Tuesday, July 31, 2012

What We Have Learned About Mitt Romney

by Dee Newman

If there’s one thing we have learned about Mitt Romney over the last year, it is that he does not let facts get in his way. His recent deeply offensive comments claiming that Israelis are culturally superior to Palestinians because they have a higher GDP per capita conveniently ignores some significant facts.

Rather than cultural supremacy, the explanation for the economic disparity is more likely the result of Palestinians having to endure decades of a destructive military occupation and devastating domestic trade restrictions and embargoes by the Israelis. Not to mention, the $3 billion a year Israel receives from the United States government to keep its economy artificially prosperous.

Personally, I do not believe that Romney’s comments were racist. He’s a capitalist – a plutocrat. He fervently believes that his class and wealth makes him superior – somehow better than the rest of us, no matter what ethnicity we may be. To him, wealth determines a person’s worth, not integrity.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

To the Readers of this Blog

A so-called 'Monsanto rider' was quietly slipped into the multi-billion dollar FY 2013 Agricultural Appropriations bill. It would 'require' the Secretary of Agriculture to grant a temporary permit for the planting or cultivation of a genetically engineered crop, even if a federal court has ordered the planting be halted until an Environmental Impact Statement is completed.

I urge the readers of this Blog to signed a petition to The United States House of Representatives, The United States Senate, and President Barack Obama, which says:
"Stop the Monsanto riders. Unless a citizen's army of farmers and consumers can stop them, Congress is likely to ram these dangerous riders through any day now."
To sign the petition click here.


From My Friend Leaf

The Vegan Chronicles

by Rev. Leaf Saligman

On June 27, 2012, I decided to stop eating dairy products. At the time, I figured I would continue to eat eggs from the bantam hens my friend raises because the hens have a nice life and my friend made sure the roosters she got in her latest batch of chicks were spared any undoing. My friend kept two and found happy homes for the others. I decided though, to stop eating any other foods with eggs listed as ingredients or eggs served in restaurants because I couldn’t be assured the chickens were happy.

I’ve been a vegetarian since my nineteenth birthday—so at the time of this writing thirty-four years. For the last few I have said when people ask, “Are you vegetarian or vegan” that if I lived out my values I would be a vegan but I just love dairy too much. But over the last few months I have grown increasingly uncomfortable with that inconsistency. It formed an incoherence in my intention. I’ve been to dairy farms. I love cows. I know cows must be bred annually in order for milk to be produced. I know male calves on a dairy farm end up being slaughtered for meat. I know baby calves are taken from their mothers and most, though not all, cows express distress at this separation. But somehow, I managed to disconnect myself from all that and focus instead on my delight eating yummy Walpole Creamery ice cream, freshly whipped cream dolloped on bittersweet chocolate pudding, fresh milk in my morning mocha, and the occasional wedge of aged Gouda or sprinkle of freshly grated Parmesan.

But I heard myself preaching in a couple of spring sermons about connection—how every day we are faced with myriad choices, large and small, that either connect us or disconnect us from the ground of being—which is to say, Being. Beingness. The whole of Creation. The web of life. The garment of destiny. On March 18, two women from a neighboring congregation led a worship service on Will Tuttle’s book, World Peace Diet at the church where I minister. At the end of the service I commented to a congregant, “This got me thinking…” The guests gave me a copy of the book and it sat unopened until late June when I was ready to read it.

First though, I stopped by my mother’s apartment. She is an inveterate reader. She had checked out a library book. Melanie Joy’s Why We Love Dogs, Eat Pigs, and Wear Cows. I sat reading parts of it, gruesome descriptions of what happens inside a slaughterhouse: how hideous it is for the animals and almost as hideous for the humans who labor there. I got so frustrated, thinking how can so many smart caring people I know ignore the reality behind the meat they eat? It’s as if they plug their ears and ululate to block out the sound of truth.

And then I realized they do it exactly the same way I block out everything but images of happy cows grazing in a pasture to justify consuming milk and ice cream and cheese. So I depart my mother’s and go home, check email and find a trailer for the film Peaceable Kingdom: The Journey Home. I watch the trailer and cruise the Tribe of Heart website, finding my way to a webpage called HumaneMyth.org wherein I read more about the realities of dairy farming and eggs. The wall of denial is showing cracks.

To read Leaf's entire essay click here.

Rev. Leaf Seligman is a Unitarian Universalist minister at the First Parish Church of Fitchburg, MA. Before attending Harvard Divinity School, she taught writing at several universities in New England. After her ordination in 2002 she has served as a chaplain in a hospital, a jail and as a volunteer facilitator for the Alternatives to Violence Project (AVP) in local prisons. She also continues to teach writing at a college near her home in Troy, New Hampshire. 

In 2011, her collection of her Sabbath meditations, Opening the Window, was published.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Aurora: The Ancient Greek Oddess of the Dawn

by Dee Newman
Less than a week ago, our hearts were aching as the dawn was breaking over Aurora, Colorado. With frightening, rapid-fire frequency another gunman wielding an assault weapon forced us all, once again, to face the consequences of our irrational acceptance of inadequately unregulated firearms in our culture.

Today, our attention has move on to another headline.

On December 15, 1791, the Second Amendment of the United States Constitution, along with the rest of the Bill of Rights, was adopted. It read:
A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.
Disregarding “a well regulated Militia,” an "arm" in the minds of the Founding Fathers, was a rifle musket or hand gun that fired only one shot; to fire again (as my friend Jack recently pointed out) required another minute of reloading.

Those advocating “gun-rights” need to be honest. Our founding fathers, 221 years ago, could not imagine a fully automatic assault weapon fitted with a drum magazine capable of holding more than a hundred rounds of high caliber ammunition.

Nor could they imagine an individual masked and fitted from head to toe with para-aramid synthetic fiber walking into a multiplex theater armed with a Smith & Wesson M&P .223 semi-automatic rifle, a 12-gauge shotgun and a Glock .40-caliber handgun.

As a gun owner who has been licensed by the State of Tennessee to carry a concealed weapon, I am outraged by what “we” have allowed to happen in this country. Nearly fifty people, each and every day, are murder by guns in this country.

