April 2015 archive

Why Free Trade Is Bad for America

President Barack Obama has asked congress to abrogate its constitutional responsibility to pass the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP) with little to no debate and no changes or amendments. At this time, the House does not have the votes to pass the fast track bill. He has met with resistance from his own party, going so far as to say that Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) was spreading misinformation and didn’t know what she was talking about, in other words, lying. In reality, it is the president who is lying to the American public to push a free trade bill, that appears to be worse than NAFTA which has nearly destroyed American manufacturing. Thanks to Wikileaks you can read some of the draft provisions here.

Sen. Warren has bee a leader in the fight to stop the fast tracking of TPP, she is now joined by Representative Alan Grayson (D-FL) to stop the TPP.

Watch This Democrat Make The Case For Why Obama’s New Free Trade Deal Would Be Awful For America

By Sam Levine, Huffington Post

After President Barack Obama accused critics of his proposed trade deal of being wrong on the facts, one member of Congress released a lengthy video explaining point-by-point why he believes free trade has hurt the United States and why a new deal would be even worse.

After facing vocal criticism from Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and other Democrats on his trade deal, called the Trans-Pacific Partnership, Obama accused the members of his own party of spreading misinformation. In a town hall last week, Obama challenged his critics, saying that he would be happy to debate them on the facts of the deal.

In a nine-minute video, which will be sent out to 1 million members of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee on Thursday morning, Rep. Alan Grayson (D-Fla.) seems to try to meet that challenge.

Free Trade More Like Fake Trade

Americans are creating tens of millions of jobs in other countries with our purchasing power, and we are losing tens of millions of jobs in our country, because foreigners are not buying as much of our goods and services.

What are they doing? They’re buying our assets. So we lose twice. We lose the jobs, and we are moving further toward national bankruptcy. That is the end game.

Sign the petition to Stop the TPP at Treachery.com

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

Trevor Timm: CIA’s torture experts now use their skills in secret drones program

The controversy over the CIA’s secret drone program has gone from bad to worse this week. We now know that many of those running it are the same people who headed the CIA’s torture program, the spy agency can bomb people unilaterally without the president’s explicit approval and that the government is keeping the entire program classified explicitly to prevent a federal court from ruling it illegal. And worst of all, Congress is perfectly fine with it.

The New York Times reported on Sunday that many of those in charge of the CIA’s torture program – the same people whose names were explicitly redacted from the Senate’s torture report in order to avert accountability – “have ascended to the agency’s powerful senior ranks” and now run the CIA drone program under the agency’s Counterterrorism Center. Rather than being fired and prosecuted, they have been rewarded with promotions.

Lonnae O’Neal
: Bothered by riots? Where’ve you been – for decades?

Question: Who thinks looting is bad?

Raise your hand if you know what happened to the Wall Street types who broke into the American economy, exploited every financial loophole, melted down mortgages, made off with people’s retirement funds, leaving taxpayers to bail them out in 2008.

Question: Do those billions constitute opportunistic looting?

Follow-up question: Do you think people in the inner city don’t notice what some of those folks ran out of the store with?

Raise your hand if you think the people streaming through the streets of Baltimore are thugs.

If so, question, and this is just an aside, then what word will some pundits use for Seattle Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman when he gets to bragging?

Raise your hand if you remember the 2011 uprisings in Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, Syria, Bahrain and Yemen to protest corrupt leaders, poverty, lack of jobs and systems that brutalize citizens, leaving them feeling unheard.

Nod if you understand that while we convene grand juries, open federal investigations and debate police rights and wrongs, sometimes the human condition spills beyond that debate.

And if you understand, deeply, that at some point, every pressurized system demands a release. Ferguson, New York, Cleveland, South Carolina, Sanford and Baltimore. Keep nodding.

Raise your hand if you think some might just call this the Urban Spring.

Matter of fact, holler if you hear me.

Bernie Sanders: So-called ‘free trade’ policies hurt US workers every time we pass them

Albert Einstein said that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. As the middle class continues to decline and the gap between the very rich and everyone else grows wider, we should keep that in mind as Congress debates the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), the largest trade agreement in American history.

Trade deals like the North American Free Trade Agreement (Nafta), the Central American Free Trade Agreement (Cafta) and the granting of Permanent Normal Trade Relations to China have been abysmal failures: they allowed corporations to shut down operations in the US and move work to low-wage countries where people are forced to work for pennies an hour; and they are one of the reasons that we have lost almost 60,000 factories in our country and millions of good-paying jobs since 2001.

The TPP is simply the continuation of a failed approach to trade – an approach which benefits large multinational corporations and Wall Street, but which is a disaster for working families. The TPP must be defeated, but our overall trade policy must also change for corporations to start investing in America and creating jobs here again, and not just in China and other low wage countries.

