Walmart’s Death Grip in USA


Walmart’s Death Grip on Groceries Is Making Life Worse for Millions of People (Hard Times USA)

Stacy Mitchell , ALTERNET

Walmart’s growing control of our food system has been to intensify the rural and urban poverty that drives unhealthy food choices.

Photo Credit: Shutterstock.com

March 26, 2013  |

This article was published in partnership with the Institute for Local Self-Reliance.

When Michelle Obama visited a Walmart in Springfield, Missouri, a few weeks ago to praise the company’s efforts to sell healthier food, she did not say why she chose a store in Springfield of all cities. But, in ways that Obama surely did not intend, it was a fitting choice. This Midwestern city provides a chilling look at where Walmart wants to take our food system.

Springfield is one of nearly 40 metro areas where Walmart now captures about half or more of consumer spending on groceries, according to Metro Market Studies.  Springfield area residents spend just over $1 billion on groceries each year, and one of every two of those dollars flows into a Walmart cash register.  The chain has 20 stores in the area and shows no signs of slowing its growth. Its latest proposal, a store just south of the city’s downtown, has provoked widespread protest.  Opponents say Walmart already has an overbearing presence in the region and argue that this new store would undermine nearby grocery stores, including a 63-year-old family-owned business which still provides delivery for its elderly customers. A few days before the First Lady’s visit, the City Council voted 5-4 to approve what will be Walmart’s 21st store in the community.

As Springfield goes, so goes the rest of the country, if Walmart has its way. Nationally, the retailer’s share of the grocery market now stands at 25 percent. That’s up from 4 percent just 16 years ago.  Walmart’s tightening grip on the food system is unprecedented in U.S. history.  Even A&P — often referred to as the Walmart of its day — accounted for only about 12 percent of grocery sales at its height in the 1940s.  Its market share was kept in check in part by the federal government, which won an antitrust case against A&P in 1946.  The contrast to today’s casual acceptance of Walmart’s market power could not be more stark.

Having gained more say over our food supply than Monsanto, Kraft, or Tyson, Walmart has been working overtime to present itself as a benevolent king. It has upped its donations to food pantries, reduced sodium and sugars in some of its store-brand products, and recast its relentless expansion as a solution to “food deserts.” In 2011, it pledged to build 275-300 stores “in or near” low-income communities lacking grocery stores. The Springfield store Obama visited is one of 86 such stores Walmart has since opened.  Situated half a mile from the southwestern corner of a census tract identified as underserved by the USDA, the store qualifies as “near” a food desert. Other grocery stores are likewise perched on the edge of this tract.  Although Walmart has made food deserts the vanguard of its PR strategy in urban areas, most of the stores the chain has built or proposed in cities like Chicago and Washington D.C. are in fact just blocks from established supermarkets, many unionized or locally owned.  As it pushes into cities, Walmart’s primary aim is not to fill gaps but to grab market share.

***

The real effect of Walmart’s takeover of our food system has been to intensify the rural and urban poverty that drives unhealthy food choices.  Poverty has a strong negative effect on diet, regardless of whether there is a grocery store in the neighborhood or not, a major 15-year study published in 2011 in the Archives of Internal Medicine found. Access to fresh food cannot change the bottom-line reality that cheap, calorie-dense processed foods and fast food are financially logical choices for far too many American households.  And their numbers are growing right alongside Walmart.  Like Midas in reverse, Walmart extracts wealth and pushes down incomes in every community it touches, from the rural areas that produce food for its shelves to the neighborhoods that host its stores.

Walmart has made it harder for farmers and food workers to earn a living. Its rapid rise as a grocer triggered a wave of mergers among food companies, which, by combining forces, hoped to become big enough to supply Walmart without getting crushed in the process. Today, food processing is more concentrated than ever.  Four meatpackers slaughter 85 percent of the nation’s beef.  One dairy company handles 40 percent of our milk, including 70 percent of the milk produced in New England.  With fewer buyers, farmers are struggling to get a fair price. Between 1995 and 2009, farmers saw their share of each consumer dollar spent on beef fall from 59 to 42 cents. Their cut of the consumer milk dollar likewise fell from 44 to 36 cents.  For pork, it fell from 45 to 25 cents and, for apples, from 29 to 19 cents.

Onto this grim reality, Walmart has grafted a much-publicized initiative to sell more locally grown fruits and vegetables.  Clambering aboard the “buy local” trend undoubtedly helps Walmart’s marketing, but, as Missouri-based National Public Radio journalist Abbie Fentress Swanson reported in February, “there’s little evidence of small farmers benefiting, at least in the Midwest.”  Walmart, which defines “local” as grown in the same state, has increased its sales of local produce mainly by relying on large industrial growers. Small farmers, meanwhile, have fewer opportunities to reach consumers, as independent grocers and smaller chains shrink and disappear.

Food production workers are being squeezed too. The average slaughterhouse wage has fallen 9 percent since 1999.  Forced unpaid labor at food processing plants is on the rise.  Last year, a Louisiana seafood plant that supplies Walmart was convicted of forcing employees to work in unsafe conditions for less than minimum wage. Some workers reported peeling and boiling crawfish in shifts that spanned 24 hours.

The tragic irony is that many food-producing regions, with their local economies dismantled and poverty on the rise, are now themselves lacking grocery stores. The USDA has designated large swaths of the farm belt, including many agricultural areas near Springfield, as food deserts.

***

One might imagine that squeezing farmers and food workers would yield lower prices for consumers.  But that hasn’t been the case.  Grocery prices have been rising.  There are multiple reasons for this, but corporate concentration is at least partly to blame.  For most foods, the spread between what consumers pay and how much farmers receive has been widening.  Food processors and big retailers are pocketing the difference.  Even as Walmart touts lower prices than its competitors, the company’s reorganization of our food system has had the effect of raising grocery prices overall.

As Walmart stores multiply, fewer families can afford to eat well.  The company claims it stores bring economic development and employment, but the empirical evidence indicates otherwise.  A study published in 2008 in the Journal of Urban Economics examined about 3,000 Walmart store openings nationally and found that each store caused a net decline of about 150 jobs (as competing retailers downsized and closed) and lowered total wages paid to retail workers.  Otherresearch by the economic consulting firm Civic Economics has found that, when locally owned businesses are replaced by big-box stores, dollars that once circulated in the community, supporting other businesses and jobs, instead leak out.  These shifts may explain the findings of another study, published in Social Science Quarterly in 2006, which cut straight to the bottom line: neighborhoods where Walmart opens end up with higher poverty rates and more food-stamp usage than places where the retailer does not expand.

