Robert Reich: Why I'm Worried About America

AlterNet.org - October 22, 2014 - 7:34am
We used to understand that leadership required something other than drones and bombs.

We have to get a grip. Ebola is not a crisis in the United States. One person has died and two people are infected with his body fluids.

The real crisis is the hysteria over Ebola that’s being fed by media outlets seeking sensationalism and politicians posturing for the midterm elections.

That hysteria is causing us to lose our heads. Parents have pulled their children out of a middle school after learning the school’s principal had traveled to Zambia. Zambia happens to be in Africa but it has not even had a single case of Ebola.

A teacher at an elementary school has been placed on paid leave because parents were concerned he might have contracted the Ebola virus. When and how? During a recent trip to Dallas for an educational conference.

Are we planning to quarantine Dallas next?

Some politicians from both parties are demanding an end to commercial flights between the United States and several West African countries. But there are no direct flights to the U.S. from Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea, where Ebola is taking its biggest toll.

So do they want to ban all commercial flights that might contain someone from any of these countries, who might have transferred planes? That would cover just about all commercial flights coming from outside the United States.

The most important thing we can do to prevent Ebola from ever becoming a crisis in the United States is to help Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea, where 10,000 new cases could crop up weekly unless the spread of the virus is slowed soon.  

Isolating these poor nations would only make their situation worse. Does anyone seriously believe we could quarantine hundreds of thousands of infected people a continent away who are infecting others?

The truth is quite the opposite. If the disease is allowed to spread in these places, the entire world could be imperiled.

These nations desperately need medical professionals in the field, more medical resources, isolation facilities, and systems in place to detect early cases.

Even at this stage, that’s not an impossible task. Nigeria is succeeding in checking the spread of the disease. It has not had a new case of Ebola in over a month.

But I’m worried about America. I’m not worried about Ebola. I’m worried about our confidence and courage.

Every time a global crisis arises these days – the drug war in Latin America, terrorism in the Middle East, climate change that’s straining global food and water supplies and threatening many parts of the world with flooding – the knee-jerk response of some Americans is to stop it at our borders. 

As if we have the option. As if we live on another planet.

What’s wrong with us? We never used to blink at taking a leadership role in the world. And we understood leadership often required something other than drones and bombs.

We accepted global leadership not just for humanitarian reasons but also because it was in our own best interest. We knew we couldn’t isolate ourselves from trouble. There was no place to hide.   

After World War II, we rebuilt Europe and Japan. Belatedly, we achieved peace in Kosovo. We almost eradicated polio. We took on tuberculosis, worldwide.

Now even Cuba is doing more on the ground in West Africa than we are. It’s dispatching hundreds of doctors and nurses to the front lines. The first group of 165 arrived in Sierra Leone in the past few days.

Where are we?

We’re not even paying attention to health crises right under our own noses.

More people are killed by stray bullets every day in America than have been killed by Ebola here. More are dying because of poverty and hunger.

More American kids are getting asthma because their homes are located next to major highways. One out of three of our children is obese, at risk of early-onset diabetes.

We’re not even getting a flu shot to all Americans who need one.  

Instead, we bicker. For the last eight months, Republicans have been blocking confirmation of a Surgeon General. 

Why? Because the President’s nominee voiced support for expanded background checks for gun purchases, and the National Rifle Association objected.

We’ve got to get our priorities straight. Media outlets that are exploiting Ebola because they want a sensational story and politicians using it to their own ends ought to be ashamed.

Public fear isn’t something to be played with.

There’s a huge job to be done, here and abroad. Let’s roll up our sleeves and get on with it.   

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The Great Law put to poetry

Two Row Times - October 22, 2014 - 2:33am

BRANTFORD – Prolific Metis author David Bouchard launched his newest creation – The Great Law at the Good Minds book distribution centre and store in the Eagles Nest Plaza in Brantford, Friday afternoon. Around 50 people attended, which was more than either the author or the host expected, each receiving a complimentary copy, which the […]

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Sometimes even adults can be bullies

Two Row Times - October 22, 2014 - 2:23am

Many reserve communities have a serious problem when it comes to bullying. It’s an issue that involves both youth and adults. Although much of this problem can be explained by our colonial past, the solution to ridding our communities of bullying is to reach back into our traditions and carrying out the traditional responsibilities that […]

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Chief Ava Hill strategizing a response to C-10

Two Row Times - October 22, 2014 - 2:18am

On Monday in council, Elected Chief Ava Hill gave a few thoughts on the passing of Bill C-10. Even though it has passed, there are still a few months before the groundwork is laid for the Bill to become law, and for the federal government to figure out how to enforce it. That creates a […]

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Boil water advisory in Ohsweken

