Newly discovered human bones prove the first permanent British settlers in North America turned to cannibalism over the cruel winter of 1609-10, US researchers have said.
The CIA’s drone campaign in Pakistan has killed dozens of civilians who had gone to help rescue victims or were attending funerals, an investigation by the Bureau for the Sunday Times has revealed.
The findings are published just days after President Obama claimed that the drone campaign in Pakistan was a “targeted, focused effort” that “has not caused a huge number of civilian casualties”… .
A three month investigation including eye witness reports has found evidence that at least 50 civilians were killed in follow-up strikes when they had gone to help victims. More than 20 civilians have also been attacked in deliberate strikes on funerals and mourners. The tactics have been condemned by leading legal experts.
Although the drone attacks were started under the Bush administration in 2004, they have been stepped up enormously under Obama.
There have been 260 attacks by unmanned Predators or Reapers in Pakistan by Obama’s administration – averaging one every four days.
As I indicated, there have been scattered, mostly buried indications in the American media that drones have been targeting and killing rescuers. As the Bureau put it: “Between May 2009 and June 2011, at least fifteen attacks on rescuers were reported by credible news media, including the New York Times, CNN, Associated Press, ABC News and Al Jazeera.” Killing civilians attending the funerals of drone victims is also well-documented by the Bureau’s new report:
In the US, 56 percent of terrorist attacks and plots have been perpetrated by right-wing extremists, 30 percent by eco-terrorists and 12 percent by Islamic extremists. The Southern Poverty Law Center recently reported the highest number of extremist hate groups ever recorded in US history, with the sharp rise attributed to massive growths in white supremacist, anti-immigrant and radical anti-government groups. Anti-Muslim hate groups have also increased by 300 percent.
The billionaire oil moguls Charles and David Koch are pushing ahead with their plans to purchase several news outlets across the United States, according to a detailed report in the New York Times on Sunday. At a recent seminar in Aspen, one attendee reported that the brothers — infamous for bankrolling conservative candidates and causes […]
According to a forthcoming study in the Drake Law Reviewby Richard Hasen, a law professor at the University of California, Irvine, we are experiencing “the largest and most uniform gap in the ideological orientation and voting patterns in the Senate and the House of Representatives in modern times.” Keith Poole of the University of Georgia and Howard Rosenthal of New York University analyzed decades of data and discovered that Republicans have moved approximately six times as far rightward as Democrats have leftward in recent decades (and the Democratic drift is due almost entirely to the collapse of the Southern conservative wing of the party). The respected pollster Andrew Kohut reports: “In my decades of polling, I recall only one moment when a party had been driven as far from the center as the Republican Party has been today,” referring to the Nixon landslide against George McGovern in 1972.
Writing in Politico of all places, Scot Faulkner, personnel director for the Reagan/Bush campaign in 1980, and Jonathan Riehl, former speechwriter for the right-wing Luntz Global consulting firm, recently complained of the corrosive effects of a “Republican world view that was devoid of facts and critical thinking,” combined with the creation of “a new self-perpetuating political echo chamber.” This follows on the remarks by longtime Republican congressional staffer Mike Lofgren, who noted two years ago that “the Republican Party is becoming less and less like a traditional political party in a representative democracy and becoming more like an apocalyptic cult, or one of the intensely ideological authoritarian parties of 20th century Europe.” And respected scholars Thomas Mann and Norman Ornstein announced last year that “The GOP has become an insurgent outlier in American politics. It is ideologically extreme; scornful of compromise; unmoved by conventional understanding of facts, evidence and science; and dismissive of the legitimacy of its political opposition.”
Yet the pundits ignore all of the above because they prefer to spout their bullshit about the behavior of “both sides” free from the constraint of actual evidence. The very serious Jonathan Rauch ofNational Journaland the Brookings Institution wrote in 2010: “In the last two decades, a strong and persistent pattern has emerged, one that will dominate our politics for some time to come, because it is rooted in two important political realities. First, the public strongly prefers divided government. Second, it has every reason to.” Alas, when Rauch says “the public,” what he really means is “Jonathan Rauch and his pundit friends.” In reality, Hasen notes, barely 30 percent of voters said they favored divided government in a poll taken the same year, as opposed to 66 percent who did not. Just 18.5 percent of voters chose to split their tickets in 2012. This is down from a rate of roughly 30 percent in the 1960s and 1970s.
How does he get away with spouting such nonsense and retain his position as a Very Important Pundit? As his fellow VIP, Matt Bai of The New York Times, brags: “Generally speaking, political writers don’t think so much of political scientists, either, mostly because anyone who has ever actually worked in or covered politics can tell you that, whatever else it may be, a science isn’t one of them.” Alas, to judge by the willingness of so many in the mainstream media to parrot the nonsensical arguments of Tea Party Republicans, not even science is “science” anymore. And therein lies our problem.
Despite winning a minority of the votes, Republicans control the House of Representatives, through ruthless tactics that mirror strategies from a century ago.
