Feed aggregator

Best Job Posting Ever Seeks Sex-Loving Pothead

Huffingon Post Politics - Tue, 2014-09-16 19:09
Do you like sex and marijuana? Well then this job is for you.

Last week, The Denver Post's marijuana news site The Cannabist posted what may be the best job description -- and job -- ever.

"Sex columnist, with weed focus (apply by Oct. 1)," the headline for the job listing reads.

And of course the punning for such a position has already begun on Twitter:

I hope this column is called “SexPot.” MT @bruvs: The @Cannabist is hiring a between-the-sheets columnist

— Ryan Teague Beckwith (@ryanbeckwith) September 16, 2014

The Cannabist launched just days before Colorado's legal recreational marijuana dispensaries first opened their doors to sell weed to adults on Jan. 1, 2014. It has since covered all things marijuana -- from business to politics to strain reviews -- and will now, apparently, cover sex.

So, what exactly will a "sex columnist, with a weed focus" write about? Here's what's required for the job:

Our new freelance columnist will write about sex, relationships, intimacy, gender issues and more as it all relates to a world where marijuana is becoming legal -- and oftentimes present in the bedroom. Our columnist will write about his or her own history, address trends, review related products and answer reader questions. This is a paid freelance position, and our ideal candidate will truly put him or herself out there.

So dust of your resumes, vaporizers and sex toys, but no hiding behind your keyboard and pseudonym -- this job requires the right candidate to "write about sex and marijuana publicly under your given name."

Sen. Tim Kaine Proposing Legislation To Authorize Military Force Against ISIS

Huffingon Post Politics - Tue, 2014-09-16 18:54

WASHINGTON (AP) — Democratic Sen. Tim Kaine has drawn up legislation to authorize U.S. military force against Islamic extremists that would strictly limit the engagement of American ground forces.

The Virginia senator, who is a member of both the Armed Services and Foreign Relations committees, proposes repealing the 2002 authorization that two presidents have cited as their authority for military operations in Iraq.

Kaine's measure calls for all necessary and appropriate force to defeat the Islamic State militants as the president determines, including airstrikes and training and equipping certain Syrian rebels.

It bars the use of American ground forces except for rescue missions and limited operations against high-value targets. The authorization would last for a year.

The Associated Press obtained a copy of the draft legislation that Kaine plans to introduce Wednesday.

This gadget makes acoustic guitars sound electrifying without using an external amp

TreeHugger Science-Tech - Tue, 2014-09-16 16:21
A forthcoming device allows acoustic guitar players to easily add effects to their sound, with no external speaker, using just the body of the instrument itself.

Attorney: Darrien Hunt Shot 6 Times While Running Away

Huffingon Post Politics - Tue, 2014-09-16 03:22
SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — A young black man who was fatally shot last week by Utah police lunged at the officers with a real sword that had a 2.5-foot steel blade, prosecutors said Monday.

Reports from Darrien Hunt's family that the 22-year-old was carrying a toy sword are not accurate, said Utah County Chief Deputy Attorney Tim Taylor. "It wasn't plastic, it wasn't wood," Taylor said. "It appears to be a real samurai sword."

The Saratoga Springs Police Department is under fire over the fatal shooting of Hunt last Wednesday. The city removed a critical social media posting that accused the news media of reporting innuendo, opinion and rumor as fact with the police chief apologizing for the remarks.

Hunt's mother has accused police of shooting her son because he is black. Police say race played no role.

An attorney for the family says an independent autopsy shows Hunt was shot six times while running away.

Taylor said investigators are talking with witnesses and gathering surveillance video from the strip mall to piece together what happened. There are at least three businesses nearby where the shooting occurred that may have surveillance cameras that captured moments of the encounter, he said.

The shooting is being reviewed by a coalition of investigators from different agencies who review officer involved shootings under the direction of Taylor's office, Jackson said. The two officers involved in the shooting are on administrative leave, per standard protocol.

The social media post Sunday, around the same time more than 100 people gathered at a candlelight vigil for Hunt, only brought more attention to the shooting. On the police department's Facebook page, they asked for the public to be patient and rejected the notion that there was a cover-up.

"Everyone should remember that the news outlets have ratings they need to gain. They don't report facts. They use innuendo, opinion and rumor and then report it as fact," the post said. "The real facts are being determined by an independent investigation, and not in a rushed or haphazard manner."

Saratoga Springs Police Chief Andrew Burton on Monday apologized for the post, asking again for patience and understanding from the public and the news media as they work their way through an extremely complicated investigation. He said in a statement that their frustration about not being able to answer questions about the incident led to the post.

Randall Edwards, an attorney for the family of Darrien Hunt, called it a foolish statement to make but said accusing the media of a bias when the facts aren't on your side is a common response.

"There are a lot of raw emotions over this very intense thing. You're going to have people who are going to make statements that later on reflection they are going to wish they hadn't made," Edwards told The Associated Press.

Edwards said an independent autopsy requested by the family shows Hunt was shot six times, all from behind, which he said demonstrates that Hunt was running away. He said Hunt died from a bullet that hit him square in the back.

Taylor declined to comment on that autopsy, saying investigators are waiting to see the results of an autopsy done by the state medical examiner.

Police say the shooting happened Wednesday morning after they were called to investigate a "suspicious" man walking near businesses while carrying a "samurai-type sword."

Saratoga Springs is home to Mia Love, who is vying to become the first black Republican woman ever elected to Congress. She served as mayor of the city of 23,000 people from 2010 to early this year.

Terri Lynn Land Family Gives Millions To Evangelical Group Targeting 'Unreached People'

Huffingon Post Politics - Tue, 2014-09-16 00:01
WASHINGTON -- Throughout her run for the Senate, Michigan Republican candidate Terri Lynn Land has been forced to fend off criticism of her family’s real estate business. Now, it appears, her defense may end up producing its own set of troubles for her political aspirations.

Land & Co., founded by Land's father, Paul Land, has grown into a small empire of rental apartments and mobile home parks spread across western Michigan. Land listed herself as an employee for 20 years, until she began her campaign to replace retiring Sen. Carl Levin (D). Today, the company employs Land's husband, Dan Hibma, and her brother-in-law, Roger Lucas.

The company's success has made a millionaire of Land, a former Michigan secretary of state who disclosed a combined household net worth this year of more than $32 million. But a political system that increasingly portrays millionaires as out-of-touch plutocrats exposes Land to attacks for the fortune that she and her husband reaped from Land & Co. The state Democratic Party has accused her of trying to hide her connection to the family business and of harboring an "anti-middle class agenda."

One way Land seeks to deflect attention from her wealth is by touting her family's charity work on her campaign website. "The Land family has always been dedicated to giving back to the community that gave them so much," the site reads. "Whether it was planting trees … or collecting donations to clothe and educate people around the world, the Land family has a deep commitment of service to the community."

Among all the family's good works, World Mission Inc., a nonprofit founded in 1994, stands out. Like the Land family real estate company, World Mission is controlled by Land family members, including Land's husband, who signs the group's tax returns, her father and her brother-in-law.


World Mission is an evangelical Christian missionary project that aims to spread the religion to what it calls "unreached people groups" or UPGs, by distributing audio players loaded with a recording of the Bible. The gold-colored players are about the size of an iPhone, and come with the New Testament recorded in the language of people the group is targeting. World Mission refers to the solar-powered talking Bibles as "treasures."

As recently as 2008, World Mission was located at the same address as the headquarters of Terri Lynn Land for Secretary of State, Land's former campaign office. This address also housed the family company, Land & Co., as well as other Land family holdings.

Land herself does not serve on the board of World Mission, where her father, husband and brother-in-law have been members since the charity's founding. Dave Dishaw, the former finance chair of her campaigns for secretary of state, is a board member, as is the Land family's longtime pastor, the Rev. Kevin Harney. Business associates of Land & Co. fill out much of the board. Land's sister, Kathy Desser, and another brother-in-law, John Desser, both work at the for-profit affiliate of World Mission, called World Mission Clothing.

Since its founding, World Mission has received millions in contributions from real estate companies controlled by the Land family, and millions more from Land family members, according to IRS returns reviewed by The Huffington Post. To supplement the donations, World Mission operates thrift stores in western Michigan, alongside the for-profit venture, which buys unsold clothes from thrift shops and sells them in bulk.

Proceeds from the stores are intended to buy "treasures" to give to "unreached people groups." For the year ending in June 2012, World Mission listed assets of more than $3.9 million and reported $2 million in annual revenue.

Online donors to World Mission may contribute $50 to fund one of the talking Bibles. According to World Mission, each of the devices "reaches approximately 144 people with the life-changing power of the gospel." World Mission says it distributed 17,000 "treasures," reaching 2.39 million people, in 2013.

"Unbelievably, there are over 2 billion people who have yet to hear the gospel for the first time," says the narrator of a World Mission video called "Intro to UPG (Unreached People Groups)." "If you were to place them side by side, they would surround the globe 25 times."

In the same video, World Mission lists what it calls "the obstacles" to its goal: Islam, Buddhism and Hinduism.


