Friday, August 31, 2012

Paul Ryan's Speech: The Nation and Fox News

Hi. This is one to save for decades; not only for Ryan's presumed political longevity, but the  
remarkable confluence of polar opposite major media.   Also to pass on to others.  -Ed ryans-speech-in-three-words/#ixzz2560tWo6O
Paul Ryan’s speech in 3 words

By Sally Kohn

Published August 30, 2012


1. Dazzling

At least a quarter of Americans still don’t know who Paul Ryan is, and only about half who know and have an opinion of him view him favorably.

So, Ryan’s primary job tonight was to introduce himself and make himself seem likeable, and he did that well. The personal parts of the speech were very personally delivered, especially the touching parts where Ryan talked about his father and mother and their roles in his life. And at the end of the speech, when Ryan cheered the crowd to its feet, he showed an energy and enthusiasm that’s what voters want in leaders and what Republicans have been desperately lacking in this campaign.

To anyone watching Ryan’s speech who hasn’t been paying much attention to the ins and outs and accusations of the campaign, I suspect Ryan came across as a smart, passionate and all-around nice guy — the sort of guy you can imagine having a friendly chat with while watching your kids play soccer together. And for a lot of voters, what matters isn’t what candidates have done or what they promise to do —it’s personality. On this measure, Mitt Romney has been catastrophically struggling and with his speech, Ryan humanized himself and presumably by extension, the top of the ticket.

2. Deceiving

On the other hand, to anyone paying the slightest bit of attention to facts, Ryan’s speech was an apparent attempt to set the world record for the greatest number of blatant lies and misrepresentations slipped into a single political speech. On this measure, while it was Romney who ran the Olympics, Ryan earned the gold.

The good news is that the Romney-Ryan campaign has likely created dozens of new jobs among the legions of additional fact checkers that media outlets are rushing to hire to sift through the mountain of cow dung that flowed from Ryan’s mouth. Said fact checkers have already condemned certain arguments that Ryan still irresponsibly repeated.

Fact: While Ryan tried to pin the downgrade of the United States’ credit rating on spending under President Obama, the credit rating was actually downgraded because Republicans threatened not to raise the debt ceiling.

Fact: While Ryan blamed President Obama for the shut down of a GM plant in Janesville, Wisconsin, the plant was actually closed under President George W. Bush. Ryan actually asked for federal spending to save the plant, while Romney has criticized the auto industry bailout that President Obama ultimately enacted to prevent other plants from closing.

Fact: Though Ryan insisted that President Obama wants to give all the credit for private sector success to government, that isn't what the president said. Period.

Fact: Though Paul Ryan accused President Obama of taking $716 billion out of Medicare, the fact is that that amount was savings in Medicare reimbursement rates (which, incidentally, save Medicare recipients out-of-pocket costs, too) and Ryan himself embraced these savings in his budget plan.

Elections should be about competing based on your record in the past and your vision for the future, not competing to see who can get away with the most lies and distortions without voters noticing or bother to care. Both parties should hold themselves to that standard. Republicans should be ashamed that there was even one misrepresentation in Ryan’s speech but sadly, there were many.

3. Distracting

And then there’s what Ryan didn’t talk about.

Ryan didn’t mention his extremist stance on banning all abortions with no exception for rape or incest, a stance that is out of touch with 75% of American voters.

Ryan didn’t mention his previous plan to hand over Social Security to Wall Street.

Ryan didn’t mention his numerous votes to raise spending and balloon the deficit when George W. Bush was president.

Ryan didn’t mention how his budget would eviscerate programs that help the poor and raise taxes on 95% of Americans in order to cut taxes for millionaires and billionaires even further and increase — yes, increase —the deficit.

These aspects of Ryan’s resume and ideology are sticky to say the least. He would have been wise to tackle them head on and try and explain them away in his first real introduction to voters. But instead of Ryan airing his own dirty laundry, Democrats will get the chance.

At the end of his speech, Ryan quoted his dad, who used to say to him, “"Son. You have a choice: You can be part of the problem, or you can be part of the solution."

Ryan may have helped solve some of the likeability problems facing Romney, but ultimately by trying to deceive voters about basic facts and trying to distract voters from his own record, Ryan’s speech caused a much larger problem for himself and his running mate.

Sally Kohn is a Fox News contributor and writer. You can find her online at < or on Twitter at>
* * *
John Nichols
The Nation Blog: August30, 2012

It fell to Mitch McConnell, arguably the lousiest public speaker ever to practice the political craft, to sum up everything that can or should be said about the Republican National Convention.

Opening the “We Can Change It” themed second night of he convention with a call to remove President Obama, the Senate minority leader declared that it was time to put “Mitt Ryan” in charge of the republic.

Forgive McConnell.

He just said what everyone at the convention seemed to be thinking: Wouldn’t it be cool if Paul Ryan were topping the ticket?

Republicans did everything they could during the long campaign for the party’s 2012 nomination to signal that they wanted Anyone But Romney. They got themselves all excited about Michele Bachmann, and Herman Cain and Newt Gingrich (seriously). They even voted for Rick Santorum, again and again and again. The Ron Paul people never gave up.

When all was said and done, Romney’s money bought him the nod. That did not mean, however, that Republicans ever could or would come to love him.

But they do love Paul Ryan.

On the floor of the Tampa convention hall, as the moment of the congressman from Wisconsin’s address approached, the delegates could not help themselves.

“I’m feeling like it’s 1980,” New York Republican Party chairman Ed Cox told me just minutes before Ryan spoke. “Just like 1980, with Reagan.”

Why? “I’ve felt it since Paul Ryan came on the ticket.”

A few feet away, the godmother of Republican social conservatism, Phyllis Schlafly pronounced herself “very satisfied” with the ticket.

Why? “I really like Paul Ryan.”

And so it was, delegation to delegation, section to section, across the hall where Republicans gathered for their fortieth national convention.

A month ago, Mitt Romney looked like a loser. And even if the GOP ticket is not exactly soaring in the polls, Republican spirits have been soaring since Ryan was added to the ticket.

Why? Because Paul Ryan isn’t just, as Ed Cox suggests, rather Reaganesque in looks and demeanor. He’s rather Reaganesque in his approach to reality.

