Thursday, March 31, 2011

From Lapham's Quarterly

Lewis H. Lapham is Editor of Lapham’s Quarterly. Formerly Editor of Harper’s Magazine, he is the author of numerous books, including Money and Class in America, Theater of War, Gag Rule, and, most recently, Pretensions to Empire. The New York Times has likened him to H. L. Mencken; Vanity Fair has suggested a strong resemblance to Mark Twain; and Tom Wolfe has compared him to Montaigne. A native of San Francisco, Mr. Lapham was educated at Yale and Cambridge.

Lewis Lapham’s Newspaper Days

Strange tales of the newspaper business in late-1950s San Francisco and Oakland, from LQ founder and editor Lewis Lapham, live at The Moth in 2003. Click here to listen

From Truthout

Extensive Outsourcing Leads to Trouble

Thursday 31 March 2011
by: Paul Krugman, Krugman & Co.

A helicopter owned by a defense contractor hovers near Baghdad. (Photo: Shawn Baldwin / The New York Times)
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There’s a new article in the March/April edition of the Washington Monthly making the point that the United States needs federal bureaucrats to manage spending, including spending on private contractors, and that understaffing the government — which we’re doing already, and will do more of if the right gets its way — actually increases the deficit. I agree.

“In practice, cutting civil servants often means either adding private contractors or ... resorting to the belief that industries have a deep capacity to police themselves,” John Gravois writes.

“Strange as it may sound, to get a grip on costs, we should in many cases be hiring many more bureaucrats — and paying more to get better ones — not cutting their numbers and freezing their pay.”

And — perfect timing — we have a new report from the bipartisan Commission on Wartime Contracting, which found that tens of billions of dollars have been wasted on undersupervised contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan. According to the report, “although no estimate captures the full cost associated with this waste, fraud, and abuse, it clearly runs into the billions of dollars.

Yet, for many years the government has abdicated its contracting responsibilities — too often using contractors as the default mechanism, driven by considerations other than whether they provide the best solution, and without consideration for the resources needed to manage them.”

What’s happened in American political discourse is that constant repetition has drilled in the message that government officials are always engaged in pointless activity, and that private is always better — even if you’re hiring private contractors to do government work, which means that there’s no market competition. None of this is true. Federal offices, in my experience, are quite thinly staffed and overstretched, despite having very real jobs to do. And the experience with outsourcing to contractors has been mixed to bad across the board.

The thing is, any private corporation would have no trouble understanding the argument that you need more auditing, more supervision, to keep costs under control.

But when it comes to government, the myth of the useless bureaucrat persists. Of course, that’s the way the contractors like it.

From The Daily Show

The GOP's Baseistan: God Fearing and Allah Terrified

From Robert Reich Blog

The Truth About the Economy that Nobody In Washington Or On Wall Street Will Admit: We’re Heading Back Toward a Double Dip

by Robert Reich
Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Why aren’t Americans being told the truth about the economy? We’re heading in the direction of a double dip – but you’d never know it if you listened to the upbeat messages coming out of Wall Street and Washington.

Consumers are 70 percent of the American economy, and consumer confidence is plummeting. It’s weaker today on average than at the lowest point of the Great Recession.

The Reuters/University of Michigan survey shows a 10 point decline in March – the tenth largest drop on record. Part of that drop is attributable to rising fuel and food prices. A separate Conference Board’s index of consumer confidence, just released, shows consumer confidence at a five-month low — and a large part is due to expectations of fewer jobs and lower wages in the months ahead.

Pessimistic consumers buy less. And fewer sales spells economic trouble ahead.

What about the 192,000 jobs added in February? (We’ll know more Friday about how many jobs were added in March.) It’s peanuts compared to what’s needed. Remember, 125,000 new jobs are necessary just to keep up with a growing number of Americans eligible for employment. And the nation has lost so many jobs over the last three years that even at a rate of 200,000 a month we wouldn’t get back to 6 percent unemployment until 2016.

But isn’t the economy growing again – by an estimated 2.5 to 2.9 percent this year? Yes, but that’s even less than peanuts. The deeper the economic hole, the faster the growth needed to get back on track. By this point in the so-called recovery we’d expect growth of 4 to 6 percent.

