Thursday, April 2, 2009

Everything is fine

April Fools: GOP Budget a New Windfall for the Wealthy


It may be April Fool's Day 2009, but the Republican Party is playing the same joke on the American people. After brushing off last week's calamitous Republican "road to recovery" blueprint as a "marketing document," Rep. Paul Ryan unveiled the GOP's alternative budget in a Wall Street Journal op-ed. In it, Ryan offers the same snake oil his party has been selling since the days of Reagan and Bush. The cure for what ails the U.S. economy, it turns out, is a massive tax windfall for the wealthiest Americans who need it least.

The new Republican budget doubles down on the wildly regressive Bush/McCain tax cutting binge American voters rejected at the polls in November. Making the budget-busting Bush tax cuts of 2001 and 2003 permanent, the GOP also proposes an alternative "highly simplified system that fits on a post card, with few deductions and two rates." Taxpayers making over $100,000 would see their rate drop to 25% from its current high of 35%. (Below that level, the rate drops to 10%.) Corporate taxes would also drop to 25%. While the capital gains tax rate would be frozen at its post-2003 level of 15%, the estate tax would be eliminated altogether.

The predictable result is yet another massive redistribution of the tax burden away from the richest Americans even as it produced a torrent of red ink. While the Center for American Progress concluded the Boehner-Ryan giveaway would hand an annual tax bonanza of $1.5 million to the average CEO, a preliminary analysis from the Center for Tax Justice last week concluded that by 2011, the GOP scheme would drain the Treasury to the tune of $300 billion more than the Obama plan. And as is par for the course for the Republicans, the usual upper-income suspects benefit the most:

Over a fourth of taxpayers, mostly low-income families, would pay more in taxes under the House GOP plan than they would under the President's plan.

The richest one percent of taxpayers would pay $100,000 less, on average, under the House GOP plan than they would under the President's plan.


(It should be noted the CTJ model was preliminary and does not necessarily reflect the final details in today's GOP budget document. For example, CTJ assumed a capital gains tax rate of 10% and not 15%.)

To be sure, the GOP's so-called alternative budget is merely a reprise of the unprecedented windfall George W. Bush and his Republican Party delivered to the rich over the past 8 years.

And a massive windfall it surely was. As the Center for American Progress noted, the Bush tax cuts delivered a third of their total benefits to the wealthiest 1% of Americans. And to be sure, their payday was staggering. As the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities detailed in 2008, in 2007 millionaires on average pocketed $120,000 from the Bush tax cuts of 2001 and 2003. Those in the top 1% stashed an extra $45,000 a year. As a result, millionaires saw their after-tax incomes rise by 7.6%, while the gains for the middle quintile and bottom 20% of Americans were a paltry 2.3% and 0.4%, respectively. (Another CBPP study demonstrated that the Bush tax cuts accounted for half of the mushrooming deficits during his tenure in the White House.)

And as the New York Times detailed in 2006, the 2003 Bush dividend and capital gains tax cuts offered almost nothing to taxpayers earning below $100,000 a year. Instead, those windfalls reduced taxes "on incomes of more than $10 million by an average of about $500,000." As the Times revealed in a jaw-dropping chart, "the top 2 percent of taxpayers, those making more than $200,000, received more than 70% of the increased tax savings from those cuts in investment income." So it should come as no surprise that the income share of the 400 richest Americans doubled over the past decade.

Lights dim around the world

Fox Admits To Planting Political Brainwashing In Popular TV Shows

Corporation boasts of "inserting messages" about global warming into hit shows like The Simpsons, 24, Prison Break & Family Guy

by Paul Joseph Watson

Fox Admits To Planting Political Brainwashing In Popular TV Shows 060309top

Rupert Murdoch's Twentieth Century Fox corporation has admitted to planting political brainwashing within its globally popular TV shows and indeed boasts that it is proud of the fact.

A corporate video currently being showcased on another part of Murdoch's media empire,, shows Fox executives and stars of its universally recognized shows bragging about how they use the platform of hit shows that are broadcast globally to implant messages about the supposed threat of global warming.

This is not the first time Fox have been enthusiastic in propagandizing for the establishment. In 2003, Rupert Murdoch himself admitted that the corporation had "tried" to help the Bush administration sell the war in Iraq.

The text accompanying the video states, "In 2006, News Corp. embarked upon a company wide initiative to reduce the size of its carbon footprint."