Ryan does not speak hard truths. He tells Republicans stories that they like to hear. Even if they are not true.

Ryan began the most-anticipated address of the convention with a biographical soliloquy that referenced his factory-town roots in Janesville, Wisconsin.

“President Barack Obama came to office during an economic crisis, as he has reminded us a time or two. Those were very tough days, and any fair measure of his record has to take that into account. My home state voted for President Obama. When he talked about change, many people liked the sound of it, especially in Janesville, where we were about to lose a major factory,” Ryan told the convention.

“A lot of guys I went to high school with worked at that GM plant. Right there at that plant, candidate Obama said: ‘I believe that if our government is there to support you.… this plant will be here for another hundred years.’ That’s what he said in 2008,” continued Ryan. “Well, as it turned out, that plant didn’t last another year.”

True. Obama spoke the words that Ryan quoted. But Ryan’s clear suggestion that Obama—or his policies—had something to do with the plant closure was a lie.

The government that was not there to support the Janesville workers was the administration of George W. Bush. GM announced and implemented the closure of the plant during Bush’s presidency.

When a newly elected President Obama rushed to save the domestic auto industry, and perhaps to renew the prospects of shuttered plants like the one in Janesville, the man whose campaign Ryan is now propping up wrote an op-ed titled “Let Detroit [and, presumably Janesville] Go Bankrupt.

And since we’re on the subject of government failing the workers in Paul Ryan’s hometown, surely it is relevant to bring up the congressman’s repeated votes for free-trade agreements that members of Janesville’s United Auto Workers Local 95 warned would undermine and ultimately shutter their workplace.

A man who would use his hometown as a prop and then try to deceive the country about the causes of its circumstance has a certain appeal to Republican delegates who cut their political teeth making the case for trickle-down economics and weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.

Ryan actually pushed the envelope, peddling new fantasies, like the spin that says: “Obamacare comes to more than 2,000 pages of rules, mandates, taxes, fees, and fines that have no place in a free country.”

This will come to news as news to Britain, Canada, Germany and other American allies that somehow keep the light of liberty shining even as they guarantee all citizens access to quality healthcare.

Come to think of it, there are quite a few rules associated with Medicare. Yet Ryan—who has for years championed the radical deconstruction of the program—came off like Lyndon Johnson’s long-lost twin Wednesday night, as he preached no compromise in the defense of a government-organized healthcare system.

To hear Ryan tell it, “The greatest threat to Medicare is Obamacare, and we’re going to stop it.”

That’s a reprise of the universally discredited claim that the Affordable Care Act robs Medicare to pay for “Obamacare.” In fact, according to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) and the Kaiser Family Health Foundation, there will be no benefit cuts to Medicare as the Affordable Care Act is implemented.

Spending for Medicare will rise. True, the rate of increase in spending will slow. But an ABC News Fact-Check of the claim Ryan repeated Wednesday night notes that: “CMS says—and Kaiser agrees—that [the rate of increased] spending will be reduced by getting rid of fraud and ending overpayments to private insurance companies. It sends a message to those insurance companies: Operate more efficiently. And instead of cuts, the CMS says they will be able to fund new benefits, including free preventive care and broader prescription coverage, including closing the ‘doughnut hole’ affecting seniors.”

That fact-check—along with many others—was published more than a month before Ryan was tapped by Romney as his vice-presidential running mate.

Ryan had to know he was deceiving the American people when he and the Romney team prepared his speech.

But the “deficit hawk” congressman who voted for two unfunded wars, a budget-busting prescription drug plan that steered billions into the accounts of Big Pharma, and the bank bailout of 2008 made his choice long ago. He’s not going to level with the American people. He’s going to try to make them believe things that are not true.

The biggest Ryan fantasy is the austerity lie: the one that says the wealthiest country in the world is going broke because some children are educated, some sick people are cared for and most old people are afforded a measure of retirement security. As lies go, it’s an effective one. Most of the delegates to this year’s Republican National Convention certainly seem to believe it.

But the reality that Paul Ryan would do anything to avoid is this. If the Wall Street speculators, bankers and CEOs who have contributed millions to Paul Ryan’s Congressional campaigns would simply pay their fair share of taxes, if American assets were not off-shored to tax havens, if American jobs were not sacrificed in a free-trade driven race to the bottom, the country’s fiscal fortunes would be entirely different.

The man who claims to offer “good-faith reforms and solutions equal to the problems” is just another fiscal fabulist.

That’s exactly what the delegates to this year’s Republican National Convention wanted. And that’s why Paul Ryan’s speech was such a hit.

Unfortunately, it wasn’t true.


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Thursday, August 30, 2012

Seven Years After Katrina, A Divided City

 Hi. Right after Katrina I asked author Mike Davis how to get the real story on the disaster. He
immediately suggested Jordan Flaherty, whom I then contacted and wound up exchanging
email send-outs with him.  He's a terrific writer, knowledgeable about and with many contacts
throughout his native NOLA.  Literally nothing I've read or heard matches the dimension
and depth of this article.  Read on...

From: jordan flaherty
Sent: Thursday, August 30, 2012 4:38 AM
Dear friends,

Like many of you, I am thinking about New Orleans and the surrounding areas as they begin to recover from Hurricane Isaac. Below is my most recent article, looking at the state of the city seven years after Hurricane Katrina.

I also recent contributed a very short story about my Katrina experience to, a new storytelling website. You can see it here:

And here's a short update on the story of New York City police conducting spying operations in New Orleans:

Finally, for those who still do not have a copy of Floodlines, Haymarket books is offering a 40% discount in honor of the anniversary of Katrina. Just enter the coupon code"FLOODLINES" when ordering on the Haymarket site. And if you are with an organization that could use free copies to support your work, let me know, and I may be able to help you out. You can email me at

best wishes,


Seven Years After Katrina, A Divided City

By Jordan Flaherty
A version of this article originally appeared on -

Seven years after Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans has become a national laboratory for government reforms. But the process through which those experiments have been carried out rarely has been transparent or democratic. The results have been divisive, pitting new residents against those who grew up here, rich against poor, and white against Black.

