted global debate
The Guardian has come under concerted pressure and intimidation designed to stop it from publishing stories of huge public interest that have revealed the “staggering” scale of Britain’s and America’s secret surveillance programmes, the editor-in-chief of the newspaper has said.
Giving evidence to a parliamentary committee about stories based on the National Security Agency leaks from the whistleblower Edward Snowden, Alan Rusbridger said the Guardian “would not be put off by intimidation, but nor are we going to behave recklessly”.
He told MPs that disclosures from the files had generated a global debate about the powers of state agencies, and the weaknesses of the laws and oversight regimes they worked within.
“In terms of the broader debate, I can’t think of a story in recent times that has ricocheted around the world like this has and which has been more broadly debated in parliaments, in courts and amongst NGOs,” he said.
“The roll call of people who have said there needs to be a debate about this includes three presidents of the United States, two vice-presidents, generals, the security chiefs in the US [who] are all saying this is a debate that in retrospect we had to have.”
During an hour-long session in front of the home affairs select committee, Rusbridger also:
• Said the Guardian had consulted government officials and intelligence agencies – including the FBI, GCHQ, the White House and the Cabinet Office – on more than 100 occasions before the publication of stories….
continue reading and follow links at The Guardian
by Lawrence Davidson, To the Point Analyses
Part I – The Diplomatic Deal with Iran
By now most readers know that the five permanent member nations of the UN Security Council – the United States, China, France, Russia and the United Kingdom – plus Germany, (referred to as the P5+1) have reached a six-month interim diplomatic settlement with the Islamic Republic of Iran. Within this six-month period the P5+1 powers and Iran will seek to conclude a permanent and comprehensive agreement. Readers may also know what Iran has to do according to the agreement, because most of the Western media have repeatedly listed those terms. Either skimmed over or skipped altogether are those things the P5+1 have to do for Iran. Here is a brief synopsis of the agreement:
For the next six months Iran has undertaken to:
- Limit its uranium enrichment program to the 5% level – the level suitable for nuclear power plant fuel – while diluting its stockpile of 20% enriched uranium to below the 5% level. The 20% enriched uranium was used by Iran for medical treatment and research, but the paranoia of the Western powers caused it to be seen as fuel for nuclear weapons.
- Hold to present level the size of its low-enriched (5%) stockpile.
- Halt efforts to produce plutonium (a particularly efficient nuclear weapons material).
- Limit its use of present centrifuges and not construct future ones. The centrifuges are the devices that take “uranium gas” and concentrate it into nuclear fuel. It is the through calibration of the centrifuges that the percentage of enrichment is determined.
– Allow daily inspections of its nuclear facilities.
There are other obligations as well, but these are the principal ones. All of these demands are a reflection of the obsessive conviction of influential and noisy elements in the West, and particularly on the part of the Zionist-influenced U.S. Congress, that Iran is determined to produce nuclear weapons. This obsession has persisted even though Western intelligence agencies repeatedly testified that there was and is no evidence for this assertion. Essentially, this entire affair is the product of unsubstantiated right-wing Zionist anxiety, which in turn has infected pro-Zionist elements in the West.
The fact that this suspicion of Iran has been built up around a fantasy made it easier for the Islamic Republic to agree to the present deal. They never did plan to build a bomb, so giving up the imaginary program was giving up nothing. On the other hand, what Iran is worried about are matters of principle. For instance, as a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, it has a legal right to enrich uranium. It wants that right recognized. Accepting an enrichment process to the 5% level appears sufficiently face-saving for Tehran to agree to the interim settlement.
So what did Iran get in return? For the next six months the P5+1powers and particularly the United States have undertaken to:
- Impose no new sanctions on Iran.
- Suspend present sanctions on (a) gold and precious metals (b) Iran’s auto sector, and (c) Iran’s petrochemical exports. This should give Iran up to $1.5 billion in revenue.
- Cease interference with Iranian oil exports at their present levels.
- Allow for safety-related repairs and inspections for Iranian airlines.
- Release frozen Iranian funds earmarked to pay the tuition of Iranian students attending colleges in third countries.
- Facilitate humanitarian transactions (such as Iran’s importation of medicine), which, even though not covered in the sanctions, had been periodically made difficult by U.S. government bureaucrats.
It is a sign of just how malicious the West can be that they are willing to make difficult for Iran such things as airline safety, education and medicine.