For many Michigan residents, the religions World Mission calls obstacles are a source of pride. Michigan has a long and vibrant tradition of religious pluralism. The University of Michigan at Dearborn says the the state is home to some of the "most ethnically and religiously diverse regions in the nation."

In her campaign for Senate, Land has avoided questions about her faith, in large part by giving few interviews and refusing invitations to debate her opponent, Democrat Gary Peters. The Huffington Post asked the Land campaign whether Land has contributed money to World Mission, and how she views the missionary work her family so generously supports. Spokeswoman Heather Swift declined to answer, except to say, "Terri Lynn Land has no role with World Mission."

But World Mission does play a role in Land's Senate campaign. According to donor records, employees of World Mission Clothing have donated $10,400 to Land's campaign. The money likely comes from Land's sister and brother-in-law, who campaign records show have donated $5,200 each to Land's Senate bid.

Land herself has donated nearly $3 million to her own campaign, making her by far the biggest individual contributor. But her donation ultimately may do her more harm than good. As part of a plan to deflect questions about her wealth, Land transferred many of her Land & Co. holdings to her husband, leaving her on paper with a salary and a small startup real estate company operated with her son.

Land filed her last two federal tax returns independently and reported personal income of $44,726 in 2012 and $89,729 in 2013, mostly from her property management company Green Light LLC, according to the returns she has voluntarily shared with MLive and other media organizations. She reported $17,709 in charitable giving for 2012, including a $12,000 donation to Corinth Reformed Church, which she and her husband attend in Byron Center. For 2013, she reported $44,865 in charitable giving, with $44,612 going to her church.

Reporters noticed in June that no bank accounts Land claimed to control had a balance anywhere near big enough to fund the $3 million contribution to her campaign. In response, Land's campaign claimed the candidate had forgotten about a joint bank account with her husband. Pundits said the flap didn't give voters the impression that Land was forgetful. It suggested a candidate so rich that she forgot about $3 million.

Though Land & Co. may cause headaches for Land's Senate campaign, it's the opposite for World Mission. According to federal records, the real estate company has provided World Mission with money, free office space, machinery, low-interest loans, supplies and carpeting. Not even the Land & Co. spokesman seemed to know about the ties.

The spokesman, John Truscott, initially told The Huffington Post that the company had "absolutely no relationship" with World Mission. He added that it was Land's husband, Dan Hibma, who was the charity's major supporter -- not the real estate company.

But it can be difficult to see where Land & Co. ends, and the Land family's charitable work begins. For its first 15 years, there were only four key figures at World Mission -- all senior executives at Land & Co. Paul Land, Dan Hibma, Roger Lucas and Roger Zylstra gave World Mission millions in cash. Individual directors also made major loans to World Mission -- in some cases extending the charity more than $1 million.

Land & Co., also loaned World Mission millions. When asked about the loans, Truscott said he was unaware of them. But after a conversation with Land & Co. executives, Truscott told HuffPost that World Mission borrowed the money from Land & Co. in order to make improvements on buildings and purchase equipment for processing used clothes.

World Mission never repaid the loans. At some point, Truscott said, the loans were written off, and the outstanding balances were donated to World Mission. As of 2012, the charity had no outstanding debts to Land & Co.

An employee at World Mission referred HuffPost's questions about finances to the charity's accountant, Mark Bardolph, who did not respond to a voicemail message from HuffPost. Bardolph, a longtime accountant for the charity, also is a consultant to Terri Lynn Land's Senate campaign. According to campaign filings, Bardolph has collected $2,500 in fees from the campaign since May.


World Mission targets people living in an area known to Christian missionaries as "the 10/40 window," a band stretching across the Eastern Hemisphere from 10 degrees to 40 degrees north of the Equator. The area encompasses North Africa, the Middle East and much of Asia, including China, India and Japan -- countries with traditionally small Christian communities. That makes it an ideal target for groups like World Mission.

The drive to spread the gospel is hardly new. Christian missionaries have been evangelizing for centuries. But World Mission's methods are decidedly modern.

During the mid-1950s, Christian missionaries began looking to social science. They studied how to integrate Christianity into non-Christian cultures, and how to target parts of the world least likely to meet evangelical Christians. The idea of mapping and targeting unreached people groups grew out of this research.

The practice of counting and tracking the world's non-Christians, known as spiritual mapping, is central to what groups like World Mission are trying to do and allows them to measure their impact. Research initiatives like the The Joshua Project and the Issachar Initiave help track unreached people groups.

Some of their conclusions are surprising. For instance, the Joshua Project lists Jews among unreached people groups, and the group produces a chart showing that evangelicals have made little "progress" in evangelizing Jews in America.

The Issachar Initiative takes the idea further, with its Count For Zero campaign. Its goal is to "establish a strong and viable church within each of the Unreached People Groups (UPGs), so that the number of UPGs is reduced to ZERO."

World Mission is a member organization of the Count for Zero campaign. In the video below, World Mission executive director Greg Kelley explains why.

You God Speaks My Language from Soapbox Pictures on Vimeo.

Not everyone is happy with the idea of mapping and targeting non-Christians. For Rabbi David Sandmel, director of interfaith affairs at the Anti-Defamation League, this type of tracking raises serious questions.

“It is understandable that Christians who take the Great Commission seriously would look for effective methods for their missionary work," Sandmel told HuffPost in an email. "However, [the Joshua Project] seems to be promoting targeted missionary activity to Jews (that is, targeting Jews because they are Jews). Given the history of forced conversion and other efforts to coerce Jews to abandon our tradition, we find this particularly offensive." Sandmel added, "many Christians leaders and denominations (among them Pope Benedict XVI) have explicitly repudiated targeted missionary activity.”

Muslims, too, have concerns about targeted missionary work. Dawoud Wahlid, executive director of the Michigan chapter of Coalition for American Islamic Relations, compared the goals of Count for Zero to radical extremism, because both groups "are working from the false framework that they can bring about the end of other religious groups."

As for how the ties between Terri Lynn Land and World Mission might be viewed by Michigan voters, Walid said, "Michigan is the heartland of the diverse and vibrant American Muslim community, so Land's affiliations would be a concern for Muslim voters in Michigan." He added that groups like World Mission "represent a worldview that could influence [Land's] voting record in the Senate, not just on domestic issues but on issues that influence Muslims across the globe."

In the coming weeks, Land will seek to win over Michigan's undecided voters. Political conventional wisdom says a candidate would benefit by allowing voters to see a personal side, including faith. For Land, however, that conversation may be a bridge too far.

Obama To Send 3,000 Military Forces To Fight Ebola In West Africa

Huffingon Post Politics - Tue, 2014-09-16 00:00
WASHINGTON (AP) — The Obama administration is ramping up its response to West Africa's Ebola crisis, preparing to assign 3,000 U.S. military personnel to the afflicted region to supply medical and logistical support to overwhelmed local health care systems and to boost the number of beds needed to isolate and treat victims of the epidemic.

President Barack Obama planned to announce the stepped up effort Tuesday during a visit to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta amid alarm that the outbreak could spread and that the deadly virus could mutate into a more easily transmitted disease. The new U.S. muscle comes after appeals from the region and from aid organizations for a heightened U.S. role in combatting the outbreak blamed for more than 2,200 deaths.

Administration officials said Monday that the new initiatives aim to:

— Train as many as 500 health care workers a week.

— Erect 17 heath care facilities in the region of 100 beds each.

— Set up a joint command headquartered in Monrovia, Liberia, to coordinate between U.S. and international relief efforts.

— Provide home health care kits to hundreds of thousands of households, including 50,000 that the U.S. Agency for International Development will deliver to Liberia this week.

— Carry out a home- and community-based campaign to train local populations on how to handle exposed patients.

The officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss the plans ahead of Obama's announcement, said the cost of the effort would come from $500 million in overseas contingency operations, such as the war in Afghanistan, that the Pentagon already has asked Congress to redirect to carry out humanitarian efforts in Iraq and in West Africa.

The officials said it would take about two weeks to get U.S. forces on the ground.

Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del., the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations African affairs subcommittee, applauded the new U.S. commitment. Coons earlier had called for the Obama administration to step up its role in West Africa.

"This humanitarian intervention should serve as a firewall against a global security crisis that has the potential to reach American soil," he said.

Hardest hit by the outbreak are Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea. The virus also has reached Nigeria and Senegal. Ebola is spread through direct contact with the bodily fluids of sick patients, making doctors and nurses especially vulnerable to contracting the virus that has no vaccine or approved treatment.

The U.S. effort will include medics and corpsmen for treatment and training, engineers to help erect the treatment facilities and specialists in logistics to assist in patient transportation.

Obama's trip to the CDC comes a day after the United States also demanded a stepped-up international response to the outbreak. The U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Samantha Power, on Monday called for an emergency meeting of the U.N. Security Council on Thursday, warning that the potential risk of the virus could "set the countries of West Africa back a generation."

