06/24/2012 archive

Asperity, Austerity and 1984: Fulfillment of 1984 & the Replication Today By The Geogre

In the first part, I talked about the false comparison of Orwell to Huxley and how features of the writing made it easy to mistake each author’s purpose and scope. However, there is something else. Neil Postman was not alone in thinking, in 1984, that we dodged a bullet and instead took a pill. I understand the feeling and shared it. It seemed like, as Lord Boyd Orr had said in 1966, “Give the people a choice between freedom and sandwiches, and they’ll take the sandwiches,” but we had already been shot but did not know the blood stain.

We were aware, then, that the public of democratic nations was placidly accepting outrages that would lead to atrocities, but I would propose that it took 2003 and George W. Bush to demonstrate to us how well television and the fragmented Internet have made every year 1984. Indeed, the television, which Postman saw as an abstracted medium that forbade long-form discourse and non-pictorial conceptualizing, would eventually resemble the view screen of 1984 as much as the Soma of Brave New World, especially cable news, where anything not at full volume and alarm was mere caesura for a day of emotional extremes and informational abbreviation. The Memory Hole was far easier to achieve by accident than plan.

I criticized Postman for a misplaced emphasis on the fiction of 1984 whereby he missed the systemic critique of the novel. The novel’s appearance in the midst of a nation enacting a policy called Austerity, where everyone was to “pitch in” to get “England” back on its feet after the war, is conspicuous and screams out for a comparison. Specifically, within the fiction and outside of it, a System of power is above the people, and the people are the enemy of power itself. Big Brother is an image or visage for a system, but the true power is no person or party — just the continuing flow of resources and labor from the people to an indifferent end. This is what is frightening. The group in charge was never fascists or Stalinists or Churchill or anyone else: it was capital.

Austerity today (the “new Austerity” in Europe and deficit mania in the U.S.) is different in cause, but the same in effect. Both ask nations to turn their GDP over to repayment of debt rather than intervention in markets to stimulate employment. The language used in both instances is similar, too: “Get back on our feet” and “recovery.” However, nation states and capital have had quite a bit of time and learned a few lessons.

We can see, in the gap of attitudes and responses of the public, the effect of social and cultural mutation. If we can see a greater or lesser increase in the effects of social control, then we can understand, I believe, just how thoroughgoing Orwell’s book was a description of an ongoing project that has now succeeded.

Rant of the Week: Bill Maher

Real Time with Bill Maher 22 June 2012 New Rules

On This Day In History June 24

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.

Click on images to enlarge.

June 24 is the 175th day of the year (176th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 190 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1957, the U.S. Supreme Court rules that obscenity is not protected by the First Amendment.

Roth v. United States, along with its companion case, Alberts v. California, was a landmark case before the United States Supreme Court which redefined the Constitutional test for determining what constitutes obscene material unprotected by the First Amendment.

Prior history

Under the common law rule that prevailed before Roth, articulated most famously in the 1868 English case Hicklin v. Regina, any material that tended to “deprave and corrupt those whose minds are open to such immoral influences” was deemed “obscene” and could be banned on that basis. Thus, works by Balzac, Flaubert, James Joyce and D. H. Lawrence were banned based on isolated passages and the effect they might have on children.

Samuel Roth, who ran a literary business in New York City, was convicted under a federal statute criminalizing the sending of “obscene, lewd, lascivious or filthy” materials through the mail for advertising and selling a publication called American Aphrodite (“A Quarterly for the Fancy-Free”) containing literary erotica and nude photography. David Alberts, who ran a mail-order business from Los Angeles, was convicted under a California statute for publishing pictures of “nude and scantily-clad women.” The Court granted a writ of certiorari and affirmed both convictions.