Education, housing, criminal justice, health care, urban planning, even our media; systemic changes have touched every aspect life in New Orleans, often creating a template used in other cities. A few examples:

- In the weeks after Hurricane Katrina, more than 7,500 employees in city’s public school system were fired, despite the protection of union membership and a contract. Thousands of young teachers, many affiliated with programs like Teach For America, filled the empty slots. As charters took over from traditional public schools, the city became what then-superintendent Paul Vallas called the first 100% free market public school system in the US. A judge recently found that the mass firings were illegal, but any resolution will likely be tied up in appeals for years.

- Every public housing development has either been partially or entirely torn down. The housing authority now administers more than 17,000 vouchers – nearly double the pre-Katrina amount –a massive privatization of a formerly public system. During this period, rents have risen dramatically across the city.

- The US Department of Justice spent three years in negotiations with city government over reform of the police department. The historic consent decree that came out of these negotiations mandates vast changes in nearly every aspect of the NOPD and some aspects could serve as a model for departments across the US. But organizations that deal with police violence, as well as the city’s independent police monitor, have filed legal challenges to the agreement, stating that they were left out of the negotiations and that as a result, the final document lacks community oversight.

- As the city loses its daily paper, an influx of funding has arrived to support various online media projects – including $880,000 from George Soros to one website. In a city that is still majority African-American, the staff of these new media ventures is almost entirely white, and often politically conservative. These funders – many of whom consider themselves progressive - have mostly ignored the city’s Black media, which have a proud history of centuries of local resistance to the dominant narrative. Publications like Louisiana Weekly covered police violence and institutional racism when the daily paper was not interested. Wealthy liberal foundations are apparently still not interested.

There is wide agreement that most of our government services have long deep, systemic problems. But in rebuilding New Orleans, the key question is not only how much change is needed, but more crucially, who should dictate that change.

New Orleans has become a destination for a new class of residents drawn by the allure of being able to conduct these experiments. For a while, they self-identified as YURPs (Young Urban Rebuilding Professionals).  Now they are frequently known as “social entrepreneurs,” and they have wealthy and powerful allies. Warren Buffet has invested in the redevelopment of public housing. Oprah Winfrey and the Walton family have donated to the charter schools.

Many residents – especially in the Black community – have felt disenfranchised in the new New Orleans. They see the influx of college graduates who have come to start nonprofits and run our schools and redesign our neighborhoods as disaster profiteers, not saviors. You can hear it every day on WBOK, the city’s only Black-owned talk radio station, and read about it in the Louisiana Weekly, Data News, and New Orleans Tribune, the city’s Black newspapers. This new rebuilding class is seen as working in alliance with white elites to disenfranchise a shrinking Black majority. Callers and guests on WBOK point to the rapid change in political representation: Among the political offices that have shifted to white after a generation in Black hands are the mayor, police chief, district attorney, and majorities on the school board and city council.

In a recent cover story in the Tribune, journalist Lovell Beaulieu compares the new rebuilding class to the genocide of Native Americans. “520 years after the Indians discovered Columbus, a similar story is unfolding,” writes Beaulieu. “New arrivals from around the United States and the world are landing here to get a piece of the action that is lucrative post-Katrina New Orleans…Black people are merely pawns in a game with little clout and few voices. Their primary role is to be the ones who get pushed out, disregarded and forgotten.”

People hear the term “blank slate,” a term often used to describe post-Katrina New Orleans – as a way of erasing the city’s long history of Black-led resistance to white supremacy. As New Orleans poet and educator Kalamu Ya Salaam has said, “it wasn’t a blank slate, it was a cemetery.” Where some new arrivals see opportunity, many residents see grave robbers.  In response, those who find anything to praise in the old ways are often accused of being stuck in the past or embracing corruption.

Hurricane Isaac has demonstrated that New Orleans is still at risk from storms – although the flood protection system around the city seems to be more reliable than it was before the levees failed and eighty percent of New Orleans was underwater. But have the systemic problems that were displayed to the world seven years ago been fixed by the radical changes the city has seen? Is reform possible without the consent of those most affected by those changes? These are polarizing questions in the new New Orleans.

Jordan Flaherty is a New Orleans-based journalist, and the author of Floodlines: Community and Resistance from Katrina to the Jena Six. He can be reached at


For regular updates from social justice struggles in New Orleans, see:

Recent Reporting:

TV Reporting


Part One, History of an Occupation:
Part Two, Surviving the Winter:

Print Reporting:

Did New Orleans Media Contribute to Police Violence After Hurricane Katrina?

NYPD Spying on New Orleans:

FLOODLINES: Community & Resistance from Katrina to the Jena Six
ISBN: 9781608460656   - Trade paper  - 320 pages

FLOODLINES: Community and Resistance from Katrina to the Jena Six is a firsthand account of community, culture, and  resistance in New Orleans. The book weaves together the stories of  gay rappers, Mardi Gras Indians, Arab and Latino immigrants, public housing residents, and grassroots activists in the years before and after Katrina. From post-Katrina evacuee camps to torture testimony at Angola Prison to organizing with the family members of the Jena Six, FLOODLINES tells the stories behind the headlines from an unforgettable time and place in history.

As the floodwaters rose in New Orleans, Jordan Flaherty began to write, rescuing precious truths about the reality of racism and solidarity in his city that risked being washed away in the tide of formulaic corporate journalism. I can think of no journalist that writes with deeper knowledge or more love about this highly contested part of the United States. These remarkable stories of injustice and resistance must be heard.
– Naomi Klein, author “The Shock Doctrine”

This is the most important book I’ve read about Katrina and what came after. In the tradition of Howard Zinn this could be called “The People’s History of the Storm.” Jordan Flaherty was there on the front lines. He compellingly documents the racism, poverty, and neglect at the core of this national failure and the brave, generous, grassroots revolutionaries who saved and continue to save a city and a people. It is my favorite kind of book – great storytelling, accurate accounting, a call for engagement and change.
-Eve Ensler, playwright, The Vagina Monologues, activist and founder of V-Day

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Alan Minsky: Fear and Loathing in Florida 2012

Fear and Loathing in Florida 2012
Alan Minsky
Truthdig: August 30, 2012

History repeats itself; the first time as tragedy, the second time as farce. —Karl Marx

TAMPA, Fla.—The real truth in America is hard to come by these days; even the Paul Ryan Wikipedia entry has been whitewashed, omitting that he was voted the biggest brown-noser in his high school class.