Power said the meeting Thursday would mark a rare occasion when the Security Council, which is responsible for threats to international peace and security, addresses a public health crisis.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon was expected to brief the council along with World Health Organization chief Dr. Margaret Chan and Dr. David Nabarro, the recently named U.N. coordinator to tackle the disease, as well as representatives from the affected countries.

White House press secretary Josh Earnest, responding to criticism that the U.S. needed a more forceful response to the outbreak, said Monday that Obama has identified the outbreak "as a top national security priority," worried that it could contribute to political instability in the region and that left unchecked the virus could transform and become more contagious.

He said the administration responded "pretty aggressively" when the outbreak was first reported in March.

"Since that time our assistance has steadily been ramping up," he said.

The Senate was also weighing in Tuesday with a hearing to examine the U.S. response. An American missionary doctor who survived the disease was among those scheduled to testify.

Four Americans have been or are being treated for Ebola in the U.S. after evacuation from Africa.

The U.S. has spent more than $100 million responding to the outbreak and has offered to operate treatment centers for patients.

While at the CDC, Obama also will be briefed about cases of respiratory illness being reported in the Midwest, the White House said. Public health officials are monitoring a high number of reported illnesses associated with human enterovirus 68 in Iowa, Kansas, Ohio and elsewhere.

After leaving Atlanta, Obama planned to travel to Florida to visit the headquarters of U.S. Central Command in Tampa, where he'll meet with military officials about the U.S. counterterrorism campaign against the Islamic State group. Central Command overseas U.S. military efforts in the Middle East.


Associated Press writer Edith M. Lederer at the United Nations contributed to this report.


Reach Jim Kuhnhenn on Twitter at http://twitter.com/jkuhnhenn

The Middle Class and Working Poor's Lifelong Losing Game -- in 10 Slides

Huffingon Post Politics - Mon, 2014-09-15 23:50
They say a picture's worth a thousand words. If that's true, the following ten images could provide the lyrics for a thousand blues songs. The graphs are taken from series of recent reports which, when considered together, create a paint-by-numbers picture of the lifelong losing game faced by working Americans.

The chorus to our blues song goes like this: The middle the class and working poor are increasingly trapped in a cycle of economic decline, a downward slope which stretches from their golden youth to their sunset years. And there's no way out, unless we find one for ourselves.

Born Indebted

It begins with the ever-growing mountain of debt which students must acquire in this society in order to receive a college education. Since 2007, the last year before the financial crisis which Wall Street created, total student debt has more than doubled:

Total student debt in this country now exceeds the total credit card debt held by all Americans. The amount of debt held by each individual borrower has also soared, rising by more than 50 percent:

The average amount now owed per student is now more than $27,000. And because job prospects are poorer for young people than they've been in recent memory, many are having difficulty paying back these loans:

Source for above: U.S. Department of Education via Shahien Nasipour, Huffington Post

Falling Behind

Having been burdened with debt even before their working lives begin, young people then enter a workforce in which real income is falling for all but the wealthiest among us. This change is especially striking when it is expressed as hourly income:

It should be noted that this accelerating difference in income between the wealthy and the rest of us has taken place since the financial crisis, and since both a Republican and Democratic administration went to such great lengths to rescue the banking industry. It should also be noted that this gulf of inequality has been widening for some time:

Even modest proposals to ease inequality, such as an increase in the minimum wage and a low-impact job creation program, have been rejected by intransigent Republicans in Washington's fractious climate.

The Treadmill

The net result of this wealth transfer from working people to the already-rich has been, for most Americans, an increasing inability to maintain their standard of living. As a result, more and more Americans at the lower end of the income spectrum have been forced to borrow an ever-increasing rates.

We're seeing a shift of indebtedness down the income chain, as the working poor and the lower-middle-class slip into a cycle of debt. Lower-income families are now more deeply in debt, in fact, than any other income level:

Lawsuits from payday lenders and other fiscal predators are given undue deference in the court system. That, as ProPublica reports, can leave low-income working Americans saddled with a lifetime of debt for a single ill-advised loan.

As a result of these and other factors, the poorest families in this country have never been more deeply in debt than they are today:

Source: Federal Reserve, via Bloomberg View

Debtor Nation

Inequality soars. Congress enacts a draconian bankruptcy bill. (Student loans are subject to their own, especially harsh provisions.) Bankers defraud homeowners. People can't make ends meet. They take on more debt than they can handle. For these and other reasons, the garnishment of American workers' wages is quite high:

Source: ADP, via ProPublica

While a large chunk of these garnishments involves child support (a deplorable situation which can, however, be made worse by other forms of debt), the majority of wages garnished have been seized to cover other forms of debt. Four percent of people in their prime working years, for example, are seeing their wages garnished for consumer debt.

Senior Slump

For many Americans, the so-called sunset years offer no relief from the cycle of indebtedness. In what can only be just described as a grimly ironic form of closure, we now know that a number of senior citizens are even forced to struggle with a burden once thought to be the province of the young: student debt.

The total student debt held by Americans over sixty-five has risen from less than four billion dollars in 2005 to more than $18 billion today.

Source: GAO

This debt has led to a shredding of the social safety net for seniors, survivors and the disabled on Social Security. The General Accounting Office reports that student debt is carried by roughly 3 percent of households headed by people 65, and that approximately three-quarters of that debt belongs to the seniors themselves (rather than indebtedness on behalf of younger family members). Senior student debt is much more likely to be in default.

The Department of Education has been withholding Social Security benefits for seniors, as well as survivors and disabled Americans, using what is known as an "administrative offset" to pay off student loans. The GAO reports that the number of individuals whose Social Security benefits were "offset" in this manner "increased about five-fold, from about 31,000 to 155,000," and that "among those 65 and older, the number of individuals whose benefits were offset grew from about 6,000 to about 36,000 over the same period, roughly a 500 percent increase."

Disturbingly, the GAO reports that "the value of the amount protected and retained by the borrower has fallen below the poverty threshold." As a result, the GAO concludes that these clawbacks for defaulting student loan borrowers are leaving an increasing number of seniors and other Social Security beneficiaries impoverished.

The Way We Were

These indebted seniors can remember a time when the middle class was healthy and vibrant in this country - a time when, not coincidentally, far more American workers belong to unions than they do today:

The decline in union strength has left working people less able to negotiate with the increasingly profitable corporate class, and has therefore rendered them less capable of guiding their own destiny.

The result? Millions of Americans have been robbed of their freedom and autonomy by an economic system which, whether by accident or design, robs them of the belief that they can act independently to seize their own futures. That system is an elegant machine, one in which indebtedness preserves the illusion of social mobility for young people and of an affordable lifestyle for many working adults. Those illusions relieve the social pressure for change - and generate massive profits at the same time.

This systematic process ultimately leaves millions of people enchained by debt, fearful of losing their jobs, challenging their banks' usurious terms, or surrendering the American Dream which seems to forever remain just out of their reach. They become afraid to take to the streets and demand change because the consequences might bring an end to that hope which remains their most valued possession.

THis cycle needs to end. These images tell us that it leads to a form of fiscal servitude which dogs us, in the words of the old song, from the cradle to the grave.

Beyond the Blues

We said at the start that these pictures could provide the lyrics to a thousand blues songs. But, as Cornel West has said, "a bluesman is a prisoner of hope." That hope rests in the possibilities of awakening which surround us. One of those possibilities is embedded in that final image, which captures the relationship between an organized workforce and economic equity.

That image reminds us: If we re-organize American workers and engage in other forms of citizen mobilization we can reverse this downward cycle. That's a long road to travel, and nobody wants to walk it alone. That's where solidarity comes in, teaching us that what we cannot do as individuals we must achieve by working together.


This Week in World War I September 12-18, 1914

Huffingon Post Politics - Mon, 2014-09-15 23:01

British Merchant Ship Sunk by a German Submarine, North Atlantic

The Submarine War

Submarine craft have existed since the 18th century and more primitive versions date back even further. The First World War, however, was the first conflict in which submarines were widely deployed and were they played a major role in shaping both the course and the final outcome of the conflict.

German submarine deployment was focused primarily on the Atlantic and to a lesser extent the Mediterranean. The Atlantic, however, was the decisive theatre, principally the seas around the British Isles, the North Sea and the coast of France. What came to be called the Battle of the Atlantic pitted the German submarine fleet against the combined naval forces of Great Britain and France, and later those of the United States. At stake was Germany's attempt to cut off Great Britain from access to overseas sources of foodstuffs and raw materials and force her out of the war and later, to prevent American men and materials from joining the Allied war effort.

The Allies successfully combated the German U-boat menace through a combination of tactics, such as conveys and aerial reconnaissance, and through new military technology, such as depth charges. An early version of sonar, or ASDIC as it was originally called, was developed in 1917, but was not deployed until after the war had ended. Despite these responses, Germany came perilously close to closing Britain's Atlantic lifeline. In the process German U-boats sank nearly half of Britain's merchant marine fleet, with considerable human losses.

