October 21, 2006

Pension or Penitentiary?
Barbara Ehrenreich comments on working in America

Talk about a cry for help: Timothy J. Bowers robbed a Columbus OH bank of $80, handed the money over to a security guard, and waited for the police to come and arrest him. In court on October 11, he pleaded guilty and told the judge that he would like a three-year sentence – just enough time to get him to the age of eligibility for Social Security benefits. The judge graciously obliged, demonstrating compassionate conservativism at its warm-hearted best.

Bowers, almost 63 years old, is no wacko. He passed a court-ordered psychological exam and explained that he had not been able to find a new job since his old one ended when his employer‚s company closed in 2003. „At my age,š he said, „The jobs available to me are minimum wage jobs,š adding that „There is age discrimination out there.š

Bowers had hit another kind of „doughnut hole,š like the one that plagues Medicare recipients: He was „too oldš for the above-minimum wage workforce and too young for Social Security. Thanks to rampant age discrimination, „too oldš can mean as young as 45, leaving a 20 year gap before Social Security kicks in. more...

October 20, 2006

Down the River

Riverbend posted today for the first time since early August. As she explains: "Every time I felt the urge to write about Iraq, about the situation, I'd be filled with a certain hopelessness that can't be put into words and that I suspect other Iraqis feel also."

There is no way I can even begin to comprehend what it must feel like to be an Iraqi right now -- much less an intelligent, educated, secular woman stuck in the middle of a slow-motion genocide. But I do know what a "certain hopelessness" feels like, or at least I think I do. It's what I feel every time I think about how we came to this point.

Riverbend's topic is the Lancet study on war deaths in Iraq, and she curtly eviscerates the conservative Holocaust deniers:
We literally do not know a single Iraqi family that has not seen the violent death of a first or second-degree relative these last three years. Abductions, militias, sectarian violence, revenge killings, assassinations, car-bombs, suicide bombers, American military strikes, Iraqi military raids, death squads, extremists, armed robberies, executions, detentions, secret prisons, torture, mysterious weapons -- with so many different ways to die, is the number so far fetched?

October 19, 2006

Will Republicans spring an 'October Surprise' on the Dems?

A last-minute "October surprise" -- a dramatic news event that shakes up the U.S. election -- could be a big wild card in the final three weeks of the fight for control of Congress.

With Democrats threatening to sweep Republicans out of power in Congress in the November 7 elections, a late-breaking foreign crisis, terrorist attack or a new scandal could change the debate and shape the ultimate outcome.

The possibilities are numerous, as President George W. Bush juggles multiple foreign threats like North Korea's nuclear tests, Iran's nuclear ambitions and civil war in Iraq, along with mushrooming Republican scandals at home.

"There is a huge potential for some sort of October surprise that changes the dynamic, something that reminds everyone just how unstable the world is," pollster John Zogby said. more...

October 18, 2006

Bill Moyers is host of „The Net At Risk,š a documentary special airing Wednesday, October 18 at 9 p.m. on PBS (check local listings).

Against An Imperial Internet
by Bill Moyers and Scott Fogdall  

It was said that all roads led to Rome. However exaggerated, the image is imprinted in our imagination, reminding us of the relentless ingenuity of the ancient Romans and their will to control an empire.

For centuries Roman highways linked far-flung provinces with a centralized web of power. The might of the imperial legions was for naught without the means to transport them. The flow of tradeųthe bloodstream of the empire‚s wealthųalso depended on the integrity of the roadways. And because Roman citizens could pass everywhere, more or less unfettered on their travels, ideas and cultural elements circulated with the same fluidity as commerce.

Like the Romans, we Americans have used our technology to build a sprawling infrastructure of ports, railroads and interstates which serves the strength of our economy and the mobility of our society. Yet as significant as these have been, they pale beside the potential of the Internet. Almost overnight, it has made sending and receiving information easier than ever. It has opened a vast new marketplace of ideas, and it is transforming commerce and culture.

It may also revitalize democracy.

„Wait a minute!š you say. „You can‚t compare the Internet to the Roman empire. There‚s no electronic Caesar, no center, controlling how the World Wide Web is used.š

Right you areųso far. The Internet is revolutionary because it is the most democratic of media. All you need to join the revolution is a computer and a connection. We don‚t just watch; we participate, collaborate and create. Unlike television, radio and cable, whose hirelings create content aimed at us for their own reasons, with the Internet every citizen is potentially a producer. The conversation of democracy belongs to us.

That wide-open access is the founding principle of the Internet, but it may be slipping through our fingers. How ironic if it should pass irretrievably into history here, at the very dawn of the Internet Age. more...

October 17, 2006

U.S. Rules Allow the Sale of Products Others Ban
Chemical-laden goods outlawed in Europe and Japan are permitted in the American market.
By Marla Cone

Destined for American kitchens, planks of birch and poplar plywood are stacked to the ceiling of a cavernous port warehouse. The wood, which arrived in California via a cargo ship, carries two labels: One proclaims "Made in China," while the other warns that it contains formaldehyde, a cancer-causing chemical.

Because formaldehyde wafts off the glues in this plywood, it is illegal to sell in many countries ų even the one where it originated, China. But in the United States this wood is legal, and it is routinely crafted into cabinets and furniture.

As the European Union and other nations have tightened their environmental standards, mostly in the last two years, manufacturers ų here and around the world ų are selling goods to American consumers that fail to meet other nations' stringent laws for toxic chemicals. more...

October 16, 2006

Another day, another new Bush excuse for Iraq invasion

President Bush keeps revising his explanation for why the U.S. is in Iraq, moving from narrow military objectives at first to history-of-civilization stakes now.

Initially, the rationale was specific: to stop Saddam Hussein from using what Bush claimed were the Iraqi leader's weapons of mass destruction or from selling them to al-Qaida or other terrorist groups.

But 3 1/2 years later, with no weapons found, still no end in sight and the war a liability for nearly all Republicans on the ballot Nov. 7, the justification has become far broader and now includes the expansive "struggle between good and evil." more...

October 15, 2006

Peace Activists Beware: Homeland Security May Be Reading Your E-Mail, and Passing it on to the Pentagon
by Matthew Rothschild  

More information keeps coming out, thanks to the ACLU, about the Bush Administration‚s equation of protest with terrorismųand the snooping it then engages in.

Homeland Security is monitoring peace groups and even peering at their e-mails.

„This information is being provided only to alert commanders and staff to potential terrorist activity or apprise them of other force protection issues.š

It then shares that information with Joint Terrorism Task Forces, which include the FBI and state and local law enforcement, as well as with the Pentagon‚s notorious Talon (Threat and Local Observation Notice) program. more...
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