Bluegrass Blessing

Watch this brief video of the Josh Williams Band until at least the 1-minute and 30-second mark and you will see something unbelievable … and beautiful.

This may be how the gods express their appreciation for a great performance.

Gingrich (and Race-Baiting) Wins in South Carolina

By Adele M. Stan | Sourced from AlterNet

Gingrich set about putting a black face on America’s poor, and was rewarded with 40% of South Carolina’s primary vote.

Marking a triumph for the return of unvarnished racism on the American political stage, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich handily won the South Carolina Republican presidential primary on Saturday, leaving in tatters the presumed inevitability of a Mitt Romney romp to the Republican presidential nomination. Finishing with 40 percent of the vote, Gingrich vanquished Romney, who garnered only 28 percent. Rick Santorum and Ron Paul managed 17 and 13 percent, respectively, while Herman Cain brought up the rear with 1 percent.

Until early this week, Romney, the former Massachusetts governor, was expected to win by a comfortable margin — that is, until Gingrich topped the damage inflicted on Romney by the Newt-supporting superPAC, Winning Our Future, by establishing his supremacy in the race-baiting contest among all the GOP candidates in a Monday-night debate sponsored by Fox News. Subsequent polls showed Gingrich surging.

Gingrich then turbo-charged that surge by turning a negative into a positive: his second wife’s charge that Gingrich had asked her for an “open marriage” while he was carrying on an affair with the woman who would become his third wife. Marianne Gingrich’s accusation broke on Thursday, and CNN’s John King opened that night’s debate by asking Gingrich to respond. Gingrich responded with gusto, with a direct attack on King, whose question he called “close to despicable.” The former speaker’s attack on “media elites” won him a standing ovation from the Republican audience in the debate hall (and likely more than a few watching from home).

Newt the Destroyer

Gingrich came to South Carolina determined, at the very least, to destroy the candidacy of Romney, aided by “King of Bain,” a video hit-piece by Winning Our Future, about Mitt Romney’s tenure as CEO of Bain Capital, a player in theleveraged-buy-out frenzy that reshaped the landscape of U.S. business in the 1980s and ’90s. The video depicts Romney as a heartless destroyer of the lives of working-class white people, all salt-of-the earth types who worked in the manufacturing companies bought up by Bain and sold for the sum of their parts.

In his concession speech on Saturday night, Romney took several swipes at Gingrich, suggesting the former speaker was in league with Obama, without ever calling Gingrich by name.

“Those who pick up the weapons of the left today will find them turned against us tomorrow,” Romney said. “Let me be clear,” he continued. “If Republican leaders want to join this president in demonizing success and disparaging conservative values then they’re not going to be fit to be our nominee.”

For his attacks on Romney’s business practices, Gingrich was dubbed a kamikaze by the chattering classes, who chalked up his anti-Romney offensive to a desire to maim his opponent before his own presumably impending exit from the race — mere retribution, it was believed, for the destruction of Gingrich’s momentary surge in Iowa by hard-hitting ads run by the pro-Romney superPAC, Restore Our Future. But Gingrich, characteristically, had in mind something far more grand: winning the nomination.

Even as Gingrich and the Gingrich-friendly superPAC hammered at Romney — with the help of $5 million pumped in by casino kingpin Sheldon Adelson — he was honing his winning strategy for propelling his candidacy on the toxic fuel of racial resentment, a particularly potent brew with a black man occupying the White House.

And the Newt Shall Rise Again

After his loss to Romney and Santorum in Iowa, Gingrich apparently devised a plan that set his sights on South Carolina, where the Confederate flag still flies on the grounds of the state capitol. He knew New Hampshire was Romney’s game, since, as the former governor of the state next door, Romney was nearly impossible to beat in the first-in-the-nation primary. But the national media were there, and Newt made the most of their presence, knowing his antics would be duly noted in the Palmetto state. So he deftly repackaged an off-hand, race-baiting remark made by Rick Santorum in Iowa, and dubbed Barack Obama the “food stamp president.”

