10/06/2010 archive

People Power: European Activism & Constitutional Crises

All across Europe recently there have been wave after wave of co-ordinated general strikes and massive demonstrations showing a solidarity and a unity across unions representing different kinds of workers in different countries, different levels of skill, against austerity proposals by governments, that put to shame the levels of public street activism in the US and Canada.

Fresh off a summer lecturing in Greece and France, economist, author, and Professor Emeritus of Economics at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, Richard D. Wolff, well-known for his work on Marxian economics, economic methodology and class analysis, Yale University Ph.D. in Economics, and Professor at The New School University in New York City, gives his analysis on the massive European mobilizations and strikes. He also compares the US movement to the European one, and find the European workers to be much more advanced in their struggle.

This extraordinary unity is all built around a central demand which can be conveyed by their chief slogan: we are the working people who produce the profits, the goods, and the service of the capitalist economy; we are not going to pay for its crisis. And that’s really the central demand, that if the banks and the corporations and the speculations produced a crisis that working people had no role in-and I want to remind viewers that in Europe they didn’t even have the mortgage kind of crisis in European countries that we had here; it was a crisis of the banking sector, the financial, large corporations, and so on-the demand of the people is, we are not going to be made to pay. You’re not going to solve this economic crisis by having the government borrow money, throw the money at the banks and the big corporations, bail them out, and then make the mass of people pay by cutting government payrolls, by cutting government services, all those things called austerity.

Real News Network – October 05, 2010

European Workers Distance from US Through Action

Richard Wolff: European workers say they won’t pay for crisis while US counterparts talk of ‘One Nation

(transcript below)

Punting the Pundits

Punting the Punditsis 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.

Rep. Lynn Woolsey (D-Calif.): Repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” Now

“Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” is a fundamental issue of civil rights and human dignity that deserves to be taken far more seriously.  Since 1993, more than 14,000 Americans have been relieved of their duties under “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”  That’s about 15 people dismissed every week, their jobs taken away, their service and their honor denigrated, not because of how they performed but because of who they are.

I can’t think of anything less American than asking young men and women to die for our freedoms, and then not extending them those very same

freedoms.  It’s incomprehensible to me that we would ask our troops to live with secrets and shame about the core of their very identities.  And how can

an institution as devoted to truth and honor as the U.S. military enshrine and embrace a doctrine that instructs people to lie?

I’m fully aware that being in the military involves a subjugation of self that is unique, that makes it different than just about any other job.  But that does

not justify “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”  As former Army Captain Jonathan Hopkins wrote in the New York Times: “Other soldiers don’t get enough

time with their families; I’m prohibited from having a family.”

Any policy that forces brave Americans to choose between serving their country and having a family is just deplorable.  Enough is enough.  It’s time

to get rid of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”

Amy Goodman: From Tuskegee to Guatemala Via Nuremberg

News broke last week that the U.S. government purposefully exposed hundreds of men in Guatemala to syphilis in ghoulish medical experiments conducted during the late 1940s. As soon as the story got out, President Barack Obama phoned President Alvaro Colom of Guatemala to apologize. Colom called the experiments “an incredible violation of human rights.” Colom also says his government is studying whether it can bring the case to an international court.

The revelations came about through research conducted by Wellesley College medical historian Susan Reverby on the notorious Tuskegee syphilis study. The two former U.S. government research projects, in Tuskegee, Ala., and Guatemala-equally noxious-are mirror images of each other. Both point to the extremes to which ethics can be disregarded in the pursuit of medical knowledge, and serve as essential reminders that medical research needs constant supervision and regulation. . . . .

Researchers are quick to point out that such practices are a thing of the past and have led to strict guidelines ensuring informed consent of subjects. Yet efforts are being made to loosen restrictions on medical experimentation in prisons. We need to ask what “informed consent” means inside a prison, or in a poor community when money is used as an incentive to “volunteer” for research. Medical research should only happen with humane standards, informed consent and independent oversight, if the lessons of Nuremberg, Tuskegee and, now, Guatemala are to have meaning.

Paul Krugman: If the Choice Is a CEO, Obama Should Say No

There has been a great deal of speculation in the media lately about whether President Barack Obama will, or should, decide to appoint a former chief executive officer to take over for Lawrence H. Summers, the director of the National Economic Council.

Mr. Summers announced in late September that he will be leaving at the end of the year.

Now, obviously, Mr. Obama should simply choose someone who can do a good job as his top economic adviser. Forget about image, or the message the appointment would supposedly send – there are about 600 people in the United States who care, and most of them are paid to care about these sorts of things.

Is having been a successful C.E.O. a good qualification for this job? The answer is no.

On This Day in History: October 6

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

October 6 is the 279th day of the year (280th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 86 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1927. The Jazz Singer makes its debut in New York City.

The first feature-length motion picture with synchronized dialogue sequences, its release heralded the commercial ascendance of the “talkies” and the decline of the silent film era. Produced by Warner Bros. with its Vitaphone sound-on-disc system, the movie stars Al Jolson, who performs six songs. Directed by Alan Crosland, it is based on a play by Samson Raphaelson.

