Welcome to The Breakfast Club! We're a disorganized group of rebel lefties who hang out and chat if and when
we're not too hungover we've been bailed out we're not too exhausted from last night's (CENSORED) the caffeine kicks in. Join us every weekday morning at 9am (ET) and weekend morning at 10:30am (ET) to talk about current news and our boring lives and to make fun of LaEscapee! If we are ever running late, it's PhilJD's fault.
(Truth be told, friends, we're really not that disorganized; the fact that we've managed to put this series together and stick with it disabuses the notion that we're disorganized, right? Also, I wish I had a censored night once in awhile, but alas, this is something my producers made me say.)
This Day in History
I live in Seattle. We have a troll here, it lives under the Fremont Bridge. My troll. Let me show you it.
And at state and local levels, while the poorest fifth of Americans pay an average tax rate of over 11 percent, the richest one percent of the country pay — are you ready for this? — half that rate. Now, neither Nature nor Nature’s God drew up our tax codes; that’s the work of legislators — politicians — and it’s one way they have, as Chief Justice John Roberts might put it, of expressing gratitude to their donors: “Oh, Mr. Adelson, we so appreciate your generosity that we cut your estate taxes so you can give $8 billion as a tax-free payment to your heirs, even though down the road the public will have to put up $2.8 billion to compensate for the loss in tax revenue.”
All of which makes truly repugnant the argument, heard so often from courtiers of the rich, that inequality doesn’t matter. Of course it matters. Inequality is what has turned Washington into a protection racket for the one percent. It buys all those goodies from government: Tax breaks. Tax havens (which allow corporations and the rich to park their money in a no-tax zone). Loopholes. Favors like carried interest. And so on. As Paul Krugman writes in his New York Review of Books essay on Thomas Piketty’s Capital in the Twenty-First Century, “We now know both that the United States has a much more unequal distribution of income than other advanced countries and that much of this difference in outcomes can be attributed directly to government action.”
Recently, researchers at Connecticut’s Trinity College ploughed through the data and concluded that the US Senate is responsive to the policy preferences of the rich, ignoring the poor. And now there’s that big study coming out in the fall from scholars at Princeton and Northwestern universities, based on data collected between 1981 and 2002. Their conclusion: “America’s claims to being a democratic society are seriously threatened… The preferences of the average American appear to have only a minuscule, near-zero, statistically non-significant impact upon public policy.” Instead, policy tends “to tilt towards the wishes of corporations and business and professional associations.”
Watch video essay at this via Shutterstock
The United States is in the opening phase of a war on Russia.
Policymakers in Washington have shifted their attention from the Middle East to Eurasia where they hope to achieve the most ambitious part of the imperial project; to establish forward-operating bases along Russia’s western flank, to stop further economic integration between Asia and Europe, and to begin the long-sought goal of dismembering the Russian Federation. These are the objectives of the current policy. The US intends to spread its military bases across Central Asia, seize vital resources and pipeline corridors, and encircle China in order to control its future growth. The dust-up in Ukraine indicates that the starting bell has already been rung and the operation is fully-underway. As we know from past experience, Washington will pursue its strategy relentlessly while shrugging off public opinion, international law or the condemnation of adversaries and allies alike. The world’s only superpower does not have to listen to anyone. It is a law unto itself.
The pattern, of course, is unmistakable. It begins with sanctimonious finger-wagging, economic sanctions and incendiary rhetoric, and quickly escalates into stealth bombings, drone attacks, massive destruction of civilian infrastructure, millions of fleeing refugees, decimated towns and cities, death squads, wholesale human carnage, vast environmental devastation, and the steady slide into failed state anarchy; all of which is accompanied by the stale repetition of state propaganda spewed from every corporate bullhorn in the western media.
Isn’t that how things played out in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and Syria?
Indeed, it did. And now it’s on to Moscow. Putin’s survival and that of the Russian Federation depends to large extent to his ability to grasp the new reality quickly and to adapt accordingly. If he decides to ignore the warning signs hoping that Washington can be appeased or that the men who dictate US foreign policy can be persuaded to abandon the so-called “pivot to Asia”, he could face the same end as Saddam or Gadhafi. So the first priority is simply to accept the fact that the war has begun. All future policy decisions should derive from that basic understanding.
Between the anti-Russian propaganda pouring forth from the Obama administration and the deeply biased coverage from the U.S. news media, the American people are being prepared to accept and perhaps even cheer a massacre of eastern Ukrainians who have risen up against the coup regime in Kiev.
The protesters who have seized government buildings in ten towns in eastern Ukraine are being casually dubbed “terrorists” by both the Kiev regime and some American journalists. Meanwhile, it’s become conventional wisdom in Official Washington to assume that the protesters are led by Russian special forces because of some dubious photographs of armed men, accepted as “proof” with few questions asked by the mainstream U.S. news media.