The 1994 Federal Assault Weapons Ban expired on September 13, 2004. Since then, there have been numerous attempts to renew the ban. Unfortunately, no bill has reached the floor of the House or Senate for a vote.

Though we may not be the most violent nation on the face of the earth, we are certainly one of them. We revel in it. We are entertained by it. Yes, we go to the movies to watch it.

Granted, as the NRA says, "guns do not kill; people do." But, when will it dawn on us that a person with an automatic or semi-automatic weapon kills more effectively and efficiently. Certainly, a great deal more proficiently than with a flintlock rifle or hand gun.

Monday, July 23, 2012

From the Huffington Post (John Robbins)

Will the Farm Bill Nullify Laws Against Animal Cruelty?

by John Robbins

In the last few years, California and several other states have enacted legislation to prevent some of the worst abuse of farm animals. But last week Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) successfully introduced an amendment to the farm bill that would not only jeopardize those laws, but also any laws passed by any other state that might seek to restrict factory farm cruelty.

The current Farm Bill expires at the end of September, so Congress has to cobble together a new one in a hurry. King's amendment was introduced near midnight at the very end of a marathon session. It was debated for a grand total of 20 minutes, and then passed by the House Committee on Agriculture.

If the Senate follows suit, it will become law.

Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) President Wayne Pacelle says the measure could nullify "any laws to protect animals, and perhaps... laws to protect the environment, workers, or public safety." The amendment is worded so broadly, he notes, that it could even prevent states from enacting laws that would prevent the sale of food produced by forced labor.

But Congressman King is proud of his amendment because, he says, it "will ensure that radical organizations like the Humane Society of the United States... are prohibited from establishing... restrictive state laws." King doesn't want anyone, particularly anyone associated with animal welfare causes, telling America's farmers how to raise and care for their animals. "My [amendment] language wipes out everything they've done [to ban the most cruel practices] with pork and veal."

King is particularly peeved with California. In 2008, California voters passed a ballot measure requiring that by 2015, no eggs can be sold in the state that come from hens housed in cages so small they can't begin to lift a single wing. The act was a repudiation of the livestock industry's practice of keeping animals in conditions that violate their natures and frustrate almost all of their natural instincts. And this month a state law banning foie gras took effect. "Foie gras" literally means "fatty liver." To produce it, workers ram pipes down male ducks' or geese's throats several times a day, pumping otherwise impossible amounts of fat into the animals' stomachs. Their livers bloat to up to 10 times their normal size, and are then sold as an expensive delicacy.

King doesn't like these kinds of bans. His amendment, called the "Protect Interstate Commerce Act," says that states that object to the way a food product is produced in other states cannot ban the sale of that product.

Paradoxically, King is normally an outspoken proponent of states' rights, so much so that he has expressed strong support for states' rights to ban contraception. Reporter and blogger Zack Beauchamp points out the irony. Congressman King would permit states to ban birth control, but not foie gras.

Perhaps the contradiction can be explained by the fact that King's current bid for re-election depends on the financial backing of agribusiness interests in his state, and these interests are vehemently opposed to California's laws. Bowing to the dictates of industrial agriculture and factory farms, King's home state of Iowa has virtually no restrictions on the conditions that can be imposed on egg-laying hens or other farm animals. This is one of the reasons the state has been responsible for some of the worst outbreaks of salmonella poisoning in U.S. history.

Congressman King's views are often extreme. Last year, he said that providing free birth control to women could make us a "dying civilization." And just in the last few months: He has made headlines by saying there would be no discrimination against gays in the workplace if gays would simply keep their sexual orientation secret. He has compared detention for immigrants to holiday resorts. And he has equated janitors in House office buildings to the East German secret police for installing energy-efficient light-bulbs.

But King's amendment to the Farm Bill isn't just outrageous talk. It's designed not only to block California's animal safety laws, but also to prevent any state from imposing its own animal welfare standards on producers from other states. And it's now part of the Farm Bill that has been approved by the House.

Another Republican Congressman, Abraham Lincoln, once said "I care not much for a man's religion whose dog or cat are not the better for it." But Steve King takes a different approach.

Neither King nor Lincoln ever graduated from college. But that's about as far as the likeness goes. For unlike Steve King, Abraham Lincoln understood that how we treat animals says something about the kind of human beings we are.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Michelle Alexander Lecture: THE NEW JIM CROW

Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness 

The following lecture video is an hour long but a must see:

The New Jim Crow is a stunning account of the rebirth of a caste-like system in the United States, one that has resulted in millions of African Americans locked behind bars and then relegated to a permanent second-class status—denied the very rights supposedly won in the Civil Rights Movement. Since its publication in 2010, the book has been dubbed the “secular bible of a new social movement” by numerous commentators, including Cornel West, and has led to consciousness-raising efforts in universities, churches, community centers, re-entry centers and prisons nationwide. The New Jim Crow tells a truth our nation has been reluctant to face.

As the United States celebrates its “triumph over race” with the election of Barack Obama, the majority of black men in major urban areas are under correctional control or saddled with criminal records for life. Jim Crow laws were wiped off the books decades ago, but today an extraordinary percentage of the African American community is warehoused in prisons or trapped in a parallel social universe, denied basic civil and human rights— including the right to vote, the right to serve on juries, and the right to be free of legal discrimination in employment, housing, access to education and public benefits. Today, it is no longer socially permissible to use race explicitly as a justification for discrimination, exclusion, and social contempt. Yet as civil rights lawyer-turned-legal scholar Michelle Alexander demonstrates, it is perfectly legal to discriminate against convicted criminals in nearly all the ways in which it was once legal to discriminate against African Americans. Once labeled a felon, even for a minor drug crime, the old forms of discrimination are suddenly legal again. In her words, “we have not ended racial caste in America; we have merely redesigned it.”

Alexander shows that, by targeting black men through the War on Drugs and decimating communities of color, the U.S. criminal justice system functions as a contemporary system of racial control, even as it formally adheres to the principle of colorblindness.

