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Top 5 American Civil War movies

September 8, 2014 in Blogs

By Political Zach Foster

5. Gangs of New York (2002)
Make no mistake, this Martin Scorsese masterpiece is about gang violence and sectarian violence, not about soldiers. However, this movie is very much about America at war with itself, and in more ways than one.

The defining event of this movie is the New York City Draft Riot of 1863 in which the immigrant and American-born working-classes simultaneously fought each other to settle old scores, and against the Union Army to resist the draft in a war they didn’t believe in.

Better yet, the antagonist William Cutting reminds me of so many of today’s radical Republicans; zealously anti-immigrant, militantly patriotic, and rabidly pro-war despite having never served a day in the armed forces.
4. Glory (1989)
The overt pro-Union sentiment should be overlooked in favor of what the movie offers: a true account of black Americans who fought in the war. It is no small feat and no small accomplishment that most of the men of the 54th Massachusetts escaped slavery, made it north, and went back South as conquerers. These men proved to the world that black men could also fight, and that America is their country too. If only there were also a movie about the 50,000 black men who fought for the South!
3. Gettysburg (1993)
Gettysburg is a four-hour epic masterpiece that offers a detailed blow-by-blow of the biggest battle ever fought in North America. Director Ronald Maxwell also made the libertarian film Copperhead, so the standard is high here. The Gettysburg movie has an incredible instrumental soundtrack, epic panoramic battle scenes, and accurate depictions of army camp life. It offers equal attention to Union and Confederate forces, explains different people’s motivations to fight, and best of all, the movie doesn’t pick sides.
Let it be noted, Jeff Daniels was awesome as Colonel Joshua Chamberlain, but Martin Sheen steals the show as Robert E. Lee!
2. The Outlaw Josey Wales (1976)
<a target=_blank href="http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/f/f0/The_outlaw_josey_wales.jpg" style="clear: …read more

Source: ZACH FOSTER RANTS

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Taking Control: Pathways to Drug Policies That Work

September 8, 2014 in PERSONAL LIBERTY

By drosenfeld

September 8, 2014

Global Commission on Drug Policy

No

This report reflects a new evolution in the thinking of the Global Commission, which includes Kofi Annan, Richard Branson, and the former presidents of Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Mexico, Poland, Portugal and Switzerland. They not only reiterate their demands for decriminalization, alternatives to incarceration, and greater emphasis on public health approaches – but now also call for responsible legal regulation of currently-illegal drugs.

…read more

Source: DRUG POLICY

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Now Is the Time For A New Abolition Movement

September 8, 2014 in Blogs

By Frank Joyce, AlterNet

Until racism is addressed, a more humane social contract is unattainable.

The first abolition struggle arose to oppose slavery. For the most part, it did not challenge the idea of white supremacy. It did not advocate for racial equality. It sought the end of chattel slavery. Period. The second developed to abolish the Jim Crow version of apartheid that replaced slavery.

Despite the heroic efforts of blacks and whites to end slavery and Jim Crow, the system of racism and white privilege kept right on going. Like a virus, it evolved and adapted. How do we know that? Racially measured inequality in health, income, wealth, education, incarceration, housing and other measures still define our society. Many disparities are as big now, or worse, than they have been in the past.

Never yet has there been a movement to abolish racism itself. Now is the time, not just because there is a crisis. Surely there is a crisis. But while it might not seem obvious, there is also new opportunity.

Many whites continue to believe that racial disparities persist because African-Americans are inferior and therefore deserving of their “second-class” status. That view is racist pure and simple. The more “liberal” perspective is that inequalities persist because of the “legacy” of slavery. That’s not accurate either.

Why? Global race-based capitalism is not a system of the past with lingering effects. It is a living, breathing organism of the present. White racism is as much a part of our structure in 2014 as “free markets,” private property, the jury system, cable TV, Major League Baseball, representative democracy and the Second Amendment.

Thanks to the work of historian Gerald Horne, especially his most recent book, The Counter-Revolution of 1776, we have a much better understanding of how thoroughly the creation of the “first apartheid state” set the course we are still on more than 200 years later. Well beyond the nefarious “three-fifths of a man” so-called compromise language in the Constitution, the nation’s core document institutionalized white privilege.