Dean Baker: The stock market isn’t in another bubble – yet

The stock market has recovered sharply from its lows during the 2008 financial crisis. All the major indices are at or near record highs. This has led many analysts to worry about a new bubble in the stock market. These concerns are misplaced.

Before going through the data, I should point out that I am not afraid to warn of bubbles. In the late 1990s, I clearly and repeatedly warned of a stock bubble. I argued that its collapse would likely lead to a recession, end the Bill Clinton-era budget surpluses and pose serious problems for pensions. In the last decade I sounded the dangers of the housing bubble as early as 2002. I recognize the dangers of bubbles and have been at the forefront of those calling attention to them. However, it is necessary to view the picture with clear eyes and not sound the alarm at every hint of froth. [..]

It is hard to make the case that current market valuations are driving the economy. Consumption is somewhat high relative to disposable income but not hugely out of line with past levels. And there is no investment boom in aggregate, even if some social media spending might be misguided.

This means that if the market were suddenly to plunge by 20 to 30 percent, we will see some unhappy shareholders, but it is unlikely to sink the economy. In short, this is not Round 3 of the bubble economy.

Jessica Valenti: College rapists should not be able to transfer schools to skip consequences

A bit of good news for college rapists: if you’ve been accused of sexual assault and don’t feel like sticking around to deal with the consequences on campus, you can simply transfer schools and no one will be the wiser. Thanks to a privacy law for students, young men accused of rape don’t even have to disclose the complaint to their new school.

Since we know that college rapists commit an average of six rapes during their time at school, these colleges – and this policy – are making it easier for sexual offenders to move on without consequence. And onto new victims. [..]

And while transfer applications also frequently ask students to reveal if they’ve been convicted of a crime, suspended or expelled, the fact that so few college rapists are punished beyond writing a research paper or letter of apology means it’s unlikely a rape accusation would ever be revealed.

Despite the threat of letting rapists simply college-hop to avoid detection and punishment, educational and even anti-rape activists are nervous about the idea of mandating disclosure of disciplinary infractions.

The Breakfast Club (The Great Language Wars, Strong and Weak Typing)

breakfast beers photo breakfastbeers.jpgIn the begining there was machine code, a series of ones and zeros that got entered directly into your computer in order to make it do useful stuff, but you need to take a step back in time to see how even that worked.

The fundamental operations of a general purpose computing machine are to accept a value, perform an operation on that value, and return the result.  Now the fact of the matter is that it’s complicated and tricky to get anything done with that since on this primitive level what you can mostly accomplish is turn 0s to 1s simply because they are 0s and vice versa.  On the other hand, since they can evaluate the input and produce a measurable result they are theoretically capable of solving any problem that can be solved by computation (see Alan Turing).

This is incredibly tedious.

The great break through is when you can work with more than one piece of information at a time, retrive and store the results and accept multiple instructions.  Both the instructions and the results are stored in what we commonly call memory and are loaded into the machine, operated on, and returned to memory.

Now there are all kinds of funny math tricks you can perform that look like addition and subtraction in a binary world as well as transformations based on values you examine, but a LOT of the instructions that even a simple computer will execute have to do with managing it’s work flow in terms of retrieving things from memory including the next action to perform.

The computer doesn’t care what its next activity is, in fact results, information yet to be processed, and instructions all look exactly the same so the prospect of writing instructions (self modifying code) based on previous processing is absurdly easy.

And you may think this is a good thing rather than a bad one because of course you want your computer to be responsive to the fact that the result of the previous operation was 4 rather than 5 but in practice a whole lot of programmers would forget just exactly they were trying to accomplish and the pointer that told the computer where to get the next instruction would end up directing it somewhere the value was not just wrong, but random.

So hardware came to make a distinction between programs and operational data, but because it is so damn useful sometimes to make an exception it’s more a guideline than a rule.

In the 50s, 60s, and 70s programming itself kind of branched between those who were mostly interested in getting the damn things to work at all and those who were more interested in practical results.  This led to the rise of symbolic languages of the types most programmers today would recognize like COBOL, FORTRAN, and BASIC.

All these seminal languages had the great virtue of seeming more like real English than POP and MOV and didn’t actually care how many registers you had or the exact bit width, and the instruction pointer was not easily spoofed (though try a recursive subroutine sometime, I dare you).

COBOL is in most implemetations a strongly typed language.  I remember an interminable amount of time being devoted to analyzing exactly what data would be needed to solve the problem and what types of values would be acceptable.

Because that is the BIG difference between a strongly typed and a weakly typed language.  Without specifically stating that you are going to transform your data from one type to another, from numbers you can add and subtract to characters you can alphabetize for instance, a STRONGLY typed language will reject your program and refuse to work at all if you attempt to perform a disallowed operation for that type of data.