Consider that back in 1934, when it was emerging from the deepest hole of the Great Depression, the economy grew 7.7 percent. The next year it grew over 8 percent. In 1936 it grew a whopping 14.1 percent.

Add two other ominous signs: Real hourly wages continue to fall, and housing prices continue to drop. Hourly wages are falling because with unemployment so high, most people have no bargaining power and will take whatever they can get. Housing is dropping because of the ever-larger number of homes people have walked away from because they can’t pay their mortgages. But because homes the biggest asset most Americans own, as home prices drop most Americans feel even poorer.

There’s no possibility government will make up for the coming shortfall in consumer spending. To the contrary, government is worsening the situation. State and local governments are slashing their budgets by roughly $110 billion this year. The federal stimulus is ending, and the federal government will end up cutting some $30 billion from this year’s budget.

In other words: Watch out. We may avoid a double dip but the economy is slowing ominously, and the booster rockets are disappearing.

So why aren’t we getting the truth about the economy? For one thing, Wall Street is buoyant – and most financial news you hear comes from the Street. Wall Street profits soared to $426.5 billion last quarter, according to the Commerce Department. (That gain more than offset a drop in the profits of non-financial domestic companies.) Anyone who believes the Dodd-Frank financial reform bill put a stop to the Street’s creativity hasn’t been watching.

To the extent non-financial companies are doing well, they’re making most of their money abroad. Since 1992, for example, G.E.’s offshore profits have risen $92 billion, from $15 billion (which is one reason it pays no U.S. taxes). In fact, the only group that’s optimistic about the future are CEOs of big American companies. The Business Roundtable’s economic outlook index, which surveys 142 CEOs, is now at its highest point since it began in 2002.

Washington, meanwhile, doesn’t want to sound the economic alarm. The White House and most Democrats want Americans to believe the economy is on an upswing.

Republicans, for their part, worry that if they tell it like it is Americans will want government to do more rather than less. They’d rather not talk about jobs and wages, and put the focus instead on deficit reduction (or spread the lie that by reducing the deficit we’ll get more jobs and higher wages).

I’m sorry to have to deliver the bad news, but it’s better you know.

Bicentennial Capitol Mall (Photos)

Here are a few shots taken in and around Bicentennial Capitol Mall just north of the Tennessee State Capitol.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

The Indian Removal Act

by Dee Newman

On May 26, 1830 President Andrew Jackson signed into law the Indian Removal Act.

The controversial act was strongly supported by southern states. Georgia, the largest state at that time in the south, was involved in a litigious land dispute with the Cherokee Nation. President Jackson believed removal would resolve this dispute and others.

Though most European Americans favored the passage of the Act, there was significant opposition. Among others who spoke out against the legislation in Congress were Congressman Davy Crockett of Tennessee and Senator Theodore Frelinghuysen of New Jersey. A future President, Abraham Lincoln, also opposed the Indian Removal Act. Unfortunately, after a bitter debate in Congress the Act was passed.

The Removal Act was, in fact, supposed to be voluntary. In practice, however, it was not. Great pressure was put on Native American leaders to sign removal treaties. When Jackson was re-elected by a landslide in 1832 many native American leaders who had previously resisted removal began to reconsider their positions. The tribes affected by the Act included the Choctaw, Cherokee, Chickasaw, Creek, and Seminole.

The first removal treaty that was signed after the Removal Act was passed was the Treaty of Dancing Rabbit Creek by the Choctaws in Mississippi on September 27, 1830. The Choctaws surrendered their land east of the Mississippi river in exchange for payment and land in the West.

A Choctaw Chief, either Thomas Harkins or Nitikechi, was quoted in the Arkansas Gazette at the time as saying their removal was a "trail of tears and death."

It was not until 1835 when the Treaty of New Echota was signed that the Cherokee began their Trail of Tears.

Other tribes did not leave peacefully, including the Seminoles in Florida. The Second Seminole War lasted from 1835 to 1842 and resulted in their forced removal.

