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Chill Out! Trevor Noah's Alleged 'Anti-Semitic' and 'Sexist' Tweets Aren't Fireable Offenses

March 31, 2015 in Blogs

By Terrell Jermaine Starr, AlterNet

Let's see how he does his new job, not overreact to jokes he tweeted five years ago!

So, Trevor Noah thumbed out a few tweets about Jewish people and women years ago that are making people so upset that they are calling for his job? Please. Get over yourselves, people.

I saw the tweets in question, which you can read at BuzzFeed, and I understand why some women and people in the Jewish community would be upset. People are arguing that they show he has questionable views about women and Jewish people. Maybe. Maybe not. But the calls for Comedy Central to rescind its offer to Noah to host The Daily Show because of those tweets smells of self-important arrogance and knee-jerk emotions that suggest that people are never allowed to make mistakes (If, in fact, you consider those tweets as mistakes—I don’t) and grow from them.

For starters, some may argue that some of the tweets that people are objecting to aren’t all that offensive, like the June 2, 2010 one that reads, “South Africa knows how to recycle like Israel knows how to be peaceful.” That strikes a lot of people as true, and not anti-Semitic, though it does criticizes both Israel, and South Africa. Accurately. Who hasn’t accused Israel of being a war-mongering bully against Palestine, by the way? Black people who have traveled to Israel have reported on the inequality that exists between Palestinians and Israelis and there a healthy number of critics who view Israel as an American-backed bully of Palestinians, so that tweet can hardly be considered anti-semitic.  And because that one tweet doesn’t provide enough context, I find it hard to believe that he hates Jewish people. I just don’t see it. But don't get me started about South Africa and recycling. (Gee, no one got upset about that part it it.)

Now, the one dated Jan. 25, 2012, where Noah tweets, “Messi gets the ball and the real players try to foul him, but Messi doesn’t go down easy, just like Jewish chicks” can be …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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Sens. Paul, Grassley Introduce Fuel Choice and Deregulation Act of 2015

March 31, 2015 in Politics & Elections

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senators Rand Paul (R-KY) and Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) last week introduced the Fuel Choice and Deregulation Act of 2015. This legislation will remove Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) impediments to market competition and innovation in America’s transportation fuel market. ‘The EPA’s onerous regulation of fuels is artificially limiting options for consumers and producers and preventing the adoption of new fuel options that could benefit our environment, our economy, and our energy security. Through competition and consumer choice, my bill will free fuel producers and automobile manufacturers to innovate and bring new products to market that can lower costs to consumers, increase domestic energy production, and benefit the environment.’ Sen. Paul said. ‘Consumers appreciate having choices, whether it’s at the grocery store or the fuel pump,’ Sen. Grassley said. ‘Those of us who live in biofuels-producing states like Iowa understand the appeal of cleaner, domestic, renewable fuels. The EPA should be consistent in the way it treats different fuel blends as a matter of fairness and to give consumers more options for fueling their vehicles. The EPA has never acted on its authority to grant a waiver for E15. This bill proposes a legislative fix to fill the void.’ Supporters of the Fuel Choice and Deregulation Act of 2015 include: Renewable Fuels Association (RFA), Growth Energy, Commonwealth Agri-Energy, and the U.S. Energy Security Council. ‘Securing parity with respect to fuel volatility regulation for E10 and E15 is critical to the expansion of E15 in the marketplace. The RFA believes EPA has the regulatory authority to do that without new legislation. But legislation compelling Agency action such as Senator Paul’s Fuel Choice and Deregulation Act underscores the need to achieve parity by any means necessary, and we applaud and support his effort. Without it, refiners will continue to deny gasoline marketers the specially tailored blendstocks they would need to sell E15 in the summer months. At the end of the day, however, the most important means of assuring fuel choice for consumers would be the successful implementation of the RFS as intended by a bipartisan Congress in 2007,’ said Bob Dinneen, President and CEO of Renewable Fuels Association. ‘We certainly support efforts by Senator Paul and Senator Grassley to remove a major hurdle preventing consumers the opportunity to purchase higher blends such as E15. This has been a major obstacle ever since Growth Energy …read more

Source: RAND PAUL

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Russell Brand: 'The Reason Fox News Can’t Talk About Mental Illness Is Because Fox News Causes It'

March 31, 2015 in Blogs

By Scott Kaufman, Raw Story

Fox's coverage of Germanwings crash, just as ignorant as you'd expect!

On the latest episode of The Trews, British comedian and activist Russell Brand discussed the crash of a Germanwings plane and the media’s rush to blame it on the suicidal captain.

He engages in a dialogue with a Neil Cavuto monologue in which the Fox News host speculates about the pilot’s motivations.

