You are browsing the archive for 2015 February 26.

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FCC OKs "Net Neutrality"

February 26, 2015 in Economics

The FCC on Thursday voted to reclassify Internet Service Providers as “common carriers” under Title II of the Telecommunications Act, a move that would trigger broad regulatory powers over Internet providers in the name of “preserving the open internet.” Cato scholar Julian Sanchez is wary of the move: “The FCC is preparing to impose a blanket regulatory structure—including open-ended authority to police unspecified “future conduct” of which it disapproves—in the absence of any sense of what deviations from neutrality might look like in practice.”

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Source: CATO HEADLINES

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Dumb Things Donald Trump, Fake Presidential Candidate, Has Said Just This Week

February 26, 2015 in Blogs

By Kali Holloway, AlterNet

This is just a tiny sampler of all the ludicrous things The Donald has said in the past few days.

Congratulations, America!: Donald Trump says he might run for President again.

Or rather, to put it more accurately, Donald Trump is again going around saying he might run for president. 

In an interview with the Washington Post, the reality TV star tried to assure readers that his latest presidential talk is about affecting real political change, and not a crass and pathetic attempt at maintaining a semblance of relevance.

“Everybody feels I’m doing this just to have fun or because it’s good for the brand,” Trump said. “Well, it’s not fun. I’m not doing this for enjoyment. I’m doing this because the country is in serious trouble.”

Um, Donald Trump does realize that we haven’t forgotten like, everything he’s ever said and done, right? Because it seems like Donald Trump is pretty sure we’re all idiots.

Let’s revisit a handful of the ridiculous things Donald Trump has said in just the last week:

1) On the Oscars. Donald called into “Fox & Friends” to toss off a few gems.

“There was a lot of conservative hatred there – there’s no question about that,” Trump said. He then stated that unlike the liberals over at the Academy Awards he “[hadn’t] seen any conservatives get up lately and start ranting and raving.”

So Donald Trump hasn’t read the Internet or watched TV or had any contact with media in very long time. Fine. But then, in response to wins for “Birdman” and its director Alejandro González Iñárritu, Trump stated:

“Well it was a great night for Mexico, as usual in this country…It was a great night…for Mexico. This guy kept getting up and up and up. I said, you know, what’s he doing? He’s walking away with all the gold.”

The Mexicans are stealing all the gold? And you're using “gold” as a poorly obfuscated code word for “jobs,” yes? 

Though you can't hear it on the recording, Trump concluded his remarks by singing “America! Fuck Yeah!

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Currency Wars, Again

February 26, 2015 in Economics

By Steve H. Hanke

image

Steve H. Hanke

The specter of currency wars rises like a phoenix once again. This time around, most of the warriors reside in Washington, D.C.. The strong dollar has inflamed the currency warriors (read: mercantilists) led by Democratic Senator Chuck Schumer from New York and Lindsey Graham, a Republican Senator from South Carolina. These mercantilists argue that “cheap” foreign currencies give the U.S.’s trading partners an “unfair” advantage, something worth doing battle over.

About the only thing the mercantilists have right is the fact that the U.S. dollar has been strengthening. As the accompanying chart shows, the currencies of all the U.S.’s top trading partners have lost value against the greenback over the past six months. These losses have ranged from 1.8% for the Chinese yuan to 21.6% for the Brazilian real. Russia, the fifteenth largest trading partner of the U.S., has seen the value of its ruble fall 39.5% over the past six months.

So, the currency hawks want to do what they always want to do: go to war. The particular trigger is the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a trade agreement between Asian countries and the U.S.. With this agreement, which the Obama administration is pushing for, the currency warriors have spotted an opening. They want to insert enforceable rules against so-called currency manipulation into the TPP.

All this saber rattling is a broken mercantilist record, particularly with regard to the U.S.’s biggest Asian trading partners: Japan and China. Indeed, these two countries have accounted for the lion’s share of the U.S. trade deficit over the past twenty years (see the accompanying chart).

From the early 1970s until 1995, Japan was viewed by the mercantilists as an enemy. They asserted that unfair Japanese trading practices caused the U.S. trade deficit, and that the U.S. bilateral trade deficit with Japan could be reduced if the yen appreciated against the dollar — a “weak dollar policy.” Washington even tried to convince Tokyo that an ever-appreciating yen would be good for Japan. Unfortunately, the Japanese complied and the yen strengthened, moving from 360 to the greenback in 1971 to 80 in 1995.