The New Jim Crow challenges the civil rights community—and all of us—to place mass incarceration at the forefront of a new movement for racial justice in America.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Michelle Jenneke: 2012 Junior World Championships in Barcelona

Will Romney be the GOP's Nominee?

by Dee Newman

No one can be president who has received amnesty for a serious crime.

In 2009 the Internal Revenue Service began to crackdown on the use of secret overseas bank accounts as tax havens. They offered a reduced penalty and amnesty to taxpayers who came forward before Oct. 15, 2010.

During the summer of 2010 Switzerland's largest bank announced that it would disclose the names of more than 4,000 U. S. account holders.

Romney's Swiss bank account was closed in 2010. A number of investigative journalist have speculated that the reason Romney has not (and will not) release his tax returns prior to 2010 is because doing so would prove that he had received amnesty for a serious crime, which would most assuredly destroy any chance of him becoming president.

There seem to be no other plausible explanation for him to continue to refuse to release any of these past tax returns and endure the political pounding from President Obama and his supporters – not to mention an ever growing number of influential Republicans calling for him to release his tax returns.

If it is true that he received amnesty from the IRS and it is verified before the Republican National Convention, Romney will not be the GOP’s nominee.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Held Hostage

by Dee Newman

Village idiots have long been known as eccentric individuals (oddballs), typically provoking both pity and derision. Though generally regarded as ignorant and nonsensical, they nonetheless contribute to the social fabric of a community as examples – as tolerable forms of derangement.

Yet, when a significant number of the electorate view and accept these dimwits as sages, something is terribly wrong.

Born and bred in the South – where anti-intellectualism is common and ‘common sense’ is greatly espoused but rarely realized – I’ve gotten used to seeing our nation’s village idiots become icons, widely and uncritically admired for their insights and analysis.

When the ‘Solid South’ Dixiecrats with the passing of the Civil Rights legislation in the 60s became Republicans, I said “good-riddance!” They were a disgrace, a stain on the integrity of the Democratic Party.

Given the fact that their stunted fiscal policies and narrow minded, states’ rights ideology had managed to keep the South backward, lagging behind the rest of the country in health, education and other social services, who would have thought that one day they would actually take over the GOP?

I didn’t. It never entered my mind that one day our entire nation’s progress toward enlightenment would be held hostage by their ignorance and idiocy.

From Truthout

Presto! The DISCLOSE Act Disappears

Tuesday, 17 July 2012 13:36 

By Bill Moyers and Michael Winship, Moyers & Company | Op-Ed

 Ask any magician and they'll tell you that the secret to a successful magic trick is misdirection — distracting the crowd so they don't realize how they're being fooled. Get them watching your left hand while your right hand palms the silver dollar: "Now you see it, now you don't." The purloined coin now belongs to the magician.

Just like democracy. Once upon a time conservatives supported the full disclosure of campaign contributors. Now they oppose it with their might — and magic, especially when it comes to unlimited cash from corporations. My goodness, they say, with a semantic wave of the wand, what's the big deal?: nary a single Fortune 500 company had given a dime to the super PACs. (Even that's not entirely true, by the way.)

Meanwhile the other hand is poking around for loopholes, stuffing millions of secret corporate dollars into non-profit, tax-exempt organizations called 501(c)s that funnel the money into advertising on behalf of candidates or causes. Legally, in part because the Federal Election Commission does not consider them political committees, they can keep it all nice and anonymous, never revealing who's really behind the donations or the political ads they buy. This is especially handy for corporations — why risk offending customers by revealing your politics or letting them know how much you're willing to shell out for a permanent piece of an obliging politician?

That's why passing a piece of legislation called the DISCLOSE Act is so important and that's why on Monday, Republicans in the Senate killed it. Again.

Why? Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid: "Perhaps Republicans want to shield the handful of billionaires willing to contribute nine figures to sway a close presidential election." The election, he said, may be bought by "17 angry, old, white men."

The DISCLOSE Act is meant to pull back the curtain and reveal who's donating $10,000 or more not only to super PACs but also to trade groups like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and these so-called "social welfare" non-profits that can spend limitless cash on campaigns as long as it's less than half the organization's total budget.

The New York Times recently cited a report by the Center for Responsive Politics and the Center for Public Integrity finding that "during the 2010 midterm elections, tax-exempt groups outspent super PACs by a 3-to-2 margin with most of that money devoted to attacking Democrats or defending Republicans." We're talking in excess of $130 million. What's more, the Times reported, "such groups have accounted for two-thirds of the political advertising bought by the biggest outside spenders so far in the 2012 election cycle... with close to $100 million in issue ads."

We know a few of the corporations that are contributing, but just a few, and that's only by accident or via scattered governance reports, regulatory filings and tax returns. The insurance monolith Aetna, for example, gave more than $3 million to a pro-Republican non-profit called American Action Network, which spent millions on ads attacking Obama's health care plan – even though, publicly Aetna supported the president. The Chamber of Commerce has pledged to spend at least $50 million on this election. Its contributors include Dow Chemical, Prudential Financial and MetLife.

But they're just the tip of the proverbial iceberg. Without disclosure we have little idea of all the big businesses that are buying our democracy — and doing their best to drown it at the bottom of the sea.

All of this, of course, is more blowback from the horrible Supreme Court Citizens United decision, which unleashed this corporate cash monster. Just this week, Justice Richard Posner of U.S. Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals – a Republican and until recently, no judicial liberal — said that Citizens United had created a political system that is "pervasively corrupt" in which "wealthy people essentially bribe legislators."

Nonetheless, at the time of the ruling two and a half years ago, eight of the nine justices also made it clear that key to the decision was the importance of transparency. Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote, "The First Amendment protects political speech and disclosure permits citizens and shareholders to react to the speech of corporate entities in a proper way."

One of the DISCLOSE Act's biggest opponents isn't buying that argument. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who used to say, "We need to have real disclosure," has changed his tune. Now that conservatives and the GOP are able to haul in the big bucks, he claims that divulging the identity of corporate donors would be the equivalent of creating an "enemies list," like the one Richard Nixon kept to punish his foes and settle political scores. Here's what McConnell said in a speech at the conservative American Enterprise Institute last month:

    "This is nothing less than an effort by the government itself to expose its critics to harassment and intimidation, either by government authorities or through third party allies... That's why it's a mistake to view the attacks we've seen on 'millionaires and billionaires' as outside our concern. Because it always starts somewhere; and the moment we stop caring about who's being targeted is the moment we're all at risk."