As I do not believe, in contrast to most of the press corps here, that Orwellian double-speak is the highest form of human communication, I cannot attend a political convention and not feel the anxiety of Hunter S. Thompson’s influence. However much respect books like “The Making of the President” series merit, it’s the bourbon and crank-fueled honesty of “Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail ’72” that truly captures the zombie-like soullessness of the political lapdog class.

What to make of the 2012 Republican model?

It didn’t take long to realize this convention was dominated by the same country club set that’s been running this party for decades. Fears that some new monstrous tea party/Christian fundamentalist hybrid has seized the GOP’s helm were readily dispelled as the first busloads of late-night partyers arrived in downtown Tampa on Monday night. Anyone anticipating rabid creationists from the Wichita PTA was confronted with the bland secularism of Laura Ashley and Brooks Brothers.

I explained to one woman in her early 30s that she was the first Republican I’d spoken to this week. She laughed and asked me where I was from. Los Angeles, I told her, then followed up: “Do you really support all the platforms in your party—about women, family and all of that?” She replied, “The Republican Party is pro-business; I’m a businesswoman.”

“So you’re not a Santorum delegate?” I inquired.

She smiled in confirmation.

* * *

Ybor City, 1 a.m. Wednesday: The delegates hit the streets of this Tampa neighborhood. These folks hold no truck with international couture. Rome, Paris, London—forget it. They’re locked into the same look since the rebirth of the preppie in the early Reagan years. Printed dresses and pumps, summer suits and bad ties abound among these paragons of white suburban culture.

There’s a conspicuous alt-crowd too. All day long, Ron Paul supporters have been hitting the streets outside the convention center, protesting their exile from the floor, which the party pulled off through a series of procedural maneuvers adjudicated these past few months. As I’m barking my notes into my hideous Android phone, a few bright-eyed Paulites surround me and gleefully, drunkenly convey their tale of woe. I politely tell them that my focus is on the winners, explaining that a key part of my piece is the fact that Romney was able to capture the nomination and dominate the convention, despite the opposition of much of his party. The two most loquacious of the New Mexico Ron Paul contingent—one, a Sephardic and the other an Ashkenazi Jew—expect that I’ll respond to this outrageous perversion of democracy. Americans are disgusted with the status quo, they plead, before a near-naked woman makes her way through the throngs of GOP delegates. The two merry Paulites traipse after her.

Back to the hard work of revealing the cold heart of Romneyism.

I get up my gander and decide to approach some of the men. “So, are you guys Romney delegates?” I ask.

“Who are you?” they respond.

“A freelance blogger,” I say.

“You a liberal?” one asks.

“I’m an independent. So are you delegates for Romney?” I ask.

“Romney’s the nominee,” one says. I ask if they are with the tea party. Another simply asserts, “The party is unified behind Romney.”

The old-school elite Republicans have won; the degree to which the insurgents are represented in the platform is embodied in Paul Ryan, a relative latecomer to the tea party but a class warrior to the core. The Republican leaders can absorb the tea party line, and even if they have to implement it in order to obtain power, they know that none of its harshness will have any impact on their own lives. In the world that they are creating, full of gated communities and McMansions, they will be able to escape the worst effects of their policies. They can afford private health care; their daughters will have access to abortions on demand; their sons will continue to attend top colleges and ascend to the boardrooms without any threat of lower-class challenges to their primacy.

The vast majority of these folks will never send their kids to schools that teach creationism; the hustle to get into the Ivy League is just as pronounced in suburban Dallas as it is in Greenwich, Conn. All that other nonsense is for the proles. And sure, the women will wear pearls just like their mothers; their sons will be taught to love cigars and golf; and the joys of life are embodied in NFL luxury box seats on Sundays.

So, as globalization continues apace, weakening labor and sending millions screaming through the yawning gap between rich and poor, this cast of suburban oligarchs goes on shoveling the nation’s wealth into their pockets through their policies, largely unaccountable not only to the majority of the American people, but even to their own party’s base. What Thompson wrote about the “dark, venal and incurably violent side of the American character” has been absorbed into breadless circuses and a zombie-like disengagement with the politics that matter. Although Romney does not rival Nixon as a Hollywood villain out of central casting, the damage is just as grave. History comes again indeed as farce, but the tragedy never really left us.

My sense is that they would have been perfectly approachable had I asked them about the Patriots’ chances to get back to the Super Bowl. But Romney’s policies, and his relationship to the tea party, were forbidden territory. Their eyes narrowed suspiciously, or they simply looked away. There’s no accountability here. Over the next few minutes, I tried for substantive conversation, and was bombarded by a mix of disregard and howling assertions that Romney would crush Obama in the fall.

Thompson noted 40 years ago that “there is no potentially serious candidate in either major party ... who couldn’t pass for the executive vice president for mortgage loans in any hometown bank from Bangor to San Diego.” Nowadays, it’s best if the candidate is higher up the executive ladder.

The tea partyers are useful hucksters, but those barbarians are not yet at the gate. The real fear and loathing rest where they have always been, in the familiar guise of freshly tailored suits, cigar-chomping patriarchs with their women trailing five steps behind. These are the homegrown oligarchs from the Middle American metropolises—Cincinnati, St. Louis, Salt Lake City. They will readily appropriate the barbarians’ rhetoric in order to gain power, and ride this reactionary wave all the way to the bank. In this regard, the tea party fulfills a classic American political function, described by Thompson when he said: “The main problem in any democracy is that crowd-pleasers are generally brainless swine who can go out on a stage and whup their supporters into an orgiastic frenzy—then go back to the office and sell every one of the poor bastards down the tube for a nickel apiece.”

Alan Minsky is at the Republican National Convention, traveling with a production of the musical comedy “Mr. Satan Goes to Wall Street.” Researcher Meleiza Figueroa provided assistance from an undisclosed location.

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Wednesday, August 29, 2012

The Rachel Corrie lawsuit result, Gaza versus the Warsaw Ghetto

 From: Sid Shniad <> Aug 28 06:29PM -0700


*The Guardian 28 August 2012
*Rachel Corrie lawsuit result 'dangerous precedent' say human rights groups

*Concern ruling will allow Israel to exploit 'legal black hole' and avoid
responsibility for its actions *

Harriet Sherwood <>,
Jerusalem correspondent

Human rights organisations have warned of a "dangerous precedent" following
an Israeli court's dismissal of a civil lawsuit over the death of US
activist Rachel Corrie <>,
which stated that Israel <> could not
be held responsible because its army was engaged in a combat operation.

