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Wal-Mart earned $27 billion in profit last year. They could afford to pay their bottom million workers $10,000 more a year, raise all of those people out of poverty, cost — save taxpayers billions of dollars, and still earn $17 billion in profit, right? It’s simply nuts that we have allowed this to happen. […] You know, this ridiculous idea that a worker on Wall Street who earns tens of millions of dollars a year securitizing imaginary assets or doing high-frequency trading is worth 1,000 times as much as workers who earn tens of thousands of dollars a year educating our children, growing or serving us our food, throwing themselves into harm’s away to protect our life or property, that this difference reflects the true value or intrinsic worth of these jobs is nonsense.
Nick Hanauer, Venture Capitalist, on the necessity of a living wage (via cognitiveinequality)

If you want to understand where the rubber meets the geopolitical road in the Ukraine war, you need to learn about the 1,480-mile South Stream natural gas pipeline.

The pipeline is core to the larger battle being fought over Europe between Moscow and Washington. It may even have been a motivation behind Russia’s annexation of Crimea. And if there’s a crack in the unified front between the U.S. and Europe over Russia’s role in Ukraine, South Stream is it.

Why does South Stream matter? It’s a $21.6 billion project to connect Russia’s gas reserves—the world’s largest—to Europe’s markets. Europe relies on Russia for about 30 percent of its natural gas.

Any delays in finishing the pipeline—scheduled for completion in 2018—can only help Russia’s competitors in the international energy business. And one player gearing up to challenge Russia in the European energy market is the United States.

This year, the United States became the largest producer of natural gas and oil hydrocarbons in the world, surpassing Russia and Saudi Arabia. There’s solid evidence that the U.S. is seeking both commercial advantage and political influence by gaining a foothold in Europe’s oil and gas markets.

The evidence comes, in part, from the targets the Obama administration has chosen to punish for Russia’s annexation of the Crimean peninsula. All of this raises the question of how much the confrontation in the Ukraine is about who gets to sell natural gas (and later oil) to one of the world’s biggest energy consumers: Europe.

Why Ukraine Is At the Heart of a Major U.S.-Russia Struggle | Alternet (via questionall)

World history is filled with empires, e.g. the Roman and Byzantine empires, the European colonial empires, various ancient Iranian empires, the Arab Caliphate and Ottoman Empire, the Soviet Union to name a few. These historic empires have one thing in common: they no longer exist. As the lifecycle of empire wanes, rather than being a benefit to the home country, sustaining empire becomes more expensive than it is worth.

While the US economy and military remain the largest in the world, the economy is faltering and losing its vitality. Chalmers Johnson, a CIA analyst who became a critic of the agency and author of a series on US Empire, writes:

“Thirty-five years from now, America’s official century of being top dog (1945-2045) will have come to an end; its time may, in fact, be running out right now. We are likely to begin to look ever more like a giant version of England at the end of its imperial run, as we come face-to-face with, if not necessarily to terms with, our aging infrastructure, declining international clout, and sagging economy.”

The US began as a colony of European empires, especially of England, and then evolved into its own North American Empire. Thomas Jefferson called the United States an “empire of Liberty” when he purchased the Louisiana Territory in 1803. As “Manifest Destiny” took root, the US stole land of Indigenous peoples, appropriated Texas and Oregon and then went onto California. The Mexican War and Texas cessation took 55% of Mexico’s pre-1836 territory including lands in present day California, Nevada, Utah, Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado and Wyoming as well as Texas through its cession from Mexico.

The modern US Empire has its roots in the Spanish-American War when the US occupied Cuba, Puerto Rico and the Philippines and in the two World Wars. Since World War II, the United States has been a growing global imperial power at war—somewhere—every year. Seymour Melman wrote in March of 2003: “Now, at the start of the twenty-first century, every major aspect of American life is being shaped by our Permanent War Economy.” This has been a prime cause of the hollowing out of the domestic economy.

Rather than fixing the infrastructure, which the American Society of Civil Engineers ranks in its annual report card as a D+, the federal government’s “financing is lavished without stint to promote every kind of war industry, and foreign investing by U.S. firms.” As Seymour points out “there is no public ‘space’ for dialogue on how to improve the quality of our lives. Such topics are subordinate to ‘how to make war.’”

Economy and Empire

An empire must keep its client states happy as well as its transnational corporations profitable. This has resulted in a foreign policy designed for corporate interests and foreign oligarchs. The Wikileaks documents show US secrecy often hides crimes, abuses and unethical behavior linked to corporate interests; it also hides actions of a government that operates not for the public interest but for the profits of transnational corporations; and that is why secrecy is often unnecessary. We see this most glaringly in the rigged trade agreements being negotiated in secret except for hundreds of corporate advisers who work with the US Trade Representative in writing the agreements.

The flood of migrants coming from Central America is blowback from US foreign policy in the region. Just as NAFTA undermined the Mexican economy, Central American trade agreements have done the same for that region. Further, US support for brutal governments who impoverish their people and support for coups against governments that try to create greater equity have made these nations very difficult to live in. Even US drug policy adds to the misery in these countries. People desperate to survive come North in the hopes of finding a better life. While some cities, most recently Vancouver, seek to become sanctuary cities that protect immigrants, the Obama administration takes the approach of criminalization and deportation.

Why People Are Organizing to End U.S. Empire | Alternet (via questionall)
In what may be the most egregious example of double standards in sports, the NFL is planning to ban Cleveland Browns wide receiver Josh Gordon for an entire season after he tested positive for marijuana within nanograms of the league limit.

Meanwhile, Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice will reportedly face just a two game suspension after he was caught on tape knocking his wife unconscious and dragging her out of an elevator.
How exactly does that work? (via micdotcom)
The US budget is like a 1st grader playing Oregon Trail. Spend all the money on ammunition so you can shoot at stuff, then wonder why your wagon is falling apart and everyone is dying of dysentery.

Malhavoc430 // Reddit (via mattchew03)

That’s it. That’s the whole government.

(via asgardian-feminist)

perfect.

(via coelasquid)

Nailed it.

(via aimee-b-loved)

Does this mean I would be better at running the government than who we have now? Because I rocked that game without massive casualties when I was a kid.

(via wwbioteach)

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