This year, Walmart plans to open between 220 and 240 stores in the U.S., as it marches steadily on in its quest to further control the grocery market.  Policymakers at every level, from city councilors to federal antitrust regulators, should be standing in its way.  Very few are.  Growing numbers of people, though, are drawing the line, from the Walmart employees who have led a string of remarkable strikes against the company, to the coalition of small business, labor, and community groups that recently forced Walmart to step back from its plans to unroll stores across New York City.

Back in Springfield, as Michelle Obama was delivering her remarks, framed by a seductive backdrop of oranges and lemons, a citizens group called Stand Up to Walmart was also at work, launching a referendum drive to overturn the City Council’s vote and block Walmart from gaining any more ground in the city.

 

Stacy Mitchell is a senior researcher at the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, where she directs an initiative on independent business. She is the author of Big-Box Swindle and also produces a popular monthly newsletter, the Hometown Advantage Bulletin.Catch her recent TEDx Talk: Why We Can’t Shop Our Way to a Better Economy.

29 Signs -Global Elitism Transforming Society Into A Total Domination Control Grid


united states currency eye- IMG_7364_web

 

 

 

 By Michael, thetruthwins.com
The elite want to tightly control almost everything that we do, say and think.  When most people think of “tyranny”, they think of thugs with guns and little dictators running around barking orders at everyone.  But that is not how the elite are accomplishing their goals these days.  They want us to actually believe that we have freedom and that we are choosing our own leaders, but in the background they are exerting “soft power” in a way that is absolutely ruthless.  They fund the political campaigns of our politicians, they own nearly all of the large corporations and financial institutions, they exert very tight control over the media and their agenda is being promoted through the education systems of virtually every nation on the planet.  What the elite are doing is not illegal.  In fact, they use the government and they use the law to accomplish their purposes.  That is one reason why the elite love big government.  For them, it is an instrument of control.  The larger the government is, the easier it is to watch, track, monitor and control the rest of us.  As you read this, a “total domination control grid” is being constructed all around us that is far beyond anything that George Orwell ever dreamed of.  This system is advancing on hundreds of different fronts, and it is getting tighter and more restrictive with each passing day.  We may think that we still have a certain degree of liberty, but if you start doing things that the system does not like, the system has a way of getting you back in line very quickly.  In the end, it is all about control.  There are many among the elite that actually believe that a tightly controlled society that is dominated by government institutions that they control is what is best for humanity.  Many of them honestly believe that society would descend into chaos without a strong hand guiding it.  Many of them truly are convinced that those that are “enlightened” are doing a noble thing by guiding humanity into the “bright future” that the elite are designing for them.  But of course the freedoms and the liberties of the common people must be greatly limited in order to get us to that “bright future”.  We are like cattle that need to be penned in for our own good.  This is how the elite actually think.  I spent many years being educated by them and rubbing shoulders with them.  They should not be trusted.  Once our liberties and freedoms are gone, they will be nearly impossible to get back.  And once the elite have total control, we will be faced with a tyranny unlike anything humanity has ever seen before.
The following are 29 signs that the elite are transforming society into a total domination control grid…
1. A new bill in the U.S. Senate would allow more than 20 different government agencies to read your email without a search warrant.
2. Next generation facial recognition cameras that can identify a person in less than a second and “send authorities all known intelligence about anyone who enters a camera’s field of vision” are being put up in southern California.
3. A highly sophisticated surveillance grid known as “Trapwire” is being installed in major cities and at “high value targets” all over the United States.  Unfortunately, most Americans do not even realize that it exists.
4. Police departments all over America are beginning to deploy unmanned surveillance drones in the skies over their cities.  But don’t think that a drone is not watching you just because you don’t live in a major city.  The truth is that the federal government has been using unmanned surveillance drones to spy on farmers in Iowa and Nebraska.  There could be a drone over your house right now and you might not ever know it.
5. Individual politicians know more about you than they ever have before. The amount of information that the Obama campaign has compiled on potential voters is absolutely frightening…
If you voted this election season, President Obama almost certainly has a file on you. His vast campaign database includes information on voters’ magazine subscriptions, car registrations, housing values and hunting licenses, along with scores estimating how likely they were to cast ballots for his reelection.
6. The UK is often five or ten years ahead of much of the rest of the world in implementing “Big Brother” police state measures.  Over there it is now against the law to insult someone with your speech.  If you say something that is “likely” to insult a Muslim or a homosexual you could end up being dragged in front of a judge.  It is only a matter of time before we see these kinds of laws all over the planet.
7. Could you imagine the government telling you what the temperature inside your own home can be?  A new law in France would do exactly that…
Heating a French home could soon require an income tax consultation or even a visit to the doctor under legislation to force conservation in the nation’s $46 billion household energy market.
A bill adopted by the lower house this month would set prices that homes pay based on wages, age and climate. Utilities Electricite de France and GDF Suez will use the data to reward consumers who cut power and natural gas usage and penalize those whom regulators decide are wasteful.
8. Control freak bureaucrats love to tell others how to run their lives.  For example, one man down in Orlando, Florida was recently ordered to rip out the vegetable garden that he was growing in his front yard.  Will we eventually get to the point where even the smallest details of our lives are micromanaged by the government?
9. Most Americans don’t realize this, but the DNA of almost every newborn baby in America is collected and stored by the government.  What plans do they have for all of this DNA?
10. All over America, schools are beginning to require students to carry IDs with RFID microchips in them wherever they go.  Fortunately, some students are fighting back…
The San Antonio sophomore who opposed microchipping student IDs that would track their every movement has inspired a groundswell of 300 students in her huge district who now refuse to wear the identification chips over religious, personal privacy, safety and civil liberties concerns. In addition, some 700 other people have signed petitions opposing the microchipping program.
11. There is more crossover between our education system and our law enforcement system than ever before.  An increasing number of schools in the United States have police officers roaming their hallways, and today there are more than 70,000 children behind bars in America.
12. When you rely on FEMA to take care of you, it can literally feel like you are in prison.  The following is a description of what life is like in one FEMA camp that was set up in New Jersey in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy…
