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Republicans and Many Democrats are on the attack

If We’re Going to Defend Social Security We Need to Understand It

 

The Republican-dominated Congress, with the help of a cadre of sell-out conservative Democrats in both chambers, are gearing up to attack Social Security again, under the guise of “saving” the program.

The attack will be brutal, because the program’s assassins understand that this is probably their last chance to undermine Social Security. With the Baby Boom generation born after 1946 now seriously starting to file for retirement benefits, it will soon become such a mainstay for so many people that it will be impregnable, unless already undermined.

A person born in 1946 could have retired at age 62 as early as 2008, and next year could retire at 70 and receive maximum benefits. There are already seven years’ worth of Baby Boomers who are at least eligible to start collecting benefits. By the time the last Baby Boomer born in 1964 is eligible to retire in 2026, the “senior lobby” of Social Security-eligible voters will be more double what it is today, and more importantly, will represent a bloc 50% larger as a proportion of the voting population than it is in today’s elderly population. Social Security’s enemies in Congress and in the business world know that as powerful as the elderly vote is today it will be 50% more powerful in years to come. And don’t forget, it’s not just retirees who ardently support Social Security. It’s people in their 50s and early 60s, who are looking ahead at the program as their salvation in retirement.

Polls show that even among the young, there is strong and abiding support for this flawed but critical program founded in 1936, which today provides 100% of income for one-seventh of all America’s elderly, and 90% or more of income for one-third of the elderly. Another one-third depend upon those benefits for more than half their income. Most of the rest too depend on their Social Security benefits for basic expenses like food and rent. It’s the rare American who just uses their benefit checks for vacations, luxury purchases or investment purposes.

But for all that Americans remain incredibly ignorant about the program, and are losing out on many of its benefits because of that ignorance. If this information were more readily available and understandable, it would be far harder for the program’s enemies to successfully attack it. I will attempt to do that here.

The Social Security program is under attack by both Republicans and many DemocratsThe Social Security program is under attack by both Republicans and many Democrats
 

It's a new year, and we need change! (yours)

Time for TCBH!'s Readers to Make a Commitment to Support this Unique News Site


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Civilization and Barbarism

It Takes a Life Cult to Beat a Death Cult

 
We have to address the political grievances terrorists exploit.
                 - Barack Obama
 
All week, the bully-in-chief of cable news, Bill O’Reilly, has been passionately recruiting American clergy of all ethnic and supernatural inclinations to preach from their pulpits this weekend for US troops to lead what he sees as a holy war declared by ISIS. "The problem is Islamic fanatics who want to kill Christians and Jews." The goat that gives him his vein-popping urgency is President Barack Obama who is determined to never make a reference to religion in his call for international propaganda war against the ISIS phenomenon -- to accompany his current bombing campaign and any other military action he may lead.

While Mr. Obama is guilty of a host of national security state sins and is not without blood on his hands, the president’s rhetoric is smart when he emphasizes that ISIS is a “death cult” with incredible influence that should be engaged by the forces of civilization. The problem is the fine rhetoric seldom translates into action. Policy always falls back on our runaway national security state and its deep terror of losing some aspect of its power and self-image of exceptionalism.

Bill O'Reilly takes up holy war with ISISBill O'Reilly takes up holy war with ISIS
 

The question that needs to be asked -- and answered forthrightly and courageously for the American people -- is why ISIS is so successful all of a sudden in the geographic arc made up of the Middle East, Southwest Asia and North Africa. Ordinary Americans should realize this is a serious question that has less to do with messiahs and theological beliefs about the afterlife than it has to do with frustrated human aspirations and the power of a death cult. It's true that comforting afterlife fantasies certainly constitute fuel for a death cult; in fact, it's the religious component that makes them that much more deadly and frightening.

What we’re talking about is ideas that coalesce as mobilizing thought in the mass human mind. Think of a school of fish or a swarm of birds moving as one. In this sense, then, what exactly is a death cult? My dictionary defines cult as “a misplaced or excessive admiration for a particular person or thing.” As for the adjective in this case, death, in line with his long 1930 essay Civilization And Its Discontents, Sigmund Freud might have defined a death cult as a group focused on a mythic and psychological obsession with Thanatos, the Greek mythic personification of death, or what he called the death instinct -- versus its counterpart, Eros, or the life instinct. The latter drive overcomes difference and pulls things together, while the former accentuates difference and tears things apart. This is how Freud put it:

No more AUMFs! No more 'unitary executives'

We’re Already Losing Our Democracy and All Our Freedoms to the 2001 AUMF

 

Critics of President Obama’s proposed Authorization for Use of Military Force AUMF) against ISIS have been focused upon its deliberately obfuscatory and ambiguous language, which they rightly note would make it essentially a carte blanche from Congress allowing the president to go to war almost anywhere some would-be terrorist or terrorist copycat could be found who claims affinity with ISIS.

