Daily Archive: 06/10/2013

Jun 10 2013

Apathy Generation: Snakes on a Plane!

“If you’re not outraged, you’re just not paying attention.”

I’m not sure if it’s outrage fatigue, (heaven knows the Fox folks have been in a fever ever since a black man went in the Whitehouse through the front door) or if it’s the constant main stream brain washing:

~It can only get worse.

~Poor people who don’t work hard enough get what they deserve.

~Formerly middle class people who become poor, didn’t work hard enough.

~Government can’t afford to help people.

~Sacrifices need to be made, but not by rich people & corporations.

~Compromise = electoral victory.

~Sanctimonious purists are fucking retards. Ignore them.

~Equal protection under the Law, is more like a suggestion.

But it seems to me, along side of the deepening cynicism, acceptance of hypocrisy, and the general feeling of helplessness, that people are getting a bit more cranky.

hmm. Imagine that…

Oh yeah, snakes on the mother fucking plane.

Jun 10 2013

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

Glen Greenwald: On whistleblowers and government threats of investigation

No healthy democracy can endure when the most consequential acts of those in power remain secret and unaccountable

The times in American history when political power was constrained was when they went too far and the system backlashed and imposed limits. That’s what happened in the mid-1970s when the excesses of J Edgar Hoover and Richard Nixon became so extreme that the legitimacy of the political system depended upon it imposing restraints on itself. And that’s what is happening now as the government continues on its orgies of whistleblower prosecutions, trying to criminalize journalism, and building a massive surveillance apparatus that destroys privacy, all in the dark. The more they overreact to measures of accountability and transparency – the more they so flagrantly abuse their power of secrecy and investigations and prosecutions – the more quickly that backlash will arrive.

I’m going to go ahead and take the Constitution at its word that we’re guaranteed the right of a free press. So, obviously, are other people doing so. And that means that it isn’t the people who are being threatened who deserve and will get the investigations, but those issuing the threats who will get that. That’s why there’s a free press. That’s what adversarial journalism means.

Paul Krugman: The Big Shrug

I’ve been in this economics business for a while. In fact, I’ve been in it so long I still remember what people considered normal in those long-ago days before the financial crisis. Normal, back then, meant an economy adding a million or more jobs each year, enough to keep up with the growth in the working-age population. Normal meant an unemployment rate not much above 5 percent, except for brief recessions. And while there was always some unemployment, normal meant very few people out of work for extended periods.

So how, in those long-ago days, would we have reacted to Friday’s news that the number of Americans with jobs is still down two million from six years ago, that 7.6 percent of the work force is unemployed (with many more underemployed or forced to take low-paying jobs), and that more than four million of the unemployed have been out of work for more than six months? Well, we know how most political insiders reacted: they called it a pretty good jobs report. In fact, some are even celebrating the report as “proof” that the budget sequester isn’t doing any harm.

In other words, our policy discourse is still a long way from where it ought to be.

Simon Jenkins: NSA Surveillance Revelations: Osama Bin Laden Would Love This

The US has shown itself so paranoid in the face of possible ‘al-Qaida-linked terror’ that it has played right into jihadist hands

Washington has handed Osama bin Laden his last and greatest triumph. The Prism files revealed in the Guardian indicate how far his bid to undermine western values has succeeded in the 12 years since 9/11. He has achieved state intrusion into the private lives and communications of every American citizen. He has shown the self-proclaimed home of individual freedom as so paranoid in the face of his “terror” as to infiltrate the entire internet, sucking up mobile phone calls, emails, texts and, we may assume, GPS movements.

The vast databases of Microsoft, Google, YouTube and Facebook are open to government. They may cry “your privacy is our priority”, but they lie. Obedience to regulatory authority is their priority. And what does authority say? It says what authority always says: “We collect significant information on bad guys, but only bad guys.” As police states have said down the ages, the innocent have nothing to fear. For innocent, eventually read obedient.

Robert Kuttner: Sweet and Sour Pork

President Obama’s personal summit with China’s new president, Xi Jinping, at the well-named venue of Rancho Mirage, Calif., covered a wide range of issues, from North Korea to cyber-spying to territorial disputes with Japan and Taiwan, to global climate change. What the meetings did not engage is the fact that China’s entire economic system violates the naïve American premise that free markets produce efficient and balanced outcomes.

