Daily Archive: 11/20/2014

Nov 20 2014

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

Sen. Elizabeth Warren: Enough Is Enough: The President’s Latest Wall Street Nominee

I believe President Obama deserves deference in picking his team, and I’ve generally tried to give him that. But enough is enough.

Last Wednesday, President Obama announced his nomination of Antonio Weiss to serve as Under Secretary for Domestic Finance at the Treasury Department. This is a position that oversees Dodd-Frank implementation and a wide range of banking and economic policymaking issues, including consumer protection.

So who is Antonio Weiss? He’s the head of global investment banking for the financial giant Lazard. He has spent the last 20 years of his career at Lazard — most of it advising on international mergers and acquisitions. [..]

I have voted against only one of President Obama’s nominees: Michael Froman, a Citigroup alumnus who is currently storming the halls of Congress as U.S. Trade Representative pushing trade deals that threaten to undermine financial regulation, workers’ rights, and environmental protections. Enough is enough.

It’s time for the Obama administration to loosen the hold that Wall Street banks have over economic policy making. Sure, big banks are important, but running this economy for American families is a lot more important.

Trevor Timm: The good news about the ‘death’ of NSA reform: surveillance supporters may have dug their own grave

Snowden haters may have blocked the USA Freedom Act, but the clock is ticking before the law that justifies vacuuming your phone records blows up in the face of newly conservative Washington

Late Tuesday, after a brief debate marked by shameless fearmongering that reeked of some of even George W Bush’s worst moments, the US Congress failed at its most promising chance to pass at least some surveillance reform sparked by Edward Snowden’s revelations. The Senate Republicans, for the month they’re still in the minority, managed to block a vote on the USA Freedom Act, the modest National Security Agency oversight bill that’s been in the works for over a year.

But the Republicans – and NSA supporters everywhere – may have made a mistake that will come back to haunt them. They killed a measure that many reformers were holding their nose while supporting, and six month from now – by the middle of 2015 – they may have several even bigger fights on their hands. [..]

The failure of the USA Freedom Act, no matter how incomplete the bill was, certainly isn’t something to celebrate. But now we will see multiple courts potentially ruling NSA surveillance unconstitutional. Now we will have a chance to force the government into potentially gutting key provisions of the Bush-era Patriot Act, all while ubiquitous encryption becomes ever more prevalent in the communications devices we use – so maybe soon we don’t have to rely on Congress and the courts to be the masters of our own privacy.

William Greider: Should We Impeach Chief Justice John Roberts?

Republicans like to talk about impeaching President Obama, but there is a far more deserving candidate for impeachment-Chief Justice John Roberts of the Supreme Court. While the Republicans in Congress have blocked Democrats from enacting much of substance, the GOP majority in control of the Court has been effectively legislating on its own, following an agenda neatly aligned with their conservative party. Step by step, the five right-wing justices are transforming the terms of the American political system-including the Constitution.

They empowered “dark money” in politics and produced the $4 billion by-election of 2014. They assigned spiritual values to soulless corporations who thus gained First Amendment protection of free speech and religion. The justices effectively gutted the Voting Rights Act of 1965, even as they allowed state governments to create new obstacles for minority voting. The High Court made it okay to take guns to church and more difficult to keep guns from dangerous people. It rendered a series of decisions that collectively shifted political power from the many to the few.

This power grab by the unelected-and supposedly non-partisan-justices has already produced a historic rewrite of America democracy. But it was done by blatantly usurping the decision-making authority that belongs to the elected government in Congress and the executive branch. The Republican justices are not finished with their undeclared revolution. They will continue unless and until people rise up and stop them.

Richard (RJ) Eskow: Guess Who Doesn’t Want Social Security’s Offices Closed — and Who Does

Some surprising new polling results underscore the unpopularity — and long-term destructiveness — of Congress’ ongoing attacks on the Social Security system.

The new Republican Congress is expected to force additional office closures and impose additional cuts on the Social Security Administration’s budget, even as a poll released this week by Social Security Works shows that the public overwhelmingly opposes the flimsy rationale for those cuts.

We’re told that automation can pick up the slack as more offices are shuttered and more workers are laid off. But the polling shows that Americans overwhelmingly prefer human assistance to the Internet or email, which means they won’t be happy with the change. [..]

The survey also shows that most people prefer to talk to a human being, either by phone or in person, when interacting with the Social Security system. Only 11 percent want to use the Internet or email to request a new Social Security card, for example. Unfortunately, an unpublicized Social Security Administration plan would force them to do exactly that — and upcoming GOP cuts could accelerate that effort.

In an exclusive look at some of the raw polling data, a surprising fact came to light: Voters under 30 dislike the idea of using web-based services much more than older voters do. Only 3 percent would prefer to order new Social Security cards via Internet or email, far less than the 11 percent figure for voters overall. Only 4 percent want to apply for retirement benefits via the Internet or email, as opposed to 13 percent overall.

Vi Waln: The Keystone XL’s Senate failure isn’t the end of the pipeline as an act of war

My Lakota people are still prepared to protect our clean water. This remains a death project

My Lakota people have a phrase – Mni Wiconi – which means “water of life”. Water is also Pejuta – our primary medicine. It is an extremely sacred element without which we cannot live, yet many people take it for granted. They do not realize: when our drinking-water sources are gone or contaminated, humanity will perish.

