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Oxdown Diaries

Domino Effect: Pension Cutters Gamble on a California Ballot Measure

By: Thursday July 24, 2014 7:17 pm

Jon Coupal is nothing if not blunt when he describes one motive behind a Ventura County ballot measure that would replace the “defined benefit” pensions currently enjoyed by county employees and replace them with 401(k)-type plans for all future hires.

“This is meant to be a template for other counties,” Coupal tells Capital & Main. By that, the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association’s president means the measure’s conservative and libertarian backers see the “Sustainable Retirement System Initiative” as the newest and most promising weapon in their assault on California’s public employee retirement plans.

Tomgram: Peter Van Buren: Undue Process in Washington

By: Thursday July 24, 2014 6:26 pm

You can’t get more serious about protecting the people from their government than the Fifth Amendment to the Constitution, specifically in its most critical clause: “No person shall be… deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.” In 2011, the White House ordered the drone-killing of American citizen Anwar al-Awlaki without trial. It claimed this was a legal act it is prepared to repeat as necessary. Given the Fifth Amendment, how exactly was this justified? Thanks to a much contested, recently released but significantly redacted — about one-third of the text is missing — Justice Department white paper providing the basis for that extrajudicial killing, we finally know: the president in Post-Constitutional America is now officially judge, jury, and executioner.

Remembering A People’s Uprising: 1 Year After HB2

By: Thursday July 24, 2014 5:38 pm

On July 12, 2013, the deadly anti-abortion bill HB2 passed the legislature in Texas, forced through in an expensive special session despite the extremely loud opposition of thousands of people who came out to shake the granite building with their angry voices. On that same day this month, one year after the passage and the police brutality of the final night of protests, a few of us returned to the Texas Capitol to reflect on what’s been lost.

In the previous weeks, there’d been numerous other events to mark what happened last year. Wendy Davis, Democratic gubernatorial hopeful and one of the primary legislators to side with reproductive rights, had packed a major events center in town on the anniversary of her filibuster. She seems to take all the credit for it in the media these days, despite the grassroots direct action which temporarily kept the bill from passing after her filibuster was shut down by male politicians.

Not Just the Atlantic: Obama Leasing Millions of Gulf Acres for Offshore Drilling

By: Thursday July 24, 2014 2:47 pm

Deploying the age-old “Friday news dump,” President Barack Obama’s Interior Department gave the green light on Friday, July 18 to companies to deploy seismic air guns to examine the scope of Atlantic Coast offshore oil-and-gas reserves.

It is the first time in over 30 years that the oil and gas industry is permitted to do geophysical data collection along the Atlantic coast. Though decried by environmentalists, another offshore oil and gas announcement made the same week has flown under the radar: over 21 million acres of Gulf of Mexico offshore oil and gas reserves will be up for lease on August 20 in New Orleans, Louisiana at the [Mercedes-Benz] Superdome.

Late Night: One Dimensional Press, One Dimensional Policy

By: Wednesday July 23, 2014 8:00 pm

There’s a fundamental problem in our world today: neither our governments nor our press are doing their jobs. Both groups seem to be working for someone else, because governments are either trying to conceal their motives (hence their love for secrecy) or they try to obfuscate by presenting a false motive for their actions. The press is worse than useless, because they go along with the desire of the politicians to hide their motives and conceal their bad behavior from the people. The press behaves more like a cheering section than “the fourth estate,” whose job is to inform the people. As the old champions die off or retire, they are not being replaced. The news media are more concerned with entertaining their audience than they are with informing them. Poor show, as the Brits would say! Shame on you!

Oil By Safer Trains? By Trucks? Better Yet, Divest

By: Wednesday July 23, 2014 6:55 pm

Just a few weeks ago, the public learned that Warren Buffett’s BNSF Railway had states sign confidentiality agreements “or otherwise pledged not to release [specific] information” about the millions of gallons of volatile crude oil rolling by rail through US countrysides, communities and cities. Immediately, in some affected places, people began organizing protests (here, here and here) against these shipments of crude oil with visions of the Lac-Megantic conflagration still fresh in memory.

Scientists Re-Visit Mount St. Helens

By: Wednesday July 23, 2014 4:43 pm

A group of 75 scientists led by Alan Levander of Rice University in Houston visited Mount St. Helens this week, to create seismic waves by controlled explosions, that will enable them to study the mountain with a new method that is akin to an “ultrasound and a CAT scan” of the volcano’s “internal plumbing.”

Tomgram: Jonathan Schell: A Niagara Falls of Post-9/11 Violence

By: Tuesday July 22, 2014 6:59 pm

In December 2002, finishing the introduction to his as-yet-unpublished book The Unconquerable World: Power, Nonviolence, and the Will of the People, Jonathan Schell wrote that the twentieth century was the era in which violence outgrew the war system that had once housed it and became “dysfunctional as a political instrument. Increasingly, it destroys the ends for which it is employed, killing the user as well as his victim. It has become the path to hell on earth and the end of the earth. This is the lesson of the Somme and Verdun, of Auschwitz and Bergen-Belsen, of Vorkuta and Kolyma; and it is the lesson, beyond a shadow of a doubt, of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.”

More than a decade later, that remains a crucial, if barely noticed, lesson of our moment. Jonathan Schell died this March, but he left behind a legacy of reporting and thinking — from The Real War and The Fate of the Earth to The Unconquerable World – about just how, as the power to destroy ratcheted up, war left its traditional boundaries, and what that has meant for us (as well as, potentially, for worlds to come).

Midnight Raids Rock Turkish Police Force

By: Tuesday July 22, 2014 5:58 pm

A not-so-secretive home-raiding operation was unleashed just days after the Gulenist movement’s newspapers started revealing statistics of the AKP government’s increasing trade with the Israeli government despite the anti-Semitic, anti-Israeli rhetoric that is prevalent in the AKP party. The operation is taking place only two hours after Erdogan appeared on a TV show saying, “It’s time for a cleaning now.” This sentence was the start of an operation that spread to 22 cities into the morning.

Freedom, Money & Control

By: Monday July 21, 2014 7:15 pm

Money is violence

Our system of money visits violence on people. Economic sanctions are an obvious example:

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