Two Row Times - October 22, 2014 - 2:14am

Six Nations Public Works is carrying out a watermain cleaning program this week in Ohsweken. Please be advised that a boil water advisory is in place during the duration of this cleaning process. For updates on the watermain cleaning program please check the Public Works Website at www.sixnations.ca or listen to CKRZ 100.3 FM for […]

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Community donations requested for Christmas Baskets

Two Row Times - October 22, 2014 - 2:09am

Sharon Martin, the Coordinator of Six Nations’ Christmas Baskets program is pleading with the community to increase donations for the toys and food baskets that will be distributed to families in need again this year. She says she does not understand why, but donations were down significantly last year, while the challenge of buying toys […]

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Elected Council Recognizes Achievements of Youth Athletes in NAIG

Two Row Times - October 22, 2014 - 2:02am

On Tuesday, October 14th, 2014 the Six Nations Elected Council recognized the athletic achievements of the Six Nations youth that participated in the North American Indigenous Games held in Regina, Saskatchewan from July 20-27th, 2014. Chief Ava Hill distributed certificates to the youth and adult chaperones present and thanked them for making our community proud. […]

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What's New: Guideposts for Anti-Racist Organizing Against Capitalism

Socialist Project - October 22, 2014 - 2:00am
In recognition of the intersections between economic oppression and racism, through the accumulated experiences of its members, and thanks to feedback from friends and supporters, Solidarity Halifax has produced a set of guideposts for Anti-Racist organizing against capitalism.
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Physical literacy day

Two Row Times - October 22, 2014 - 1:58am

A “physical literacy day” aimed at improving student’s fundamental movements was recently held at OMSK, Six Nations. Six Nations Parks and Recreation sponsored the event along with the OMSK Home and School Committee. The program promotes healthy living and physical skills and was developed by OMSK physical education teacher Travis Anderson. Each class had an opportunity […]

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Ample apple-pumpkin creations at elected council office

Two Row Times - October 22, 2014 - 1:55am

SIX NATIONS – Last Friday the elected council Apple Pumpkin Cooking Contest began with tasting and judging at 10:00am in the council chambers. Employee participants were given two ingredients that had to be mixed into their culinary creations, : apple and pumpkin. The delicious dishes that were created included home-made and hand-bottled pumpkin juice, apple […]

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Six Nations’ fallen warriors recognized

Two Row Times - October 22, 2014 - 1:50am

OHSWEKEN – More than 300 area service club members and current military personnel, plus several area political leaders, gathered at Veterans’ Park in downtown Ohsweken last Sunday to remember both past and present First Nations warriors who made the ultimate sacrifice to preserve the historic treaty relationship with the British Crown during military actions around […]

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Ts’ka7 warriors “deactivate” Imperial Metals bridge

Two Row Times - October 22, 2014 - 1:38am

RUDDOCK CREEK – On August 14, Secwepemc Ts’ka7 Warriors handed Imperial Metals an eviction notice and told them to abandon their Ruddock Creek mining operation in Secwepemc territory, stating they have no right to be there. The site of the proposed zinc and lead mine, which is in an exploration and development phase, is about […]

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These Senior Citizens Are Serving Life in Prison Over Pot

AlterNet.org - October 21, 2014 - 9:33pm
Should five non-violent offenders die behind bars for a crime Americans increasingly believe should not even be a crime?

Right now, five adults await death in prison for non-violent, marijuana-related crimes. Their names are John Knock, Paul Free, Larry Duke, William Dekle, and Charles “Fred” Cundiff. They are all more than 60 years old; they have all spent at least 15 years locked up for selling pot; and they are all what one might call model prisoners, serving life without parole. As time wrinkles their skin and weakens their bodies, Michael Kennedy of the Trans High Corporation has filed a legal petition with the federal government seeking their clemency. Otherwise they will die behind bars for selling a drug 40% of American adults have admitted to using, 50% of Americans want legal, and two states have already legalized for adult use. Since these men were convicted of these crimes many years ago, public opinion and policy related to marijuana have shifted greatly. Should these five non-violent senior-citizen offenders die behind bars for a crime Americans increasingly believe should not even be a crime?

1. John Knock, 65, has been incarcerated for more than 16 years. The only evidence against him was the testimony of informants; Knock was convicted of conspiracy to import and distribute marijuana. The judge sentenced him to 20 years for money laundering plus not one, but two terms of life-without-parole -- a  punishment typically reserved for murderers. Despite the uniquely unjust sentence, the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals and the U.S. Supreme Court denied his pleas for reconsideration via appeal or court order.

Waiting for death in jail, Knock suffers from chronic sinus problems linked to an untreated broken nose. Due to circulatory problems, one of his ankles swells to twice its size. Knock also suffers from what the legal petition called “untreated" hearing and vision problems. Easing some of his pain are visits from his family and his participation in prison programs. He has taught home building and physical education inside the prison that has become his home. According to the legal petition, he is assured employment and a home should his sentence be commuted.