Part II – The Managed Reporting of the Deal
One of the remarkable things about the Western reporting of this very significant diplomatic achievement – after all the U.S. and Iran have had no formal relations for some 33 years – is that it largely ignores Western obligations under the agreement. Even al-Jazeera America’s coverage was scanty in this regard. Why would this be so?
One can only assume that having harped on Iran as a danger to the West for 33 years, and created the an irrational fear of a nonexistent Iranian nuclear weapons program, the U.S. government and its media partners had to frame the agreement in a way that put the onus on Iran.
The Obama administration is stuck with the consequences of those 33 years. Iran has long been the centerpiece in a near-hysterical campaign by Zionists and neoconservatives that portrays the Muslim world as the successor to the old Soviet Union. Communism has been replaced by Islam, and now that the U.S. is supposedly the only real superpower in the world, the message of this campaign is that the United States should act in a preemptive way and use its military and economic power to stamp out alleged real and potential threats. This was the doctrine of the George W. Bush administration, and it led to the disastrous invasion of Iraq. This is the doctrine of the American Zionists who are interested in destroying any Muslim power that may someday challenge Israel.
President Obama’s failure to follow this doctrine, at least in the case of Iran, has made him a target for these warmongers. Reporting the interim agreement with Iran in way that emphasizes Iranian obligations while playing down those of the United States and the West is a tactic to counter the hysteria on the right.
And hysteria is the operative word here. It betrays itself in ridiculous historical comparisons and vicious name-calling. Take for example the hyperbole of Daniel Pipes. Pipes is president of the Middle East Forum and publisher of the Middle East Quarterly, both sounding boards for the Zionist worldview. In an article appearing in the right-wing National Review Pipes writes, “This wretched deal offers one of those rare occasions when comparison with Neville Chamberlain in Munich in 1938 is valid.” This is utter nonsense.
In 1938 the populations of Britain and France wanted peace and their politicians were willing to allow Hitler to act in warlike fashion toward a third party, Czechoslovakia, in order to get what they thought was “peace in our time.”
Today the Western populations have been brought to a state of high suspicion of Iran which is just barely countered by their being sick and tired of war in the Middle East. That is one of the reasons the Iran deal is proceeding in steps.
There is absolutely no basis for comparison between Munich and the deal just made with Iran. At Munich, Germany was turned loose. In the present deal Iran is not let loose but constrained. After Munich there were no inspectors running around Nazi Germany checking on things. In Iran there is now a small army of inspectors. After Munich no one was telling Hitler that if he didn’t behave, the alternative was war. That is what Obama’s speeches imply. The present deal is, in these ways, the complete opposite of Munich.
What sort of world does Pipes live in that he misreads the situation so dramatically? It is an Orwellian world warped by Zionist ideology.
Since these ideologues have opened the door to ugly comparisons, let’s get something straight here. It is not the case that Barack Obama is like Neville Chamberlain. It is, however, the case that the neocons and their ilk remind one of Adolf Hitler, at least when it comes to manufacturing false scenarios for war and then relentlessly selling them to the public. Then, when they are checked, they display the same exaggerated, temper tantrum-like hysterics as did the fascist leaders of the 1930s. So, if anyone is looking for the real threat to Western or Israeli security (existential or otherwise), it is these ideologically blinkered neoconservatives and Zionists along with their media allies.
Part III – Conclusion
The interim deal with Iran is an act of sanity, and the present American administration, whatever other foreign policy shortcomings it has displayed (and there have been plenty) deserves praise for defying the radical right and pushing it through. As to the deal’s detractors in and out of Congress, they are the warmongers among us and deserve to be exposed as such. They are a danger to the world and to their own country. Keep in mind the words of James Madison: “if tyranny and oppression come to this land it will be in the guise of fighting a foreign enemy.”
By Josh Eidelson, Salon, 27 November 13
Bernie Sanders tells Salon it “remains to be seen” if Clinton “will be a forceful advocate for working families”
This month Vermont’s Bernie Sanders, the Senate’s only self-described socialist, made a tour of four Southern states that stoked talk of a presidential run. In an interview this week with Salon, Sanders set forth his thinking about why he might take that plunge, and offered assessments of contenders Hillary Clinton and Elizabeth Warren. He also blasted Wal-Mart’s business model, Republicans’ healthcare tactics, and a level of inequality that he warned has brought America to the cusp of oligarchy. A condensed version of our conversation follows.