In the modern age, gerrymandering has made a mockery out of representative democracy, creating congressional districts that twist and turn to ensure partisan domination. Pennsylvania, a state that voted for Obama by 5 percentage points in the last election, elected only 5 Democrats out of 18 congressional districts because of the district lines drawn by Governor Tom Corbett and his allies in the legislature. Ohio, Virginia, Michigan, and Florida are other examples of dramatically undemocratic lines crafted to allow Republicans to capture more seats than they ordinarily could. According to ThinkProgress, Democrats would have to win 7 percent of the popular vote in order to win a slim majority in the House of Representatives under the current gerrymandered system.
And who can we thank for casting a shadow over the legitimacy of our Congress? Devon Energy, Altria Group, Wynn Resorts, ETC Capital, Wal-Mart Stories, Citigroup, Koch Industries, AT&T, Comcast, ExxonMobil, Eli Lilly, and other large firms that helped finance the Republican State Leadership Committee, the GOP committee that masterminded the current gerrymander.
Why are corporate profits so high? One reason is that companies are paying employees less than they ever have as a share of GDP. And that, in turn, is one reason the economy is so weak: Those “wages” are represent spending power for consumers. And consumer spending is “revenue” for other companies. So the profit obsession is actually starving the rest of the economy of revenue growth.
Source: Barna Group
When it became a British colony, the majority of Canada’s population was of French origin — and the French inhabitants hated the British government.
So to keep the colony firmly within the Empire, British policymakers steered toward a government structure that would limit the power of the French-majority while also giving Canada more and more self-government. The eventual result was a highly-centralized federal government which controlled economic policy making and had built-in buffers for banker interests against populist forces, the paper argues.
That anti-populist political system — known in political science as liberal constitutionalism or liberal democracy — is a key ingredient in Canada’s stable banking track record, Mr. Calomiris contends in his paper, which is a summary of a much longer book he’s written with Stephen Haber due out in September. That’s because this kind of political system makes it difficult for political majorities to gain control of the banking system for their own purposes, the authors contend.
Populist democracies like the U.S., on the other hand, tend to create dysfunctional banking systems because a majority of citizens gain control over banking regulation that steers credit to themselves and to their friends at the expense of the citizens that are excluded from the banking system, he said.
Source: Wall Street Journal
Only 2% to 5% of all books published in the United States come from a non-English source. While some foreign authors publish their works in English, most of them don’t, which means we’re totally unexposed to the overwhelming majority of the world’s literature.
US publishers claim that translations would cost too much, and that Americans aren’t interested in foreign literature.
But this raises an issue of causality: is this lack of interest the reason why publishers don’t bother translating non-English material? Or is it the lack of such publishing that causes or facilitates of our disinterest?
I suspect it is a little bit of both. Furthermore, one could argue that this is a consequence of our cultural and political hegemony: American culture is ubiquitous across the world, while comparatively little of the world’s culture makes inroads here (at least not in the mainstream). Perhaps this is because our dominant position in the world (real or perceived) makes learning about other cultures seem redundant or unnecessary. Our geographic size and relative isolation also presumably breeds a sense of insularity.
Regardless, I find this very unfortunate — though all the more reason to learn a foreign language. The free exchange of ideas, insights, and concepts — many of which exist only certain cultures and languages — is vital to a free and prosperous society.
The CDC reports that America’s total out-of-pocket drug costs exceeded $45 billion in 2011. The high cost of drugs hits low-income and uninsured Americans the hardest. Nearly 25 percent of uninsured people didn’t take their prescription drugs as recommended in 2011, compared to about 19 percent of privately-insured people and 15 percent of those on Medicaid. And compared to wealthier Americans, poor and near-poor Americans were twice as likely to skip out on their medication in order to save money. A recent report estimated that not sticking to prescription drugs are contributing to billions of dollars in wasteful medical spending.
Cuban-American U.S. Representatives Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Mario Diaz-Balart requested information about [Beyonce’s trip to Cuba] from the Treasury Department, suggesting a possible violation of the U.S. policy to isolate Cuba. How has the policies of a great democratic power like the U.S. fallen into the hands of such a paranoid and intolerant bunch?
Meanwhile adolescents ask their parents where Cuba is and why can’t they go to this country with such good music and beautiful people and beaches if it’s only 90 miles away. If the U.S. is not a communist country, why does it restrict the rights of its citizens to travel? Most people in the U.S. would be shocked by the irrationality of U.S. policy toward Cuba, anchored in the cold war.
The Beyonce effect is a call to take a fresh look at the U.S. policy toward Cuba with the candidness of an adolescent. It is difficult to defend a policy that stomps on the same rights it preaches. Since the migratory reforms made by Cuba in January, that eliminated most of the restrictions on travel from the totalitarian period, Cubans, under a communist regime have fewer legal impediments to visiting the U.S. than U.S. citizens have to visiting Cuba.
It is time to align our policies with our principles. As President Kennedy said before the Brandenburg Gate at the climax of the Cold War, “Freedom has many difficulties and democracy is not perfect, but we have never had to put a wall up to keep our people in, to prevent them from leaving us” and as his brother Bobby wrote in a memo to Secretary of State Dean Rusk on December 12, 1963, urging an end to the travel ban, the freedom to travel “is more consistent with our views as a free society and would contrast with such things as the Berlin Wall and communist controls on such travel.”