Water is also present in every single Lakota ceremony at which I pray – it is essential to our ceremonial way of life. Like our ancestors who sacrificed their very lives for our survival, many of us pray for the descendants who will soon stand in our place, and one of our most important prayers is for our descendants to always have an abundance of clean drinking water.

But TransCanada’s Keystone XL oil pipeline (KXL), which the company has proposed building directly over the Ogallala Aquifer, is still an immediate threat to all of us who drink water from that underground reservoir.

Kaci Hickox: Stop calling me ‘the Ebola nurse’

I never had Ebola, and politicians who lie do nothing to protect your health

I never had Ebola, so please stop calling me “the Ebola Nurse” – now!

This is what did happen: I was quarantined against my will by overzealous politicians after I volunteered to go and treat people affected by Ebola in west Africa. My liberty, my interests and consequently my civil rights were ignored because some ambitious governors saw an opportunity to use an age-old political tactic: fear. Christie and my governor in Maine, Paul LePage, decided to disregard medical science and the constitution in hopes of advancing their careers. They bet that, by multiplying the existing fear and misinformation about Ebola – a disease most Americans know little about – they could ultimately manipulate everyone and proclaim themselves the protectors of the people by “protecting” the public from a disease that hasn’t killed a single American. Politicians who tell lies such as “she is obviously ill” and mistreat citizens by telling them to “sit down and shut up” will hopefully never make it to the White House. [..]

want to live in a country that understands Ebola. I want to live in a world that cares about those dying from this terrible disease in West Africa. Nobody should’ve had to watch me ride my bicycle out in the open as politicians fed the public false fears and misinformation. I want to live in an America that reaches out to aid workers as they return from West Africa and says, “We loved and stood by you when you were fighting this disease. We will love and stand by you now.”

We can define compassion, instead of being ruled by fear and fear-mongers.

Nov 20 2014

On This Day In History November 20

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.

November 20 is the 324th day of the year (325th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 41 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1945, Twenty-four high-ranking Nazis go on trial in Nuremberg, Germany, for atrocities committed during World War II.

The Nuremberg Trials were conducted by an international tribunal made up of representatives from the United States, the Soviet Union, France, and Great Britain. It was the first trial of its kind in history, and the defendants faced charges ranging from crimes against peace, to crimes of war, to crimes against humanity. Lord Justice Geoffrey Lawrence, the British member, presided over the proceedings, which lasted 10 months and consisted of 216 court sessions.

Origin

British War Cabinet documents, released on 2 January 2006, have shown that as early as December 1944, the Cabinet had discussed their policy for the punishment of the leading Nazis if captured. British Prime Minister Winston Churchill had then advocated a policy of summary execution in some circumstances, with the use of an Act of Attainder to circumvent legal obstacles, being dissuaded from this only by talks with US leaders later in the war. In late 1943, during the Tripartite Dinner Meeting at the Tehran Conference, the Soviet leader, Joseph Stalin, proposed executing 50,000-100,000 German staff officers. US President Franklin D. Roosevelt, joked that perhaps 49,000 would do. Churchill denounced the idea of “the cold blooded execution of soldiers who fought for their country.” However, he also stated that war criminals must pay for their crimes and that in accordance with the Moscow Document which he himself had written, they should be tried at the places where the crimes were committed. Churchill was vigorously opposed to executions “for political purposes.” According to the minutes of a Roosevelt-Stalin meeting during the Yalta Conference, on February 4, 1945, at the Livadia Palace, President Roosevelt “said that he had been very much struck by the extent of German destruction in the Crimea and therefore he was more bloodthirsty in regard to the Germans than he had been a year ago, and he hoped that Marshal Stalin would again propose a toast to the execution of 50,000 officers of the German Army.

US Treasury Secretary, Henry Morgenthau, Jr., suggested a plan for the total denazification of Germany; this was known as the Morgenthau Plan. The plan advocated the forced de-industrialisation of Germany. Roosevelt initially supported this plan, and managed to convince Churchill to support it in a less drastic form. Later, details were leaked to the public, generating widespread protest. Roosevelt, aware of strong public disapproval, abandoned the plan, but did not adopt an alternate position on the matter. The demise of the Morgenthau Plan created the need for an alternative method of dealing with the Nazi leadership. The plan for the “Trial of European War Criminals” was drafted by Secretary of War Henry L. Stimson and the War Department. Following Roosevelt’s death in April 1945, the new president, Harry S. Truman, gave strong approval for a judicial process. After a series of negotiations between Britain, the US, Soviet Union and France, details of the trial were worked out. The trials were set to commence on 20 November 1945, in the Bavarian city of Nuremberg.