“Sitting there last night you could see your breath,” displaced resident Brian Sotelo told the Asbury Park Press. “At (Pine Belt) the Red Cross made an announcement that they were sending us to permanent structures up here that had just been redone, that had washing machines and hot showers and steady electric, and they sent us to tent city. We got (expletived).”
Sotelo said Blackhawk helicopters patrol the skies “all day and night” and a black car with tinted windows surveys the camp while the government moves heavy equipment past the tents at night. According to the story, reporters aren’t even allowed in the fenced complex, where lines of displaced residents form outside portable toilets. Security guards are posted at every door, and residents can’t even use the toilet or shower without first presenting I.D.
“They treat us like we’re prisoners,” Ashley Sabol told Reuters. “It’s bad to say, but we honestly feel like we’re in a concentration camp.”
13. Your cell phone collects information about you wherever you go, and law enforcement authorities in the United States requested that cell phone data be turned over to them more than a million times in 2011 alone.
14. The federal government has created an iPhone app that is designed to encourage all of us to take photos of “suspicious activity” and report our neighbors to the authorities.
15. The U.S. government is increasingly using spyware to monitor the behavior of their employees while they are at work.
16. According to three NSA whistleblowers, the agency “has the capability to do individualized searches, similar to Google, for particular electronic communications in real time through such criteria as target addresses, locations, countries and phone numbers, as well as watch-listed names, keywords, and phrases in email.”
17. Private corporations are gathering every shred of information about you that they possible can. One of the largest companies involved in “mining our data” is known as Acxiom.  It turns out that Acxiom has compiled information on more than 190 million people in the United States alone…
The company fits into a category called database marketing. It started in 1969 as an outfit called Demographics Inc., using phone books and other notably low-tech tools, as well as one computer, to amass information on voters and consumers for direct marketing. Almost 40 years later, Acxiom has detailed entries for more than 190 million people and 126 million households in the U.S., and about 500 million active consumers worldwide. More than 23,000 servers in Conway, just north of Little Rock, collect and analyze more than 50 trillion data ‘transactions’ a year.
18. We are being trained to give up our privacy and our dignity in the name of “security”.  For example, what the TSA did recently to one woman who was dying of leukemia was absoutely shameful…
A dying woman says a a security pat-down at Sea-Tac Airport left her embarrassed in front of crowds of people.
Michelle Dunaj says screeners checked under bandages from recent surgeries and refused to give her a private search when she requested one.
19. According to one recent survey, nearly one-third of all Americans would be willing to submit to a “TSA body cavity search” in order to fly.
20. Law enforcement authorities all over the United States will soon be driving around in unmarked vehicles looking inside your cars and even under your clothes using the same backscatter technology currently being used by the TSA at U.S. airports…
American cops are set to join the US military in deploying American Science & Engineering’s Z Backscatter Vans, or mobile backscatter radiation x-rays. These are what TSA officials call “the amazing radioactive genital viewer,” now seen in airports around America, ionizing the private parts of children, the elderly, and you (yes you).
These pornoscannerwagons will look like regular anonymous vans, and will cruise America’s streets, indiscriminately peering through the cars (and clothes) of anyone in range of its mighty isotope-cannon. But don’t worry, it’s not a violation of privacy. As AS&E’s vice president of marketing Joe Reiss sez, “From a privacy standpoint, I’m hard-pressed to see what the concern or objection could be.”
21. A company known as BRS Labs has developed “pre-crime surveillance cameras” that supposedly can identify criminal activity before it happens.  These cameras are being installed at major transportation hubs all over San Francisco.
22. According to Gizmodo, the Department of Homeland Security will soon be using laser-based scanners that can scan your body, your clothes and your luggage from 164 feet away…
Within the next year or two, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security will instantly know everything about your body, clothes, and luggage with a new laser-based molecular scanner fired from 164 feet (50 meters) away. From traces of drugs or gun powder on your clothes to what you had for breakfast to the adrenaline level in your body—agents will be able to get any information they want without even touching you.
And without you knowing it.
The technology is so incredibly effective that, in November 2011, its inventors were subcontracted by In-Q-Tel to work with the US Department of Homeland Security. In-Q-Tel is a company founded “in February 1999 by a group of private citizens at the request of the Director of the CIA and with the support of the U.S. Congress.” According to In-Q-Tel, they are the bridge between the Agency and new technology companies.
Their plan is to install this molecular-level scanning in airports and border crossings all across the United States.
23. A complex network of automated license plate readers carefully track the movements of millions of vehicles as they move in and out of Washington D.C. and the surrounding suburbs.  Most people do not even know that they are there.
24. The FBI is spending a billion dollars to develop a biometric identification system that will reportedly be far more sophisticated than anything that law enforcement in the United States has ever had before….
The US Federal Bureau of Investigation has begun rolling out its new $1 billion biometric Next Generation Identification (NGI) system. In essence, NGI is a nationwide database of mugshots, iris scans, DNA records, voice samples, and other biometrics, that will help the FBI identify and catch criminals — but it is how this biometric data is captured, through a nationwide network of cameras and photo databases, that is raising the eyebrows of privacy advocates.
Until now, the FBI relied on IAFIS, a national fingerprint database that has long been due an overhaul. Over the last few months, the FBI has been pilot testing a facial recognition system — and soon, detectives will also be able to search the system for other biometrics such as DNA records and iris scans.
25. If the government decides that you are a “bad guy”, they can put you on a “no fly list” that will ban you from flying indefinitely.  This can be done to you at any time, without any notice, and you won’t be told that it has happened.  In fact, as one prepper discovered recently, you might only find out that you are on the list when you try to board a flight.
26. Those that revere individual liberty are now being labeled as “potential terrorists” in official U.S. government documents.
27. A National Guard whistleblower recently revealed that members of his unit were told that “doomsday preppers” will be treated as “terrorists” when civil unrest breaks out.
28. One family in Idaho recently had their home raided by a SWAT team because a computer identified them as “constitutionalists” after someone had phoned in and complained about a domestic disturbance at their address.
29. Today, the mainstream media in the United States is totally dominated by just six giant corporations.  Those corporations own television networks, cable channels, movie studios, newspapers, magazines, publishing houses, music labels and large numbers of popular websites.  The way that almost every American looks at the world is being constantly influenced by these media corporations every single day.
Please share this list with as many people as you can.  We desperately need to wake people up while there is still time.