2. Before he was incarcerated, Paul Free obtained a BA in marine biology and was starting a school while teaching English in Mexico. Now 62, he has continued his passion for education behind bars, where he has lived for the past 18 years. Free helps inmates prepare for the General Equivalency Diploma tests, and according to the petition, prison officials have applauded Paul’s hard work and his students’ high graduation rate. Paul suffers from degenerative joint disease, failing eyesight, sinus problems, and allergies, and he has had 11 skin cancers removed.

3. Once a union carpenter, Larry Duke, a 65-year-old decorated Marine, has spent the last 23 years of his life behind bars for weed. On top of the difficulties life in prison lays on the psyche, Duke suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder stemming from multiple tours in the Vietnam war. Like Knock, Duke received two life sentences without parole for a non-violent marijuana conspiracy, and was unsuccessful at appeal. According to the legal petition, Duke is the longest-serving nonviolent marijuana prisoner in the nation.  

Despite his incarceration in a country that has failed him, Duke works from behind bars to design patentable concepts that would assist the general public. While locked up, he has already managed to obtain a federal patent for a water-delivery system he plans to market to the U.S. Department of Defense. According to the legal petition, Duke enjoys the support of his wife and a growing family including two children, two grandsons, three siblings and many nieces and nephews. “They all want him to come home and be part of their lives and dreams,” the petition said.

4. William Dekle, 63, is also a former U.S. Marine serving two life sentences without parole, 22 of which he has already completed in a Kentucky penitentiary. Despite the depressing possibility that he will die behind bars, Dekle has participated in more than 30 prison courses, including counseling other inmates. Before his conviction, Dekle was a pilot certified in commercial and instrument flying, as well as multiengine aircraft. Now he suffers from a chronic knee injury. He is supported by his wife, two daughters, and grandchildren, who call him “Papa Billy.” Dekle’s relatives would ensure a stable home environment should he be granted clemency, the legal petition said.

5. Charles “Fred” Cundiff is a 66-year-old inmate who has served more than 20 years of his life sentence for marijuana. Before the marijuana arrest that changed his life forever, he worked in construction, retail and at a plant nursery. In prison, he worked for Unicor (Federal Prison Industries) for 12 years before his declining health interfered with his ability to work. Battling skin cancer, eye infections, and severe arthritis in his spine, Cundiff uses a walker. While the legal petition makes no mention of family, it says he is regularly visited by “friends from his youth.”

While these men have all spent many years behind bars for crimes they were convicted of many years ago, the same draconian punishments are handed down to marijuana criminals -- young and old -- to this day. Conspiracy charges, combined with mandatory minimums for marijuana sale and firearms charges, can quickly add up to decades behind bars. Should anyone in the entire criminal operation have a gun (legal or not), everyone involved can be charged with firearm possession during a drug offense, a five-year mandatory minimum that can reach 20 if the person is charged with continuing criminal enterprise -- a long-term, large-scale operation. In the end, these sentences are often not applied, but used to encourage guilty pleas in exchange for a lesser sentence.

Marijuana prisoner Chris Williams is an example of one such case. He was recently facing a mandatory minimum of 85 to 92 years behind bars for providing medical marijuana in Montana, where it is legal. Citing a moral opposition to plea bargains forced by the threat of a lifetime in jail, WIlliams rejected a deal that would have drastically reduced his sentence by cutting away mandatory minimums. Then, this Tuesday, federal prosecutors agreed to drop six of eight of Williams’ charges, provided he waive his constitutional right to appeal. Now Williams faces a mandatory minimum of five years for the firearm-related charge, and another five for distribution.

“With the rest of my life literally hanging in the balance, I simply could not withstand the pressure any longer,” Williams said in a statement. “If Judge Christensen shows mercy and limits my sentence to the five-year mandatory minimum, I could be present at my 16-year-old son’s college graduation. This would most likely be impossible had I rejected the latest compromise.”

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Some People Think CrossFit Is Nutty and That Makes CrossFit Really Angry

AlterNet.org - October 21, 2014 - 6:03pm
Critics question its safety and its culture, but CrossFit’s aggressive response is a tad more worrisome.

You’d be hard pressed to find an article — outside one written by a CrossFit enthusiast — that reviews this exercise phenomenon without asking some real tough questions about its safety, effectiveness, cost, and even the philosophy behind it. Shouldn't all products, whether good or bad, be held up to such scrutiny? Maybe General Motors, Comcast and Apple grudgingly accept this, but CrossFit — both the corporation and its acolytes — can't seem to take criticism in stride. And there’s been a lot of it going around lately.

The New York Times magazine was the latest publication to take issue with CrossFit and other extreme fitness programs, likening them to nothing more than labor camps you pay a king’s ransom to join. “Why not join a roofing crew for a few hours instead? Surely there’s a tunnel somewhere that needs digging,” sniffs Times columnist Heather Havrilesky.