The story begins with young Jakie Rabinowitz defying the traditions of his devout Jewish family by singing popular tunes in a beer hall. Punished by his father, a cantor, Jakie runs away from home. Some years later, now calling himself Jack Robin, he has become a talented jazz singer. He attempts to build a career as an entertainer, but his professional ambitions ultimately come into conflict with the demands of his home and heritage.

The premiere was set for October 6, 1927, at Warner Bros.’ flagship theater in New York City. The choice of date was pure show business-the following day was Yom Kippur, the Jewish holiday around which much of the movie’s plot revolves.  The buildup to the premiere was tense. Besides Warner Bros.’ precarious financial position, the physical presentation of the film itself was remarkably complex:


Each of Jolson’s musical numbers was mounted on a separate reel with a separate accompanying sound disc. Even though the film was only eighty-nine minutes long…there were fifteen reels and fifteen discs to manage, and the projectionist had to be able to thread the film and cue up the Vitaphone records very quickly. The least stumble, hesitation, or human error would result in public and financial humiliation for the company.

None of the Warner brothers were able to attend: Sam Warner-among them, the strongest advocate for Vitaphone-had died the previous day of pneumonia, and the surviving brothers had returned to California for his funeral.

According to Doris Warner, who was in attendance, about halfway through the film she began to feel that something exceptional was taking place. Jolson’s “Wait a minute” line had prompted a loud, positive response from the audience. Applause followed each of his songs. Excitement built, and when Jolson and Eugenie Besserer began their dialogue scene, “the audience became hysterical.”  After the show, the audience turned into a “milling, battling, mob”, in one journalist’s description, chanting “Jolson, Jolson, Jolson!” Among those who reviewed the film, the critic who foresaw most clearly what it presaged for the future of cinema was Life magazine’s Robert Sherwood. He described the spoken dialogue scene between Jolson and Besserer as “fraught with tremendous significance…. I for one suddenly realized that the end of the silent drama is in sight”.

Critical reaction was generally, though far from universally, positive. New York Times critic Mordaunt Hall, reviewing the film’s premiere, declared that


not since the first presentation of Vitaphone features, more than a year ago [i.e., Don Juan], has anything like the ovation been heard in a motion-picture theatre…. The Vitaphoned songs and some dialogue have been introduced most adroitly. This in itself is an ambitious move, for in the expression of song the Vitaphone vitalizes the production enormously. The dialogue is not so effective, for it does not always catch the nuances of speech or inflections of the voice so that one is not aware of the mechanical features.

Variety called it “[u]ndoubtedly the best thing Vitaphone has ever put on the screen…[with] abundant power and appeal.” Richard Watts, Jr. of the New York Herald Tribune called it a “a pleasantly sentimental orgy dealing with a struggle between religion and art…. [T]his is not essentially a motion picture, but rather a chance to capture for comparative immortality the sight and sound of a great performer.” The Exhibitors Herald’s take was virtually identical: “scarcely a motion picture. It should be more properly labeled an enlarged Vitaphone record of Al Jolson in half a dozen songs.” The film received favorable reviews in both the Jewish press and in African American newspapers such as the Baltimore Afro-American, the New York Amsterdam News, and the Pittsburgh Courier. The headline of the Los Angeles Times review told a somewhat different story: “‘Jazz Singer’ Scores a Hit-Vitaphone and Al Jolson Responsible, Picture Itself Second Rate.” Photoplay dismissed Jolson as “no movie actor. Without his Broadway reputation he wouldn’t rate as a minor player.”

Prime Time

Well, last I remember Cylon Zoe was tearing apart a transport van in an acid trip remake of Short Circuit.  I’m still not sure how I feel about Caprica even after an entire season because of the ultimate failure of Galactica (and please, what a frakking cop out it was).  The only admirable characters are the Adamas and it’s kind of like rooting for the Corleones (not that I don’t root for the Corleones).  Stargate Universe is more of the same only now we have Lucian Alliance characters to wear red shirts and ignore.  And what was the point of the fantasy alien baby kidnapping sequence?  To make us feel better?  Babies die all the time, they can’t help themselves.  I don’t know why it was part of the plot in the first place.

I think sometimes writers don’t have a clue and just make stuff up for shock value and then try to dig themselves out of a hole.

A night of broadcast premiers none of which are remotely worth watching.


Dave hosts Tony Blair, Mavis Staples, and Jeff Tweedy.  Jon has Bruce Willis (unwatchable), Stephen Leon Botstein.  No Alton.

BoondocksGranddad’s Fight

Tony Blair-

  • Liar
  • Murderer
  • War Criminal

May he end his long, long life of suffering locked in a dank cell at Spandau, despised and forgotten.

Evening Edition

Evening Edition is an Open Thread

From Yahoo News Top Stories

1 French rogue trader Kerviel jailed, fined billions

by Annie Thomas, AFP

38 mins ago

PARIS (AFP) – A Paris court on Tuesday sentenced rogue trader Jerome Kerviel to three years in jail and ordered the 33-year-old to pay back the five billion euros that his market gambles cost Societe Generale bank.

The judge said the trader’s acts had “damaged the world economic order” and found him guilty of breach of trust, forgery and entering false data into computers at Societe Generale, of one of Europe’s biggest banks.

Kerviel looked shaken as the sentence was announced. Dressed in a dark suit and white shirt, he dodged hordes of journalists as he walked away from the courtroom to await further procedures that will decide when he enters custody.