 

 

 

Mothers Are Taking Leadership on Gun Control


By Allison Stevens

WeNews correspondent

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

The day still haunts me–from 25 years ago–when my junior high school went into lockdown after a mass shooting at the nearby grade school. Now, after Newtown, women with children are taking responsibility for getting something done.

Stand Up Washington, a march and rally in Seattle to ban assault weapons and call for gun control laws.
Stand Up Washington, a march and rally in Seattle to ban assault weapons and call for gun control laws.

Credit: sea turtle on Flickr, under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0).

 

(WOMENSENEWS)–In the hours after the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.,Shannon Watts, a mother of five, founded One Million Moms for Gun Control in Indianapolis.

The group is holding demonstrations in New York City on Jan. 21 and co-sponsoring a march on Washington on Jan. 26 to build momentum for legislation to restrict access to guns.

MomsRising, a national grassroots advocacy based in Seattle, is urging its members to petition Congress and the National Rifle Association to stop blocking common sense gun regulations. The group is also calling on Wal-Mart, based in Bentonville, Ark., and the largest gun dealer in the country, to stop selling assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines. Yesterday its members rallied at the Wal-Mart in Danbury, Conn.–minutes from Sandy Hook Elementary School–to ask the retailer to stop selling such weapons.

Veronique Pozner, a mother of one of Sandy Hook’s slain first-graders, has said she wants to play a part in the discussion about the federal response to the rampage.

Moms, in other words, are speaking out as President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden try to build consensus for a controversial gun-control package that could include a push for background checks for all gun buyers and a ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines. Obama is also reportedly considering using the power of his executive office to restrict access to guns.

When mothers speak about slain children, they awaken the primordial parent in all of us, and we are collectively driven to protect our young–at all costs and against all odds.

Compounded Fear

I’m a mother now, and for me the fear is compounded. I don’t want my own children to go through the kind of mass-shooting ordeal that I did.

Twenty-five years ago in my hometown of Winnetka, Ill., a deranged babysitter opened fire at our local elementary school and shot six first graders, killing one, a little boy named Nicholas Corwin. That day is scorched in my memory. I was in junior high school, and my school was in lockdown until we were told that it was safe to emerge because the murderer–Laurie Dann–had shot herself. (Yes, ours was one of the rare mass shootings by a female, the one that must always be cited as the exception to discussions of how young men, with untreated mental illnesses, are the usual perpetrators of these horrific crimes.)

Obama is calling on us, as a society, to come together to make all our children safer.

“We bear responsibility for every child, because we’re counting on everybody else to help look after ours, that we’re all parents, that they are all our children,” Obama said in a memorial service after the Newtown shooting, wiping away tears throughout the speech. “This is our first task, caring for our children. It’s our first job. If we don’t get that right, we don’t get anything right. That’s how, as a society, we will be judged.”

If history is any guide, mothers’ powerful advocacy role may turn out to be crucial to our national response to Newtown.

Historical Responses

Back in 1903, Mary Harris “Mother” Jones, a prominent labor activist, launched the fight for child labor laws with a famous march of “mill children” to the Long Island home of President Teddy Roosevelt.

In the 1980s, Candace Lightner founded Mothers Against Drunk Driving and sparked a national movement that has lowered drunk-driving related fatalities by more than 40 percent, according to the Department of Transportation.

Dennis and Judi Shepard started an organization to combat hate crimes after their son Mathew was beaten and left to die because he was gay.

Jeanne Manford founded Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAGG) after her openly gay son was beaten and hospitalized; and Cindy Sheehan led the anti-war movement in the last decade after her son was killed in the war in Iraq.

The list goes on.

Mothers, of course, have been pushing for gun control for years.

Rep. Carolyn McCarthy, a Democrat from New York whose husband was killed and whose son was severely injured during a shooting on a Long Island commuter train in 1993, won a seat in Congress on the issue and ever since has been the leading voice for gun control in the U.S. Congress.

In 2000, hundreds of thousands of mothers descended on Washington, D.C., to participate in the Million Mom March, which took place about a year after the tragic school shooting at Columbine High School in Colorado.

Now, the bereaved mother Pozner could emerge as a key leader in what happens next.

“As the mother of a 6-year-old victim of a cold-blooded massacre of school children, I am puzzled and disappointed by the fact that I have had no information or opportunity to be heard regarding the upcoming legislative proposal in Washington,” she said in a recent statement.

I have a hunch that if we give moms like Pozner the space to tell their painful stories, people will listen, and act, to prevent more gun violence. I know I will.

Allison Stevens is a writer in Washington, D.C. She works for a public relations firm whose clients include MomsRising.org. These opinions are her own.

Don’t Be Afraid, Mr. President — You Can Take on the Gun Lobby


  NEWS & POLITICS
Salon / By Steve Kornacki, Altnet
Barack Obama and his party have been too terrified of angering gun owners to realize they can win without them.
December 15, 2012  |

A grieving President Barack Obama wiped away tears and struggled to compose himself Friday as he mourned the dead in the Connecticut school shooting.
Photo Credit: AFP

There’s no disputing that the Democratic Party has regressed dramatically on the issue of gun violence over the past two decades. When a shooting rampage on the Long Island Railroad killed six people and injured 19 others in December 1993, Bill Clinton responded immediately by calling for specific legislative action to prevent future tragedies. Contrast that with the response of White House Press Secretary Jay Carney on Friday to a question about whether the carnage in Connecticut might prompt President Obama to pursue gun control measures. “I’m sure there will be another day for discussion of the usual Washington policy debates,” Carney said, “but I don’t think today is that day.”

It can be hard to remember now, but well into the 1990s, national Democrats proudly associated themselves with gun control, championing laws that restricted access to deadly weapons. Under Clinton, the Brady Bill, which mandated a five-day waiting period for the purchase of handgun, was passed, and so was a ban on assault weapons. The 1996 Democratic Convention that nominated Clinton for a second term featured Jim and Sarah Brady as primetime speakers.