FORTRAN and BASIC are weakly typed and BASIC doesn’t even require that you pre-declare variables.  It just assigns them on the fly based on what it thinks is appropriate.  They both operate on them whatever way you tell them you want and if you add ‘A’ and ‘B’ unless they are previously assigned values as symbols for a memory location (variables) your result will be 131 and if you subtract ‘A’ from ‘B’, 1.

This is incredibly handy for certain types of operations.

In the early 80s there was a great debate between supporters of COBOL strongly typed programming and weakly typed programming.  The standard bearers of strong typing were PASCAL and Modula 2, the champions of weak typing, BASIC and C (actually older than BASIC but not nearly as popular).

Looking back from a perspective of 30 years (and oh yes I have my news stand copy of the August 1984 Byte) I think we can declare weak typing the clear victor.

As a practical matter (and I have written and maintained hundreds of thousands of lines of code) with any of the “unstructured”, “weakly typed” languages you can be as structured as you want to be and I’m a great believer in structure.  But you don’t have to, and that is the beauty part of the craft languages as opposed to the academic ones.  The academic languages mitigate in favor of comprehensive analysis in advance of practical application and the craft languages…

Well, they solve problems.

Today, when I write poetry for machines, I do it in ‘C’ which has useful concepts like structures which are containers for disparate types of data and pointers which can point to anything from a value to a sub-routine.

And this big A?  It stand for Anarchist.

 photo 125px-Anarchy-symbolsvg.png

Science Oriented Video

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)

Science News and Blogs

Obligatories, News and Blogs below.

On This Day In History April 30

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

April 30 is the 120th day of the year (121st in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 245 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1900, Jones dies in a train wreck in Vaughn, Mississippi, while trying to make up time on the Cannonball Express.

John Luther (“Casey”) Jones (March 14, 1863 – April 30, 1900) was an American railroad engineer from Jackson, Tennessee, who worked for the Illinois Central Railroad (IC). On April 30, 1900, he alone was killed when his passenger train, the “Cannonball Express,” collided with a stalled freight train at Vaughan, Mississippi, on a foggy and rainy night.

His dramatic death, trying to stop his train and save lives, made him a hero; he was immortalized in a popular ballad sung by his friend Wallace Saunders, an African American engine wiper for the IC.


On April 29, 1900 Jones was at Poplar Street Station in Memphis, Tennessee, having driven the No. 2 from Canton (with his assigned Engine No. 382 ). Normally, Jones would have stayed in Memphis on a layover; however, he was asked to take the No. 1 back to Canton, as the scheduled engineer (Sam Tate), who held the regular run of Trains No. 1 (known as “The Chicago & New Orleans Limited”, later to become the famous “Panama Limited”) and No. 4 (“The New Orleans Fast Mail”) with his assigned Engine No. 382, had called in sick with cramps. Jones loved challenges and was determined to “get her there on the advertised” time no matter how difficult it looked.

A fast engine, a good fireman (Simeon T. Webb would be the train’s assigned fireman), and a light train were ideal for a record-setting run. Although it was raining, steam trains of that era operated best in damp conditions. However, the weather was quite foggy that night (which reduced visibility), and the run was well-known for its tricky curves. Both conditions would prove deadly later that night.

Normally the No. 1 would depart Memphis at 11:15 PM and arrive in Canton (188 miles to the south) at 4:05 AM the following morning. However, due to the delays with the change in engineers, the No. 1 (with six cars) did not leave Memphis until 12:50 am, 95 minutes behind schedule.

The first section of the run would take Jones from Memphis 100 miles south to Grenada, Mississippi, with an intermediate water stop at Sardis, Mississippi (50 miles into the run), over a new section of light and shaky rails at speeds up to 80 mph (129 km/h). At Senatobia, Mississippi (40 miles into the run) Jones passed through the scene of a prior fatal accident from the previous November. Jones made his water stop at Sardis, then arrived at Grenada for more water, having made up 55 minutes of the 95 minute delay.

Jones made up another 15 minutes in the 25-mile stretch from Grenada to Winona, Mississippi. The following 30-mile stretch (Winona to Durant, Mississippi) had no speed-restricted curves. By the time he got to Durant (155 miles into the run) Jones was almost on time. He was quite happy, saying at one point “Sim, the old girl’s got her dancing slippers on tonight!” as he leaned on the Johnson bar.

At Durant he received new orders to take to the siding at Goodman, Mississippi (eight miles south of Durant, and 163 miles into the run) and wait for the No. 2 passenger train to pass, and then continue on to Vaughan. His orders also instructed him that he was to meet passenger train No. 26 at Vaughan (15 miles south of Goodman, and 178 miles into the run); however, No. 26 was a local passenger train in two sections and would be in the siding, so he would have priority over it. Jones pulled out of Goodman, only five minutes behind schedule, and with 25 miles of fast track ahead Jones doubtless felt that he had a good chance to make it to Canton by 4:05 AM “on the advertised”.

