Daily Archive: 09/03/2012

Sep 03 2012

Which side are you on?

Human Moral Weakness and its consequences

Ian Welsh

2012 May 18

In 1971 Phillip Zimbardo set up a mock prison and divided eighteen college students into nine prisoners and nine guards. The guards had never been prison guards, the prisoners were guilty of nothing.

The experiment was due to run two weeks. It had to be stopped in six days. As Zimbardo himself says, “our guards became sadistic and our prisoners became depressed and showed signs of extreme stress.”

Why, specifically, did it end after 6 days?

First, we had learned through videotapes that the guards were escalating their abuse of prisoners in the middle of the night when they thought no researchers were watching and the experiment was “off.” Their boredom had driven them to ever more pornographic and degrading abuse of the prisoners.

Second, Christina Maslach, a recent Stanford Ph.D. brought in to conduct interviews with the guards and prisoners, strongly objected when she saw our prisoners being marched on a toilet run, bags over their heads, legs chained together, hands on each other’s shoulders. Filled with outrage, she said, “It’s terrible what you are doing to these boys!” Out of 50 or more outsiders who had seen our prison, she was the only one who ever questioned its morality.

Guilty of nothing. Put in solitary confinement, held in prison even when they begged and wept to be let go, made to push ups while someone sat on them, deprived of food, sexually humiliated, a boy sobbing unconrollably while other prisoners chant he is a bad prisoners.

And only one outsider finds anything wrong?



Some people are bad. Some people are rotten. Some people will do the wrong thing whenever given the least chance. And some people are good. Some people won’t shock another person, no matter who tells them to. Some people will risk their lives to create an underground railroad for slaves or will hide Jews and Gypsies so they can’t be killed by Nazis, even at great risk to themselves. Some people will see boys being treated horribly, and will speak up even though they’re only a recent Ph.D. and the person they’re telling off is a professor.

What did we do wrong? We did nothing wrong.

Yeah, we did.  We were supposed to fight for the people who couldn’t fight for themselves.  We were supposed to fight for Willie.

Sep 03 2012

John Huntsman in Mandarin

Part 1

Part 2

We’ve come to a point where every four years this national fever rises up & this hunger for the Saviour, the White Knight, the Man on Horseback & and whoever wins becomes so immensely powerful, like Nixon is now, that when you vote for President today you’re talking about giving a man dictatorial power for four years. I think it might be better to have the President sort of like the King of England & or the Queen & and have the real business of the presidency conducted by… a City Manager-type, a Prime Minister, somebody who’s directly answerable to Congress, rather than a person who moves all his friends into the White House and does whatever he wants for four years. The whole framework of the presidency is getting out of hand. It’s come to the point where you almost can’t run unless you can cause people to salivate and whip each other with big sticks. You almost have to be a rock star to get the kind of fever you need to survive in American politics.

Sep 03 2012

Punting the Pundits

“Punting the Pundits” is an Open Thread. It is a selection of editorials and opinions from around the news medium and the internet blogs. The intent is to provide a forum for your reactions and opinions, not just to the opinions presented, but to what ever you find important.

Thanks to ek hornbeck, click on the link and you can access all the past “Punting the Pundits”.

Follow us on Twitter @StarsHollowGzt

Robert Reich: Labor Day and the Election of 2012: It’s Inequality, Stupid

The most troubling economic trend facing America this Labor Day weekend is the increasing concentration of income, wealth, and political power at the very top – among a handful of extraordinarily wealthy people – and the steady decline of the great American middle class.

Inequality in America is at record levels. The 400 richest Americans now have more wealth than the bottom 150 million of us put together.

Republicans claim the rich are job creators. Nothing could be further from the truth. In order to create jobs, businesses need customers. But the rich spend only a small fraction of what they earn. They park most of it wherever around the world they can get the highest return.

The real job creators are the vast middle class, whose spending drives the economy and creates jobs.