The critics have also complained that even if Congress were to reject his AUMF request, the president would continue his acts of war against the likes of ISIS, Syria, Somalia, Yemen, Afghanistan and Pakistan, claiming he is acting under the aegis of the 2001 AUMF Congress passed to allow the Bush/Cheney invasion of Afghanistan.

It is for that reason that some critics of the latest AUMF are calling for repeal of the 2001 AUMF before the new AUMF can even be considered.

But these critics are ignoring the real reason that the 2001 AUMF must be repealed, which is that in declaring the “War on Terror” against Al Qaeda and “those who were behind the 9-11 attacks” as well as those alleged to have aided or sheltered them, and in declaring that the whole globe was the battlefield in this supposed “war,” including the United States, the 2001 AUMF became a justification for the federal courts and the US Supreme Court to essentially declare the president a dictator.

The legal “theory” cobbled together by the Bush/Cheney White House attorney-for-hire John Yoo and accepted by the Supreme Court majority is that during time of war, and particularly in a war zone, the Constitution makes the American president a “unitary executive” who has within his power not just executive, but also legislative and judicial authority to act on his own without restraint. This is the specious argument that has allowed President Obama, and President Bush before him, to override the Constitutional guarantee of a right to a fair trial by ones peers, and to simply decide whether to torture captives or whether an American should be killed in a drone strike for allegedly being a terrorist or terror supporter. It is the argument that allows the president to decide that it’s okay to torture someone, in violation of US and international law. It’s okay for the NSA and other federal agencies to spy on Americans under this unitary executive theory, too.
Commander-in-Chief and war president Obama, America's endless war, and White House attorney John Yoo, advocate of presidential dictatorshipCommander-in-Chief and war president Obama, America's endless war, and White House attorney John Yoo, advocate of presidential dictatorship
 

Fifth-largest death row in US is put on indefinite hold

Pennsylvania's New Governor Wolf Issues a Surprise Execution Moratorium

 

Although Pennsylvania's new Governor Tom Wolf, who last November unseated Republican incumbent Tom Corbett, cited more than 315 million solid reasons to back his surprise order putting an immediate moratorium on executions in Pennsylvania, law enforcement organizations in the state still castigated his action, calling it an outrageous assault on a criminal justice system that they contend works well.

When Wolf announced his imposition of a moratorium on executions due to a disturbing history of abuses and errors in death penalty prosecutions in the state with the fifth largest death row in the country, he cited a damning statistic overlooked in most news media accounts of his recent action.

Operating the death penalty in Pennsylvania over the course of the past thirty-plus-years has cost the state's taxpayers between $315-to-$600-million, Wolf noted in a memorandum his office released that detailed why he halted executions.

The Pennsylvania “has received very little, if any, benefit from this massive expenditure,” Gov. Wolf said. An exact cost figure for death penalty prosecutions in Pennsylvania remains elusive because state legislators and top officials in its court system have to date resisted compiling specific such figures.

The enormous expenses associated with the death penalty, from trial through appeals to execution, is a reason why many other states that have halted executions. Death penalty prosecutions cost three times as much or more than non-capital murder prosecutions, repeated studies nationwide have documented.

Pennsylvania's at least temporarily stilled death chamber, and Gov. Tom Wolf, who issued a moratorium on all executionsPennsylvania's at least temporarily stilled death chamber, and Gov. Tom Wolf, who issued a moratorium on all executions
 

This is what corporatocracy looks like!

Trading US Democracy for Corporate Profits with TPP

 

If you want to get a good understanding of how thoroughly corrupted and sold-out our government in Washington is, you need only look at the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), the latest in a series of trade “deals” that is heading towards passage right now, and that, like its predecessors, NAFTA and CAFTA, as well as the World Trade Organization, will be sucking jobs out of the US for years.

The key point to notice about TPP, as with earlier trade deals, is that it is being negotiated in secret. The reason for this is that there are so many outrages in it which undermine US sovereignty and democratic control, and so many things in the deal that benefit multinational corporations at the expense of the American worker and the broader American public that there would be almost universal outrage if they were known.