But the stage was being set for a tragic wreck at Vaughan. The stopped double-header freight train No. 83 (located to the north and headed south) and the stopped long freight train No. 72 (located to the south and headed north) were both in the passing track to the east of the main line but there were more cars than the track could hold, forcing some of them to overlap onto the main line above the north end of the switch. The northbound local passenger train No. 26 had arrived from Canton earlier which had required a “saw by” in order for it to get to the “house track” west of the main line. The saw by maneuver for No. 26 required that No. 83 back up and allow No. 72 to move northward and pull its overlapping cars off the south end, allowing No. 26 to gain access to the house track. But this left four cars overlapping above the north end of the switch and on the main line right in Jones’ path. As a second saw by was being prepared to let Jones pass, an air hose broke on No. 72, locking its brakes and leaving the last four cars of No. 83 on the main line.

Meanwhile, Jones was almost back on schedule, running at about 75 miles per hour toward Vaughan, unaware of the danger ahead, since he was traveling through a 1.5-mile left-hand curve which blocked his view. Webb’s view from the left side of the train was better, and he was first to see the red lights of the caboose on the main line. “Oh my Lord, there’s something on the main line!” he yelled to Jones. Jones quickly yelled back “Jump Sim, jump!” to Webb, who crouched down and jumped about 300 feet before impact and was knocked unconscious. The last thing Webb heard when he jumped was the long, piercing scream of the whistle as Jones tried to warn anyone still in the freight train looming ahead. He was only two minutes behind schedule about this time.

Jones reversed the throttle and slammed the airbrakes into emergency stop, but “Ole 382” quickly plowed through a wooden caboose, a car load of hay, another of corn and half way through a car of timber before leaving the track. He had amazingly reduced his speed from about 75 miles per hour to about 35 miles per hour when he impacted with a deafening crunch of steel against steel and splintering wood. Because Jones stayed on board to slow the train, he no doubt saved the passengers from serious injury and death (Jones himself was the only fatality of the collision). His watch was found to be stopped at the time of impact which was 3:52 AM on April 30, 1900. Popular legend holds that when his body was pulled from the wreckage of his train near the twisted rail his hands still clutched the whistle cord and the brake. A stretcher was brought from the baggage car on No. 1 and crewmen of the other trains carried his body to the depot ½-mile away.

The Daily/Nightly Show (Fake News)

Yo’ Momma

Tonightly- is “thug” the new n-word?  More on the Baltimore unrest.  You stop being racist and I’ll stop talking about it.  Our panel is BobCostas, Charlamagne, Chloe A. Hillard, and Dios MiGos.

Larry really books the obscure guests.  Get a Wiki page you dopes!


Hasan Minhaj

Oh, and a little Trevor Noah (not his best work I’m afraid).

This week’s guests-

On The Daily Show we continue our parade of media whores, con men, and liars with Judith Miller who has as much blood on her hands as William Randolph Hearst.

Journalism is not a profession or a trade. It is a cheap catch-all for fuckoffs and misfits — a false doorway to the backside of life, a filthy piss-ridden little hole nailed off by the building inspector, but just deep enough for a wino to curl up from the sidewalk and masturbate like a chimp in a zoo-cage.


George Stephanopoulos, another asshole who got a web exclusive extended interview.  It and the real news below.

The All American Sport

Since the protests in Baltimore over the death of a 25 year old black man while in police custody have closed the streets around the Baltimore Orioles’ home playground, Camden Yards, the team has had to cancel two games. At ESPN, a sports news media conglomerate, radio host Brett Hollander got onto a Twitter exchange with Orioles COO John Angelos, who schooled Mr. Hollander on the importance of the Constitutional right to protest the racial and economic inequalities in America. This is the transcribed Tweets by Mr. Angelos that were posted This is the transcribed Tweets by Mr. Angelos that were transcribed here for clarity by USA Today Sports:

Brett, speaking only for myself, I agree with your point that the principle of peaceful, non-violent protest and the observance of the rule of law is of utmost importance in any society. MLK, Gandhi, Mandela and all great opposition leaders throughout history have always preached this precept. Further, it is critical that in any democracy, investigation must be completed and due process must be honored before any government or police members are judged responsible.

   That said, my greater source of personal concern, outrage and sympathy beyond this particular case is focused neither upon one night’s property damage nor upon the acts, but is focused rather upon the past four-decade period during which an American political elite have shipped middle class and working class jobs away from Baltimore and cities and towns around the U.S. to third-world dictatorships like China and others, plunged tens of millions of good, hard-working Americans into economic devastation, and then followed that action around the nation by diminishing every American’s civil rights protections in order to control an unfairly impoverished population living under an ever-declining standard of living and suffering at the butt end of an ever-more militarized and aggressive surveillance state.

