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Tea Party Focuses on Wrong Target

 By Henry A. Giroux

Tea Party candidates express anger over government programs, but say nothing about a government that provides tax breaks for the rich, allows politicians to be bought off by powerful lobbyists, contracts out government functions to private industries and guts almost every major public sphere necessary for sustaining an increasingly faltering democracy.

Tea Party members are outraged, but their anger is really directed at the New Deal, the social state and all those others whom they believe do not qualify as "real" Americans.

At the same time the American public is awash in a craven and vacuous media machine that routinely tells us that people are angry, but offers no analysis capable of treating such anger as symptomatic of an economic system that creates massive inequalities, rewards the ultra rich and powerful and punishes everybody else.

liberal pundits argue that the rich and powerful are indifferent to poor people and, of course, he is right, but only partly so. In actuality, it is much worse.

Today's young people and others caught in webs of poverty and despair face not only the indifference of the rich and powerful, but also the scorn of the very people charged with preserving, protecting and defending their rights.

We now live in a country in which the government allows entire populations and groups to be perceived and treated as disposable, reduced to fodder for the neoliberal waste management industries created by a market-driven society in which gross inequalities and massive human suffering are its most obvious byproducts.

Noam Chomsky Calls Out "Liberal" Media For What it is.

Ajaz Ashraf, Anuradha Raman Interview Noam Chomsky

“Western media submits to an intellectual culture restricting any analysis and criticism of state action.”

“Liberal media doesn’t discuss attacks on civil rights today, for they are coming from the Obama administration.”
The major media, the New York Times and so on, tend to be what is called liberal. That implies they are highly supportive of state power, state violence and state crimes.

Their major commitment is to the centres of power—state and private. For example, there are major attacks on civil rights today but because those are coming from the Obama administration, the liberal media barely discusses the violations.

Propaganda is to democracy what violence is to totalitarianism. It enables the elite to dull the will of people, depriving them of the capacity to make political choices?

Back in the 1920s, it was openly called propaganda. But the word acquired a bad flavour with Nazism in the 1930s. So now, it’s not called propaganda any more. But they were right in the 1920s.

The huge public relations industry, for example, has as its goal to control attitudes and beliefs. Liberal commentators, like Walter Lippmann, said we have to manufacture consent and keep the rabble away from the decision-making.

We are the responsible men, we have to make decisions and we have to be protected “from the trampling under the rage of the bewildered herd—the public”.

In the democratic process, we are the participants, they watch. And the task of intellectuals, media and so on is to make sure that they are quiet, subdued and obedient.

That is the view from the liberal end of the spectrum. Yes, I don’t doubt that the media is liberal in that sense. The media becomes the voice of the government and elite.

In his introduction to Animal Farm, George Orwell writes that the British (the audience for which he was writing) should not be too complacent about his satire on the crimes of the totalitarian enemy.

He said in free England unacceptable ideas could be suppressed voluntarily, without the use of force. He says the reasons are that the press is owned by wealthy men who have every reason not to want certain ideas to be expressed.

In the more modern period, generally, the media are either big corporations or parts of mega corporations or closely linked to the government.

The other reason, maybe more significant, is that if you have a good education, you would have instilled into you that there are certain things that it just wouldn’t do to say.

Being Gay and Coptic. Gay in the Coptic Orthodox Church.

christian, coptic orthodox, and gay: sound like a contradiction? To many people, perhaps. To me and many others, not so much. Growing up gay and orthodox had its challenges. I hope that others out there who are struggling or who are in the shadows may stumble upon this blog. I hope to let others know they don't have to be alone.

The Coptics, though not Orthodox, could easily be said to be the closest to the Eastern Orthodox, probably much, much closer than anyone else. This blogger is Coptic and gay. This blog needs to be seen by all. In both Eastern and Coptic Churches the discussion on gay marriage is painfully small and closeted.

Orthodox and Coptics are never going to accept homosexuality until they figure out that what constitutes a gay person. A gay person may be one of the members of their own Church or someone in their coffee group.

Hierarchs in both Churches may rant and rave but they completely discredit themselves when they talk about being gay as though it were some kind of lifestyle choice. Then they talk about flippant homosexual orgies happening everywhere in the streets if we legalize gay marriage, or how if it gay marriage was legal, then everyone would do it!

It's painful to hear them educate the youth on homosexuality by telling them that there are better ways to get attention. So painful. They know so little about these innocents deprived of life and love, with many feeling forced to flee into the monastic life in order to avoid suspicion.