Nov 20 2014

A Fish Rots From The Head Down

Institute for New Economic Thinking

The Real News

Transcript

Zero Prosecutions Aren’t Few Enough – Wall Street Wants SEC Sanctions Reduced to DMV Points

by William Black, New Economic Perspectives

Posted on November 10, 2014

Let’s begin by reviewing the bidding. We have just suffered through the third economic crisis driven by epidemics of control fraud. In two of the crises the financial industry led the fraud epidemics. In the Enron-era fraud epidemic they eagerly aided and abetted Enron’s frauds. In the current crisis we know that U.S. government investigators have found that 16 of the largest banks in the world conspired to falsify Libor, which is used to price $350 trillion in assets. This is the largest cartel in world history by at least three orders of magnitude. Note that all 16 of the banks that participate in creating Libor falsified their statements for the express purpose of falsifying the Libor “fix.” There were no honest banks and there is no reason to believe that if 25 banks participated in setting Libor the results would have differed. The conspirators are not known to have blackballed any bank from participating in “fixing” Libor because of fears that the blackballed bank was led by an honest CEO who would expose and end the conspiracy.

Government investigators have found that over 20 of the largest banks defrauded Fannie and Freddie by selling them vast amount of toxic mortgages through fraudulent “reps and warranties.” Government investigators have found that over 20 of the largest banks defrauded a series of credit unions by selling them toxic mortgages and toxic mortgage derivatives through fraudulent reps and warranties. Government investigators have found other wide ranging frauds by the large banks to (1) rig bids for issuing municipal securities, (2) to foreclose on people through fraudulent affidavits, and (3) by conspiring to falsify foreign exchange (FX) rates. In sum, the leaders of the largest banks in the world are overwhelmingly leading criminal enterprises that commit financial frauds of unprecedented scope and damage. The resulting financial crisis caused by the three most destructive fraud epidemics in history caused over a $21 trillion loss in U.S. GDP and the loss of over 10 million American jobs. Each of those figures is much larger in Europe.

Worse, no senior banker who led the three fraud epidemics has been prosecuted in the U.S. for those crimes. Virtually no senior bankers who led the three fraud epidemics has even been the subject of a civil suit by the U.S. Virtually no senior banker in the U.S. has had his fraud proceeds “clawed back” by the government or the bank. The senior bankers were made wealthy through the “sure thing” of accounting control fraud – with nearly perfect impunity from the criminal and civil law.

This is the setting in which Fichera writes. As a sometimes good guy, one would expect his column to call for the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the SEC to end this impunity and immediately act vigorously to hold the senior bankers personally accountable for leading the frauds that blew up the global economy. Instead, Fichera wrote to urge (1) that the largest banks be treated as “too big to jail,” (2) to decry the “tendency to vilify all Wall Street firms as unscrupulous,” (3) to urge SEC sanctions to be reduced to the level of “DMV” “points,” and (4) to provide that no matter how egregious the fraud the SEC would have no power to remove a Wall Street firm’s license until it committed “multiple” cases of the equivalent of deliberate homicide in which each case could involve deliberately running over millions of investors. Under Fichera’s plan, every dog would get at least one bite – of every investor – which would mean hundreds of thousands of bites. Fichera wants banks to be – officially – entitled to commit securities fraud without effective sanction from the SEC.



This is a great system. I can’t wait for it to be applied to muggers who prey on Wall Street traders. A mugger will have to wait six years after getting caught battering and robbing a Wall Street trader (which will be a small percentage of the times they mug) for their “slate [to be] wiped clean.” I’m sure that if the muggers who specialize in attacking Wall Street traders only get caught every six years “the tendency [of bankers] to vilify all [muggers] as unscrupulous would fade.” But this doesn’t capture the true spirit of Fichera’s DMV plan. His plan proposes that the SEC “forgive points” if the mugger “takes a remedial class” that teaches that it is not appropriate to mug. And if you like a DMV point system for muggers you’ll love one for sex offenders that target your children, girlfriends, and spouses.

I can hear some of you saying – “but mugging and sexual molestation are real crimes” while defrauding people that trust you of tens of billions of dollars is just like driving without buckling your seatbelt. Accounting and securities fraud are really close to being victimless crimes, if one ignores a few million fraud victims who foolishly believed you when you said you were a fiduciary representing them as your principal.



Fichera could not be more wrong – and more revealing of why the “sometimes good” elements of Wall Street cannot be relied upon to clean up its intensely criminogenic environment. First, no banker is ever “too big to jail” or “too big to bar from securities or banking. Second, no “bank” can be “jail[ed].” Third, no matter how big the bank it can be placed in receivership or have its senior managers “removed and prohibited” when they are leading frauds or unsafe and unsound practices. Fourth, the “principles of regulation and justice” do not conflict when we hold elite frauds accountable for their frauds through prosecutions, receiverships, and removals and prohibition orders. Indeed, “the principles of regulation” are: (1) create incentive systems and controls that minimize fraud and unsafe and unsound practices, (2) to remove from any position in which they can endanger the bank, customers, or the public, and (3) to prosecute the most elite criminals to increase deterrence and use enforcement and civil actions to ensure that no senior officer gains a penny from leading the frauds and unsafe and unsound practices. Vigorously pursuing justice not only does not “conflict” with “the principles of regulation” – it is essential to achieving “the principles of regulation.”

What is clear is that when Fichera uses the word “principles” he means “unprincipled.” Fichera has forgotten the most fundamental principle of justice expressed in the famous Latin maxim:. Fiat Justitia Ruat Caelum (Let Justice be done, though the Heavens Fall).