The means by which this "initiative" was carried out is then made clear by a plethora of clips from Fox's most popular shows - the Simpsons, King of the Hill, Family Guy, Prison Break - which are all loaded with messages about global warming and the need to do something about it.

"What could we do on a practical level to start making a difference," asks one executive before another answers, "The biggest thing we've done is inserting messages about the environment into some of our content."

In other words, Fox has embarked on a deliberate campaign, which could only have been done with the coordination of the script writers of each program, to force people to accept the pseudo-science of global warming by brainwashing them into accepting it as a reality. This has been achieved by weaving in messages about climate change and having popular characters in the TV shows embrace specific tenants of the global warming manifesto.

Bilderbergers excite conspiracists


The highest levels of the Obama administration are infested with members of a shadowy, elitist cabal intent on installing a one-world government that subverts the will of the American people.

It sounds crazy, but that's what a group of very persistent conspiracy theorists insists, and they point to President Obama's nominee for Health and Human Services Secretary, Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, as the latest piece of evidence supporting their claims.

It turns out that Sebelius – like top administration economists Timothy Geithner, Larry Summers and Paul Volcker, as well as leading Obama diplomats Richard Holbrooke and Dennis Ross – is a Bilderberger. That is, she is someone who has participated in the annual invitation-only conference held by an elite international organization known as the Bilderberg group.

The group, which takes its name from the Dutch hotel where it held its first meeting in 1954, exists solely to bring together between 100 and 150 titans of politics, finance, military, industry, academia and media from North America and Western Europe once a year to discuss world affairs. It doesn't issue policy statements or resolutions, nor does it hold any events other than an annual meeting.

Past participants have included Margaret Thatcher, who attended the 1975 meeting at Turkey's Golden Dolphin Hotel, former media mogul Conrad Black, who has been to more than a dozen conferences, and Bill Clinton, Tony Blair, Condoleezza Rice, Donald Rumsfeld, Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands, King Juan Carlos of Spain and top officials of BP, IBM, Barclays and the Bank of England.

It is precisely that exclusive roster of globally influential figures that has captured the interest of an international network of conspiracists, who for decades have viewed the Bilderberg conference as a devious corporate-globalist scheme.

The fulminating is aggravated by Obama's preference for surrounding himself with well-credentialed, well-connected, and well-traveled elites. His personnel choices have touched a populist, even paranoid nerve among those who are convinced powerful elites and secret societies are moving the planet toward a new world order.

Some conspiracy theorists think that Obama's team is infested with shadowy elitists members.Their worldview, characterized by a deep and angry suspicion of the ruling class rather than any prevailing partisan or ideological affiliation, is widely articulated on overnight AM radio shows and a collection of Internet websites.

The video sharing website YouTube alone is home to thousands of Bilderberg-related videos.

"I don't laugh at the people who claim that they understand the connections, but I've never really spent much time tracing that through," said Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas), a former presidential candidate whose libertarian sensibilities have made him a darling of the Bilderberg conspiracists.

"The one thing that concerns me is that the people who surround Obama or Bush generally come from the same philosophic viewpoint and they have their organizations – they have the Trilateral Commission, the CFR [Council on Foreign Relations] and the Bilderbergers, and they've been around a long time. And my biggest concern is what they preach: Keynesian economics and interventionism and world planning," he said.

G20 summit: Britain's biggest ever policing operation launched

Britain's biggest ever policing operation has been launched as protesters threaten two days of chaos and disruption in London to mark the G20 summit.


Up to 2,000 demonstrators are expected to bring the City to a halt in "unprecedented" protests to coincide with the arrival of world leaders, and there are fears of mass riots breaking out at flashpoints across the Square Mile.

A "meltdown" map of 136 potential targets in the City includes merchant and high street banks, auditors, law firms, energy firms, financial associations, arms traders and commerce groups.

The Metropolitan Police has said that around 3,000 officers will be deployed on the streets, but if riots erupt the figures could swell to double that figure. It has warned that anarchists from the 1990 Poll Tax riots have been lured out of retirement by the prospect of violent clashes.

Taser stun guns may be deployed for the first time in the UK during riots as firearms units, armed with the 50,000 volt weapons, are on standby in riot vans.

An "Alternative G20 Summit" - an academic forum for debate at the University of East London - has been cancelled due to fears of rioting. Speakers including Tony Benn, film director Ken Loach, former mayor Ken Livingstone and Green Party leader Caroline Lucas were supposed to take part.

More than 80 protest groups - including Climate Camp, Stop the War and Plane Stupid - are coming together under one umbrella group, called G20 Meltdown.