German firms like Krupp had been building U-boats for the German navy since before the war. By 1914 Germany had a total of 33 submarines, of which five were short-range defensive types and the rest highly effective long-range boats. With the German High Seas Fleet bottled up in its ports, Grand Admiral Alfred von Tirpitz argued that the only effective way Germany had of enforcing its own blockade was the use of U-boats. With this decision, no hostile merchant vessel was safe from the scourge of the U-boats and unrestricted submarine warfare.

Initially, the U-boat campaign was directed against the British Grand Fleet. Later, U-boats were directed against merchant shipping and the trade routes of the Entente Powers. Germany's policy of unrestricted submarine warfare proved to be a major factor in swaying American public opinion to enter the war on behalf of the Allies.

On August 6, just two days after the British declaration of war, ten German U-boats sailed from their base in Heligoland in northwest Germany to attack Royal Navy warships in the North Sea. This was the first wartime submarine patrol in history. The patrol was unsuccessful. One U-boat, U-9, broke down and returned to port without seeing any action. U-15 was rammed by the British Light Cruiser HMS Birmingham and sliced in half. It promptly sank. A third, U-13, was reported missing and believed to have been sunk by a mine. While the patrol was unsuccessful, the greater range of operation exhibited by the patrol raised concerns at the Admiralty about the vulnerability of Royal Navy anchorages, at the same time, however, the Navy continued to discount the threat that submarines could pose to large surface vessels.

German Submarine U-14

They were soon to be dissuaded from this belief by a string of successful U-boat attacks. On September 5, U-21 torpedoed the Royal Navy light cruiser HMS Pathfinder. Two weeks later, U-9 found and sank three old armored cruisers: HMS Aboukir, HMS Cressy and HMS Hogue. Three weeks later, U-9 struck again sinking another old cruiser, HMS Hawke. The sinking of this many cruisers caused considerable alarm at the Admiralty and raised doubt about the security of the fleet's main anchorage in Scapa Flow. British war ships were immediately redeployed to ports in eastern Ireland and western Scotland until additional security measures could be installed at Scapa Flow. While the losses had been minor, they had succeeded in forcing one the world's most powerful naval fleets to temporarily abandon its home base.

On November 23, despite the new precautions taken, U-18 was able to penetrate the defenses at Scapa Flow and enter the anchorage but found the fleet absent. It was subsequently spotted and eventually forced to surface and surrender. On the very last day of the year, U-24 sighted the British battleship HMS Formidable on maneuvers in the English Channel and sank her.

The first attacks against merchant ships commenced in October 1914. On October 14, the British Merchant ship SS Glitra became the first British merchant vessel to be sunk by a German submarine. U-17 stopped and searched the vessel. In accordance with the prevailing rules, the crew was placed in lifeboats and then the seacocks were opened to sink the Glitra. U-17 never actually fired upon her.

On October 20, less than a week later, U-24 became the first submarine to attack an unarmed merchant vessel without warning, torpedoing the steamship Admiral Ganteaume. The ship was carrying 2,500 Belgian refugees and the U-boat commander claimed he had mistaken her for a troopship. Fortunately it did not sink and was towed to the French port of Boulogne with minimal loss of life. On January 30, U-20 torpedoed and sank the steamers SS Ikaria, SS Tokomaru and SS Oriole without warning.

Within 90 days of the onset of World War I it had already become evident that the submarine would play an important role in the conflict and that it would revolutionize the conduct of naval operations. Within a few months, the German government would announce a policy of "Unrestricted Submarine Warfare" and open a new chapter in the history of naval warfare.

Debating the Role of Government in Somerset, Kentucky

Huffingon Post Politics - Mon, 2014-09-15 21:47
When two politicians debate the role of government, it is almost always Democrat vs. Republican.  Which is why it was so refreshing and instructive to read of the debate taking place among Republicans in a small city in southeastern Kentucky.

On July 19, after years of complaints about local gasoline prices being higher than those in surrounding communities, the City of Somerset decided to take matters into its own hands and began selling gasoline directly to the public.  Two-term State Senator Chris Girdler immediately declared, "socialism is alive and well in Somerset."  Two-term Mayor Eddie Girdler, a distant cousin, responded, "If government doesn't do it to protect the public, then who does it?"

In an interview State Senator Girdler, paraphrasing Ronald Reagan's famous dictum, insisted,  "the government is not the answer -- government's the problem." Regrettably the interviewer did not remind the readers that government laid the very foundation of Somerset's economy.  In 1950 the Army Corps of Engineers completed construction of one of the largest man-made lakes in the world. A little over 100 miles in length with an average depth of 85 feet, Lake Cumberland "transformed Somerset from a sleepy rural community into one of the largest recreation centers in Kentucky, drawing more than 1.7 million visitors annually."   It would have been instructive to discover whether Senator Girdler would describe Lake Cumberland as a "socialist enterprise."

Girdler wants to protect us from big government. Senator Girdler approvingly cites Ronald Reagan's famous dictum, "You can't be for big government, big taxes and big bureaucracy and still be for the little guy." Mayor Girdler wants to protect us from the predations big, giant corporation and he views government as a proper vehicle for doing so. "It's the role of government to protect us from big business," he maintains.

Somerset's foray into retail gasoline sales is not the first time it has used its collective authority on behalf of the little guy. In 1951 the city established a municipally owned natural gas company. In the mid 1970s, regular natural gas shortages spurred this city of 11,000 to borrow $4.5 million from Farmers Home Administration to build a natural gas pipeline to previously landlocked producers in eastern Kentucky, as well as a pipeline westward to a Texas Eastern Transmission terminal. Today Somerset owns and operates 155 miles of pipelines that connect to three major national natural gas transmission companies.  It purchases natural gas directly from more than a dozen producers while also transporting producers' gas to more distant markets.

In 2011 Somerset opened a natural gas stripping plant to upgrade the quality and monetary value of the natural gas.  In 2012 it began converting its public vehicle fleets to compressed natural gas, a conversion that by now is almost complete and became the first in Kentucky to sell natural gas to privately owned vehicles.

In 2010 storage capacity for 100,000 gallons of gasoline and diesel became available at a bargain price. Entrepreneurial Somerset quickly snapped it up, gaining the ability to control costs by purchasing gasoline when prices are low.  Mayor Girdler estimates the city recouped its investment within two years and has been sharing the savings with 11 other public entities as well as Somerset's independent schools.

The retail gasoline station comes after years of resident complaints about the high price of gasoline in Somerset compared to the surrounding area.  In 2011 the city extended an open invitation from city to local gasoline state business owners to explain why that is so.  All declined to attend.

In June, after two years of public debate, the city council voted 10-0 to authorize the city to sell gasoline. "We couldn't get anywhere, and we decided that hey, we might as well take a stand in a small way of saying that we're tired of it... and it is working," Mayor Girdler says.

Somerset's new public gasoline fuel center is consciously designed not to drive local gas stations out of business.  It sells only regular gasoline, has no convenience store and doesn't advertise.  Its goal from day one has been to make the local price of gasoline competitive with the regional price. In fact, the price of gasoline at the Somerset Fuel Center is set at the average regional gasoline price. So far the venture appears to be accomplishing its objective. The day the public gas station opened prices in Somerset dropped to or below those in surrounding communities.

Ultimately, Somerset is not targeting local gas stations but rather global Marathon Oil.  As Mayor Girdler explains, "We are one community that decided we've got backbone and we're not going to allow the oil companies to dictate to us what we can and cannot do."

Marathon's acquisition of Ashland Oil in 1998 virtually eliminated the competitive gasoline market in much of Kentucky.  After an investigation of price gouging the Kentucky Attorney General's office noted,  "It doesn't matter if you're at Chevron. It doesn't matter if you're at Thornton's or Shell or Speedway. It is all Marathon Oil."  Marathon sets the wholesale price and varies the price depending on how much it can get from the local market.

For decades Marathon had a wee bit of competition in the Somerset market from a small local refinery. But the Somerset Refinery declared bankruptcy in 2008.  In 2009 it reopened under new ownership.  The new owners should have found a ready supply of crude oil from local small oil producers eager to save $5-6 per barrel by transporting to Somerset rather than to Marathon's more remote refinery. But Marathon began offering handsome incentives to trucker brokers who would go 172 miles northeast of Somerset to deliver to its refinery in Catlettsburg.

On December 15, 2009, the CEO of Somerset Energy Refining wrote an open letter to Marathon pleading with its CEO to cease this anti-competitive practice.  Marathon refused. In early 2010 Somerset Refinery's biggest supplier diverted to Marathon.  The company declared bankruptcy.  "We simply weren't able to buy enough crude oil to process to keep our doors open," said Ed Phelps, spokesman for the company.

In 2011 the local refinery reopened once again under new management, this time with a new name, Continental Refining Company (CRC).  CRC's refinery is 2 percent the size of Marathon's but the new owners have long experience in the oil and gasoline business and deeper pockets than the previous owners.  So far it seems to be faring well and has played a key role in allowing Somerset to set up a competing gas station.

Mayor Girdler is up for reelection this November.  Whatever happens, a tip of the hat to Somerset, Kentucky, for making concrete the sometimes abstract and always ideological debate about the role of government and the value of collective action.


