Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Obama and Edwards Batter Clinton

By Ben Cohen

Presidential debates are usually tedious affairs with more blather than discussion, and more spin than substance. Although the confines of debate in American politics is extremely narrow (are you really pro America, or just pro America?), tonights confrontation between Hillary Clinton and the rest of the Democratic contenders was a little different, and quite interesting to watch. I am reticent to say who 'won' the debate, as by most analysts standards, the candidate with the best sound bytes and poise are declared victorious. But it would be fair to say that Clinton took quite a beating.

Clinton has been well schooled by her handlers. She never directly responds to a challenge, and shows about as much emotion as Schwarzenegger did in 'Terminator'. The aim of course, is to appear regal, and above the fray. But the other Democratic candidates fired some pointed criticisms of the New York Senator, and highlighted some of her many inconsistencies.

Obama scolded Clinton for changing her positions on the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), torture policies and the Iraq war. Leadership, he said, does not mean "changing positions whenever it's politically convenient."

"Now, that may be politically savvy, but I don’t think that it offers the clear contrast that we need,” he continued. "I think what we need right now is honestly with the American people about where we would take the country."

In reference to Clinton's vote in the Senate to label the Iranian Revolutionary Guard a terrorist organisation, Edwards was equally as scathing. When Clinton claimed she has directly confronted the Bush Administration, Edwards fired back:

"So the way to do that is to vote yes on a resolution that looks like it was written literally by the neocons?"

“Senator Clinton says that she believes she can be the candidate for change, but she defends a broken system that’s corrupt in Washington, D.C.,” Edwards continued. “She says she will end the war, but she continues to say she’ll keep combat troops in Iraq and continue combat missions in Iraq. To me, that’s not ending the war; that’s the continuation of the war.”

The best line of the night came from Obama, who responded to Clinton's assertion that Republicans were obsessed with because 'they obviously think that I am communicating effectively about what I will do as president'.

“Part of the reason that Republicans, I think, are obsessed with you, Hillary, is because that’s a fight they’re very comfortable having,” Obama countered. “It is the fight that we’ve been through since the ’90s. And part of the job of the next president is to break the gridlock and to get Democrats and independents and Republicans to start working together to solve these big problems.”

Clinton barely responded to the attacks, saving her criticisms for the Bush Administration.

"We've got to turn the page on George Bush and Dick Cheney", she said. "In fact, we have to throw the whole book away. This has been a disastrous period in American history, and we hope it will be aberration."

Although this misdirection tactic is no doubt what her strategists have told her to do, her robotic answers and scripted mini speeches expose what is really going on behind the scenes.

Clinton is basically a shiny face of the corporate wing of the Democratic Party. Beneath the populist rhetoric is a person committed to maintaining the status quo, and catering to all the lobbyists that are funding her campaign. Despite the revisionist history, her husbands record is appalling; Social injustice and poverty, all increased under Bill Clinton, while corporate influence and crony capitalism increased. There is absolutely no evidence that Hillary will be any different. She runs with the same crowd, employs the same people, and defends the same policies.

Virtually the other candidates have ties to corporate lobbyists and pressure groups, but none are quite as established as Clinton. Obama and Edwards at least present a breath of fresh air into the broken politics of Washington. If Clinton wins, it means Americans will have been subjected to over 25 years of rule by two families. It will be conclusive proof that the United States is not a democracy, but a bought system of powerful interest groups.

Clinton may be the most polished of the Democrats, but she represents all that is wrong with them. The Republicans will have a field day with her should she be elected, and the country will be plunged into more years of inane bickering. The funny thing is, she will most likely do their bidding in office, but without any benefit to her party. It's a lose lose situation, and she needs to be stopped as quickly as possible.
Read more!

Monday, October 29, 2007

David Barsamian Interview Part 3

In the final part of our exclusive interview with David Barsamian, we discuss the possible role of Israel in an attack on Iran, the Jewish population in Iran, the history of U.S/Iranian relations and much, much more. Click here to see part 1 and part 2

Read more!

Bill Maher on Fear

Bill Maher sets Americans straight on what they really need to fear. Brilliant as always...

Read more!

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Kiva: The power of Micro Loans

By Ben Cohen

Over the past 30 years, the IMF and World Bank have done their utmost to wreck the economies of the Third World under the guise of 'liberalisation', possibly beyond repair. Extortionate loan repayment schemes and radical economic reconstruction have plunged countries in Latin America and Africa into grinding poverty and spiraling debt. The poor rarely see the money loaned to their governments, and are frozen out of the high growth seen by minute sectors of the corporate elite. There is however, something you can do.

It's not the answer, but community based lending schemes are providing an alternative to this mess, connecting the borrower and the lender directly. The company 'Kiva' is a great example of this.

"Kiva lets you connect with and loan money to unique small businesses in the developing world", says their website. "By choosing a business on Kiva.org, you can "sponsor a business" and help the world's working poor make great strides towards economic independence. Throughout the course of the loan (usually 6-12 months), you can receive email journal updates from the business you've sponsored. As loans are repaid, you get your loan money back."

Apparently, these type of loans are paid back 99% of the time, so are a very safe investment. Although our governments should be the ones eradicating the punitive loan schemes offered to the third world, they can no longer be trusted to do so. Check Kiva's website for more info.
Read more!

Friday, October 26, 2007


It doesn't get better than this. While visiting France, Major War Criminal Donald Rumsfeld has been hit with a torture lawsuit from a group of human rights organisations. He may possibly be tried for his role in legalising torture from 2002-2003 in Iraq. Although the odds are against anything substantial happening, it will certainly be a huge embarrassment for the Bush Administration. Who knows, Rumsfeld could one day end up in jail.....Read the full story here from www.rawstory.com

Read more!

David Barsamian Interview part 2

By Ben Cohen

In the second part of our interview with author David Barsamian (see part one here), the topic of conversation moves to the occupation of Iraq, the business of war, the cultural history of Iran, and the consequences of another war in the Middle East. See below for part 2 of our exclusive interview:

Read more!

Thursday, October 25, 2007

White House: Global Warming is good for your health

Given their constant assertions that "the verdict is still out" on global warming, it seems they're pretty sure about this. Here's episode #77584 of "how stupid are these people?" featuring the creepily hot Dana Perino.
From Think Progress:

I have to say that her remarks at the end about "not being an expert" and "letting Julie Gerberding answer that question" are particularly laughable given that the question was about censoring Dr. Gerberding;s testmony before congress. Does she really not understand the fundamental contradiction between the idea of allowing someone to give there expert opinion and censoring it for political purposes?
Full text. Read more!

Record Industry Celebrates Victory in the War on Piracy

By Adam Margolis

On Tuseday, October 23, the record industry celebrated a major victory in the war on music piracy. Police in the U.K. and the Netherlands have been working for two years, investigating a member’s only, file-sharing site called OiNK.cd. The site is considered to be one of the largest sources of not just any music, but most specifically, unreleased albums and tracks from major record labels. In 2007 alone, more than 60 illegal pre-release albums were leaked and made available to the 180,000 OiNK members. Once in the possession of OiNK members, the music immediately became available all over the internet. Supposedly, OiNK in particular has had a noticeable affect on record sales in the last couple of years.

The 2 year investigation and arrest was orchestrated by Interpol, with the help of The International Federation of the Phonographic Industry and the British Phonographic Industry. OiNK’s owner, a 24-year-old man from Middlesbrough, was arrested today in his home-town. Early reports say the site’s servers were confiscated last week during a raid in Amsterdam.

While this is a victory for the Music Industry, I would consider the war on Piracy to be as effective as the war on terror or the war on drugs. For every person or program that is taken down, there is another one on the sidelines, just waiting to have their chance to work. Thus far, the internet is virtually uncontrollable. New sites pop up every second, even faster than they can be taken down. There are at least 180,000 members of OiNK, and one of them could very possibly pick up where OiNK’s owner left off. The government “doesn’t have” the time or resources to monitor ever single person’s computer in the world. Not only would that be a tremendously difficult and expensive program, but it would certainly be even more unconstitutional than the phone tapping that has taken place in this country. Lets hope that this day doesn’t come, because let’s be honest…It’s nice to be able to download a few tracks every once in a while, but If you really do support a band or an album it wouldn’t necessarily hurt to pay 16 bucks for a CD or 99 cents per tune on iTunes.

The investigation of OiNK continues and more information unfolds. Stay tuned for any further updates….
Read more!