   The innocent working families of all backgrounds whose lives and dreams have been cut short by excessive violence, surveillance, and other abuses of the Bill of Rights by government pay the true price, and ultimate price, and one that far exceeds the importances of any kids’ game played tonight, or ever, at Camden Yards. We need to keep in mind people are suffering and dying around the U.S., and while we are thankful no one was injured at Camden Yards, there is a far bigger picture for poor Americans in Baltimore and everywhere who don’t have jobs and are losing economic civil and legal rights, and this makes inconvenience at a ballgame irrelevant in light of the needless suffering government is inflicting upon ordinary Americans.

ESPN’s TV host, Keith Olbermann also weighed in on the side of Mr. Angelos praising him for his “elegant response”.

“Without protesters inconveniencing non-protesters, indeed with protest, you wouldn’t have a Declaration of Independence, a Constitution or a First Amendment to misquote that way,” Olbermann told Hollander on his show Tuesday night, before turning to the “far more elegant and serious” response from Angelos.

“In a time of trouble, when owners tend to dissolve behind spokesman and generalities,” Olbermann commended Angelos for his comprehensive reply. The host noted that the tweets were written on Saturday before the violence escalated, but said, “That a sports team owner should make that point, that he should act as if his city and the citizens that city represents, all its citizens, were more than just a name to stick on the team’s road uniforms, that is a rare thing indeed.” [..]

“This is not to applaud, condone or minimize violence against authority or by it. But if you are somehow ticked off that the Orioles aren’t playing, while they aren’t, maybe go reread with John Angelos wrote, “Olbermann concluded. “And at least rid yourself of the idea that the protesters are just doing this because they feel like it.”

Today the Orioles will play the Chicago White Sox in a home game in front of an empty stadium.  


Nonviolence as Compliance

Ta-Nehisi Coates, The Atlantic

Apr 27, 2015

I turn on the news and I see politicians calling for young people in Baltimore to remain peaceful and “nonviolent.” These well-intended pleas strike me as the right answer to the wrong question. To understand the question, it’s worth remembering what, specifically, happened to Freddie Gray. An officer made eye contact with Gray. Gray, for unknown reasons, ran. The officer and his colleagues then detained Gray. They found him in possession of a switchblade. They arrested him while he yelled in pain. And then, within an hour, his spine was mostly severed. A week later, he was dead. What specifically was the crime here? What particular threat did Freddie Gray pose? Why is mere eye contact and then running worthy of detention at the hands of the state? Why is Freddie Gray dead?

The people now calling for nonviolence are not prepared to answer these questions. Many of them are charged with enforcing the very policies that led to Gray’s death, and yet they can offer no rational justification for Gray’s death and so they appeal for calm.

When nonviolence is preached as an attempt to evade the repercussions of political brutality, it betrays itself. When nonviolence begins halfway through the war with the aggressor calling time out, it exposes itself as a ruse. When nonviolence is preached by the representatives of the state, while the state doles out heaps of violence to its citizens, it reveals itself to be a con. And none of this can mean that rioting or violence is “correct” or “wise,” any more than a forest fire can be “correct” or “wise.” Wisdom isn’t the point tonight. Disrespect is. In this case, disrespect for the hollow law and failed order that so regularly disrespects the community.

Baltimore’s violent protesters are right: Smashing police cars is a legitimate political strategy

by Benji Hart, Salon

Tuesday, Apr 28, 2015 10:08 AM EST

I’m overwhelmed by the pervasive slandering of protesters in Baltimore this weekend for not remaining peaceful. The bad-apple rhetoric would have us believe that most Baltimore protesters are demonstrating the right way-as is their constitutional right-and only a few are disrupting the peace, giving the movement a bad name.

This spin should be disregarded, first because of the virtual media blackout of any of the action happening on the ground, particularly over the weekend. Equally, it makes no sense to cite the Constitution in any demonstration for Black civil rights (that document was not written about us, remember?), but certainly not one organized specifically to call attention to the fact that the state breaks its own laws with regard to the oppressed on a nearly constant basis.

Non-violence is a type of political performance designed to raise awareness and win over sympathy of those with privilege. When those on the outside of struggle-the white, the wealthy, the straight, the able-bodied, the masculine-have demonstrated repeatedly that they do not care, are not invested, are not going to step in the line of fire to defend the oppressed, this is a futile political strategy. It not only fails to meet the needs of the community, but actually puts oppressed people in further danger of violence.

Militance is about direct action which defends our communities from violence. It is about responses which meet the political goals of our communities in the moment, and deal with the repercussions as they come. It is about saying no, firmly drawing and holding boundaries, demanding the return of stolen resources. And from Queer Liberation and Black Power to centuries-old movements for Native sovereignty and anti-colonialism, it is how virtually all of our oppressed movements were sparked, and has arguably gained us the only real political victories we’ve had under the rule of empire.