Andrew Cuomo, Chris Christie Discuss The Region's Terror Threat

Huffingon Post Politics - Mon, 2014-09-15 21:34
NEW YORK (AP) — Federal and state officials say New York and New Jersey are facing a daunting domestic terror threat fueled by mounting hostilities between the United States and Islamic State extremists

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio met Monday with U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson in midtown Manhattan. Cuomo said after the hourlong meeting that officials would be "in a state of denial" if they didn't believe recent international events have increased the threat to the region.

The session came a week after President Barack Obama told the country he is authorizing stepped-up airstrikes in Iraq and Syria against Islamic State militants.

The governors say they will develop a coordinated security plan covering both states.

Corporate Courts -- A Big Red Flag on 'Trade' Agreements

Huffingon Post Politics - Mon, 2014-09-15 21:10
Think about everything you understood about our system of government here in the United States. We're  governed under a document that starts with the words, "We the People." Right? When We the People agree that something should done to make our lives better, it's supposed to get done. Right?

You didn't know it, but that whole system changed several years ago. Our government, in our name, signed a document that placed corporate profits above our own democracy. The "investor-state dispute settlements" chapter in NAFTA (and similar agreements) places corporate rights on above the rights of people and their governments.

As a result of "NAFTA-style" investor protections that are part of so-called "trade" agreements,  giant corporations can and do sue governments for trying to pass laws that protect their citizens from harmful chemicals, ban harmful products, and protect the rights of working people, among  other things. Corporations even sue governments for passing laws that might cause the investors in the corporations to make a bit less money -- like raising the minimum wage.

But wait, there's more. The suits aren't even heard in courts. They are settled by corporate-controlled tribunals set up by these trade agreements. AFL-CIO's Celeste Drake writes about these tribunals, in "AFL-CIO and Uruguayan Workers in Solidarity to Protect Democracy From 'Corporate Courts'":

This mechanism bypasses all democratic processes, such as domestic courts, to directly sue a host country in an unaccountable private tribunal in order to receive compensation for government actions that could potentially harm corporate profits.

Who makes the decisions in these tribunals?

Unaccountable and unelected private arbitrators -- usually lawyers who sit on tribunals one week and represent global investors the next. In other words, ISDS is essentially a "corporate court," a legal system by and for corporations and the global elites.

Please click through and read the entire post, if you have a few minutes.

"Banana Republics" -- The Original Reason For Investor Protections

There is a valid reason for this sort of protection in some cases. Picture a poor "banana republic" country ruled by a dictator and his cronies. A company might want to invest in a factory or railroad -- things that would help the people of that country as well as deliver a return to the company. But the company worries that the dictator might decide to just seize the factory and give it to his brother-in-law. When things like this happen, the company loses everything. So companies won't invest in such countries, and the people don't get the benefit of those  investments. Agreements to protect investors, and allowing a tribunal not based in such countries (courts where the judges are cronies of the dictator), make sense in such situations.

However, when dealing with democratically governed, law-abiding countries like ours (used to be), there is no place for agreements that put the rights of corporate investors above the right of We the People to make decisions. These "protections" are in these trade agreements, because  corporate/conservative types believe that democracy itself is illegitimate, and believe that corporations need protections from "the waves of madness that occasionally flit through the population."

Companies that make a fortune selling things that harm or kill us; that harm, exploit, or impoverish their workers; and pollute our environment, certainly want protections from us. They worry that we might wake up and demand protection from a product like tobacco, that kills 480,000 Americans each year. They worry that we might demand that companies stop making a fortune by dumping carbon into the air. They worry that we might raise our minimum wage, pass laws requiring sick days, or lower the hours in a workweek.

Corporations believe in one-dollar-one-vote. Their owners are so arrogant that they believe that they are "makers," and 47 percent of us are just "takers" who must be kept out of voting booths at all costs. They think that democracy itself is illegitimate and want protections, just in case We the People demand good wages, safe products, and a clean environment.

Examples That Will Shock You

Here are some examples of corporations suing government that you may not even believe could happen.

Example: A "Switzerland-based" tobacco company is suing the government of Uruguay for damages caused by the government's anti-smoking efforts. This suit is under the investor-to-state dispute settlement (ISDS) provision of the Switzerland-Uruguay Bilateral Investment Treaty (BIT)

Example: Germany has decided to reduce its use of nuclear power. So the Swedish energy company Vattenfall is suing.

Example: French multinational Veolia sued Egypt for increasing the country's minimum wage.

Celeste Drake's post has more examples.

A Rigged Process

That is what our one-sided, big-corporation-dominated trade process has brought us. Giant corporations are working with our own government to secretly negotiate the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), and the Trade in Services Agreement (TISA). This last agreement was so secret that we didn't even know it negotiations were underway, until Wikileaks revealed this in June.

A rigged process has ushered in "trade" agreements that place the profits of giant corporations over governments' ability to protect public health. The rigging starts with secret negotiations with only corporate representatives (and negotiators who want to collect a fat check from corporations later) at the table. Then a "fast track" process pushed these agreements past legislators before the implications are fully considered.

You probably didn't know that these "investor" protections -- sold as a way to protect investors from having their investments stolen by "banana republic" dictators -- are now being used to protect corporations from the "whims" of democracies. Odds are even your member of Congress might not even understand this. It's a good time to call your member of Congress and your Senators and let them know you don't want "fast track" and you don't want NAFTA-style rigged trade agreements. Let them know you want your democracy back.

Obamacare and Family Values: Parents Get to Stay Home With Children

Huffingon Post Politics - Mon, 2014-09-15 20:31
The Affordable Care Act (ACA) was pushed primarily as a way to extend health insurance coverage. This was, and is, an important goal.

However, another important aspect of the ACA is its impact on the labor market. The vast majority of people who are below Medicare age get their insurance through their job. This meant that tens of millions of people felt tied to a job because this was the only way they could get insurance for themselves and their families.

A key feature of Obamacare is that by allowing people to get insurance through the exchanges, workers would no longer feel tied to their jobs in the same way. Workers that wanted to look for jobs that may be a better fit, or wanted to try to start their own business, or just hated their boss, could now take this step without worrying about losing insurance for themselves and their families.

Access to insurance on the exchanges could also mean that many workers who would rather work part-time would have this option. Part-time work could now be an option if they would otherwise make enough money to make ends meet, since they could count on getting affordable insurance through the exchanges.

It appears that many workers are in fact taking exactly this option. Helene Jorgensen and I analyzed the data from the first six months of 2014 and found a large increase in the number of young workers with children who were working part-time by choice. While voluntary part-time employment overall was up by only 2.1 percent compared with 2013, voluntary part-time employment for young parents was up by 11.3 percent. For parents with three or more children it was up by 15.4 percent.

This certainly looks like Obamacare is making it possible for parents to spend more time with their kids. Before trashing Obamacare became a fundamental religious principle for Republicans, even most Republicans probably would have said that parents spending time with their kids is a good thing.

To ensure that there is no confusion, it is important to realize that these numbers refer to voluntary part-time employment. The Bureau of Labor Statistics, which sponsors the survey from which the data come, first determines whether people work part-time, defined as less than 35 hours a week. They then ask whether they choose to work part-time or are working part-time because they can't find full time work.

We are looking at an increase in people choosing to work part-time. The number of workers who are involuntarily working part-time has been falling for the last five years, although it is still well above the pre-recession level, reflecting the continuing weakness of the labor market.

The fact that the labor market remains weak makes the increase in voluntary part-time employment even more important. If these people are leaving full-time jobs that they didn't want, they are creating openings for workers who need full-time employment to make ends meet. This reshuffling in the labor force is a win-win, as full-time workers opting for part-time work and part-time workers moving into full-time jobs are both improving their situations.

This is the sort of thing that President Obama and the Democrats who pushed the bill through Congress should be touting. Tens of millions of people had been living with the fear that if they lost their jobs, they would also lose their health insurance.

This would be a big deal for most families but especially those in which one or more family members had a serious health condition. Insurers do not like to insure sick people. The ACA changed that. Insurers have to treat everyone the same regardless of their health condition. This is a huge step forward.

Of course there are many grounds for criticizing the ACA. We could have saved hundreds of billions of dollars annually if we got rid of the insurers altogether and instead had a universal Medicare system like Canada. Or we could have at least had the option to buy into a public Medicare-type system, as President Obama had originally proposed.

And we pay drug companies, medical equipment suppliers, and doctors too much. Bringing our payments in line with the rest of the world would also save huge amounts of money. But these and other issues can be fixed through time.

The bottom line is that the ACA has worked far better than we had reason to expect, making a big difference in the lives of tens of millions of people. If it had gone the other way, our television sets would have been taken over by Republican politicians trashing the ACA. So now that it's actually a big success the Democrats are naturally saying nothing.

White House Backs Use Of Body Cameras By Police

Huffingon Post Politics - Mon, 2014-09-15 20:05

WASHINGTON (AP) — Requiring police officers to wear body cameras is one potential solution for bridging deep mistrust between law enforcement and the public, the White House said, weighing in on a national debate sparked by the shooting of an unarmed black man last month in Ferguson, Missouri.