Corrie "was accidentally killed in the framework of a 'war-related
activity' ... [and] the state bears no responsibility for the damages
inflicted on the plaintiffs resulting from a war-related action," said
Judge Oded Gershon at Haifa district court.

The 23-year-old activist was crushed by a military bulldozer which she
believed was intent on demolishing a Palestinian home in Rafah, southern
Gaza, in March 2003. Gershon ruled that it was a "regrettable accident"
that Corrie had brought upon herself. There had been no fault in the
internal Israeli military investigation, which cleared the bulldozer driver
of any blame, the court found. "The deceased was in a blind spot – the
operator didn't see her," said Gershon.

Corrie had "put herself in a dangerous situation" and could have saved
herself by moving out of the zone of danger, he said. The area was "the
site of daily warfare" and a closed military zone, and the US government
had warned its citizens not to go there.

Hussein Abu Hussein, the Corrie family's lawyer, said the ruling sent "a
very dangerous message and precedent that there are no restrictions on
Israeli military behaviour in Gaza and the West Bank". The ruling would
"close the doors of justice to civilian victims", including foreigners, and
"expand a legal black hole" in which Israel seeks to evade responsibility
for its actions.

The verdict, he said, was "yet another example of where impunity has
prevailed over accountability and fairness. We knew from the beginning that
we had an uphill battle to get truthful answers and justice, but we are
convinced that this verdict distorts the strong evidence presented in
court, and contradicts fundamental principles of international law with
regard to protection of human rights defenders. In denying justice in
Rachel Corrie's killing, this verdict speaks to the systemic failure to
hold the Israeli military accountable for continuing violations of basic
human rights."

Human Rights Watch said the ruling contravened international law, which is
intended to protect non-combatants in war zones, and set "a dangerous
precedent". "The idea that there can be no fault for killing civilians in a
combat operation flatly contradicts Israel's international legal
obligations to spare civilians from harm during armed conflict and to
credibly investigate and punish violations by its forces," said Bill van
Esveld, a senior Middle East researcher at HRW.

Shawan Jabarin, director of the Palestinian human rights organisation, Al
Haq, said: "Israel has claimed that it is not responsible for the death of
a civilian in armed conflict. However, this flatly ignores international
law, which stipulates that Israel is under an obligation to take all
measures to ensure that no civilians will be harmed during hostilities, and
must at all times distinguish between military targets and civilians.

"The presence of a civilian in a combat zone does in any way not affect
their right to protection. Instead, their protected status applies
regardless of their location in a conflict, and international law clearly
states that they must be protected against acts of violence in all

Corrie's parents, Cindy and Craig, of Olympia, Washington State, sued the
state of Israel, accusing it of the unlawful or intentional killing of
their daughter or of gross negligence.

The family was "deeply saddened and deeply troubled" by the ruling, Cindy
Corrie said afterwards. "I believe this was a bad day, not only for our
family, but for human rights, humanity, the rule of law and also for the
country of Israel." The state, she said, "has worked extremely hard to make
sure that the truth about what happened to my daughter is not known and
those responsible will not be held accountable". The family will appeal to
the supreme court.

The Israeli justice ministry described Corrie's death as "a tragic
accident". The bulldozer driver and his commander were "exonerated of any
blame for negligence", it said in a statement.

At the time of Corrie's death, house demolitions were common; part of an
increasing cycle of violence from both sides. The Israeli Defence Forces
(IDF) said the homes it targeted were harbouring militants or weapons or
being used to conceal arms-smuggling tunnels under the border. Human rights
groups said the demolitions were collective punishment. Between 2000 and
2004, the Israeli military demolished 1,700 homes in Rafah, leaving about
17,000 people homeless, according to the Israeli human rights organisation

Corrie was one of a group of around eight international activists acting as
human shields against the demolitions. Fellow activists said she was
clearly within the line of sight of the bulldozer driver, who drove
straight at her.

Israel promised a "thorough, credible and transparent" investigation into
her death. Within a month, an IDF internal inquiry had concluded that the
driver of the bulldozer had not seen the activist and that no charges would
be brought.

During the Corries' civil lawsuit, which lasted almost two and a half
years, the bulldozer driver testified anonymously from behind a screen for
"security reasons". He insisted that the first time he saw the activist was
when he "saw people pulling the body out from under the earth".

His commanding officer, Colonel Pinhas Zuaretz, told the court that Rafah
was a war zone in 2003 and said that "reasonable people would not be there
unless they had aims of attacking our forces".

    Sid Shniad <> Aug 28 10:21AM -0700

    Global Research <>
    August 23, 2012

    *Gaza versus the Warsaw Ghetto: Double Standards in Assessing Crimes
    against Humanity *
    *By Felicity Arbuthnot*

    "Do not hold the delusion that your advancement is accomplished by
    crushing others."(Marcus Tullius Cicero,106-43 B.C.)

    “The hottest places in hell are reserved for those who in a period of
    moral crisis maintain their neutrality." (Dante, c1265-1321.)

    One of the haunting images of Jewish heroism, lauded in history books and
    Holocaust commemorations, is the courage of those, especially the young, in
    the Warsaw Ghetto, when in 1940, Jewish Warsaw residents were ordered by
    the German invaders into a small section of the city.

    The courage of those who dug tunnels, smuggled goods necessary for survival
    in, and communications in and out, has rightly become a legendary act of
    resistance and courage, defiance in the shadow of despotism and repression.

    The people of Gaza (roughly seventy five percent of whom are under twenty
    five) have had even the water in their natural springs stolen by a
    population to whom James Arthur Balfour’s sparse words promised: "the
    establishment of a home in Palestine for the Jewish people ... it being
    clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil
    and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine … "

    The Jewish families were contained in their enclave by an up to three metre
    high wall. The people of Gaza, ironically, are largely contained by a wall
    up to eleven metres high – twice the height of the Berlin Wall.