In April 1995, Secretary of the Treasury Robert Rubin belatedly realized that the yen’s great appreciation was causing the Japanese economy to sink into a deflationary quagmire. In consequence, the U.S. stopped arm-twisting the Japanese government about the value of the yen and Secretary Rubin began to evoke his now-famous strong-dollar mantra.

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Source: OP-EDS

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How a Teenager Who Didn't Kill Anyone Landed in Jail for 55 Years

February 26, 2015 in Blogs

By Ed Pilkington, The Guardian

An unarmed 16-year-old pulled no trigger, was himself shot and was found guilty of felony murder.

Blake Layman broke into a house unarmed. The homeowner opened fire, injuring him and killing a friend. But Indiana law means he is officially a murderer

Blake Layman made one very bad decision. He was 16, an unexceptional teenager growing up in a small Indiana town. He’d never been in trouble with the law, had a clean criminal record, had never owned or even held a gun.

That decision sparked a chain of events that would culminate with his arrest and trial for “felony murder”. The boy was unarmed, had pulled no trigger, killed no one. He was himself shot and injured in the incident while his friend standing beside him was also shot and killed. Yet Layman would go on to be found guilty by a jury of his peers and sentenced to 55 years in a maximum-security prison for a shooting that he did not carry out.

How Blake Layman got to be in the Kafkaesque position in which he now finds himself – facing the prospect of spending most of the rest of his life in a prison cell for a murder that he did not commit – is the subject on Thursday of a special hearing of the Indiana supreme court, the state’s highest judicial panel. How the judges respond to the case of what has become known as the “Elkhart Four” could have implications for the application of so-called “felony murder” laws in Indiana and states across the union.

It was about 2pm on 3 October 2012, and Layman was hanging out after school in his home town of Elkhart with a couple of buddies, Jose Quiroz, also 16, and Levi Sparks, 17. They smoked a little weed, got a little high, and had a moan with each other about how broke they were.

Layman looks back on that afternoon and wonders why did he do it? Why did he throw it all away? He was doing well at school, had an evening job at Wendy’s, had …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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We Won on Net Neutrality! FCC Designates Internet as a Public Utility

February 26, 2015 in Blogs

By Steven Rosenfeld, AlterNet

Years of activism and mobilization overcome telecom monopolies.

The Federal Communications Commission made history today by legally reclassifying the Internet as a public utility.

Its action prohibits a shrinking number of companies providing the speediest service to create fast and slow lanes—in essence, having monopoly-like control over the growing online economy.

The FCC’s vote on “net neutrality” came after a years-long push by progressive organizers, who rallied online activists across the country, and a handful of content providers who said their growing businesses were at risk under the status quo.

“Big telecom just lost – and it lost because millions of grassroots activists spoke out for net neutrality,” said Becky Bond, Political Director and Vice President of CREDO Mobile, a phone company that has raised more than $78 million for progressive groups including the ACLU, Planned Parenthood, Electronic Frontier Foundation, and Color of Change. “Today’s vote marks the culmination of over a decade of organizing to protect the Internet from corporate takeover.”  

“Republicans in Congress will no doubt spend years trying to roll back the progress we made today,” she continued. “But today’s vote makes clear that telecom giants and their allies in Congress should expect fierce and overwhelming resistance when they attack the open Internet.”

The FCC’s vote is another progressive victory under the Obama administration, which, until recently, has underwhelmed activists on the left. It follows the White House veto of the Keystone XL pipeline, and executive orders to protect more than 4 million undocumented immigrants from deportation. In all those cases, Republicans in Congress have vowed to fight and reverse Obama’s actions.

The net neutrality fight is no different. In recent days on Capitol Hill, Republicans tried to intimidate the FCC from issuing the new net neutrality rules, accusing the FCC of every imaginable capitalist sin, and saying this fight will continue in court or would be reversed the next time the FCC has a majority of GOP appointees.