In the days and weeks after 18-year-old Michael Brown's death, more than 150,000 people took to the White House's website to sign a petition urging Obama to create and sign a law requiring all police to wear body cameras — small, lapel-mounted gadgets that record law enforcement's interactions with the public. That would require an act of Congress, but in a blog post, the White House said police departments are increasingly choosing to use the devices.

"We support the use of cameras and video technology by law enforcement officers, and the Department of Justice continues to research best practices for implementation," Roy Austin, a White House adviser on Justice and Urban Affairs issues, wrote in response to the petition.

Austin said the Justice Department is evaluating how body cameras are working for departments already using them so they can be better deployed in the future. Yet he warned there were financial costs that "cannot be ignored," as well as unanswered questions about privacy — such as who should have access to the videos and how long they should be preserved.

An accompanying report from the Justice Department, long in the works before the Ferguson shooting, said there's evidence both police and civilians behave better when they know there are cameras around. The report also cites how footage from the cameras can be used to train officers.

But Austin warned that cameras alone can't solve the problem of mistrust. "Most Americans are law-abiding, and most law enforcement officers work hard day-in and day-out to protect and serve their communities," Austin said.

Demands for police to wear the cameras have increased across the country since Brown's death triggered street protests that drew the nation's focus to Ferguson. Some officers in the St. Louis suburb have since started wearing the cameras, and the New York Police department became the largest department in the U.S. to adopt the technology when it launched a pilot program in early September.


Reach Josh Lederman at http://twitter.com/joshledermanAP

In Celebration of Our National Anthem's Bicentennial

Huffingon Post Politics - Mon, 2014-09-15 19:58

This past Saturday and Sunday marked the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Baltimore, which occurred toward the end of the War of 1812. Tomorrow will be the bicentennial of Francis Scott Key completing the now-immortal lyrics he titled: "The Defence Of Fort M'Henry" -- later more famously known as America's national anthem, "The Star-Spangled Banner."

The War of 1812 was one of (if not the) most pointless wars America has ever entered. American schoolchildren, of course, are not taught this; instead they are taught about the few American victories in the war -- most notably, the Battle of Baltimore (or the "Battle of Fort McHenry") and the Battle of New Orleans. Left mostly untaught are the disastrous campaigns to conquer Canada and the biggest wartime occupation of American territory in any war we've ever found ourselves in. Also unmentioned is the fact that the treaty which ended the war (the Treaty of Ghent) gave neither side much of anything, and in fact returned both the United States and Great Britain to the status quo ante bellum (or, for non-Latin speakers: "right back where we started from").

The War of 1812 was more significant for the domestic fallout and aftermath than for any actual military or diplomatic victories. The war essentially killed off one of the first American political parties -- George Washington's "Federalists." Two of the biggest military victories on land gave us two future presidents -- Andrew Jackson, who won the Battle of New Orleans, and William Henry Harrison. The war did also convince American politicians of the need for an actual United States Navy, which had never really previously existed (due to the fact that it cost a lot of actual money). And, of course, it did gain us our national song.


The United States declares war for the first time

The declaration of war -- the first in United States history -- was an incredibly contentious partisan issue. The two parties at the time were the Federalists and the Anti-Federalists (also variously called Democrats, Republicans, or Democratic-Republicans -- American partisan labels were in their infancy, it should be noted). The Federalists had dominated the new American government in the 1790s, under George Washington and John Adams. The election of 1800, which Anti-Federalist Thomas Jefferson won, was one of the most bitter and contentious in all our history (it is even called by historians the "Revolution of 1800"). Jefferson's Anti-Federalists continued their control of American politics with the election of James Madison in 1808, who became the first president to declare war. As in modern times, the parties' dominance broke down on largely geographic lines -- New England was strongly Federalist, while the South and what was called the West at the time (now called the Midwest) were much more Anti-Federalist. The vote on the war resolution in June of 1812 was the closest congressional vote on going to war in American history, (until the Iraq War authorization of 1991, which wasn't an actual declaration of war). It was bitterly opposed by New England merchants, who made a lot of their money through trade with Britain. Toward the end of the war, New England became the first region of the United States to ever openly consider seceding (to strike a separate peace with Britain), five decades before the Civil War, when the Federalists met in the "Hartford Convention."

Feelings in Baltimore ran high, and mostly pro-war. Alexander Contee Hanson, newspaper publisher of the Federal Republican, ran a scathingly anti-war editorial immediately after war was declared, which including the following:

[O]ur rulers have promulged a war, against the clear and decided sentiments of a vast majority of the nation....We mean to represent in as strong colors as we are capable, that it is unnecessary, inexpedient, and entered into from partial, personal, and as we believe, motives bearing upon their front marks of undisguised foreign influence, which cannot be mistaken.... We detest and abhor the endeavours of faction to create a civil contest through the pretext of the foreign war, it has rashly and premeditetely commenced, and we shall be ready cheerfully to hazard every thing most dear, to frustrate any usurpation leading to the prostration of civil rights, and the establishment of a system of terror and proscription, announced in the government paper at Washington, as the inevitable consequence of the decisive measure now proclaimed. We shall cling to the rights of a freeman, both in act and opinion, till we sink with the liberty of our country, or sink alone....We are avowedly hostile to the presidency of James Madison, and we never will breath[e] under the dominion direct or derivative of Bonaparte.

This was the equivalent (in today's terms) of stating that President Obama is now starting a war for purely partisan reasons, that the president is being used as a tool by foreign powers, that the war is a desperate attempt to throw the upcoming elections to the Democrats, that it will directly lead to tyranny in Washington, and that Obama is nothing more than patsy of Assad and the Syrian government. In other words, pretty strong language. This editorial went on to taunt (there is no other word for it) the pro-war citizens of Baltimore, since Hanson had already been threatened for his editorial stance (and since the offices of a newspaper further south had already been destroyed by a mob). Hanson called the Baltimore Anti-Federalists "an insignificant few, whose ignorance and want of reflection are upon a par with their malignity," and ended with the fighting words: "Those who should dare to disturb public order would be the only and certain victims of the attempt." Go ahead, make my day (to put it another way).

Two days after this was printed, a mob obliterated the newspaper's offices. For an astounding two months afterwards, the mob ruled the streets of Baltimore at night, provoked race riots, and terrorized the populace of the city. Federalists fled in fear. Hanson continued publishing his paper from outside Baltimore, and then after a few weeks went by, returned to the city (to a building he had rented). A mob of two thousand responded, and besieged the building. A rival newspaper publisher was heard urging the mob to use a cannon they had pointed at the front door.

The militia showed up, and took Hanson and his defenders to jail, for their own safety. The mob then promptly broke into the jail and dragged them all out. They killed one -- a veteran general from the American Revolution -- and tortured the others, including another Revolutionary War hero, General "Light-Horse Harry" Lee, father of Robert E. Lee. The mob pitched the bodies down a staircase in front of the jail, where they:

...lay in a heap nearly three hours. During this whole time the Mob continued to torture their mangled bodies, by beating first one and then the other; sticking penknives into their faces and hands, and opening their eyes and dropping hot candle grease into them, &c.

The other eight, including Hanson, survived by playing dead. I recount this story to show how war feelings ran awfully high in Baltimore at the time.


Washington burns

By 1814, the war was going badly for the Americans. Repeated attempts to invade and conquer Canada had been resoundingly defeated (sometimes embarrassingly so) by the Canadians and the British. British troops had invaded and occupied parts of the New England coastline. But the biggest military disgrace was the sacking and burning of Washington, the new capital city of the nation, by British troops who had met only laughable resistance in the fiasco known as the Battle of Bladensburg.

The British navy controlled the Chesapeake Bay, and they launched raids all over the Maryland coastline. Francis Scott Key, a Maryland lawyer (and amateur poet), was sent by President Madison under a flag of truce to where the British had set up their naval headquarters to discuss a prisoner exchange following the sacking and burning of Washington. While on this mission, however, Key overheard British plans for an imminent major attack on Baltimore, so he was not allowed to leave the custody of the British until after the battle. This is why he saw the Battle of Fort McHenry from the British side (on a boat, in the midst of the fleet attacking the fort).

Baltimore was not going to be a repeat of the easy victory Washington had been, however. The geography was very different, for one, which meant it was easier to defend militarily. Fort McHenry guarded a very narrow approach to Baltimore's harbor, so it was impossible for the British navy to attack the town without first defeating the fort. The British launched a simultaneous land invasion, but the Baltimore militia (and the city's citizens) were a lot more prepared than the American forces who ran away at Bladensburg. The Baltimore forces engaged the British early on, and then fell back to previously prepared earthworks where they had dug in their artillery. The British did make some advances, but eventually were forced to withdraw because the opposition's defenses were so formidable.