    The Palestinians, their lands, homes, even cemeteries, stolen and
    destroyed, their ancient olive groves - some trees a thousand years old -
    burned or stolen to grace often illegal settlements, their people spat at,
    imprisoned, tortured, bombed, walled in, is now also near land-locked by
    Israel's maritime aggression in Gaza's territorial waters. Even fishing,
    unfettered access to their bountiful fish stocks are often denied,
    threatened by gun boats.

    Gaza, since 2000 especially, has become a sunnier Warsaw Ghetto. Imports
    are strangulatingly controlled or totally prohibited by Israel, thus
    lifeline tunnels have also been dug between Gaza and Egypt.

    In the building of one such desperation-driven structure: "in the cold,
    often trapped and suffocating under water or collapsing walls of dirt and
    concrete, eighty two people died", working in shifts, twenty four hours a
    day, Hyam Noir and Fady Adwan write graphically.

    Goods brought through the tunnels, as in Nazi occupied Warsaw seventy years
    earlier, are life's necessities for survival and include medicines, food,
    clothes, vital spare parts, foreign currency.

    World governments either collude with this ongoing humanitarian tragedy and
    legal shame, or simply ignore Gaza's plight. That Balfour stated clearly
    that the Jewish people were to be guests in Palestine, not jailers and
    conquerors, has been ignored from literally, day one. For building their
    subterranean mainstay, the rightful residents of Palestine are called

    Shame on every politician, of any country who colludes with, or ignores
    this ongoing obscenity.

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Brooks: The Real Romney

The word is 'plotz', as in "I thought I would...'  -Ed

From: Loretta Ayeroff []
Sent: Tuesday, August 28, 2012 10:01 AM

The Real Romney
David Brooks
NY Times Op-Ed: August 28, 2010
The purpose of the Republican convention is to introduce America to the real Mitt Romney. Fortunately, I have spent hours researching this subject. I can provide you with the definitive biography and a unique look into the Byronic soul of the Republican nominee:
Mitt Romney was born on March 12, 1947, in Ohio, Florida, Michigan, Virginia and several other swing states. He emerged, hair first, believing in America, and especially its national parks. He was given the name Mitt, after the Roman god of mutual funds, and launched into the world with the lofty expectation that he would someday become the Arrow shirt man.

Romney was a precocious and gifted child. He uttered his first words (“I like to fire people”) at age 14 months, made his first gaffe at 15 months and purchased his first nursery school at 24 months. The school, highly leveraged, went under, but Romney made 24 million Jujubes on the deal.

Mitt grew up in a modest family. His father had an auto body shop called the American Motors Corporation, and his mother owned a small piece of land, Brazil. He had several boyhood friends, many of whom owned Nascar franchises, and excelled at school, where his fourth-grade project, “Inspiring Actuaries I Have Known,” was widely admired.

The Romneys had a special family tradition. The most cherished member got to spend road trips on the roof of the car. Mitt spent many happy hours up there, applying face lotion to combat windburn.

The teenage years were more turbulent. He was sent to a private school, where he was saddened to find there are people in America who summer where they winter. He developed a lifelong concern for the second homeless, and organized bake sales with proceeds going to the moderately rich.

Some people say he retreated into himself during these years. He had a pet rock, which ran away from home because it was starved of affection. He bought a mood ring, but it remained permanently transparent. His ability to turn wine into water detracted from his popularity at parties.

There was, frankly, a period of wandering. After hearing Lou Reed’s “Walk on the Wild Side,” Romney decided to leave Mormonism and become Amish. He left the Amish faith because of its ban on hair product, and bounced around before settling back in college. There, he majored in music, rendering Mozart’s entire oeuvre in PowerPoint.

His love affair with Ann Davies, the most impressive part of his life, restored his equilibrium. Always respectful, Mitt and Ann decided to elope with their parents. They went on a trip to Israel, where they tried and failed to introduce the concept of reticence. Romney also went on a mission to France. He spent two years knocking on doors, failing to win a single convert. This was a feat he would replicate during his 2008 presidential bid.

After his mission, he attended Harvard, studying business, law, classics and philosophy, though intellectually his first love was always tax avoidance. After Harvard, he took his jawline to Bain Consulting, a firm with very smart people with excessive personal hygiene. While at Bain, he helped rescue many outstanding companies, like Pan Am, Eastern Airlines, Atari and DeLorean.

Romney was extremely detail oriented in his business life. He once canceled a corporate retreat at which Abba had been hired to play, saying he found the band’s music “too angry.”

Romney is also a passionately devoted family man. After streamlining his wife’s pregnancies down to six months each, Mitt helped Ann raise five perfect sons — Bip, Chip, Rip, Skip and Dip — who married identically tanned wives. Some have said that Romney’s lifestyle is overly privileged, pointing to the fact that he has an elevator for his cars in the garage of his San Diego home. This is not entirely fair. Romney owns many homes without garage elevators and the cars have to take the stairs.

After a successful stint at Bain, Romney was lured away to run the Winter Olympics, the second most Caucasian institution on earth, after the G.O.P. He then decided to run for governor of Massachusetts. His campaign slogan, “Vote Romney: More Impressive Than You’ll Ever Be,” was not a hit, but Romney won the race anyway on an environmental platform, promising to make the state safe for steeplechase.

After his governorship, Romney suffered through a midlife crisis, during which he became a social conservative. This prepared the way for his presidential run. He barely won the 2012 Republican primaries after a grueling nine-month campaign, running unopposed. At the convention, where his Secret Service nickname is Mannequin, Romney will talk about his real-life record: successful business leader, superb family man, effective governor, devoted community leader and prudent decision-maker. If elected, he promises to bring all Americans together and make them feel inferior.

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Tuesday, August 28, 2012

How Pussy Riot Helps Putin


How Pussy Riot Helps Putin


By Ivo Mijnssen
Truthdig: Aug 20, 2012
AP/Alex Katz

A protester is arrested during a demonstration in front of the Russian Consulate in New York in support of punk band Pussy Riot. Russia’s persecution of Pussy Riot has prompted public demonstrations around the globe.