McConnell's not the only one — every Republican voted to kill the DISCLOSE Act, including fourteen who just a couple of years ago supported it. Groups like Ron Paul's Campaign for Liberty smell an un-American conspiracy lurking behind the demands for disclosure. So do the National Rifle Association and FreedomWorks — the Tea Party organizers originally funded by David Koch — each of which warned senators that their votes on the DISCLOSE Act will be included in the scorecards they keep, recording each ballot they don't approve like pins in a voodoo doll.

Their outrage is ridiculous and hypocritical. These non-profits are just another magic trick, an illusion intended to obscure the fact that these are monumental slush funds, plain and simple. As The Washington Post noted in an editorial this week:

    "We seem to have created the political equivalent of secret Swiss bank accounts... In their lust for contributions, in cozying up to the moneybags of this era, candidates and political operatives in both parties seem to be forgetting that they put their own credibility at risk."

Contrary to Senator McConnell's view, this is more corrupt and covert than anything that happened during Watergate. The public has a right to know who's behind the hundreds of political ads with which we're being bombarded this year, who's giving what to whom — not to mention our right to try to connect the dots and figure out what their motives are.

The good news is that people are fighting back. On July 5th, California joined state legislatures in Hawaii, New Mexico, Rhode Island and Vermont calling for a constitutional amendment to reverse Citizens United. The Senate Judiciary Committee is holding hearings July 24th and the state of Montana, which recently had its law barring corporate spending in elections struck down by the Supreme Court, has put a voter initiative on its November ballot, also calling for a constitutional amendment.

Lee Drutman at the non-partisan Sunlight Foundation quotes the father of our Constitution, James Madison, who warned, "A popular government without popular information or the means of acquiring it, is but a Prologue to Farce or Tragedy or perhaps both." Drutman goes on to point out that, "The Declaration of Independence wasn't signed by Anonymous. Those who sign the big checks should have the very same courage in their convictions."


Tuesday, July 17, 2012

From The New York Times

The Paul Ryan Rosetta Stone

WASHINGTON, DC - APRIL 26:  House Budget Chairman Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) is introduced before speaking about "America's Enduring Promise," and the federal budget, in a speech at Georgetown University April 26, 2012 in Washington, DC. During his speech, Ryan said that his proposed budget confronts the nation's growing $15 trillion debt before it impacts future generations of Americans.  (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

The cover story of the latest Weekly Standard is a naturally adulatory profile of Paul Ryan. This passage about Ryan’s formative intellectual influences may not strike most readers as telling, and the author of the story didn’t delve into it, but it struck me:
Ryan reported to Cesar Conda, the Republican staff director. “Paul at age 19 was the exact same person he is today,” Conda recalls. “Earnest, personable, and hard-working, with an insatiable appetite for discussing policy ideas.” Ryan often popped his head into Conda’s office with questions about supply-side economics, interruptions that became so frequent Conda had to give Ryan books to keep him occupied. Among them: The Way the World Works, by one-time supply-side guru Jude Wanniski, and George Gilder’s seminal Wealth and Poverty. (Conda finally recovered his copy of Gilder in 2007, when he noticed it in Ryan’s office, heavily marked-up.)
I have harbored a long and controversy-provoking obsession with the two tomes that played such a formative role in Ryan’s intellectual development. Five years ago, I wrote a book about how anti-tax fanatics gained and kept control of the Republican Party (here’s an excerpt, and here’s the New York Times review.) One small point that appeared in both my book and the excerpt provoked particular ire from conservatives. That was a detailed description of the lunacy of Jude Wanniski and George Gilder, who wrote the two books that defined supply-side economics (Wanniski’s The Way the World Works and Gilder’s Wealth and Poverty).

My argument was that the economic arguments offered in both books is pure nuttery, but because they used economic concepts, and many people feel unqualified to judge economics, the nuttery is hard for non-specialists to spot. But it’s easy to see that they’re nuts because they have a host of beliefs on all sorts of subjects (Saddam Hussein never gassed the Kurds, E.S.P. is real, etc.) which make their general madness apparent to non-economists.

Some conservatives insisted their wide array of insane beliefs is irrelevant to gauging their economic arguments. (American Enterprise Institute’s Kevin Hassett dismissively wrote, “Even if one assumes that a theory has been put forward by an unbalanced person, that fact does not mean that the theory is incorrect.”) The more common objection was that I overstated the influence of Gilder and Wanniski. Megan McArdle went on a blogging tear on this theme, asserting that I wildly overstated the influence not only of Wanniski and Gilder but of the supply-side ideology as a whole. Ultimately she wrote a nasty review for a conservative publication, which spiked the entire thing because it refused to publish her to-be-sure observation that tax cuts don’t really increase revenue under present circumstances, after which she published  a very brief note conceding she had been utterly wrong (headline: “I Take It All Back”) about the centrality of supply-side-ism within the conservative movement.

So it’s interesting to see that Wanniski and Gilder’s books were the two cited by Ryan’s mentor as helping to form his political beliefs. Ryan has also cited Ayn Rand, another obsession of mine, as an influence. And of course what gives the Standard’s little Ryan nugget its Rosetta Stone quality (or, less charitably, a sum-of-all-Chait-obsessions quality) is that a major theme of my profile of Ryan was that, though he has passed himself off as a deficit hawk, Ryan actually is a dyed-in-the-wool supply-sider. At his core he believes, for both moral and economic reasons, in holding taxes on the rich low. He has successfully learned to pitch himself to the political center as a debt hawk but the pitch is at odds with his voting record, his current positions, and his own intellectual history.

From Rachel Maddow Show (a must see)

Adelson Investigaton by Propublica/Frontline Collaboration 

Visit NBCNews.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

From Caffè Lena History Project Blog

CLHP Intern Blog: Alex Becker

Dear 1960s, I never knew you! So, why do I like you so much?