He set about putting a black face on all of America’s poor, and then insinuating that these presumably dark-skinned dependents on public assistance arrived at their lowly station through laziness and the radical, redistributionist policies of America’s first African-American president. Whenever he could pair his racist theories with attacks on other targets of the right — say, labor unions and public employees — he did. Child labor laws should be adjusted so that public school custodians could be replaced with poor kids — who did, after all, need the money, he said, and an infusion of work ethic.

Then Gingrich said he would go into a place that would look, to those in South Carolina’s Republican base with a fear of black people, like the lion’s den.

“I said I was willing to go to the NAACP national convention, which most Republicans are unwilling to do, and talk about the importance of food stamps versus paychecks…,” Gingrich said, as AlterNet reported, in response to a challenging question at a New Hampshire campaign stop. “Here’s a Republican who is standing up, [willing to talk to] one of the most left-wing groups in America about how to help the people they represent.”

Because, obviously, they are incapable of figuring that out on their own.

Doubling Down on the Race War

Then Gingrich got another of his big ideas. Why wait for the NAACP convention to roll around to collect television footage, for the edification of the racially prejudiced segment of the electorate he’s targeting, of himself yelling directly at black people? Why not get that ball rolling in time for the South Carolina primary?

On January 14, exactly a week ahead of the South Carolina primary, Gingrich paid a visit to the Jones Memorial A.M.E. Church in Columbia, South Carolina, to face a largely African-American audience described by Politico as “hostile.” There, he belligerently stuck to his guns in describing the nation’s first black commander-in-chief as the “food stamp president” by repeating his false claimthat, under Barack Obama, “more people have been put on food stamps by Barack Obama than any president in American history.” (Actually, George W. Bush wins that honor, thanks to the economic crash his administration incited.) Gingrich’s foray into enemy territory yielded local reporting that the white, right-wing base of the South Carolina G.O.P. could really soak up.

Monday night’s debate offered Gingrich an opportunity to belittle a black person to his face on national television, when Fox News analyst Juan Williams challenged Gingrich on his comments about the poor, about African-Americans, and his description of Obama.

“Can’t you see that this is viewed, at a minimum, as insulting to all Americans, but particularly to black Americans?” Williams asked.

“No. I don’t see that,” Gingrich replied.

As Williams continued, taking Gingrich to task for his fusing of food stamps, race and Obama in his stump speech, it became clear that Gingrich was winning the round when the audience in the debate hall loudly booed Williams. Gingrich repeated his false claim about Obama’s responsibility for the numbers of people on the nutrition assistance program.

“Now,” he continued, “I know among the politically correct, you’re not supposed to use facts that are uncomfortable.”

(Later in the week, Gingrich would claim the “idea of work” to be a “strange, distant concept” to Juan Williams.)

Later, in response to a question about the wisdom of pursing a confrontation with Iran, Gingrich gave an answer full of coded racism and Confederate hagiography, but one easily missed by those not steeped in American history or the legends of the South.

“South Carolina in the Revolutionary War had a young 13-year-old named Andrew Jackson. He was sabred by a British officer and wore a scar his whole life,” Gingrich said. “Andrew Jackson had a pretty clear-cut idea about America’s enemies: Kill them.”

As president, Andrew Jackson presided over the Trail of Tears, the genocidal removal of American Indians,who were deemed America’s enemies, from their native lands. He also embraced a racial philosophy that reserved democracy only for white men, who were regarded as superior in every way to non-whites.

Clearing the Racist Path

While Gingrich was hardly the originator of the racial subtext to the GOP presidential contest, his unapologetic, bellicose articulation of racist tropes served to smoke out his competitors, who had, until that time, tried to blow the race whistle more subtly, or at least out of view of the mainstream media. (Santorum famously walked back from his Iowa remarks about black people and welfare by saying that he never used the phrase “black people,” but rather the term “blah people.”)

But Gingrich’s astonishing performance in Monday night’s debate demanded more from the rest of the field, two of whom did their best to serve it up. Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who later left the race and endorsed Gingrich, invoked the Civil War when responding to a question about the Justice Department’s challenge to South Carolina’s draconian new voter ID law. “South Carolina is at war with this federal government and with this administration,” Perry said.

Former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum took the opportunity to link young African-American women to promiscuity, while deriding the Obama administration for not permitting the funding of abstinence-only programs as the solution.