Romney's Propaganda Techniques

By Peter Bauer

In a classic election move, Mitt Romney used the propaganda technique known as "Transfer" to associate Democratic Presidential Candidate Barak Obama with alleged 9/11 mastermind Osama Bin Ladin. (I say alleged because the FBI still hasn't enough evidence to link Bin Laden with 9/11, despite the Bush Administration's rhetoric.
See for yourself. ).

Transfer is
most often used to transfer blame or bad feelings from one politician to another of his friends or party members, or even to the party itself. Romney's spokesman called the incident "just a simple mistake," but a closer examination of the footages shows Romney says "Osama" at first, but correct himself and to say "Barack Obama." He then used the candidate's full name once again, further establishing his point, and invoking a negative image in the mind's of his audience.

This isn't the first time that Transfer has been employed to smear Obama. As the presidential campaign continues to unfold, it is essential to critically look at how the Corporate Media portrays presidential candidates, what what propaganda techniques they use to support or distort candidates.

Read more!

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Exclusive: The Daily Banter interviews David Barsamian

By Ben Cohen

The Daily Banter.com caught up with David Barsamian, author of 'Targeting Iran', and 'What We Say Goes' last week during his visit to Los Angeles. Barsamian is one of the world's leading political activists and authors, and founder of the award winning 'Alternative Radio' in Colorado. Barsamian had a lot to say about the Bush Administrations aggression towards Iran and disastrous occupation of Iraq, and provided for a fantastic interview. We spoke for over 30 minutes and covered a great deal so will be posting the next parts of the interview over the rest of the week. See below for part 1 of our exclusive interview:

Read more!

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Reality Tv Psychology

The Hollywood Blog
By Adam Margolis

Reality TV Psychology shows can actually be much more counterproductive to not only the people on these shows, but also for viewers who follow them. Recently I worked on a reality show (to remain nameless) that is very much like the show Big Brother. Six strangers are placed in a small house together and forced to deal with each other to overcome personal struggles and differences. The show’s Host is a well- known television Psychologist with a tremendous following. His methods are harsh and some might say rude, but this therapist is widely respected. The purpose of the show is to help people, but the way these “patients” were treated was more like a set of tortured lab rats. Not only were the housemates provoked, but their patience was tested with some very questionable methods. The exercises presented to the housemates seemed to be better at creating “good TV” (as they call it) rather than helping people with legitimate issues. There is no reality to this “Reality Experiment”.

Reality programming has firmly planted its roots in the manure that is American television these days, and many make no excuses for being ridiculous (just turn on VH1 for some examples). Manipulating peoples states of mind, especially people who admittedly have mental issues, is in my opinion one of the most immoral practices imaginable. After watching these people for 5 days, I was convinced that most of them would have been better off in serious, 1-0n-1 therapy…but this makes fairly boring television. So a producer is faced with a moral question, “Do I cause a train-wreck, knowing that it will make the Networks happy or do I look for other work where I can spare people from humiliation and discomfort?” Obviously, the former. Producers will say just about anything to pacify an angry reality star, only to laugh at their gullibility behind the scenes.

One woman was crying and wanted to leave the show after a failed experiment. The natural human response, when seeing someone so upset, is to console them and/or cease the offensive behavior. In the world of Reality TV…This is considered GOLD. Tears, outbursts, train wrecks…this is what sells. I have been ordered to continue rolling on crying contestants who have politely asked (or in some cases not so politely) me to stop taping them. In one occasion, a young kid that I was shooting at a reality show audition was skipping down the sidewalk when he tripped and hurt himself. My instinct was to get the camera off of him, spare him the embarrassment and help him up…but as soon as I did this, a producer nudged me in the back asking me to capture every second of this kids misery. I felt horrible. Apparently, people enjoy watching other people’s misery.

Relating to characters on reality shows like this one helps people to feel better about their own lives and problems. Maybe someone will learn to deal with their own issues by watching someone else learn and suffer on a reality show. However, how can anyone learn anything serious if every person, problem and situation is manipulated with the intention of Good TV and not ACTUALY HELPING SOMEONE. Life is crazy, but it is not a TV show. Public Humiliation may not be the most effective way for these people to better themselves…and those reality stars who enjoy the publicity have other problems that are probably not even being addressed on their respective shows.

Until people are ready to accept the truth about their own lives and problems within their lives, there is no way that anyone can be helped. Until we are ready to do that, we will just enjoy living vicariously through those who have to be thrown out of planes to overcome a fear of heights or those who have to sleep in a bed of spiders to overcome a fear of bugs. Maybe we can try taking a woman who has a fear of being cheated on and have her boyfriend sleep with someone else on video…because of course that will get her to overcome her initial fear.
Read more!

The Dismantling of a Libertarian: George Monbiot takes on Matt Ridley

By Ben Cohen

Although I write largely about politics and boxing, I must confess to being a fan of good science writing, particularly that relating to theories on evolution. 'The Selfish Gene' by Richard Dawkins was perhaps the most mind blowing book I had ever read as a student, radically re-shifting the way I saw the world. Dawkin's explanation of evolution on a genetic level had serious implications for philosophy and the social sciences. His notion that we are essentially a collection of self interested genes helped bolster the free market capitalist view of humanity. If our genes were so successful in creating such magnificent individuals and species, then surely the same theory could be applied to economics.

The blurring of evolutionary theory with free market capitalism has been the intellectual underpinning of Western society in modern times, with many scientists throwing their hat into the social sciences arena to offer opinions on human society. Following in this tradition is Matt Ridley, author of some fantastic books on evolutionary theory like 'The Red Queen: Sex and the Evolution of Human Nature', and 'The Origins of Virtue'. I have enjoyed Ridley's books, but was always skeptical when he attempted to venture into the world of human affairs.

Noam Chomsky once said:

"On the ordinary problems of human life, science tells us very little, and scientists as people are surely no guide. In fact they are often the worst guide, because they often tend to focus, laser-like, on their professional interests and know very little about the world."

To me, Ridley falls directly under that category. Having worked for the Economist magazine and chaired a bank, Ridley has never hidden his politics. He is an unashamed libertarian and believes whole heartedly that evolutionary theory can be applied to human society: Government is bad, and the market is good. Unfortunately for him, his entire intellectual frame work has recently come crashing down after a disastrous tenure as chairman of the Northern Rock bank in England. After dedicating his life to lampooning the notion of government, Ridley had to beg the government to bail him out when the bank collapsed earlier this year.

Environmental journalist George Monbiot (pictured above) writes a searing indictment of Ridley's libertarian hypocrisy in an extremely interesting article on the guardian.co.uk. I can't do it justice, so click here to read it. It's very, very good. END
Read more!

Bush is dumber than a fifth grader!

Or at least this eleven-year old girl, who said on the CBS show "Kid Nation" when discussing a teammates bid for an office, that even though he knew about presidential history it didn't necessarily qualify him to be on the town council. She reinforced her point by reminding us all to ""Look at George W. Bush, he's not smart at all and he won the U.S. President two times in a row."

Check it out:
Read more!

Monday, October 22, 2007

Robert F. Kennedy speaks out against corporate immunity

From Glenn Greenwald:

Robert Kennedy speaks out against Retroactive Immunity

The very idea of "retroactive immunity" for lawbreaking corporations is so radical, so repugnant to the most basic principles of the "rule of law," that only one prior attempt can be found in recent history (at least from my research): the efforts by some in Congress in 1965 to enact a law retroactively legalizing the mergers by six large banks which clearly -- as a federal court found -- were illegal under our nation's antitrust laws.

The banks knew when they merged that they were almost certainly violating anti-trust laws. But they did it anyway. And when courts began ruling that their behavior was illegal, they ran to Congress to demand that a law be passed granting them amnesty, claiming that the consequences would be ruinous if they were held accountable under the law.

But the very concept of retroactive amnesty -- the idea that corporations could break the law and then have Congress pass a special law legalizing their lawbreaking conduct -- was so profoundly offensive to Sen. Robert Kennedy (who had been the Attorney General when the banks broke the law with their mergers), as well as then-Attorney General Nicholas Katzenbach, that they engaged in extraordinary efforts to try to put a stop to this Congressional travesty.

The circumstances between then and now are virtually identical. Just like then, the corporations seeking retroactive amnesty knew at the time they broke the law that their conduct was illegal, and -- just like now -- a court had so ruled, which is why they ran to Congress asking for a special law to be passed legalizing their criminal behavior (on the ground that the American economy would be crippled if the mergers were undone):

Read the full article

Read more!