* * *
However, in Official Washington, the stage is now set for what could be a massacre of Ukrainian civilians who have risen up against the putschists who seized control of Kiev in a Feb. 22 coup that overthrew elected President Viktor Yanukovych. The violent putsch was spearheaded by neo-Nazi militias, some of which have now been incorporated into Ukraine’s National Guard and dispatched to the front lines in eastern Ukraine.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov accused the United States of being behind the political upheaval in Ukraine and said Moscow would respond if its interests came under attack.
Lavrov's comments came a day after U.S. Vice President Joe Biden was in the Ukrainian capital with promises of support for the pro-Western government, and a warning to Russia not to interfere in Ukraine.
The crisis in Ukraine, now in its fourth month, has dragged Russia's relations with the West to their lowest since the Cold War. In the east, pro-Russian armed separatists have seized about a dozen public buildings and are defying Kiev's authority.
"Imagine the flustered consternation in the great halls of power in Washington and the EU and NATO to discover that the Ukrainian people are willing to risk their well-being defending civic buildings from an illegitimate government and to stand in front of tanks in the pursuit of peace."
In a curious quirk of timing, almost immediately after it was revealed that CIA Director John Brennan had snuck in and out of Ukraine to offer his advice and a pep –talk on how to disrupt those pesky ‘separatists;’ those same separatists and their families took to the streets – blocking tanks, disarming the Ukrainian army (some of whom surrendered to unarmed citizens, some of whom had no intention of firing on fellow citizens and some of whom defected to Russia) and otherwise impeded the progress of a civil war. And let’s not forget to give some credit to Brennan for the ‘registering the Jews” idea which has been so utterly discredited as to be completely transparent.
It wasn’t enough that from the beginning there was a gross miscalculation that Russian President Vladimir Putin would roll over on command and allow the historically-connected Crimea region, located in Russia’s backyard, to be usurped by NATO but the speed and efficiency with which the Crimeans organized a most impressive secession referendum and a huge majority vote in support was further evidence of a seriously flawed US strategy – or no strategy at all.
And now those recalcitrant ‘separatists’ in towns across eastern Ukraine are demanding their own secession referendum and had the audacity to seize and occupy public buildings like an old fashioned US civil rights ‘sit-in’ to prove their point.
The New York Times reporter James Risen is in a waiting game with the Department of Justice and the Supreme Court, and the fate of a journalist's right to protect sources lies in the balance. Will his case be the watershed for journalists to have the right to protect their sources, or will he have to go to jail in the face of the courts ruling against him? What will be the final say for reporters and their sources: court rulings or a federal shield law that would purposely protect reporters from having to reveal their sources?
I spoke to Mr. Risen about the choices he has to make and what solutions he believes could give reporters and their sources the protection needed to continue to be a watchdog over our government.
The Supreme Court dealt another blow to affirmative-action programs Tuesday, upholding the right of states to ban racial preferences in university admissions.
The 6-2 decision came in a case brought by Michigan, where a voter-approved initiative banning affirmative action had been tied up in court for a decade.
Seven other states — California, Florida, Washington, Arizona, Nebraska, Oklahoma and New Hampshire — have similar bans. Now, others may seek to follow suit.
Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor’s dissent from the high court’s 6-2 decision Tuesday to uphold Michigan’s voter-approved ban on affirmative action for public universities has been variously described as “blistering," “scathing,” and "outraged."
It is passionate, for sure, but it is actually logical and scholarly, and well worth curling up with.
She laments that the court’s role as a bulwark against suppression of the minority has crumbled, and that her colleagues have allowed Michigan voters “to do what our Constitution forbids.”
(Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, in his majority opinion, noted that race considerations in college admissions are permissible. He wrote that the case was not about how the debate over racial preferences should be resolved, but rather who may resolve it – in this case, the voters. This seems disingenuous; since when are voters the final word when it comes to protecting the interest of the minority, in this case, a racial minority?)
The power of Sotomayor's dissent comes from her deft and persuasive distillation of what she calls the country’s “long and lamentable” history of racial discrimination.
Let’s face it: race-based affirmative action appears to be on the way out. The American public doesn’t like it; the Supreme Court is slowly but surely deeming it unconstitutional; and many progressive politicians are shying away from it. Did you see the statement from President Obama criticizing Tuesday’s SCOTUS decision upholding a Michigan ban on race-based college admissions? No, neither did I. (White House spokesman Jay Carney said the President had no immediate comment.)
You can’t blame Obama. Politically, affirmative action is a loser—some polls show that Americans oppose it by a majority of more than two to one—and it’s hard to see future Democratic Presidential candidates promising to restore its former lustre. If the Democrats have a strategy for saving affirmative action, it involves appointing more liberal Justices to the Court and hoping that they reverse the work of Alito, Kennedy, Roberts, Scalia, and Thomas (and, in the Michigan case, Breyer, too). Maybe this tactic will work for a while. Ultimately, though, it doesn’t seem sustainable.