The rockets' red glare

The land battle is now largely overlooked, though, because the song focuses solely on the naval bombardment. At the time, in military history, the brand-new and terrifying weapon the British deployed were "Congreve rockets" (as in their "red glare") -- essentially unguided rocket bombs that killed few but frightened many on the battlefield.

The British fleet numbered around twenty ships, and they were able to anchor just out of range of the cannons at Fort McHenry -- which still left the fort within the British cannons' range. This superiority of weapons allowed the British to rain down fire upon the fort while risking no danger to their ships. Which, beginning September 13, 1814, they did -- for more than 24 frightening hours.

Americans had never seen Congreve rockets before this war, it should be noted. Francis Scott Key himself had witnessed the Battle of Bladensburg, so he was fully aware of their psychological impact. In modern terms, the use of such weapons created a "shock and awe" effect. Together with the rockets, over 1,500 cannonballs were fired at Fort McHenry in an unceasing barrage.

A few points are worth making here. Francis Scott Key had originally been against the War of 1812, but later (when the British began terrorizing Maryland by raiding from the water) joined the military himself. Being on a ship during the battle meant he had no way of knowing what was going on with the land battle the British had simultaneously launched. And finally, the flag created for the fort was a bit provocative (intentionally, one assumes) due to its incredible size -- 30 feet by 42 feet. The commander of the fort would raise this enormous flag every morning -- which was visible from as far off as humanly possible -- to proclaim his continued control of the fort.


Say, can you see...?

Key had spent a tense night, from his front-row seat to the naval battle. He had no way of knowing what the next morning would bring. Had the British taken Baltimore by land? Had the bombardment succeeded in destroying the American forces at the fort? Was this to be a repeat of Bladensburg and the burning of Washington? He watched the ceaseless barrage all night, and waited for a sign "by dawn's early light."

Our national anthem's first verse (there are actually four) is composed as a question. Stripped of its poetry, it asks whether the American flag still flew over the fort, as it did yesterday and throughout the fight. But it goes beyond just spotting a flag -- the real question was whether Baltimore had fallen to the British, and whether the war was going to continue to be a series of embarrassing military defeats for the Americans, while the British rampaged up and down our coastlines. Things had not been going well, and the battle was going to be crucial for the entire war effort -- it had military importance far beyond Maryland's shores.

The battle was "won" by a well-constructed fort. The soldiers in the fort did not sink any British ships (they were anchored too far away), and their biggest claim to victory is that -- incredibly -- only four of them died from all those rockets and cannonballs fired. The victory was one of defense, not of offense.

Nonetheless, it did indeed prove to be a turning point in the war. The British navy, convinced that Baltimore was impregnable, withdrew completely from the Chesapeake and sailed for New Orleans -- where they would face a real defeat at the hands of Andrew Jackson. If Baltimore had fallen, the war might have dragged on for a lot longer, and the outcome may have been very different.

Both the New Orleans victory and the defense of Baltimore allowed the American citizens to end the war feeling a whole lot better about it then they really had any right to. Again, the treaty which ended the war did not address a single one of the American complaints. The war was launched by America in large part as a war of conquest, because certain politicians and military men were convinced they could conquer Canada with no trouble at all, and by doing so kick the Brits off the continent once and for all. This, obviously, did not come to pass. This is why historians today call the War of 1812 one of the most pointless and ill-conceived wars America has ever fought.

On the bright side, we had stood up to Britain and had some surprising naval successes against what was unquestionably the dominant military force on the planet at the time. Some called it the "Second American Revolution," and it helped cement feelings of being a true nation on the world's stage, when the United States was no more than a bit player, previously. As mentioned, the military victories gave us two future presidents, for better or worse.


Remembering Key

Francis Scott Key, were he alive today, would likely be astonished at what he is now remembered for. He would likely have expected to be remembered for being a leading legal mind of his generation, arguing important cases of the day. His poetry was always more of a rather insignificant hobby. He had previously written new words for the tune that became our national anthem, for various occasions and reasons (one of which may have been that publishing sheet music back then was a very expensive undertaking, whereas publishing new lyrics for a song that everyone already knew how to sing was a whole lot cheaper and also didn't have to involve any musical ability).

Key's "Defence of Fort M'Henry" quickly became popular, and was soon reprinted under the title we know today: "The Star-Spangled Banner." Eventually, through the efforts of some musical superstars (like John Philip Sousa) and some very committed Marylanders, Congress officially proclaimed it our national anthem -- but it took them until 1931 to do so. Also eventually, the flag itself (or, more properly, "what remained of it after a lot of it was hacked off and handed out as souvenirs") was donated to the public, where it can be seen today in the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History in Washington D.C. Key's original manuscript, written on the back of a letter, can be seen today at the Maryland Historical Society.

The War of 1812 didn't gain America much, as a country. It didn't address the complaints that led the Americans to declare war in the first place. We didn't conquer Canada. The British still saw us as a minor and rebellious country, whose "American experiment" in government was likely still doomed to failure in the near future. America suffered greater military defeats (relatively) in this war than in any other conflict we have fought. The enemy occupied American states and territories during the conflict to a degree which has (thankfully) never been repeated. The seat of our new national government, in all its neo-classical majesty, was burned and sacked -- which was just as big a psychological defeat back then as it would be today.

But we did have one smashing military success to end the war. In many places in America, news of the Treaty of Ghent and the Battle of New Orleans arrived almost simultaneously, leading many to falsely conclude that Jackson's victory had forced the British to end the war -- when in fact the treaty was signed weeks before a shot was ever fired in New Orleans. And we did gain a certain amount of what can be called our "national identity" after the war. Right at the heart of this was a new patriotic (and popular) song, which later became our national anthem. Francis Scott Key likely had no idea that any of this would follow. He had a rather unique viewpoint to a battle that turned the tide of the war for the Americans, but when he wrote the song he had no way of knowing what the future would bring.

So, at the next ballgame you watch, pause for a moment and give this Maryland lawyer and amateur poet his due. Because he was in the right place at the right time, he was able to pen an inspiring and glorious song which now encompasses what it means to be an American. We were not defeated during that long, dark night 200 years ago. Through all the terrifying bombardment, we did not cut and run. The people of Baltimore held the line. In the morning, all of this was obvious to everyone when that gigantic flag appeared in the dawn's early light. So join me in wishing a very happy 200th birthday to Francis Scott Key's now-immortal war reporting.


[Citations Note:]

The first quoted passage above was from an editorial titled only (headlines had yet to really become common): "Baltimore, Saturday, June 20," which ran in the June 20, 1812 edition of the Baltimore Federal Republican, written by Alexander Contee Hanson. The second passage is from a pamphlet Hanson published afterwards on September 1, 1812, with the concise (!) title:

An Exact and Authentic Narrative, of the Events Which Took Place in Baltimore, on the 27th and 28th of July Last. Carefully Collected From Some of the Sufferers and Eye-Witnesses. To Which is Added a Narrative of Mr. John Thomson, One of the Unfortunate Sufferers, &c. "The direful Mob was heard to shout / We'll drink their blood! we'll root them out!"

Publishing data for this pamphlet is sketchy, at best, but it was likely printed somewhere either in or near Baltimore.


Chris Weigant blogs at:

Follow Chris on Twitter: @ChrisWeigant
Become a fan of Chris on The Huffington Post


Rod Wright Resigns After Voter Fraud Case

Huffingon Post Politics - Mon, 2014-09-15 19:26

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — State Sen. Rod Wright submitted his resignation Monday after he was sentenced last week to three months in jail for lying about where he lived when he ran for office.

Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg accepted Wright's one-sentence letter, which stated his resignation is effective Sept. 22. Jennifer Hanson, a spokeswoman for Wright, confirmed the senator submitted the letter.

To replace Wright, Gov. Jerry Brown has 14 days from the time the vacancy begins to call for a special election. Steinberg's office said the primary is likely to be in December with a runoff in February.

Wright, a Democrat from Los Angeles County, was convicted of perjury in January for lying about his residence and later was suspended with pay from the Senate. Wright's was the first of three unrelated cases against Democratic lawmakers who were suspended and cost the party its supermajority in the Senate.

Wright said he listed an Inglewood property as his residence so he could run in 2008 to represent the 25th Senate District, but jurors found he actually lived in a single-family home in Baldwin Hills, in a different Senate district.

Steinberg, a Democrat from Sacramento, had called on Wright to resign immediately after his sentencing.

Wright was ordered to surrender to law enforcement on Oct. 31. His attorney, Winston Kevin McKesson, previously said he would file an appeal.

A telephone message left on Monday for McKesson was not immediately returned.

During the sentencing in Los Angeles last week, Superior Court Judge Kathleen Kennedy said Wright is no longer eligible to hold public office.

The sentence came after defense lawyers stressed that Wright was re-elected by a landslide, even after he was charged in the case, and that voters who want Wright to continue serving would be hurt by a stiff penalty.

Kennedy called the case a byproduct of term limits that send career politicians scrambling to seek new offices in different districts.

Wright's resignation came after the legislative session ended for the year. However, contenders wasted no time lining up to succeed him.