Fichera considers the ancient Latin principle hopelessly naïve, and the fact that he does so demonstrates further that he does not understand that there is nothing more practical than consistently seeking justice through the legal and regulatory systems. Financial crises occur when we abandon the maxim, betray justice, and decide that some elite banks and bankers are so big or so politically powerful that they must be de facto immune from effective regulation and prosecution. A society that deliberately abandons justice and the principles of regulation in order to protect large banks and powerful bankers is a Nation that will see the heavens fall. A Nation that abandons justice encourages massive fraud by the wealthy and powerful and guarantees recurrent, intensifying economic crises and a descent into crony capitalism. There is nothing more practical for a person or a Nation than leading a principled life.

Only elite financial sector officers believe that they and their banks are entitled to being exempted from the rule of law. Normal human beings are nauseated when they read such claims. The reason that Fichera’s ode to the unprincipled life is so distressing is that he was believed to be in the top 10% of the distribution of financial sector CEOs when it came to integrity. That indicates how depressingly deep the rot runs among Wall Street’s CEOs.

Nov 20 2014

ek Politics

Institute for New Economic Thinking

The Real News

Transcript

Zero Prosecutions Aren’t Few Enough – Wall Street Wants SEC Sanctions Reduced to DMV Points

by William Black, New Economic Perspectives

Posted on November 10, 2014

Let’s begin by reviewing the bidding. We have just suffered through the third economic crisis driven by epidemics of control fraud. In two of the crises the financial industry led the fraud epidemics. In the Enron-era fraud epidemic they eagerly aided and abetted Enron’s frauds. In the current crisis we know that U.S. government investigators have found that 16 of the largest banks in the world conspired to falsify Libor, which is used to price $350 trillion in assets. This is the largest cartel in world history by at least three orders of magnitude. Note that all 16 of the banks that participate in creating Libor falsified their statements for the express purpose of falsifying the Libor “fix.” There were no honest banks and there is no reason to believe that if 25 banks participated in setting Libor the results would have differed. The conspirators are not known to have blackballed any bank from participating in “fixing” Libor because of fears that the blackballed bank was led by an honest CEO who would expose and end the conspiracy.

Government investigators have found that over 20 of the largest banks defrauded Fannie and Freddie by selling them vast amount of toxic mortgages through fraudulent “reps and warranties.” Government investigators have found that over 20 of the largest banks defrauded a series of credit unions by selling them toxic mortgages and toxic mortgage derivatives through fraudulent reps and warranties. Government investigators have found other wide ranging frauds by the large banks to (1) rig bids for issuing municipal securities, (2) to foreclose on people through fraudulent affidavits, and (3) by conspiring to falsify foreign exchange (FX) rates. In sum, the leaders of the largest banks in the world are overwhelmingly leading criminal enterprises that commit financial frauds of unprecedented scope and damage. The resulting financial crisis caused by the three most destructive fraud epidemics in history caused over a $21 trillion loss in U.S. GDP and the loss of over 10 million American jobs. Each of those figures is much larger in Europe.

Worse, no senior banker who led the three fraud epidemics has been prosecuted in the U.S. for those crimes. Virtually no senior bankers who led the three fraud epidemics has even been the subject of a civil suit by the U.S. Virtually no senior banker in the U.S. has had his fraud proceeds “clawed back” by the government or the bank. The senior bankers were made wealthy through the “sure thing” of accounting control fraud – with nearly perfect impunity from the criminal and civil law.

This is the setting in which Fichera writes. As a sometimes good guy, one would expect his column to call for the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the SEC to end this impunity and immediately act vigorously to hold the senior bankers personally accountable for leading the frauds that blew up the global economy. Instead, Fichera wrote to urge (1) that the largest banks be treated as “too big to jail,” (2) to decry the “tendency to vilify all Wall Street firms as unscrupulous,” (3) to urge SEC sanctions to be reduced to the level of “DMV” “points,” and (4) to provide that no matter how egregious the fraud the SEC would have no power to remove a Wall Street firm’s license until it committed “multiple” cases of the equivalent of deliberate homicide in which each case could involve deliberately running over millions of investors. Under Fichera’s plan, every dog would get at least one bite – of every investor – which would mean hundreds of thousands of bites. Fichera wants banks to be – officially – entitled to commit securities fraud without effective sanction from the SEC.



This is a great system. I can’t wait for it to be applied to muggers who prey on Wall Street traders. A mugger will have to wait six years after getting caught battering and robbing a Wall Street trader (which will be a small percentage of the times they mug) for their “slate [to be] wiped clean.” I’m sure that if the muggers who specialize in attacking Wall Street traders only get caught every six years “the tendency [of bankers] to vilify all [muggers] as unscrupulous would fade.” But this doesn’t capture the true spirit of Fichera’s DMV plan. His plan proposes that the SEC “forgive points” if the mugger “takes a remedial class” that teaches that it is not appropriate to mug. And if you like a DMV point system for muggers you’ll love one for sex offenders that target your children, girlfriends, and spouses.