Please read below Jack's Sage of Bucksnort – “THE TRAIL WHERE THEY CRIED”

Sage of Bucksnort


by Jack Reeves

“The first people to inhabit what is now Bucksnort came from the Great Lakes region, some 4,000 years ago. They’re called Woodland Indians.

“For some three thousand years, to around A.D. 1000, these ‘mound builders’ dominated, until around 1600 of the Common Era. Their tenure collapsed 100 years after Europeans arrived.

“From 1600, the inhabitants of the Oconee plain were Creek Indians, who in 1755 were driven out by the Cherokees. Oconee is Creek for ‘spring of the hills.’”

“One hundred and sixty-six years ago our forebears rounded up these families--from this land, their land--and drove them like livestock some 1,000 miles to what is now Oklahoma, called Indian Territory.”

Thus began Rev. Harmon Fletcher’s sermon at St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church.

“It became known as the Trail of Tears, or as literally translated from Cherokee, ‘the trail where they cried.’

“We hear a lot about passion these days. Let me guide your minds and hearts to a related word: compassion--sympathetic consciousness of others’ distress.

“The Cherokee who lived here had adopted our ways. They dressed like whites, they grew crops and fruit, lived in cabins, raised livestock, built churches, prayed to the same God.

“Yet because of our ancestors’ desire for land--and gold found in Georgia--an act of Congress and a sham treaty of cession, the latter signed in this state, were used to justify removal. Ruthless removal.

“In May 1838 the roundup began. Families were separated--the elderly and ill forced out at gunpoint--people given only moments to collect cherished possessions. Looters followed, ransacking homesteads as the victims were led to stockades in preparation for the harrowing drive.

“Some 17,000 Cherokees--men, women, children, old and young--were herded into these prisons. Crowding, poor sanitation, and drought made them miserable. Many died.

“A private in the U.S. Army, John Burnett, described it: ‘I saw the...Cherokees...dragged from their homes, and driven at the bayonet point into the stockades.... I saw them loaded like cattle...into wagons.... Many of them had been driven from home barefooted.’

“By March 1839, all survivors had arrived in the west. No one knows how many died throughout the ordeal, but the trip was especially hard on infants, children, and the elderly. Missionary doctor Elizur Butler, who accompanied the Cherokees, estimated that over 4,000 died--nearly a fifth of the Cherokee population.

“Remember, these souls had become acculturated to our lifestyle!

“I conclude with a recollection of a survivor: ‘Long time we travel on way to new land. People feel bad when they leave Old Nation. Womens cry and make sad wails. Children cry and many men cry...but they say nothing and just put heads down and keep on going towards West. Many days pass and people die very much.’

“I cannot look upon this land, this community without visualizing these deeds. They burn in my mind. You and I live on the ‘trail where they cried.’ We ought to weep, too.”

Tuesday, March 29, 2011


Three Bronze Equestrian Statues of Andrew Jackson

Three bronze equestrian statues of Andrew Jackson were cast between 1853 and 1880. They are unique in the fact that the sculptor, artist Clark Mills, designed the statue with only the two rear legs of the General's horse supporting the statue.

The last of the three statue was unveiled on May 20, 1880, as a part of Nashville's centennial celebration. It stands on the east side of the State Capitol in Nashville, Tennessee. The statue was a gift to the state by the Tennessee Historical Society.

The first Jackson equestrian statue was dedicated on January 8, 1853. Do you know where it is located? Clue: Andrew Jackson was the seventh President of the United States of America.

The second equestrian statue was dedicated on February 9, 1856. Do you know where it is located? Clue: During the War of 1812 Jackson overwhelmingly defeated a superior British force and became the hero of what Battle?

Mills trained his own horse, Olympus, to pose on its haunches for the sculpture. Do you know the actual name of General Jackson's horse? Clue: It wasn't Marion Morrison.

From Jack

The following was first published in the Chattanoogan in 2004: 

Chattanooga Naturalist Robert Sparks Walker Remembered

by Jack Reeves
posted February 2, 2004

Robert Sparks Walker was born 126 years ago this week, on Feb. 4 in what is now East Brainerd, where I grew up.

I first met him almost a half century ago, when he was in his late 70s. One of Tennessee's leading historians and naturalists, his accomplishments are chronicled in Who's Who in America.

