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Member since: Fri Nov 12, 2004, 08:39 AM
Number of posts: 45,783

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Sunday's Christmas Day DOONESBURY: "Good Night, Iraq"

Navy First: Same-Sex Couple Share First Homecoming Kiss

Uploaded by VirginianPilot on Dec 21, 2011

Petty Officer 2nd Class Marissa Gaeta won a raffle on the dock landing ship Oak Hill to be the first to kiss a loved one on its return to port in Virginia Beach. Petty Officer 3rd Class Citlalic Snell was waiting when she crossed the brow. Story: http://hamptonroads.com/2011/12/first-lesbian-couple-get-first-kiss-navy-homecoming

Former Czech President and Playwright Vaclav Havel Dies


Former Czech president Havel dies: TV

PRAGUE | Sun Dec 18, 2011 6:28am EST

PRAGUE (Reuters) - Former Czech President Vaclav Havel has died due to complications following a long period of illness, Czech TV reported on Sunday.

"Former president and playwrite Vaclav Havel has died," Czech television announced during an interview with Prime Minister Petr Necas.

When Cults Collide: How Big Sports & CEO Worship Threaten Societies

AlterNet / By Lynn Parramore

When Cults Collide: How Big Sports and CEO Worship Threaten Societies

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Big Sports in America, along with the corporate religion of CEO-worship, exhibits cult-like features that make the tolerance of criminal activity something we should expect. When cults collide, conditions emerge that are poisonous to healthy, law-abiding, open societies.

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In his essay “The Sporting Spirit,” George Orwell outed the cult-like aspect of large-scale sports, which arose in the 19th century in England and the U.S. in a way the world had not seen since Roman times. He debunked the myth that serious sports was nothing more than good clean fun. Sure, it’s possible for to play harmless games, but when losing means shame for the whole group, barbaric instincts surface. The competition takes on the character of warfare, where winning is the virtue, and getting in the way of winning is the vice. Intense rivalries beget a culture of cheating. Serious sports aren’t about fair play, concludes Orwell, but rather “hatred, jealousy, boastfulness, disregard of all rules and sadistic pleasure in witnessing violence: in other words it is war minus the shooting.”

Along with the rise of nationalism, big time sports grew as heavily financed activities that could draw huge crowds and inspire extreme loyalty. People learned to identify with larger power units and to view everything in terms of competitive clout. Organized games flourished in urban communities where workers lived sedentary and confined lives without much chance of creativity or physical release. Cursing the other team on game day was an outlet for pent-up sadistic impulses.

In Understanding Power, Noam Chomsky notes that large-scale sports encourages anti-social human psychology and passive acceptance of traits like aggression. “It’s hard to imagine anything,” he observes, “that contributes more fundamentally to authoritarian attitudes than this does.” (See this video).


Alternet: How Ayn Rand Helped Make The U.S. Into A Selfish, Greedy Nation


AlterNet / By Bruce E. Levine

How Ayn Rand Seduced Generations of Young Men and Helped Make the U.S. Into a Selfish, Greedy Nation

Thanks in part to Rand, the United States is one of the most uncaring nations in the industrialized world.

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Ayn Rand’s personal life was consistent with her philosophy of not giving a shit about anybody but herself. Rand was an ardent two-pack-a-day smoker, and when questioned about the dangers of smoking, she loved to light up with a defiant flourish and then scold her young questioners on the “unscientific and irrational nature of the statistical evidence.” After an x-ray showed that she had lung cancer, Rand quit smoking and had surgery for her cancer. Collective members explained to her that many people still smoked because they respected her and her assessment of the evidence; and that since she no longer smoked, she ought to tell them. They told her that she needn’t mention her lung cancer, that she could simply say she had reconsidered the evidence. Rand refused.

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Ethics—self-interest. For Rand, all altruists were manipulators. What could be more seductive to kids who discerned the motives of martyr parents, Christian missionaries and U.S. foreign aiders? Her champions, Nathaniel Branden still among them, feel that Rand’s view of “self-interest” has been horribly misrepresented. For them, self-interest is her hero architect Howard Roark turning down a commission because he couldn’t do it exactly his way. Some of Rand’s novel heroes did have integrity, however, for Rand there is no struggle to discover the distinction between true integrity and childish vanity. Rand’s integrity was her vanity, and it consisted of getting as much money and control as possible, copulating with whomever she wanted regardless of who would get hurt, and her always being right. To equate one’s selfishness, vanity, and egotism with one’s integrity liberates young people from the struggle to distinguish integrity from selfishness, vanity, and egotism.