I can hear some of you saying – “but mugging and sexual molestation are real crimes” while defrauding people that trust you of tens of billions of dollars is just like driving without buckling your seatbelt. Accounting and securities fraud are really close to being victimless crimes, if one ignores a few million fraud victims who foolishly believed you when you said you were a fiduciary representing them as your principal.



Fichera could not be more wrong – and more revealing of why the “sometimes good” elements of Wall Street cannot be relied upon to clean up its intensely criminogenic environment. First, no banker is ever “too big to jail” or “too big to bar from securities or banking. Second, no “bank” can be “jail[ed].” Third, no matter how big the bank it can be placed in receivership or have its senior managers “removed and prohibited” when they are leading frauds or unsafe and unsound practices. Fourth, the “principles of regulation and justice” do not conflict when we hold elite frauds accountable for their frauds through prosecutions, receiverships, and removals and prohibition orders. Indeed, “the principles of regulation” are: (1) create incentive systems and controls that minimize fraud and unsafe and unsound practices, (2) to remove from any position in which they can endanger the bank, customers, or the public, and (3) to prosecute the most elite criminals to increase deterrence and use enforcement and civil actions to ensure that no senior officer gains a penny from leading the frauds and unsafe and unsound practices. Vigorously pursuing justice not only does not “conflict” with “the principles of regulation” – it is essential to achieving “the principles of regulation.”

What is clear is that when Fichera uses the word “principles” he means “unprincipled.” Fichera has forgotten the most fundamental principle of justice expressed in the famous Latin maxim:. Fiat Justitia Ruat Caelum (Let Justice be done, though the Heavens Fall).

Fichera considers the ancient Latin principle hopelessly naïve, and the fact that he does so demonstrates further that he does not understand that there is nothing more practical than consistently seeking justice through the legal and regulatory systems. Financial crises occur when we abandon the maxim, betray justice, and decide that some elite banks and bankers are so big or so politically powerful that they must be de facto immune from effective regulation and prosecution. A society that deliberately abandons justice and the principles of regulation in order to protect large banks and powerful bankers is a Nation that will see the heavens fall. A Nation that abandons justice encourages massive fraud by the wealthy and powerful and guarantees recurrent, intensifying economic crises and a descent into crony capitalism. There is nothing more practical for a person or a Nation than leading a principled life.

Only elite financial sector officers believe that they and their banks are entitled to being exempted from the rule of law. Normal human beings are nauseated when they read such claims. The reason that Fichera’s ode to the unprincipled life is so distressing is that he was believed to be in the top 10% of the distribution of financial sector CEOs when it came to integrity. That indicates how depressingly deep the rot runs among Wall Street’s CEOs.

Nov 20 2014

The Breakfast Club (Miss Lonelyhearts)

breakfast beers photo breakfastbeers.jpgWhen I was in school we got assigned Miss Lonelyhearts by Nathaniel West.  The reason you assign a book like this to children is not because they’ll really understand it, or that you do, but because it’s really short.

It was about the first existentialist work I was exposed to and one of the bleakest.

While the write up in Wikipedia (and Sparks and Cliffs for that matter) focus on Miss Lonelyhearts and his sad moral existence and the metaphorical parallels to the Great Depression I couldn’t, and can’t to this day, read it without weeping over the plight of his correspondents-

Dear Miss Lonelyhearts–

I am in such pain I dont know what to do sometimes I think I will kill myself my kidneys hurt so much. My husband thinks no woman can be a good catholic and not have children irregardless of the pain. I was married honorable from our church but I never knew what married life meant as I never was told about man and wife. My grandmother never told me and she was the only mother I had but made a big mistake by not telling me as it dont pay to be innocent and is only a big disappointment. I have 7 children in 12 yrs and ever since the last 2 I have been so sick. I was operated on twice and my husband promised no more children on the doctors advice as he said I might die but when I got back from the hospital he broke his promise and now I am going to have a baby and I dont think I can stand it my kidneys hurt so much. I am so sick and scared because I cant have an abortion on account of being a catholic and my husband so religious. I cry all the time it hurts so much and I dont know what to do.

Yours respectfully,

Sick-of-it-all

Miss Lonelyhearts threw the letter into an open drawer and lit a cigarette.

Dear Miss Lonelyhearts–

I am sixteen years old now and I dont know what to do and would appreciate it if you could tell me what to do. When I was a little girl it was not so bad because I got used to the kids on the block makeing fun of me, but now I would like to have boy friends like the other girls and go out on Saturday nites, but no boy will take me because I was born without a nose–although I am a good dancer and have a nice shape and my father buys me pretty clothes.

I sit and look at myself all day and cry. I have a big hole in the middle of my face that scares people even myself so I cant blame the boys for not wanting to take me out. My mother loves me, but she crys terrible when she looks at me.

What did I do to deserve such a terrible bad fate? Even if I did do some bad things I didnt do any before I was a year old and I was born this way. I asked Papa and he says he doesnt know, but that maybe I did something in the other world before I was born or that maybe I was being punished for his sins. I dont believe that because he is a very nice man. Ought I commit suicide?

Sincerely yours,

Desperate

The cigarette was imperfect and refused to draw. Miss Lonelyhearts took it out of his mouth and stared at it furiously. He fought himself quiet, then lit another one.