Mitt Romney stuck to his more subtle attack on Obama as a “nice guy” who was “in over his head,” playing, in the land of Andrew Jackson, to the notion that African-Americans are intellectually inferior to whites. Ron Paul used his opposition to the drug war as proof of his concern about African-Americans. But the next day, according to the Associated Press:

Paul chose the South Carolina Statehouse grounds, surrounded by Civil War icons and the Confederate battle flag, to talk Tuesday about states’ rights to possibly ignore federal laws they don’t like, which in the past would have included civil rights and voting laws.

Shades of the Battle to Come

In victory, Gingrich was hardly kinder or gentler. And why should he be? He had found his winning formula. His combative speech largely targeted, in frontrunner fashion, his presumed general-election opponent instead of his Republican rivals. Taking aim at “elites” in Washington and New York, Gingrich condemned their purported “anti-religious bigotry,” and painted Obama, using nearly the tropes of the right, as a “Saul Alinsky radical” who seeks to foster a culture of dependency through the tyranny of food stamps to create a “European-style welfare state.” And he repeated his linking of Obama to food stamps.

The speech hit all of the scapegoating fear-notes that characterize the rhetoric of the Tea Party: To the base Gingrich seeks to win, Alinsky’s name is Jewish and foreign-sounding to many Americans; Europeans = secular foreigners; dependency = welfare; welfare = lazy; welfare = black people; food stamps = black people.

Gingrich chalked up his win not, as the pundits did, to his superior debating skills, but because, he said, “I articulate the deepest-felt values of the American people.”

That depends, one imagines, on how one defines “American.” Whether Gingrich prevails in his quest for the presidential nomination, he has drawn the battle lines for the general election. People will say it’s all about the economy. But it’s more likely to be a rhetorical re-fighting of the Civil War, with a black Democrat and a white Republican doing battle on a American landscape deemed, just four years ago, to be post-racial.

Did the Feds Just Kill the Cloud Storage Model?

Reprinted from Washington’s Blog (January 21, 2012)

Megaupload Type Shutdowns and Patriot Act Are Killing Cloud Storage

The government’s takedown of the 800 pound gorilla online storage site Megaupload may have killed the cloud storage model.

Many innocent users have had their data taken away from them.

As PC World notes:

The MegaUpload seizure shows how personal files hosted on remote servers operated by a third party can easily be caught up in a government raid targeted at digital pirates.


Before its closure MegaUpload had 180 million registered users and an average of 50 million daily visits, claimed a total visitor history of more than one billion, and accounted for about four percent of all global Internet traffic….


Take, for example,, a site that appears to be similar to Megavideo. Videobb bills itself as an ideal place to share videos without ever having to worry about “disk space or bandwidth again.” Videobb is “safe, secure and easy” the company says, and that’s probably true; at least unless the FBI and the Department of Justice decide that videobb is ripe for a takedown. Behind the scenes, videobb is rife with pirated content just as Megavideo was.

A quick check of sites that index pirated content shows you can find recent episodes of The Big Bang Theory, Modern Family, and the recent movie Contagion available for free streaming on Videobb.

Videobb isn’t alone, either; services such as Novamov, ZShare, and VidXDen all offer file-sharing services similar to Megavideo and all of them are being used (or at least have been used) to distribute pirated content. The trick is that you won’t see the pirated content on these sites’ front pages; you have to know how to access it through third-party sites that contain links to the secret files.

If you use any of these sites to store or distribute your own non-infringing files, you are wise to have backups elsewhere, because they may be next on the DOJ’s copyright hit list.


Keep in mind that when you use these services you also make it easier for the government, and possibly hackers, to peer into your files without your knowledge — but that’s a discussion for another day.

Bottom line: if your cloud service offers file storage on the front end and shows pirated video out the back, don’t be surprised if your files vanish one day.

In other words, the government is exercising the power to seize all of the legal property held in a storage facility because a handful of crooks have illegal property in theirs.

And if that’s not enough to kill your enthusiasm for cloud storage, CIO points out:

Worries have been steadily growing among European IT leaders that the USA Patriot Act would give the U.S. government unfettered access to their data if stored on the cloud servers of American providers—so much so that Obama administration officials this week held a press conference to quell international concern over the protection of data stored on U.S. soil.