Robert Sparks Walker's reputation was indeed national. He was published in the New York Times, Better Homes and Gardens, the Christian Science Monitor, and Nature Magazine, among others.

He sold over 1,000 poems and 500 articles--most on nature themes. He published 10 books--one nominated for the Pulitzer Prize--and wrote a nature column for 25 years for the Chattanooga Times.

He was an exceptional, unassuming horticulturist--with a law degree. During his life he identified and labeled more than 3,500 trees on school grounds and parks, hosted a weekly nature radio program, and answered over 20,000 nature questions. He founded the Chattanooga Audubon Society and edited its quarterly.

Robert Sparks Walker--invariably referred to by his complete name--was born in a log home named Spring Frog Cabin, built by Spring Frog, a Cherokee naturalist, in 1750. The cabin is located on the 130-acre Elise Chapin Wildlife Sanctuary, two miles off East Brainerd Road.

He devoted a large part of his life to the preservation of the cabin and the development of the Bird Sanctuary. For decades he was the sanctuary's superintendent and authority on all things wild, and alive, and fascinating--especially to a youth my age.

I first met Mr. Walker in the cabin of his birth while on a school trip. He was the first legend I ever met. In high school, I worked with him on a class excursion; I recall picking him up at his home and driving to the sanctuary.

Through the years I knew him, he taught me to be attentive and to attend to nature. He also taught me the pleasure and importance of history and of our purposeful place in that continuum.

Robert Sparks Walker lived simply within the loveliness of nature; he noted and explained its wonders. He had exceptional skills to expose the extraordinary in the ordinary. He helped us appreciate the marvel in the mundane: a leaf, a flower, a bird, even a stone.

His attunement to nature and his passion for it inspired me. I learned to love biology, the study of life. I enjoyed writing about scientific research. Combining the two, I found a career.

Where there is no vision, the people perish, states the Bible. I recast the truism. Had there been no Robert Sparks Walker, I would not be who I am today: a former lawyer who made a career as a science writer and journalist. I feel--perhaps seek--further affinity being born on Feb. 3, the day before his birthday.

It took a long time for me to recognize this influence. William Ellery Channing captured it: The mind--in proportion as it is cut off from free communication with nature, with revelation, with God, with itself--loses its life, just as the body droops when debarred from the air and the cheering light from heaven.

I found none of the nature I love in law and being lawyerly. I was in my 40s before I finally embraced my natural roots.

The Elise Chapin refuge was one of Mr. Walker's favorite places; for years he spent nearly every day there--cold, rain, or shine.

On Sept. 26, 1960 Robert Sparks Walker died of a heart attack. He was walking in his beloved sanctuary. He is still there, buried next to Spring Frog Cabin.

On his birthday, I address his living spirit: Mr. Walker, your love of nature and stewardship to preserve and protect the environment remain exemplary.

You helped set the compass of my life; it continues to guide me. Most of all, you showed how nature points beyond itself, helping me discover the One Great Face behind its many masks.

(Former Chattanoogan Jack Reeves, MA, JD--member, Georgia Bar and federal court system--is an award-winning journalist (Georgia Press Association) and science writer. He headed communications programs for World Bank- and United Nations Development Programme-sponsored international agricultural research centers in Colombia, Ethiopia, Taiwan, and Nigeria (1984-1999). He was a federal program writer for Chattanooga Progress, Inc. (1968), an agency of city government. He lives in the Oconee National Forest, Greene County, Georgia, from which he continues to reflect on nature and write about it.)

Monday, March 28, 2011

From The White House

President Obama’s Speech on Libya

March 28, 2011 | 26:32 | Public Domain

Monday, March 28, 2011, the President delivers an address at the National Defense University in Washington, DC to update the American people on the situation in Libya, including the actions we’ve taken with allies and partners to protect the Libyan people from the brutality of Moammar Qaddafi, the transition to NATO command and control, and our policy going forward.