The cold inhumanity of neoliberal economics

by Ari Rutenberg

"A man must learn to understand the motives of human beings, their illusions, and their sufferings."

--Albert Einstein, from an interview in the New York Times, September 1952.

We cannot separate the economic value of the world from the motives of mankind. To attempt to quantify all of reality is cold, inhumane, and ultimately a futile way of looking at the world. It is a method of solving problems that will always be found wanting. It is a crude and heartless attempt at understanding the intricacies of human existence.

As an economist by background, I am intimately familiar with this system and all of its deficiencies. There is no way to quantify much of what human beings do. It is simply irrational and beyond mathematics, the same way some emotions are beyond our ability to articulate in words. And to make assumptions about the future actions of people and expect the future to fit the prediction is simply foolish.

The saddest applications of this philosophy are when they are applied to the people’s lives and to the environment. When Blackwater murders Iraqis in cold blood, they are never held to account for their actions except to compensate the families of those who have been killed with money as if there is some kind of parity between the two, though I suppose for the neocons there is. How can we put a monetary value on human life?

Second is the environment. You often here economists and MBA-types talk about how its too expensive and too difficult to improve our relationship with the Earth. This is because someone calculated the value of all those resources yet to be extracted and how much it will cost to clean up the pollution and figured out that, hey, we can’t make our margins if we pay for a clean environment. How can we put a value on the Earth and, essentially, the survival of our species? To me it is both unfathomable and unconscionable to try and value our planet and our species the same way we value a ounce of gold. Beyond the fact that our economy is a system working within the Earth system, and thus cannot exceed it in size and cannot violate its physical rules, like how much carbon the planet can absorb naturally, how can one value such beauty and grandeur. For people who claim to love God, they certainly seem callous when it comes to his great work.

How can we put a value on a beautiful sunset, or a snowstorm, or a walk through the forest? How can we quantify our most basic instincts and connection to nature? Well in my mind we cant. We shouldn’t try. And the fact is we shouldn’t even be considering it. The loss of humanity and compassion required to make such calculations are some of the reasons our society has become so cold and disconnected from it members. We are not islands, either from our fellow humans or from the environment we live in. We cannot treat ourselves, or our planet, as if it is simply a stockpile of resources to be used up, at least not if we want to survive.
Read more!

Mormon Romney woos evangelical right

From TheHill.com:

Romney scores with religious right
By Sam Youngman October 19, 2007

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney didn’t deliver his much-anticipated speech about his Mormon faith at Friday night’s meeting of the Values Voters Summit.

But he did make a couple of jokes about it.

“By the way, I imagine that one or two of you may have heard that I’m Mormon,” Romney said.

With the crowd laughing, Romney added that he understands some people won’t vote for a Mormon, but that’s because they’ve been listening to Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.). The Senate majority leader is also a Mormon.

Despite that 800-pound gorilla in the packed ballroom, Romney was well received by the socially conservative Evangelical crowd.
The former governor stuck to a discussion on family values, discussing all of the religious rights greatest hits.

Romney talked about what he sees as the importance of two-parent homes, the threat of gay marriage and his anti-abortion rights stance.

“Now, I don’t have to tell the Family Research Council and Focus on the Family that the American family is under stress, under attack,” Romney said.
Click here to read more Read more!

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Stephen Colbert on 'Meet the Press'

Comedian Stephen Colbert talks to Tim Russert about his Presidential campaign. The sad thing is, he's probably better that the real Republican candidates....

Read more!

Obama on the Tonight Show

By Ben Cohen

Barack Obama went on the 'Tonight Show' with Jay Leno to talk about his campaign, his rivalry with Hillary Clinton, and his newly discovered ancestral link to Dick Cheney. It's actually a fairly substantive interview with Obama, and he has some interesting things to say.

. Read more!

Saturday, October 20, 2007

England's fickle obsessions

By Nick Lang
UK Editor

In England there are two types of people: Those who like football and those who like rugby. It is also possible to have people who don't like either; these people are often known as women. It's probably fairly similar in the States where you either like fast-paced, intense action sports like basketball and ice hockey, or you like to have something to watch while you get drunk so you're into baseball and American football.

In England however, there seems to be a power so great that it actually transcends the rugby/football divide, so the line becomes blurred. This power is sporadic national pride. Last week, when England rugby team beat France in the World Cup semi-final half of all people watching TV in England had the match on. That is a staggering amount of people. What is more staggering is the fact that if you'd asked all of those people if they liked rugby two weeks before the event, most of them would have responded simply by saying "fuck off".

Now that England are in the final of the rugby World Cup, national pride has gone so far that the rugby team has been mentioned on the front page of almost every newspaper for the last few days, the queen has announced that she's got all excited about it, and they put up a wax-work of Jonny Wilkinson - the player who scores all the drop goals - up in Trafalgar Square. Plus sales of English flags have sky-rocketed.

I guess English people feel that we don't get many opportunities to feel proud of our nation, so we tend to get a bit over-excited when such an opportunity arises. See also Wimbledon tennis tournament, the football European and World Cups, Golf, Formula 1 etc etc etc. The thought that we might actually win something for once obviously gets a little too much for us, as we are programmed to deal soley with disappointment in sport.

You have to wonder though; how much of an effect would it have on English flag sales if we got into the final of the World curling championships?
Read more!

Friday, October 19, 2007

Celebrities Rely on Us, but Do We Rely on Them?

New to The Daily Banter!

The Hollywood Blog

by Adam Margolis

Living and working in Los Angeles is seen as a dream-come-true to many people. At one point in time, it was all I could think about. Folks travel from all over the globe to share a piece of the sunshine and easy-going attitude of Southern California. This “lax” attitude is just an act though. Stop any person under the age of 30 on the street, and chances are they are a stressed actor, writer or director (or waiter, depending on what time of day they are asked). Los Angeles, Hollywood in most cases, is a city that reflects the sentiments of it’s in habitants. Everyone wants to appear relaxed, confident and successful, when the reality is that this town forces the weak-willed to alter themselves for an often emotionally unrewarding lifestyle. Appear cool, but be busy, pissed or stressed. This is the true Hollywood Lifestyle.

The drive consumes people and many are lost forever in the tidal wave of Hollywood absurdity. Some can ride the wave while maintaining healthy perspectives, but will these people make it? In the world of television, it almost seems habitual for people to start their own fires so that either they can heroically save the day or so that others will come to the rescue, thus confirming the fire-starter’s social status as an authority. On a daily basis, I witness people, producers, directors, writers, audio guys, etc…losing their tempers, minds and/or jobs over the most insignificant of issues. Sometimes, I want to tell these people to check out the global news on the BBC website if they want to see some real problems and put their s#%t into perspective.

The problem is absolutely the media. Stars, Starlets and Wannabes are constantly under the lurking eye of the paparazzi. However there is a catch 22 in this situation. While the celebrities may complain about the constant attention and lack of privacy, it is in fact the only thing that is keeping (or placing) some of these celebrities in the spotlight at all. A Crotch-Shot is a term that referring to a picture of a celebrities exposed crotch. These pictures not only go for thousands and thousands of dollars but also guarantee the celebrity’s photos in every popular Hollywood magazine. Any press is good press, right?

I believe that there is a twisted symbiotic relationship going on between the “celebrity world” and the public. Since the birth of Hollywood, screen actors have been viewed as god-like beings. Larger than life, mysterious, talented, beautiful…people have long been fantasizing about a celebrity life-style. Everyone wants social acceptance in one form or another and many celebrities seem to have unconditional love from their pubic. As a people, we are subconsciously jealous of the status of life these celebrities are able to achieve (sometimes with very little effort). Though their positive behavior is sometimes inspiring it can be devilishly rewarding to watch them mess up and fail. It humanizes them. It knocks them off their pedestal a bit. Sometimes we are willing to give celebrities second chances and we can be quick to forgive them for otherwise abhorrent behavior. But this has a underlying benefit…it’s so much fun to watch them fall off that pedestal again, and again, and again….

Celebrities like Lindsay Lohan have admitted that they would feel unpopular or unimportant if the paparazzi stopped following them. So, what is the solution? For celebrities who feel like they are slipping from the spotlight, there is nothing better than a drug or sex tape scandal. The higher the pedestal, the bigger the ego, the harder they fall and the more we enjoy watching it.