Anxiety was heightened last year when a Microsoft UK managing director admitted that he could not guarantee that data stored on the company’s servers, even those outside the U.S., would not be seized by the U.S. government.


Escaping the grasp of the Patriot Act, however, may be more difficult than the marketing suggests. “You have to fence yourself off and make sure that neither you or your cloud service provider has any operations in the United States,” explains [Alex Lakatos, a partner and cross-border litigation expert in the Washington, D.C. office of Mayer Brown], “otherwise you’re vulnerable to U.S. jurisdiction.” Few large IT customers or cloud providers fit that description in today’s global business environment. And the cloud computing model is built on the argument data can and should reside anywhere around the world, freely passing between borders.


So, what’s a European cloud customer to do—or, for that matter, a U.S. customer anxious about how their cloud provider might respond to a government request for data under the Patriot Act? Cloud and other technology service providers have a mixed record when it comes to keeping customer data out of government hands. “For the cloud service providers, their life may be easier if they give the government whatever it’s asking for,” Lakatos says.

How Local Governments Can Fight Back Against the Foreclosure Crisis

Reprinted from New Deal 2.0 (January 18, 2012)

By Kristen Tullos

Cities can use local housing codes and land banks to push back against banks’ reckless behavior.

Since the beginning of the economic downturn, Congress has passed numerous pieces of legislation aimed at stabilizing the housing market. Their legislative efforts succeeded in stabilizing financial markets, but foreclosures have continued unabated, affecting families and neighborhoods across the country. While the foreclosure crisis continues to be a drag on the economy, its effects are felt most acutely in communities and neighborhoods.

For the last decade or so, growth in America’s housing stock was driven primarily by investment rather than demand. As a result, there is a surplus in the housing market, which causes many foreclosed homes to sit vacant for years, generating no revenue for their (often institutional) owners who have no intention of occupying the property themselves. Rather, the institutional owners must either pay to maintain the property or let it fall into disrepair. In the many cities where this is the case, it is economically rational for the lender to modify the mortgage, if possible, and allow the current occupants to remain in their home. There are two benefits to such an arrangement: (1) the lender will not be responsible for maintaining the property, and (2) the property will continue to generate revenue for the lender in the form of mortgage payments.

In refusing to modify mortgages, lenders are often acting irrationally. Despite many attempts, the federal government has failed to pass legislation that would force or sufficiently incentivize lenders to modify mortgage principals on a large scale. As a result, foreclosures continue and local governments are left to bear a disproportionate share of the burden. The harms of abandoned property are well-documented: nearby property values decrease, property tax revenues decrease, the community’s safety and health are often put at risk, and a negative perception keeps out new investment.

Not all localities, however, are letting these institutional lenders harm their neighborhoods without a fight. Increasingly, they are holding absentee and institutional lenders accountable for the mess their mindless foreclosures create within their jurisdiction. The most successful approaches have included two components: strong code enforcement and a land bank. Land banks are local, usually governmental, entities that can acquire, hold, and dispose of properties according to community needs and priorities. The best way to explain the process is to walk through the steps.

The mortgagee, often a bank, forecloses a mortgage that the homeowner is no longer paying. The bank may not be able to resell the property, so it sits vacant. This is happening all across the country. The New York Times reported that there were 15,000 abandoned properties in Chicago back in October 2011, most of which resulted from foreclosures. Ideally, the property would not be sitting vacant at all, but the problem of vacancy is compounded when institutional owners fail to manage the property. Most institutional owners, often the big banks, are not well-equipped to maintain properties at the standard required by local housing codes. As a result, it often falls on the local government to board up broken windows and mow overgrown grass.

Here, code enforcement comes into play (which is sometimes supplemented by a vacant property registration system). The owners can be fined when the property does not meet code. The fine must be sufficiently large to give the absent owners an incentive to either maintain or sell the property. If the institutional owner does not pay the fine, it can be placed against the property as a lien. Eventually, non-payment allows the city to foreclose the lien and take the property into its inventory, ideally transferring it to a land bank with expertise in land management to assist in long-term community development.