At least two lawmakers, Assemblymen Isadore Hall, D-Compton, and Steven Bradford, D-Gardena, declared their candidacies Monday. Hall and Bradford are termed out of their Assembly seats.

Two other Democratic state senators have been indicted on federal bribery and corruption charges. Sen. Ron Calderon of Montebello has been accused of accepting about $100,000 in exchange for promoting legislation to expand Hollywood tax credits and protect the interest of a hospital that benefited from a provision of the workers' compensation law.

Sen. Leland Yee of San Francisco was accused of accepting money and campaign donations in exchange for providing official favors and helping broker an arms deal. Both have pleaded not guilty.

The Senate suspended all three lawmakers with pay in March, ending Democrats' two-thirds majority in the 40-member chamber — a supermajority that had allowed them to act without any support from Republicans.

Election Day Countdown -- Get Out the Vote Boot Camp Checklist

Huffingon Post Politics - Mon, 2014-09-15 19:09
In just 50 days we the people will go to the polls to (un)elect our leaders and shape the fate of our economy, ecology, and equality -- indeed all the causes of our lives.

As we get ready for Election Day, my favorite American holiday that isn't actually (but should be) a holiday, here again is my (updated) annual Get Out The Vote Boot Camp Checklist from Campaign Boot Camp 2.0 to peruse before you flex your political muscles.


1. Does your campaign reflect the vision, ideas, and values of your call to service?
2. Are you fulfilling your campaign promises?
3. Did you personally commit the necessary time, energy, and resources to the effort?
4. If not, what can you change in the final days?
5. How is family life? Kids and/or spouses still fired up and ready to share you for the next 50 days and beyond?


6. Is your message getting out there? Does the public know you and want to vote for you?
7. Are you campaigning in English or in all the languages spoken in your community?
8. How have allies and attacks affected people's perceptions of you and/or the campaign?
9. Do you have an open feedback loop to accept changes in perceptions from volunteers and focus groups in English and the other languages your constituents speak?


10. Has the campaign visited every neighborhood and promoted every constituency or taken anyone for granted? Be honest -- and fix it now because otherwise you'll be hearing "if you don't respect us, don't expect us!"
11. Did you build diverse coalitions with homegrown leadership and can you engage networks of support?
12. What is your win number? Do you have the demographic and voter data to help your team reach that goal?


13. Do you have the people in place to succeed?
14. Did you hire people who work well together? Anyone to add or excuse?
15. How has your kitchen cabinet handled surprises and setbacks? Are you calling your mentors for advice?
16. Are your house meeting hosts having events and building the volunteer corps?
17. Did the finance council raise money needed to implement the campaign plan?
18. Where are your votes? Is the election protection team in place ensure that everyone who can vote knows the rules https://www.aclu.org/let-me-vote and that every vote in counted and counted as cast?


19. Did people come through giving you what they pledged in dollars and in-kind donations?
20. Did you ask enough people for in-kind goods and services in the next 50 days?
21. Is your bookkeeping up to date and transparent?
22. Where will you add more fund-raising -- house meetings, call time, and surrogate advocacy?
23. What is your adjusted plan -- according to what is real, not what you hoped to raise?


24. People give 10 minutes a week to think about politics -- are they thinking about voting for you yet?
25. What is your multicultural presence? Are you using Spanish/AAPI/Urban radio? TV? Digital? Mail? Billboards?
26. What is your online presence? Twitter/Facebook/Instragram/Snapchat/etc.?
27. Who have been your best allies and ambassadors and will you deploy them for GOTV?


28. Have you recruited a volunteer corps to your cause who will talk to strangers, walk precincts in the rain, and sleep on floors or open their homes?
29. Where can you conduct more house meetings and tap into more networks to recruit volunteers?
30. How will you protect the vote? Who are your military/overseas/absentee/student/hot spot GOTV captains? Are your legal eagles in place in multiple languages?

Your goal is to wake up the day after the election with no regrets. So rather than asking "what if?" 51 days from now, candidates, ask these 30 questions today. And if you are a potential volunteer and like a campaign's answers or can help fix them, please engage -- democracy needs you.

New York Could Legalize Recreational Marijuana In 2015

Huffingon Post Politics - Mon, 2014-09-15 19:08
The state of New York could legalize marijuana for recreational use as early as 2015.

State Sen. Liz Krueger (D) will reintroduce the Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act during the next legislative session, which begins in January, her office confirmed to The Huffington Post on Monday.

"We're definitely introducing the bill next session," Brad Usher, Krueger's chief of staff, told HuffPost. "We've received a variety of feedback since we first introduced it last December and we're working on amending it, so we're looking to see what we can learn from Colorado and Washington when we reintroduce it."

Krueger's bill would permit the opening of retail marijuana dispensaries, which would be regulated by the State Liquor Authority. The bill would establish an excise tax on all marijuana sales, and adults would legally be able to possess up to two ounces of marijuana and grow up to six marijuana plants at home for personal use. Krueger introduced a similar bill in 2013 that also aimed to legalize the possession, use and sale of limited amounts of recreational marijuana, but the bill never made it out of committee.

Usher said that many of the changes to the measure for reintroduction in 2015 relate to how the tax is structured, as well as clarifying who would be able to work in the state's marijuana industry.

New York is not a referendum state, which means that if next year's measure gets through the legislature and is signed into law, it will immediately go into effect and will not require a vote by New Yorkers. Colorado and Washington, both of which legalized recreational marijuana in 2012, did so through voter-approved ballot measures.

"In some ways, not having a referendum makes it harder," Usher said. "With referendum, you only need 50.1 percent support to win, but getting a bill through to law will probably require broader support to address the risk-averse character of some elected officials."

One such official might be Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D), who has not made it clear whether he would support a bill that legalizes marijuana for recreational use. In January, Cuomo said that Colorado-style legalization in New York is "a nonstarter for me."

Earlier this summer, New York became the 23rd state in the country to legalize medical marijuana. Moreover, the state decriminalized the possession of up to 25 grams of marijuana more than 30 years ago. Even so, New York, and especially New York City, remain plagued by an inordinate number of low-level marijuana arrests.

That's because the decriminalization law passed in 1977 has a loophole: Anyone arrested for "private" possession is issued a violation, while anyone arrested for "public" possession is charged with a criminal misdemeanor. So if -- during one of the hundreds of thousands of stop-and-frisk searches the New York City police perform each year -- an officer asks a person to empty their pockets, and marijuana comes out, the drug is suddenly considered to be "in public view." The officer is then allowed to make an arrest.

Since 2010, New York City has averaged between 30,000 and 50,000 marijuana arrests each year. And during the period between 2002 and 2012, 87 percent of the people arrested for marijuana possession in the city were black or Latino, despite evidence suggesting that whites use marijuana at about the same rate as either group.

So inconsistent is the enforcement of New York's current marijuana laws that a bill attempting to equalize the consequences for all residents of the state was introduced during the last legislative session.

"The real motivation [for Krueger's upcoming bill] came from the disparate impacts of the drug war on different communities, how communities of color -- especially in New York City -- are facing large amounts of marijuana arrests based on these interpretations of existing law," Usher told HuffPost.

"While Krueger doesn't smoke pot and doesn't think anyone else should, she doesn't think the policy of prohibition has been successful in controlling marijuana use, and [thinks] that it should be treated more as a public health issue," Usher went on. "She doesn't think you should drink either, but making alcohol illegal didn't really work, and we should have learned that about marijuana as well."

To date, only Colorado and Washington have legalized cannabis for recreational use. In November, Oregon and Alaska voters will decide if they also want to legalize recreational marijuana for adults.

U.S. Launches Airstrikes Against ISIS Near Baghdad, Marking First Step In Expanded Fight

Huffingon Post Politics - Mon, 2014-09-15 18:46
WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. officials said Monday the United States has taken the first step in its planned expanded fight against Islamic State militants, going to the aid of Iraqi security forces near Baghdad who were being attacked by enemy fighters.

The U.S. Central Command said it conducted two airstrikes Sunday and Monday in support of the Iraqi forces near Sinjar and southwest of Baghdad.

The strikes represent the newly broadened mission authorized by President Barack Obama to go on the offensive against the Islamic State group wherever it is. Previous U.S. airstrikes in Iraq were conducted to protect U.S. interests and personnel, assist Iraqi refugees and secure critical infrastructure. These strikes were in direct support of Iraqi forces fighting the militants.

Central Command said the strikes destroyed six Islamic State vehicles and one of the group's fighting positions that was firing on the Iraqi security forces.

U.S. officials said the Iraqi forces requested assistance when they came under fire from militants. Those officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the mission publicly by name.

Public charging station powers mobile devices with footsteps and solar panels

TreeHugger Science-Tech - Mon, 2014-09-15 15:25
The ENGO charging station uses kinetic tiles and solar panels to charge up to 14 smartphones at a time, and provides free WiFi access and an emergency phone.

BikeShield App could prevent collisions between cars and bikes

TreeHugger Science-Tech - Mon, 2014-09-15 07:00
The app alerts drivers that cyclists are near so they can avoid accidents.