So, young men and women flock to Los Angeles on a daily basis with an impression of celebrities that is painted by US Weekly and TMZ.com. The mentality that one has to be camera ready at all times comes with them and also an urgency to sell oneself. That’s the nature of this city. “Prove to me that you’re worth my time, and MAYBE I’ll let you into my circle.” People are so quick to drop, hide or change who they GENUINELY are, in order to present themselves as marketable to some sleazy producer, agent or scout who might be sitting at the corner table of Le Deux (A Trendy Hollywood Hot Spot). And the saddest part is, that this behavior starts to bleed into their everyday behavior and routines, until one day they become a shell of the person they once were. And that is what Hollywood is, shells of loads of pretty (and not pretty), talented (and not talented) people looking for someone to buy them and get them on the Cover of US Weekly.

If only we could get the public to be as interested in politicians or world issues as they are with Britney Spears’ latest fuck up or which rehab facility has the best swimming pool. I suppose if everyone was more informed and there wasn’t the disastrous, circus-world of young celebrities to distract us, then the corporations and government might not be able to get away with so much behind a voluntarily blind public’s back.

Adam Margolis is a freelance camera operator and director living in Los Angeles.

Read more!

Thursday, October 18, 2007

David Barsamian speaks at UCLA

By Ben Cohen

I went to see author David Barsamian speak at UCLA (the University of California in Los Angeles) last night about his new books 'Targeting Iran', and 'What We Say Goes' (Co authored with Noam Chomsky). Barsamian is a witty, engaging speaker, but his topic was depressing beyond belief. Far from being a plug for his new books, his main aim, it seemed, was to raise awareness of the Bush Administrations naked desire for another war.

In a jam packed room on the centre of campus, Barsamian informed his audience of the United States sordid history in the Middle East, and continued aggression in the region.

'If you want to understand U.S History', he said, 'there's really not much to it. You just have to watch 10 minutes of the Sopranos'.

Despite professions from the Bush Administration that they have our 'security' in mind, the evidence speaks to the contrary. The Bush Administrations ambitions in the region have nothing to do with our security, or providing freedom for the Iranian people said Barsamian. Like Iraq, "Iran has enormous oil wealth, something the U.S desperately wants to control". And what of the 'military super power' the U.S government is so scared about? Barsamian asked the audience to take a guess how much Iran spends on their military. $20 billion, $100 billion, or even $200 billion?

"Iran spends $5 billion a year on their military as compared to the $3/4 of a trillion the U.S spends", he answered. "In one year, Iran spends what the U.S spends a week in Iraq. To put it further into context, $5 billion buys you two B52 bombers".

Iran, he argued, is also a diversion from the disaster in Iraq. "The U.S was looking for a scapegoat-now they've got one. Iran".

Speaking of the 17,000 marines and sailors now placed off the Iranian coast, Barsamian does not think the U.S government is bluffing.

"Some people think the Bush Administration in sabre rattling. I don't. They have a history of violence, they have the weapons and I believe they will use them'.

And what of the repercussions if the U.S attacks Iran?

"The consequences are incalculable", he stated emphatically. "If we are seeing rivers of blood from Iraq, it will turn to oceans of blood if they attack Iran."

Stay tuned to The Daily Banter for an exclusive series of video interviews with Barsamian next week.

Read more!

Keith Olbermann and Paul Krugman discuss right wing smears on children

It would not be fair to paint all Republicans as nasty. But there are too many out there that display some disturbing signs of vindictiveness. SCHIP, the health care plan that Democrats (and some Republicans) have tried to pass in order to insure millions of children has been attacked by the right mercilessly. When the Democrats brought attention to some of the children that have benefitted from the existing program, the Right countered with some appalling attacks directed at the actual families. Check the video of Keith Olbermann discussing the tactics with the brilliant economist Paul Krugman. Oh, and as of today, the health care plan has been successfully vetoed by the President.

Front page intro. Full text. Read more!

"Living a Nightmare with no end in sight."

By Peter Bauer
Contributing Editor

Retired Lieutenant General Ricardo Sanchez is yet another retired military official to speak out against the War in Iraq. Sanchez was reported in the New York Times as saying "There has been a glaring and unfortunate display of incompetent strategic leadership within our national leaders." He that added civilian officials have been "derelict in their duties" and guilty of a "lust for power."

Lt. Gen. Sanchez was a commander in Iraq during the Abu Ghraib prison scandal, and has dealt with the aftermath of an embarrassing ordeal that revealed to the world just how far America was willing to go in its War on Terror...

Many other retired military officials have spoken out against the Bush Administration. In 2006, retired Major General Paul Eaton characterized then Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld as ";incompetent strategically, operationally, and tactically."

The voices of opposition to the Iraq War are gaining in moment. As more and more former military personnel have the courage to take a stand against this ever worsening war, a grassroots movement is beginning to take shape.

A growing internet movement is taking shape around website iraqmortorium.org. This site encourages people to sign a pledge to take time out of their day on the third Friday of every month to take a stand against the war. It could be as simple as wearing a black ribbon to work or as bold as a black arm band on your sleeve. The purpose is to bring an end to the war by generating public awareness. Joining the moratorium is the first step.

Although this moratorium has been endorsed by a wide range of people including Noam Chomsky, Cindy Sheehan, and Howard Zinn, it is up to locally organized groups of individuals who are committed to bringing an end to this senseless, destructive war. The next moratorium is this Friday, October 19th.

It's time to have an opinion. It's time to take a stand. It's time for action.

Peter Bauer earned his Master's Degree in Teaching and Learning from The University of Oregon. He currently teaches 7th grade in Eugene, Oregon, and is the drummer for The Spruce Root Band.
Read more!

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Insane Republican Trent Wisecup

Trent Wisecup, Chief of Staff for Michigan Republican Joe Knollenberg decided to intervene when a pesky liberal journalist kept asking difficult questions. According to the frothing Wisecup, being liberal apparently means that you want Iran to defeat America, and Toyota to defeat GM. It's nice to see such intelligent debate.

Read more!

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Guliani to Obama: 'You're not Ronald Reagan'

By Ben Cohen
Editor in Chief

White Republican males fawn over Ronald Reagan like teenage boys do over Britney Spears. The poster President of 'image over substance' politics, Reagan is credited by his minions for restoring hope to America, ending the cold war and bringing massive peace and prosperity to the world. To everyone grounded in reality, Reagan was actually responsible for destroying the working poor in the U.S, funding terrorism in Latin America while illegally selling weapons to Iran. Contrary to revisionist history, Reagan also had nothing to do with ending the Soviet Union (it collapsed upon itself after years of mismanagement). However, all of this is irrelevant to todays Republican nominees for President, and they are all clamouring to associate themselves with 'Gipper' as he is fondly remembered. And that includes insulting other politicians by telling them that they are 'no Ronald Reagan'...
This particular line became famous when American Democratic vice presidential candidate Lloyd Bentsen said to Senator Dan Quayle 'Senator, you're no Jack Kennedy" in the vice presidential elections in 1988. Seeking to stake his own territory in political put downs, Rudolph Giuliani recently used the quip to disparage Barack Obama.

When addressing the Republican Jewish Coalition, Giuliani referenced Obama's offer to speak with the leaders of Venezuela, Cuba, Iran and North Korea:

"Then he went on to explain that Ronald Reagan negotiated with the communists," said the former Mayor of New York. "I say this most respectfully: You're not Ronald Reagan, you know?"

Obama's camp was quick to respond citing Giuliani's law firm, the Houston-based Bracewell & Giuliani that represents an American subsidiary of an oil company controlled by Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez.

"Given the hefty fee that Hugo Chavez's oil company paid Rudy Giuliani's firm, he apparently thinks we shouldn't talk to Chavez, but it's fine to take his money" said a spokes person.

Giuliani will have to do better than this. Running off his record of one good speech and an association with a dead President, the former Mayor is clearly running out of gimmicks. Having contributed absolutely nothing to the political dialogue, Giuliani seems to have his heart set on continuing Bushes failed agenda, and harking back to a President who was only marginally better than the one in office today.

Obama is no Ronald Reagan, and he is certainly no Rudolph Giuliani. And this is something he should be distinctly proud of.
Read more!