In response, commenters, many of them CrossFitters, swarmed the online version of the article, posting more than 800 messages. Many were sharply critical of Havrilesky’s assessment of the workout routines.

The Times magazine article is only one in a recent wave of brickbats hurled at the sports-fitness brand, which now boasts an estimated 10,000 affiliates. Its critics are as diverse as medical researchers, fitness organizations, sportswriters, and social commentators. They’ve all found a bone to pick with CrossFit, and no, they’re not joining them for a Paleo diet dinner.

Critics and online commenters have likened CrossFit to a cult, insinuating that it’s not much more than a paramilitary, post-apocalyptic wet dream. They’re fitness preppers ready to take on whatever catastrophe awaits mankind. CrossFit’s own website hints at this on its "What is CrossFit?" page: “We have sought to build a program that will best prepare trainees for any physical contingency — not only for the unknown, but for the unknowable.”

CrossFit’s founder, Greg Glassman takes the rhetoric a step further in his CrossFit newsletter, stating “nature, combat and emergency can demand high volumes of work performed quickly for success or for survival.”

The Gospel of CrossFit

In her Times magazine article, Havrilesky describes the austere and formidable environment of the typical CrossFit gym:

"Those stunned by CrossFit’s growing popularity are often surprised, given its high price, to discover its spartan ethos: Each 'box' (its lingo for gym) is often just a big empty room with medicine balls, barbells and wooden boxes stacked along the walls. Workouts rotate daily but tend to involve free weights, sprints and enough squats to cripple Charles Atlas. In keeping with its apocalyptic mission statement, the program encourages camaraderie under duress (CrossFitters coach each other through the pain) and competition (names and scores are scrawled on a wipe board and sometimes posted online)."

A former certified fitness instructor and CrossFit participant, who wished not to be identified for this article, told AlterNet much of the atmosphere she witnessed seem contrived, right down to the grungy workout gear worn by instructors and long-time CrossFitters.

The CrossFit workout is like Navy SEAL physical training taken to an extreme. It’s group exercise, done in classes where the workout itself is a competition. There are typically time trials where participants strive to perform the exercises faster than their workout companions.

“The warmup is usually inadequate. It could be jogging around a little bit in the parking lot followed by a little dynamic stretching, which can cause injury by itself,” says the former fitness instructor, describing a CrossFit gym she attended.

“Good CrossFit instructors,” she said, “will assist in picking appropriate weights for members, but the competitive nature can result in amateurs pushing themselves too far.”

However, the fitness instructor said the CrossFit regimen does have some redeeming qualities. “It’s a good workout,” she says. “The competitive atmosphere makes it fun and motivating. It encourages people to push themselves, but for some it can be too much.”

Aggressive Defense

CrossFit does not take kindly to criticisms about its workout regimen. Recently, it sued the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA) for publishing a study by Ohio State University researchers, led by Steven Devor, an exercise physiology professor.

In the journal Strength and Conditioning Research, the OSU researchers said that while there were some notably positive results obtained from CrossFit exercises, it hinted that injuries could possibly be an issue.

"Of the 11 subjects who dropped out of the training program [out of 54], two cited time concerns with the remaining nine subjects (16% of total recruited subjects) citing overuse or injury for failing to complete the program and finish follow up testing."

While the study was vey complimentary overall (some even likened it to pure advertising), it touched a raw nerve with CrossFit, which complained that the research was “at best the result of sloppy and scientifically unreliable work, and at worst a complete fabrication.”

In response to the study, CrossFit says it sought out the research participants who said they didn’t complete it because of injury and overuse. CrossFit claims that when they contacted the participants, they denied failing to finish due to injuries. CrossFitfit claimed the researchers were guilty of dropping the ball in following up with them.

In its lawsuit against NSCA and the research team, CrossFit further maintains that the fitness organization, which is one of several groups that certify fitness professionals, was going after the company because it certifies its own instructors. The NSCA, it claimed in the lawsuit, had a vested interest in discrediting CrossFit.

This is a brand that seems highly motivated in protecting its reputation. Media opinion that is deemed hostile to CrossFit is often met head on, and aggressively.

As one commentator on a Gawker forum put it:

"Beware, once you write about Crossfit, the [expletive deleted] PR person will contact you, to let you know it's spelled incorrectly, hence the capital 'f'...also...they'll barrage you w/ testimonials...via Twitter...& every other social media account you own...in 5, 4, 3, 2...."

In December 2013, Outside magazine published an article called “Is CrossFit Killing Us?” It cited the findings of the Ohio State University study and maintained that the competitive nature of the workouts could result in a slew of injuries, from slipped disks to torn rotator cuffs and even more serious conditions such as rhabdomyolysis, a potentially fatal condition in which muscle tissue breaks down and is released into the bloodstream.