“In a way,” Brand says, “this is the perfect Fox News story, because there’s no way of knowing for certain what were the motivations — and in that gap of ignorance, there’s room for tremendous fear and great propaganda.”

After Cavuto links the pilot’s actions to ISIS fighters and Adolf Hitler, about whom Brand says, “you know, some work’s been done on the subject of Hitler, and it turns out that at that anti-Semitism was widespread and German nationalism was on the rise because of social and economic conditions.”

“So in a way, Adolf Hitler is a good example — one lone madman cannot personally be responsible for a genocide. He requires the correct conditions, and the correct conditions were created as a result of the First World War, widespread anti-Semitism across Europe.”

After discussing at length how much Fox News benefits from having a Hitler-like figure to blame in order to avoid having to address the larger social conditions that make such a person possible, Brand addresses how convenient it is for Fox to be able to pin responsibility for atrocities on mental illness.

“If you try to think,” Brand says, “‘Why did this nutty pilot nuttily crash his plane into a mountain?’ then it’s really hard to come up with answers, let alone solutions.” He then discusses how suicide is now the biggest killer of young men in Britain, and how half of Americans have dealt with a serious bout of mental illness. 

“Why are we living in a time of a mental illness plague?” Brand asks, then answers his own question, saying “the reason Fox News can’t be honest about what causes mental illness is because Fox News is what causes mental illness.”

“Fox News is …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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Barney Frank's Biggest Bombshell: His Shocking Anecdote About the Financial Crisis

March 31, 2015 in Blogs

By David Dayen, Salon

Ever wonder why we waited six years to get a decent economic recovery? This new revelation will disgust you.

Barney Frank has a new autobiography out. He’s long been one of the nation’s most quotable politicians. And Washington lives in perpetual longing for intra-party conflict.

So why has a critical revelation from Frank’s book, one that implicates the most powerful Democrat in the nation, been entirely expunged from the record? The media has thus far focused on Frank’s wrestling with being a closeted gay congressman, or his comment that Joe Biden “can’t keep his mouth shut or his hands to himself.” But nobody has focused on Frank’s allegation that Barack Obama refused to extract foreclosure relief from the nation’s largest banks, as a condition for their receipt of hundreds of billions of dollars in bailout money.

The anecdote comes on page 295 of “Frank,” a title that the former chair of the House Financial Services Committee holds true to throughout the book. The TARP legislation included specific instructions to use a section of the funds to prevent foreclosures. Without that language, TARP would not have passed; Democratic lawmakers who helped defeat TARP on its first vote cited the foreclosure mitigation piece as key to their eventual reconsideration.

TARP was doled out in two tranches of $350 billion each. The Bush administration, still in charge during TARP’s passage in October 2008, used none of the first tranche on mortgage relief, nor did Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson use any leverage over firms receiving the money to persuade them to lower mortgage balances and prevent foreclosures. Frank made his anger clear over this ignoring of Congress’ intentions at a hearing with Paulson that November. Paulson argued in his defense, “the imminent threat of financial collapse required him to focus single-mindedly on the immediate survival of financial institutions, no matter how worthy other goals were.”

Whether or not you believe that sky-is-falling narrative, Frank kept pushing for action on foreclosures, which by the end of 2008 threatened one in 10 homes in America. With the first tranche of TARP funds running out by …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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Why Is Social Media Protecting Men from Periods, Breast Milk and Body Hair?

March 31, 2015 in Blogs

By Jessica Valenti, The Guardian

Are men really that delicate?

There’s a predictable social media formula for what women’s pictures online should look like. Breasts in barely-there bikinis are good (thumbs-up emoji, even), but breasts with babies attached them are questionable. Women wearing next to nothing is commonplace, but if you’re over a size 10 youraccount may be banned. Close-up shots of women’s asses and hardly-covered vaginas are fine, so long as said body parts are hairless.

And now, in a controversy that once again brings together technology, art, feminism and sex, Instagram is under fire for removing a self-portrait from artist Rupi Kaur that showed a small amount of her menstrual blood. Apparently having a period violates the site’s Terms of Service. 

The broader message to women couldn’t be clearer: SeXXXy images are appropriate, but images of women’s bodies doing normal women body things are not. Or, to put a more crass point on it: Only pictures of women who men want to fuck, please.

As Kaur pointed out on her Tumblr account, Instagram is filled with pictures of underage girls who are “objectified” and “pornified.”

“I will not apologize for not feeding the ego and pride of misogynist society that will have my body in underwear but not be okay with a small leak,” she wrote.