As China has demonstrated for more than a generation, “free trade” is a useful American fantasy, and state-led capitalism is not a contradiction in terms. It is a recipe for hollowing out the U.S. economy in favor of Chinese economic primacy. Nor does capitalism, Chinese-style, logically lead to increased democracy and human rights.

Robert Reich: The Quiet Closing of Washington

Conservative Republicans in our nation’s capital have managed to accomplish something they only dreamed of when Tea Partiers streamed into Congress at the start of 2011: They’ve basically shut Congress down. Their refusal to compromise is working just as they hoped: No jobs agenda. No budget. No grand bargain on the deficit. No background checks on guns. Nothing on climate change. No tax reform. No hike in the minimum wage. Nothing so far on immigration reform.

It’s as if an entire branch of the federal government — the branch that’s supposed to deal directly with the nation’s problems, not just execute the law or interpret the law but make the law — has gone out of business, leaving behind only a so-called “sequester” that’s cutting deeper and deeper into education, infrastructure, programs for the nation’s poor, and national defense.

Richard (RJ) Eskow: Trash Talking Economists

Thomas Carlyle called economics “the dismal science.” Journalist A. J. Liebling called boxing “the sweet science.” To read the Internet lately, you’d think they got the two professions mixed up.

Economics is becoming a battle royale, a free-for-all. It’s a melee where everybody with a fist, glove or folding chair can jump out of the audience and into the ring. It doesn’t matter how much ref blows his whistle. There will be blood. If economists had entourages, bullets would be flying.

The brawl du jour is over the Affordable Care Act, but it’s also an argument over the tone of policy disputes, a burning “meta” question in that paradoxical world where conservative economists believe every human being on Earth is an economic actor … except other economists.

Economists are talking trash about each other. And, as crazy as it sounds, it actually matters.

Jun 10 2013

On This Day In History June 10

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

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

June 10 is the 161st day of the year (162nd in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 204 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1990, Luther Campbell and fellow 2LiveCrew members are arrested on obscenity charges

Though the First Amendment to the Constitution clearly states that the U.S. Congress “shall make no law…abridging the freedom of speech,” free speech is widely understood to have its limits. It is dangerous and potentially criminal, for instance, to yell, “Fire!” in a crowded theater. But what about yelling “$&%#@!!” in a crowded nightclub? Lenny Bruce and other comedians tested the limits of that practice in the 1960s, but it was not until the late 1980s that the issue of obscenity came front and center in the world of popular music. The group that brought it there was 2LiveCrew, a hip-hop outfit led by Luther “Luke Skyywalker” Campbell. On June 10, 1990, just days after a controversial ruling by a Florida federal judge, Campbell and two other members of 2LiveCrew were arrested on charges of public obscenity after performing material from their album As Nasty As They Wanna Be in a Hollywood, Florida, nightclub.

As Nasty As They Wanna Be

In 1989, the group released their album, As Nasty As They Wanna Be, which also became the group’s most successful album. A large part of its success was due to the single “Me So Horny”, which was popular despite little radio rotation. The American Family Association (AFA) did not think the presence of a “Parental Advisory” sticker was enough to adequately warn listeners of what was inside the case. Jack Thompson, a lawyer affiliated with the AFA, met with Florida Governor Bob Martinez and convinced him to look into the album to see if it met the legal classification of obscene. In 1990 action was taken at the local level and Nick Navarro, Broward County sheriff, received a ruling from County Circuit Court judge Mel Grossman that probable cause for obscenity violations existed. In response, Luther Campbell maintained that people should focus on issues relating to hunger and poverty rather than on the lyrical content of their music.

Navarro warned record store owners that selling the album may be prosecutable. The 2 Live Crew then filed a suit against Navarro. That June, U.S. district court Judge Jose Gonzalez ruled the album obscene and illegal to sell. Charles Freeman, a local retailer, was arrested two days later, after selling a copy to an undercover police officer. This was followed by the arrest of three members of The 2 Live Crew after they performed some material from the album at a nightclub. They were acquitted soon after, as professor Henry Louis Gates, Jr. testified at their trial in defense of their lyrics. Freeman’s conviction was overturned on appeal as well.