The Heavyweight Championship of Hypocrisy: U.S. vs. China

By Ari Rutenberg

Despite both of these contenders noted abilities to push the boundaries of hypocrisy,they are always ready to amaze. No matter what feats they have previously accomplished, their desire to seek out the limits of human reason and comprehension is unmatched. This week's bout comes by way of two recent statements:

First we hear from the reigning champion U.S.(from Yahoo! News):

"In any country, if you don't have countervailing institutions, the power of any one president is problematic for democratic development," Rice told reporters after meeting with human-rights activists.

"I think there is too much concentration of power in the Kremlin. I have told the Russians that. Everybody has doubts about the full independence of the judiciary. There are clearly questions about the independence of the electronic media and there are, I think, questions about the strength of the Duma," said Rice, referring to the Russian parliament." - statement by U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on Vladimir Putin's consolidation of executive power.

Now we hear from #1 contender China (from The Guardian):
"We are furious," the communist party secretary for Tibet, Zhang Qingli, told reporters. "If the Dalai Lama can receive such an award, there must be no justice or good people in the world." when discussing the Dalai Lama's visit to the U.S. and the Congressional Gold Medal he is to receive.

The Bush administration is blind. It cannot see that while the constitution sits in shambles and Dick Cheney pushes his dictatorial unitary executive theory, which requires no knowledge of or respect for the Constitution. At least Putin changes his when it doesn't suit him. Why is it so scary when Putin does it (legally), and completely innocent and natural when they do it (illegally)? It is, as I said, because they are blind and do not even recognize, much less acknowledge, their own fallibility.

And the Chinese, specifically Zhang Qingli, are out of their minds. Maybe when the only media in China was CCTV they could get away with such crap in their country. But there has never been the time when the rest of us were blinded to what happened in Tibet. To pronounce the world free of justice and goodness because a kind, peaceful old man who has never advocated violence against China, or ever asked for anything more than religious freedom for his people. For the government which occupied this man's country and expelled him to call such an advocate for all that is good in human kind, in essence, a bad man. They could at least be honest and say it is not politically convenient for us. But it simply makes them seem ridiculous to malign and slander such a man.

So my question is, who wins?
Read more!

John Edwards on Guiliani: He'll never be elected as President

John Edward's spells out why the war mongering Rudolph Guiliani will never be elected as President.

Read more!

Why Tucker Carlson Hates Democracy

By Ben Cohen
Editor in Chief

On last week’s edition of ‘Real Time’ with Bill Maher, Tucker Carlson assailed his co-guest Paul Krugman for his views on mandatory health insurance. Carlson accused the renowned economist for wanting to enforce his ideas about health care onto the population. “It’s authoritarian, you’re using the power of the government to force people to do things they don’t want to do because you think it’s best for them”, he argued.

Put in those terms, Carlson’s argument is a matter of freedom vs government tyranny. But really, it is an argument that hides the talk show host’s disdain for democracy.

Carlson is a libertarian with strict views on what defines freedom. Neatly packaging his argument to include social programs, Carlson’s ideology labels popular movements as ‘anti freedom’. According to the libertarian doctrine, universal healthcare, social security, education are all attempts by the federal government to interfere in out lives and force us to give up the freedom to choose what is best for us.

However, this is a typical misdirection tactic used by the right to confuse people into ceding their rights to private and corporate power.

Extensive polling has consistently shown that a significant majority of the population want socialized medical care. If put to a vote tomorrow, the U.S would have mandatory healthcare for all of its citizens. It is also a fact that Carlson acknowledges.

“It‘s another way of saying that socialized medicine—which I believe Americans want—they say they want,” said Carlson on his MSNBC show recently. “A “New York Times” poll a couple months ago, they want it. They‘re willing to pay for it.”

“I‘m not sure they understand the abridgements to their freedoms they‘re going to have to face if they get it,” he continued.

“Socialized medicine takes away your freedom”.

The enlightened Carlson and his conservative comrades like to lecture everyone on the ills of government while extolling the beauty of the free market. Private power, they argue, is more cost effective, more efficient, and best of all, more profitable. It’s also pro freedom, because the government does not have anything to do with it, and if you don’t want healthcare, why should you have to have it? If you do, corporate America will provide it (if you have the money of course).

It does not take a genius to work out the inherent flaws and massive hypocrisy in this stance. Having corporate medical care is no more ‘free’ than having government health care. In fact, it is radically less so. The private power Tucker Carlson and his friends want us to trust with our healthcare are not democracies, and they are certainly not accountable to us.

Kaiser Permanente and Blue Cross of California don’t care if its members overwhelmingly want them to provide cheaper service. They don’t care if we think they should fund certain treatments or extend coverage to those who cannot afford it. They are business models built on profit, not people. Tucker, for some reason, does not seem concerned about this.

Unlike corporate tyrannies, the government is something the people have power over and can change if it does not represent their interests. Popular social programs develop through ground movements that force the government to represent their interests, not those of private power. Social security and programs like Medicaid came about after massive popular pressure. They are accountable to us, and we can change it with a vote. This is what we call ‘Democracy’- the power of the people to choose how they would like to live.

Despite his professions of love for democracy, Tucker Carlson clearly does not believe in it. By equating freedom with monetary individualism, Carlson is obscuring the fact that people still believe society has a responsibility to others. They want to contribute to a system that provides a safety net for everyone in society. Right wing Utopias of individual, self-interested consumers work only if the people want it. And unfortunately for Tucker, they don’t.

Ben Cohen is the Editor in Chief of The Daily Banter.com, and the Contributing Editor at Secondsout.com, the world's number one boxing website. He currently lives in Los Angeles.
Read more!

Monday, October 15, 2007

A hilarious piece by Bill Maher on gullibility

Comedian Bill Maher has a distinct talent for cutting through nonsense. Check out his latest post on gullibility in America on the huffingtonpost.com. It's hilarious:


Have too many Americans become gullible, ill-informed idiots who have elevated feelings over facts and replaced critical thinking with a blind sense of trust for authority? I'm not trying to be insulting here; I'm just trying to figure out Rudy Giuliani's poll numbers.

Four years ago Tucker Carlson asked Britney Spears on CNN, "A lot of entertainers have come out against the war in Iraq. Have you?" And Britney, who was chewing gum throughout the entire interview, answered, "Honestly, I think we should just trust our president in every decision he makes and should just support that, you know, and be faithful in what happens."

It's this kind of head-in-the-sand, free rein granted to those believed to be in a position of moral authority that has led to warrantless wiretapping, torture, and a $6.1 million judgment for a Kentucky McDonald's employee named Louise Ogborn. In 2004, Louise was 18 and working at McDonald's when her assistant manager Donna called her into the back office, said a police officer on the phone had identified her as a thief, and then forced Louise, under the "cop's" orders, to strip naked, do nude jumping jacks, submit to a spanking and finally perform oral sex on Donna's 43-year-old exterminator fiancé. The whole ordeal, ordered by a prankster over the phone, lasted three hours. But you know what they say about fast-food work -- the time flies when you're busy.

A Kentucky jury listened to testimony, watched a videotape of the entire incident and awarded Louise $6.1 million dollars from the obviously culpable party in this matter -- the McDonald's Corporation. That's right, two adults pressure a third adult into stripping, a spanking and a blowjob based on the word of a stranger on the phone and the fault lies not with the gullible idiots who blindly obeyed some perceived voice of authority, but with the company that happens to have its name on the sign out front. McDonald's has a written policy in their training manual against any type of strip searches and even sent out a voicemail warning franchises about such phone hoaxes but the jury found that the company was liable because, after all, the perv on the phone did say he was a cop and what choice did Donna the assistant manager have but to, as Britney says, "just support that, you know, and be faithful in what happens"?

Bill Maher is the host of HBO's "Real Time with Bill Maher" which airs every Friday at 11PM.
Read more!

Iowa Unions endorse John Edwards, and so does Friends of the Earth

By Ben Cohen
Editor in Chief

John Edwards has just received the endorsement from the Iowa Union and environmental group 'Friends of the Earth' that gives his campaign a big boost. The Iowa Unions help Edwards gain momentum in the crucial state, and the environmental endorsement gives him big credit with grassroot voters.

Edwards is an interesting candidate. He has acknowledged the fact that his vote to give Bush authorisation to go to war in Iraq was a terrible mistake. He also has some interesting ideas about health care, and is a big supporter of labour in America. Can he threaten Clinton or Obama? Who knows, but this is a good sign for his lagging campaign. Although Edwards sold out big time when he essentially voted for the war (giving Bush authorisation to wage it), he has at least been honest enough to admit he was wrong (unlike Clinton, who has changed her stance on the war more times than anyone can count).