How significant is the Senate’s move to change the filibuster for nominations last week? And does this bring us closer to curbing the filibuster for nominations also?
It is a significant step forward in attempting to end the dysfunctionality of the United States Senate. I would go further. And I believe that when we are faced with unprecedented Republican obstruction, that it would make a lot of sense to go to majority vote for legislation as well. I also believe that we have to protect the rights of minorities, and I think minorities – minority or any other member of the Senate – should have as much time as he or she needs to voice opposition, stand up, filibuster, do their thing. So I believe in the concept of the talking filibuster.
But I think what we have got to end is the situation right now where the Senate is basically dysfunctional, and where the major issues facing this country are not being discussed, and are certainly … not being voted on.
What’s your view of the Upton bill that passed the House, and the bill proposed by Sen. Landrieu in the Senate on the Affordable Care Act?
I’m not sympathetic. Clearly, my own view is that [at] a time when our nation spends almost twice as much as any other country on healthcare, and we have so many people who will continue to be uninsured under the Affordable Care Act, we need to move toward a Medicare-for-all, single-payer system. The Affordable Care Act is a modest proposal – it does some good things, it is much too complicated, and it doesn’t get to the root of the problems of America’s healthcare. Clearly, the rollout in terms of the website has been a disaster. That has got to be rectified.
But I would hope that we can move forward as quickly as possible in getting people into the Affordable Care Act, making sure that people get Medicaid, and get the system moving….
continue reading at Salon
I watched the whole forum and you can find the video here. Pay attention to the note “Video starts at 18 minutes”: you have to move the timer ahead.
Interesting format, with a strongly pro-union and pro-teacher audience and two community members setting up each of four themes before the candidates spoke.
See a detailed write-up in Brittany Foster and Keegan Gibson, “Dems Jockey for Liberal Votes at Philly Forum,” Politics PA, 11/23/13.
Here’s what I’d add:
Ladies in red, guys in dark suits–I guess it’s always that way on the campaign trail.
I thought Schwartz was being extra careful not to give juicy quotes to the other side on specific issues that might be contentious in other settings; but she did ably promote pre-school education, Social Security, and health care for children (CHIP). She has been working on education for a long time (see her campaign site).
McCord seemed rather worked-up at times, despite landing some good points, like prevailing wage protecting employment and the benefits of sick leave (restaurant workers coughing on your food: ugh!). Health care should not be about politics: right! He ended on a good note about human dignity, social justice, and efficiency coinciding in expanding Medicaid. He’s a strong speaker but I wish he’d put more detail on issues on his web site.
I wouldn’t agree with commenter Dominic to give Wolf a low grade; he made some good points, like about the boy who read 3+ books a week finding his school had no librarian any more. Wolf, as a businessman, had the standing to say businesses would work better with a PA health exchange. He was surprised to get some applause for his PhD from MIT. Yes, maybe a bit wonkish. Good info on his web site.
I found Hanger clear and forceful on some cutting edge issues: against “privatization of public education,” for marijuana reform (“stop the mad incarceration” that affects African-Americans 5 times more than whites), for single-payer health care (“health care is a human right”–including mental health care and addiction treatment), for the state guaranteeing private company employees’ pensions, expanding Medicaid, alternative energy, and education as a way to expand jobs. The real reason the privatizers attack public ed is to attack unions–that sure struck a chord with the audience. Well said by commenter Jan: “mix of substance and passion.” Huge amounts of info including a regular blog, on his site.
McGinty cited the Phila girl who tragically died because her asthma attack came on a day the school had no nurse… as a result of the Corbett cutbacks. Yes, we need smaller classes. Yes, green energy creates jobs… union jobs with good benefits, as she said, and decent-paying jobs don’t cost jobs. Jobs with PA money should go to Pennsylvanians, not migrant gas workers. I thought she spoke well. Her web site: good, but less developed than some of the others.
Most of the five made the predictable points about stopping inadequate charter schools and underperforming cyber schools from depleting public funds meant for public education; they supported unions, full-day kindergarten, a proper funding formula for school districts, expanding Medicare, and raising the minimum wage. Any would be a great improvement over the incumbent. I don’t recall same-sex marriage coming up, but I think they all agree with it.