Dear Miss Lonelyhearts–

I am writing to you for my little sister Grade because something awfull hapened to her, and I am afraid to tell mother about it. I am 15 years old and Gracie is 13 and we live in Brooklyn. Gracie is deaf and dumb and biger than me but not very smart on account of being deaf and dumb. She plays on the roof of our house and dont go to school except to deaf and dumb school twice a week on tuesdays and thursdays. Mother makes her play on the roof because we dont want her to get run over as she aint very smart. Last week a man came on the roof and did something dirty to her. She told me about it and I dont know what to do as I am afraid to tell mother on account of her being liable to beat Grade up. I am afraid that Gracie is going to have a baby and I listened to her stomack last night for a long time to see if I could hear the baby but I couldn’t. If I tell mother she will beat Gracie up awfull because I am the only one who loves her and last time when she tore her dress they Joked her in the closet for 2 days and if the boys on the blok hear about it they will say dirty things like they did on Peewee Conors sister the time she got caught in the lots. So please what would you do if the same hapened in your family.

Yours truly,

Harold S.

Depressed yet?

Well, that didn’t help at all.  But nothing really does, you just forget for a while.

Maybe it’s just that time of year when the time and light change and the pressure of the Holiday season, the sense that another big tick has just tolled on your life clock.

This is mere introduction to the two best Science and Technology posts I found this week which happen to be tremendously depressing.  On the other hand I could be beating you about the head every week about Climate Change and Mass Extinction so there is that.

The law that entropy always increases holds, I think, the supreme position among the laws of Nature. If someone points out to you that your pet theory of the universe is in disagreement with Maxwell’s equations – then so much the worse for Maxwell’s equations. If it is found to be contradicted by observation – well, these experimentalists do bungle things sometimes. But if your theory is found to be against the second law of thermodynamics I can give you no hope; there is nothing for it but to collapse in deepest humiliation.

Sir Arthur Stanley Eddington, The Nature of the Physical World (1927)

“I am lonely, will anyone speak to me”: Inside the saddest thread on the internet, ten years later

Tori Telfer, Salon

Wednesday, Nov 19, 2014 06:58 PM EST

This October, a guest user logged onto moviecodec.com – a technical Q&A forum for media file playback and conversion – to post a cry for help on one of the site’s off-topic forums. “[I’]m so lonely,” wrote the user, “feeling sad please anyone talk to me.” It was an almost word-for-word replica of the thread’s title, written 10 years and thousands of posts earlier: “i am lonely will anyone speak to me.” The thread’s creator was also a guest, who logged in as “lonely” in 2004. A decade ago, due to the freakishly searchable title and the fact that the site was already optimized for maximum Google search exposure, the thread went viral. Within days, it was the No. 1 result for “I am lonely” on Google, and hundreds of anonymous lonely hearts were flocking to the forum to commiserate, console and weep.



Today’s bigger, flashier Internet means lonely people don’t have to turn to a random off-topic thread on a tech site to assuage their feelings of isolation. “[The thread] no longer receives as much traffic as it used to receive, and I believe that is mostly due to there now being many more sites and sources on the Internet dealing with loneliness,” says Lundgren. The lonely can take a Loneliness Quiz from Psych Central or join the Campaign to End Loneliness. They can listen to sad arias on Spotify while ordering near-limitless amounts of comfort food from GrubHub. If loneliness is cured by distraction and a sense of interconnectivity, the Internet is a much better place for the lonely today.

But has the Internet also turned crueler? More isolating? Lundgren seems to think so, calling Internet forums “generally more harsh and less helpful than 10 years ago.” (And it’s not just forums. “The distribution system for our beastliness has gotten so much better because we have the Internet now,” said satirist Andy Borowitz on NPR in 2010.) Why the bad turn? “Because as a whole people have become more hurried, more goal-oriented, and less helpful on the Internet,” says Lundgren. “People don’t ‘hang out’ and help each other the same way as before.” If this is true, the “i am lonely” thread reflects this shift. Though the overall tone remains empathetic and helpful, a sense of solidarity, of us-vs.-them, has been lost. As one guest user wrote in August, “This thread signifies the very volatile nature of society. Look at the replies people were getting a decade ago after they confided to a forum that they were lonely and look at the replies people get now … SADDENING.”

Whether or not the Internet is the dark source of all our loneliness is a fiercely debated topic. It’s like the chicken-or-egg conundrum, or the tree-falling-in-the-forest question. Does the Internet cause loneliness, or do lonely people choose the Internet? If one solitary nerd has a thousand online friends, is he still alone in real life?

No one has been able to answer the question conclusively. A 1998 study called the “Internet Paradox” is still an apropos descriptor of the whole mess. We use the Internet to communicate, but is it killing “real” communication? We chat with old crushes on Facebook, but should we really be taking out our headphones and talking to the cute guy in the checkout line? Terrifying think pieces about the links between technology and dying alone are, ironically, all over the Internet; in Public Culture, Zeynep Tufekci points out that this is mostly an “appeal to moral panic,” as there’s not a lot of empirical research to support these hypotheses. But there’s a reason we see a headline about Facebook causing loneliness and think, yes, that makes sense. It’s not empirical, but it’s intuitive. Everybody knows the sort of gnawing ache that hits when you find yourself online late at night. You feel … like a loser. And you want to see if anyone else is out there.