Of the many thought-provoking questions that have surfaced this summer during my work on the Caffè Lena history project, I find myself going back to this one often. It’s no secret that we, at least some of us, and particularly those who never lived through the years, have developed a strong sense of nostalgia for the ‘60s, a decade rediscovered in our culture today on television and in movies, in songs and photographs, in text books, and of course, in stories. As I’ve encountered more and more stories from Caffè Lena patrons and performers over the past few weeks, I’ve begun to piece together a clearer image of Caffè Lena’s important role within the folk music scene and the larger 1960s artistic American counterculture. I am most curious now about how Caffè Lena in 2012 can relate to its history without relying on it. The context has changed, the Caffè remains, so how does it holds its history and tradition close while still staying relevant in a musically-evolved society?

John Gorka addressed this qualm of mine, sharing a thoughtful response to one of Jocelyn Arem’s questions in an interview I was transcribing:

“Are you surprised that the Caffè is still around?” to which he said,

“That’s a great thing, ya know. When places can preserve what’s great about the past and mix it in with the good new parts of the new world, I love that. That mixture. It’s kind of what I like about Italy. It seems like the old and the new, it’s not just a jumble like Los Angeles or Houston.”

“Where things don’t seem to coexist naturally?”

“Yeah, yeah.”

A capable and thriving fusion of past and present – I figured that if John Gorka says you’re synonymous with Italy and nothing like LA or Houston, you’ve probably succeeded… at least if you’re Caffè Lena. So here we are now, in a space that is as charmingly warm and magical as its token chocolate chip cookies taste. What does Caffè Lena bring to the table, (aside from these chocolate chip cookies) that keeps us coming back for more?

 Alex Becker filming at Caffè Lena. Photo by Emily Werner

 Film still: Caravan of Thieves Interview at Caffè Lena by Alex Becker.

In addition to transcribing interviews of past Caffè Lena icons, I’ve been lucky enough to spend a good amount of time at the Caffè this summer through my work on a video project in which I’ve filmed performances and talked with musicians about their relationship to the place. The combination of transcribing, filming, interviewing, and just existing in this space much more than I ever have before has sparked my interest in exploring this question of time and place – noticing what has changed, how the Caffè copes with these changes, and still is, in fact, completely relevant to today’s world, though in quite a different fashion than it was in the ‘60s.

Mitch Greenhill, in one of his interviews, discussed the loss of real listening in today’s technologically advanced culture. He remembered seeking out a record store in New York City that sold acetates, similar to records with a life of about ten plays, which he bought for “20 bucks in 1960 dollars.” “I’ve lost the intensity of that sort of listening,” he remarked. The Internet has given us immediate access to all types of music from all around the world. We could argue that this has psychologically and physically altered the listening experience. Caffè Lena, then, is not only a space to find music from different genres, different decades, but it also reminds us of how to listen and why to listen to live performance. Robin Haine, in one of her interviews, expanded on this theme, highlighting the importance of artistic education in a place like Caffè Lena. Any artist will tell you that the best kind of education in the arts is exposure. “And I think that’s what happened at Lena’s,” she said, reflecting on her exposure to a slew of influential folk singers she saw at the Caffè in the ‘60s. And so it goes today. I’ve already bought two albums and a t-shirt and have undoubtedly experienced a couple of my most memorable musical performances in the period of a few weeks.

In a time where listening to music is easily taken for granted, since there is so much, and it is so available, I’m happy to be reminded of what real music listening looks like and sounds like, and I thank Caffè Lena for honoring a particular tradition of musical performing and for inviting a contemporary outlook, providing an outlet in which audiences can seek and critique. One of the best types of music education you’ll find, all in good company, with plenty of chocolate chip cookies to go around.

Click here to go to Caffè Lena website.

From Truthout

We Live in the Biggest Company Town on Earth

By Chris Hedges, Truthdig | News Analysis

It is an old and cruel tactic in any company town. Reduce wages and benefits to subsistence level. Break unions. Gut social assistance programs. Buy and sell elected officials and judges. Fill the airwaves with mindless diversion and corporate propaganda. Pay off the press. Poison the soil, the air and the water to extract natural resources and leave behind a devastated wasteland. Plunge workers into debt. Leave them owing more on their houses than the structures are worth. Make sure the children will be burdened by tens of thousands of dollars lent to them for an education and will be unable to find decent jobs. Make sure that everything from hospital bills to car payments to credit card fees exact increasing pounds of flesh. And when workers stumble, when they cannot pay soaring interest rates, jack up rates further and deploy predators from debt collection agencies to harass the debtors and seize their assets. Then toss them away. Company towns all look the same. And we live in the biggest one on earth.

To read the entire article click here.

Even Republicans Agree: Mitt Romney's Hiding Something

Monday, July 16, 2012

From Democracy Now

Norman Finkelstein: Waning Jewish-American Support for Israel Boosts Chances for Middle East Peace (Part 1)  

Norman Finkelstein on the Role of BDS & Why Obama Doesn’t Believe His Own Words on Israel-Palestine (Part 2)