The case

Roth came down as a 6-3 decision, with the opinion of the Court authored by William J. Brennan, Jr.. The Court repudiated the Hicklin test and defined obscenity more strictly, as material whose “dominant theme taken as a whole appeals to the prurient interest” to the “average person, applying contemporary community standards.” Only material meeting this test could be banned as “obscene.” However, Brennan reaffirmed that obscenity was not protected by the First Amendment and thus upheld the convictions of Roth and Alberts for publishing and sending obscene material over the mail.

Congress could ban material, “utterly without redeeming social importance,” or in other words, “whether to the average person, applying contemporary community standards, the dominant theme of the material taken as a whole appeals to the prurient interest.”

With the Court unable to agree as to what constituted obscenity, the Justices were put in the position of having to personally review almost every obscenity prosecution in the United States, with the Justices gathering for weekly screenings of “obscene” motion pictures (Black and Douglas pointedly refused to participate, believing all the material protected). Meanwhile, pornography and sexually oriented publications proliferated as a result of the Warren Court’s holdings, the “Sexual Revolution” of the 1960s flowered, and pressure increasingly came to the Court to allow leeway for state and local governments to crack down on obscenity. During his ill-fated bid to become Chief Justice, Justice Abe Fortas was attacked vigorously in Congress by conservatives such as Strom Thurmond for siding with the Warren Court majority in liberalizing protection for pornography. In his 1968 presidential campaign, Richard Nixon campaigned against the Warren Court, pledging to appoint “strict constructionists” to the Supreme Court.

The demise of Roth

In Miller v. California (1973), a five-person majority agreed for the first time since Roth as to a test for determining constitutionally unprotected obscenity, superseding the Roth test. By the time Miller was considered in 1973, Brennan had abandoned the Roth test and argued that all obscenity was constitutionally protected, unless distributed to minors or unwilling third-parties.

Muhamad Morsi wins Egyptian Presidency

Breaking: Egyptian Election Commission Declares Morsi President

By: Scarecrow, Firedog Lake

Sunday June 24, 2012 7:39 am

Formula One: Valencia

So we’ve been following the Gerhard Gribkowsky case since August 2011.

As you may recall it’s alledged that Bernie Ecclestone paid Gerhard a bribe of $44 Million so that the sale of the Kirsh Group’s interest in Formula One was not only below market value, but also so they would not participate in any profit sharing.  Bernie’s counter-contention was that it was merely an extortion payment to hide the fact that he and his wife were evading $3.2 BILLION in taxes on the family trust fund.

Well, Wednesday Gribkowsky admitted accepting the bribe in Court-

Ex-BayernLB Banker Admits Taking Bribe on Formula 1 Sale

By Karin Matussek, Business Week

June 20, 2012

Gribkowsky told the Munich Regional Court today the indictment against him was “in most parts” correct. He made his declaration after closed chamber negotiations between the court, prosecutors, and his defense lawyers. In exchange for his confession, the judges informally agreed Gribkowsky would get a prison term of 7 years and 10 months to 9 years, Presiding Judge Peter Noll said at the hearing.

Prosecutors last year charged Gribkowsky, who managed Munich-based BayernLB’s interest in Formula One, with accepting bribes, breach of trust and tax evasion. They claim he received $44 million in bribes to steer the sale of the bank’s 47 percent stake in the racing circuit to CVC, a U.K.-based buyout firm, and also agreed to a sham contract under which Ecclestone received a kickback. Until today, Gribkowsky denied the claims.

“It took me a long time to come to terms with what I have done and to admit even to myself: Yes, it was bribery and yes, I should have paid tax,” Gribkowsky said in his first comments to the court since the trial began in October. “Still today I have troubles accepting this as a reality.”

Ecclestone, who is being investigated by Munich prosecutors over the issue, has said he was caught up in a sophisticated shakedown and bribed Gribkowsky because he feared the banker might tell U.K. tax authorities about a family trust controlled by his then wife.