Alternatively, the banks may choose to donate unoccupied properties in their inventories as a way to avoid paying the steep fines. The case study of Cleveland has been widely publicized in the New York Times and 60 Minutes, among other media outlets. The banks that own dilapidated property in Cleveland, including Bank of America, J.P. Morgan Chase, and Wells Fargo, are so tired of paying fines that they are actually donating them to the local land bank and sometimes paying it up to $7,500 to demolish formerly-occupied properties! The inefficiency of this option for banks is startling and, if banks get their act together, will result in more modifications in lieu of foreclosures.

Cities facing high rates of foreclosure and high rates of property abandonment would be well-advised to adopt this model. Doing so on a widespread basis will have one of two positive effects: either the institutional owner will maintain the property in a way that lessens the harm to the community or the locality will be able to impose large fines and eventually take control of the abandoned property. Without a successful national program to decrease foreclosures, this is the most powerful option local governments can adopt to minimize the effects of the foreclosure crisis.

Kristen Tullos is a Roosevelt Institute Pipeline Fellow and a third-year student at Emory Law School in Atlanta .

“A Universe from Nothing”

Richard Dawkins calls Lawrence Krauss “the Woody Allen of cosmology.”

Here’s a video of Krauss talking about how the Universe emerged out of nothing, and how abundant nothing really is.

This video is long (over and hour) and challenging, especially if you are attached to a traditional religious viewpoint. I watched it because I was curious to know why over a million people (1,080,352 to be exact) would watch one YouTube video. I’m glad I did, because I was totally entranced by the portions of it I actually understood.

Jon Stewart’s Devastating Segment on Factories Where iPads Are Made

Goodbye to The Union.

January 17, 2012 (4:28 AM)

Today much of the online content of The Union has gone behind a paywall, even yesterday’s news and op-eds (although I notice that the publisher’s editorial from yesterday is still available online in full for free).

Because I’ve stopped reading The Union regularly anyway, I’ll be one of those who will pass on this new opportunity to pay for online content.

I’ll still buy a hardcopy from time-to-time when we go out to breakfast, another ritual we enjoy less often these days as the budget gets tighter (maybe The Union should have a special discount for seniors in these hard times?).

By the way, most of the local restaurants where we have breakfast — like South Pine and TJs — have a couple of copies of The Union lying about for diners to peruse while they eat.

The free market is a wonderful thing to behold.

How GOP Candidates’ Economic Plans “Screw the Middle Class”

The details are in the first four minutes of this video:

Professor Juan Cole on the Iranian Scientist Murders

From Professor Juan Cole’s Informed Comment blog:

The countries most eager to stop the Iranian program are Israel, the United States and Saudi Arabia. So they are the ones with motive.

The means, a sticky bomb, is commonly used by radical militias in Iraq.

The opportunity belonged to an Iranian who could move freely and had his papers in order. Of course, such a person could be recruited as an agent by almost any espionage organization. An MEK double agent inside the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps would be useful.

If you put this all together, you can come to a speculation. The circumstantial evidence would point to a member of the Mojahedin-e Khalq (MEK or People’s Jihadis) terrorist organization. The MEK is known to have been involved in espionage on the Iranian nuclear program, and it wants to overthrow the current government in favor of a Marxist-Islamic regime, working with Israeli intelligence. Mossad does targeted assassinations, as in Dubai. The MEK has a history of pulling off bombings in Iran. One, in 1981, killed over 80 members of the revolution’s political elite, including the prime minister. The MEK is based in part in Iraq and so could acquire sticky bombs easily. It is known to have an operational alliance with Israeli and American intelligence. And that this bombing occurred on an anniversary of a previous one also suggests a terrorist group for which the date is symbolic.

I underline that this conclusion is circumstantial and purely the result of an intellectual exercise, i.e., of speculation. I’m not making an accusation and have no proof of this conclusion. But it is more likely the solution to the mystery than that Thai ninjas or Argentine gauchos did the deed.

Journalist Richard Silverstein says he has a reliable Israeli source who affirms that the bombings are a joint production of Mossad and the MEK. But since his source in anonymous, it is hard for others to judge the solidness of this source.