Richard Feynman

Richard Feynman was an American physicist. During his lifetime, he became one of the best-known scientists in the world. He assisted in the development of the atomic bomb. In 1965 he won the Nobel Prize in Physics jointly with Julian Schwinger and Sin-Itiro Tomonaga. Best known for laying the groundwork for the "path integral" approach in the formulation of quantum mechanics, the theory of quantum electrodynamics and particle physics, he is also credited with pioneering the field of quantum computing, and introducing the concept of nanotechnology.

His biographer, James Gleick, in Genius: The Life and Science of Richard Feynman wrote:
At twenty-three ... there was no physicist on earth who could match his exuberant command over the native materials of theoretical science. It was not just a facility at mathematics (though it had become clear ... that the mathematical machinery emerging from the Wheeler-Feynman collaboration was beyond Wheeler's own ability). Feynman seemed to possess a frightening ease with the substance behind the equations, like Albert Einstein at the same age, like the Soviet physicist Lev Landau—but few others.

From Jack

The following was first published in the Chattanoogan in 2002:

Recalling Antietam And Some Parentless Children

by Jack Reeves
posted September 18, 2002

September 17 marked the 140th anniversary of the Battle of Antietam, the deadliest day in American history. Some 6,500 men died, more than twice the deaths on September 11.

Another 15,000 were wounded and would recover. But many would never walk on two legs or work with two arms again.

The casualties at Antietam were four times greater than the number of Americans killed or wounded at Normandy.

The Civil War, though five generations behind us, still touches our time. I believe that its effects have shaped me.

My paternal great-grandfather and great-grandmother are buried in Cobb County, near Marietta, Georgia; my maternal great-grandmother and great-grandfather in adjacent Cherokee County. I recently made a pilgrimage to their graves.

Cobb's Kemp Cemetery is frozen in time, a stark anomaly to its suburb environs. I parked the car. From a distance the family name stood out: Andrew Jackson Reeves, 1849-1921; Martha Mitchell Reeves, 1852-1927.

When they were born, Abraham Lincoln was an Illinois lawyer. During the Civil War, they were in their teens. They likely saw Atlanta burning.

I ran my fingers over the time-eroded names and mused on the transitory enigma: life.

I drove to Little River Cemetery. I thought of the people who were born, married, raised children, died, and were buried in this circumscribed world delineated by landmarks known as Sweat's Mountain, Rube's Creek, and the Alabama Road.

My grandmother's father, Isaac Wood, and mother, Annie, are buried at Little River. She and Isaac had five children.

My grandmother, Carrie, was the youngest. Isaac died when my grandmother was two. Her mother, Annie, died three years later. The five children were parentless.

Her epitaph in the records of the Woodstock Baptist Church reads:

"The last tribute of respect to the memory of Sister Annie Wood. She was born in 1851 and early in life gave herself to Christ.

"She was the wife of Isaac Wood who died several years ago, leaving her with five small children which she tried to raise up for Christ. She was the daughter of affliction but bore it all with Christian patience. She died June 10, 1884.

"May a smiling Providence bless here doubly orphaned children and may it be the chief desire to imitate her many Christian virtues."

Annie Wood was 33 years old when she passed away. I can imagine the trepidation she must have felt when her husband died and with five children faced survival on land still bearing the ravages of the Civil War.

What fear and grief must this child - who became my grandmother -have experienced when the person who loved her the most disappeared?

How did this void get interpreted in her life and, ultimately, in the lives of her children?

Fortunately, a widow named Haney took the children under her care.

All of us are children of children past. Our ancestors' lives -their struggles, loss, courage, decisions, and values - become the amalgam of our lives.

Annie Wood, my great-grandmother, a widow with five children, gripped me. When she passed away my grandmother, Carrie, was five.

How might this tragedy have touched Carrie's son - my father, also named Andrew Jackson - who shaped my life? What of me - in the chain of time - may be the expressions of that event 118 years ago?

There is some bereavement, I suspect, that by its depth, because of its indelible nature, is passed on. It's elusive, but I believe it can survive in subtle ways.

I don't know the specifics, but I suspect the chain's intact.

Jack Reeves

Saturday, March 26, 2011

From The White House

The White House Blog

Weekly Address: The Military Mission in Libya

The President says that thanks to our men and women in uniform, the military mission in Libya is succeeding even as responsibility is transferred to our NATO allies and partners.

