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On my way to drop off more stuff at the Salvation Army, I saw a protest in front of an area gun shop. About 50 people were demonstrating during rush hour, holding signs with variations on “Illegal guns kill people.”

Philadelphia has a real gun (read: killing) problem, and the Republican-controlled state legislature refuses to permit any special exceptions for its two largest cities. Much of the problem revolves around the use of straw buyers — convicted felons get relatives or girlfriends with clean records to buy the guns for them, despite stiff penalties for doing so.

As we know, it is much more important to keep the NRA happy than it is to prevent killings. Free market!

UPDATE: One of our state wingnuts just introduced legislation to ban same-sex marriage. Priorities!

Shock doctrine

An education expert says Gov. Tom Corbett’s use of scare tactics to justify the Pennsylvania public schools budget is a textbook example of applying Naomi Klein’s “Shock Doctrine” to education policy:

The citizenry is repeatedly told that the only way out of this budget crisis is to cut spending and that individual citizens (taxpayers) should not take on any of the burden. In fact, the propagandaleveled at the taxpayers also paints them as helpless victims that have been milked by greedy public-sector unions. In turn, the general public becomes very supportive of any promise to lift their burden and somewhat celebratory in watching their neighbors (public sector employees) lose, at a minimum, basic benefits.

However, what if the “financial crisis” was not real?

Now, I’m not saying that states and local governments aren’t actually in debt; however, what if the proposed solutions (that are being accepted without any critical analysis because of the Shock Doctrine effect) end up (as stated above) costing more money than the proposed cuts? For example, in my home state of Pennsylvania, newly elected governor Tom Corbett has proposed cutting 586 million dollars from K-12 public schools to help cover a projected $4 billion deficit. And of course, with a hefty dose of “greedy teacher” rhetoric from right wing radio, he has been able to convince a large population in Pennsylvania to actively support these cuts in the name of helping the “financial crisis.”
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Mission accomplished

We did what he wanted all along:

Bin Laden’s transition from scion of a wealthy family to terrorist mastermind came in the 1980s, when the Soviet Union was trying to conquer Afghanistan. Bin Laden was part of the resistance, and the resistance was successful — not only in repelling the Soviet invasion, but in contributing to the Communist super-state’s collapse a few years later. “We, alongside the mujaheddin, bled Russia for 10 years, until it went bankrupt,” he later explained.

The campaign taught bin Laden a lot. For one thing, superpowers fall because their economies crumble, not because they’re beaten on the battlefield. For another, superpowers are so allergic to losing that they’ll bankrupt themselves trying to conquer a mass of rocks and sand. This was bin Laden’s plan for the United States, too.

“He has compared the United States to the Soviet Union on numerous occasions — and these comparisons have been explicitly economic,” Gartenstein-Ross argued in a Foreign Policy article. “For example, in October 2004 bin Laden said that just as the Arab fighters and Afghan mujaheddin had destroyed Russia economically, al Qaeda was now doing the same to the United States, ‘continuing this policy in bleeding America to the point of bankruptcy.’ ”

For bin Laden, in other words, success was not to be measured in body counts. It was to be measured in deficits, in borrowing costs, in investments we weren’t able to make in our country’s continued economic strength. And by those measures, bin Laden landed a lot of blows.
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The joys of nuclear power

Who could have thought to prepare for something so obvious?

Highly radioactive cesium was detected in sewage sludge and molten slag–a sandy substance created by incinerating sewage sludge–at sewage treatment facilities in Koriyama, Fukushima Prefecture, the Fukushima prefectural government said.

Airborne radiation levels around the facilities were also significantly higher than in other areas of the city. The prefectural government said May 1 it is determining if radioactive substances generated by incinerating the sewage sludge could have spread from the facilities.

Results of an inspection conducted April 30 by the prefectural government showed 26,400 becquerels and 334,000 becquerels per kilogram of radioactive cesium (the latter of which is about 1,400 times the level before the Great East Japan Earthquake) were found in sewage sludge and molten slag, respectively, at wastewater treatment facilities in the Hiwada area of Koriyama.

Since there are no guidelines established by the central government for disposing of highly radioactive sewage sludge, the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism was scheduled May 2 to discuss with the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency how to handle the radioactive sludge.

In other news:

Soil containing radioactive materials up to 1,000 times the normal level were found from the bottom of the sea near the nuclear plant, TEPCO’s Matsumoto said on Tuesday.

Tea Party B.S.

Rep. Michael Grimm (R-NY), a Tea Party-backed candidate, was elected in November and he just held his first town hall meeting in Brooklyn – after voting for the Republican budget plan developed by Paul Ryan. Most of those who attended weren’t very happy with his support for Ryan’s Medicare plan:

The crowd lay in wait for him with sharpened reports from the Congressional Budget Office, incendiary printouts from liberal blogs, and even a few lethal rolled-up newspapers with articles about the House plan. Mr. Grimm was left standing, but only after 90 minutes of high-decibel debate, during which a school security guard had to threaten to remove several citizens vibrating with anger about Medicare.

It began when he asked the crowd of about 100 people whether they believed the nation faced a debt crisis. A woman near the front row responded that the nation faced a revenue crisis. Someone else shouted out that taxes were too low, and a third person shouted that it was all President George W. Bush’s fault for cutting taxes on the rich. There was a big round of applause, and with that the evening became a battle of statistics and worldviews, in perhaps the only section of the city divided enough to match the national debate.