From The New Yorker

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Friday, July 13, 2012

From Tribe of Heart

Tribe of Heart banner
News from Tribe of Heart, Producers of PEACEABLE KINGDOM: THE JOURNEY HOME and THE WITNESS
The Journey Begins
Peaceable Kingdom: The Journey Home
is now on its way to locations across the globe
Educators and activists in 21 countries and 41 US states order 1200 copies of the film in the first ten days of release...
1st Shipment
Watch this 12 second video of us assembling our first shipment of orders - is yours in there?
Dear Friends,
Over the last few days, as we've packaged the first batch of DVDs to be shipped off to educators and activists around the world, we've been feeling a deep sense of gratitude. A long and challenging journey has finally come to an end. Yet, in the very same moment, a new journey has begun. And this new adventure is one that we will be sharing with our partners in this work, all those whose heartfelt efforts to foster individual transformation and social justice will be empowered by this film.
Below is a small sampling of the many inspiring messages sent to us by people who ordered some of the first copies of the DVD. Their voices sum up better than anything we can say, why this sometimes difficult work is also a labor of love.
Warm wishes,
James, Jenny, Eric, Kevin, Trevor,
and the entire Tribe of Heart team
My mother and I saw Peaceable Kingdom: The Journey Home at the Berkshire International Film Festival. We have been looking forward to sharing this great film with others. What makes your films particularly powerful, I believe, is that you focus on individuals - human and animal - in ways that awaken empathy and raise awareness regarding the connections among living beings. Congratulations and thanks to you for the release of this film, which will change the world for the better.
My partner and I saw Peaceable Kingdom at the Sausalito Film Festival... It moved us like nothing else and I've been waiting since then for it to come on DVD to share with friends and family. So excited it finally happened!!!
I've been awaiting this release since you began working on it... Your films are exceptionally good for introducing students to animal ethics issues, for they do not make anyone feel defensive or attacked; they are gentle in their reliance on personal stories of transformation. They have enriched my classes for many years, more than almost any other resource (text or film!) that I use. Thank you.
My wife and I saw Peaceable Kingdom at the Talking Pictures Festival in Evanston, IL, and we have been anxiously awaiting the release of the film on DVD... It was such a powerful film and we have been telling our friends about it for two years and how much it moved us. We can't wait to share the film with friends and we really look forward to the conversations that will inevitably follow. Food, animals, the environment, non-violence, love, peace. These are things that are important to us, and I hope you all continue to make films that support these causes. THANK YOU!
I saw the film at the Berkshire film festival and have been a vegetarian ever since. It was a life altering film. I am so happy I will have the opportunity to own it so that I can share it with others.
I saw the PK premiere screening in Cleveland... I value Tribe Of Heart films because they promote kindness, compassion, and mercy rather than exploitation, violence, and domination. The films present these values with emotionally honesty and creative arrangement. These two simple ingredients make it easy to care about every individual the film introduces us to -- both human and non human; we can connect because we share the innate urge to also be emotionally honest and have lives of creative arrangement. The trouble is, most of us just don't know how to bring this out/about on our own. We get lost in the out-of-focus gray zone of our culture; the numbing area that lies between right and wrong. Thank you for showing us the way out..., and for pointing the way back home, as Farmer (Harold) Brown said.
I saw the film in Chicago at the Peace Film Festival. It blew me away! AMAZING work!!
I am so excited to be screening this movie next month at our local cafe!!!! THRILLLLLLED!!! YAY!
I am excited beyond words to see this film and show it to everyone I know (and don't know).
Australian Premiere
Thursday, August 2 at 6pm
Classic Cinema Elsternwick
9 Gordon St, Elsternwick
Melbourne, Victoria
More Details
Featuring Special Guests:
Patty MarkPatty Mark of Animal Liberation Victoria, visionary nonviolent activist and pioneer of the Open Rescue Movement, whose investigative footage is included in Peaceable Kingdom: The Journey Home. Read Patty's statement on HumaneMyth.org.
Phillip WollenPhillip Wollen, educator, justice advocate and philanthropist whose impassioned call for justice for animals has gone viral online. His speech can be found here, on our Peaceable Journey online guide.

DVD Now Shipping!
Buy Now
DVD includes 78-minute film plus 90 minutes of bonus material. All content is available with subtitles in English (SDH), Spanish, French, and Portuguese.
Peaceable Kingdom DVD Individual DVDs
$20 each
Peaceable Kingdom:
The Journey Home

2 DVD set Special Offer
Get both Tribe of Heart DVDs for $25
Peaceable Kingdom: The Journey Home and The Witness.

10-pack of DVDs: $100 (half price)
Peaceable Kingdom 10 pack
For gift giving and sharing the film with people and groups in your community.

Thinking of holding a screening?
We are thrilled that so many of you have already contacted us with plans to hold a screening of the new film in your community. This is the beginning of something very exciting!
We have extensive resources to help you organize and plan your events, which you can access here. Don't forget that advance registration is required for screenings held in venues that seat 40 or more. Learn more about our screening guidelines here.

The Witness Screening Room
Coming Soon!
Major update about The Witness and our Global Tribal initiative.

Please help us publicize this update
It's easy! Use the share button at the top of this page.
facebook You can also help by "Liking" our new Facebook page for Peaceable Kingdom: The Journey Home, and sharing with your friends.

Tribe of Heart logo Tribe of Heart is a 501(c)(3) charitable organization that produces award-winning, life-changing films about the journey of awakening conscience and the ethics of the human-animal relationship. As a small organization with a big vision, we depend on the power of our community to make our programs come to life. Thank you for the many ways you help Tribe of Heart encourage positive, peaceful transformation.
Donate Donations can be made online or mailed to Tribe of Heart, POB 149, Ithaca, NY 14851

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

A Photo of Scarlett Johansson from Esquire

It has been said that "men prefer blonds." My head has always been turned by brunettes with blue eyes. But, Scarlett Johansson . . . well, as Esquire so fittingly described her, "Lips, kidneys, and all... What's not to love about Scarlett Johansson, the Sexiest Woman Alive"

For more photos click here.

From MSNBC (Al Sharpton)

A Re-Enact of Mitt Romney's Hamptons Fundraiser 

Monday, July 9, 2012

From Bill Moyers

From The New York Times

Mitt’s Gray Areas 


Published: July 8, 2012

Once upon a time a rich man named Romney ran for president. He could claim, with considerable justice, that his wealth was well-earned, that he had in fact done a lot to create good jobs for American workers. Nonetheless, the public understandably wanted to know both how he had grown so rich and what he had done with his wealth; he obliged by releasing extensive information about his financial history. 

But that was 44 years ago. And the contrast between George Romney and his son Mitt — a contrast both in their business careers and in their willingness to come clean about their financial affairs — dramatically illustrates how America has changed. 

Right now there’s a lot of buzz about an investigative report in the magazine Vanity Fair highlighting the “gray areas” in the younger Romney’s finances. More about that in a minute. First, however, let’s talk about what it meant to get rich in George Romney’s America, and how it compares with the situation today. 

What did George Romney do for a living? The answer was straightforward: he ran an auto company, American Motors. And he ran it very well indeed: at a time when the Big Three were still fixated on big cars and ignoring the rising tide of imports, Romney shifted to a highly successful focus on compacts that restored the company’s fortunes, not to mention that it saved the jobs of many American workers. 