Because, truly, it’s difficult to imagine women being offended by pictures of breastfeeding, unkempt bikini lines or period blood – that’s a standard Monday for a lot of us. It’s men that social media giants are “protecting” – men who have grown up on sanitized and sexualized images of female bodies. Men who have been taught to believe by pop culture, advertising and beyond that women’s bodies are there for them. And if they have to see a woman that is anything other than thin, hairless and ready for sex – well, bring out the smelling salts. 

As Kaur wrote: …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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What the Frack Is Happening? Hailing the Major Activist Victories in the Anti-Fracking Movement

March 31, 2015 in Blogs

By Reynard Loki, AlterNet

From the aggressive anti-fracking moves in Maryland to a statewide ban in New York, the anti-fracking movement is alive and well.

The nation's first federal regulations on fracking, unveiled by the Obama administration last week, sparked immediate criticism from leading anti-fracking activists.

Americans Against Fracking, a coalition of 250 environmental and liberal groups that includes Greenpeace, 350.org, MoveOn.org, CREDO, Food & Water Watch, Rainforest Action Network and Friends of the Earth, issued a statement characterizing the new rules—meant chiefly to reduce the threat of fracking-related water contamination—as “toothless.”

Actor and activist Mark Ruffalo, who serves on the Americans Against Fracking advisory board, said that Obama's fracking regulations “are nothing more than a giveaway to the oil and gas industry.” The group's goal is a complete fracking ban on federal land, where as many as 100,00 oil and gas wells have been drilled.

The new rules apply only to oil and gas drilling on federal lands, which represent about 25 percent of the national fossil fuel output and only some 10 percent of the nation's fracking. The rules don't apply to drilling on private or state-owned land. Currently, fracking occurs in 22 states.

Since states are responsible for regulating most of the fracking in the U.S., the anti-fracking battlefield—a patchwork of communities around the nation taking a stand to protect their air, water and soil–is understandably a bit fractured. With that in mind, here's a brief look around the country at some recent fracktivist highlights at the state and local level.

California

February 6. Over 8,000 activists gathered in Oakland for the March for Real Climate Leadership, the largest anti-fracking demonstration in U.S. history.

February 24. Bolstered by an admission by California state regulators that oil companies are disposing toxic waste into protected aquifers in violation of the federal Safe Drinking Water Act, more than 150 environmental and community groups filed a legal petition urging the governor to use his emergency powers to place a moratorium on fracking.

March 20. California state Senator Fran Pavley (D-Agoura Hills) and other lawmakers sent a letter to Gov. Jerry Brown urging him to “<a target=_blank href="http://feeds.feedblitz.com/~/t/0/0/alternet/~www.biologicaldiversity.org/programs/public_lands/energy/dirty_energy_development/oil_and_gas/pdfs/Pavley_sign_on_ltr_to_Gov_Injec.pdf" …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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Rates on Hold as Fed Bows to Wall Street and Washington

March 31, 2015 in Economics

By James A. Dorn

James A. Dorn

The biggest story coming out of the latest meeting of the Federal Open Market Committee is that Federal Reserve Chairwoman Janet Yellen does not want to take away the punch bowl, yet. The Fed continues to play to the tune of Wall Street and Washington by stoking asset bubbles, allocating credit, using monetary means to achieve fiscal ends, financing federal debt on the cheap, undermining the incentive to save and ultimately destroying capital.

Yellen is opposed to a congressionally mandated audit of the Fed and to any type of monetary rule. She favors pure discretion and worries that making monetary policy subject to greater congressional oversight would weaken the Fed’s independence and politicize monetary policy.

The truth is the Fed has gained substantial power since the 2008 financial crisis and used that power to politicize the allocation of credit. It has suppressed interest rates for more than six years and used quantitative easing to expand its balance sheet to more than US$ 4.5 trillion. Wall Street expects the Fed to support asset prices, and the Fed has complied; Washington expects low rates to persist, and the Fed has complied.

Capital is being destroyed because when the Federal Reserve has been asked to support asset prices and keep rates low, it has complied.”

In its March 18 statement, the Federal Open Market Committee noted that “even after employment and inflation are near mandate-consistent levels, economic conditions may, for some time, warrant keeping the target federal funds rate below levels the Committee views as normal in the longer run.”

Moreover, in her press conference, Yellen calmed investors by noting that “Just because we removed the word patient from the statement doesn’t mean we are going to be impatient.” The U.S. stock markets cheered, as did government officials who recognize that any rise in interest rates could be catastrophic for public finances, from the federal to the municipal level.

Meanwhile, savers continue to suffer from negative real interest rates. The longer-term consequence is to reduce saving and investment, and thus slow economic growth. Negative rates also have a devastating impact on pension funds. Meanwhile, the federal government continues to secure cheap credit at the expense of more productive private investment.