Anyway, the scientists so far killed have not been proven in a court of law to have done anything wrong at all, and so they have been murdered in cold blood for political purposes, which is the definition of terrorism. Western leaders who accuse Iran of being the world’s major purveyor of terrorism (a stupid allegation) would have to, if they were honest and consistent, speak out against these grisly murders in Iran (which also killed innocent bystanders).

Read Professor Cole’s full post here.

National Day of Action Against Citizens United: January 21, 2012

Press Release by Occupy Nevada County:

Saturday, January 21, is the second anniversary of the Supreme Court decision, Citizens United vs. the Federal Elections Commission, which overturned decades of campaign finance law and allows unlimited corporate funds to flood our election system.  On Saturday, a coalition of local groups is hosting a Festival and Teach-In in Nevada City as part of a National Day of Action, in coordination with other events that will take place nationwide. The purpose of these events is to raise awareness and educate people about how corporations dominate the political process and to build momentum for a Constitutional Amendment to abolish “corporate personhood” and overturn the controversial Citizens United ruling.

A poll taken by ABC News/Washington Post revealed that eighty percent of Americans opposed the ruling.  Seventy-two percent stated that they would support efforts by Congress to reinstate the restrictions that were stripped away by the decision.  California Lawmakers in California have now introduced a resolution calling on Congress to “propose and send to the states for ratification a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United.”  Similar resolutions have been passed in many city councils, including Los Angeles, Oakland, Albany, Boulder, and New York.

The Festival will begin at 10:30 am, with people of all ages gathering at the Nevada City United Methodist Church for face painting, shadow puppets, music, games, arts and crafts, stories, food, displays, and informal discussion.  At 11:30 there will be a colorful parade down Broad Street to Robinson Plaza, where there will be a rally with street theater, speakers, music, song, and dance.

After returning to the church for a finger foods lunch, childcare will be provided during a two-hour Teach-In, in which local speakers will explain the Citizens United decision and its implications, the concept of corporate personhood, and the movement to amend the constitution to abolish corporate personhood and overturn Citizens United.  Sharon Delgado will present an interactive workshop on these issues.  Jedediah Biagi, Mia Nash, and Lorraine Reich will present a Corporate Personhood Timeline explaining how corporations were gradually given constitutional rights and protections originally designed for human beings.  Tom Grundy will present an overview of local and state resolutions that support a constitutional amendment. Discussion will focus on action opportunities, including organizing to pass local resolutions.

Occupy Nevada County initiated the organizing for this event.  They were contacted by the national Move to Amend coalition, then formed a Working Group to focus on this issue and called together local groups to form a coalition that includes the Nevada City United Methodist Church and Society Committee, Grass Valley Friends Social Action Committee, Nevada County Democrats, Grandmothers for Peace of Nevada County, Social Action Committee of the Unitarian Universalist Church of the Mountains, the Peace Center of Nevada County, and Earth Justice Ministries.   National groups working on this issue include Public Citizen, People for the American Way, and Move to Amend.  More information about this event and Occupy Nevada County can be found if you sign up at or email

More Information:

Occupy Nevada County Website:

Contact Occupy Nevada County at:

Facebook:  Occupy Wall Street NC

Background on

The Movement to Amend the Constitution to Abolish Corporate Personhood

By Sharon Delgado

Through a gradual process, corporations have been growing in power.  In 2010, the Supreme Court ruling in Citizens United vs. the FEC created a whole new level of imbalance, because it gave corporations the right to spend unlimited funds out of their treasuries on campaigns to elect candidates of their choice.  This money allows corporations to create a megaphone so big that their message drowns out the voices of the people.  This decision has been describes as meaning that “money equals speech.”

Several ideas have been put forth as ways to correct this power imbalance and restore democracy to the people.  One approach is to pass a constitutional amendment stating clearly that corporations are not persons, and that civil rights are for the protection of actual human beings.

Although it would not be easy, a constitutional amendment abolishing corporate personhood would not just level the playing field, it would change the playing field altogether.  It would prevent corporations from drowning out the voices of the people.

To find out more, go to:

Move to Amend, the movement for a constitutional amendment:

Public Citizen’s Democracy is for People

People for the American Way, including background on the Supreme Court Ruling:  Citizens United vs. the FEC

Resolutions–California and others

U.S. Poll on Citizens United

People for the American Way

Next Page »