We need to clarify what we mean by terms like “violence” and “peaceful.” Because, to be clear, violence is beating, harassing, tazing, assaulting and shooting Black, trans, immigrant, women, and queer people, and that is the reality many of us are dealing with daily. Telling someone to be peaceful and shaming their militance not only lacks a nuanced and historical political understanding, it is literally a deadly and irresponsible demand.

When the free market, real estate, the elected government, the legal system have all shown you they are not going to protect you-in fact, that they are the sources of the greatest violence you face-then political action becomes about stopping the machine that is trying to kill you, even if only for a moment, getting the boot off your neck, even if it only allows you a second of air. This is exactly what blocking off streets, disrupting white consumerism, and destroying state property are designed to do.

Black people know this, and have employed these tactics for a very, very long time. Calling them uncivilized, and encouraging them to mind the Constitution is racist, and as an argument fails to ground itself not only in the violent political reality in which Black people find themselves, but also in our centuries-long tradition of resistance, one that has taught effective strategies for militance and direct action to virtually every other current movement for justice.

And while I don’t believe that every protester involved in attacking police cars and corporate storefronts had the same philosophy, or did what they did for the same reasons, it cannot be discounted that when there is a larger national outcry in defense of plate-glass windows and car doors than for Black young people, a point is being made. When there is more concern for white sports fans in the vicinity of a riot than the Black people facing off with police, there is mounting justification for the rage and pain of Black communities in this country.

I rolled my eyes when inquiries in Ferguson “shockingly” revealed racist emails sent throughout local government, including higher-ups in the Police Department. I think many of us knew the inquiry of virtually any police department would yield almost identical findings. The riots in Baltimore have many drawing parallels between policy and conduct in both cities now. What kind of action brought to light for the less affected what Black people have always known? What kinds of actions will it take to make it widely understood that all policing is racist terror, and justice can only come with its permanent abolition?

Is Violence Ever Justified? Does Violence Ever Solve Anything?

by Ian Welsh

2015 April 28

I notice a fair number of sweet, well-meaning people saying “violence is never justified.”

In practical terms, that must mean that you believe that every politician who voted for war is more unethical than any rioter. You must believe that George W. Bush and Barack Obama are far fouler individuals than any rioter.

Ethical outrage must be proportionate to the violence and the violence in Baltimore is nothing compared to the scale of the Iraq War, or Afghanistan, or drone murders. Nor is it anything compared to the scale of police violence against Americans, especially African-Americans.

What most people really mean is that they condemn non-state sanctioned violence, except sometimes, like, say, in the American Revolution, or the Maidan protests.

In fact, they approve of some violence and not of other violence. Most such people, were you to dig down hard enough, are hypocrites, but some aren’t, even if one disagrees with them. If you were to allow the USSR the right to crush revolutions along with the US, and condemn the American revolution, you wouldn’t be a hypocrite, just not a very nice person.

Trying to argue about popular will and/or democracy is a slippery road, mind. For example, the numbers on the American revolution with which I’m familiar don’t show the majority of the population being for leaving British rule. Maidan overthrew a democratically elected government in the Ukraine and the French revolution was made by the Paris mob, while most people living in rural areas of France (the vast majority of the population) would have preferred to keep the Ancien Regime.

Relatedly, violence often does solve problems. The Native Americans cleansed from North America were “problems” to the settlers, and violence dealt with that problem just fine. Fascist Germany was a problem to most non-German countries, Jews, Gypsies, Socialists, Gays, and many others and violence solved that problem. Carthage was a problem to Republican Rome and violence solved that problem.

And riots, rather better organized than the Baltimore ones, granted, solved the Parisian problem with the old Regime, while the Terror, terrible as it was, did make sure that there was to be no going back-even if France was to alternate between Republics and Empires for some time.

Violence often solves problems and it often does so rather permanently.

Dispatches From Hellpeckersville-Inch By Inch

It’s bad enough to lose your mom mentally to dementia, for her to not know you’re her daughter, for her to not know your kids that she used to love so much, but now she’s starting to fail physically. The UTI that a few years ago wouldn’t have made her miss a beat, damn near landed her a stay in the hospital last week. It did land us in the ER for five hours, and she’s still not steady on her feet.

I knew something was very wrong, but I wasn’t sure what. It started with her becoming increasingly shaky and being very quiet. Quiet is not like her. I told my father that we had to get her seen, that she wasn’t drinking enough, that she was having trouble even feeding herself. He seemed hesitant, not sure what to do, so I called my sister Sissy for back up. Sissy came and we carried our mother down thee steps and out to the car and straight to the ER. All the while me promising her that it would be all right, that I would not leave her.