Politics—capitalism. While Rand often disparaged Soviet totalitarian collectivism, she had little to say about corporate totalitarian collectivism, as she conveniently neglected the reality that giant U.S. corporations, like the Soviet Union, do not exactly celebrate individualism, freedom, or courage. Rand was clever and hypocritical enough to know that you don’t get rich in the United States talking about compliance and conformity within corporate America. Rather, Rand gave lectures titled: “America’s Persecuted Minority: Big Business.” So, young careerist corporatists could embrace Rand’s self-styled “radical capitalism” and feel radical — radical without risk.

Rand’s Legacy

In recent years, we have entered a phase where it is apparently okay for major political figures to publicly embrace Rand despite her contempt for Christianity. In contrast, during Ayn Rand’s life, her philosophy that celebrated self-interest was a private pleasure for the 1 percent but she was a public embarrassment for them. They used her books to congratulate themselves on the morality of their selfishness, but they publicly steered clear of Rand because of her views on religion and God. Rand, for example, had stated on national television, “I am against God. I don’t approve of religion. It is a sign of a psychological weakness. I regard it as an evil.”


Did FBI Bury Its 1990s Gingrich Probe?


Did FBI Bury Its 1990s Gingrich Probe?

By Andrew Kreig

The FBI in the 1990s investigated reports that then-House Speaker Newt Gingrich was at the center of a $10 million bribery plot involving his second wife, Marianne. But the FBI dropped the investigation before determining if any money might change hands after the bureau's director concluded the FBI lacked sufficient evidence to pursue a sting for evidence. That's the central allegation of a report Dec. 13 by DC-based investigative reporter Joseph Trento, who claims that the FBI 'buried" the probe. The Washington Post addressed the matter also in a column published Dec. 16 in the paper. Marianne Gingrich and her attorney say the family name was misused by rumor-mongers -- and there was no bribe, plan or reason for the FBI to investigate.

Trento, a longtime journalist who writes for the web-based national security non-profit DC Bureau, broke the story in a 6,000-word piece entitled, Newt Gingrich, Marianne and the Arms Dealer: A Buried FBI Investigation. The column was based on extensive interviews, including with arms dealer Sarkis Soghanalian, who died at 82 in October. "He had sold weapons to scores of dictators including Saddam Hussein," Trento wrote, "and he took many secrets with him to his grave. But one secret he did not take involves Newt Gingrich."

"DC Bureau has learned," Trento continued, "that Gingrich was at the center of a U.S. Justice Department criminal investigation in the late 1990s for a scheme to shake down the arms dealer for a $10 million bribe in exchange for Gingrich using his influence as Speaker to get the Iraq arms embargo lifted so Soghanalian could collect $54 million from Saddam Hussein’s regime for weapons he had delivered during the Iran-Iraq War."

In FBI Considered A Sting Aimed At Newt Gingrich In 1997, Post reporter James V. Grimaldi wrote that "a series of second- and third-hand conversations alleging that the top man in Congress might be for sale" caught the attention of federal investigators. “There are so many falsehoods,” Marianne Gingrich, Gingrich's second-wife, told Grimaldi Thursday. “The FBI, they should have been protecting me, not going after me. This is scary stuff.”  Grimaldi wrote that Gingrich’s presidential campaign did not provide immediate comment.


Christopher Hitchens' Unforgivable Mistake


Christopher Hitchens' Unforgivable Mistake

By John Cook, Dec 16, 2011 12:57 PM

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In its obituary, the New York Times quoted Hitchens' friend Ian Buruma, who told the New Yorker in 2006 that Hitchens was "always looking for the defining moment — as it were, our Spanish Civil War, where you put yourself on the right side, and stand up to the enemy." He shared that impulse with George W. Bush, Donald Rumsfeld, Richard Perle, and Paul Wolfowitz, and they found their moment in the stupid decision to invade Iraq. For Hitchens, it was the opening maneuver in a grand, imagined clash of western civilization against the Islamofascist hordes.

It was something else for 113,000 civilians who died in the chaos unleashed. The great tragedy of Hitchens' life was that, toward its end, he aligned himself so stridently with the very fools, cowards, and charlatans who most desperately invited exposure by his prodigious skills as butcher. How can someone who devoted so much of his life to as noble a cause as destroying the reputation of Henry Kissinger blithely stand shoulder to shoulder with Rumsfeld?

People make mistakes. What's horrible about Hitchens' ardor for the invasion of Iraq is that he clung to it long after it became clear that a grotesque error had been made. In September 2005, he defended the debacle in Rupert Murdoch's Weekly Standard in terms that are simply breathtaking in their lack of concern for the victims of his Mesopotamian adventure. It was headlined "A War to Be Proud Of."