Given the glaring facts that America remains a very unequal society, with strikingly low levels of social mobility, what’s needed is a set of policies that promote upward movement from the bottom, and, at the same time, has more appeal to Americans who find racial preferences objectionable. Fortunately, such an approach is readily available: race-blind affirmative action that helps poor and disadvantaged people get ahead regardless of their skin color and ethnic origin.
How much of the drone war being waged by the United States in Yemen is targeting actual al Qaeda fighters? And how much of it is targeting fighters, who are opposed to the current regime led by President Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi?
In three days, three possible drone strikes launched apparently in cooperation with Yemeni forces has killed anywhere from 38 to 55 people. Anywhere from three to eight of those people were reportedly civilians yet, thus far, the identities of the other people killed have not been confirmed.
According to data from news reports compiled by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism (TBIJ), on April 19, two cars were hit by a US drone in the southeastern province of al Bayda. All reports “described an attack on a vehicle carrying alleged militants, in which a separate vehicle full of civilians was also hit.”
When US military strikes kill civilians, it seems there's always someone ready to claim that US weaponry doesn't kill anyone who doesn't deserve it.
Over the weekend, there were reports that noncombatants were among the dead after the US carried out drone strikes in Yemen on what were said to be suspected Al-Qaeda affiliates. And, sure enough, one of the first CNN segments managed to find someone to deny that this could happen.
A Pew Research Center poll finds that 63 percent of Americans believe that allowing personal and commercial drones to fly through U.S. airspace would be a change for the worse. Only 22 percent support such a move.
“Men and younger adults are a bit more excited about this prospect than are women and older adults. Some 27% of men (vs. 18% of women), and 30% of 18–29 year olds (vs. 16% of those 65 and older) think this would be a change for the better,” Pew stated in the poll. “But even among these groups, substantial majorities (60% of men and 61% of 18-29 year olds) think it would be a bad thing if commercial and personal drones become much more prevalent in future years.”
The Federal Aviation Administration does not currently allow commercial use of drones, but it is working to develop operational guidelines by the end of 2015, although officials concede the project may take longer than expected.
Must Read Blog Posts/Articles
- Let’s break into the FBI! Before Snowden and Manning, there was “1971″
- This Chart Provides a Good Picture of Inequality in the US But Here's How to Make it Better
- These Newborn Kittens Miraculously Survived Being Boxed Up and ShippedA Tokyo Eatery is Setting Up Lonely Diners With Stuffed Animals
- In Bethlehem raid, "Israel and Palestinian Authority are Together
- How to Tell When Someone is Lying
A troll is a supernatural being in Norse mythology and Scandinavian folklore. In origin, troll may have been a negative synonym for a jötunn (plural jötnar), a being in Norse mythology. In Old Norse sources, beings described as trolls dwell in isolated rocks, mountains, or caves, live together in small family units, and are rarely helpful to human beings.
Later, in Scandinavian folklore, trolls became beings in their own right, where they live far from human habitation, are not Christianized, and are considered dangerous to human beings. Depending on the region from which accounts of trolls stem, their appearance varies greatly; trolls may be ugly and slow-witted or look and behave exactly like human beings, with no particularly grotesque characteristic about them. Trolls are sometimes associated with particular landmarks, which at times may be explained as formed from a troll exposed to sunlight. One of the most famous elements of Scandinavian folklore, trolls are depicted in a variety of media in modern popular culture.
* * *
In Internet slang, a troll (/ˈtroʊl/, ˈtrɒl) is a person who sows discord on the Internet by starting arguments or upsetting people, by posting inflammatory, extraneous, or off-topic messages in an online community (such as a forum, chat room, or blog) with the deliberate intent of provoking readers into an emotional response or of otherwise disrupting normal on-topic discussion.
Meme of the Day
Happy Birthday Jean Paul Gaultier!
Photo: Getty Images
Did you say "breakfast?"
Angel Food French Toast and Strawberries Kebab. With chocolate drizzle, of course. You can find the recipe here.
Paul McCartney's musical endeavor with his wife, Linda, after the Beatles and before The Wings, is my favorite. Their album, "Ram," is a perfect album. I couldn't decide which song to post here, so instead, here's the entire album.
"Monkberry Moon Delight"
So I sat in the attic, a piano up my nose,
And the wind played a dreadful cantata.
Sore was I from a crack of an enemy's hose
And the horrible sound of tomato.
Soup and puree,
Don't get left behind.
Soup and puree,
Don't get left behind.
When a rattle of rats had awoken
The sinews, the nerves and the veins.
My piano was boldly outspoken
In attempts to repeat this refrain.