The “i am lonely” thread provides affecting – if inconclusive – contributions to the Internet loneliness debate. On the one hand, without the Internet, where would the lonely Vegas housewife “alone in [her] room and longing for company” go to vent? On the other hand, would user “depresico” have a better life if the Internet didn’t exist? “Another thing for my loneliness is those freaking computers,” depresico writes. “[I] just happend to have my computer as my best friend since i wasnt that socially related to the outer world but now i realized how much i had missed” [all sic]. Another user mourns the sadness of using technology to connect to people “who may not even exist.”

The crux of the Internet loneliness debate isn’t actually the Internet; it’s the tension between Internet reality and real world reality. There’s a sense in which the Internet is somehow fake, and that the real world is better, but we go online to talk about it anyway, hovering in that space between technological connection and physical connection. It’s illogical to think of the Internet as separate from the real world – we’re still regular people communicating regular things on it – and yet we constantly differentiate between the two. Lundgren, for instance, believes that loneliness can only be solved in the latter.  “The Internet will never suffice,” he says. “You need to actually talk to and see people in real life to feel like a real person.” In other words, there’s a fear that a person on the Internet is somehow less real than an unplugged one. And the fear of talking to people “who may not even exist” on the Internet is a relevant, though surreal, worry. If the original poster, “lonely,” logged off forever and never came back to the thread, how much value do we get from thinking of them as a real person with a real life and real loneliness? For all intents and purposes, hasn’t “lonely” become just another search term, another bit of code?

Twine, the Video-Game Technology for All

By LAURA HUDSON, The New York Times

NOV. 19, 2014

Perhaps the most surprising thing about “GamerGate,” the culture war that continues to rage within the world of video games, is the game that touched it off. Depression Quest, created by the developers Zoe Quinn, Patrick Lindsey and Isaac Schankler, isn’t what most people think of as a video game at all. For starters, it isn’t very fun. Its real value is as an educational tool, or an exercise in empathy. Aside from occasional fuzzy Polaroid pictures that appear at the top of the screen, Depression Quest is a purely text-based game that proceeds from screen to screen through simple hyperlinks, inviting players to step into the shoes of a person suffering from clinical depression. After reading brief vignettes about what the main character is struggling with – at home, at work, in relationships – you try to make choices that steer your character out of this downward spiral. The most important choices are those the game prevents you from making, unclickable choices with red lines through them, saying things like “Shake off your funk.” As your character falls deeper into depression, more options are crossed out. You can’t sleep; you can’t call a therapist; you can’t explain how you feel to the people you love. In the depths of depression, it all feels impossible.



Twine games look and feel profoundly different from other games, not just because they’re made with different tools but also because they’re made by different people – including people who don’t have any calcified notions about what video games are supposed to be or how they’re supposed to work. While roughly 75 percent of developers at traditional video-game companies are male, many of the most prominent Twine developers are women, making games whose purpose is to explore personal perspectives and issues of identity, sexuality and trauma that mainstream games rarely touch on.

Although plenty of independent games venture where mainstream games fear to tread, Twine represents something even more radical: the transformation of video games into something that is not only consumed by the masses but also created by them. A result has been one of the most fascinating and diverse scenes in gaming. The very nature of Twine poses a simple but deeply controversial question: Why shouldn’t more people get to be a part of games? Why shouldn’t everybody?

One of the most prominent and critically acclaimed Twine games has been Howling Dogs, a haunting meditation about trauma and escapism produced in 2012 by a woman named Porpentine. The gameplay begins in a claustrophobic metal room bathed in fluorescent light. Although you can’t leave, you can “escape” once a day by donning a pair of virtual-­reality goggles. Each time, you’re launched into a strange and lavishly described new world where you play a different role: a doomed young empress learning the art of dying; a scribe trying to capture the beauty of a garden in words; a Joan of Arc-like figure waiting to be burned on a pyre. And each time you return to the metal room, it’s a little dirtier and a little more dilapidated – the world around you slowly decomposing as you try to disappear into a virtual one.

“When you have trauma,” Porpentine says, “everything shrinks to this little dark room.” While the immersive glow of a digital screen can offer a temporary balm, “you can’t stay stuck on the things that help you deal with trauma when it’s happening. You have to move on. You have to leave the dark room, or you’ll stay stunted.”



This year, Porpentine released Everything You Swallow Will One Day Come Up Like a Stone, a game about suicide. One of her most moving games, it also remains one of the most obscure – largely because she distributed it for only a single day.

“This game will be available for 24 hours and then I am deleting it forever,” she wrote during its brief availability. “Suicide is a social problem. Suicide is a social failure. This game will live through social means only. This game will not be around forever because the people you fail will not be around forever.”

The concept for the game is tremendously simple. A number counter is set to zero, with plus and minus buttons beneath it to make the number bigger or smaller. “I counted this high,” it begins, and then the game is just that: counting up, though the purpose of doing so isn’t clear at first. I’ve played it four or five times now and never made it all the way through without crying.

