You are browsing the archive for 2014 July 26.

Avatar of admin

by admin

Paul Ryan’s “Blame the Victim” Disease: How He Epitomizes A Horrible New Consensus

July 26, 2014 in Blogs

By Elias Isquith,

Much like coverage of domestic violence or bombs in Gaza, Paul Ryan's poverty plan has a very disturbing hallmark.

Because there’s no real way to dispute the fundamental moral bankruptcy of neoliberalism without it, the rhetorical trick of blaming the victim is never too far from the surface of American society, regardless of the subject. In pop culture, we hear it when ESPN blowhards indict women for their partners’ violence. In foreign policy, we see it when Wall Street Journal Op-Eds blame Palestinian children for the IDF’s bombs. And in the realm of domestic policy, the blame-the-victim logic is so widespread that I struggle to think of even one major political debate in which it isn’t being pushed by Republicans or Democrats. Often, it’s both.

Unsurprisingly, though, no single issue that attracts more widespread support for blaming the victim than poverty, where it’s often taken as a given that a person’s inability to provide herself with the material comforts of a modern life stems from her own shortcomings, rather than the failure of the social and economic system at large. Examples of this can be found in Republican-controlled state legislature initiatives across the country. But, as if to make the lives of everyone (besides the poor) easier, former vice presidential nominee and current House Republican leader Paul Ryan has put many of them together in his newest compendium of wonky Big Ideas, a “discussion draft” of supposedly anti-poverty measures called “Expanding Opportunity in America.”

Now, while Paul Ryan has previously and repeatedly mentioned his love of Ayn Rand, thecrackpot cult-leader and novelist who made it her life’s mission to turn a sociopathic degree of selfishness into a highbrow political ideology, it’s worth acknowledging upfront that his poverty “draft” is not nearly as Objectivist as his infamous budgets. Brian Beutler rightly notes that despite its many flaws, Ryan’s draft “proposes spending more taxpayer money on poor people” by expanding the earned income tax credit — something that Ayn Rand, despite the EITC’s market-oriented construction, would never do. Indeed, Ryan’s ideas for “expanding opportunity” are such a philosophical break with his earlier plans to redistribute …read more


Avatar of admin

by admin

A Pause in the Bombing by Israeli Forces — and the Ruins of Gaza Are Laid Bare

July 26, 2014 in Blogs

By Peter Beaumont, The Guardian

Repeated shelling has inflicted a terrible reality on Palestinians as they try to salvage something from shattered homes and lives.

n the dangerous streets around the hospital in Beit Hanoun, the buildings were, by and large, still standing on Friday afternoon. By Saturday morning, after a day of intense Israeli bombing and shellfire, the hospital in the northern Gaza town was standing in a sea of rubble, its walls pockmarked with gunfire and torn by shrapnel.

The skyline, until so recently regular and neat, had been transformed into something torn and ragged. The tops of a pair of minarets had been blown off, and the graves in a cemetery smashed to pieces. Houses, offices, apartment blocks and shops were collapsed or collapsing.

The bombs that hit these streets in the time between the Observer's two visits were visible, and sometimes audible, across the city as huge explosions sent up eruptions of grey smoke into the sky.

What happened here in Beit Hanoun, and in other neighbourhoods of Gaza hardest hit by the Israeli assault, will inevitably demand an explanation: whether the extremity of violence unleashed in these residential areas in recent days was proportionate, or if the destruction amounts to a war crime.

Those are questions for the days ahead. On Saturday, however, in the midst of a 12-hour humanitarian ceasefire, the concerns were more immediate ones, as thousands of Palestinian residents flocked back to their ruined neighbourhoods to see what remained.

As they came on foot and in cars, they were accompanied by fire engines, bulldozers and ambulances of the Red Crescent, whose crews by mid-afternoon had recovered 85 bodies, many of them partially decomposed, buried under the rubble of Gaza's most damaged neighbourhoods. Medical officials said yesterday that the death toll among Palestinians has passed 1,000.