From the Blog: Carol, Jeff, and Cameron in Cairo

The following video is of an American University of Cairo (AUC) student who recently returned to Cairo from her home in Vermont. She is the granddaughter of a friend of my good friend Jack Reeves.

Friday, March 25, 2011

From The Nation

How Wall Street Crooks Get Out of Jail Free

by William Greider

When Charles Ferguson received an Oscar for his documentary on the financial crisis, Inside Job, he reminded the audience that “not a single financial executive has gone to jail, and that’s wrong.” Given the abundant evidence of massive fraud, Americans everywhere have asked the same question: Why haven’t any of those bankers gone to jail? If federal investigators could not establish criminal intent for any top-flight executives, didn’t they have enough evidence to prosecute banks or financial houses as law-breaking corporations?

Evidently not. Except for occasional civil complaints by the Securities and Exchange Commission, the nation is left to face a disturbing spectacle: crime without punishment. Massive injuries were done to millions of people by reckless bankers, and vast wealth was destroyed by elaborate financial deceptions. Yet there are no culprits to be held responsible.

Former Senator Ted Kaufman was especially upset by this. Kaufman was appointed in 2008 to fill out the remaining two years of Vice President Biden’s term as senator from Delaware. With no ambition to stay in politics, he was free to speak his mind. He made unpunished bankers his special cause.

“People know that if they rob a bank they will go to jail,” Kaufman declared in an early speech. “Bankers should know that if they rob people, they will go to jail too.” Serving on the Senate Judiciary Committee, he helped get expanded funding and manpower for investigative agencies. In hearings, he politely prodded the Justice Department, the SEC and the FBI to be more aggressive.

“At the end of the day,” Senator Kaufman warned, “this is a test of whether we have one justice system in this country or two. If we do not treat a Wall Street firm that defrauded investors of millions of dollars the same way we treat someone who stole $500 from a cash register, then how can we expect our citizens to have any faith in the rule of law?”

Kaufman, now retired, sounded slightly embarrassed when I reminded him of his question. “When you look at what we got, it ain’t very much,” he conceded. “I’m genuinely concerned there are a lot of guys walking around Wall Street, the bad apples, saying, ‘Hey, man, we got away with it. We’re going to do it again.’”

If the legal system cannot locate the villains in this story, then “the law is a ass—a idiot,” as Charles Dickens put it. The technical difficulties in making a case for criminal prosecutions are real enough, given the complexities of modern finance. But the government’s lack of response to enormous wrongdoing reflects a deeper conflict of values. Will society’s sense of right and wrong prevail, or will corporate capitalism’s amoral need to maximize profit? So far, the marketplace appears to be winning.

The government’s ambivalence about prosecuting the largest corporate interests could be heard in the president’s comments. “Nothing will be gained by spending our time and energy laying blame for the past,” Barack Obama said in a different context (crimes of torture and unlawful detention committed under the Bush administration). Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner bluntly dismissed the “public desire for Old Testament justice.” That might be morally satisfying, he said, but it would be “dramatically damaging” to economic recovery.

At Least 10,035 People Dead and 17,443 Are Missing

From Charity Navigator: Japan Earthquake and Tsunami: How To Help

A 9-magnitude earthquake struck Japan north of Tokyo on March 11. It resulted in a devastating tsunami which caused significant damage in coastal towns. There are reports of thousands of possible injuries and fatalities. The death toll is expected to rise.

There are various opinions on whether or not it is advisable to give for Japan quake and tsunami relief efforts. At Charity Navigator, we think the scope of the disaster is so great, that the charities that are already involved, and those that will become involved, will play a vital role in the relief effort. There will be significant costs associated with those efforts.