It also made him personally rich. We know this because during his run for president, he released not one, not two, but 12 years’ worth of tax returns, explaining that any one year might just be a fluke. From those returns we learn that in his best year, 1960, he made more than $660,000 — the equivalent, adjusted for inflation, of around $5 million today. 

Those returns also reveal that he paid a lot of taxes — 36 percent of his income in 1960, 37 percent over the whole period. This was in part because, as one report at the time put it, he “seldom took advantage of loopholes to escape his tax obligations.” But it was also because taxes on the rich were much higher in the ’50s and ’60s than they are now. In fact, once you include the indirect effects of taxes on corporate profits, taxes on the very rich were about twice current levels. 

Now fast-forward to Romney the Younger, who made even more money during his business career at Bain Capital. Unlike his father, however, Mr. Romney didn’t get rich by producing things people wanted to buy; he made his fortune through financial engineering that seems in many cases to have left workers worse off, and in some cases driven companies into bankruptcy. 

And there’s another contrast: George Romney was open and forthcoming about what he did with his wealth, but Mitt Romney has largely kept his finances secret. He did, grudgingly, release one year’s tax return plus an estimate for the next year, showing that he paid a startlingly low tax rate. But as the Vanity Fair report points out, we’re still very much in the dark about his investments, some of which seem very mysterious. 

Put it this way: Has there ever before been a major presidential candidate who had a multimillion-dollar Swiss bank account, plus tens of millions invested in the Cayman Islands, famed as a tax haven? 

And then there’s his Individual Retirement Account. I.R.A.’s are supposed to be a tax-advantaged vehicle for middle-class savers, with annual contributions limited to a few thousand dollars a year. Yet somehow Mr. Romney ended up with an account worth between $20 million and $101 million. 

There are legitimate ways that could have happened, just as there are potentially legitimate reasons for parking large sums of money in overseas tax havens. But we don’t know which if any of those legitimate reasons apply in Mr. Romney’s case — because he has refused to release any details about his finances. This refusal to come clean suggests that he and his advisers believe that voters would be less likely to support him if they knew the truth about his investments. 

And that is precisely why voters have a right to know that truth. Elections are, after all, in part about the perceived character of the candidates — and what a man does with his money is surely a major clue to his character. 

One more thing: To the extent that Mr. Romney has a coherent policy agenda, it involves cutting tax rates on the very rich — which are already, as I said, down by about half since his father’s time. Surely a man advocating such policies has a special obligation to level with voters about the extent to which he would personally benefit from the policies he advocates.
Yet obviously that’s something Mr. Romney doesn’t want to do. And unless he does reveal the truth about his investments, we can only assume that he’s hiding something seriously damaging. 

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Remembering Paul Cobb

Today, July the 3rd, would have been Paul Cobb’s 25th birthday. Last night I had dinner with his parents, Jill and Don. They spent the day hiking at Montgomery Bell State Park.  Part of their hike was to be done in their bare feet in Paul’s honor.

Remembering what Paul’s older brother Adrian had said at Paul’s memorial service, "So what do we do now that Paul is gone?”, Jill sent an email out to her family and friends suggesting that “over the next week, or month, or year take a walk outside in your bare feet. Go see some live music. Sing your favorite song as loud as you can and don’t worry if it sounds amazing or terrible. Just do something that makes you happy and don’t stop even if someone tells you to, because Paul wouldn’t’ve."

So, this morning before I left for the Mountain House I too went for a hike at the Narrows in my bare feet and I sang one of my favorite songs out loud:
'Tis the gift to be simple, 'tis the gift to be free
'Tis the gift to come down where we ought to be,
And when we find ourselves in the place just right,
'Twill be in the valley of love and delight.
When true simplicity is gain'd,
To bow and to bend we shan't be asham'd,
To turn, turn will be our delight,
Till by turning, turning we come 'round right.

Monday, July 2, 2012

From RollingStone

Rachel Maddow's Quiet War

America's leading lefty wonk has seen the enemy, and it's not just the GOP - it's the battles she fights every day with herself

June 27, 2012 1:20 PM ET
"So just who is Sarah Palin?"

This is Keith Olbermann talking, back in the summer of 2008, when the Alaska governor is brand-new to the national scene and Olbermann himself is still in the position he pioneered, as the first great contemporary liberal television pundit, the face of MSNBC. Olbermann, in his smart-aleck way, is introducing Palin to the national in-crowd: "A former beauty queen and runner-up in the Miss Alaska contest, a star point guard who earned the nickname Sarah Barracuda," he says. "A sometimes sports reporter who wanted to work for ESPN until she realized" – and here Olbermann starts to laugh, the condescension becoming open – "that she would have to move from Alaska to Bristol, Connecticut."

Television news, in 2008, is still more or less a jock's medium, and this is the way that jocks bait transfer students, mocking them as clueless hicks. In the final years of the Bush administration, Olbermann has transformed liberal anger into a smirk, a feeling of superiority over the dorks and freaks and clown who run Washington. But what makes Olbermann's introduction of Palin arresting, in retrospect, is not his patronizing tone, but the woman who is waiting to speak, on a splitscreen: Rachel Maddow, a 35-year-old radio host who is about to debut her own show on MSNBC, and who will eventually take over for Olbermann as the face of the network.

From the start, Maddow's brand is not so much out lesbian or angry liberal, but full-on nerd: the chunky black glasses, the flailing limbs. She doesn't seem to care much about the question that Olbermann has fixed on: So just who is Sarah Palin? "We don't know very much about Governor Palin," Maddow says, when Olbermann finally gives her a chance to speak. "She's basically been a human-interest story in terms of the political press in this country thus far." Then she moves on to what really interests her: not politics as personality but politics as mechanism, not who is winning power but what is being done with it.