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But surely Christopher, you recognize that the war has been badly bungled even if all your hearts were in the right place, right? "We need not argue about the failures and the mistakes and even the crimes, because these in some ways argue themselves." For Christopher Hitchens to identify a subject about which no argument is required is a rare thing indeed. Abu Ghraib—why argue? The $9 billion in cash that simply disappeared—what's to argue? Two months after the Hitchens wrote those words, U.S. Marines massacred 24 men, women, and children in Haditha. No need to argue.


"We Want Your Retina?" My 37 Hours In Police Custody For Protesting Were An Eye Opener


Salon / By John Knefel

"We Want Your Retina?" My 37 Hours in Police Custody for Protesting Were an Eye Opener

Why it's important for occupiers to see the inside of the prison-industrial complex.

December 14, 2011 |

“You got press credentials?”

I barely had time to say no to the mustachioed White Shirt before he grabbed my forearm and threw me to the ground. As he brought me down I transferred my smartphone – which I had been using to document the NYPD’s aggressive arrests following the impromptu celebration in the Winter Garden on Dec. 12 – to my left hand and then my pocket. The website Boing Boing posted a very dramatic photograph of me holding my glasses while police pile on top of me. I’ve been covering Occupy Wall Street as an independent journalist for its entirety as a radio show host, for Salon, and on the ground.

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We want your retina

When we were finally brought to the final holding area for our arraignment we were informed that if we refused to submit to a retina scan we would likely be held overnight. The retina scan is a voluntary procedure that all 10 of us had already denied earlier that day. According to our lawyers from the National Lawyers Guild – who are heroes – the lieutenant on duty and the judge said that if we continued to refuse the scans we wouldn’t get out that night. With only a few exceptions due to personal commitments, we all stood in solidarity and refused to submit to the procedure. This was around 11 p.m. on Tuesday, roughly 36 hours after our arrest. Several of the women arrested and a majority of the men were going to spend another night in prison to protest the ever expanding security state. In many ways, this final hurdle was the most egregious encroachment on our liberties. The retinal scan is a voluntary procedure, but if you don’t submit to it, you will be punished.


Alternet: Presenting The Ten Greediest Americans Of 2011


By Sam Pizzigati

Presenting the Ten Greediest Americans of 2011

You don't have to make a million to rate as an all-star greedster. You do have to be ruthless, self-absorbed and grossly insensitive.

December 13, 2011 |

The greediest among us in 2011 probably haven’t been any greedier, as a gang, than any greedy of the recent past. They just seem that way.

Why so? We have a whole new frame of reference. This fall’s sudden — and exhilarating — rise of the Occupy movement has helped us remember what we, as a society, had sadly forgotten: that decent, smart societies never let the few grab away rewards that ought to be shared among the many.

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9. Michael Duke: Shifting the Goalposts

How do CEOs end up making so much? Ask Michael Duke, the chief exec at retail colossus Wal-Mart. Duke takes home his millions — $18.7 million in his company’s latest fiscal year alone — the old-fashioned way. He squeezes workers.

2. Don Blankenship: Prepping for a Comeback

This past May, West Virginia state investigators found Massey Energy directly to blame for the 2010 blast that left 29 miners dead at the company’s Upper Big Branch coal mine. Massey CEO Don Blankenship’s management team, probers charged, had nurtured a “culture bent on production at the expense of safety.”

This Is Awesome: Anti-gay Troy, MI, Mayor Schooled at City Council Meeting by Gay Family


TUE DEC 13, 2011 AT 08:47 PM EST

This Is Awesome: Anti-gay Troy, MI, mayor schooled at City Council meeting by gay family


If you haven't heard about all the hub-bub in Troy, Michigan, check out Scott Wooledge's diary ( http://www.dailykos.com/story/2011/12/02/1041908/-Troy,-MI-Mayor-Janice-Daniels-Is-A-Low-Class-Idiot-Should-Grow-Up?via=search ) on the subject. To summarize, a screenshot recently surfaced showing Troy Mayor Janice Daniels making (before she became mayor, not that it matters) some pretty nasty anti-gay remarks on Facebook after the New York marriage equality victory.

Daniels's response to the discovery was:

I may have said something like that. I probably shouldn’t have used that kind of language, but I do believe marriage should be between one man and one woman.
Needless to say, there has been quite the backlash in Troy. Daniels was absolutely ripped apart in the City Council meeting that took place after the Facebook remarks surfaced. There were calls for her to resign. She was featured by Keith Olbermann as the "Worst Person in the World." There have even been calls to boycott the city of Troy. Despite all of this, and despite the very real embarrassment she has caused the city, she has not stepped down.

Well, at last week's City Council meeting, a family paid a visit to Daniels during the public comments portion of the meeting. A gay family. A lesbian couple and their two daughters. The result? Daniels was schooled in the most awesome possible way.

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