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Forever young

Happy 70th birthday, Bob! Neil and Grateful Dead:

Amtrak

As we know, Amtrak has been underfunded for a long, long time. SEPTA, our local transporation authority, uses Amtrak corridors for many of its commuter routes and often has delays because of Amtrak’s poor maintenance.

It happened again this morning, and I thought back with fondness to a time when I was commuting from the Hellmouth to downtown Philadelphia. After we sat for 40 minutes in the cold, our train finally started up and we got to the station. As commuters milled out into the crowd, I said very loudly, “I’d like to thank all the people who voted Republican for the cuts in Amtrak subsidies, contributing to this morning’s delay. Thanks, everyone!”

A lot of people laughed; some looked baffled. You mean, there’s a connection between your vote and the condition of public utilities? Imagine!

Stimulus?

They meant “tax cuts”, right? Because why would they push stimulus for one recession and not… oh, never mind:

TOKYO (Leika Kihara) – Japan’s return to recession and a bigger-than-expected slump in first-quarter economic growth are negative for its credit rating, Moody’s Investors Service said, warning that a delay in recovery could warrant additional fiscal and monetary stimulus.

The triple blow of the March earthquake, tsunami and nuclear crisis has nudged Japan into recession and led to a surprisingly deep 0.9 percent contraction in January-March, which Moody’s said was negative for Japan’s rating and made it increasingly urgent for Prime Minister Naoto Kan to compile a second extra budget.

The roaring girl

I have always admired Bernadette Devlin, who saw class oppression for what it is and called out the people in power. The older I get, the more I understand exactly what it took to do what she did. (For one thing, Ulster militiamen broke into her house and attempted to assassinate her and her husband in front of their children — while British paramilitary members stood by.) Her daughter Roisin has been pursued by the German government on disputed and apparently groundless charges she was involved in an IRA mortar attack. (The Irish government did not grant Germany’s request for extradition.)

Devlin made her powerful maiden speech an hour after she took her seat, flouting Parliament tradition and drawing a distinct class line. A woman after my own heart!

Weapon of war

You know, it just wouldn’t be a war without rape, right? Sexual assault is just the price women have to pay for simply being alive!

Benghazi, Libya (CNN) — In the rebel stronghold of Benghazi, Libya the whispers and rumors about rape being used as a tool of war by Moammar Gadhafi’s troops are coming from all corners of society, from rebel fighters to doctors and citizens, who have come in contact with families displaced by the conflict.

Now a Libyan psychologist has come forward saying she has case study after case study that proves these rumors and whispers are true.

Psychologist Siham Sergewa has a number of distressing images which she says demonstrates the abuse of alleged victims — one appears to show a cigarette burn on a woman’s breast, another a faded bite mark, while several others show the deep purple hue of nasty bruises.

Go read the rest if you can stand it.

Tim Pawlenty

Has a little problem with pardoning a child molester.

The value of independence

Chris Hedges responds to the liberal attacks on Cornel West after last week’s interview. (If anything, the things being said behind the scenes are even worse.)

And if I could take the opportunity to plug my fund drive, this is my real value to readers: I am not affiliated with the status quo. Believe me, just about any discussion with bloggers who work for the Democratic establishment and related institutions ends pretty much as Hedges describes: “We can’t expect that.” Or: “Yeah, like the Republicans would allow that to get done. We have to settle for this.”

They continue to pound home the idea that Democrats are mere helpless victims, incapable of representing the needs of working men and women instead of the military-industrial-media complex. It’s as if the Republicans take their hands and make them vote for those things.

If you’re a regular reader, you know better. So if you can, please support this independent voice by making a donation:

The liberal class, which attempted last week to discredit the words my friend Cornel Westspoke about Barack Obama and the Democratic Party, prefers comfort and privilege to justice, truth and confrontation. Its guiding ideological stance is determined by what is most expedient to the careers of its members. It refuses to challenge, in a meaningful way, the decaying structures of democracy or the ascendancy of the corporate state. It glosses over the relentless assault on working men and women and the imperial wars that are bankrupting the nation. It proclaims its adherence to traditional liberal values while defending and promoting systems of power that mock these values.The pillars of the liberal establishment—the press, the church, culture, the university, labor and the Democratic Party—all honor an unwritten quid pro quo with corporations and the power elite, as well as our masters of war, on whom they depend for money, access and positions of influence. Those who expose this moral cowardice and collaboration with corporate power are always ruthlessly thrust aside.

The capitulation of the liberal class to corporate capitalism, as Irving Howe once noted, has “bleached out all political tendencies.” The liberal class has become, Howe wrote, “a loose shelter, a poncho rather than a program; to call oneself a liberal one doesn’t really have to believe in anything.” The decision to subordinate ethics to political expediency has led liberals to steadily surrender their moral autonomy, voice and beliefs to the dictates of the corporate state. As Dwight Macdonald wrote in “The Root Is Man,” those who do not make human beings the center of their concern soon lose the capacity to make any ethical choices, for they willingly sacrifice others in the name of the politically expedient and practical.

Isn’t that special

Could we be clear here? Wisconsin wasn’t running a budget deficit here until Scott Walker decided to cut business taxes. And when the state says they won’t have the money to administer the food stamp program without outsourcing (in defiance of federal regulations), what they’re really saying is that they don’t want to raise taxes to pay for it.

That God Wisconsin has such a Christian governor. Otherwise, poor people would really be worried!

Vacation

I thought this was interesting — they blame us for not having more vacation because they somehow think we like work better than leisure:

Most U.S. companies, of course, do provide vacation as a way to attract and retain workers.

But the fear of layoffs and the ever-faster pace of work mean many Americans are reluctant to be absent from the office — anxious that they might look like they’re not committed to their job. Or they worry they won’t be able to cope with the backlog of work waiting for them after a vacation.

Then, there’s the way we work.

Working more makes Americans happier than Europeans, according to a study published recently in the Journal of Happiness Studies. That may be because Americans believe more than Europeans do that hard work is associated with success, wrote Adam Okulicz-Kozaryn, the study’s author and an assistant professor at the University of Texas at Dallas.
“Americans maximize their… [happiness] by working, and Europeans maximize their [happiness] through leisure,” he found.

So despite research documenting the health and productivity benefits of taking time off, a long vacation can be undesirable, scary, unrealistic or just plain impossible for many U.S. workers.

Fukushima

Out of control, scientist says….

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