In 1992, the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit overturned the obscenity ruling from Judge Gonzalez, and the Supreme Court of the United States refused to hear Broward County’s appeal. As in the Freeman case, Gates testified on behalf of Navarro, arguing that the material that the county alleged was profane actually had important roots in African-American vernacular, games, and literary traditions and should be protected.

As a result of the controversy, As Nasty As They Wanna Be sold over two million copies. It peaked at #29 on The Billboard 200 and #3 on the Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart. A few other retailers were later arrested for selling it as well, including Canadian Marc Emery who was convicted in Ontario in 1991, and would later gain fame as a marijuana activist. Later hard rock band Van Halen sued over an uncleared sample of their song “Ain’t Talkin’ ‘Bout Love” in The 2 Live Crew Song “The Fuck Shop”. The publicity then continued when George Lucas, owner of the Star Wars universe, successfully sued Campbell for appropriating the name “Skywalker” for his record label, Luke Skyywalker Records. Campbell changed his stage name to Luke (and changed the record label’s name to Luke Records) and the group released an extremely political follow up album, Banned in the USA after obtaining permission to use an interpolation of Bruce Springsteen‘s Born in the U.S.A. The 2 Live Crew paraphernalia with the Luke Skyywalker or Skyywalker logos are often sought-after collector’s items.

Jun 10 2013

Investments

Investments

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Jun 10 2013

Sunday Train: All Aboard for the Cross Illinois Line

While browsing the Midwest HSR Association site recently, I came across this story:

Midwest High Speed Rail Association Lauds Rep. Moffit’s Proposal for New Midwestern Amtrak Link

CHICAGO (May 23, 2013) — Midwest High Speed Rail Association Executive Director Richard Harnish released the following statement Thursday in response to Illinois State Rep. Donald Moffitt’s (74th District) proposal of a new bill proposing a study leading to the creation of a new east-west Amtrak line in Illinois:

“Rep. Moffitt has identified a missing link in our state’s mass transportation system.

“The addition of a new Amtrak route linking population and commercial centers would be a major enhancement of our rail system, and a stepping-stone to further expansion and improvement of the system.

“Today, if you need to travel between Chicago and Springfield, Galesburg, Peoria, Normal and Urbana-Champaign or over to the Quad Cities, you are most likely to drive.

… “This addition and the public’s utilization of it will help to lay the solid foundation for future modernization–especially for the full implementation of high-speed rail between Chicago and St. Louis and other major midwest destinations.

Jun 10 2013

Anticapitalist Meet-Up: Can the human mind comprehend today’s world? A challenge to all…

ACM: Can the human mind comprehend today’s world? A challenge to all who engage in politics

by don mikulecky

This diary is being written by request.  The subject is all mine but I am doing this because I was asked.  I write this caveat because as time goes on my radical take on the world seems to diverge more and more with the rest of the commentators.  I am unable to focus on details and reductionist pieces any more.  I long ago came to the conclusion that these methods and the ideas they generated have failed.  If this is arrogant then I am arrogant.  I have studied for over half a century and these are the conclusions I have come to.  I have coauthored a book that sums up much of what I have learned and I’ll give a link if you want it.  The purpose of this diary is to give you a snapshot of the world model we have developed.  It is changing constantly so it needs periodic updates.  Read on below and I will give my answer to the question I ask in the title.

First of all the antithesis to the reductionist approach is that of systems analysis.  I will take a moment to remind you that when I use the word “system” it is in a very special context.  The reductionist counterpart has no meaning in this context.  The group is interested in the writing of Marx.   Marx wrote in a context that had little resemblance to the modern world.  Yet Marx had insights that outlive those limits.  The trick is to save the baby as we discard the bathwater.

Marx, for his time, was ahead of the field in understanding systems.  His ideas were founded on a sense of certain things happening without a mechanistic simple cause.  He wrote extensively to weave a more holistic view of what economics was as it connected with so many other things in human activity.  This was good and we need to go back with our modern understanding and put those ideas into today’s perspective.  This diary is not the place for that since it is at least a book.

Rather than do that I want to paint a picture (I am a painter…watercolor) of the world today as we might see it if our minds were able to take it all in. (The reductionist paradigm came about as a way of avoiding such an impossible task).  We are being forced to try to grapple with the whole system because we have more or less filled the planet and made the isolation of the past something that is disappearing as we watch in awe.