If Beyonce and Jay-Z visit President Obama in the future, they should remind him that he himself called the embargo an irrational policy that “only hurts the innocent people of Cuba.” At the very least, Obama should listen to a growing group of U.S. Congress members, lead by Representative Sam Farr (D-Calif.), who are again asking him to allow all categories of non-tourist travel to be carried out under a general license. This would remove bureaucratic obstacles that currently prevent many Americans, who are interested in people-to-people engagement, from visiting the island. Interacting with Cuba should not be a privilege exclusive to celebrities.
The proposed solution for a world that has become more dangerous only because the American president allowed it? “Leadership” — the alleged absence of which is based on the observation of the anonymous Obama adviser who famously told The New Yorker that the administration’s approach to Libya was one of “leading from behind.” Ever since, whenever a policymaker or pundit observes any foreign policy that they object to, they charge the White House with exercising insufficient leadership. The next time you read some pundit demanding more leadership abroad, there are several assumptions worth bearing in mind.
First, those who oppose current U.S. foreign policies are always the ones appealing for more leadership, though they rarely provide details about what should be done differently. There are no new strategic objectives, courses of action, or actionable policy recommendations that could plausibly achieve the desired outcome. Developing realistic policy alternatives is difficult and involves making judgments about what trade-offs to make and what risks to accept. But telling the president to simply “do more” is a lazy and completely safe charge, since it requires nothing from the accuser other than to repeatedly highlight that they haven’t gotten their way because of presidential inaction.
Second, leadership appeals also assume a wholly unrealistic presidential capability to compel U.S. allies and friends to adopt previously rejected policies. The world is, to quote the title of a recent Daniel Henninger op-ed, “Looking for Leadership” in Syria, North Korea, Iran, and Cyprus — “All these matters have been treated so far with degrees of U.S. diffidence.” The unstated belief here is that just a few more presidential phone calls or country visits would catalyze all the relevant stakeholders to selflessly and suddenly act in a coordinated manner to resolve persistent foreign policy challenges. Moreover, since these challenges have occurred only because of the willful neglect of the Oval Office, it is President Obama’s personal obligation to correct them.
Third, leadership appeals are often thinly veiled demands that the president authorize the use of military force. As Richard Cohen has argued in the Washington Post as to why the president should intervene in Syria’s civil war: “Without U.S. leadership, nothing happens. Our allies are incapable of leading because (1) they do not have the military wherewithal, and (2) they have forgotten how.” What the armed opposition in Syria, and allies who claim to support some sort of intervention, actually want is not Obama’s leadership, but the heavy weapons supplied by the CIA and the combat aircraft and cruise missiles that can only be delivered by the Pentagon. They want America’s unmatched capacity to destroy things and kill people to assure that Assad will fall. They don’t seek nor need America’s guidance to achieve it, just America’s might. Of course, opposition groupsrequest U.S. military intervention all the time, but since those demands go largely unreported, pundits rarely cry “leadership” for those conflicts.
Fourth, there is an assumption that only the American president is obliged to show the leadership required to solve collective action problems unfolding thousands of miles away. As Jackson Diehlwrote on Monday, “Not just Britain and France but every neighbor of Syria has been shocked and awed by the failure of U.S. leadership.” No pundit ever demands that those neighboring and nearby states — possessing vast military arsenals that could easily topple Assad, at somewhat greater risk than a U.S.-led intervention — show their own leadership. They are unanimous in their call for someone else to intervene (meaning the United States) to end the civil war, and pundits are soon convinced that this is the responsibility of Uncle Sam. Meanwhile, those same pundits never request that emerging powers in New Delhi, Brasilia, or Pretoria do anything regarding some foreign conflict. In Washington, America is forever the indispensable and manipulable nation.
Finally, many demanding greater leadership from President Obama are conditioned to believe that “leadership” is always the answer. The field of “leadership studies” and its supposed lessons are constantly jammed down the throats of graduate students at public policy, business, and law schools. In my five years in various low-level research positions at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, the message I saw constantly transmitted to students was that they were being formed into an elite cadre with the skills and temperament that would allow them to lead others to solve social and political problems wherever they emerged.
Too many House Republican districts are isolated in naturally homogeneous areas or gerrymandered ghettos, so elected officials there rarely hear — or see — the great and growing diversity of this country and the infusion of energy and ideas and art with which it enriches us. These districts produce representatives unaccountable to the confluence. And this will likely be the case for the next decade.
For instance, according to the Census Bureau, about 6 percent of Alaska’s population is Hispanic and just 3 percent is black. And Alaska is among the most Republican states in the union, according to a Gallup report issued last year.
Too many House Republicans have districts dominated by narrow, single-note, ideology-driven constituencies that see an ever expanding “them” threatening the heritage of a slowly shrinking “us.”
This defensive posture is what so poisons the Republicans’ presidential ambitions. Instead of embracing change, Republicans want to suspend or in some cases reverse it. But the principle articulated by the Greek philosopher Heraclitus rings true: the only thing constant is change.