Monsanto's dream bill, HR 875


To begin reversing GM contamination will require ending the power biotech companies such as Monsanto exert over our government and through that, over our food.

by Linn Cohen-Cole

HR 875, was introduced by Rosa DeLauro whose husband Stanley Greenburg works for Monsanto.

The bill is monstrous on level after level - the power it  would give to Monsanto, the criminalization of seed banking, the prison terms and confiscatory fines for farmers, the 24 hours GPS tracking of their animals, the easements on their property to allow for warrantless government entry, the stripping away of their property rights, the imposition by the filthy, greedy industrial side of anti-farming international "industrial" standards to independent farms - the only part of our food system that still works, the planned elimination of farmers through all these means.  

The corporations want the land, they want more intensive industrialization, they want the end of normal animals so they can substitute patented genetically engineered ones they own, they want the end of normal seeds and thus of seed banking by farmers or individuals.  They want control over all seeds, animals, water, and land.


Monsanto GM-corn harvest fails massively in South Africa

South African farmers suffered millions of dollars in lost income when 82,000 hectares of genetically-manipulated corn (maize) failed to produce hardly any seeds.The plants look lush and healthy from the outside. Monsanto has offered compensation.
Monsanto blames the failure of the three varieties of corn planted on these farms, in three South African provinces,on alleged 'underfertilisation processes in the laboratory". Some 280 of the 1,000 farmers who planted the three varieties of Monsanto corn this year, have reported extensive seedless corn problems.

Urgent investigation demanded
However environmental activitist Marian Mayet, director of the Africa-centre for biosecurity in Johannesburg, demands an urgent government investigation and an immediate ban on all GM-foods, blaming the crop failure on Monsanto's genetically-manipulated technology.

Willem Pelser, journalist of the Afrikaans Sunday paper Rapport, writes from Nelspruit that Monsanto has immediately offered the farmers compensation in three provinces - North West, Free State and Mpumalanga. The damage-estimates are being undertaken right now by the local farmers' cooperative, Grain-SA. Monsanto claims that 'less than 25%' of three different corn varieties were 'insufficiently fertilised in the laboratory'.

80% crop failure
However Mayet says Monsanto was grossly understating the problem.According to her own information, some farms have suffered up to 80% crop failures. The centre is strongly opposed to GM-food and biologically-manipulated technology in general.

"Monsanto says they just made a mistake in the laboratory, however we say that biotechnology is a failure.You cannot make a 'mistake' with three different varieties of corn.'

Give it up, Clark

Google launches free music site in China

Chinese internet users will be able to download more than 1 million tracks

Chinese internet users will be able to download more than 1m music tracks for free after Google launched a new web service with the world's four largest music labels.

Pulling the L-plates from a service that launched in trial mode a year ago, the downloads service marks an aggressive move by Google to take on the Chinese search site, which has more than twice the market share of the California-based technology giant.

Users looking for artists and song titles on Google's search site in China will be able to browse an extensive catalogue of artists on Warner Music, EMI, Universal Music and Sony BMG. Tracks can also be searched by mood, tempo and genre, and Google also says it is working on a voice search technology for the site.

The site is a partnership with the popular Chinese music site, co-founded by Chinese basketball star Yoa Ming, and music labels will share related advertising revenue with Google.

Google China's president, Lee Kai-Fu, admits the launch was a "huge leap of faith". "We are offering free, high quality and legal downloads," he said. "We were missing one piece ... we didn't have music." Google accounted for 16.6% of China's search market in 2008, according to the Chinese Internet Network Information Centre, while Baidu has a 76.9% share. But illegal music accounts for a significant amount of traffic to Baidu and, until now, Google has not been able to compete.

Lee said there were no plans to extend the service beyond China, which has a particularly acute piracy problem with an estimated 99% of all music files circulated illegally. China accounted for less than 1% of the world's legal music download market last year at just $76m, according to the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry. Western web firms have been keen to increase their audience in China, which overtook the US last year as having the world's largest population of internet users.

YouTube Blocks Music Videos in Germany

By Eliot Van Buskirk
Youtubelogo_2 As of Wednesday, Google will no longer allow users with German IP addresses to watch music videos on YouTube, after negotiations between the music industry and Google over compensation for copyright holders broke down.

There is a huge gulf between what GEMA (Germany's music royalty organization) wants, and what Google is willing to pay. Google seems to think the music business needs YouTube more than YouTube needs the music business, and so it would rather block music videos from Germany than pay GEMA's proposed rate. The development echoes a similar blockade of music videos in the United Kingdom, which Google put into place earlier this month.