White racism will not just “wither away.” It surely will not disappear just because whites become a minority. …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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How GOP-Dominated Kansas Is on the Verge of Unthinkable Upsets

September 8, 2014 in Blogs

By Jim Newell, Salon

Republican Sen. Pat Roberts could lose to independent candidate Greg Orman, while the unpopular GOP Gov. Sam Brownback might be unseated by a Democrat.

Just as the various Senate prediction models were solidifying around Republicans taking control of the chamber this November, a Democratic pickup opportunity in … Kansas? … has become a possibility? A real possibility, at that — none of this “well umm we could pick up a seat in Mississippi?” buck-raising pablum that the Democratic Party will throw around every now and then.

The Democratic candidate, Chad Taylor, who was supposed to take on Sen. Pat Roberts this fall, withdrew from the race yesterday at the last minute. The (few) polls of this race had been showing Taylor, surprisingly, within a single-digit margin of Roberts. And independent candidate Greg Orman, according to a PPP poll, was already putting forward a formidable showing as well. Now that Taylor is out, the better-funded Orman is in a strong position to scoop up the state’s Democratic voters, pick off moderate Republicans who’ve been turned off by the Tea Party and Gov. Sam Brownback’s destruction of the state, and maybe even win.

Polling analysts, who usually sneer at the possibility of “game-changers” disrupting the fundamental trends of a race, are now all worked up about the game-changing possibilities on display here. Nate Silver declares that the Kansas Senate race “just got crazy,” adding that his “totally wild guess” early on is that the contest is now a “toss up.” (Studious Nate, as always, would like to think about this for a little while.) Princeton’s Sam Wang puts Orman’s “winGO probability at 85 percent,” meaning “the probability of Democratic control of the Senate is about to pop up by 20-30 percent.” Nathan Gonzalez, writing at the Rothenberg Political Report, dubs Roberts the “most vulnerable Republican Senator in the country.” (Not that that means a whole lot, since the only other vulnerable Republican senator in the country is Mitch McConnell, and he’s not all that vulnerable.)

Gonzalez goes on to explain how the Kansas Republican Party found …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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BREAKING NEWS: Ravens Cut Ray Rice After Full Domestic Violence Video Released

September 8, 2014 in Blogs

By AlterNet

TMZ releases shocking footage of the Ravens player punching his then-fiancé.

A shocking new video released today by TMZ shows Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice punching his then-fiancé Janay Palmer in the elevator of an Atlantic City casino. As a result of the leaked footage, the Ravens announced today in a curt Twitter post that they terminated his contract with the team.

Rice had previously been ordered to serve a two-game suspension for another video of the incident, which shows him dragging the unconscious Palmer out of the elevator. Though his light punishment drew criticism, Rice claimed that the incident had spurred him to change. At a press conference in July, which he held with Palmer, who is now his wife, Rice called his actions “inexcusable” and said that the couple was undergoing counseling.

The league's position on the issue continued to evolve, with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell coming forward in August with an acknowledgement that they could have done more to follow up on the incident. He established a new policy that mandates that any player will receive a lifetime ban for a second domestic abuse violation. Rice's termination serves as further evidence that the NFL is finally taking this issue seriously. After all, it took the commissioner several months to suspend him after the initial video was released, but it took only hours for the second clip to force him out of the league.

We’ll have more on this story as it continues to develop.   

WARNING: This footage contains graphic scenes of domestic abuse.. 

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Source: ALTERNET

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No Sex Please: We’re Californian

September 8, 2014 in Blogs

By Robin Koerner

Rape may represent the greatest possible violation against a human being except, perhaps, for murder.

Any decent person sympathizes with the intent of those who would seek to prevent it by any reasonable means. Moreover, there are plenty of statistics regarding the prevalence of rape in our society – mostly, but not exclusively against women – that indicate a moral and cultural epidemic that must be addressed. I, like far too many people, am close to more than one victim of this evil and so nothing I write here is written lightly.

But I am genuinely concerned about what has recently occurred in California with a view to tackling the crime of rape on college campuses. As is so often the case when the details of behavior are legislated in reaction to the actions of the worst people among us, the results are likely to be much less noble than the intention, because the legislation eliminates the most general rights that should be enjoyed by everyone at all times, to protect a few people some of the time.

Late last week, the first state bill to require colleges to adopt an “affirmative consent” model in their sexual assault policies passed the California senate unanimously.

