War of Aggression Cancelled?

Cartoon bomb

If all goes well, the U.S. military won’t have to invade Iran on behalf of Israel after all. I recall there were times during the Bush administration when I thought we were just days away from another illegal war of aggression – a really big one against a country of 77 million people.

Some important points:

Really, this whole brouhaha isn’t about nuclear weapons at all. It’s about regime change. Or you could also say, it’s about punishing ordinary Iranians because their government doesn’t like Israel.

More info:
Iran Nuclear Deal: World Powers Reach Historic Agreement to Lift Sanctions
Confused About The Iran Deal? This Cartoon Bomb Will Help
“Treason”: Right-Wing Media Lament Historic Deal To Curb Iran’s Nuclear Program
Lindsay Graham: Iran Deal ‘Akin To Declaring War On Israel’

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Conservatives have no idea what Liberals think or believe

It’s difficult to not be astounded, even dumb-founded, at the things conservatives say when they’re talking about everyone who is not conservative.  Thursday morning, the D-News published an editorial by Richard Hancock, a BYU professor, that was completely irrational but which gave a good example of the conservative mindset: Read the rest of this entry »

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John Ellis (‘Jeb’) Bush: Blame the Victims For Bad Economy

What’s wrong with the American economy? If you ask presidential candidate John Ellis (“Jeb”) Bush, it has nothing to do with the Great Recession of 2008 during the most recent Bush administration — which put 8.7 million of us out of work. Nothing to do with Tea-GOP economic sabotage during the long, slow recovery that replaced many middle-class jobs with low-wage and part-time employment.

Our friend “Jeb! 2016″ says all that’s needed to fix the economy is for more people to work longer hours. Apparently he is not aware that productivity and worker compensation have been decoupled for about 40 years now. Working harder gets us nowhere, and makes CEOs and the 1 Percent richer.

The relationship between American workers’ industriousness and their economic security has eroded so severely in recent decades that the two concepts aren’t even on speaking terms these days.

Workers were a staggering 25 percent more productive in 2012 than they were in 2000. But over the same period that bosses started getting a full quarter more work out of their employees, the median wage grew exactly zero percent. Even those with college degrees saw their pay stagnate over the past decade. Over the five-year stretch encompassing the Great Recession and the first few years of the slow recovery Bush is criticizing, workers gave their bosses an 8 percent jump in productivity – and got back an outright decline in earnings.

Tea-GOP prescriptions like “work harder for less pay” don’t deserve to win any votes. Americans who work for a living are not at fault. We’re the victims of a financialized, de-unionized, 1 Percent economy that’s reaching Gilded Age levels of wealth inequality.

UPDATE:
Newsweek: Does Jeb Bush understand economics?

Bush’s full statement was: “My aspiration for the country and I believe we can achieve it, is 4% growth as far as the eye can see. Which means we have to be a lot more productive, workforce participation has to rise from its all-time modern lows. It means that people need to work longer hours and, through their productivity, gain more income for their families.”

This word salad mixes together different economic terms as if they mean the same thing and reaches for statistics that are, quite simply, ridiculous. Perhaps Bush was just sloppy in his language, but whatever aide is prepping him on economics needs to do a better job–maybe by working longer hours.

…When it comes to productivity, American workers have been doing a great job. Productivity, which is the economic output per worker, has grown relentlessly since 1947 in almost a straight upward line. Implying that Americans aren’t being productive enough is about the same as saying McDonald’s doesn’t sell enough hamburgers. How much is enough to Bush? If record productivity–with a cumulative growth of almost 300% since 1947–doesn’t cut it, what does?

There is no context where “we have to be more productive” means anything other than “push yourselves past record levels, workers!” That is, unless Bush doesn’t know what the word means.

But with this full statement, he has also demonstrated that he has no idea of the real problem facing American workers. No doubt, he is blaming them for their stagnant wages–all that’s needed is more hours of work, and wages will improve significantly.

As history proves, that’s hokum. America went through nearly a century where the profits generated by growth in worker productivity was shared–the more they produced, the more money everyone made. What Bush and far too many Republicans refuse to acknowledge is that wages and productivity became uncoupled around 1973: Productivity goes up, corporate profits go up, the rich get wealthier, but the financial benefits don’t trickle down to workers.

…American history’s most productive workers are not responsible for the fact that they aren’t paid enough. Do Bush and his GOP cohorts really believe that the wealthy are sitting in their offices, twiddling their thumbs, waiting for workers to demand more money that will then be handed over gladly? Wages are growing at their lowest level since World War II. In fact, income inequality is worse today than it was in 1774, even when slavery is included in the numbers, according to a study by the National Bureau of Economic Research.