BayernLB’s 47 percent share was sold for 840 million euros ($1.07 billion). Ecclestone asked for a kickback of $100 million from BayernLB for his role in setting up the sale, Gribkowsky told the judges. Gribkowsky reduced the amount to $66 million in negotiations and said he agreed to it knowing he had the power to reject Ecclestone’s demand completely.

Because Ecclestone didn’t want cover the cost of the bribes, Gribkowsky set up another scam to funnel money from BayernLB to the Formula One executive, according to the indictment. The bank manager signed a sham contract under which BayernLB had to pay Ecclestone a kickback of $41.4 million and another $25 million to his then wife’s trust, prosecutors claim.

Banker Admits Formula One Bribe

By LAURA STEVENS and DAVID CRAWFORD, The Wall Street Journal

June 20, 2012, 5:15 p.m. ET

Mr. Gribkowsky was arrested early last year after Munich prosecutors launched a probe into allegations that he accepted bribes from Mr. Ecclestone to divest BayernLB’s stake in Formula One for far below the actual value.

BayernLB, Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. and J.P. Morgan Chase & Co. secured a combined 75% equity stake in Formula One in 2002, part of a debt settlement plan from the bankruptcy of German media company Kirch Group.

F1 : Ecclestone in crisis as Gerhard Gribkowsky Formula 1 bribery affair develops


Friday, 22 June 2012 09:41

The reinvigorated Formula One bribery affair has raised questions not only about the viability of the sport’s planned floatation, but about whether Bernie Ecclestone will lose his job or even face jail in Germany.

“Will Ecclestone go to Hockenheim?” the Die Welt newspaper, obviously musing a potential arrest now that former Formula 1 banker Gerhard Gribkowsky has confirmed the Formula 1 Chief Executive’s payments to him were indeed bribes, wondered.

German lawyer Sewarion Kirkitadze told Bild that Ecclestone ultimately face a prison sentence of “up to ten years”.

“He should also expect the prosecutor to prepare an international arrest warrant and an extradition request.”

Formula 1: Bernie Ecclestone Seeks Nothing Wrong in Paying Banker £28M

Auto Racing Daily

Jun 23, 2012

Bernie Ecclestone said that he had been “a bit stupid” to pay a German banker $44million (£28million) following the sale of Formula One to present owners CVC Capital Partners six years ago but insisted once again that he had done nothing wrong.

“I have always said that we gave him money but it was not for what he said,” said the 81 year-old, who appeared as a witness at the trial in November. “He was shaking me down a bit and saying I had control of a family trust which was not true. He was doing the best he could. I was a little bit stupid – normally I would have told him to get lost.” Telegraph.co.uk

Ecclestone, 81, told Reuters that Gribkowsky had been putting him under pressure over his tax affairs. He paid some 10 million pounds ($16 million) to the banker to “keep him quiet” and not as alleged to smooth the sale of the Formula One stake to private equity firm CVC Capital Partners.

Ecclestone puts brave face on Gribkowsky’s £28m bribe confession

David Tremayne, The Independent

Saturday 23 June 2012

As investment banker Gerhard Gribkowsky awaits sentence in Germany after confessing to taking a $44m (£28m) bribe, allegedly from Bernie Ecclestone, there has been inevitable speculation whether Ecclestone can escape being dragged further into the sport’s latest cause célèbre. It has already led to a delay in the proposed flotation of F1 in Singapore even though the $10bn (£6.4bn) valuation sought by rights holder CVC Capital Partners had been achieved by a recent sale of shareholdings to American investors.

Theoretically if somebody is found guilty of receiving a bribe then the person making the bribe can also be charged but, for Ecclestone, Valencia has been business as usual and he does not appear to have a care in the world. He blamed Gribkowsky for “shaking him down” while testifying at the Bavarian banker’s preliminary hearing, and his attorney Sven Thomas issued a statement after Gribkowsky’s confession claiming that it would have no impact on the prosecutors’ investigation into Ecclestone’s dealings.