CrossFit's acolytes attacked the credibility of the writer, Outside and Steven Devor. Writer Warren Cornwall responded to the jousts in a followup article, “Crossing Swords with CrossFit,” in which he wrote about his experience as a target of the wrath of the workout’s legions.

"The CrossFit community went berserk. While many commenters chimed in about their own injuries from workouts, many more criticized both the statistic and the study itself. Lengthy rebuttals appeared in CrossFit Journal—the organization’s newsletter. One of CrossFit’s chief PR people, Russell Berger, rang up the study director, Professor Steven Devor, and grilled him until the scientist refused to talk to him any more. The upshot was a collective pile-on attempting to discredit the study, its directors—and Outside—while spinning public opinion away from the idea that the insanely popular workout program was any more hazardous than jogging in your neighborhood.

"And yet, no one was making up the stories about people getting hurt. So, what was the deal? Was CrossFit inherently dangerous? And if so, were the hordes of newbies with beach-body dreams flocking to CrossFit 'boxes' aware of the risks?"

Devor told Outside that the 16% figure in the Ohio State study is a soft number and never intended to represent global injury rates, and he says CrossFit’s ambush on the study is misguided. “It’s a fricking paragraph in the paper,” said Devor. “There’s no way I will ever do research with that workout again. It’s just not worth it.”

Cornwall continued to fire back in his followup article, stating that it’s understood there is no conclusive data to define injury rates from CrossFit, yet. However, he went on to cite several surveys and other notable sources to help readers make their own judgments about CrossFit’s safety.

CrossFit’s reputation took another unfortunate — and perhaps undeserved — hit when one of its top competitors, Kevin Ogar, severely injured himself during a major CrossFit-style competition in California earlier this year. Ogar was paralyzed from the waist down after he could no longer hold a bar carrying weights over his head during a "snatch" lift and let them plummet to the ground. The barbell then hit Ogar in the back, severing his spine.

While Ogar’s injury is arguably a freak accident that could happen to anybody performing the lift, CrossFitter or not, the tragic event did not help CrossFit’s dubious reputation with the media, as websites such as Deadspin, Buzzfeed and Gawker jumped on the story, prompting CrossFit critics to take to their message boards to question whether the fitness craze was to blame for the accident.

The judgment of whether CrossFit is a beneficial and viable workout is not for this writer to make. Former and current CrossFitters who spoke to us and even the Ohio State study indicate that this high-intensity training has many benefits. Clearly, the rigorous debate over its merits and demerits is being held in the public forum and kinesiologists will likely weigh in on it someday soon. 

The bigger problem is CrossFit's reputation, a creation of its innate aggressiveness and hive survival instinct. It has spilled over as combative rhetoric directed toward the world outside its “boxes." This is a movement that’s past due for an image makeover and perhaps some contemplative meditation.

Editor's note:AlterNet was contacted by CrossFit and has made two minor changes to the article and one explanation, below. We had referred to CrossFit gyms as "franchises" when they are technically "affiliates." They are two legally different business relationships. We also said that Kevin Ogar was competing in a CrossFit competition. The event, the OC Throwdown, was not sanctioned by CrossFit, but marketing and media coverage of the event indicated that the contestants were "CrossFit" competitors who competed in "CrossFit competitions." Last, CrossFit has indicated that our wording "guilty of dropping the ball" in regard to the follow up conducted by the Ohio State University researchers was insufficient. While we stand by our wording, CrossFit points out that its contention was that the researchers were guilty of fabricating injury data. 

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12 Year Old Girl Tells Off Stephen Harper #LeaveSteve2015

Operation Maple YouTube - October 21, 2014 - 5:06pm
12 Year Old Girl Tells Off Stephen Harper #LeaveSteve2015
Send us YOUR reason to #LeaveSteve2015 and we can help record your reason or share your video on our page! SUBSCRIBE and check out our other videos! http://www.operationmaple.com ... From: OperationMaple Views: 75291 1126 ratings Time: 01:05 More in People & Blogs
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Right-Wing Publication Tries to Claim That Obama Is a Conservative

AlterNet.org - October 21, 2014 - 4:14pm
The president “has bent over backward to protect corporate profits,” says ex-Reagan administration domestic policy aide Bruce Bartlett

President Barack Obama “has governed as a moderate conservative,” former Reagan administration domestic policy aide Bruce Bartlett writes in a new essay for the eclectic American Conservative magazine.

Bartlett, an economic policy expert who left the Republican Party amid disgust with President George W. Bush’s fiscal policies and backed Obama in 2008, contends that a look at Obama’s track record reveals a president who’s basically a liberal Republican of yore. From the beginning of his administration, Bartlett argues, Obama has charted a center-right course on both foreign and domestic policy issues.

