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After We Bring Back Our Girls, Can We Beat Them?

On Friday, U.S. Representative Frederica Wilson said some nice words about how girls kidnapped by Boko Haram in Nigeria ought to be released from captivity.

Frederica Wilson could get up and give a speech before the U.S. House of Representatives, but there’s little else she can do. In her speech, she called upon the American people to engage in activism, of a sort, but that activism really just amounted to more talk.

frederica wilsonWilson urged Americans to write messages on Twitter expressing their opinions that the kidnapped girls should be released. “I urge you to join our Twitter war to keep the world’s attention on the kidnapping of
these children. Tweet #bringbackourgirls and #joinrepwilson every day, 9 a.m. to noon.
We will not be silenced. We will not be stopped. We will get our girls back. Tweet, tweet, tweet.”

Of course, Twitter has already been a stage for weeks of tweets with the #bringbackourgirls hashtag. During that time, no girls have been released. 90 more have been kidnapped.

Certainly, the kidnapped girls in Nigeria should be free.

All children should be free.

Children should not just be free to move around as they wish, but should be free from violence, and the threat of violence as well.

Frederica Wilson did sponsor a congressional resolution a couple of weeks ago, expressing opposition to the kidnapping of girls in Nigeria. 411 members of Congress voted for H.Res. 617. Then, as with the Twitter campaign, nothing happened. The U.S. Congress doesn’t have any power to change what Boko Haram does or doesn’t do, short of launching a military invasion of Nigeria.

Congress does have the power to protect children in the United States from violence, though.

Something else having to do with violence against children took place in the U.S. House of Representatives on Friday. U.S. Representative Carolyn McCarthy introduced H.R. 5005. Unlike H.Res. 617, H.R. 5005 is not just empty talk. It would establish concrete action to protect children from violence. It would prohibit the use of corporal punishment in public schools.

Corporal punishment is a clinical term for something very nasty: The purposeful infliction of violence against children, with the explicit purpose of causing children pain. Torture is what it is. Torture against adults is against the law in the USA, but torture against children is another matter.

Many states in the USA already prohibit corporal punishment in public schools. Supporters of corporal punishment have warned that these states would see a rise of problems in education as a result of these prohibitions, but there is no evidence at all of any negative consequences. At the same time, scientific studies have shown that children who receive corporal punishment have worse behavioral problems later in life than children who do not receive corporal punishment.

Corporal punishment only hurts. It does not help. There is no good reason for children to receive the pain of corporal punishment. Yet, in the following states, children in public schools live in fear that they will be beaten when they are accused, rightly or wrongly, of breaking the rules:

Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Wyoming.

Corporal punishment is outlawed even in Afghanistan, but like Nigeria, the United States of America has no national ban against corporal punishment in public schools. So, H.R. 5005 is a much-needed remedy.

Here’s the odd thing: Only 25 members of the U.S. House of Representatives have signed their names as sponsors H.R. 5005. Frederica Wilson, who spoke so urgently about the need to protect children in Nigeria against violence, has not joined the coalition of U.S. Representatives seeking to protect children from violence in schools right here in the USA. Sheila Jackson Lee, who got up right after Frederica Wilson to deliver a speech on Friday in support of the #bringbackourgirls campaign, has not signed her name as a supporter of H.R. 5005.

Both Frederica Wilson and Sheila Jackson Lee represent districts in states that allow the corporal punishment of children in public schools. Chances are good that children in their home districts are being beaten throughout the school year because legislators like them have refused to take action to stop the violence.

Of the 411 members of the U.S. House of Representatives who voted to express outrage about violence against children in Nigeria, 389 have not signed their names to legislation to stop violence against children by public schools in the United States. They’re willing to speak up for children when it’s someone else, somewhere else, who will have to take action against the problem. For the problem in their own country, their resolve suddenly dissolves.

Has Social Media Really Killed Off Traditional Media?

“Every day fewer and fewer people get breaking news from a newspaper or even TV.” — Social Media Today, “Is News Dead?”

A tallyboard for historical ship replicas touring the Atlantic Coast of the U.S. provided one indication this week to the contrary:

How Did You Hear About the Ships?  Forms of Promotional Media, 2014

Holy Hypocrisy in the U.S. Congress

“As we approach this next recess, and the celebration of the birth of our Nation, bless our great Nation, and keep it faithful to its ideals, its hopes, and its promise of freedom in our world.
Bless us this day and every day, and may all that is done within the people’s House be for Your greater honor and glory.
Amen.”

This prayer was spoken yesterday as the first daily act of Congress by Patrick J. Conroy, who has the taxpayer-supported job of official high priest of the U.S. House of Representatives, a position that has always been reserved exclusively for Christian religious leaders.