Formula One chief Bernie Ecclestone faces fresh allegations over £28 million ‘bribe’

By Tom Cary, F1 Correspondent, The Telegraph

10:31PM BST 20 Jun 2012

If Munich’s state prosecutors decide to go after Ecclestone, sources have indicated they might try to agree a financial settlement rather than go through a lengthy and costly trial with a billionaire in his eighties.

Should they press charges, it remains unclear what action, if any, CVC will decide to take. Ecclestone told The Daily Telegraph earlier this year that the private equity firm “could get rid of me tomorrow if it wanted to”.

These are extremely delicate times in the sport. CVC has sold more than £1.3billion worth of shares over the past few months ahead of a mooted flotation on the Singapore stock exchange later this year, although it says it intends to remain F1’s controlling shareholder. CVC declined to comment on Wednesday night.

I’ll be extremely surprised if any of this is mentioned today.

Speaking of surprises, in racing related news the headline is ‘Scuderia Marlboro UPC fails to advance to Q3’.  Timo Glock is too sick to race so only 23 cars will start.

Tire choices are Mediums and Softs.  Hardly any Softs escaped unused among the contenders in Qualifying so some of the big names in the back might attempt an early charge and extend strategy.  It will be Soft, Medium, Medium and after Canada I’d hardly expect any team to deviate.  It’s a fuel and brake hog so there could be some failures.

One newsworthy exchange that did air during Practice or Qualifying, I misremember, is that the stands are pretty empty this year.  The commentator observed that it’s hard to justify $400 for a ticket with 24% unemployment.  What did not get said is that there is discussion about dropping Valencia next year.

live stream?

Pretty tables below.

Punting the Pundits: Sunday Preview Edition

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.

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

Follow us on Twitter @StarsHollowGzt

The Sunday Talking Heads:

Up with Chris Hayes: No guest list announced at this time. Still worth watching.

The Melissa Harris-Perry Show: No guest list announced at this time.

This Week with George Stephanopolis Jake Tapper is sitting this week. His guests are Rep. Darell Issa (R-CA); and the guests on the roundtable are Rep. Xavier Becerra (D-CA); Democratic strategist Hillary Rosen; Major Garrett of the National Journal; Peggy Noonan, The Wall Street Journal; and ABC’s George Will.

Face the Nation with Bob Schieffer: Former presidential candidate and border-state Governor, Rick Perry (R-TX), and Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, a key Obama Campaign surrogate will discuss immigration with Mr. Schieffer. Also, Former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty will talk about being on the road with the Romney campaign; and Stephanie Cutter, Obama’s Deputy Campaign Manager and Eric Fehrnstrom, a Senior Advisor to the Romney Campaign. The roundtable  will at all things political with guests TIME Magazine’s Joe Klein, The Washington Post‘s Dan Balz and CBS News’ Norah O’Donnell and John Dickerson.

The Chris Matthews Show: This week’s guests Liz Marlantes, The Christian Science Monitor; David Ignatius, The Washington Post Columnist; Howard Fineman, The Huffington Post Senior Political Editor; and Kelly O’Donnell, NBC News Capitol Hill Correspondent.

Meet the Press with David Gregory: MTP will have an exclusive interview with Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL); Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) will join roundtable guests Former Governor Bill Richardson (D-NM); POLITICO’s Senior Political Reporter Jonathan Martin; and NBC News Chief Foreign Affairs Correspondent Andrea Mitchell.

State of the Union with Candy Crowley: This Sunday’s guests are Romney campaign senior adviser, Ed Gillespie; former Bush Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez and Congressman Luis Gutierrez (D-IL); Susan Page of USA Today, and Peter Baker of The New York Times.

Six In The Morning

On Sunday

 Egypt awaits presidential election results

   Egyptians are awaiting the delayed results of the presidential run-off election held last weekend.

The BBC’s Jon Leyne in Cairo

The results are due in the coming hours, after the election commission heard appeals by the two candidates.