Populating his administration with hawks like Hillary Rodham Clinton, Obama has presided over new military engagements abroad while overseeing a draconian crackdown on national security leaks at home, Bartlett notes.

Meanwhile, Obama has pursued “very conservative” fiscal policies, Bartlett writes, signing a stimulus package that was far smaller than what experts and advisers like Christina Romer found would be necessary to really prime the nation’s economic pump. Moreover, Obama has conducted himself like a deficit hawk, “proposing much deeper cuts in spending and the deficit than did the Republicans during the 2011 budget negotiations,” when a deal eluded the two parties. And don’t buy into the the GOP “harping” that Obama hates business, Bartlett cautions. The president, he says, “has bent over backward to protect corporate profits.”

What about the Affordable Care Act, Obama’s signature domestic policy achievement? That, too, is evidence of Obama’s conservatism, Bartlett writes. Observing that Obamacare’s market-based approach drew on a model put forth by the right-wing Heritage Foundation and by Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, Bartlett contrasts Obamacare with a real left-wing alternative like universal Medicare. So why are conservatives so obstinately opposed to a fundamentally conservative health care law? “The only thing is that it was now supported by a Democratic president that Republicans vowed to fight on every single issue,” Bartlett writes.

While Bartlett doesn’t see viscerally anti-Obama conservatives as likely to acknowledge the president’s conservatism, he concludes that philosopher and activist Cornel West “nailed it” when he recently declared that Obama has given the country “a Wall Street presidency, a drone presidency, a national security presidency.”

Read Barlett’s essay here.

 

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My Father Was Killed by a Computer, Says 7-Year-Old Afghan Child

AlterNet.org - October 21, 2014 - 3:56pm
If Imal were a white American kid, this drone strike tragedy would not have befallen his father.

Imal, a 7 year old Afghan student in the 2nd grade, came to visit us in Kabul.

As Imal grew up, he kept asking his mother where his father was. His mother finally told Imal that his father had been killed by a drone when he was still a baby.

If you could see Imal in this video, you would want to hug Imal immediately.

If Imal were a white American kid, this tragedy would not have befallen his father. Which American would allow any U.S. citizen to be killed by a foreign drone?

Suppose the UK wanted to hunt ‘terrorists’ in the U.S., with their drones, and every Tuesday, David Cameron signed a ‘secret kill list’ like Obama does. Drones operated from Waddington Base in the UK fly over U.S. skies to drop bombs on their targets, and the bombs leave a 7 year old American kid, say, John, fatherless.

John’s father is killed, shattered to charred pieces by a bomb, dropped by a drone, operated by a human, under orders from the Prime Minister /Commander-in-Chief.

“John, we’re sorry that your father happened to be near our ‘terrorist’ target.’ He was collateral damage. It was ‘worth it’ for the sake of UK national security.”

Unfortunately, no U.S. official or military personnel had met with Imal’s widowed mother to apologize.

Raz, Imal’s uncle who brought him to visit us, asked his young nephew,

“Will you bring me some marbles to play with?”

Imal was friendly, like any other 7 year old kid. “Yes!” His voice was a trusting one, eager to be a good friend and playmate.

“Do you also play with walnuts? Tell us how you play with walnuts,” Raz requests.

“We put them in a line, and flick a walnut to hit other walnuts, like playing with marbles,” Imal explains diligently, like he was telling a story we should all be interested in.

“Besides beans, what other food do you like?”

“I also like… potatoes… and meat… …and… rice!” All of us were smiling with the familiar love of Afghan oiled ‘palao’ or ‘Qabuli’ rice.”

Imal knew what my laptop was. He said, “We can look at photos & watch films…”

But, then, it seemed that he took on the understanding of an older person when his voice became serious.

”My father was killed by a computer.”

I wanted to tell Imal that nowadays, it takes children and young people like Nobel Laureate Malala Yousafzai to tell us adults the plain facts.

When Malala was 16 years old and met with the Obamas at the White House, Malala had told Obama that drones were fueling terrorism.

Do we get it? Drones are employed in the ‘war against terrorism’, but instead, drones fuel terrorism.

How many drone attacks are there in Afghanistan every month, and how many women, children and young men like Imal’s father are killed?

We don’t know. It’s not a transparent strategy.

We would all want to know everything about the possible effects of a drone strategy on our children, especially if our country was the most drone-bombed country in the world, like Afghanistan is.

A Bureau of Investigative Journalism’s ‘Naming the Dead’ report says that fewer than 4% of the people killed by drone attacks in Pakistan have been identified by available records as named members of Al Qaeda. If this is true for drone attack victims in Afghanistan too, then 96% of drone victims in Afghanistan have been innocent civilians like Imal’s father.