If evidence were needed of the failure of diplomacy to end this war, the truce that allowed them to return safely for the first time in days was the only apparent outcome from the high-level mediation mission by US secretary of state John Kerry and UN chief Ban Ki-moon over the …read more


Avatar of admin

by admin

Thank You for Your Service: How One Company Sues Soldiers Worldwide

July 26, 2014 in Blogs

By Paul Kiel, ProPublica

This company sues service members based anywhere in the world, no matter how much inconvenience or expense they incur.

Army Spc. Angel Aguirre needed a washer and dryer.

Money was tight, and neither Aguirre, 21, nor his wife had much credit history as they settled into life at Fort Carson in Colorado in 2010.

That's when he saw an ad for USA Discounters, guaranteeing loan approval for service members. In military newspapers and magazines, on the radio, and on TV, the Virginia-based company's ads shout, “NO CREDIT? NEED CREDIT? NO PROBLEM!” The store was only a few miles from Fort Carson.

“We ended up getting a computer, a TV, a ring, and a washer and dryer,” Aguirre said. “The only thing I really wanted was a washer and dryer.”

Aguirre later learned that USA Discounters' easy lending has a flip side. Should customers fall behind, the company transforms into an efficient collection operation. And this part of its business takes place not where customers bought their appliances, but in two local courthouses just a short drive from the company's Virginia Beach headquarters.

From there, USA Discounters files lawsuits against service members based anywhere in the world, no matter how much inconvenience or expense they would incur to attend a Virginia court date. Since 2006, the company has filed more than 13,470 suits and almost always wins, records show.

“They're basically ruthless,” said Army Staff Sgt. David Ray, who was sued in Virginia while based in Germany over purchases he made at a store in Georgia.

Timothy Dorsey, vice president of USA Discounters, said the company provides credit to service members who would not otherwise qualify and sues only after other attempts to resolve debts have failed.

As for the company's choice of court, he said it was “for the customer's benefit.” In Virginia, the company isn't required to use a lawyer to file suit. USA Discounters' savings on legal fees are passed on to the customer, he said.

“This company is committed to ensuring that the men and women who serve and sacrifice for our country are always treated with the honor and respect they deserve,” Dorsey …read more


Avatar of admin

by admin

VIDEO: Bill Maher to Neil deGrasse Tyson: 'Republicans Dislike You Because You're a Scientist and Black'

July 26, 2014 in Blogs

By Janet Allon, AlterNet

If there is anything right-wingers hate, it's a smart black man who says humans are insignificant.

Neil deGrasse Tyson, the astrophysicist who hosts the hit show “Cosmos,” was a guest on Bill Maher's “Real Time with Bill Maher” on HBO Friday night, and Tyson received standing ovation. Rare for a scientist, Maher joked.

But Tyson, of course, has his critics, including the right-wingers at the National Review, who put Tyson on the cover of their print magazine recently with the coverline, “Smarter Than Thou.”

Why don't they (meaning Republicans) like you? Maher wondered.

Then he answered his own question by saying, “I think they don’t like you because you’re a scientist, and a black one, and you’re smarter than they are.”

Tyson thought it might have something to do with the glorification of “nerd culture” and how people in that world generally vote democratic. But Maher is pretty sure racial jealousy plays a major part, as with Obama.

The other thing that galls the right is how scientists are always pointing out how insignificant human life is, and how random. “That offends them,” Maher said.

“Sure, insignificance can be depressing, but there’s another way of looking at it,” Tyson replied. “We’re connected genetically to a tree. That's cool.”

Maher was skeptical: “C’mon, they have problems with apes.”

Tyson insisted that our interconnectedness with the universe was practically spiritual. “We should celebrate that, not be pissed off by that.”

Tyson went on to clear up some other misconceptions, like the recent CNN hysteria about solar flares practically hitting earth and wiping out all humanity.

“The sun is gurgling place,” he explained, using more words than that..

“Talk slower,” Maher said, trying to keep up.

“Sometimes it burps up plasma. Sometimes they head towards earth. When they collide with the earth’s atmosphere, it sets it aglow. Everytime you see the northern lights, we have just been slammed by a plasma pie.”

“That damn CNN. Always trying to scare me,” Bill said.

Amy Goodman of Democracy Now! also appeared on the show, making trenchant points about U.S. foreign policy and how the military option should be taken off the table. “Just do the opposite of …read more