They came to the car and took her right back, and I was able to stay with her the entire time. They wrapped her in warm blankets, took blood, and started hooking mom up-this she did not like. I held her hand through almost all of it, and that was good because she really wanted to pull that IV. I kept telling her that it would just be for a little while, that if all went well we’d go home soon. Her eyes, it was all in there, the fear and the trust, and I told myself how bad I would hate me if they decided to keep her.

But we were lucky, half-way through the IV fluids she started to perk up a bit. She told me my sister’s ass was fat. There’s the feisty mommy I’ve grown used to! The doctor ordered an IV antibiotic and some potassium drink. He told us that they could keep her, and as my sister and I both shook our heads no, he said he felt that since it was not life threatening and that being in a strange place would be more upsetting than beneficial, we could take her home so long as we strictly followed up on his orders. Of course we would. I said, “See that? I told you we would get you fixed up and back home.” She smiled at me finally.

We were able to walk her up the steps by the time she got home, but it’s been up and down since then. Saturday morning she seemed well on the mend when she went out for follow up blood work, but by that evening she was again having trouble walking and feeding herself. We wheeled her to the steps in a computer chair and Cleetus got behind her and carried her up, my dad reached for her arm and she snapped, “Don’t you fucking touch me!” I stood there trying to reconcile how she was being carried by the man she’s been kicking out of the house every chance she gets for the past year and slapping away help from the man she loves.

But there’s no real reconciling of any of this, the not knowing what we’re going to face day to day, my fathers’ initial inability to act, the helpless despair in his eyes as he told me he maybe could have carried her, that he used to be able to just whisk her up and carry her anywhere…none of it, there’s just the dull ache of inevitable acceptance. I tell him, “Dad, I know, but you just can’t risk it now, Cleetus is plenty strong, he doesn’t mind, let him help.”

There’s a stairlft in our future. And probably a transport chair. I can’t have her isolated to that bedroom if she doesn’t have to be.  

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.

Wednesday is Ladies’ Day.

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

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Katrina vanden Heuvel: A progressive’s lament about the Trans-Pacific Partnership

It has come to this. To sell his trade treaty – specifically the fast-track trade authority that would grease the skids for passage of the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement (TPP), President Obama is mobilizing a coalition anchored by corporate lobbies, the Chamber of Commerce and Republican congressional leadership. He is opposed by the majority of Democratic legislators, the labor movement and a broad array of mainstream environmental, consumer and citizen organizations.

Democrats are stunned by the intensity of the lobbying effort mounted by the administration. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), a staunch supporter of the president, noted that Democrats have been “talked to, approached, lobbied and maybe cajoled by more Cabinet members on this issue than any issue since Barack Obama’s been president. That’s just sad. I wish they put the same effort into minimum wage. I wish they put the same effort into Medicare at 55. I wish they put the same effort into some consumer strengthening on Dodd-Frank.” [..]

This president has often exhibited less patience with criticism from his base (what his former press secretary, Robert Gibbs, once scorned as the “professional left“) than from the right. I met Obama when he was a candidate for president. On learning that I was editor of the Nation, he said to me, “The perfect is the enemy of good.” Perhaps he expected me to disagree. I don’t. I accept the need, at times, to accept half a loaf if that is all that is possible. But the compromise has to be based on principle; the half step forward has to be pointing in the right direction.

On the TPP, however, President Obama’s critics aren’t making the perfect the enemy of the good. They are raising fundamental questions about the thrust of our trade policies. The compromises won’t help when we’re headed in the wrong direction.

Faiza Patel: NSA data collection program must end

Senate Republicans are seeking to extend controversial section of the Patriot Act. It should be allowed to expire

The Senate’s Republican leadership has convinced itself that the revelations of former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden were just a bad dream. Last week Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and the chairman of the Senate’s powerful Intelligence Committee, Richard Burr, R-N.C., introduced a bill that would extend the NSA’s program to amass a database of Americans’ telephone records for five years. Unlike the numerous bills that have been introduced since Snowden disclosed this operation, the McConnell-Burr measure makes no effort to address the bipartisan concerns raised by policymakers and experts. [..]

Americans understand the risks these programs pose to their privacy. Several polls have been conducted to gauge people’s attitudes about electronic surveillance. While the results vary somewhat, the clear trend in the last two years is that the public is increasingly uneasy about digital intrusions of unprecedented scale.

The United States faces a range of threats, and intelligence and law enforcement agencies should have the tools to face them. But such tools should be effective and constitutional. The phone records program being pushed by the Senate leadership is neither. Instead of wasting the limited time left before Congress goes on recess, McConnell and Burr should be working to fix the Patriot Act, not blindly endorse it.