What really demonstrates the collapse of US democracy is that even though the Republican Party claims to loath and distrust President Obama, their majorities in both House and Senate have voted to give him “fast-track” authority to negotiate the TPP. That means they want this man whom they claim to completely distrust to negotiate the whole TPP treaty, and then to present it to them as an unalterable take-it-or-leave it deal, with no amendments or changes allowed.

Why are they doing this? Because the Republicans and Democrats in Congress, like the president, want to pass this bill without letting the public find out what’s in it. And the members of Congress of both parties, who have been flooded with campaign contributions (really bribes) and other perks by corporate America to ensure that TPP is passed without discussion.

Where else could you find a government body that would willingly -- no enthusiastically -- surrender its power to investigate, debate and amend a major bill or, in this case, treaty? Especially a government body that is run by one party that is surrendering its power to the leader of the supposed opposing party -- a man who is openly loathed and distrusted by them?

What this demonstrates is that the whole government in Washington, Republicans and Democrats alike, is owned now by corporate America. What corporate America wants is what this thoroughly corrupted government gives it.

So what are they giving away in TPP? Well, the main thing is that the TPP cedes to an unelected supra-national body of government bureaucrats the right to decide in secret tribunals whether some law in a member country -- say the US -- unfairly restricts trade. And if that secret tribunal concludes that the law does restrict trade or interferes with some multinational company’s ability to make obscene profits doing something that the country in question has democratically decided it shouldn’t be able to do, the nation’s law is ruled to be invalid.

 dismantling US democracy one law at a timeThe Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP): dismantling US democracy one law at a time
 

FCC Chair Proposes Net Neutrality Protection

Wheeler's Moment of Clarity

 

Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler proposed Wednesday new FCC rules that would protect and preserve the Internet's Net Neutrality.

The proposals, coming after years of debate and an intense campaign of grass-roots community organizing and activist pressure on the FCC, would treat Internet communications as a Title II service -- the same FCC Title used to govern telephone communications. That change was at the center of activist movement demands since Title II services are automatically neutral under FCC rules.

(An important clarification: this does not mean you can get high-speed service for the same price as regular modem service. It means that access to data and content speed to your device must be the same. If you have a slower connection, all content would flow at that speed. Faster connection, all content flows at that faster rate.)

 Finally!FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler: Finally!
 

It is a stunning victory for the Internet-freedom movement which includes scores of organizations nationwide and that movement celebrated the announcement immediately.

The questions now are whether the FCC will approve the Chairman's proposals, what the reaction might be from corporations (like Comcast) who vigorously oppose this change and what, if those corporations unleash their lobbyists, might Congress do.

At this point the answers seem to be: yes, scream and not all that much but in Washington you never know.

After 49 years . . .

A Letter To The Wall

 

NOTE: I'm a member of a group of Vietnam veterans affiliated with Veterans For Peace called the Vietnam War Full Disclosure project. We would like to see a more historically accurate representation of the Vietnam War as presented by the pentagon in its 50 Year Commemoration of the war, which is scheduled to begin with the 50th anniversary of the March 1965 Marine landing at DaNang. The government wants to commemorate the war as about "the defense of our nation's freedom," whereas Full Disclosure sees the anniversary as an opportunity for a national dialogue. The Vietnamese did nothing to us that required an invasion and occupation; all they wanted was independence from, first, the French, then from the United States. This is not a unique struggle for us in this country. The new government in Japan is becoming more militaristic and is suddenly making an effort to quash generally accepted historical accounts concerning imperial Japan's policies in the 1940s with the so-called "comfort women" in Korea and China. The Dutch a few years back went through a national dialogue concerning their brutal military occupation in Indonesia. As part of its mission, Full Disclosure has launched a Letter To The Wall campaign. My letter to the Vietnam Veterans' Memorial is below; it's an effort to see my service for what it was. The letters will be gathered and placed at the Vietnam War Memorial on Memorial Day 2015. For more information, go to the Full Disclosure website.
 

Dear Vietnam Veterans’ Memorial Wall:

You're a wide granite gash in the earth, like the war itself, a man-made construction set within the order of nature. As I look back 49 years, I understand the war was a much more rude and shameful event than the grace of your shape in the earth might suggest. But you’re what you are and where you are to recognize sacrifice divorced of politics. Speaking to you is speaking to the dead, and like a good hospice caregiver must do, one first needs to respect the dying and the dead. Addressing you is different than addressing the flag. Your dead were all part of a massive historic enterprise; but the simple fact at the root of all religion is we die alone and the ultimate providence of those named on your surface remains an eternal mystery.