“Adjust Medicare, don’t kill it!” shouted one woman. “The program just isn’t sustainable,” Mr. Grimm said, trying to control his meeting. “That’s a flat-out lie,” said a man in a Communications Workers of America shirt.

Around the country, Republican lawmakers on recess have encountered bitter opposition as they meet with constituents infuriated at their Medicare vote. Republicans have complained that the town meetings have been targeted by Democratic activist groups like MoveOn. It’s true, but the criticism is no less legitimate than when members of the Tea Party swarmed town halls in 2009 at the height of the health care debate.

Many of Mr. Grimm’s critics at the Brooklyn meeting were wearing union shirts, or reading from printouts. One woman who almost got thrown out for shouting is a regular contributor to the Daily Kos Web site. A few said in interviews that they lived in more affluent sections of the borough. But just as many appeared to be Mr. Grimm’s constituents, and said they had grave concerns about his vote to cut the safety net while benefiting the rich.
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Night deposits

J.C. Duffy’s blog always makes me laugh out loud and that’s got to be worth a few bucks, right? He’s having one of those Double-Secret Probation fund drives where he doesn’t tell anyone, he just puts up the Paypal button and hopes someone notices. If you can spare a few bucks, please go hit it!


What Athenae said.


Still crazy:

Why are we still in Afghanistan?

AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to bring Matthew Hoh into this discussion, former Marine Corps captain in Iraq, former State Department official in Afghanistan, the highest-level diplomatic official to quit over the war in Afghanistan. Matthew Hoh, your response to the news last night and what you think this means? You quit over the continued war. Do you think this could mean the end of war?

MATTHEW HOH: Good morning, Amy, and thank you for having me on.

I want to echo Josh just then, because I think his comments were spot on, and I want to refer back to Jeremy’s earlier comments about this is not just good news, but this is also a very good time for somber reflection.

What I think this means for the United States is, this gives closure on 9/11. Ten years after that horrible event, we finally have some degree of closure. We’ve the bogeyman, if you will, who caused all this. So, I think this gives the American public closure on 9/11. And what that—what I hope that translates into is provides some backbone for members of Congress who do not want to engage on the war in Afghanistan. I think everybody should be asking themselves today in the United States, if Osama bin Laden was hiding in an upscale villa an hour or two drive north, northeast of Islamabad, then why did we put 50,000 troops in Afghanistan over the last two years? I think we have to have a real serious conversation on where our war on terror has taken this country, and I think we need to reflect on the real threat. As Josh just stated, Osama bin Laden was more of a figurehead or a spiritual leader than any kind of operational leader. And if we have—so we need to understand al-Qaeda as they exist, as some form of a syndicate that operates through individuals and small cells worldwide that won’t be affected by putting hundreds of thousands of foreign troops in Afghanistan, but is affected by good intelligence work, good police work, and good work by our Special Operations forces in conjunction with foreign governments. So I think this is a very good time for some real somber and rational reflection on the last 10 years.

AMY GOODMAN: CIA Director Panetta says al-Qaeda will almost certainly attempt to avenge bin Laden’s death—CIA Director Panetta, who could soon become the secretary of defense—right?—replacing Robert Gates. Talk about this—

JEREMY SCAHILL: Right. I mean, the timing of this is interesting—

AMY GOODMAN: Jeremy Scahill.

JEREMY SCAHILL:—because, you know, General David Petraeus is also set to take over the Central Intelligence Agency. And what we’ve seen with General Petraeus’s tenure as CENTCOM commander, U.S. Central Command, and then also as ISAF commander, is really an expansion of targeted killings operations. He brought back air strikes in Afghanistan after General Stanley McChrystal had really taken moves to tamp them down. But more importantly, General Petraeus signed this order in September of 2009 authorizing an expanded use of U.S. Special Operations forces in undeclared battlefields around the world. And Yemen was one of the great playgrounds of that war game.

And so, I think that I would echo what both Josh Foust and Matt Hoh said in terms of not losing vigilance, that this whole thing is going to continue to play out. There are going to continue to be people that want to do harm to Americans around the world, some of whom may identify themselves as al-Qaeda. We’ve played a significant role in inspiring a generation of terrorists to rise up, through our actions. But also, we need to be vigilant in checks and balances within the U.S. military. There’s a lot of lawlessness taking place—targeted killing operations in other countries, drone strikes in places. And, you know, when do people step back and look at the calculus of it? Are we creating new enemies by killing a handful of people in these operations where civilians are also killed? I mean, these are the kinds of questions, I think—we need to get past the moment and look at what does this say, going forward, about how we, as a country, the United States, want to conduct ourselves around the world, but also examining how our actions actually can harm us, come back to haunt us with blowback because of the terrorism that we inspire.

AMY GOODMAN: We do not have Robert Fisk on the line with us live from Beirut, but we do have a discussion with him back a few years ago. Robert Fisk interviewed Osama bin Laden three times. And I just wanted to go to a clip of that interview.

I was just—here we go. We’re just trying to bring it up. We’re seeing if it’s possible for us to play it. But Allan Nairn, your response to Jeremy Scahill?
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Love in vain

Mick and the boys:

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