The years since then, however, have been marked by a steady and thus far enduring Democratic retreat on the issue, with the Second Amendment crowd now largely dictating the terms of public discussion and Democrats mainly trying to avoid their wrath. Consider Obama’s record on guns, which includes one achievement: a law making it easier to carry concealed weapons in national parks.

While the violent crime rate that fed the gun control zeal of the ’90s is much lower today, horrifying mass shootings seem to be on the rise. Six of the 12 deadliest sprees in American history have taken place just since 2007. In his own remarks Friday, delivered a few hours after Carney’s, Obama seemed to hint that the latest deadly outburst might actually shake him and his party from their defensive crouch on guns. “[W]e’re going to have to come together and take meaningful action to prevent more tragedies like this, regardless of politics,” the president said.

What that means is anyone’s guess right now. It appears that the Connecticut killer used several weapons, at least one of which would be illegal if the assault weapons ban – which the Republican Congress refused to reauthorize in 2004 – were still in effect. Obama is on the record supporting the ban’s reinstatement; might he now demand action? Or will he pursue other policy changes? Or maybe he’ll just end up doing what leaders of his party have done for more than a decade now: nothing.

The Democrats’ cowardice on guns traces back to the fateful election of 2000. Clinton, despite his aggressive pursuit of gun control measures, fared relatively well with rural gun-owning populations in his 1996 reelection campaign. But those same voters turned hard on Al Gore in ’00, shifting Kentucky, Missouri, West Virginia, Arkansas and Tennessee to the Republican column. A victory in any one of those states – all of which Clinton carried twice – would have made Gore president. Democrats concluded that they’d scared off rural, lower-income white voters who had traditionally supported them – and that guns were the big reason why. A new consensus emerged: Gun control could no longer be a central component of Democratic messaging. So it was that John Kerry in 2004 and Obama in 2008 and 2012 did their best to ignore the issue. Kerry went so far as to embark on a goose hunt in rural Ohio just before Election Day.

In terms of political strategy, there’s been one obvious shortcoming to this approach: It hasn’t worked. Kerry did no better than Gore in West Virginia, Kentucky, Missouri, Tennessee and Arkansas, and Obama has failed to win any of those states in two elections now. What’s more, there’s been no improvement in Democratic support among gun owners in any election since 2000. As Nate Cohn pointed out Friday, the lesson Democrats should be drawing from Obama’s two victories is that they can win nationally without the pro-gun vote. The Democratic coalition continues to evolve and grow, and the rural white voters who were key to its success generations ago have become a reliably Republican constituency.

What’s more, Democrats continue to be painted as the party of gun confiscators by the NRA and its allies. Even though there was nothing in Obama’s first term record for them to object to, the NRA bitterly fought his reelection this year, treating him as if he were Michael Douglas’ character in “The American President.” In other words, Democrats are already paying the political price that comes with being the gun control party. So if they believe in it, why not just say it – and act on it?

The answer typically provided to this question is that there are a number of Democrats in Congress from states with large gun-owning populations – think Joe Manchin and Jon Tester – and that the party’s current posture makes it possible for them to win. But a better way of understanding the success of these Democrats is that it’s come in spite of the national party’s reputation. Democrats like Manchin and Tester are already winning over voters who believe national Democrats want to take their guns away; this challenge will be exactly the same if national Democrats actually do start pursuing gun control again.

There were a few notable Democratc voices on Friday demanding that the party recommit itself to tackling gun violence. Rep. Carolyn McCarthy, a Long Island Democrat who entered politics in response to her husband’s death in the ’93 LIRR tragedy, said Friday that she will be pushing “full force” for new gun laws in Obama’s second term – and that she’s willing to “embarrass” the president if necessary.

McCarthy, it should be noted, was showcased by her national party when she first ran for Congress in 1996. Her story of turning her loss into a crusade for gun control was one with which Democrats very much wanted to be associated. As her congressional career progressed, McCarthy became lonely voice, on Capitol Hill and within the Democratic Party. But the spike in mass shootings has given her a new audience and an opportunity win new allies (and to win back old ones) – and to exert real pressure on Obama to get serious. We’ll know soon enough if Obama is really feeling the heat.

 

 

As Obama celebrates, Yemen is hit with a drone strike


by Avaaz Teamposted 09 November 2012 10:13

Americans protest the use of drones

Americans protest the use of drones (Getty)

Just hours after President Barack Obama celebrated his re-election early Wednesday morning, it appears he approved a drone strike in Yemen that killed three people and wounded two. Reports indicate that the strike, which hit less than 40km from Yemen’s capital, Sana’a, was targeted at three suspected members of al-Qaeda.

The US has been stepping up its drone attacks in Yemen as it backs the country’s forces struggling to fend-off al-Qaida militants who have succeeded in seizing large areas in the south of the country. But the US’s use of these deadly robot weapons in its “war on terror” efforts has attracted widespread condemnation, not least because the attacks have likely killed hundreds of innocent civilians and children in Pakistan, Yemen and elsewhere.

Also, studies have shown that drones are a useful recruitment tool for extremists, especially in Pakistan where anti-American sentiment is so high that it was the only country in the world to have expressed a preference for Mitt Romney over Obama in a BBC poll.

As Obama begins his second term, he must consider the message he is sending by using robots to kill defenceless citizens. Is this the kind of leadership the world was hoping for as they listened to his powerful acceptance speech earlier this week?

Learn more: See and hear the devastating cost of drone attacks for 800,000 Pakistanis, and learn about the dangerous precedent the US’s robot war sets for the rest of the world.

Sources: Times of India, Global Voices, Avaaz

Obama Nation #Mustwatch #lowkey #terrorist


Kareem Dennis (born 23 May 1986) is a musician and political activist of English and Iraqi descent, better known by his stage name Lowkey. He first became known through a series of mixtapes he released before he was 18,before taking a hiatus from the music business. He would return in 2008 with wider music coverage, featured on BBC Radioand appearing at various festivals and concerts including the Electric Proms,GlastonburyT In The Park and Oxegen in the build up to his first solo album Dear Listener, as well as collaborating with other famous English musicians to form a supergroup. Though his mainstream support gradually declined due to his outspoken political views, his career continued to go from strength to strength as a solo independent artist, touring in countries all over the world including Lebanon, Australia, Greece, Venezuela, the United States, the West Bank in the Palestinian territoriesItaly and many more. He released his second solo album Soundtrack to the Struggleindependently on 16 October 2011.