While members of their own congregations  portray them as drug addicts and binge drinkers in order to make what they don't like look even worse. I mean, who could defend a life that involved getting high and binging? Right?...


Banker's Scaming You Yet Again

By Andrew Leonard

Nearly a dozen major banks and hedge funds, anticipating quick profits from homeowners who fall behind on property taxes, are quietly plowing hundreds of millions of dollars into businesses that collect the debts, tack on escalating fees and threaten to foreclose on the homes of those who fail to pay.

Here's how it works. A homeowner fails to pay property taxes on time, and gets a tax lien slapped on them by the county tax collector.

But local government doesn't have the resources or manpower to effectively enforce the proliferation of tax debts in the current distressed economic environment. So it bunches them up together and sells them off to the highest bidder at online auctions.

The winner of the auction then proceeds to do its best imitation of a loan shark, slapping on additional fines, charging high interest rates on the debt, and eventually initiating foreclosure proceedings.

Years ago, the big banks left the buying of owed taxes largely to local real estate specialists and small-time investors.

These days, banks and hedge funds, stung by the failure of many speculative investments, see the loan-shark business as a relatively safe option that can yield returns of around 7 percent.

It's so typical of the decayed state of capitalism. The banks that aided and abetted a frenzy of dubious mortgage loans then proceeded to get badly burned by their investments in mortgage-backed securities when it became clear that underlying mortgages were crap.

The ensuing economic crash pushed millions of Americans over the financial edge. And now the banks have discovered that there's a safe, steady business model in cashing in on their hardship.


Campbell's Soup "surrenders" to Islam, Right wingers boycott

By Ben Zaritsky

The far right has never been better, speaking the good news of capitalism, defending the constitution, protecting our rights, and spreading Islamophobia.
If forced to choose, what of all of these values the far right would choose to promote. Luckily for all of us, we now have an answer.

Campbell's Soup, earlier this year, announced a new line of halal-based soups. Halal is an Islamic dietary law (think kosher).

While it may seem more in line with conservative ideology to support Campbell's capitalist endeavor to venture into an otherwise untapped North American market and make a profit, the conservative base has chosen to promote more fear and hatred – it is an election year, after all.

This outrageous move by Campbell's has put Islamophobes across North America on alert with a "NO SOUP FOR YOU!" mentality.

In an attempt to stop Campbell's from producing edible foods, a new Facebook group, which now has nearly 3,000 members, has been started to boycott the company.

One Facebooker, who wrote to Campbell's about his feelings on the issue, expresses his experience:

"I was shaking from rage so much that this is what I was able to say without cursing. You cowards bend to the un-American Islamic law spreading across America?

"I will make sure that all my family and friends never buys another can of you Islam loving garbage ever again. Traitors! I hope to GOD that you're stocks plummet as we educate the world about you UN-American Cowards."

Even the Tea Party Nation weighed in with a clever boycott tweet: "Campbell's now making Muslim approved soups. Mmmmm Mmmmm not good. No more campbells for me".

It's a good thing that Marie Callender's hasn't tried to make a halal-based apple pie, or that Oscar Mayer hasn't made a halal-based hot dog. The national guard would have been called out to stop such an obscene abuse of the American culture.

After all, we haven't worked so hard to mutilate and Americanize all of our other foods only to allow others to come into our country and eat foods they find palatable.

If it isn't deep fried, completely processed, and/or containing various bits of animal product in it, then it is not American.

Foods such as "low fat cream of broccoli" or "vegetarian vegetable" (both of which are part of the new Campbell's halal-based soup line) are completely un-American.

No sir, let's keep our soup red, white and blue. None of this halal junk for us. And while we're at it, do we really need kosher and vegan?

No, we must take a stand. We can not allow this type of behavior to continue. You give an inch, they take a mile. We must keep our patriotic soup safe.


Privitizing Basic Social Services; Capitalism at its Harshest

Naomi Spencer

A family’s home was left to burn to the ground September 29 in Obion County, Tennessee over an unpaid annual fee of $75. Residents have responded angrily to the disaster, as city officials defend the policy.
The blaze could have easily been put out by the fire department if firefighters had been authorized to respond when emergency calls were first made. The fire broke out after a trash fire spread from a barrel into the yard of Gene and Paulette Cranick, the homeowners.

Gene Cranick called 9-1-1 several times and pleaded with the operator to send help. He offered to pay any amount for the fire to be extinguished, but was told it was too late, because he had not paid for service. The fee is imposed by the city of South Fulton on rural residents who need fire protection but do not live within the city limits.