As you decide what is right for you, please keep in mind the following:
* We are only including charities on the list to the right that are 3 and 4-star charities and that have responded to our request for more information about their efforts in Japan and their plans for designated funds.
* Some of the charities listed here are not committing to spending all of the money they raise now for their efforts in Japan. As the situation continues to unfold, many charities are yet unsure if they will raise more than they need and therefore will want to use the donations instead for future disasters and/or their work in other parts of the world. If the charity has clearly indicated to us, and on their website, that they are committed to using Japan quake/tsunami restricted funds only for those purposes, then we have indicated that as a ‘yes’ in the last column in the table to the right. All the charities with ‘no’ responses either were not entirely clear on this point, or they were accepting designated gifts with the caveat that ‘excess’ funds may be used elsewhere (such as American Red Cross), or they were not accepting designated gifts at all preferring to ask donors to contribute to their work in responding to any and all disasters (as in the case of National Disaster Search Dog Foundation).
* Felix Salmon of Reuters suggests that if you are inspired to give because of the tragedy in Japan, then make an unrestricted gift. You can read his article here. FoxNews Channel also picked up this debate which you can watch here.

If you decide to give, then please consult our giving tips listed below.
* Avoid Newly-Formed Charities and Give To An Established Charity That Has Worked In Japan - Establishing a new charity is hard enough, but in a crisis, the odds of succeeding are slim to none. Think of it this way: would you entrust all your savings in a financial firm that just opened, doesn't even have stationery, and whose employees have no experience in investing money? Doubtful. Find a charity with a proven track record of success in providing disaster relief on a massive scale and one that has worked in Japan and the other impacted regions. Start with the list of charities on the right and if a group you are considering supporting isn’t there, then take the time to thoroughly research it before making a gift.
* Designate Your Investment – Generally, it is best to trust your chosen charity to spend your donation as it sees fit. But with disaster related giving, you may choose to specify that you want your donation only used to respond to this particular crisis.
* Do Not Send Supplies – Knowing that people are desperately in need of food and water, it is hard not to want to pack up a box of supplies and send it to Japan. But this type of philanthropy is simply not practical or efficient. Even if mail could get to an impacted region, no one is set up to receive these goods, much less organize and distribute them to the victims. Furthermore, charities are often able to partner with companies to acquire large amounts of in-kind donations such as bottled water and new clothing. Instead of boxing up and sending your old clothing, have a garage sale and turn your used goods into cash and donate that to a worthy charity.
* Be Careful Of Email Solicitations
* Be Leery Of People That Contact You Online Claiming To Be A Victim – Unless you personally know someone in Japan, anyone alleging to be in this position is most likely part of a scam. Obviously, people affected by the earthquake and tsunami are in no position to contact you directly for assistance.
* Delete Unsolicited Emails With Attachments - Never respond to unsolicited emails. Do not open any attachments to these emails even if they claim to contain pictures from Japan. These attachments are probably viruses.
* Seek Out The Charity’s Authorized Website – Criminals are likely to set up bogus sites to steal the identity and money of generous and unsuspecting individuals. We saw this after Hurricane Katrina when the FBI reported that 4,000 sites were created to do just that. So, if you plan to give online, be sure to find the charity’s legitimate site. You can safely give on Charity Navigator’s site via our partnership with Network for Good. Alternatively, we link to each charity’s authorized site so you can give there if you prefer.
* Think before you text - So long as you do your homework – meaning that you’ve vetted the charity and made sure that you are using the proper texting instructions- then texting can be a great way to give. Remember there may be additional costs to you to make such a gift. And it can take as much as 90 days for the charity to receive the funds.
* Consider The Nature Of The Charity’s Work – Not every charity is responding in the same way. Some are providing medical assistance, some shelter, some food and water. Others will be more focused on either short term or long term rebuilding efforts. And some are just helping to fundraise for other nonprofits. Think about what it is you want your philanthropic investment to accomplish and then take the time to find the charities doing that work. At Charity Navigator we link to each charity’s website so that you can quickly learn more about their plans to help.
* Be Inspired By Social Media, But Still Do Your Homework – Social networking tools like Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and blogs are delivering heart-wrenching images and information about the earthquake and tsunami to our computers and phones. Many of them include pleas to donate. While these tools can be a powerful tool to inspire your desire to help, you should not blindly give via these vehicles. You must take the time to investigate the groups behind such pleas for help to ensure that it comes from a legitimate nonprofit.
* Avoid Telemarketers – As always, hang up the phone do your homework and give directly to a charity.
* Do Not Expect Immediate Results, But Do Keep Tabs On What Your Donation Accomplishes- It takes time for charities to mobilize, to assess the problems that need to be addressed and to develop effective solutions. Donors need to be patient so charities will not feel pressured to plunge in and offer ineffective aid, simply to placate impatient donors. That doesn't mean donors shouldn't hold the charities accountable for delivering on their promises! Be sure to follow up with the charity in a few months to find out (a) how your donation was put to use and (b) if the organization needs additional support to complete the recovery effort.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