..

I was in Vietnam as a 19-year-old kid. I joined the Army and became a radio direction finder in the Army Security Agency. Once trained in DF principles and practiced in Morse code, I volunteered to go to Vietnam, as did my older brother, a lieutenant in the Army infantry. I went with a company by troop ship from Oakland; it took 17 days and the ship anchored off shore of Qui Nhon. In the morning, the entire company was loaded onto a large LCU, which chugged toward the beach. I’d watched John Wayne hit the beach at Iwo Jima, and I had no idea what to expect. They’d given us a clip of 7.62mm ammunition for the wooden stocked M14s we had been issued.

The LCU hit the beach with a long WHOOOOOSH. The high bow plate was slowly lowered, and we saw men in bathing suits sunbathing and several blue air-conditioned buses with steel grates over the windows to take us to the Qui Nhon airbase, where they would load us onto a C-130 for a flight to Pleiku. I recall two things about the trip to the airbase. One, the teeming movement of people and poverty I had never seen before. The heat was no issue, since I’d been raised in south Florida above the Keys. The other thing I recall was looking out the window and when the bus stopped for traffic noticing a young kid, maybe ten, out the window. He seemed older than his age. When he saw me, he flipped me a bird.

New poem:

Romney running again?

 

How inspiring is that!
Maybe we should go back to what we were trying to do
When we got discouraged:
Try to scratch together a living selling loosies in the street
As a man of color?
Maybe someone was building a time machine
And they should get back to that!
Teach a friend’s dog to speak for a YouTube video,
Go out in this snowstorm and not come in
Until you find two identical flakes.
Join the campaign to replace the Star Spangled Banner
With Woody’s “This Land is Your Land?”
Because it is our land, damn it.
What a guy, that Romney.
What an inspiration to us all
No matter what our lost cause.
 

  --Gary Lindorff

Guest poet:

I feel like I should send you a poem or something

 

Something about how life or God or who ever is behind the curtain of
all things pulling all our strings,
the strings that jerk us up out of the void and into the light and
heat and cold and make us put on
our boots and start walking and talking and eating cornflakes for
breakfast and slaps us around and
dumps us in the middle of deep dark holes of despair and desperation
where monsters come out of the night
and gobble up our happiness when we aren't looking and then throws us
in the ocean of self doubt and confusion that dries up the
next minute and leaves us spread out like dead butterflies on the
specimen table of alienation...
Only to have the phone ring and someone tell us that the person we
love most in the world just died
and now we have to look at the sunrise and wonder what we ever thought
was beautiful about it and if it will
ever look beautiful again. . .
And how wonderful it is that after all that happens Life or God or
who ever it is that is behind the curtain of all things pulling
our strings now Jerks up out of the void the most incredible being
that says, "Look at me! I'm going to start it all over again.
And I'm so beautiful none of what has come before me matters a flea's
butt because I bring with me the promise that
life can be different and nobody can deny that who looks at my tiny
fingers or by big bright eyes and the way I wiggle my toes
at the cosmos because I'm alive and that's all that matters and if
there's anything
at all close to pure being it's me!”
 
 
  -- Frank Asch
 
 
This poem was offered to ThisCantBeHappening! by Frank Asch, the noted children's book author/illustrator. He lives in Hawaii. (It is copyrighted may not be reprinted without permission of the author.)

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Fightin' Cock FlyerFightin' Cock Flyer

Listen as Chuck, John, Dave and Linn Join Prairie Radical Mike Caddell of the Fightin' Cock Flyer on Radio Free Kansas

Here's the link to prairie radio radical Mike Caddell's Radio Free Kansas program, where you can hear the podcast of the whole group interview that was conducted on Saturday, May 8.

Also, listen to Dave Lindorff on Chris Cook's Gorilla Radio on CFEV Radio in Victoria, Canada.

Donate $50 to ThisCantBeHappening.net and get a free signed copy, postage paid, of Dave's classic tome The Case for Impeachment (St. Martin's Press, 2006). Just click on the cover image to go to the Paypal payment page, make your payment, and send a note to Dave calling his attention to the payment, and giving your mail address and the name you want the inscription addressed to.

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by Dr. Radut