At a House hearing Wednesday, the FCC’s new rules were called “Obamacare for the Internet.” A parade of witnesses, mostly from the biggest …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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Banksy Puts Up New Works Amidst the Bombed-Out Ruins of Palestine

February 26, 2015 in Blogs

By Kali Holloway, AlterNet

The artist offers a satirically upbeat travelogue of the devastation in Gaza.

Street artist Banksy posted photos and a short film on his website of works he recently put up in the streets of Palestine. In the aforementioned mini-documentary, the artist offers a satirical travelogue of Gaza’s bombed-out ruins.

One photograph depicts a Banksy mural of a kitten. The UK artist includes a caption:

“A local man came up and said 'Please – what does this mean?' I explained I wanted to highlight the destruction in Gaza by posting photos on my website – but on the internet people only look at pictures of kittens.”

The video, satirically titled “‪Make this the year YOU discover a new destination,” features onscreen text welcoming viewers to Gaza and observations such as “Locals like it so much they never leave (Because they’re not allowed to)” and “Development opportunities are everywhere (No cement has been allowed into Gaza since the bombing).”

This is the second time Banksy has posted work in Palestine. In 2005, the artist left a series of images on the West Bank Wall.

You can check out the mini-documentary and some of the most recent images below. To see all of the new pieces, visit Banksy’s website.

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Source: ALTERNET

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What Terrorists Are Really Angry About

February 26, 2015 in Economics

By John Mueller

John Mueller

We will not know for some time exactly why three men who were arrested on Wednesday in the United States wanted to join ISIS in Syria.

But what we do know is that it has become common, even routine, to argue that there exists a process by which potential terrorists become “radicalized.” The concept, which has become something of a buzzword, suggests that the central motivation for terrorist violence is ideological.

However, Islamist terrorists in the West have generally been set off not so much by anything theoretical but rather by intense outrage at American and Israeli actions in the Middle East and by a burning desire to seek revenge, to get back, to defend, and/or to make a violent statement expressing their hostility to what they see as a war on Islam.

Perhaps the most prominent motivating force is anger at U.S. foreign policy.”

This can be seen in the story of one of the shooters in the Charlie Hebdo attack in Paris. If he was “radicalized” by anything, it was by news about the way prisoners were being treated by the United States at Abu Ghraib in Iraq. He spent years trying to get to Iraq to fight the Americans there, finally finding a target closer to home.

The same observation arises when one looks over a collection of case studies of terrorists or would-be terrorists who have sought to do damage in the United States. The overwhelming driving force in these cases has been simmering, and more commonly boiling, outrage at American foreign policy.

It was not that the plotters in these cases were motivated solely by a coherent ideology or had a burning urge to spread Islam and Sharia law or to establish caliphates. Rather, it was the desire to protect their religion against what they perceived to be a concentrated war upon it in the Middle East by the United States government and military.

At the same time, these cases — from the shoe-bomber to the underwear bomber — show that there is remarkably little hostility to American culture or society. For example, the infamous Times Square bomber, a Pakistani-American who tried to blow up a car in New York, specifically mentioned U.S. drone strikes that killed civilians in Pakistan. The Boston Marathon bombers, similarly, explicitly cited the U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan as motivating factors. Almost none of the terrorists or would be …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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Avatar Director James Cameron Opening Up America's First Vegan School

February 26, 2015 in Blogs

By Kali Holloway, AlterNet

In addition to blockbusters, the director says he's focusing on getting kids to eat “the right thing” to aid the planet.

James Cameron – best known for directing “Aliens,” “Titanic,” “Terminator 2” and “Avatar” – is now behind the launch of America’s first vegan school. Cameron’s wife, Suzy, and her sister Rebecca, launched the MUSE School back in 2006. Now, the school is converting its menus to exclude all animal-derived foods. But the director is shying away from the word “vegan” in describing the new direction.

“Plant-based eating – meaning the meals that are served at Muse will be 100 percent plant-based,” Cameron reportedly told the Hollywood Reporter.“The average person would say vegan, but we say whole food, plant-based. It’s about raising kids who don’t think it’s strange or exotic or worthy of a pat on the back to be doing the right thing for the living biosphere.”

The MUSE school is located in Malibu Canyon, which sounds about right. According to its website, it has an early childhood program “devoted to children ages 2.3 years to 4.9 years,” which seems very precise. There’s also a middle and high school. 

