Author Archive | Good German

Torture Is Who We Are

Elvert Barnes (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Elvert Barnes (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Peter Beinart writes at the Atlantic:

Torture, declared President Obama this week, in response to the newly released Senate report on CIA interrogation, is “contrary to who we are.” Maine Senator Angus King added that, “This is not America. This is not who we are.” According to Kentucky Congressman John Yarmuth, “We are better than this.”

No, actually, we’re not. There’s something bizarre about responding to a 600-page document detailing systematic U.S. government torture by declaring that the real America—the one with good values—does not torture. It’s exoneration masquerading as outrage. Imagine someone beating you up and then, when confronted with the evidence, declaring that “I’m not really like that” or “that wasn’t the real me.” Your response is likely to be some variant of: “It sure as hell seemed like you when your fist was slamming into my nose.” A country, like a person, is what it does.

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Ten Reasons Why I Don’t Have a Credit Card

Ralph Nader offers ten reasons why cash is better than plastic.  (Photo:  Sean MacEntee/flickr/cc)

Ralph Nader offers ten reasons why cash is better than plastic. (Photo: Sean MacEntee/flickr/cc)

Ralph Nader writes at Common Dreams:

At a recent American Antitrust Institute (AAI) symposium in Washington, D.C., I asked the presenters about the ability of cash and checks to compete with the credit card industry and its strict controls on merchants. This obvious point becomes less obvious when one takes into account the expanding exclusion of cash/check payments due to the overwhelming expansion of goods and services that you cannot buy unless you have a credit card or a friend with one whom you can reimburse.

When sending some types of express mail, renting a car, or paying for the services of airlines/trains or hotels, you either cannot pay with cash/check or it is a real hassle of inquiries and conditions. The overall trend is to limit more and more what legal tender can actually buy in America because of exclusionary fine print contracts (see faircontracts.org).

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Obama: America “Exceptional” So We Don’t Prosecute Torturers

Steve Rhodes (CC BY-ND 2.0)

Steve Rhodes (CC BY-ND 2.0)

Jon Queally writes at Common Dreams:

In his first official remarks following Tuesday’s release of the Senate Intelligence Committee’s report on the torture program conducted by the CIA during the presidency of George W. Bush, President Barack Obama on Tuesday night indicated that the abuses detailed in the report conducted in the name of the American people—described as “horrific,” “ruthless” and “much more brutal than previously thought”—should not be followed by further inquiries or prosecutions as many have long urged.

In his remarks, Obama acknowledged that “no nation is perfect,” but argued that “one of the strengths that makes America exceptional is our willingness to openly confront our past, face our imperfections, make changes and do better.”

Backed by his interpretation of “American Exceptionalism,” Obama suggested that the release of the report—which his administration fought tirelessly to restrict—was all that was necessary in order for the nation to move forward.

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The Problem With Hugs

Ruth Fowler writes at CounterPunch:

By now we’ve all seen the viral image of a teenage black boy, tears streaming down his face, hugging a white police officer in riot gear. The image, taken from a Ferguson protest in Portland, Oregon will doubtless become as iconic as the photograph of 17 year old Jan Rose Kasmir holding a flower up to the stony faces of the National Guard during a Vietnam war protest, or the unknown man standing alone in front of oncoming tanks in Tiananmen Square. The boy, Devonte Hart, has unwittingly become a symbol of hope and pacifism in the midst of growing fury over the failure of the Grand Jury to indict Darren Wilson for the murder of Mike Brown. It seems to suggest that if we all just stop for a moment, let down our guard, become human beings, show some love and face our own mortality, that this whole sorry mess might blow over.

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Ben Carson Stands by Comparison of U.S. To Nazi Germany

Gage Skidmore (CC BY-SA 3.0) http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/

Gage Skidmore (CC BY-SA 3.0)

Interesting, considering the CIA torture report, recent police killings of unarmed African Americans, and our international flying robot death squads, that Carson mentions Obamneycare and the IRS.  Alexandra Jaffe writes at CNN:

Neurosurgeon Ben Carson stood by his controversial comparison of the United States to Nazi Germany in an interview with CNN’s Wolf Blitzer on Wednesday.

Asked by Blitzer whether he would amend or take back his comments, Carson said “Absolutely not.”

Carson made the comments during a March interview with conservative news outlet Breitbart.com. He noted that the Third Reich was “using its tools to intimidate the population,” and said that “we now live in a society where people are afraid to say what they actually believe.”

In elaborating on those comments Wednesday, he again suggested that the U.S. “government is using instruments of government, like the IRS, to punish its opponents.”

Pressed by Blitzer on whether the comparison was appropriate, Carson argued his focus on the specific words was “part of the problem.”

“What you were doing is allowing words to affect you more than listening to what was actually being said.