The fire burned for several hours, and Cranick and neighbors tried desperately to battle the flames with garden hoses. It was not until an adjacent field of a neighbor who had paid the fee began to catch fire that the fire department responded.

Local NBC news affiliate Channel 6 sent a reporting crew to the scene, where they filmed the fire chief, David Wilds, standing by and allowing the Cranick home to burn. When a reporter asked him why, Wilds called the police to have the news team removed from the vicinity, then the fire trucks left.

South Fulton Mayor David Crocker defended the decision, comparing the fee to an automobile insurance policy. “Anybody that’s not in the city of South Fulton,” he told Channel 6, “it’s a service we offer, either they accept it or they don’t.”

“Things of my mother’s, my grandmother’s, my great-grandmother’s, were all there in that house,” Paulette Cranick told the local news. She said she did not blame the firefighters. “They’re doing their job, they’re doing what they’re told to do. It’s not their fault.”

The community has expressed anger over the fire. The Cranick’s 44-year-old son was reportedly so distraught over the destruction of his parent’s home that he confronted Fire Chief Wilds at the station soon after the trucks returned there, and punched him in the face.

Gene Cranick was interviewed Monday night on MSNBC’s “Countdown with Keith Olbermann” from the yard in front of his destroyed home. “Everything we possessed was lost in the fire, even three dogs and a cat that belonged to my grandchildren was lost in it,” he said. “And they could have been saved if they’d put water on it, but they didn’t do it.”

The firefighters, he said, “put water out on the fence line here, they never said nothing to me, never acknowledged, just stood out here and watched it burn.”

“Insurance is going to pay for what money I had on the policy. But like everything else, I didn't have enough,” Cranick said. “The mayor up here said I refused to pay―I did not refuse to pay, I told him I would pay whatever it took. But I had forgotten this thing … and I had to suffer the consequences for it.”

Cranick noted that the fire department used to make exceptions for fires at residences with unpaid fees. “About three years ago in December, there was a fire up here in my boy’s house, and they waived the fee till the next day. We had the thing out before they got there,” he added, “but they waived the fee and I went in the next day and paid.”

Since that time, however, the South Fulton government has refused to put out fires if there are no people known to be inside the structure. Cranick commented that in the past few years, “They let three, and I heard four, burn. On the other side of Union City, they let a barn burn that had horses in it.”

The fire policies of South Fulton and an identical one in nearby Union City have long been a flashpoint between the residents and the local governments. Fatal fires are all too common in Tennessee, with the poor who live in mobile homes or doubled up in apartments, many without utilities, most at risk. In April 1996, a devastating house fire claimed the lives of six family members, including five children, in South Fulton. It took more than an hour for fire crews to respond, according to press reports at the time.

West Tennessee has seen a series of brush fires over the past decade, including more than 40 fires that swept across 15 counties in 2006, destroying 600 acres. Many of the blazes were attributed to outdoor trash burning, which is a common practice in poor rural areas.

On September 28, just a day before the fire that consumed the Cranick home, a fatal mobile home fire in nearby Atoka, Tennessee, killed five members of a family. Only a 12-year-old boy and his 6-year-old brother were able to escape by breaking the glass of a window; their mother, her boyfriend, two sisters and a grandmother died.

Tennessee ranks among the worst in the nation for fatal house fires. So far this year, at least 67 Tennessee residents and firefighters have died in blazes, according to data compiled by the non-profit Fire Team Tennessee.

After a South Fulton house was left to burn to the ground on July 2, 2008, the city government was compelled to hold a meeting to address public anger over the fire service fee, which was first imposed on rural residents in 1990. The home of Richard Cruse was allowed to burn uncontrollably, in spite of numerous calls to 9-1-1. The fire burned for at least 40 minutes, while residents sprayed the area with garden hoses. Firefighters were not given the go-ahead to intervene until the fire threatened to spread to two neighboring homes.

At the meeting, residents expressed outrage that the fire could have killed people. Then-Mayor Ronald Haskins commented, “hate they lost the house. But if I wrecked my car and I didn’t have insurance on it, they’re not going to pay for it and the city is not going to pay for it.” Articulating the widely felt frustration of residents, a physician who ran a clinic across the street from the Cruse home responded to the mayor that it wasn’t in her code of ethics to ask someone if they have insurance or can pay before she treated them. “I take care of the patient and hope I get paid.”

Fire services, like other basic infrastructure, have been starved of funds in communities throughout the country. Many rural areas of the US have only a patchwork of volunteer fire departments to rely on in emergency situations. The economic crisis has stripped local governments of the most minimal funds for services, both from the states that likewise are crippled by shortfalls, and from local tax revenue.