The promise of freedom in our world from the USA comes not from any deity, or church, or preacher, but from our Bill of Rights, which begins with the following words: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion”.

You can pray until your face turns blue, Mr. Conroy, but there is no deity that can undo the hypocrisy of your prayer, and of the Civic Religion upon which it depends.

Americans Elect Trackers, Draw a Critical Eye over the Mayday PAC

In a late 2012 Boston Globe article, Americans Elect leader Dan Winslow revealed the group’s plans for 2014:

The ad campaign in Maine represents a new mission for Americans Elect, which formed initially to advance a third-party candidate in the presidential race. That effort fell apart in May, and the group has reconstituted itself to focus on electing independent candidates, Winslow said. In this cycle, King is the only candidate it is supporting.

“If he is successful, Americans Elect will participate in the upcoming election cycle to develop 3, 5, or 10 more Angus Kings representing an independent caucus to bridge the divide between the partisan extremes, to turn the tide of gridlock in Washington, and to put us onto a course of government the American people want and deserve,” Winslow said. In addition to serving as a lawyer for the group, Winslow is a Republican member of the Massachusetts House from Norfolk.

You may recall that Americans Elect was a 501(c)(4) registered corporation that also registered itself as a political party in the fifty American states in 2012. After signing up thousands of everyday people and promising to let them have the determining say in selecting a candidate for the presidency, Americans Elect abandoned this plan. Instead, without any deliberation or even input from its members, Americans Elect corporate leaders abruptly funnelled money from two billionaires and a hedge fund manager into “independent expenditures” promoting the election of Senator Angus King of Maine.

The 2014 election cycle is here. Are Americans Elect corporate leaders following through on the plan for “the upcoming election cycle to develp 3, 5, or 10 more Angus Kings”?

Yes.

The following three individuals are the leadership core of the Mayday PAC, which describes itself as a “Super PAC to end all Super PACs”:

1. Mark McKinnon, a member of George W. Bush’s political circle who not only joined a leadership board at Americans Elect but also promoted it actively in the media. In the founding documents of the organization, McKinnon’s Texas operations are listed as the address of the Mayday PAC.

2. Lawrence Lessig, also on a leadership board at Americans Electleadership board at Americans Elect and also an active promoter of the Americans Elect corporation in the media.

3. Kahlil Byrd, named variously as the Director, Treasurer, Secretary, Chief Operating Officer, Custodian of Records, Consultant and Political Party Coordinator of Americans Elect and, again, an active promoter of the Americans Elect corporation in the media.

Two of these three (McKinnon and Byrd) are Republicans. The third, Lessig, is neither a Republican nor a Democrat.

Newsweek shares the plan of the Mayday PAC in the 2014 elections:

“The goal, according to Lessig, is to raise a total of $12 million by the 2014 midterm elections. Several Silicon Valley billionaires have lined up to match all donations to the Super PAC. That money, Lessig hopes, will be used to elect five candidates as a sort of proof of concept.”

This sounds very much like the operation Americans Elect’s Dan Winslow promised in 2012, and it wouldn’t be the first time that Americans Elect leaders adopted new corporate names to rebrand themselves; Americans Elect used to be called the Unity12 Task Force, and before that was called Unity08.

Through its leadership, the Mayday PAC can be traced clearly back to Americans Elect. Like Americans Elect, the Mayday PAC is making some big promises. Like Americans Elect, the Mayday PAC is using populist rhetoric but is in large substance backed by the money of billionaires. It is possible that the leaders of Americans Elect have realized the error of their ways, reformed, and rededicated themselves to actually helping repair the nation rather than hijack it on behalf of big-money interests. Given the track record of sneaky plans and broken promises at Americans Elect, however, it would be wise for Americans to take a close look at Mayday PAC before jumping aboard.

In the months to come, let’s draw our critical eyes over the Mayday PAC. What does the PAC say? How is the PAC run? Most importantly, what will this PAC do?

The Real Mark of The Beast has been Found

The eschatalogical website Beginning and End echoes the growing consenus among conservative evangelical Christians that the Monster energy drink is a covert Mark of The Beast signaling the beginning of the end of the world. Among literal readers of the Bible, the Mark of The Beast is a matter of great concern, because at the beginning of the end of the world a lamb-horned dragon-speaking beast is predicted to emerge, forcing people to receive a mark on their forehead right hand (). Those receiving the Mark of The Beast will be subject to angelic torture ()Book of Revelation 14 and death, while those who don’t receive the Mark of the Beast get to live happily with Jesus for 1000 years (Book of Revelation 20).

If you really believe that every word of the Bible is literally true, then this information calls for eternal (dare I say paranoid?) vigilence. After all, Satan is a deceiver and could trick a person into taking the Mark of the Beast on his or her forehead or right hand. Then, even if you were an obedient believer all of your life, Jesus and the angels could call you out on your Mark-taking and haul out their death-torture gizmo. Bad news.