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The Worst Industrial Disaster in the History of the World

Bhopal memorial for those killed and disabled by the 1984 toxic gas release.  Simone.lippi CC BY-SA 2.0

Bhopal memorial for those killed and disabled by the 1984 toxic gas release. Simone.lippi CC BY-SA 2.0

Siddhartha Deb writes at the Baffler:

“A caption: some kind of meteorite or alien visitation has led to the creation of a miracle: the Zone. Troops were sent in and never returned. It was surrounded by barbed wire and a police cordon.” —Zona, Geoff Dyer

The ruins of the Union Carbide pesticide factory lie in the very center of India, in the state of Madhya Pradesh, which means Middle State. There, in the capital city of Bhopal, inside the old city that sits across a lake from the new city, inside the crumbling but imposing fortress gates and beyond the twisting medieval alleyways and public squares, past makeshift shacks, scrubland, and slime-filled canals, surrounded by a boundary wall and guarded by a contingent of policemen, is the site of the worst industrial disaster in the history of the world.

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Assassination as Art? Or Simply Wrong?

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Gabriel Elizondo, writing at Al Jazeera in 2010:

What is art?

That is the question many Brazilians have been forced to ask themselves after the country’s most important alternative art show displayed nine drawings depicting the assassination of world leaders.

Each charcoal drawing shows the artist, Gil Vicente of Recife, Brazil, holding a weapon moments before assassinating a world leader.

The exhibition is titled “Enemies” and is seen in the photo above.

One drawing depicts Vicente, the artist, holding a knife to the throat of Brazilian President Lula da Silva. Others show the artist pointing a gun at Pope Benedict XVI, former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan and Queen Elizabeth. Many have their hands and feet bound by rope.

The first piece in the series, completed in 2005, is a drawing depicting former US President George W Bush being shot. The most recent drawing, completed this year, depicts Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

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Keystone XL Contractor Bribed Chinese Agency

Activists protest outside a building housing the offices of Environmental Resource Managers in Washington, D.C., July 26, 2013. (Creative Commons/2013 Walk For Our Grandchildren)

Activists protest outside a building housing the offices of Environmental Resource Managers in Washington, D.C., July 26, 2013. (Creative Commons/2013 Walk For Our Grandchildren via Canadian Business)

Steve Horn writes at CounterPunch:

Environmental Resources Management (ERM Group), the consultancy selected by TransCanada to conduct the environmental review for Keystone XL‘s northern leg on behalf of the U.S. State Department, is no stranger to scandal.

Exhibit A: ERM once bribed a Chinese official to ram through major pieces of an industrial development projectERM was tasked to push through the project in Hangzhou Bay, located near Shanghai.

Accepting the bribe landed Yan Shunjun, former deputy head of the Shanghai Municipal Environmental Protection Bureau, an 11-year prison sentence.

Yan “allegedly took bribes of 864,000 yuan (126,501 U.S. dollars), 20,000 U.S.dollars and 4,000 euros from seven contractors,” explained Xiuhuanet. “Yan was also accused of illegally setting up a channel to speed up environmental impact assessment processes, which are essential for companies wanting to build factories.”

BP, one of the companies standing to gain if Keystone XL North receives a presidential permit from the Obama administration as a major Alberta tar sands producer, was also mired in the Chinese ERM Group scandal.

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A Nation Built on the Rule of Lawlessness

Paul George (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Paul George (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Rick Salutin writes at the Toronto Star:

Barack Obama looked at his most clueless, responding to the riots and rage in Ferguson, Missouri. He hasn’t seemed so callow since the BP oil spill. Like he just wished it was over and could get on to the delights of his post-presidency. Or back to immigration reform and stalling that damn pipeline.

Using his slow voice, as if he’s explaining something so basic that it’s hard to understand, he declared that the U.S. is a “nation built on the rule of law” and added next day, he has “no sympathy” for those who go violent. The problem with this, at least for those in the streets, is the U.S. is not a nation of laws and resorts to official violence and/or illegality routinely.

In U.S. inner cities, this means surviving your dealings with cops. It is agony for a dad to tell his son, as Michael Brown Sr.

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Black Friday Brawl Videos Are How Rich People Shame the Poor

djLicious (CC BY 2.0)

djLicious (CC BY 2.0)

Luke O’Neil writes at the Washington Post:

The biggest movie in the country right now is “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1,” a film in which the ostentatiously wealthy people of Panem’s capital rule over the poorer districts from which tributes are selected each year to kill each other in a violent media spectacle. It’s a grotesque display in which the lives of the impoverished are offered up as entertainment for the comfortable.

It’s hard to see the film and not think of the way TV news has covered Black Friday. Consider the jocular hosts’ grinning affect as they relate news of brawls throughout the country in this clip from Fox & Friends First today, for example, or how numerous Web sites will round up the best brawl videos. As Yahoo News writes on the spread of Black Friday violence to Britain this year, “That means even more grown adults fighting over discounted underwear, and more opportunities to for us to gawk at them.” Or take this video of a fight inside of a Houston Wal-Mart.

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