 Obama Nation Part 2 Ft M1 (Dead Prez) & Black The Ripper

Lowkey ‘s  second part to is famous song Obama Nation Off his forthcoming album Soundtrack To The Struggle. He once again points out that the U.S. is continuing the global empire building it started under George . Obama has changed very tittle since he has come to office and it’s time for people to wake up and end U.S. imperialism, the exact thing our  where fighting against.

The song Features M1 of Dead Prez and fellow UK rapper Black The Ripper.

It also includes video of Glenn Beck mocking Lowkey’s song “Terrorist?”. Which Lowkey counters by sampling a portion Lupe Fiasco’s song “”, which goes “Limbaugh is a racist, Glenn Beck is a racist,  was gettin’ bombed, Obama didn’t say shit”.

Enjoy Lowkey’s Obama Nation Part 2

 

Lowkey Obama Nation Part 2 Ft M1 (Dead Prez) & Black The Ripper Lyrics

Buy Lowkey's Obama Nation Part 2

Buy Lowkey’s Obama Nation Part 2

[Chorus]
I don’t, i don’t want no,
Obama, Obama nation (abomination),
I’m not gonna,
Vote for your inauguration,
Cause i don’t need your,
Obama, Obama nation (abomination),
I’m not gonna,
[Lupe Fiasco]
Limbaugh is a racist, Glenn Beck is a racist
Gaza strip was getting bombed, Obama didn’t say shit

[Verse 1 – M1 Of Dead Prez]
After you divorce yourself from the right wing
Propaganda campaign, it’s all simple and plain
America customed the game
Your president got an African name, now who you gone blame?
When they drop them bombs out of them planes
Using depleted uranium, babies looking like two headed aliens
Follow the  trail it leads to the criminal
Ain’t nothing subliminal to it, that’s how they do it
See they game they run, give a f-ck if he’s cunning
Articulate and handsome, Afghanistan held for ransom
By the hand of this black man, neo-colonial puppet
White power with a black face, he said f-ck it i’ll do it
A master of disguise, expert at telling lies
Then they gave him a Nobel Peace Price
Should of known he was trained in Chicago
Word to Chairmen Fred and Mark Clark
What they do in the dark will come out in the light
Like a wiki leaks site
So I guess Nkrumah was right, who’s ready to fight?
Last stage of imperialism, I ain’t kiddin
In the immortal words of Marvin Gaye ‘This ain’t living’

[Chorus]
Obama, Obama nation (abomination),
I’m not gonna,
Vote for your inauguration,
Cause i don’t need your,
Obama, Obama nation (abomination),
I’m not gonna,
[Lupe Fiasco]
Limbaugh is a racist, Glenn Beck is a racist
Gaza strip was getting bombed, Obama didn’t say shit

[Verse 2 – Black The Ripper]
O.B.A.M.A
You ain’t fooling everyone I see the games you play
You was V.I.P. at the B.I.C
And we know that’s code name for C.I.A
The same way your cameras are watching  we’re watching you
Think we’re easy to control you ain’t got a clue
Revolutions on the way, let’s see what your gonna do
You gonna send the troops? You gonna drop the nukes?
See it’s not where you’re from it’s where you’re at
He’s sitting in the White House so who cares if he’s black
And why’s there soldiers still out there in Iraq?
Natural resources ain’t yours, its theirs give it back!
You’re just another puppet but i’m not surprised
Look at Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice
They didn’t change shit, house nigga’s fresh off the slave ship
You’ll all burn in hell even Michelle, Obama Nation

[Chorus]
Obama, Obama nation (abomination),
I’m not gonna,
Vote for your inauguration,
Cause i don’t need your,
Obama, Obama nation (abomination),
I’m not gonna,
[Lupe Fiasco]
Limbaugh is a racist, Glenn Beck is a racist
Gaza strip was getting bombed, Obama didn’t say shit

[Verse 3 – Lowkey]
Was the bigger threat from Osama or from Obama?
Military bases from Chagos to Okinawa
I say things that other rappers won’t say
Cause my mind never closed like Guantanamo Bay
Hope you didn’t build a statue or tattoo your arm
Cause the drones are still flying over Pashtunistan
Did he defend the war? No! He extended more
He even had the time to attempt a coup in Ecuador
Morales and Chavez, the state’s are on a hunt for ya
Military now stationed on bases in Columbia
Take a trip to the past and tell em I was right
Ask Ali Abunimah or Jeremiah Wright
Drones over Pakistan,  and Libya
Is Obama the bomber getting ready for Syria?
First black president, the masses were hungry
But the same president just bombed an african country

[Chorus]
Obama, Obama nation (abomination),
I’m not gonna,
Vote for your inauguration,
Cause i don’t need your,
Obama, Obama nation (abomination),
I’m not gonna,
[Lupe Fiasco]
Limbaugh is a racist, Glenn Beck is a racist
Gaza strip was getting bombed, Obama didn’t say shit

[Intro]
This track is not an attack upon the American people
It is an attack upon the system within which they live
Since 1945 the United States has attempted to overthrow more than 50 foreign governments
In the process the U.S has caused the end of life for several million people, and condemned many millions more to a life of agony and despair

[Verse 1]
The strength of your dreamin
Prevents you from reason
The American dream
Only makes sense if you’re sleepin

It’s just a cruel fantasy
Their politics took my voice away
But their music gave it back to me

The land where their lumpen are consumed by consumption
Killing themselves to shovel down food in abundance
I guess a rapper from Britain is a rare voice
America is capitalism on steroids

Natives kept in casinos and reservations
Displaced slaves never given reparations
Take everything from Native Americans
And wonder why I call it the racist experiment

Afraid of your melanin
The same as it’s ever been
That ain’t gonna change
With the race of the president

I see imperialism under your skin tone
You could call it Christopher Columbus syndrome

[Hook 2x]
Is it Obamas nation or an abomination?
Is it Obamas nation or an abomination?
Is it Obamas nation or an abomination?
Doesn’t make any difference when they bomb your nation