From BBC News – Newsnight

Noam Chomsky and Jeremy Paxman's interview in full

This is an unedited version of Jeremy Paxman's interview with Professor in linguistics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), philosopher, cognitive scientist and political activist, Noam Chomsky.

The interview took place on Tuesday 8 March 2011.

See also our archive feature Chomsky: If George Bush were to be judged by the standards of the Nuremberg Tribunals, he'd be hanged.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Pete Seeger Sings Solidarity Forever

Pete Seeger Sings Which Side Are You ON

The following is from Truthout:

Unionize Everybody!

Whose Side Are You On?

So my question, which should be painfully obvious, is why are we vilifying union members for successfully defending a right we should all enjoy? Rather than adopting the feudalist argument that none of us should have healthcare, why not insist that we all have healthcare? Why don’t we all fight to have the same healthcare as Teamsters have? The same can be said for all other rights that unions have successfully defended. Shouldn’t we all have the right to some modicum of job security—perhaps a mandate that we be fired for a reason, as union contracts often provide, rather than be fired on a political or ageist whim? Shouldn’t we all have a right to be protected as whistleblowers when we see our bosses acting immorally or illegally? Shouldn’t we all have a right to contribute to a guaranteed pension system that won’t be looted by our employers? Shouldn’t we all have the right to work in a safe environment? Shouldn’t we all have the ability to negotiate a living wage? Is this really a radical notion?

I can go on and on here, but my point is simple. Why side with our oppressors as they try to expand their reach and oppress everyone? Why not side with those who are standing up and fighting back. Toward that end, instead of fighting against unions, why not fight to have one of your own? Why not fight to unionize everybody? And like all revolutions, it doesn’t stop there. Unionize everybody! And fight to keep our unions from being corrupted.

From Truthout

EXCLUSIVE: CIA Psychologist's Notes Reveal True Purpose Behind Bush's Torture Program

by: Jason Leopold and Jeffrey Kaye, t r u t h o u t | Investigative Report
EXCLUSIVE: CIA Psychologist's Notes Reveal True Purpose Behind 
Bush's Torture Program
This diagram was included in a paper written by Dr. Bruce Jessen's and shows his view of the conflicting psychological pressures bearing down on a prisoner who is held captive by an enemy. (Click here to view full image.)
Dr. Bruce Jessen's handwritten notes describe some of the torture techniques that were used to "exploit" "war on terror" detainees in custody of the CIA and Department of Defense.
Bush administration officials have long asserted that the torture techniques used on "war on terror" detainees were utilized as a last resort in an effort to gain actionable intelligence to thwart pending terrorist attacks against the United States and its interests abroad.
But the handwritten notes obtained exclusively by Truthout drafted two decades ago by Dr. John Bruce Jessen, the psychologist who was under contract to the CIA and credited as being one of the architects of the government's top-secret torture program, tell a dramatically different story about the reasons detainees were brutalized and it was not just about obtaining intelligence. Rather, as Jessen's notes explain, torture was used to "exploit" detainees, that is, to break them down physically and mentally, in order to get them to "collaborate" with government authorities. Jessen's notes emphasize how a "detainer" uses the stresses of detention to produce the appearance of compliance in a prisoner. 
Click to view notes larger.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Late Morning Walk at the Narrows (Photos)

Tangled Up in Blue

From the White House Blog

Weekly Address: American Jobs Through Exports to Latin America

Even as the President maintains his focus on international crises in Japan and Libya, he discusses his trip to Latin America to open up markets for US products.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Radnor Lake

The following photos were taken a few days ago at Radnor Lake. (Click photo to make larger)