Paul Krugman: Rosie Ruiz Republicans

Remember Rosie Ruiz? In 1980 she was the first woman to cross the finish line at the Boston Marathon – except it turned out that she hadn’t actually run most of the race, that she sneaked onto the course around a mile from the end. Ever since, she has symbolized a particular kind of fraud, in which people claim credit for achieving things they have not, in fact, achieved.

And these days Paul Ryan is the Rosie Ruiz of American politics.

This would have been an apt comparison even before the curious story of Mr. Ryan’s own marathon came to light. Still, that’s quite a story, so let’s talk about it first. [..]

So what is this election about? To be sure, it’s about different visions of society – about Medicare versus Vouchercare, about preserving the safety net versus destroying it. But it’s also a test of how far politicians can bend the truth. This is surely the first time one of our major parties has run a campaign so completely fraudulent, making claims so at odds with the reality of its policy proposals. But if the Romney/Ryan ticket wins, it won’t be the last.

New York Times Editorial: Still No Justice for Mortgage Abuses

It has been six months since the big banks settled with state and federal officials over evidence of widespread foreclosure fraud, promising to provide $25 billion in mortgage relief in exchange for not being sued over past foreclosure abuses.

At the time, it looked like a sweet deal for the banks. The fines were paltry compared with the damage done to homeowners and the economy. And much of the relief the banks were obliged to provide could be met by continuing more or less with business as usual.

It still looks like a sweet deal. [..]

The economy will not recover and justice will not be done unless and until the mortgage mess is resolved.

Richard Reeves: Romney’s Lies and Liars

I once wrote, about Gerald Ford, that an honest politician is one who lies only when he has to. Ford, a pretty straight shooter, is gone now. He has been replaced by Mitt Romney the ignorant and Paul Ryan the liar.

Last week’s Republican National Convention may be the last in the line going back to 1832, when President Andrew Jackson called a convention in Baltimore because he needed a plausible arena to bump his vice president, John C. Calhoun, in favor of a more compatible Martin Van Buren. It worked.

It doesn’t anymore. This Republican spectacle crumpled on its last night when Clint Eastwood incoherently debated a chair. The chair won.

Owen Jones: Getting Rid of George W. Bush Wasn’t Enough. The US Remains a Bully

The issue isn’t Obama, any more than it was Bush before him. The issue is US power

How easy it was to scrutinise US power when George W. Bush was in office. After all, it was difficult to defend an administration packed with such repulsive characters, like Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld, whose attitude towards the rest of the world amounted to thuggish contempt [..]

It was a bad dream that went on for eight years, and no wonder much of the world is still breathing a sigh of relief. But US foreign policy these days escapes scrutiny. In part, that is down a well-grounded terror of the only viable alternative to Barack Obama: the increasingly deranged US right. A deliberate shift to a softer, more diplomatic tone has helped, too. But it is also the consequence of a strategic failure on the part of many critics of US foreign policy in the Bush era. As protesters marched in European cities with placards of Bush underneath “World’s No 1 Terrorist”, the anti-war crusade became personalised. Bush seemed to be the problem, and an understanding of US power – the nature of which remains remarkably consistent from president to president – was lost.

Jonathan D. Moreno: What the Chair Could Have Told Clint

MANY found Clint Eastwood’s speech at the Republican National Convention odd, but I found it oddly familiar. When Mr. Eastwood set up a chair next to the podium and used it in an imaginary dialogue with the president, I recognized it as a technique from psychodrama – the psychotherapy my father, the psychiatrist J. L. Moreno, started developing nearly 100 years ago.

Therapists often use the “empty chair” as a way of orienting a patient to a particular relationship. “Here’s your mom,” they might say. “What would you say to her if she were here, right now?” The empty chair can be a very powerful warm-up to a problematic situation, a way of concretizing dormant, suppressed or abstract emotions in an important or troubling relationship. Used properly, it can lead to insight.