This bill seeks to change the perfectly moral and behaviorally natural “no means no” standard of consent to sexual activity into “everything except an explicitly verbalized “yes” (along with the acquisition of positive evidence of the same that can be later presented just in case you are ever accused of anything untoward), means “no.”

Let us be absolutely clear what such a rule does and does not do. It does not require that sex always be consensual. That is already the law and the policy of any sane institution. Rather, this bill seeks to make most heretofore consensual sexual activity between adults punishable by requiring a specific form of consent – explicit agreement to a specific request.

Most consensual sexual activity between normal people does not involve the kind of explicit, subsequently provable statement of consent, that this bill demands. Sex usually happens between people who trust each other and – precisely because they know each other well enough to engage in sexual activity – wouldn’t wish to receive or provide such encounter-specific and explicit consent to continue with …read more

Source: ROBIN KOERNER BLOG

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When Did Americans Become the Enemy? New Video Explores Decades Of Police Militarization

September 8, 2014 in Blogs

By Steven Rosenfeld, AlterNet

A strong call to disarm on the eve of U.S. Senate hearings.

As the U.S. Senate prepares to hold a hearing Tuesday on the militarization of local police—not just in Ferguson, Missouri, but across America—a short new video from Brave New Films underscores that the problem of trigger-happy, armed-for-warfare cops is more widespread and disturbing than we think. 

“Why in the world do police in Ferguson, Missouri, look like this? Why are they driving a $300,000 armored vehicle through the suburbs,” the video asks, in opening scenes taken from television news reports, before explaining that the transformation of departments into combat-ready forces, especially in rural America, is hardly new.

“It’s not just Ferguson. Police are being militarized all through the country,” the video said, showing weaponry that have been sent to overseas war zone and then brought back to Main Street. “Does Keene, New Hampshire, population 23,000, also need that ballistic engineered armored response counterattack truck? How about Cullman County, Alabama, population 14,000; Do they need a mine-resistant ambush protected vehicle? Does Montgomery County, Texas sheriff’s department need a $300,000 drone? Why do the Fargo, North Dakota police look more like soldiers fighting overseas?

“How did local police all over America become hostile military forces?” the video continued, before providing the answer. “Because the federal government has been spending billions of dollars making them that way.”

The police killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson and ensuing protests have prompted Missouri's Democratic Senator, Claire McCaskill, to schedule a hearing on police militarization on Tuesday morning. McCaskill chairs a Homeland Security Subcommittee on Financial and Contracting Oversight. The hearing will “examine federal programs that enable local police departments to acquire military equipment, such as the Defense Department’s 1033 program for surplus property and grants made through the Department of Homeland Security,” her Senate website said. “She plans to gather stakeholders in order to hear several perspectives, including those of local law enforcement.”

Since Ferguson, lobbyists and police and military contractors have been making a full-court press to defend their arsenals. Last week, Chuck Canterbury, the national president of the …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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Robert Reich: Soda Tax Pits Berkeley Against Powerful Beverage Biz

September 8, 2014 in Blogs

By Robert Reich, Robert Reich's Blog

If a soda tax can’t pass in the most progressive city in America, it can’t pass anywhere.

I was phoned the other night in middle of dinner by an earnest young man named Spencer, who said he was doing a survey.

Rather than hang up I agreed to answer his questions. He asked me if I knew a soda tax would be on the ballot in Berkeley in November. When I said yes, he then asked whether I trusted the Berkeley city government to spend the revenues wisely.

At that moment I recognized a classic “push poll,” which is part of a paid political campaign.

So I asked Spencer a couple of questions of my own. Who was financing his survey? “Americans for Food and Beverage Choice,” he answered. Who was financing this group? “The American Beverage Association,” he said.

Spencer was so eager to get off the phone I didn’t get to ask him my third question: Who’s financing the American Beverage Association? It didn’t matter. I knew the answer: Pepsico and Coca Cola.

Welcome to Berkeley, California: Ground Zero in the Soda Wars.

Fifty years ago this month, Berkeley was the epicenter of the Free Speech Movement. Now, Berkeley is moving against Big Soda.

The new movement isn’t nearly dramatic or idealistic as the old one, but the odds of victory were probably better fifty years ago. The Free Speech Movement didn’t challenge the profitability of a one of the nation’s most powerful industries.

Sugary drinks are blamed for increasing the rates of chronic disease and obesity in America. Yet efforts to reduce their consumption through taxes or other measures have gone nowhere. The beverage industry has spent millions defeating them.