Click here to read about the endorsement from the Iowa Unions, and here for the Friends of the Earth endorsement. Read more!

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Sign the Moratorium, Help Stop the War!

By Peter Bauer
Contributing Editor

Car bombs. Insurgents. Iranian sponsored terrorists. Al Queda in Iraq. IED's. Private Security Contractors. The Green Zone. Wait and listen to our commanders on the ground. We need more troops. We need more money. The surge is working. This is not a civil war. When the Iraqi's stand up, we'll stand down.

Four and a half years after Mission Accomplished, it has become obvious to anyone with their eyes open that this war is not going to stop if it is left up the Bush Administration. With talks of a Middle Eastern presences akin to America's role in the Korean Peninsula, it has become apparent that war will continue indefinitely.

As America continues to crumble, all we hear state side is MORE MORE MORE. An attack on Iran has been looming on the horizon for months, and all it will take to unleash these dogs of war will be an attack on American interests, at home or abroad. The evidence will be shaky at best, much like the link between Osama bin Laden and 9/11. Although evidence links bin Laden to the attacks on US Embassy's in Tanzania and Kenya in 1998, the FBI couldn't link him to the attacks on 9/11. The same will be true for the next faceless enemy.

Hope is not lost. There is a growing anti-war movement in America that is real and can be felt. Tension has been mounting for months and months, gaining momentum that is tangible, but largely unreported. Remember, the major media message is controlled, and cannot be trusted; these are the same people who told us that Iraq had Weapons of Mass Destruction.

The Iraq War Moratorium is taking steps to bring together a national anti-war effort. The premise is simple: On the third Friday of every month you do something to break from your normal day and let people know that you're against the war. It could be as simple as wearing a black ribbon to work, or taking the afternoon off and joining a local protest. In September, all I did was wear a "No War" button to work. I got nods of approval from a few co-workers, and was able to generate some stimulating conversations.

As noted by the 2006 Congressional elections, the majority of Americans are fed up with the war, but haven't seen their frustrations affect change. This is a chance to actually do something about the war. Take a moment to sign the Moratorium, which has already been signed by Noam Chomsky, Cindy Sheehan, and Howard Zinn, among others.

On Friday October 17th, take a stand against the war. Whether your actions are large or small, it is better than passively sitting by and watching the war drag on and on and on. Do Something!

Peter Bauer earned his Master's Degree in Teaching and Learning from The University of Oregon. He currently teaches 7th grade in Eugene, Oregon, and is the drummer for The Spruce Root Band.
Read more!

Saturday, October 13, 2007

The unflinching horror of STRESS!!!!!

By Nick Lang

Stress is a terrifying force of mystery and power; it is incredible to see the lengths that stress will go to just to show us that we are in fact stressed. The cold is a virus, and as a virus it has full jurisdiction to physically fuck with our bodies as it pleases – so though it can be just a mere speck of liquid it can make our joints ache, our nose dribble, our throat sore and our brain hurt. Yet we must succumb to this because it is a virus, and therefore a physical force that has inhabited our body. Stress however is not real (in a physical sense); it is a non-entity, but it has just as much, if not more, power to physically affect us than most viruses. People who are stressed about anything from something serious like the loss of a loved one, to something seemingly trivial like what they are going to eat before they go out to avoid having to take a shit in a club toilet (probably with its very own urine lake in each cubicle), can be physically transformed by this mental exertion. The amount of times that I, and many others like me, have gone to their doctor with the thought of only days to live, only to be asked: “Do you have an exam coming up? Yeah, it’s probably that.”

“Let me get this straight doctor; I have been sick every day for five days, I have hives all over my face, neck and back, I have violent mood swings, I feel like I swallowed a cheese grater (and my arse feels like it came out of the other end too), I lose at least my body weight, maybe more, in liquid every time I blow my nose, and it feels like there’s a party in my brain and everyone’s throwing up… And this brutal, remorseless, unquenchable plague that has befallen me and that will undoubtedly soon rob me of my young life is the fact that I have an exam this week?!?!”

The other aspect of stress that makes it such a formidable adversary is the fact that it’s so elusive. You can have puss spewing from your eyes and huge boils all over your body, and yet have no idea that the root of this horrible affliction is simply your concern over meeting your girlfriend’s parents. Why? Because you had absolutely no idea that it bothered you so much, but your sub-conscious knows all, and it is the one who’s pulling the strings. So surely then, in a Freudian way, by realising that this is the case by discussing it with another person you should be able to free yourself from it’s shackles, right? Wrong. It seems so often the case that the only way to rid yourself of stress is for the event at the source of your troubles to come and go. Until that time you are, and always will be, stress’ bitch.

About the author: Nick Lang is a Sociology graduate from the University of Sussex. He is currently training to be a teacher, and lives in London.
Read more!

Friday, October 12, 2007

"Pelt Ann Coulter With Bagels And Win $1000!"

So Ann Coulter has once again uttered some of the most ridiculous words ever spoken. She said "we just want Jews to be perfected, as they say." Who says that? You and your brainwashed "Christian" friends who believe war is the solution to our problems and that we should not help the poor and sick among us. Which, I'm sure, is exactly what Jesus (you know, the Jewish guy whose been dead for 2000 years) would do. So some jokers over at bragster.com have started a competition: If you pelt Ann Coulter with bagels int he next few days and get it on video they will give you $1000. This really needs to happen..somebody please do it.END Read more!

Al Gore's Inconvenient Record

By Ben Cohen

It is a sad symptom of today's image driven society that politicians can get away with some of the lies and broken promises they have made. Having cast himself as the saviour of the environment, Al Gore has increased speculation as to whether he will run a last minute campaign for the 2008 election after winning the Nobel Peace Prize. With legions of Democrats urging him to 'save the Democrats', it's a pity no one remembers Gore's dismal record in office

There is no doubt Gore has done a fine job of raising awareness for Global Warming and other environmental issues after making 'An Inconvenient Truth'. It is an exceptional documentary that drives home the message that our planet is in big trouble. But Gore did virtually nothing for the environment when serving as Vice President under Clinton, and ran an extremely tepid campaign against George Bush afterwards.

This article is not meant to bash Gore, but to remind people that as a politician, he was fairly useless. In Rolling Stone Magazine, Gore wrote:

"In the 1930s, Winston Churchill also wrote of those leaders who refused to acknowledge the clear and present danger: "They go on in strange paradox, decided only to be undecided, resolved to be irresolute, adamant for drift, solid for fluidity, all powerful to be impotent. The era of procrastination, of half-measures, of soothing and baffling expedients, of delays, is coming to a close. In its place, we are entering a period of consequences.”

It is true that Gore has never ignored the clear and present danger of Global Warming. He was just resolved to be irresolute when he had the power to do something.

Having entered the period of consequence, Gore has now reinvented himself as a rock star environmentalist and is doing a good job in raising awareness. He should keep doing what he is doing while leaving the hard decisions to someone else.

. Full text. Read more!

Thursday, October 11, 2007

John Cusack and Naomi Klein continued.

We posted a video of John Cusack's interesting interview of Naomi Klein last week, but apparently, their conversation did not end when the cameras stopped rolling.

Here is an excerpt of their continuing conversation on the rise of 'Disaster Capitalism' from the huffingtonpost. It's pact full of disturbing facts, and presents a horrific picture of the corporate capitalist take over now being seen around the world, particularly in Iraq.

Naomi Klein
: When I was in Baghdad, it was clear that this was one of the things that most enraged Iraqis -- watching the non-stop conveyor belt of corporate welfare going to western companies while having to listen to patronizing lectures about the free market. My favorite was from Michael Fleischer -- former White House press secretary Ari Fleischer's brother. In the kind of nepotism rampant in the Green Zone, Michael was put in charge of Iraq's "private sector development" during the first year of the occupation. At one point he told a group of Iraqi business leaders that they would have to lose all their subsidies and trade protections because "protected businesses never, never become competitive."

Cusack: He said this with a straight face?

Klein: Yes -- he seemed entirely unconcerned by the irony that Halliburton, Bechtel, Parsons, KPMG, Blackwater et al were in Iraq, madly gorging off this vast protectionist racket in which the U.S. government had created their markets with war, barred their competitors from even entering the race (remember, French companies weren't invited...), then paid them to do the work on "cost-plus" contracts, which guaranteed them profits -- all at taxpayer expense.