Sometimes, nothing happens when you click to the next number; other times, words appear like stray thoughts. “Who would you miss if they were gone for a day?” it asks at one point. Keep clicking, and the word “day” is replaced by “month,” then by “year” and finally “forever.” Sometimes it asks you questions. Sometimes it tells you stories. At one point it quotes from the suicide note of a Czech student who killed himself by self-immolation, later from a news report about a woman who committed suicide after being raped. “This is the game,” it says.

The numbers start to feel like days, and the rhythm of clicking feels like passing time, like checking off days on a calendar. It isn’t always “fun,” per se; sometimes, when you click 10 or 15 times in a row and see nothing but an empty screen, a little part of you wonders when it’s going to end. But you keep on clicking. After all, what other choice do you have? It feels like surviving.

But somewhere around the number 300, the game decides to throw you for a loop. Click the wrong link – or the right one? – and it catapults you suddenly into the tens of millions. The moment you see it, your guts twist with panic; the space between where you were and where you are becomes a vast numeric desert, and the idea of clicking millions of times to get back seems impossible. You won’t be able to do it, you think for a moment – you’ll just have to quit the game. Then you remember you’re playing a game about suicide.

“That’s what it feels like to wake up insane or with trauma,” Porpentine said. “It’s like, Oh, God, how do I get back there? It feels like it’ll take a million days to get back, a million steps. That is the crisis. ‘Will I ever be the same again?’ And you won’t.”

Science and Technology News and Blogs

Science Oriented Video!

The Obligatories, News, and Blogs below.

Nov 20 2014

The Very Model Of A Pro Obama Partisan

With apologies to Gilbert & Sullivan~



Optional Musical Accompaniment To This Post

Bot:

I am the very model of a pro-Obama partisan

Pragmatic in appeasement I really am a Vichy Dem!

I know all of the talking points I’m not afraid of spouting them

from deficit to HCR no arguments abouting them

I’m very well acquainted, too, with matters electorial

Use of information anecdotal and historical

Call me out on this and I will swiftly hand you snottiness

And overwhelm you with my very botti botti bottiness!

All:

And overwhelm you with his very botti botti bottiness

And overwhelm you with his very botti botti bottiness

And overwhelm you with his very botti botti botti bottiness!

Bot:

I’m awfully good at spin, I do insist on positivity

The plan, the facts be damned – I order you to go GOTV

In short, it matters not the issues or just where he stands on them

I am the very model of a pro-Obama partisan!

All:

In short, it matters not the issues or just where he stands on them

He is the very model of a pro-Obama partisan!

Bot:

The proper way to speak of him is always deferential

Those who come to praise him get the treatment preferential

My diaries range in scope from peppy rally to pictorial

Your comments welcome, but policed by those with rules dictorial

I’ll say that I’m a liberal while I act authoritarian

I claim the voice of reason while I speak like a contrarian

I shout down all debate with snide remarks about maturity

Take note of your ideals and thank you kindly for your purity!

All:

Take note of your ideals and thank you kindly for your purity

Take note of your ideals and thank you kindly for your purity

Take note of your ideals and thank you kindly for your purity!

Bot:

I can derail a thread with questions-mostly disingenuous

I do the verbal do-si-do with logic leaps most strenuous

In short, it matters not the issues or just where he stands on them

I am the very model of a pro-Obama partisan!

All:

In short, it matters not the issues or just where he stands on them

He is the very model of a pro-Obama partisan!

Bot:

In fact there is no act that I cannot quickly rat-ion-al-ize

No point I can’t dismiss or instantly infantilize

Here I say we must unite! to clear firebaggers from this place

Get in line, clap harder, now! or you never were “the base”

When I have learnt what progress has been made in dem blog politics

When I know more of tactics than a bunch of rapid response dicks

In short, when I’ve a smattering of elemental strategy

You’ll find no better pro-Obama bot that’s bottier than me!

All:

You’ll find no better pro-Obama bot that’s bottier than he

You’ll find no better pro-Obama bot that’s bottier than he

You’ll find no better pro-Obama bot that’s botty bottier than he!

Bot:

For my loyalty to man above both party and society

Blind faith up to the point where one must question my sobriety

And still it matters not the issues or just where he stands on them

I am the very model of a pro-Obama partisan!

All:

And still it matters not the issues or just where he stands on them

He is the very model of a pro-Obama partisan!

Nov 20 2014

TDS/TCR (Wormhole Xtreme!)

TDS TCR

What about bigger do you not understand?

Off the Table

Hey Nancy?  What Jon said.

The problem is not that he said it. The problem is that he thinks it. I’m serious. The core problem under the damn law is it was put together by a bunch of elitists who don’t really fundamentally understand the American people. That’s what the problem is.- Howard Dean

Reporto Gigante

The real news and this week’s guests below.

Nov 20 2014

Dispatches From Hellpeckersville- Missing Mom redux

Four years ago I wrote a piece for Chronic Tonic about missing my Mom, who is still here, by the way. In that time she has deteriorated a great deal. She no longer enjoys teevee, or knows what playing cards are for, let alone her poker hands. Hell, she doesn’t even really know me, but she does I’m something to her, she still loves me, and I her. But she’s been keeping me pretty busy so without further ado, I am re-running that piece, for those who may have missed it.