The politicization of monetary policy has eroded the Fed’s independence. More important, Yellen’s opposition to a rules-based monetary regime, or even to an audit, ignores the fact that Congress has the constitutional authority …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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Restrictive Banking Policies Lead to Low Growth

March 31, 2015 in Economics

By Steve H. Hanke

Steve H. Hanke

We are still in the grip of the Great Recession. Economic growth remains anaemic and below its trend rate in most parts of the world. And what’s more, this state of subdued economic activity has been with us for more than seven years.

True to form, central bankers have steadfastly denied any culpability for creating the bubbles that so spectacularly burst during the panic of 2008-09. What’s more, they have repeatedly told us that they have saved us from a Great Depression.

To understand why, we need look no further than Milton Friedman.

In a 1975 book of essays in honour of Friedman, Gordon Tullock wrote: “On several occasions in my hearing (I don’t know whether it is in his writing or not but I have heard him say this a number of times) Milton Friedman has pointed out that one of the basic reasons for the good press the Federal Reserve Board has had for many years has been that the Federal Reserve Board is the source of 98 per cent of all writing on the Federal Reserve Board.”

Post-crisis growth is low because growth in broad money is well below its trend rate.”

Subsequent research found that, in 2002, 74 per cent of the articles on monetary policy published by US economists in US-edited journals appeared in Fed-sponsored publications, or were authored (or co-authored) by Fed staff economists.

The explanations of the Great Recession have been all over the map and surprisingly incoherent.

The literature — from Alan Greenspan’s 2013 book The Map and The Territory to the 2009 tome Animal Spirits by George Akerlof and Robert Shiller — is punctuated with a great deal of conjecture about changes in investors’ animal spirits and how these wrecked havoc during the Panic of 2008-09 and the ensuing Great Recession.

Much of this is borrowed from a recent fashion in economics — behavioural finance — but goes back to earlier theories of the business cycle that stress the importance of changes in business sentiment.

For example, members of the Cambridge School of Economics, which was founded by Alfred Marshall, all concluded that fluctuations in business confidence are the essence of the business cycle. John Maynard Keynes put great stress on changes in confidence and how they affected consumption and investment.

But this approach falls short of a full explanation of why economic activity remains so depressed. The monetary approach fills this void.

Tim Congdon — a master of …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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Why Petrostates Make Bad Allies

March 31, 2015 in Economics

In what the Obama administration describes as a “years-long” coalition effort to “degrade and destroy” ISIS, the United States has reentered conflict in the Middle East. The White House heralds its close cooperation with Arab allies, including a number of petrostates such as Saudi Arabia and Qatar, describing their cooperation as vital to the success of the campaign.  But a new paper by Cato scholar Emma Ashford argues that the idiosyncrasies of oil-rich states make them poor partners for the United States.

…read more

Source: CATO HEADLINES

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Should Libertarian Party members support Rand Paul?

March 31, 2015 in Blogs

By Political Zach Foster

Should members of the Libertarian Party support Rand Paul this election season? It’s a question making its rounds among Libertarians and libertarian Republicans. The answer to that question depends on a person’s conscience.

If you want an answer from me, folks, I’d say yes. It’s my opinion that Libertarians should stand with our brothers and sisters in the Republican Liberty Caucus, for the simple reason that Rand Paul’s message will advance the libertarian cause. For me, this is above Party loyalty—I left the Republican Party because “Party loyalty” doesn’t fly with me.

Not everybody in the LP will agrees with me on this, and I’m at peace with that. I understand the Party will run its own presidential candidate or risk irreparable weakness of the organization. Party members and other alienated voters will vote for that candidate, and they have every right to do so.

My personal strategy walks the line between the LP and RLC. I’ve been a dues-paying LP member since March of 2014, but I’m still registered to vote as a Republican. I’ll hold onto my GOP registration (and hold my nose in the meantime) so I can vote for Rand in the primary election. The minute my vote is cast, I’m changing my voter registration to Libertarian.

Regardless of Rand making it to the general election (God willing he does), I’m changing my registration the minute my primary vote is cast or the minute he ceases to be a presidential candidate—whichever comes first.

Yes, I understand that Rand Paul is not libertarian. He never claimed to be—we just wanted him to be. But his old-school brand of Goldwater conservatism contains enough libertarianism that his presidential candidacy would be an asset to the liberty movement.

Who else filibustered for 13 hours over the government assassinating American citizens? Who keeps introducing Audit the Fed into the Senate? How many ranking Republicans have been saying that national defense probablyshouldn’t involve going to war just for the hell of it?

Even his most recent stunt …read more

Source: ZACH FOSTER RANTS