 

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Source: ALTERNET

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Common Core Confusion: Blame Supporters

February 26, 2015 in Economics

By Neal McCluskey

Neal McCluskey

As students across the country head into Common Core testing, a new poll reveals that Americans are confused about what, exactly, the Core is. But don’t blame them. Blame Core advocates, whose rush to install nationwide curriculum standards has left Americans befuddled and angry.

What is the Core? Supposedly, just reading and math standards — basic guidelines about what students should be able to do — voluntarily adopted by states. But that is not how the public perceives it. According to a new Fairleigh Dickinson University poll, only 17 percent of Americans hold favorable opinions of the seemingly innocuous Core, and two-thirds think it covers specific content: at least one topic out of sex education, evolution, global warming, and the American Revolution.

Some of the public is misinformed. Unfortunately, that is in part because what Core advocates tell us is often quite misleading.

The way the Core became policy — rushed through the back door — made public understanding essentially impossible.”

Start by looking at what the pollsters — whose press release was very pro-Core — assert. While it is true the Core does not explicitly tackle the four hot-button subjects mentioned above, it touches all of them, in one case forcefully. The English portion has sections on “literacy in history/social studies, science, and technical subjects,” and more explicitly says that students in grades 11 and 12 will “analyze … U.S. documents of historical and literary significance … including the Declaration of Independence … for their themes, purposes, and rhetorical features.” Inextricably connected to the “themes” and “purposes” of the Declaration is, of course, the American Revolution. Yet the pollsters suggest it is flat wrong to think the Core includes this topic.

Then there are those national Common Core-aligned tests millions of students are facing. If they ask about global warming or sex education, those topics essentially become Core content.

The Core is not simply guidelines, but content, and that is without even mentioning the math standards, which are much more specific when it comes to dictating material than the reading standards.

Of course, the average person — with a job, family, and countless political issues vying for his or her attention — has little time to research any given topic, so some confusion is to be expected. But the way the Core became policy — rushed through the back door — made public understanding essentially impossible.

The key was the 2009 …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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Libya: Hold Policymakers Accountable for another Washington War Gone Bad

February 26, 2015 in Economics

By Doug Bandow

Doug Bandow

Will America ever again be at peace? A new war always seems to start before the last one ends. The U.S. is bombing targets in Syria and sending troops back into Iraq. Yet Washington’s involvement in Afghanistan persists as the administration considers slowing the withdrawal of American forces.

Worse, pressure is building for the U.S. again to intervene in Libya. It took a decade before the sectarian flames fed by the invasion of Iraq exploded into the Islamic State. It took less than three years for the administration’s intervention in Libya to create similarly spectacular blowback. Observed Glenn Greenwald, “Libya has rapidly unraveled in much the way Iraq did following that invasion: swamped by militia rule, factional warfare, economic devastation, and complete lawlessness.” The country of Libya has ceased to exist.

This debacle offers a clear lesson for American policymakers. But denizens of Washington never learn from the past. Indeed, Samantha Power, one of the most consistent advocates of a militarized foreign policy, complained that “one has to be careful about overdrawing lessons” from failed interventions. In her view the fact that America’s constant wars have resulted in constant failures—and constant pressure to intervene again to confront the new problems created—is no reason to be more careful in the future.

Like many presidents in other conflicts, Barack Obama lied the American people into war. The administration presented the issue as one of humanitarian intervention, to save the people of Benghazi from slaughter. Moammar Khadafy, administration officials claimed, threatened murder and mayhem if he recaptured the city.

Alas, the consequences will linger for years if not decades.”

Ironically, for decades the West did not take his rants seriously; only when they thought it to their advantage did the U.S. and Europe react. Although he was a nasty character, he had slaughtered no one when his forces reclaimed other territory. In Benghazi he only threatened those who had taken up arms against him. In fact, the allies never believed their rhetoric. They immediately shifted their objective from civilian protection to regime change, providing just enough military support to upend the balance of forces but not enough to quickly oust him. The world’s greatest alliance allowed the low-tech civil war to burn for months, killing thousands. Some humanitarian operation.

Still, the chief advocates of what has come to be called Hillary’s war claimed success. Anne-Marie Slaughter, formerly with the Obama State Department, authored …read more

Source: OP-EDS