In another Bureau of Investigative Journalism report, ‘Tracking drone strikes in Afghanistan’, (July, 2014),the Bureau states that “nobody systematically publishes insurgent and civilian deaths from drones on a strike-by-strike basis. Neither the US nor UK authorities publishes data on the casualties of their drone operations.”

So, we are unable to find out for Imal’s mother if it was a U.S./UK drone that killed her husband, and who the drone operator was.

If Imal were John, could he or his mother sue David Cameron? Stop the drone? Stop the human drone operator? Disable the computer?

We gave Imal a Borderfree blue scarf, and thanked him for coming.

His eyes were bright and cheerful, taking in the photos on the wall, including a poster of Gandhi and Badshah Khan. Badshah Khan was a Pashtun like Imal, and has been called the Frontier Gandhi for his lifelong struggle for nonviolence.

I have been thinking hard about Imal, about whether anyone would hear him, when few among the elites who declare wars and order drone strikes seem to have heard the now famous Malala, not even President Obama.

“I wish to tell the world, ‘We don’t want war. Don’t fight!’”

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What's New: You have to be audacious

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Earlier this month on Twitter, NPA city councillor George Affleck ripped into Gregor Robertson for being good looking. Sadly, the level of political debate in Vancouver doesn't have much more to offer than jibes about good, strong, clean teeth. It's no wonder this city is unlikely to improve upon the disgraceful 35 per cent turnout the last time voters went to the polls.
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Secrets From The Doctor's Office

Operation Maple YouTube - October 21, 2014 - 12:52pm
Secrets From The Doctor's Office
SUBSCRIBE and check out our other videos! http://www.operationmaple.com http://www.facebook.com/operationmaple http://twitter.com/#!/operationmaple. From: OperationMaple Views: 147 2 ratings Time: 03:31 More in People & Blogs
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13 Most Ugly, Offensive,and Weird Costumes for Halloween 2014

AlterNet.org - October 21, 2014 - 11:29am
The bad news: Dozens of "Indian Princess" costumes continue to exist. The good news: You can be a sexy lobster instead.

Putting on my judgy face at the Halloween store. Photo Credit: xojane

Putting on my judgy face at the Halloween store.

 

Content note: Some images may not be safe for work.

Ah, Halloween, that time of year when even usually well-adjusted people come up with extraordinarily complex puns and turn them into costumes, when sexy corn becomes a brief and beautiful reality, and when some folks very nearly ruin everything by dressing up in horribly misguided ensembles.

It’s not that Halloween itself is bad. Halloween is a damn good time. Who can hate a holiday that is half about dressing up and half about candy? It’s just that at some point in the past few years, Halloween has turned into a strange meta event in which the certainty that offensive and bizarre costumes will happen somehow feeds their creation.

Thus, the “Ebola containment suit” costume was probably, sadly, inevitable.

“Ebola containment suit” costume Photo Credit: xojane Ha ha ha ha.... oh.

 

Never mind that it explicably has “Ebola” printed on it, as though the costume itself is the virus, or contains the disease ("Get yer Ebola right here!"). It’s kind of like those “sexy” costumes that have the word “sexy” right on them, in case you were confused as to their purpose.

The fact that the copy for this ensemble says, “This will literally be the most ‘viral’ costume of the year,” is enough to wish it dead.

As always, I have spent long hours combing costume sites looking for the oddest selections, the most offensive mass-produced options and the simply, utterly bizarre.

And we’re going to start with the fake private parts of "ladies" as mockingly worn by men.

Fake parts of ladies. Photo Credit: xojane The guy modeling this is also the model for a TON of the most horrible dude-joke costumes and I'm not sure whether I should hate him or feel sorry for him.

Pubic hair. It exists. For as long as human women have been walking upright, most of them have been growing some amount of hair between their legs. I don’t know the whole history of down-there hair removal, but I know that even as American Apparel has tried to revive big ol’ hedges recently, women have been mowing their ladygardens -- and not doing so -- for millenia.

The "Anita Waxin" costume attempts to provoke a thoughtful conversation about hair politics. Or it's just something frat dudes wear to make their bros laugh. Still, I don’t see how pubic hair is all that funny. But I also don’t laugh when someone farts either.

Droopers. Photo Credit: xojane Low-hanging fruit indeed.

The “Droopers” copy explains its premise:

Ever wonder what happens to the girls that work at Hooters? There's no real retirement plan when you're a waitress - you've just gotta keep on working!

Which should put it in the finals for the award for most unintentionally depressing Halloween costume description. Even if you aren’t put off by the “LOL WAITRESSES SO POOR” approach, this is pretty terrible.

Gropin’ Granny.” Photo Credit: xojane Oh, that's it, that was the sound of my last shred of faith in humanity dying.

 

And for the gentleman who wants to cover BOTH the saggy-breast AND unusually-giant-bush bases, we have the “Gropin’ Granny” costume, complete with dramatic nipples and flasher-housecoat.