Palin is being sold as a small-government conservative, the opponent of the infamous Bridge to Nowhere, but Maddow can tell the sales job is a fraud. "I went and looked it up in the Anchorage Daily News from 2006," she says, her nerd cred on full display. "Palin was asked point-blank about funding for that bridge, and she said, 'Yes... the window is now.'" Others in the media had noticed the flip-flop, but Maddow has zeroed in on something else: Palin had said "the window is now" because Alaska's congressional delegation was senior enough to push the project by using earmarks, the backdoor maneuver that congressmen use to enrich their districts with budget-busting boondoggles. Palin wasn't just for the bridge, Maddow points out, she was actually for earmarks, the very thing she is supposed to be against. If you view politics as Olbermann does, as a kind of absurdist theater, then this is a gaffe, a sign of Palin's naiveté and unreadiness. If you view things as Maddow does, then it indicates something deeper, a fissure in the base of Republican ideology, a contradiction cracking open behind the presumption of power.

You could feel a transition coming. "Rachel Maddow," Olbermann says, his enthusiasm a little competitive, "whose new 9 p.m. Eastern show premieres here a week from Monday – tick, tick, tick..."

That Monday, Maddow beat Larry King in the ratings, a rare feat for MSNBC, and she also beat him the first week, and the first month. Seven weeks later, on the eve of the presidential election, Barack Obama summoned her to Florida to interview him, and she was made. This spring, her book on the arcane topic of the national-security state stayed at number one for more than a month. Her show – no less partisan or liberal than Olbermann's, but marked by less conflict and more explication, less righteous fury and more policy wonkery – has become a prototype for MSNBC, a new idea for how liberal anger might play on TV, and the network has added shows by hosts who think very much like she does: Chris Hayes, Melissa Harris-Perry. "She's a model for everyone at this channel," says Phil Griffin, the head of MSNBC. "They look at her and, in their own ways, they want to be like her."

Yet Maddow's success has left her feeling anguished – over the complicated irony of being the avowed outsider, the lesbian AIDS activist, who has become part of the establishment. Angst is such a deep and familiar subject to her that she says the word with the original German pronunciation – ongst. "The outsider thing is just dyed-in-the-wool for me," she says. "I've never been much of a joiner." Maddow comes to Washington each year during the weekend of the White House Correspondents Dinner. The compromise she makes between her revulsion at the capital and her obligation to be there is to skip the event itself, agreeing to attend the MSNBC afterparty only if she can serve as bartender and avoid mingling with the political elite. "I told them the only way I'll come is if I can work the party," she says. And so here she is, at the end of April, pouring drinks across a massive wooden bar, watching everyone get drunker and drunker, thinking to herself as a guest commits the mixological sacrilege of ordering a vodka martini: "Not judging. Not judging. Judging. Judging."

Washington, that is to say, is not yet hers; its debates are not conducted on her terms. The morning after the correspondents dinner, with most of the capital hungover, Maddow shows up to work, as a panelist on Meet the Press. Appearing alongside her is Alex Castellanos, a Republican media consultant who served both George W. Bush and Mitt Romney, an embodiment of the clubby, insider pundit culture that Maddow abhors. When she begins to talk about gender disparity in pay – "Women in this country still make 77 cents on the dollar for what men make" – the genteel Castellanos, a master of the form, simply denies that this is true. Women in the workforce, he insists, make just as much as men; liberals are just "manufacturing a political crisis."

Maddow knows immediately that Castellanos is lying to the audience. She swivels so abruptly in her chair, trying to make sense of what he is saying, that the camera winds up fixed on a spot just behind her left ear, as if it were an assassin's scope. You can see her, in real time, coming to terms with the extent of the lie as she watches agreement flicker across the face of the other Republican on the panel. "This hasn't just been sold to Alex by someone briefing him on the subject," she thinks to herself. "This is something that has actually been sold to Republicans – this is a vision of Republican World."

The tricky part is knowing what to do about the lie. Chris Matthews would erupt in thunderous outrage; Keith Olbermann would dissolve into a knowing sneer. But Maddow's skills are different: She strives not for the expression of political anger but for its suppression, to distance herself from the partisan debate rather than engage it, to steward progressive fury into a world of certainty, of charts, graphs, statistics, a real world that matters and that the political debate can't corrupt. Maddow's producers say, unexpectedly, that the closest analog for her style as a broadcaster is Glenn Beck, whose abilities as a performer she very much admires. Though their worldviews could not be more different, Maddow and Beck both attempt to pull off a similar trick: to reflect and redirect their audience's rage at politics without succumbing to it. What Maddow is trying to build is a different channel for liberal anger, an outsider's channel, one that steers the viewer's attention away from the theater of politics and toward the exercise of power, which is to say toward policy. On-air, like Beck, she is almost relentlessly cheerful. "Anger is like sugar in a cocktail," Maddow tells me. "I'd rather have none at all than a grain too much."

But this time, apparently, she lets a grain too much show. "Rachel, I love how passionate you are," Castellanos says, coolly pivoting the argument from the facts to her barely contained fury.

"That's really condescending," Maddow replies.

This is Maddow's battle with television: to try to bring a different, more objective model of inquiry to a world of political talking points. Later that week, conferring with her staff, Maddow recounts what had actually flickered across her mind in that instant with Castellanos. "I wanted to say, 'Are you saying I'm cute when I'm angry?'" she recalls. "But I didn't, because when you're a woman on television, you can't even say the word angry."

Each day at 2:00, on the fourth floor of 30 Rockefeller Center, Maddow leaves her office and the "temple of paper" she has been reading and assembles her staff around a white board, where potential stories have been listed. She stares at them mutely for a while, trying to discern from the raw current of the news what is interesting to her, and to whittle the day's events into a show.

Today they already have a winner lined up. In Michigan, the Republican governor has appointed emergency financial managers to take over the affairs of some of the state's most debt-ridden towns, many of them heavily African-American. The managers, in several cases, have turned into tyrants, selling off public assets to the private sector. One of Maddow's producers has traveled around Michigan, and has lots of terrific tape. ("We believe in voting!" one citizen thunders during a town hall.) No one else is talking about Michigan, which makes it a perfect Maddow segment, one that will give her audience a glimpse of the secret workings of power, of a violation of rights. When it airs, it will be the most watched segment of the day's show.

To read the entire article click here.

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