In fact, the Disaster Capitalism industry has been built almost exclusively with public resources: 90 percent of Blackwater's revenues come from state contracts and virtually its entire staff is made up of former soldiers, which means that the training also came at public expense. Yet this vast infrastructure is all privately owned and controlled. The citizens who have funded it have absolutely no claim to this shadow state or its resources.

So I've become quite cynical about the claim that the architects of this new system are free-market ideologues. They are in fact corporate supremacists. The proof is that they will betray their supposed libertarian beliefs at the slightest opportunity if that betrayal will turn a profit for a crony company. You see the hypocrisy most shamelessly in the mega-contracts handed out so private companies can help the Bush administration read our emails and data-mine our lives. It's a kind of triple whammy of hypocrisy: these are people who purportedly believe in restrained government spending, individual liberties, and getting government off our backs, yet without hesitation they will expand the reach of the state, gobble up public money, and violate individual privacy, so long as there is profit in it. Calling the Bush gang "ideologues" gives them way too much credit.

Cusack: You've said that in the future the ultimate luxury will be your own survival...do you really think this is where we're headed?

Klein: Well, the disaster bubble is going to burst, like all bubbles do. And when it does, firms like Bechtel, Fluor and Blackwater are going to lose much of their primary revenue stream. They will still have all the high-tech gear and equipment bought at taxpayer expense, but they will need to find a new business model, a new way to cover their high costs. The next phase of the disaster capitalism complex is staring us in the face: with the state in decay, the parallel corporate state will rent back its disaster infrastructure to whoever can afford it, at whatever price the market will bear.

So imagine that after the next hurricane, Blackwater might not just be working for FEMA, as it was after Katrina -- it could sell its security and evacuation capacity to other corporations, or directly to the public, the very same public that funded its entire start-up phase. Want a helicopter ride off a roof? A bed in a shelter? Bottled water? We'll bill you later. Meanwhile, everyone who can't pay will be out of luck, since evacuation is no longer a "core competency" of the state, and besides, the state shouldn't interfere with the free market. The people who can't pay will either be abandoned -- like the people left on their roofs in New Orleans -- or sucked into the privatized prison surveillance apparatus, to be profited from in another way.

Companies like Blackwater and Halliburton are already roaming the world looking for new markets in other frail states - new governments to guard, new war zones to privatize.

Cusack: Here's what I'm thinking. If these people want to create their own privatized countries, they should practice what they preach, and "take their chances on the open market." Secede from the union and stop bankrolling the whole thing with our tax dollars. I'd love to hear someone make a legal argument that the constitution allows for corporations to build private armies at taxpayer expense. I mean, publicly funded mercenaries are totally outside the boundaries of any conceivably acceptable legal version of the constitutional checks and balances we all learned in civics class. But Blackwater is a symptom of a larger problem which is also more terrifying: basically what the Bush administration has done is use its time in office to fund and create a dangerous counter-power to the very government it is leading.

To read the full text from the huffingtonpost.com, click here.
Read more!

Jimmy Carter: Do Not Attack Iran

By Ben Cohen

Former President Jimmy Carter on why the United States must not attack Iran. Bush and Cheney won't listen, but hopefully the public and Congress will.

Full text. Read more!

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

George Bush, Holocaust Denier

By Ben Cohen

The term 'Holocaust' derives
from the Greek 'holókauston' (from holos "completely" and kaustos "burnt"). It is generally used to describe the deaths of 6 million Jews at the hands of the Nazis during World War Two. Winston Churchill used the term to describe the Turkish Genocide of hundreds of thousands (possibly millions) of Armenians in 1915-1917.
In response to the Turkish Governments continual denial of their genocide, a group of highly esteemed international Genocide Scholars wrote the following to Prime Minister Erdogan of Turkey on June 13th 2005:

"On April 24, 1915, under cover of World War I, the Young Turk government of the Ottoman Empire began a systematic genocide of its Armenian citizens – an unarmed Christian minority population. More than a million Armenians were exterminated through direct killing, starvation, torture, and forced death marches. The rest of the Armenian population fled into permanent exile. Thus an ancient civilization was expunged from its homeland of 2,500 years."

"We note that there may be differing interpretations of genocide—how and why the Armenian Genocide happened, but to deny its factual and moral reality as genocide is not to engage in scholarship but in propaganda and efforts to absolve the perpetrator, blame the victims, and erase the ethical meaning of this history. "

"We believe that it is clearly in the interest of the Turkish people and their future as a proud and equal participants in international, democratic discourse to acknowledge the responsibility of a previous government for the genocide of the Armenian people, just as the German government and people have done in the case of the Holocaust."

The Turkish Government ignored the letter, and has not reversed its stance.

It is of course, conventional in elite American political circles to strongly condemn the genocide of the Jews, but not apparently, the Armenians. Yesterday, George Bush urged Congress not to pass legislation that would label the massacre 'a genocide'. Bush said it "would do great harm to our relations with a key ally in NATO and in the global war on terror."

Condoleeza Rice echoed his sentiments saying the legislation "at this time would be very problematic for everything we are trying to do in the Middle East".

Thankfully, a House Panel passed the legislation by 27 votes to 21.

For those who thought George Bush was a man of principle, surely the last vestiges of this notion have now been completely destroyed. It is not worth the energy to explain his disgustingly hypocritical and immoral stance on the subject, other than to label him what he is: A Holocaust denier. END
Read more!

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

When will this horrible experiment end?

By Ben Cohen

Milton Friedman (1912-2006) is the God Father of 'neo liberal economics', the modern day version of capitalism. According to The Economist, Friedman "was the most influential economist of the second half of the 20th century…possibly of all of it."

Back in the 1950's, Friedman essentially spawned the concept that government intervention in an economy was a bad thing, and for an economy to function properly, the 'market' was best left to itself. "I am in favor of cutting taxes under any circumstances and for any excuse, for any reason, whenever it's possible," said Friedman. "Underlying most arguments against the free market is a lack of belief in freedom itself", he would say, unwavering in his belief of the purity of capitalism.

Social spending bred dependency, Friedman argued. Social security, socialised medical care, basically anything to do with a collectivism was thrown out as immoral and 'anti freedom'.

Friedman's brand of economics was tested via the help of the CIA on several Latin American countries during the 70's and 80's, and the Chicago University professor has been credited with 'freeing' them from the ills of socialism.

An economic advisor to Richard Nixon, and an unofficial advisor to Ronald Reagan, Friedman's influence was far reaching in government circles. He inspired the radical changes in economic policy in America and Britain during the 1980's, and his philosophy is being applied in full to this day.

It is now abundantly apparent that this experiment has failed miserably.

Far from saving Latin America, Friedman's economic reforms have literally destroyed the countries where it was applied. In Brazil for example, the national debt increased 64% between the years 1980-1985. It doubled again from 1998-2000. Despite having the 9th largest economy in the world, it is amongst the leading in inequality and pervasive poverty. Around 25% of the population live under the official poverty line. In Nicaragua, another poster child for neoliberal reform, 1 out of 3 children currently suffer from chronic malnutrition, and it continues to be one of the poorest countries in the region.

According to Naomi Klein, before the neoliberal revolution in Argentina in 1976, the country had 'fewer people living in poverty than France or the U.S-just 9%- and an unemployment rate of only 4.2%'. A year after the junta seized power, 'real wages lost 40% of their value, factories closed', and 'poverty spiraled'.

The U.S and the U.K are also shining examples of the failures of Neo Liberalism. Both countries are bottom of the league when it comes to social mobility in industrialised nations. They have the highest poverty rates and least economic equality amongst societies of similar wealth. In the U.K, around 22% of the population live in poverty, twice that of Sweden's. There are also 36.5 million Americans living in poverty. The real value of wages has declined for the average American since the 60's, while the top earners have seen massive increases.

The doctrine of free market capitalism has been rammed down our throats as the solution to all our problems. When we hear politicians talk about giving business's tax breaks, it really means more money will be sucked up to the rich. When they say that raising the minimum wage will 'hurt the economy', what they mean is that it will hurt the rich. When they talk about 'flexible labour' they mean cheap, expendable wage slavery for the benefit of the rich.