Three members of the feminist band Pussy Riot were sentenced Aug. 17 to two years in a Russian penal colony because they performed a “punk prayer” in a Moscow church. The trial in Judge Marina Syrova’s courtroom and the draconian punishment of Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, Maria Alekhina and Yekaterina Samutsevich have drawn widespread domestic and international criticism. There were demonstrations in favor of Pussy Riot all around the world. Dozens of musicians and artists, among them Madonna and Paul McCartney, called for the young women’s release—two of the convicted are mothers of small children. U.S. Ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul termed the sentence “disproportionate to the crime.” High Representative of the EU for Foreign Affairs Catherine Ashton called the independence of Russia’s courts into doubt, and German Chancellor Angela Merkel went so far as to question the country’s commitment to “fundamental rights and freedoms.”

Some of the reactions domestically were also negative. Hundreds of people demonstrated against the verdict in front of the court, and about 100 of them were arrested. Former Finance Minister Aleksei Kudrin stated that the ruling undermined citizens’ trust in Russia’s justice system even further, and Samutsevich’s father opined that Russia was headed in the direction of theocracies like “Iran and Saudi Arabia, where one can be stoned on religious grounds.” The Russian Orthodox Church maintained that the women had committed blasphemy, but called upon the state to “show mercy for the convicted within the framework of the law in the hopes that they will refrain from repeating their sacrilegious acts.” A spokesman for Vladimir Putin said that the Kremlin accepted the verdict and that the president had no means of intervening in the judicial process.

However, politics stood at the center of the Pussy Riot case throughout the trial. The matter began when five members of the punk collective rushed the Cathedral of Christ the Savior on Feb. 21 in order to protest against Putin’s re-election and the support of him by the patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church. Even though they were quickly arrested, the group managed to produce a video in which it conducted a punk prayer asking the Virgin Mary to “put Putin away.” In the song, Pussy Riot criticizes the Orthodox Church’s discrimination of women and its close connection with politics, calling Putin the church’s “chief saint.” The chorus states, “shit, shit, the Lord’s shit!”

In her ruling, Syrova singled out the last line as blasphemous and judged Pussy Riot’s act as “incitement to religious hatred.” Russian law does not punish blasphemy; instead, the three women were convicted of “hooliganism,” a catchall charge that is used to chastise a variety of people including rowdy football fans and neo-Nazis committing racist attacks. It carries a maximum sentence of seven years in prison. Seen from this perspective, the verdict is relatively mild, as many observers had feared at the beginning of the trial that the prosecution would push for the maximum penalty. However, during his stay at the London Olympics and in the face of mounting international criticism, Putin called for clemency. A few days later, the prosecutor asked for a punishment of three years. The final sentence was slightly lighter.

Syrova, who was also involved in the second trial of jailed plutocrat Mikhail Khodorkovsky and has—according to the Internet platform—issued only one acquittal in 179 cases, made it very clear that others should consider the prison term for Pussy Riot as a warning. It is no secret that this warning also applies to the opposition at large: The government is unwilling to allow for a repetition of last winter’s mass protests. Shortly before its summer break, the Duma passed a series of legal measures for this purpose. They include imposing hefty fines on participants of unsanctioned meetings and requiring nongovernmental organizations receiving funds from abroad to register as “foreign agents.” Moreover, charges were brought against several opposition figures. Blogger and anti-corruption activist Alexei Navalny has been accused of embezzlement and faces a maximum punishment of 10 years in prison. Most recently, chess champion and political activist Garry Kasparov was arrested, and apparently beaten, during a protest against the Pussy Riot verdict. He now faces charges of having bitten a policeman, which carry a prison sentence of up to five years.

In all these cases, the authorities have taken great care to deny any political motivations. Instead, they stressed legal and moral concerns. Pussy Riot’s defense argued that the punk prayer had been a political protest against Putin. The three defendants also apologized for offending believers with their actions. Samutsevich said the group chose the main Orthodox cathedral in Moscow because it had become a “flashy setting for the politics of the security services, which are the main source of power” in Russia. The cathedral, which was destroyed under Josef Stalin and rebuilt under Boris Yeltsin, is indeed the central symbol for the unity of state and church in Russia. Samutsevich does not believe that the band members would have been tried if they had not spoken out against Putin: “It seems to me that if we had sung ‘Mother of God, protect Putin’ or ‘Mother of God, keep the feminists away,’ we would not be sitting here,” she said.

Syrova, however, dismissed all political arguments as false pretense. Instead, she sided with the prosecution (and state media) in portraying the three defendants as mentally unstable and anti-social. Nonetheless, the court’s experts maintained that in spite of “personality disorders,” they were sane and could thus be held accountable for their actions.

To many Russians, therefore, Pussy Riot appears as an irreverent and possibly extremist organization. Rodrigo von Horn, a German specialist on Russia who observed the trial closely, told Truthdig that the prosecution repeatedly insisted on the “psychological damage” Pussy Riot’s actions inflicted with its punk prayer: “Implicitly, this also emphasized the church’s role as the ideological foundation of the Russian state’s stability,” he said. In this context, a seemingly minor infraction suddenly becomes a threat to the entire political system. Two lawyers who represented a cathedral security guard, one of the prosecution’s many “injured parties,” made it clear that they considered the three defendants to be part of a larger conspiracy against Orthodoxy and the Russian state. One of them even drew an explicit connection between the attacks against the Twin Towers in New York and Pussy Riot: “In the first instance it was a satanic group, and in the second it was the global government. But at the highest level both are connected—by Satan,” the lawyer said.

These kinds of bizarre conspiracy theories do little to lend legitimacy to the verdict. They do, however, help to explain the severity of the punishment and the treatment of the defendants during the trial. The defense did not receive all necessary materials in time, and the judge rejected most of its witnesses during the trial. The defendants complained of sleep deprivation and humiliation. They were forced to sit in a cage throughout the trial, guarded by a fierce Rottweiler and elite soldiers. All of this underlined the impression that these young women were highly dangerous enemies of the state. Not surprisingly, Russian officials—and some non-mainstream commentators like Mike Whitney in CounterPunch—responded to criticism of the trial by quoting the American treatment of enemy combatants and alleged state-secrets leaker Pfc. Bradley Manning. It remains unclear, however, how an American violation of constitutional rights justifies judicial arbitrariness in Russia (see Chris Randolph’s rebuttal in CounterPunch).