Right, they didn’t attack each other. Why should they when there is so much to attack in the way the job is being done right now?
Personal qualities are part of it: voters need to examine not only the issues but also which candidate has the inner strength and public manner to confront the Corbett legacy and his allies, of whom some will doubtless still be around in Harrisburg when his successor takes office in January, 2015.
As the excellent moderator Dr. Tyler said at the beginning, “this is definitely one of the most important elections that we will ever face.” Let’s all pay attention every day between now and November 5, 2014!
by Nathaniel Smith, Politics: A View from West Chester, 11/21/13
Well, at last the Democratic Senators showed some gumption (to use the polite term).
It’s not just about politics but about whether the government can function. The Senate sets its procedures and it can change them if they don’t work any more. They should have done this years ago. The filibuster isn’t sacred (for those who think that the constitution is, the filibuster isn’t there).
Or, the Dem senators could have offered a deal: the Senate would continue to require a 60% majority if the House did the same. Let’s see… 435 representatives X 60% = 261. The House currently has 232 R’s and 200 D’s (3 seats are vacant for now). What do you think about that grand bargain, Mr. Boehner? Ah, I didn’t think so.
So: the president wins the election, and he gets to appoint judges, cabinet officials, and other officials, that’s just the way it is. If we don’t believe in majority rule (with the obvious defenses of various sorts of minorities’ civil rights), our whole constitution may as well shut down.
Elected officials are there to make decisions. If a Senate majority votes to confirm a federal judge who turns out to be a total loser, it will be held against them (and their votes to confirm some of the current Supreme Court justices ought to be)–not on party lines, but on grounds of unsuitability for the office.
There are plenty of checks and balances built into our tripartite government without adding in a supermajority anywhere to gum up the system.
And finally: if we do believe in majority rule, we should abolish that absurd anti-majoritarian 18th-century relic, the Electoral College.
from “Ideological Disaster – An Analysis (20 October 2013)” by Lawrence Davidson, To the Point Analyses
by Lawrence Davidson, To the Point Analyses, 11/22/13
Part I – Global Warming Is Real
On 12 September 2013 I wrote a piece entitled Crisis Today, Catastrophe Tomorrow, through which I joined numerous others warning of the consequences of global warming. The evidence for the evolving dire effects of building CO2 and other greenhouse gases is getting increasingly conclusive. The question is what, if anything, will be done about it?
That question was recently addressed by Paul Krugman in an article, “Gamboling with Civilization,” in which he reviewed economist William Nordhaus’s new book on climate change, The Climate Casino. The article appears in the 7 November 2013 issue of the New York Review of Books. Here are some of the points Krugman makes:
– The scientific consensus laid out in the most recent report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change projects a global temperature increase of between 1.8 and 4.0 degrees Centigrade (3 and 7.5 degrees Fahrenheit) by the year 2100. According to Nordhaus, in the years following 2100 the temperature rise will continue upward perhaps to a maximum of 6.0 degrees Centigrade (10 degrees Fahrenheit). These increases can be directly tied to human activities.
If anyone doubts the negative consequences of the heat waves such rising averages will make more frequent, they should consider what happened in Europe a decade ago. In the summer of 2003, with prolonged temperatures hovering around 100 degrees Fahrenheit, an estimated “70,000 citizens of 12 countries died of heat-induced illnesses over a four month period.”
– There are other things to anticipate, including “sea levels will rise … hurricanes will become more intense … [and] the oceans become more acidic.”
– All of this evidence makes an “overwhelming case for action to limit the temperature rise.”
– At the heart of any effort to do this is the need “to sharply reduce emissions from coal-fired electricity generation.”
One point that Krugman does not make, but that is important, is without further regulation the shift to natural gas will not help solve the global warming problem. The use of natural gas has been hailed as a step toward cleaning up the atmosphere because gas-fired generation of electricity releases only half as much CO2 as does coal. Unfortunately, this is only part of the story. In the first two decades after its release into the atmosphere, natural gas (methane) traps heat 72 times better than does CO2. As natural gas is mined (now more than ever with new “hydraulic fracturing technology”) and transported, it leaks into the atmosphere at an estimated 2.4 percent of volume. Only further government-enforced regulation can control this contribution to global warming. By the way, this source of environmental methane outweighs that coming from cows, which were Ronald Reagan’s favorite source of methane gas.