Sep 03 2012

Solidarity Forever

A Stars Hollow Gazette Tradition

Solidarity Forever

When the union’s inspiration through the workers’ blood shall run

There can be no power greater anywhere beneath the sun


Yet what force on earth is weaker than the feeble strength of one

For the Union makes us strong

Chorus

Solidarity forever, solidarity forever

Solidarity forever

For the Union makes us strong

Is there aught we hold in common with the greedy parasite

Who would lash us into serfdom and would crush us with his might?

Is there anything left to us but to organize and fight?

For the union makes us strong

It is we who ploughed the prairies, built the cities where they trade

Dug the mines and built the workshops, endless miles of railroad laid

Now we stand outcast and starving ‘mid the wonders we have made

But the union makes us strong

All the world  that’s owned by idle drones is ours and ours alone

We have laid the wide foundations, built it skyward stone by stone

It is ours, not to slave in, but to master and to own

While the union makes us strong

They have taken untold millions that they never toiled to earn

But without our brain and muscle not a single wheel can turn

We can break their haughty power gain our freedom when we learn

That the Union makes us strong

In our hands is placed a power greater than their hoarded gold

Greater than the might of armies magnified a thousandfold

We can bring to birth a new world from the ashes of the old

For the Union makes us strong

Chorus

Solidarity forever, solidarity forever

Solidarity forever

For the Union makes us strong

Sep 03 2012

On This Day In History September 3

This is your morning Open Thread. Pour a cup of your favorite morning beverage and review the past and comment on the future.

Find the past “On This Day in History” here.

On this day in 1783, the Treaty of Paris is signed ending the American Revolution

The treaty document was signed at the Hotel d’York – which is now 56 Rue Jacob – by John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, and John Jay (representing the United States) and David Hartley (a member of the British Parliament representing the British Monarch, King George III). Hartley was lodging at the hotel, which was therefore chosen in preference to the nearby British Embassy – 44 Rue Jacob – as “neutral” ground for the signing.

On September 3, Britain also signed separate agreements with France and Spain, and (provisionally) with the Netherlands. In the treaty with Spain, the colonies of East and West Florida were ceded to Spain (without any clearly defined northern boundary, resulting in disputed territory resolved with the Treaty of Madrid), as was the island of Minorca, while the Bahama Islands, Grenada and Montserrat, captured by the French and Spanish, were returned to Britain. The treaty with France was mostly about exchanges of captured territory (France’s only net gains were the island of Tobago, and Senegal in Africa), but also reinforced earlier treaties, guaranteeing fishing rights off Newfoundland. Dutch possessions in the East Indies, captured in 1781, were returned by Britain to the Netherlands in exchange for trading privileges in the Dutch East Indies.

The American Congress of the Confederation, which met temporarily in Annapolis, Maryland, ratified the treaty of Paris on January 14, 1784 (Ratification Day).[1] Copies were sent back to Europe for ratification by the other parties involved, the first reaching France in March. British ratification occurred on April 9, 1784, and the ratified versions were exchanged in Paris on May 12, 1784. It was not for some time, though, that the Americans in the countryside received the news due to the lack of communication.

Sep 03 2012

Sunday Train: Powering the Steel Interstate

Burning the Midnight Oil for Living Energy Independence

crossposted from Voices on the Square

The fundamental objectives of a national Steel Interstate project are two-fold:

  • Reducing CO2 emissions; and
  • Pursuing Energy Independence

The importance of reducing CO2 emissions as a step toward sustainability ought to require no elaboration. It has, of course, been elaborated on in previous Sunday Train essays, and likely will be again, but this Sunday, I will leave it as read. The importance of reducing grossly wasteful oil consumption in long haul freight transport follows directly from the position of the Transport sector as the number two emitter of CO2, and the opportunity presented by long haul electric freight rail to operate at about 20 times the energy efficiency per ton-mile as long haul truck freight.