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‘Tyrant’ Season 2

Season 1 of the FX series “Tyrant” was focused on some naive and ham-handed efforts to bring American-style democracy to the fictional Middle Eastern country of Abbudin, leading up to an attempted coup d’etat covertly backed by the U.S. embassy. The second season raises the stakes even higher.

Dominic Patten:

As the newly installed President of Abbudin, Jamal Al-Fayeed (Ashraf Barhom) was by far the most interesting thing about the first season, even as the focus seemed to be on his estranged, Americanized and now-returned brother Bassam aka Barry (Adam Rayner). Well now, with Barry’s coup plans having failed, Jamal has sought new powers and new allies, which has put pedal the dictatorship metal – all of which makes for a better show.

Tyrant Jamal starts off this season by using chemical weapons to wipe out the local anti-government insurgency, but co-producers Gideon Raff and Howard Gordon have introduced a new threat, in the form of a certain extremist jihadist group based in… Raqqa, Syria and led by the shadowy Abu Omar. They call themselves “The Caliphate,” and their pickup trucks fly red flags, but these guys are just as bloodthirsty as ISIS.

It will be interesting to see how successful the American-supported Abbudin military will be in defending the regime. And whether the show can keep from getting bogged down in soap-opera sub-plots.

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Greece Votes No

Greek voters resounding voted “No” on a referendum about austerity.

I don’t speak Greek but I think a loose translation of the message is “Fuck you, Germany.”

The best line of the week belongs to Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras:

“Even in the most difficult circumstances, democracy can’t be blackmailed — it is a dominant value and the way forward,” Tsipras tweeted on Sunday night, adding that Greece intends to restart negotiations with Europe next week.

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Democracy Triumphs in Greece

Greece wins

Today the birthplace of democracy was the scene of a triumph of the 99 Percent. Greeks voted against austerity by a 20-point margin. Paul Krugman:

[W]e have just witnessed Greece stand up to a truly vile campaign of bullying and intimidation, an attempt to scare the Greek public, not just into accepting creditor demands, but into getting rid of their government. It was a shameful moment in modern European history, and would have set a truly ugly precedent if it had succeeded.

More info:
HuffPo live updates

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July 4th Scorecard

According to our government and the media, everyone is supposed to be terrified of ISIS this weekend. So let’s keep score of recent attacks here in the American “homeland.” I’ll update as necessary through Sunday.

SHARKS vs. Americans
Killed = 0
Wounded = 10 (Florida, North & South Carolina)

ALLIGATORS vs. Americans
Killed = 1 (Texas)
Wounded = 2 (Texas)

DOGS vs. Americans
Killed = 2 (Texas and Oklahoma)
Wounded = 1 (Alaska)

FIREWORKS vs. Americans
Killed = 1 (Maine)
Wounded = 9 (Colorado)

LIGHTNING vs. Americans
Killed = 1 (Arizona)
Wounded = 6 (3 in Colorado and 3 in Minnesota)

ARMED TODDLERS vs. Americans
Killed = 2 (1 in Louisiana, 1 in Michigan)
Wounded = 0

ISIS vs. Americans
Killed = 0
Wounded = 0

More info:
Video Captures Fireworks Bombarding Terrified Crowd In Avon, Colorado

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How To Talk To A Brick Wall

Utah Tar Sands Panel

Utah Tar Sands Panel


The Utah Department of Natural Resource’s Division of Oil, Gas and Mining held a hearing yesterday morning because a Canadian energy corporation has plans to mine large areas of Utah tar sands. Under state law, a hearing must be held if residents have objections.

I was worried nobody would be there to document the proceedings, so I took my camcorder to the event. The first part of the meeting was consumed by representatives for “U.S. Oil Sands”, defending the Calgary based company from questions about it’s protection of Utah’s water resources.

The Salt Lake Tribune and the Deseret Morning News did stories on the matter, but I’m pretty sure I was the only one who filmed the meeting. Television crews sometimes cover things getting set up and then leave when important public events get underway.

I’m only presenting comments given by the Utah activists and citizens who showed up and elected to speak. Obviously I didn’t have a tripod. Nothing has been edited except for where the second speaker gives his name. My battery had to be changed.

Enjoy:

After the public comments, John Baza, who presided over the hearing said, “There are things that have been said here today that have touched me and I am sensitive to those.” My opinion is that the corporation will get everything it wants. Am I being cynical again?

UPDATE: Here is the panel discussion portion of the hearing. This is virtually the entire conversation. The short gaps were due to small camera adjustments. I’m still learning how to use it. :)

The man closest to, and facing away from my camera during the video and in the top picture of this post is University of Utah geology professor, Bill Johnson. He is fighting hard for Utah’s lands:

Please go to “Utah Tar Sands Resistance” to participate in stopping the destruction of our beautiful Utah lands or Donate!