The earth system with its atmosphere and climate and oceans and ecosystems, etc has never been the subsystems our reductionist mentality created to deal with it, but as time goes on the error is being magnified non-linearly.  The role of the human species is a growing influence over time, anthropogenic global warming being but one aspect of this.  What Marx was concerned with was the role of the economic/political system in the way this one dominant species impacted on the world although he dealt with it as all humans did and most do, as if we can isolate our existence and our problems from the impact we have grown to have on the earth system.

Humans have generated conflicting world models within the common sphere of reductionist thought.  We have religions, reductionist science and other fragmented pieces of human “knowledge”.  We evolved from some beings that chimps have for example.  We like to think we are very different from them and we indeed are.  The scary part is the ways in which we remain similar.  Male female relations, political power, etc can be seen to have common features in both groups.

Part of the legacy of Cartesian reductionism is the mind/body duality and the way the living organism was metaphored as a special kind of machine.  These factors became integrated into the Capitalism Marx thought about and they shaped the way the relationship between wealth and labor were seen.  Power relations became formulated in terms that Marx described so well.  The problem is that these ideas were still in a reductionist box and remain there to this day.

So we have the fundamental challenge to face at this moment in history.  Is the human mind able to step outside of these long entrenched limits and confines and see us as a rouge species acting almost like a cancer on the planet?  Marx diagnosed the nature of this metastatic disease we had become.  He saw it in terms of the way the labors of humans that could be used in so many ways were channelled by the owners of the means of production into the creation of capital.

Here is where the systems idea is very enlightening.  The traditionional picture is that the greedy among us rise to power and control the rest of us and insist on a growing, unsustainable system to satisfy their greed.

Systems theory asks an important chicken and egg question at this point.  Is it the greedy humans that create the system or does the system simply find as many greedy humans as it needs to sustain itself and grow?  I submit that Robert Reich was correct in his book about “Supercapitalism” when he asserted that we could eliminate WalMart tomorrow and some other entity or entities would immediatly fill the vacuum and probaly evolve into something worse because of the ability to shed excess baggage.

Reductionism is wonderful for the human mind because it supplies answers.   Systems theory, recognizing the myriad complex interactions, can only describe things in general ways and can not supply false mechanistic explanations.

If this makes sense to you I apologize for bringing you to this point for you will not be able to go back.  Nor will you come up with answers the way you did before.  Nor will the political system seem like a useful tool for helping us.  No, those of us who have crossed the line are pessimistic.  The system grinds on.  It is like a cancer on the planet.  And as we look at our kids and grandkids we wonder.  And we hurt.

Jun 10 2013

NSA Whistleblower Comes Out of the Shadows

Despite the risks to his personal safety, the whistleblower who leaked the FISA court order and NSA surveillance programs to The Guardian has revealed himself. Prior to giving the tapes to columnist Glenn Greenwald, the 29 year old Edward Snowden chose to leave the US for Hong Kong because of it long history of respect for freedom of speech. Like six other whistleblowers, he expects that he will be charged by the Obama administration under the 1917 Espionage Act. In the 12 minute video that was produced and copyrighted* by American documentary film director and producer, Laura Poitras, he explains his decision to give the secret warrant and programs to Greenwald and leave the United States.

Edward Snowden: the whistleblower behind the NSA surveillance revelations

by Glenn Greenwald, Ewen MacAskill and Laura Poitras, The Guardian

The 29-year-old source behind the biggest intelligence leak in the NSA’s history explains his motives, his uncertain future and why he never intended on hiding in the shadows

The individual responsible for one of the most significant leaks in US political history is Edward Snowden, a 29-year-old former technical assistant for the CIA and current employee of the defence contractor Booz Allen Hamilton. Snowden has been working at the National Security Agency for the last four years as an employee of various outside contractors, including Booz Allen and Dell.

The Guardian, after several days of interviews, is revealing his identity at his request. From the moment he decided to disclose numerous top-secret documents to the public, he was determined not to opt for the protection of anonymity. “I have no intention of hiding who I am because I know I have done nothing wrong,” he said.

Snowden will go down in history as one of America’s most consequential whistleblowers, alongside Daniel Ellsberg and Bradley Manning. He is responsible for handing over material from one of the world’s most secretive organisations – the NSA.