The importance of Energy Independence for a sustainable economy may not be as widely understood, but it is as fundamental. For an economic system to be truly sustainable, it must be reproducible. That is, it must be sustainable even if adopted by all countries in the global community. That is why simply importing energy from others to cover the massive gap between our country’s biocapacity and our country’s ecological footprint is not, in fact, sustainable. It cannot be reproduced all around, because then there is no “somewhere else” to go get the energy.

Indeed, to be truly sustainable, a country such as ours, with twice the average biocapacity per person, ought to have the capacity be a net energy exporting country. So Sustainable Energy Independence is not even an ultimate target: it is the immediate goal to pursue, on the path to the ultimate target.

And with about a fifth of our petroleum consumption going for long haul truck freight, getting even half of our long haul truck freight onto Steel Interstates would cut our petroleum consumption by about a tenth. That is roughly 7% of our oil consumption and up to about 3% of our CO2 emissions (depending on the power source), so its a one-in-fifteen slice of oil independence and a larger than one-in-forty slice of carbon neutrality.

The topic for today is the flipside of the Steel Interstate proposal: the Electricity Superhighways, and how they offer the chance to substantially increase the size of the carbon neutrality slice.

Sep 03 2012

Obama Will Not Prosecute Torture

We know that the Obama administration was determined to never prosecute any of the main architects of the Bush regime torture program, or close Guantanamo. Last week while everyone was focused on the Republican Party Convention in Tampa, the Department of Justice announced that it is formally ending its investigation of the CIA’s “enhanced interrogation” program with out bringing criminal charges:

Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. announced Thursday that no one would be prosecuted for the deaths of a prisoner in Afghanistan in 2002 and another in Iraq in 2003, eliminating the last possibility that any criminal charges will be brought as a result of the brutal interrogations carried out by the C.I.A.

Mr. Holder had already ruled out any charges related to the use of waterboarding and other methods that most human rights experts consider to be torture. His announcement closes a contentious three-year investigation by the Justice Department and brings to an end years of dispute over whether line intelligence or military personnel or their superiors would be held accountable for the abuse of prisoners in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

Mr. Holder had stated that the DOJ would not charge any of the interrogators if they had acted strictly in accordance with the department’s legal advice. Thus giving legitimacy to the “we were just following orders” defense that was rejected when used by German war criminals at Nuremberg. Mr. Holder just thumbed his nose at established international law, as well.

The lame excuse that there is a lack of solid evidence is just ludicrous, as David Dayen wrote in his article at FDL News Desk:

This was the investigation headed by John Durham, the federal prosecutor selected in August 2009 to look into charges of torture in CIA interrogations during the Bush Administration. We know plenty about those charges. The Justice Department released a previously classified document around the same time that they named Durham to lead the investigation, detailing the methods they used to interrogate suspects, including plenty of metMr. Obamahods that a plain reading would consider to be torture. This included waterboarding, stress positions, mock executions, threatening with handguns and power drills, vowing to kill or rape members of a detainee’s family, and inducing vomiting. [..]

In July 2010, federal judge and former Bush-era Justice Department official Jay Bybee, who wrote many of the Administration’s guidelines on interrogation, admitted to a House committee that CIA personnel never asked for approval for many of the interrogation techniques they used, that they went further than the prescribed guidelines from him, and that the ones he did prescribe were used excessively. Even if you believe that Bybee’s techniques were legal and did not violate federal and international conventions against torture, his testimony revealed clearly that CIA interrogators broke the law. Despite this prima facie evidence of unauthorized interrogation, the investigation went nowhere.

From the very start of his administration Pres. Obama and his officials have shielded the Bush torturers from all accountability, despite his campaign promise to have his Justice Department thoroughly investigate any charge of torture because no one is above the law. Then, even before he was inaugurated Mr. Obama declared that he was apposed to any of these investigations declaring  “we must look forward, not backward.”

Glenn Greenwald writing for The Guardian, reviews the timeline of decisions that has lead to a whitewash of the “war on terror crimes.”