The Pussy Riot case has become an international PR disaster for the Russian government. Domestically, however, it may contribute to rallying support for Putin’s government. To the conservative majority of Russians, estimated at about 60 percent, the trial has shown that the country’s authorities strengthen Russia’s ideological and religious foundations. A recent poll of Russians by the Levada-Center showed that 44 percent consider the trial to have been fair and objective, and an additional 36 percent believe that the punishment corresponds to Pussy Riot’s guilt. Moreover, 41 percent considered the punk prayer to be an offense against the Orthodox community, and only one-quarter saw political reasons behind the trial. In this sense, the case will probably assist the Kremlin in consolidating its conservative base. However, frustration only deepens among the growing urban and cosmopolitan sectors of Russian society, whose calls for reform fall on deaf ears. Most likely, this will motivate even more young and talented Russians to leave their country rather than hope for change at home.

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Paul Krugman: The Comeback Skid, Secure Tenants Rights

The Comeback Skid
Paul Krugman
NY Times Op-Ed: August 27, 2012
There will be two big stars at the Republican National Convention, and neither of them will be Mitt Romney. One will, of course, be Paul Ryan, Mr. Romney’s running mate. The other will be Chris Christie, the governor of New Jersey, who will give the keynote address. And while the two men could hardly look or sound more different, they are brothers under the skin.
How so? Both have carefully cultivated public images as tough, fiscally responsible guys willing to make hard choices. And both public images are completely false.

I’ve written a lot lately deconstructing the Ryan myth, so let me turn today to Mr. Christie.

When Mr. Christie took office in January 2010, New Jersey — like many other states — was in dire fiscal straits thanks to the effects of a depressed economy. Unlike the federal government, states are required by their constitutions to run more or less balanced budgets every year (although there is room for accounting gimmicks), so like other governors, Mr. Christie was forced to engage in belt-tightening.

So far so normal: while Mr. Christie has made a lot of noise about his tough budget choices, other governors have done much the same. Nor has he eschewed budget gimmicks: like earlier New Jersey governors, Mr. Christie has closed budget gaps in part by deferring required contributions to state pension funds, which is in effect a form of borrowing against the future, and he has also sought to paper over budget gaps by diverting money from places like the Transportation Trust Fund.

If there is a distinctive feature to New Jersey’s belt-tightening under Mr. Christie, it is its curiously selective nature. The governor was willing to cancel the desperately needed project to build another rail tunnel linking the state to Manhattan, but has invested state funds in a megamall in the Meadowlands and a casino in Atlantic City.

Also, while much of his program involves spending cuts, he has effectively raised taxes on low-income workers and homeowners by slashing tax credits. But he vetoed a temporary surcharge on millionaires while refusing to raise the state’s gasoline tax, which is the third-lowest in America and far below tax rates in neighboring states. Only some people, it seems, are expected to make sacrifices.

But as I said, Mr. Christie talks a good (and very loud) game about his willingness to make tough choices, making big claims about spending cuts — claims, by the way, that PolitiFact has unequivocally declared false. And for the past year he has been touting what he claims is the result of those tough choices: the “Jersey comeback,” the supposed recovery of his state’s economy.

Strange to say, however, Mr. Christie has told reporters that he won’t use the term “Jersey comeback” in his keynote address. And it’s not hard to see why: the comeback, such as it was, has hit the skids. Indeed, the latest figures show his state with the fourth-highest unemployment rate in the nation. Strikingly, New Jersey’s 9.8 percent unemployment rate is now significantly higher than the unemployment rate in long-suffering Michigan, which has had a true comeback thanks to the G.O.P.-opposed auto bailout.

Now, state governors don’t actually have much impact on short-run economic performance, so the skidding New Jersey economy isn’t really Mr. Christie’s fault. Still, he was the one who chose to make it an issue. And even more important, he’s still pushing the policies the state’s recovery was supposed to justify.

You see, all that boasting about the Jersey comeback wasn’t just big talk (although it was that, too). It was, instead, supposed to demonstrate that good times were back, revenue was on the upswing, and it was now time for what Mr. Christie really wants: a major cut in income taxes.

Even if the comeback were real, this would be a highly dubious idea. By all accounts, New Jersey still has a significant structural deficit, that is, a deficit that will persist even when the economy recovers. Furthermore, the Christie tax-cut proposal would do very little for the middle class but give large breaks to the wealthy.

But in any case, the good times are by no means back, and neither is the revenue boom that was supposed to justify a tax cut. So has the very responsible Mr. Christie accepted the idea of at least delaying his tax-cut plan until the promised revenue gains materialize? Of course not.

Which brings me back to the comparison with Paul Ryan. Mr. Ryan, as people finally seem to be realizing, is at heart a fiscal fraud, boasting about his commitment to deficit reduction but actually placing a much higher priority on tax cuts for the wealthy. Mr. Christie may have a different personal style, but he’s playing the same game.

In other words, meet the new boaster, same as the old boaster. And pray that we won’t get fooled again.  

* * * 

Coalition for Economic Survival (CES)
Tenants' Rights ACTION ALERT!

Your Help Needed NOW to Ensure
California Tenants are Protected From
Unjust Rent Only Online Landlord Policies
Urge Governor Jerry Brown to Sign SB 1055 (Lieu)

In response to complaints from residents that more and more landlords are requiring rental payments be made only online and to the Coalition for Economic Survival effort to organize affected tenants against this practice, the California Senate just approved and sent to the governor a bill by Sen. Ted W. Lieu that would ensure residents can continue paying with check or money order. Click for more information.

SB 1055 has been sent to Governor Jerry Brown for his signature to allow the bill to be put into law starting in 2013. The Governor has not taken a position on the bill but he has roughly two weeks to sign the measure, veto it or allow it to become law without his signature.

Your Help & Action is Need NOW!!!

We are asking that you contact Gov. Brown immediately and urge that he sign SB 1055.

It is very easy to do.

Step One: Go to or click on:

Step Two: Fill in the information on this page:

Step Three: Make sure you set the Subject pull down to SB 1055 & press 'Submit.'

Step Four: Select "Pro," write a short statement in support of SB 1055 & press Send Email.

Or, you can call Governor Brown
and urge him to sign SB 1055 at:

Coalition for Economic Survival
(213) 252-4411
This email was sent to by |
Coalition for Economic Survival | 514 Shatto Place, Suite 270 | Los Angeles | CA | 90020

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