It’s in this context that warnings about Monster energy drink are being spread. Is the Monster energy drink really the Mark of The Beast? Consider the logo of the drink on the front of can:

Monster Energy Logo is the Mark of The Beast.  In other news, I am the Queen of Spain.

See those rip marks? Beginning and End says that each of those green rippy bits looks kind of like the Hebrew letter “Vav,” which according to numerologists represents the letter 6. Put three sixes together and you’ve got 18, 6+6+6, which is, um… 666, if you concatenate. 666 is the number of the beast. And, as Shawn points out, “There’s a f**cking crusifix in the o!” What more evidence do you need?

Lora Ann is a believer after what she saw:

I have personally seen a person have a seziure, because they drank a monster energy drink. They only drank one while with me the whole day and had a seziure. He never had a seziure before that then randomly he had one. All I have to say is yes i do believe that its 666 i do believe that they are put here to tempt us to fall into that treshold of satan.

Mac worries that with the advent of Monster drinks, it might already be too late:

Hell, we are advertising for them now by making this discussion. They couldn’t care less about what we believe. They just market an addictive, non regulated drink to everyone and sit back and let the wheels turn. For every person who says I won’t buy this drink anymore, 2 more buy for the first time. They make it hard not to buy 2 at a time. The devil sits and laughs as he watches this all unfold. It’s all going to plan.

But I think this is overblown hype. Anyone who pays close enough attention to the world knows that the Mark of the Beast has already been introduced to the world in a much more straightforward fashion.

You can find the Mark of the Beast right here: check it out for yourself.

Oh, dear. Did you click on that link using your right hand? Mark, Mark, Mark. Did you look at it? It’s in your memory, residing behind your forehead, forever! Mark, Mark, Mark!

Might as well crack open a six-pack of beer and start licking pictures of dragons. Your tarnation is inevitable now.

Congress Protects Plan To Allow Foreign Governments To Drill Oil For Free In American Waters

Deepwater Horizon

Just hearing that phrase ought to cause you to shudder. If it doesn’t, I encourage you to go back and read some of our older articles covering the months-long massive rupture of petroleum into the Gulf of Mexico – an oil spill that, despite what British Petroleum propaganda would have you believe, has devastated the ecology of the Gulf of Mexico.

You would think that, just four years after the worst environmental disaster in American history, the U.S. Congress would be working hard to prevent a repetition of the catastrophe. At the very least, a reasonable Congress would be working to diminish the role of filthy crude oil in the American economy.

Instead, the exact opposite is happening. Members of the U.S. Congress are voting to give fossil fuels companies special economic favors, and encouraging foreign oil companies like BP to drill even more in American waters. That’s the agenda of H.R. 4899, passed by the U.S. House of Representatives today.

U.S. Representative Earl Blumenauer tried to reform H.R. 4899′s massive giveaways to Big Oil. He introduced an amendment that would end the federal government’s Foreign Oil Driller Welfare Program.

Since the days when Bill Clinton was President, about one out of every four companies conducting offshore drilling for oil within the publicly-owned waters of the USA is allowed to do so without paying any royalties to the federal government. They are put into a special welfare program that allows them to take natural resources that belong to the American people without paying the American people a dime for it.

deepwater horizon repeatedWhy does this program exist? Representative Blumenauer explains that, “The original intent behind this royalty relief was to encourage drilling in the Gulf of Mexico despite low oil prices. This is simply no longer relevant with oil prices currently at over $100 a barrel. Furthermore, a large number of these leases are held by state-owned or partially state-owned foreign firms.”

Not only are we taxpayers subsidizing the huge profits of offshore oil drilling companies that take America’s natural wealth without paying for it, we are doing so for companies that are direct agents of foreign powers.

Congressman Blumenauer’s amendment would have begun the work of closing down the Foreign Oil Driller Welfare Program. It would have forced oil drilling companies that take oil out of waters owned by the American people to either begin paying a royalty for that oil, or forfeit the right to expand their oil drilling operations to new areas in American territorial waters.

179 members of Congress voted for the bill, but it was rejected – by a margin of 50 votes. Most of the politicians who voted to protect the Foreign Oil Driller Welfare Program were Republicans. However, 5 Republican members of the U.S. House of Representatives voted for Blumenauer’s amendment. They were:

Mike Fitzpatrick
Chris Gibson
Walter Jones
Frank LoBiondo
Christopher Smith

Unfortunately, these five votes were more than counteracted by the votes of 12 Democrats who joined the majority of Republicans to preserve the Foreign Oil Driller Welfare Program without any reform. They were:

Ron Barber
John Barrow
Sanford Bishop
Jim Costa
Henry Cuellar
Pete Gallego
Gene Green
Jim Matheson
Bill Owens
Collin Peterson
Marc Veasey
Filemon Vela

The Saxons Of Iraq

Yesterday on Capitol Hill, U.S. Representative James Himes gave an important speech in which he called for his colleagues to oppose a renewal of U.S. military involvement in civil war in Iraq. “Colleagues,” he said, “let us not expend one more dollar or one more life on military activity that is not in the clear service of our essential national interests.”

saxons of iraqI’d like to hear more of this sentiment from congressional leaders.