O! Say can you see by the dawn’s early light
What so proudly we hailed at the twilight’s last gleaming
Whose broad stripes and bright stars through perilous fight
O’er the ramparts we watched were so gallantly streaming

[Verse 2]
The worlds entertainer
The worlds devastator

From Venezuela
To Mesopotamia

Your cameras lie
Cause they have to hide the savage crimes

Committed on leaders that happen
To try and nationalize

Eating competitions while the worlds been starvin
Beat up communism with the help of bin-laden

Where would your war on terror be without that man
Every day you create more Nidal Hassans

Kill a man from the military, you’re a weirdo
But kill a wog from the Middle East you’re a hero
Your country is causing screams that are never reaching ear holes
America inflicted a million ground zeros

Follow the dollar and swallow your humanity
Soldiers committing savagery you never even have to see
Those mad at me, writing in emails angrily
I’m not anti-America, America is anti-me

[Hook 2x]
Is it Obamas nation or an abomination?
Is it Obamas nation or an abomination?
Is it Obamas nation or an abomination?
Doesn’t make any difference when they bomb your nation

And the rocket’s red glare
The bombs bursting in air
Gave proof through the night
That our flag was still there

O! Does that star spangled banner yet wave
O’er land of the free and the home of the brave

[Verse 3]
I don’t care if him and Cheney are long lost relations
What matters more is the policies I lost my patience

Stop debating bringing race into conversation
Occupation and cooperation equals profit makin

It’s over – people wake up from the dream now
Nobel peace prize, Jay-Z on speed dial
It’s the substance within, not the colour of your skin
Are you the puppeteer or the puppet on the string

So many believe that they was instantly gonna change
There was still Dennis Ross, Brzezinski And Robert Gates
What happened to Chas freeman (APAC)
What happened to Tristan Anderson it’s a machine that
Keeps that man breathing

I have the heart to say what all the other rappers aren’t
Words like Iraq, Palestine – Afghanistan

The wars on, and you morons were all wrong
I call Obama a bomber Cause those are your bombs

So, We must ask ourselves, What is the dictionary definition of “Terrorism”?
The systematic use of terror especially as a means of coercion
But what is terror?According to the dictionary I hold in my hand, Terror, is violent or destructive acts
Such as bombing committed by groups in order to intimidate a population,
Or government into granting their demandsSo what’s a terrorist?

[Hook:]
They’re calling me a terrorist
Like they don’t know who the terror is
When they put it on me, I tell them this
I’m all about peace and love
They calling me a terrorist
Like they don’t know who the terror is
Insulting my intelligence
Oh how these people judge…

[Verse 1:]
It seems like the Rag-heads and Paki’s are worrying your Dad
But your dad’s favorite food is curry and kebab
It’s funny, but it’s sad how they make your mummy hurry with her bags
Rather read The Sun than study all the facts
Tell me, what’s the bigger threat to human society
BAE Systems or home made IED’s
Remote controlled drones, killing off human lives
Or man with home made bomb committing suicide
I know you were terrified when you saw the towers fall
It’s all terror but some forms are more powerful
It seems nuts, how could there be such agony
When more Israeli’s die from peanut allergies
It’s like the definition didn’t ever exist
I guess it’s all just depending who your nemesis is
Irrelevant how eloquent the rhetoric peddler is
They’re telling fibs, now tell us who the real terrorist is

[Hook:]
They’re calling me a terrorist
Like they don’t know who the terror is
When they put it on me, I tell them this
I’m all about peace and love
They calling me a terrorist
Like they don’t know who the terror is
Insulting my intelligence
Oh how these people judge…

[Verse 2:]
Lumumba was democracy – Mossadegh was democracy
Allende was democracy – Hypocrisy it bothers me
Call you terrorists if you don’t wanna be a colony
We used to bow down to a policy of robbery
Is terrorism my lyrics?
When more Vietnam vets kill themselves after the war than died in it?
This is very basic…
One nation in the world has over a thousand military bases
They say it’s religion, when clearly it isn’t
It’s not just Muslims that oppose your imperialism
Is Hugo Chavez a Muslim? Nah… I didn’t think so
Is Castro a Muslim? Nah… I didn’t think so
It’s like the definition didn’t ever exist
I guess it’s all just depending who your nemesis is
Irrelevant how eloquent the rhetoric peddler is
They’re telling fibs, now tell us who the terrorist is

[Hook:]
They’re calling me a terrorist
Like they don’t know who the terror is
When they put it on me, I tell them this
I’m all about peace and love
They calling me a terrorist
Like they don’t know who the terror is
Insulting my intelligence
Oh how these people judge…

[Outro: x2]
You think that I don’t know,
But I know, I know, I know
You think that we don’t know
But we know

You think that I don’t know,
But I know, I know, I know
You think that we don’t know
But we DO

Was Building 7 terrorism?
Was nanothermite terrorism?
Diego Garcia was terrorism,
I am conscious the Contras was terrorism,
Phosphorous that burns hands – that is terrorism,
Irgun and Stern Gang that was terrorism,
What they did in Hiroshima was terrorism,
What they did in Fallujah was terrorism,
Mandela ANC – that was terrorism,
Jerry Adams IRA – that was terrorism,
Eric Prince black water – it was terrorism,
Oklahoma, McVeigh – that was terrorism,
Everyday USA – that is terrorism,
Everyday UK – that is terrorism,
Everyday…

 

When war passes for foreign policy #Psainath


October 25, 2012

P. Sainath

25THWar
25THWar

In the last Obama-Romney debate, there was absolutely no mention of the financial costs, casualties and lessons from America’s military outings

“Take the profit out of war,” said Kevin Zeese, one of the more important activists of the Occupy Movement in the United States, “and you take out war.” His audience was made up mainly of U.S. war veterans gathered in New York to observe — and protest — the 11th anniversary of the conflict in Afghanistan. That is the longest war the United States has ever waged. The veterans ranged from those who had seen action in Iraq and Afghanistan to many who had fought in Vietnam. There was also one 88-year-old World War II veteran.

That link between profit and war sticks out in a recent Center for Public Integrity (CPI) investigation. The U.S. Congress could be spending $3 billion on tanks the army does not want. That includes repairing many M1 Abrams tanks the army won’t use. As Aaron Mehta, one of the authors of the CPI report puts it: the army “has decided it wants to save as much as $3 billion by freezing refurbishment of the M1 from 2014 to 2017, so it can redesign the hulking, clanking vehicle from top to bottom.” Congress disagreed.