UPDATE: Jill Merritt made up this handy list to navigate the first video. Thanks Jill!
speaker list 2

UPDATE: The Salt Lake Tribune has published two letters to the editor: From July 4th and July 5th. The paper has also published a very good editorial concerning the Tar Sands hearing:

Editorial: Tar sands extraction unproven and risky

UPDATE: As I suspected, the expansion of the “U.S. Oil Sands” project has been approved. The Salt Lake Tribune reports “a partial victory for environmentalists due to requiring the company to monitor nearby springs for potential groundwater contamination and submit documentation showing the mine is in compliance with air quality regulations. Of course none of the environmentalists wanted an expansion at all, and I have my doubts that the monitoring will be carried out sufficiently.

Here’s the latest Deseret News article.

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The Supreme Court Is On A Big Roll For The People!

It's just not right!

It’s just not right!

Thank goodness Obama got elected and was able to get two honest jurors on the supreme court. Everybody is stunned to see decision after decision coming down on the side of ordinary Americans for a change. Scalia is just beside himself and even mentioned “hippies” in his dissenting court opinion about gay marriage. Bizarre.

First came the ruling against segregation in housing. Then “Obamacare” was saved in a decisive vote. I can only remember one other such vote in over a decade, since we started to see all these 5 to 4 politically motivated votes coming out of the court. Then the stunning “marriage equality” decision.

Today we hear about a ruling which actually allows citizens to be included in redistricting discussions. This is really big! I hope something can be done in time for the next presidential vote, but I doubt it.

This should be a clarion call for people to get out and overwhelm the voting system by – you know – voting, so we can prevent a Republican president from stacking the court with partisan hacks again. If McCain and Romney had taken over the white house, none of these rulings would have been possible.

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Utah Politicians Are Spending Millions On Public Land Grab Scheme – At Your Expense

Land Beyond the Law

Writing in the Salt Lake City Weekly, Eric Ethington reveals that frustrated Utah politicians are trying to deal with widespread public opposition to their land grab plans by hiring two right-wing consulting firms, Strata Policy and Davillier Law Group. Strata is best known for its opposition to renewable energy.

The job of these firms is apparently to get more support for state government’s illegal scheme to steal 30 million acres of our public lands. On June 16, Utah lawmakers committed up to $2 million in taxpayer dollars for the two firms to launch PR campaigns aimed at convincing a majority of Utahns that it’s somehow a good idea to ditch the whole concept of public lands. It’s all part of the Koch brothers agenda, but why should the Kochs pay for their own propaganda when they can get their hands on OUR money?

The consequences of a state takeover of public lands and national forests in Utah have been spelled out already. In general, such a land grab would require either a steep Utah tax hike or a massive increase in fossil fuel extraction to cover the cost of land management (hundreds of millions of dollars annually).

One way to answer this Tea-GOP attack on public lands: President Obama could be persuaded to declare one or more national monuments in Utah before he leaves office. Potential national monument proclamations could include Greater Canyonlands, the San Rafael Swell, Cedar Mesa or Desolation Canyon along the Green River. The new monuments would be incorporated into BLM’s National Landscape Conservation System and managed to protect natural and cultural values. The Obama administration has already demonstrated a willingness to move ahead with monument proclamations.

UPDATE:
Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune is lobbying for a Greater Canyonlands National Monument proclamation.

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I’d like to thank the Mormon Church

11665393_1029501420394311_7845676546534926521_n

This is not a joke. I actually want to thank the LDS church for the legalization of gay marriage. After all, their meddling in politics (Which I should add is against the law) led to Proposition 8 being overturned and later, their Amendment 3 was struck down by the courts, making Utah the first domino piece to fall. In all seriousness, you cannot say that any of this could have happened without Utah legalizing gay marriage. For that, the real hero is Judge Robert J. Shelby.

11 Comments

Big News From Ben & Jerry’s

I Dough I Dough ice cream
Where is Glenden these days? Anyway, Ben & Jerry’s celebrated today’s history-making Supreme Court decision on marriage equality with ‘I Dough, I Dough’ ice cream.

The Court majority held that the Constitution requires a state to license a marriage between two people of the same sex, and to recognize a marriage between two people of the same sex when a marriage was lawfully licensed and performed out of state.

We’re reminded today that freedom isn’t free. Basic constitutional rights are hard-won after years of struggle. Plus, the Tea-GOP made a big mistake in 2004 by putting same-sex marriage bans on state ballots (it was a GOTV strategy by Karl Rove to boost George W. Bush’s re-election chances).

Utah was one of 11 states that enacted a redundant constitutional amendment (same-sex marriage was already illegal in Utah), thus running afoul of the Equal Protection Clause in the Fourteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. Battles are often won by taking full advantage of an enemy blunder.

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