Also included in the speech by Himes, as shown in the Congressional Record, is a stranger reference to the Iraqi Civil War. Himes said, “Let’s be very clear: Iraq cannot be lost or won. A brutal dictator or the United States military can sit on top of conflicts between Sunni and Shiite and Saxon tribes that have roiled that society for centuries, but remove that dictator or remove the U.S. military, and those conflicts will reemerge.”

The Sunnis, Shiites and Saxon tribes?

Who are these Saxons of Iraq? British occupiers from the 20th century? Perhaps, but I’ve found a more current alternative: Saxon Energy Services, a company headquartered in Dubai, but with expanding opportunities for workers seeking employment in its operations in Iraq.

No blood for oil, right?

HP Bends the Rules to Trend with its #BendTheRules Twitter Campaign

The ancient technology corporation Hewlett Packard (long since KFC’ed to “HP”) is trying to recast itself as young and rebellious with a social media campaign this week. Here’s a sample from the microblogging platform Twitter:

That “Tweet”, like many others by HP this week, has popped to the top of a number of users’ Twitter streams, along with the notice that the Tweets have been “promoted by HP.” “Promoted” means that HP paid Twitter to make its messages show up in your stream. On top of that, HP paid Twitter again to buy a position for the #BendTheRules hashtag it’s using on Twitter’s “Trends” Top 10 list:

When a Twitter Trend is not a real Twitter trend: when a corporation shells out money to create the appearance that its message is Going Viral.  Tacky, HP.

Wait for the social media consultants behind this campaign to brag that it’s gone “viral.” Is a trend really trending, is a meme really viral, if a corporation has to pay a message to simulate an infection?

Authority Elbows In At The Libertarian Party National Convention

Tomorrow, the 2014 national convention of the Libertarian Party will begin. For a Libertarian convention, the convention looks tightly focused on rules and regulations. The first several events are:

Training
Bylaws Committee Meeting
Credentials Committee Meeting
Convention Registration & Delegate Credentialing

libertarian convention 2014They’re Libertarians, so why can’t they all just agree to show up, and then let marvelous things happen, free of all of these structures?

But, as luck would have it, the Libertarians seem to be all about authoritarian structures these days. Just think of a symbol of an authoritarian structure, and the Libertarians seem to be embracing it.

How about big Greek-style columns, for instance – the kind they put in front of all those big government buildings to make them seem important and powerful? Yes, the Libertarian Party has got those now as well, as seen here in the official logo of Libertarian National Convention 2014. Everywhere there’s a straight line, they slapped a column right in there.

Libertarians: Now with the power of faux marble!

Breaking Promise, Barack Obama Ignores Edward Snowden White House Petition for 1 Year

On June 22 2013, the petition to pardon civil liberties whistleblower Edward Snowden surpassed a hundred thousand signatures, and has continued to gather signatures since, reaching 161,223 signatures today.

It’s that 100,000 mark that’s crucial, though, because this isn’t just any old ordinary petition; it’s an official petition on the official “We The People” petition website set up by the White House itself. On that website, the Obama administration has promised to respond to any petition that surpasses 100,000 signatures.

It’s been a year now, and still there’s been no response.

When the White House promises to respond to all petitions, then ignores politically unacceptable and thematically disagreeable petitions, the basic premise of the website appears to be negated. An honest answer doesn’t have to be the answer that “We the People” want, but some sort of answer is better than the alternative: to have our government remain unanswerable.

Free Mubarak Bala

free mubarak balaIn Nigeria, a man named Mubarak Bala has been beaten, drugged, and held captive in the Aminu Kano Teaching Hospital. The rationale for the beating and confinement is that he has a mental illness. The symptoms of his mental illness are that he has renounced Islam and openly become an atheist.

Mubarak Bala’s father and his allies are insisting that he will continue to be held captive, and undergo treatments as if he were mentally ill – in order to cure his atheism. Mubarak’s mother, who helped get out news of his plight by smuggling an email-capable phone into the hospital, has been kicked out of the family home in punishment.

Associates of the International Humanist and Ethical Union have confirmed the basic facts of the case. Mubarak Bala is asking that people spread word of his confinement, in the hopes that international groups will help to gain his release.