If on November 4 a majority of Berkeley voters say yes to a one-cent-per-fluid-ounce tax on distributors of sugary drinks, Berkeley could be the first city in the nation to pass a soda tax. (San Franciscans will be voting on a 2-cent per ounce proposal requiring two-thirds of them approve; Berkeley needs a mere majority.)

But if a soda tax can’t pass in the most progressive city in America, it can’t …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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Goldman Sachs on Scottish Independence

September 8, 2014 in Economics

By Jeff Deist

Royal_Standard_of_Scotland,_Holyrood_Palace

A senior economist at Goldman Sachs has weighed in on the upcoming Scottish independence vote, and it’s not pretty:

Goldman warned that public services would have to be cut if Scotland goes it alone, and that the country would face much higher borrowing costs. But the most worrying consequence, the bank predicted, would be that uncertainty over a currency union would cause a run on sterling and a capital flight with echoes of the eurozone crisis. ”The most important specific risk, in our view, is that the uncertainty over whether an independent Scotland would be able to retain sterling as its currency could result in an EMU-style currency crisis occurring within the UK,” wrote Kevin Daly, senior economist at Goldman.

Agnosticism is almost certainly warranted with respect to the politics of the referendum itself. The Scots will choose the yoke of London or the yoke of Brussels, the Pound or the Euro. A Scottish currency is neither discussed nor even considered. But it is a distinct pleasure to watch elite interests panic at the thought of losing even some degree of centralized control over a country of only 5.2 million people.

And the endless push for centralization and control extends beyond currency:

“One of the main lessons from the euro area crisis is that a reasonably high degree of fiscal and/or financial integration is necessary, as a means of effective risk sharing, for a monetary union to work,” Mr Daly wrote.

This brings to mind the late Harry Browne’s famous quote: “Government is good at one thing: It knows how to break your legs, hand you a crutch, and say, ‘See, if it weren’t for the government, you wouldn’t be able to walk’”. Browne’s dictum applies perfectly to the Eurozone: first the ECB destroys any vestige of monetary sovereignty via the Euro, and effectively monetizes the sovereign debt crisis. Then it begins, via the loathsome European Parliament, to make demands for integration of fiscal policy as well. After all, once you’ve accepted the Euro it’s awfully hard to argue for the continued ad hoc issuance of sovereign debt without regard to the impact on other Eurozone partners.

One MEP has already warned poor Scotland (lacking its own central bank) that under “EU law” (sic) it must use the Euro if it votes for independence:

Olli Rehn, vice president of the European Parliament and former commissioner for economic and monetary affairs, said in a letter to chief secretary to the …read more

Source: MISES INSTITUTE

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How Antonin Scalia Singlehandedly Destroys America's Claim to a Superior Justice System

September 8, 2014 in Blogs

By Heather Digby Parton, Salon

He doesn't think executing an innocent man matters. How can such a depraved human be on our Supreme Court?


While my views on the morality of the death penalty have nothing to do with how I vote as a judge, they have a lot to do with whether I can or should be a judge at all. To put the point in the blunt terms employed by Justice Harold Blackmun towards the end of his career on the bench, when he announced that he would henceforth vote (as Justices William Brennan and Thurgood Marshall had previously done) to overturn all death sentences, when I sit on a Court that reviews and affirms capital convictions, I am part of “the machinery of death.” My vote, when joined with at least four others, is, in most cases, the last step that permits an execution to proceed. I could not take part in that process if I believed what was being done to be immoral.

– Justice Antonin Scalia

One might wonder how he can stay on the court after the revelation last week that two convicted murderers he once described as lucky to be given the blessing of a lethal injection have turned out to be innocent. That’s right, this is about the case everyone’s been talking about — the two brothers, both mentally disabled, who were railroaded onto death row some 30 years ago with coerced confessions by a corrupt police department. As the New York Times reported:

The case against the men, always weak, fell apart after DNA evidence implicated another man whose possible involvement had been somehow overlooked by the authorities even though he lived only a block from where the victim’s body was found, and he had admitted to committing a similar rape and murder around the same time.

The startling shift in fortunes for the men, Henry Lee McCollum, 50, who has spent three decades on death row, and Leon Brown, 46, who was serving a life sentence, provided one of the most dramatic examples yet of the potential harm from false, coerced confessions and of …read more

Source: ALTERNET