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I received a press release from the Environmental Working Group a little while ago, White House Bows to Chemical Companies notifying me that the White House has caved to the Chemical Industry and knocked down two EPA proposals that would have helped protect the American consumer, their families and the Environment.

This story struck me as very ironic. For an Administration so concerned at the moment with toxic chemicals and their use in the Middle East, I find it more than disappointing that this same Administration turns the other way here at home when a different class of toxic chemicals are showing up in things we use in our daily lives. There is a large degree of difference of course, but the chemicals don't know the difference as they take effect on our health and safety, our lives.

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Last month the independent financial and political journalist and activist, Eric Laursen, spoke at the Tucson Book Festival about his work, The People’s Pension: The Struggle to Defend Social Security Since Reagan.  I attended, and afterwards bought the book, an 800 page epic history and exposé, which describes the battle to dismantle the Social Security Program (SSP) from 1981 all the way up to the Obama Administration. The book was published in 2012.

His talk at the Book Festival was recorded by C-Span and you may watch it here.  In the lecture, Laursen argued that we are witnessing a manufactured crisis with regard to Social Security.  There is no actual existential threat to the Program. Beneath the current edition of the theatrical set of the Social Security drama is the very real and present crisis of our nation’s weak financial system. There is also a political crisis as to whether the "governing class" wants to support Social Security anymore, and whether there is enough political power in popular support to defend it.  

Laursen illustrated one aspect of the political crisis by differentiating between Progressive and Beltway-Very Serious People (VSP) ideas for dealing with future funding for the SSP. Progressive ideas include having Congress raise the Cap or even eliminating the Cap, as Bernie Sanders has suggested. Another Progressive option is to raise the Estate Tax, or another, raise the payroll tax very incrementally.

In contrast, Laursen called the ideas of the VSP a three headed monster.  The heads are as follows: Raise the retirement age; set up Means Testing; utilize Chained-CPI.  This third head is, as we all now know, the current favored choice of the Obama Administration.  It is a cut. This third head is stepping right on the third rail, and should consequently get zapped, as will all of its supporters come election time. All three of these heads will exempt the wealthy while placing the burden on those least able to take it. These are fundamentally unfair ideas, all of which need to be defeated.

How would this unfairness manifest if the cuts go through? Laursen described how important the SSP is to Americans. He said 66% of Americans now depend on Social Security for survival with average monthly payments of $1300.00. The program keeps 20 million Americans out of poverty.  As of 2012 there are already 46.2 million Americans in poverty, a number of people presently far too high. If anything, the SSP should be expanded. That is what leadership interested in fairness would seek to do.

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It has been ten years this month since the U.S. invasion of Iraq under the Bush Administration. March 19th is Shock and Awe day. This milestone is a useful one for reassessing of our wars in the Middle East. Yesterday, Washington Post reporter and author,  Rajiv Chandrasekaran  gave such an assessment at the Tucson Festival of Books held at the University of Arizona.  In an hour long question and answer session with Mort Rosenblum as well as the audience, they discussed some of the lessons he learned about U.S. Nation building, about the role of war correspondents and journalists, government infighting, and about President Obama’s evolving relationship with the Military. They also touched on more current topics such as Drones, Wikileaks, and Syria.

I was lucky enough to attend and will summarize some of my notes of the event below.

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There is a must read expose on the Guardian this morning: Pentagon's link to Iraqi torture centres, which reveals much more about Pentagon involvement in torture centers in Iraq.

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Thu Feb 28, 2013 at 04:46 AM PST

Obama's Faustian Bargain

by cosmic debris

In an opinion piece in the Financial Times, Obama Has Always Planned To Slash Spending, Jeffrey Sachs argues that President Obama will get the result he has asked for when the sequester kicks in tomorrow. Despite the rhetoric placing blame on Congress, this is his bargain, the hand he dealt, and the result will be austerity.  

More below the kossant de l'orange

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How about your shampoo? How about your canned foods, any of them, whether organic  contents or not? How about your couch or your kids' nice flannel jammies? Is that nice cup of tea you are drinking really made mostly of pesticide laden grass clippings? Is your spice collection full of fraudulent fillers that may be really bad for you? Is your cumin really bulked with ground dung powder? Is your olive oil really made from corn? Is your corn oil really made of swill waste? How would you know?

The answers to these questions may quite possibly be yes. Keep scrolling to find out how to determine whether you and your family are being exposed to toxic chemicals and fraudulent foods. Also find out what is being done about it, what you can do about it.

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Inspired by Charles Pierces' article, A Sensible Proposal For Combatting Gun Violence to build a grassroots movement,

a disinvestment campaign, modeled on the one aimed at companies doing business in South Africa and, later, at the tobacco industry, on the part of police, and fire, and school teachers' unions to remove their money from the marketing end of mass killing. A campaign that would redefine gun violence as a public-health crisis
To do that we need to understand who the money makers are, who the firearms makers are, and that is what this diary is for.
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Here is my Christmas Card to the site and to all the membership and lurkers alike. You may wonder, after scrolling, if I have had too much time on my hands, and yes, yes, I have. After having had surgery ten days ago I have been immobilized and fueled with painkillers, took to the intertubes to see what I could find.

Always a fan of the weird, warped and surreal, I thought I'd share my discoveries with you to bring some Yuletide Cheers!

Wishing you all a Festive and Fun Holiday, a Merry Solstice, Crafty Kabuki Cliff Diving and Successful Survival of this most Blessed Mayan Apocalypse

And a Very Happy, Healthy, Liberally Activated 2013!

Love, cosmic debris
Much more below the squid lips
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Sun Dec 16, 2012 at 08:40 AM PST

The Gun: Our Moloch

by cosmic debris

In this piece, Our Moloch, published in today's New York Review of Books, Author/Historian Gary Wills contends that the gun has become our new terrible God, Moloch.

Few crimes are more harshly forbidden in the Old Testament than sacrifice to the god Moloch (for which see Leviticus 18.21, 20.1-5). The sacrifice referred to was of living children consumed in the fires of offering to Moloch. Ever since then, worship of Moloch has been the sign of a deeply degraded culture. Ancient Romans justified the destruction of Carthage by noting that children were sacrificed to Moloch there.
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After the shooting at the Clackamas Mall, a place I used to shop when I lived in Portland, I started reading up on the issue of gun control, wanting to become better informed. With the events unfolding right now at an elementary school in Connecticut I feel an even greater sense of urgency. I am not interested in arguing with people here about whether gun control is needed. I am interested in sharing resources for those who want to do something, to get their representatives to do something about a problem in need of solution.

See links below and please share your own. Let's get informed and motivate.  

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Yesterday the world’s largest covered market, the Souk al-Medina, became collateral damage in the ongoing warfare in Syria. The Souk was located in the old town section of Aleppo and was a significant feature along the Silk Road, dating back to the 14th century. The Souk was designated as one of UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites in 1986 for its cultural and architectural importance. It is one of six sites listed as World Heritage in Syria.

More about the site, and UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites at risk below, including photos.

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Please sign this petition. Especially in light of today's shooting in Wisconsin

Demand a plan to end gun violence

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