Hamburg-based Google spokesman Hennig Dorstewitz told Billboard, which first reported the story, that GEMA eventually wants a whopping $0.16 each time a German user hears a song on YouTube -- an unsustainable rate given today's advertising market. By comparison, imeem is struggling to pay its on-demand rates, believed to be at most  $0.01 per stream.

GEMA CEO Harald Heker told Billboard that his organization offered YouTube an interim rate of approximately $0.013 per song, and that Google declined to pay it.  As a result, residents of Germany who want to watch music videos -- or user-generated videos featuring songs that Google's audio fingerprinting technology can identify -- will either need to watch them somewhere besides YouTube, or use a proxy server that makes YouTube think they are in another country.

In addition to this squabbling over the per-song licensing rate, GEMA accused Google of a lack of transparency when it comes to which songs were played, and how many times they were played. Without that information, the organization says, it cannot figure out how to divvy up the licensing money from YouTube.

That will no longer be a problem -- at least until GEMA and Google come to a new agreement.


CIA launches recruitment drive on internet and TV

The CIA is attempting to recruit more spies by advertising on the internet, radio and television, and by holding meetings with American Muslims to make up a severe shortage of Arabic speakers.

In a bid to fulfil a pledge by George W. Bush, the former President, to expand the agency's clandestine arm, advertisements have been placed on websites such as Career Builder, and on the online versions of The Economist and The Washington Post.

Leon Panetta, the new CIA director, will meet Muslim groups in cities such as Detroit to spearhead personally the new drive to recruit Arabic speakers. He recently lamented the fact that only 13 per cent of CIA officers speak a foreign language, and just 22 per cent come from minorities.

"In order to accomplish our vital intelligence mission we want to market our employment opportunities to speakers of Arabic, Russian, Korean, Pashtu and Urdu," George Little, a CIA spokesman, told The Times.

"We want to emphasise to those communities that we welcome first-generation Americans to apply. They bring critical language skills and a knowledge of culture to support our intelligence mission."

A typical recruiting advertisement recently posted on the Chronicle of Higher Education's website is headlined "Central Intelligence Agency, National Clandestine Service Careers, Linguists. You Can Make a World of Difference. Are you up to the challenge of achieving our mission abroad?"

It adds: "This career track offers rewarding, fast-paced, and high-impact challenges." The CIA is also advertising on the social networking site Facebook and YouTube.

Gay bars change acts to appeal to straight customers

Trevor "Ashley" Council performs at the Divas Drag Show variety show at Mad Myrna's in Anchorage, Alaska on Friday, February 20, 2009. (Bob Hallinen/Anchorage Daily News/MCT)

by Julia O'Malley

ANCHORAGE, Alaska - In Mad Myrna's drag dressing room, where a J.Lo song wound out among the wigs and gowns on a recent Friday evening, Isanoel Pinson leaned into the mirror, pursed his lips a little and smeared foundation on his forehead.

Pinson, who is in his 40s, started performing drag just after he immigrated to Anchorage from the Philippines in the early '80s. His first haunt was an old bar called the Jade Room. These days the crowds that come to his shows couldn't be more different than they were back then.

"Oh. My. God," he said, applying a ribbon of glue to a false eyelash. "Before is all like gay, gay, gay. Now would you believe? Our audience is all straight people. Couples!"

Myrna's has been home to a drag show for a decade, and straight people have long been part of the audience. But on some Friday nights lately, gay patrons have thinned dramatically, replaced by military couples, bachelorette parties and curious young professionals. It's part of a national trend.

From San Francisco to Pittsburgh, Boston to Nashville, gay bars are closing their doors and shuttering drag shows, citing lack of patrons.

There are plenty of theories why clientele is changing at Myrna's. People are making connections on the Internet. Growing social acceptance means there are few establishments were gays don't feel comfortable. Simply put, the need for gay bars is fading.

"I have this feeling now that it's like 'mission accomplished,' " said Mike Richardson, board president of the Imperial Court of All Alaska, one of the state's oldest gay organizations.

"We really don't need safety in numbers."

Myrna's had to get creative to attract new customers to fill in where the old ones used to be, said manager Jeff "Myrna" Wood. Over the past few years, that has meant retooling the drag show to appeal to a wider audience. And now the venerable gay bar depends at least in part on the dollars of straight customers to keep its doors open.

As Wood likes to say, gay or straight, "everybody's money is green."

Crazy Lady