Neoliberalism seeks to absolve everyone of their responsibilities to our fellow human beings. Friedman once said, “What you should do, in my opinion, is to give every person who now has a claim on Social Security bonds equal to the value of his claim, and set him free. Let him save. Let him do what he wants with it."

When asked how he would stop people making bad investment decisions, the esteemed economist replied, “I don’t! Why should I?”

And that sums up the neo conservative view of people. Why should anyone care if a family made a bad investment decision and is out on the streets? Why should anyone care whether a poor kid has a decent education? To Friedman and his mignons, that is 'real freedom'. To people of conscience, this is barbaric.

Humans are by nature a collective species, and can survive only in groups. Neoliberalism works on the principle that this is untrue. It says we can survive as autonomous consumers. It says that 'greed is good' and selfishness 'drives productivity'. A small percentage of the population has benefited from this world view, while the majority have not. Through extensive marketing and PR, we have been led to believe this is the only way. Ridiculous books like 'The End Of History' by Francis Fukayama have implanted the idea that the pure market is the goal of humanity.

It is not.

We must fight this system that impoverishes so many and separates us from our fellow citizens. It is time for this horrible experiment to finally come to an end.

Read more!

Monday, October 8, 2007

The truth about Mitt "Strength" Romney

HuffPost's Chris Kelly exposes the true "strength" of uber-Republican Mitt Romney. It's sheer genius, and pretty comedy as well.

From The Huffingtonpost:

Three Card Romney

by Chris Kelly

Mitt "Strength" Romney has been putting some really strong thinking into his position on taxes and he's decided that he's strongly against them. (You can read up on his other powerful ideas in his campaign's Strategy for a Stronger America, available through his website, the one with the banner on top that reads, "Mitt Romney True Strength for America" and the quote at the bottom that goes -- I shit you not -- "I believe the strength of America lies in the strength of her people. I am running for President because I want to help keep America strong.

Romney. Strong. Romney. Strong. HeadOn. Apply directly to the forehead. HeadOn. Apply directly to the forehead. HeadOn...

I mean, that's a lot of strength. Does he want to lead America or bench press it?

How strongly does Romney hate taxes? Last week, he not only signed a pledge to oppose all tax increases, he also snapped the pen in half, shattered the desk with a single blow, and made powerful animal love to Grover Norquist on the shards.

In the end, all that remained of Norquist and the desk was sawdust and an unjustified sense of entitlement.

Then the Romney Campaign recorded a radio ad and released:


Check it out.

BLUEPRINT #1: Making The Bush Tax Cuts Permanent.
Governor Romney believes making the Bush Tax Cuts permanent is the first step to ensuring that Americans are able to keep more of their hard-earned money. 

Fair enough. Of course, all the other Republican candidates support making the tax cuts permanent too, except for Ron Paul, who believes taxes themselves are expressly forbidden by a secret code hidden in the eye on the back of the dollar.

And I'm not that interested, here, in going over who did and who didn't benefit from the Bush tax cuts. There are lots of indisputable figures about how the rich got richer and the poor didn't, but you can look those up yourself in Janeane Garofalo's tattoos.

Okay, just one: Since 2001, the average member of a middle income American family has received a tax cut of about $300 per year, but their share of the national debt has increased to $8,936. Another way to look at that? 99% of Americans will end up owing almost four dollars for every dollar they saved.

So we're saddling our children with crushing debt. That's why it's important that we don't give them health insurance. To make sure they're too sickly to strike back.

Moving on...

BLUEPRINT #2: Rolling Back Tax Rates For All Americans: 

Governor Romney Will Roll Back Tax Rates Across The Board For All Americans. As President, Governor Romney will cut marginal tax rates across the board, allowing all Americans to save more money.

This is what economists call "a lie." Romney also promised to cut marginal tax rates when he was in Massachusetts and got exactly nowhere. Or, as he describes it in his new radio ad:

"I stood firm to roll back taxes as Governor. I'll roll back taxes as President."

I know that sounds like he's saying: "I stood firm and rolled back taxes," but it doesn't. What he means is, he firmly wanted to roll back taxes; what happened was that they stayed right where they were.

It depends on what your definition of "to" is. He means it like "as if to." It's not his fault if you heard something else.

The statement appears to be a slippery lie, but let's give him the benefit of a doubt and call it wishful thinking, micromanaged to be misunderstood.

Mitt Romney saying he's going to firmly roll back tax rates is like me saying I'm going to firmly stay in the tub until Rachel Weisz comes to my house and rinses my hair. I can be as firm as I want; that doesn't change the fact that Ms. Weisz has her own family and I have mine.
BLUEPRINT #3: Eliminating Taxes On Middle Class Savings: 
Governor Romney Will Make Middle Class Savings Tax Free. Governor Romney's plan will allow middle class Americans to save tax free by changing the tax rate on interest, capital gains and dividends to absolutely 0%.

Wow. Absolutely zero! That's negative 275 degrees Celsius! Or maybe I'm thinking of something else. Either way, it's pretty bold. Except that two-thirds of Americans already pay less than $12 a year in income tax on capital gains.

How are you going to spend your windfall? I'm going to the movies, alone.

But these $12 people are the 2/3rds of us who make less than $50,000. Romney's plan is to eliminate all Federal taxes on interest, dividends and capital gains for people who make up to $200,000. And if that doesn't encourage you to finally quit your dead end "job" and go into day trading full-time, I can't imagine what will.

It means that living tax-free off hard-earned inherited wealth won't just be for the super-rich anymore. It's also for plucky second-tier heiresses whose stock dividends don't even add up to a measly four grand a week. Why should they pay taxes on that income? Just because people who perform "labor" do?

How's that fair?

BLUEPRINT #4: Eliminating The Death Tax Once And For All. The Death Tax unfairly impacts families, farmers, ranchers and small businesses. These are the engines of America's economic growth and they should not be burdened by unfair taxes.

Oh for heaven's sake. Ranchers? The engines of America's growth are its ranchers? Forget the tech sector and customer support -- that's for sissies and Indians -- we've got ranchers?

Ranchers? Like the Cartwrights? Did they create a lot of jobs? Let's see, there was Hop Sing.

½ of 1% of dead people in America leave a taxable estate. (I read it on Janeane Garofalo's back.) And for the first $2,000,000 that you can't take with you, your descendants and/or trophy wife don't even have to file a return.

Maybe taxing zombie billionaires is fair and maybe it's not, but when you start calling inherited wealth (from ranching) the engine of America's economic growth words themselves cease to have any meaning. You're just being silly.

BLUEPRINT #5: Cutting The Corporate Tax Rate: 

Governor Romney Believes Our Corporate Tax Rate Must Be Competitive With The Rest Of The World. The United States has the second highest corporate tax rate in the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development. We simply cannot afford for future economic growth to have a tax rate that is out of alignment with the other major economies of the world. 







That sure sounds like he's saying we pay the second highest corporate tax rates in the world, doesn't it?

Except that's not what he means at all. There are 192 member states in the United Nations. 162 aren't in the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development. Countries like, oh, for instance China, Russia, Argentina, Brazil, Israel, Saudi Arabia and India.

So who is in the OECD? Well, it does include most of the major trading nations, but it also finds room for Luxembourg, Portugal, Belgium, and the Slovak Republic.



Yes, this "second unfairest in a club you've never heard of" is basically a load. But let's play by Mitt rules, ignore the counties that contain 4/5ths of the world's population and just compare America to the counties in the OECD. (I don't know the Portuguese word for "rancher" but cavaleiro means horseman, if that helps.)

Are American companies paying higher taxes? No they're not. The OECD ranking Mitt is using doesn't refer to corporate tax brackets at all. It refers to the total amount of taxes a nation's corporations pay expressed as a fraction of GDP. And why did American companies pay more taxes last year (measured against GDP) than Belgian companies did?

Because they made higher profits.

Scads. What economists call "shitloads." ExxonMobil, for instance, is an American company. It did pretty well. Maybe you heard about it.

Unless Mitt wants to index corporate taxes, so that they go down every time profits go up, our ranking in the OECD will fluctuate.

Usually, by the way, they're insanely low. In a typical year -- like 2004, for instance - America's corporate taxes don't rank second highest in the OECD, they rank third lowest, just above Germany and Iceland.

So it's a double-talk statistic, of an atypical event, on a phony scale, to scare you into cutting Texaco's taxes. Even for a grease bucket like Mitt Romney, that's pretty good.

How does it smell? You might even say "strong."

Read the full article here
Read more!