Part II – Denial and Real Power
For those who pay attention to the evidence it is not difficult to come to an understanding of what the goal is, nor is it difficult to itemize steps to accomplish the task. For instance, Krugman touches on such policies as taxing emissions of greenhouse gases; “cap and trade” programs such as those now used to limit sulfur emissions that produce acid rain; creating consumer incentives to lower energy usage; and investment in technology that captures CO2 at the plants that burn coal.
The real problem is moving from an understanding of all these varied aspects of the situation to action, to finding, in the USA, “the political will to do what is necessary.” Given what is at stake – and Krugman believes that it is the preservation of civilization as we presently experience it – you would think that taking action is a no-brainer. Yet that is a naive assumption. Krugman goes on to give a partial explanation of why:
– “There’s real power behind the opposition to any kind of climate action.” For instance, the major work asserting that human-generated global warming is a sham, The Greatest Hoax: How the Global Warming Conspiracy Threatens Your Future, was written by Senator James Inhofe. Inhofe just happened to be chairman of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works between 2003 and 2007. His book is a sign that those claiming that there is no human-generated global warming have the power, in Krugman’s words, “warp the debate by … denying climate science.”
– The problem of ideology. Inhofe represents an ideological position that appears resistant to “calm, rational argument.” There are two aspects to this ideological resistance. One is economic, an insistence by a subset of capitalists who “imagine themselves as characters in an Ayn Rand novel,” that the free market be allowed to operate no matter what. Unfortunately, as William Nordhaus points out, “there is no genuine ‘free-market solution’ to global warming.” Government intervention must be a part of the answer. The other aspect of ideological resistance is a religiously inspired suspicion of science itself, a “rejection of the scientific method in general,” as Krugman puts it. Many of both sort of ideologues are embedded within the Republican Party and it continues to control half of Congress.
– There is also “naked self-interest.” There are billions of dollars at stake for coal and natural gas companies, and associated businesses, many of whom, according to Krugman, are “subsidizing climate denial.”
Part III – The Problem of Natural Localism
All together this adds up to a “huge roadblock to action” and it troubles me to find still further impediments. Krugman only cites special interest groups and ideologues. Beyond these is another problem group – the biggest group of all – the general public.
The problem with the general public is “natural localism.” This is the tendency for most people to focus their activities and interests within a narrow local range. Statistics tend to provide evidence for a geographical form of natural localism. As of January 2013 only 39% of Americans have valid passports. And, for most of the rest, travel is normally associated with vacations by car. The average one-way distance for such travel is 314 miles.
However, natural localism is not only geographic. It is also temporal. That is, most people are aware of time through their own experiences and those related to the time spans of close relatives and friends. This usually goes back in time as far as grandparents and forward in time as far as our grandchildren. Beyond that range both the past and the future become nebulous and are often perceived as irrelevant to one’s own present.
What has all this to do with global warming? Natural localism makes it very difficult for the average man or woman to feel personally connected to a process whose worst consequences are projected out one hundred plus years into the future. For most, the shorter-term effects may happen beyond their local geographical sphere, or will accrue slowly enough over time to be ignored. It was to break through this barrier and make global warming a part of local consciousness that the organizers of the 2013 Earth Day events adopted the theme “The Face of Climate Change.” The impact was minimal at best.
Thus, the sort of galvanized citizen concern that might successfully contest the industrial and business lobbies fighting against the legislation and regulation necessary to rein in global warming will most likely not be possible until it is too late.
Part IV – Conclusion
Krugman points out that the rise of civilization coincides with a period of climatic stability. Civilization itself, in its industrial and post-industrial phases, is now undermining that stability and by doing so puts itself in peril. There are some who say that science will save us. That is, instead of fighting the special interests and the ideologues, it’s easier to assume that someone will invent ways of reversing global warming in a way that does not require sacrifice. This is really a childish wish and no one should bet on some inventor riding in on a white horse at the last moment to save the day.
So, what is the answer to Krugman’s question? What will we ultimately do about global warming? It might well be that the answer is not nearly enough. We are a species influenced by natural localism, and therefore the majority of Americans, and others in the West as well, are not going to abandon a present full of profit and relative comfort as long as the sky is clear in their own local place and time. As to the future beyond their grandchildren, it simply does not seem real.