Belén Fernández: Baltimore’s disgrace is its history of police violence

After Saturday’s full day of peaceful protests in Baltimore calling for justice for Freddie Gray – the 25-year-old who recently died of a spinal injury suffered while in police custody – some protesters opted Saturday evening and Sunday to pursue more hands-on expressions of frustration. On Monday, the day of Gray’s memorial service, public tensions led to rioting in West Baltimore that continued into the evening. [..]

When crowds turned to rioting on Monday, CNN legal analyst and New Yorker contributor Jeffrey Toobin took the opportunity on Anderson Cooper 360 to denounce the city. “Protest is an honorable thing; looting and criminality are not,” he said. “Baltimore disgraced itself today.” For Toobin, it’s as if nothing disgraceful or criminal happened before Monday, as if the city’s long history of racist police violence weren’t disgrace enough to be worth comment. On the receiving end of that violence have been teenagers, pregnant women, and octogenarian grandmothers.

Finally, the media found, the protesters were behaving according to the script – the one that casts black communities in America as powder kegs that can be contained only by the cops. Never mind that chucking hot dog buns and condiments at police and smashing up police vehicles and store windows is inherently less destructive, at least in terms of human life, than fatally severing a person’s spinal cord or shooting an unarmed man multiple times in the back. The latter two operations were performed under the sanction of U.S. law enforcement, whose behavior, no matter how outrageous, is still defended from public outrage by media and politicians alike.

Guinevere E. Moore: US border agents shouldn’t have the courts’ permission to shoot people in Mexico

If you shoot an unarmed teenage boy in the head, 3 days of administrative leave isn’t nearly enough punishment

A United States court has all but declared open season on Mexican nationals along the US-Mexico border. Border patrol agents may shoot foreign nationals in Mexico with impunity – provided that those at whom they aim are standing within feet of US territory.

According to a ruling by the US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit last week, agents who shoot and kill people in Mexico while standing on US soil will never be held to account, except before their administrative agencies. No court will ever review these actions and the families of the victims will be left with no avenue for justice. An agent’s actions will not be governed or restrained by the constitution nor subject to review by US courts.

This isn’t a hypothetic situtation: all of this has already happened.

Michelle Chen: Is the Tide Turning Against Water Privatization?

The rusty pipes running through the rough neighborhoods of Lagos reveal how Nigeria’s flood of petrol dollars trickles down: as much as 80 percent of the water is estimated to be “stolen” in a system plagued by mismanagement and failed privatization schemes. But now help is coming accidentally from the World Bank-the financial institution better known for financing mass displacement of slum residents. Its investment arm is inadvertently bringing a small spark of hope to Lagos-not because of what it’s funding, but what it isn’t. Apparently, it’s finally starting to back off the agenda of corporatizing the city’s water. [..]

These programs are fueled by a neoliberal development model based on the notion that private markets are the most rational way to distribute resources. But, while privatization is certainly an efficient way for rich companies to extract wealth from the poor, many experts say that, in fact, public, municipally managed water systems tend to work more effectively and distribute water services more equitably among those who most need them.

The collapse of the World Bank’s Lagos PPP talks may point toward a global trend toward remunicipalization of water services in recent years, as many localities that have experimented with privatization have found that public services are actually more cost-efficient in the long run.

Dani McClain: Black Women Aren’t Just Secondary Casualties of Aggressive Policing

Last week, The New York Times published a much-discussed analysis of Census data under a headline claiming that 1.5 million black men are “missing” from daily life in America. Because of punitive and racially targeted criminal justice policies and factors leading to premature death (including declining but high homicide rates), huge swaths of black men are tucked away in prison cells or early graves. The study found that for every 100 black women in the United States who are not in jail, there are 83 black men in the same category. Among white Americans there’s barely a gap, with just one missing man for every 100 women.

The Times‘ graphics and reporting are fascinating, but analysis veered off into shallow and well-trod territory, concluding that a primary outcome of these “disappeared” men is that black families are set up for dysfunction because too few men are around to be husbands and fathers. Through this lens, the systemic assault on black lives hurts black women because they’re left alone in to raise families on their own.

The Breakfast Club ( Louie Louie)

Welcome to The Breakfast Club! We’re a disorganized group of rebel lefties who hang out and chat if and when we’re not too hungover  we’ve been bailed out we’re not too exhausted from last night’s (CENSORED) the caffeine kicks in. Join us every weekday morning at 9am (ET) and weekend morning at 10:30am (ET) to talk about current news and our boring lives and to make fun of LaEscapee! If we are ever running late, it’s PhilJD’s fault.

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This Day in History

Rioting hits Los Angeles after four white officers are acquitted of most charges in beating of Rodney King; Dachau concentration camp liberated; Jerry Seinfeld born.

Breakfast Tunes

RIP Jack Ely 1943 – 2015

Something to Think about over Coffee Prozac

It take many a year, mon, and maybe some bloodshed must be, but righteousness someday prevail.

Bob Marley

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