Mohammed Mursi of the Muslim Brotherhood and former Prime Minister Ahmed Shafiq have both claimed victory and vowed to form unity governments.

Thousands of their supporters spent the night in the centre of Cairo amid increasing political polarisation.

Correspondents say the atmosphere has been peaceful, but tense.

Many people are still apprehensive about the intentions of the ruling generals, who gave themselves sweeping new powers last week after the Supreme Constitutional Court ruled that the Islamist-dominated parliament should be dissolved.

Sunday’s Headlines:

When teenage pregnancy is a death sentence

Bloody Saturday: more than 100 reportedly killed in Syria

Viewpoint: Election leaves Greece deeply split

Paraguay’s Lugo denounces ouster as president, asks backers to keep peace, in Paraguay protest

Modern city rises up out of Siberia’s oil-rich peat bogs

Knitters 1; USOC 0

The US Olympic Committee learned this week that you should never insult 2 million people from around the world who have very sharp objects in their hands. As was reported here, the US Olympic Committee sent an insulting cease and desist letter to Ravelry, a knitting-based social network for hosting a knitting “olympics” called “Ravelympics.” Needless to say the worldwide protests came in faster than you can knit one, purl one. The USOC seeing the error in their thinking issued an apology to the knitters. The initial apology from Patrick Sandusky, USOC Chief Communications and Public Affairs Officer, was somewhat unapologetic, excusing the letter, as their “standard form”

“Thanks to all of you who have posted, tweeted, emailed and called regarding the letter sent to the organizers of the Ravelympics.

Like you, we are extremely passionate about what we do. And, as  you may know, the United States Olympic Committee is a non-profit entity, and our Olympic team receives no government funding. We are totally dependent on our sponsors, who pay for the right to associate with the Olympic Movement, as well as our generous donors to bring Team USA to the Games.

The letter sent to the organizers of the Ravelympics was a standard-form cease and desist letter that explained why we need to protect our trademarks in legal terms. Rest assured, as an organization that has many passionate knitters, we never intended to make this a personal attack on the knitting community or to suggest that knitters are not supportive of Team USA.

We apologize for any insult and appreciate your support. We embrace hand-crafted American goods as we currently have the Annin Flagmakers of New Jersey stitching a custom-made American flag to accompany our team to the Olympic Games in London. To show our support of the Ravelry community, we would welcome any handmade items that you would like to create to travel with, and motivate, our team at the 2012 Games.”

Many of the knitters felt that this was a rather halfhearted and continued to express their annoyance, leaving messages like this on the USOC Facebook page:

“Patrick Sandusky, your apology falls well short of any real acknowledgement of any wrong doing on your part. Your clerk’s language was insulting and inflammatory, and not any part of any cease and desist or form letter I have ever seen. T…o follow it up saying “while you’re knitting, send us some of those things we didn’t want you knitting in support of us in the first place” is just adding fuel to the fire. Do yourself a favour the next time you try to protect the Olympic brand and the interest of your sponsors – do a little bit of research about the efforts you are trying to quash before sending threatening letters. If you had, you’d find that you just stopped the US members of a MASSIVE group of people from watching NBC and all of the sponsors’ ads because of your lack of judgement and your poor representation of the Olympic brand. Sincerely, Lisa Roman, Ravelry member since 2008″

I think the lady is quite miffed. Good! It’s about time someone told these arrogant jackanapes to get their heads out of their rectums.

Mr. Sandusky realizing that these folks were serious and not gong away easily, issued this up date:

“As a follow-up to our previous statement on this subject, we would again like to apologize to the members of the Ravelry community. While we stand by our obligation to protect the marks and terms associated with the Olympic and Paralympic Movements in the United States, we sincerely regret the use of insensitive terms in relation to the actions of a group that was clearly not intending to denigrate or disrespect the Olympic Movement. We hope you’ll accept this apology and continue to support the Olympic Games.”

Now that is the way activists get it done. Thank you, Ravelry. Knit on!