Elderly women! The lowest-hanging fruit is always good for a laugh. And it’s extra fun because they’re unlikely to defend themselves.

Cherokee princess Photo Credit: xojane WHY DOES THIS CONTINUE TO HAPPEN?

Moving on to the appropriation set: deranged and unsinkable optimist that I am, every October I think, “Surely this will be the year that twenty bazillion ‘new’ ‘Indian Princess’ costumes DON’T get made,” and I’m wrong. There are SO MANY of these costumes.

The URL identifies the example above as a “Cherokee princess” and I can’t decide if it’s more offensive to use the name of an actual tribe to describe a mocking ensemble contained in a plastic bag and hanging on a hook at the Halloween store, or if it’s worse to just assume that "Indians are Indians" and there is no distinction between tribes to be made. They’re probably equally horrible for their own unique reasons.

Even a cursory look through any Halloween costume site reveals literally dozens of these mass-produced costumes on the market -- so many that it’s not that surprising that folks doggedly continue to believe there is nothing gross about dressing up as native cultures that only continue to exist as a result of the strength of those who have fought to preserve them even in the face of devastating abuse and erasure on the part of white Europeans who “discovered” a land hundreds of years back and immediately went to work on destroying the people already living there, a process that, in degrees, continues even today.

Depressing? For sure. Who wants to bring that to a party?

Senorita death. Photo Credit: xojane Skull sold separately.

What did I just say? Day of the Dead celebrations -- with which sugar skulls are directly connected and which this "Senorita Death" (seriously) costume is inspired by -- can be traced back to the Aztecs. As a general rule, if it’s not your culture, it’s usually a good idea not to dress up in it as a costume, because even if you are intending to do so as a somber homage to its origins, it is probably going to come off as cavalier. ESPECIALLY if you do so by dropping $50 on a crap outfit made in a sweatshop in China.

Tighty Whitey Underwear Briefs Costume Photo Credit: xojane I can't.

The “We’re a culture, not a costume” campaign has been often mocked since it first appeared in 2011, which is a shame because the message is totally legit -- these “funny” efforts can have measurable negative effects on people.

And beyond being potentially hurtful, wearing a stereotype as a costume is pure laziness. The “Tighty Whitey Underwear Briefs Costume” is neither funny nor particularly inventive; it just makes fun of a cultural signifier and a racist caricature. “Sagging,” which this costume attempts to mock, is said to have its roots in the prison system, where belts are often not allowed, and the style was later popularized in hip hop. In the 2000s, some parts of the US were actually trying to make sagging illegal, because I guess pants are only safe for the public when they’re around your waist.

I doubt anyone wearing this costume is going to be arrested, unfortunately. Oh, and it also comes in a child version, so your towheaded little scamp can join the offensive party.

And in case you thought things couldn't possibly get worse, there's even a mass-produced "sexy burqa" costume. Whatever your feelings on the burqa as a symbol (and unless you are Muslim or extraordinarily well educated about Islam, your opinion is probably unfairly negatively influenced), the fact remains that Muslim women are entitled to choose how they dress and present themselves in public, and should their personal standards -- and personal safety -- dictate a certain degree of modesty, it’s not acceptable to mock that choice.

Sexy burqa. Photo Credit: xojane I really, really, really can't.

More to the point, the burqa and other Muslim headcoverings are typically a religious choice as well. Muslims in the U.S. are already misunderstood and misrepresented enough on every other day besides Halloween. Turning a burqa -- the purpose of which, in part, is to cover a woman’s body and avoid her being sexualized against her will -- into a sexual garment is so disrespectful it boggles the mind that this costume even exists.

And there are so many other, better sexy costumes. Enjoy a few, as a palate cleanser after the above:

Sexy lobster. Photo Credit: xojane Pinchy!

Sexy Lobster. In fact, there are TWO sexy lobsters, in case this one isn’t meeting your precise babely-crustacean needs.

 

Sexy taco. Photo Credit: xojane

Spicy!

 

Sexy Taco, although I'd argue that ALL tacos are sexy. Will this be 2014's Sexy Hamburger? Time will tell.

Sexy Mr. Peanut. Photo Credit: xojane Salty!

Sexy Mr Peanut. I have nothing bad to say about this. I kind of love it.

 

Sexy droog Photo Credit: xojaneUltra-violent!

Sexy Droog? Actually I don't know if this is hilarious and brilliant or terrible. I'll leave that decision to you.

Vagina hat. Photo Credit: xojane

Or, you could just cut through the bullshit and wear a vagina hat.

This is probably what most men see when they look at women anyway. (Misandry rimshot!)

Did I miss any bizarre or offensive costumes you’ve seen? Let us know your favorites -- or tell us about your painstakingly handcrafted Sexy Something-That-Is-Not-Usually-Sexy costume -- in comments.

Read more from Lesley.
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