Of course, the lawmakers batting for the tanks spoke about jobs. Their concern, in theory, is for the workers involved. If their factories shut down, the workers making the tanks could lose their jobs. But it seems the lawmakers’ own jobs were the real cause of their worry. The tank’s manufacturer, say the report’s authors “has pumped millions of dollars into congressional elections over the last decade.” A sound move, it seems. The CPI studied spending and lobbying records that showed donations targeting “the lawmakers who sit on four key committees that will decide the tank’s fate.” It also found that: “Those lawmakers have received $5.3 million since 2001 from employees of the tank’s manufacturer, General Dynamics, and its political action committee.”

The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have cost anywhere between $2.5-$4 trillion. In a nation with a $16 trillion debt, that should count for something. In the “third and final” Obama-Romney debate (on foreign policy), it didn’t. Those numbers didn’t merit the slightest mention by either man. Obama claimed to be holding the line on military spending. Romney promised to raise it. As early as 2008, economist and Nobel laureate Joseph Stiglitz co-authored a book with Linda J. Bilmes (an expert on U.S. budgeting, at Harvard) titled The Three Trillion Dollar War. That prophecy is pretty much on track. It could even prove an underestimate. As Bilmes pointed out in The Boston Globe, “Half of all U.S. veterans from this (Afghan) war are claiming disability benefits, racking up trillions of dollars in long-term support costs.”

The link with the economy, apart from with foreign policy, point out Stiglitz and Bilmes, is huge. “Spending on the wars and on added security at home has accounted for more than one-quarter of the total increase in U.S. government debt since 2001.” And this war was pursued without raising taxes. Indeed, with tax cuts for the rich thrown in at the same time, in both wars, during the Bush years.

Human costs

About 6,000 American soldiers have died in Iraq and Afghanistan. That’s twice the number of victims in the dreadful attacks of 9/11. Besides, suicides among soldiers on active duty now average one every 24 hours. The death count does not include hundreds of others working for private military “contractors.” Elsewhere in the world, they’d be called mercenaries. Many dirty chores were outsourced to such forces as the U.S. tried to wind down its presence.

Obama said in the debate that he had come with a promise to “get us out of Iraq” and “we did that.” He had, therefore kept his promise of 2008. He failed to mention that in that year, he also ran with the line that Afghanistan was a worthy war. As President, his “surge” — adding 30,000 troops there for a while — has failed. The real task is how to get out without disgrace.

The debate had not a word on the numbers of casualties and deaths. Not a word on the financial costs of the wars and their link to the economy. Not a whisper on the lessons to be drawn for U.S. foreign policy. That, in a debate on foreign policy.

The human costs to others have been awful, too. No one knows for sure how many civilians have died as a result of the two wars. The estimates range from one hundred thousand to several times that number. As reported in these columns in 2008, a little over three years after the war in Iraq began in 2003, over 6,50,000 Iraqis were estimated to have lost their lives. A survey by researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore, Maryland, and Al Mustansiriya University in Baghdad had put it bluntly: “As many as 6,54,965 more Iraqis may have died since hostilities began in Iraq in March 2003 than would have been expected under pre-war conditions. The deaths from all causes — violent and non-violent — are over and above the estimated 1,43,000 deaths per year that occurred from all causes prior to the March 2003 invasion.” The survey has been attacked, but few deny the death count has been massive. Iraq’s overall mortality rate more than doubled from 5.5 deaths per 1,000 persons before the war began to 13.3 per 1,000 persons by late 2006. Also, many more civilians have died since the time of that study.

By late 2006, the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees had come up with other kinds of numbers. Close to 1.8 million Iraqis had fled their country since the war began. Another 1.6 million made up the internally displaced.

“What an incredible waste of human life these wars inflict,” Paul Appel, a Vietnam war veteran, told us at the October 7 meeting in New York. “Looking back, I was having to face that before I even left for Vietnam. I was given the job of letting parents know their sons had died in the war. I had to go along with the army priest. Once, I was left to do it on my own.” Appel is a farmer from Illinois. With him was Dud Hendricks, a former sports coach from Maine. And many others from modest backgrounds. A few hours after we met, they were all arrested and led away in cuffs. The vets wouldn’t leave the Vietnam War Memorial where they had gathered, by 10 p.m. A highly embarrassed police squad took them away.

None of the four candidates for president or vice-president has ever served in the military. At the debate that night, Romney declared his firm support for using Drones in the way they are now employed in Pakistan. Obama smirked. It was a policy he had driven big time. That these have caused very high civilian casualties did not matter. The drones are now over Libya as well. His trump card, of course, was the killing of Osama bin Laden. His huge foreign policy achievement. Yet several groups associated with Bin Laden were not overwrought by his death. Their disconnected leader had become an embarrassment.

The debaters revelled in clichés. Obama: “America is the one indispensable nation in the world.” (So there are many that are dispensable?) “I’ve got a different vision for America.” Romney: “America must be strong.” “I’m optimistic about the future.”

So where does it go from here? It goes to a zillion more television ads adding even more to this insanely expensive contest. The pundits are already working out in which states the campaigns will cut back on spending in order to push more money into some swing states.

It is not easy to beat an incumbent American President. In the last 112 years, only four elected presidents seeking re-election have been defeated. (Gerald Ford who lost in 1976 does not figure in that list. He was not elected but became President when Richard Nixon quit in disgrace. In 80 years since 1932, only Jimmy Carter (1980) and George H.W. Bush (1992) have been beaten.

Yet, Obama, while having that great edge, does not have it all sewn up. It’s easy to forget that in 2008, just before Wall Street hit the fan, John McCain was slightly ahead of Obama in the polls. The meltdown that year transformed the scene. The state of the economy hardly gives Obama a great boost this time around.

Meanwhile, the pundits are back to guessing whose body lingo was better in the final debate. Who looked “more presidential.” A more cutting response to that process, though, comes from Andrew Levine in CounterPunch.org. “What does being a better debater have to do with anything? Presidents don’t debate. The candidates might as well compete by jousting or pole-vaulting.”

sainath.p@thehindu.co.in