Throughout the first several months of his presidency, his top political aides, such as the chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel and his press secretary, Robert Gibbs, publicly – and inappropriately – pressured the justice department to refrain from any criminal investigations. Over and over, they repeated the Orwellian mantra that such investigations were objectionable because “we must look forward, not backward“. As Gibbs put it in April 2009, when asked to explain Obama’s opposition, “the president is focused on looking forward. That’s why.

On 16 April 2009, Obama himself took the first step in formalizing the full-scale immunity he intended to bestow on all government officials involved even in the most heinous and lethal torture. On that date, he decreed absolute immunity for any official involved in torture provided that it comported with the permission slips produced by Bush department of justice (DOJ) lawyers which authorized certain techniques. “This is a time for reflection, not retribution,” the new president so movingly observed in his statement announcing this immunity. Obama added:

   “[N]othing will be gained by spending our time and energy laying blame for the past … we must resist the forces that divide us, and instead come together on behalf of our common future.” [..]

(I)n August 2009, Holder announced a formal investigation to determine whether criminal charges should be brought in over 100 cases of severe detainee abuse involving “off-the-books methods” such as “mock execution and threatening a prisoner with a gun and a power drill”, as well as threats that “prisoners (would be) made to witness the sexual abuse of their relatives.” But less than two years later, on 30 June 2011, Holder announced that of the more than 100 cases the justice department had reviewed, there would be no charges brought in any of them – except two.

Glenn goes on to discuss the evidence in those two brutal cases that the justice department has now closed without charges and how the Obama administration even shut down investigations by Spain and Germany:

Moreover, Obama’s top officials, as WikiLeaks cables revealed, secretly worked with GOP operatives to coerce other countries, such as Spain and Germany, to quash their investigations into the US torture of their citizens, and issued extraordinary threats to prevent British courts from disclosing any of what was done. And probably worst of all, the Obama administration aggressively shielded Bush officials even from being held accountable in civil cases brought by torture victims, by invoking radical secrecy powers and immunity doctrines to prevent courts even from hearing those claims.

Meanwhile, the Obama administration has prosecuted whistleblowers with a vigor that has surpassed all other presidents. In the NY Times article, Mr Holder noted one case in his announcement:

While no one has been prosecuted for the harsh interrogations, a former C.I.A. officer who helped hunt members of Al Qaeda in Pakistan and later spoke publicly about waterboarding, John C. Kiriakou, is awaiting trial on criminal charges that he disclosed to journalists the identity of other C.I.A. officers who participated in the interrogations.

Glenn appeared on Democracy Now with host Amy Goodman to discuss Mr. Holder’s announcement. During the seven minute interview they also discussed Clint Eastwood’s conversation with an empty chair at the RNC Convention,

Mr. Holder covers up the evidence, allows the real criminals to walk, instead prosecuting those who spoke out about the crimes.

Is this the change we are suppose to believe in and vote to reelect?  

Sep 03 2012

Pique the Geek 20120902: Why we do not burst into flame — Oxygen

Oxygen is one of the most fascinating elements for many reasons.  Before we get to it, I first want to point out that the column of the periodic table that starts with nitrogen are called pnictogens, whislt the column starting with oxygen are called chalcogens.  The term pnictogen is recent, dating form the 1950s.  It comes from the Greek plural noun pnikta which means something on the order of “those that are suffocated” in reference to the fact that nitrogen will not support life.  The “gen” part is from the Greek gonos, “born” or “generated”.

Chalcogen comes from the ancient Greek chalkos, meaning “ore” and gonos, and in fact an extremely large number of metal ores contain oxygen or sulfur of both.  Selenium and tellurium are chalcogens that are often found in gold and silver ores.

Time before last we discussed nitrogen and molecular orbital diagrams for it.  If you are not hip to MO diagrams, I suggest you read that part of the link before you try to tackle the MO diagrams for oxygen.