04/23/2015 archive

Into the Fire

Syriza’s Choice: Bail on the People or the Troika

Greece’s Yanis Varoufakis: The Medicine of Austerity Is Not Working, We Need a New Treatment

Greece Flashes Warning Signals About Its Debt

By LANDON THOMAS Jr., The New York Times

APRIL 19, 2015

As the eurozone braced for the prospect of a default, financial markets were jittery last week and Greece’s own short-term borrowing costs were soaring. Repercussions of such a default are so difficult to predict that European officials have spent the last five years trying to avoid one.

After two international bailouts for Greece since 2010, about 90 percent of its debt is owed to its eurozone neighbors, the I.M.F. and the European Central Bank. At the moment, not one of those lenders is showing a willingness to give any additional payback relief to Mr. Varoufakis and the new left-leaning government in Athens.

Mr. Varoufakis’s next formal meeting with his country’s creditors is set for Friday in Riga, Latvia, where eurozone finance ministers are to assemble for their monthly gathering. Wolfgang Schäuble, the powerful German finance minister, said here last week that no one should expect the meeting on April 24 to resolve anything.

Unless the creditors agree soon to release the next allotment of bailout money, Greece could have trouble making a $763 million payment to the I.M.F. on May 12. It almost certainly would not be able to meet the €11 billion in payments to the European Central Bank, the I.M.F. and payments on Treasury bills in June and July.

Mr. Varoufakis’s main message in Washington was that Greece was doing its best to carry out painful economic overhauls called for under the bailout program, while remaining true to his government’s anti-austerity mandate. “We know we are bound to a program,” Mr. Varoufakis said in an interview late last week, before his private meeting with Mr. Buchheit. “But there is another principle here: democracy.”

When Mr. Varoufakis flew on short notice to Washington on Easter Sunday to ask Ms. Lagarde for some payment flexibility, he said publicly that Greece intended to meet its obligations. The statement at the time was taken as a commitment by Greece to do whatever it took to pay the I.M.F. and others.

Privately, however, Mr. Varoufakis told colleagues in Washington last week that he purposefully used the word “intend” as opposed to “will” in his public statements on Greece’s payment plans, according to people close to the finance minister who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

Mr. Varoufakis is also well aware that if Greece continues to meet its payment schedule as currently mapped out, the country will end up paying about 12 percent of its gross domestic product to its creditors during his first term as finance minister.

He has said that such a dynamic is not sustainable for a left-wing government elected on a platform of putting the interest of Greece’s electorate before its creditors. The country was just emerging from a deep recession before the January elections and is thought to be slumping back into one.

But many outside experts are saying that the cycle of creditor-imposed austerity in Greece must stop and that the only clean way to alleviate it would be through a significant debt cut.

“Greece’s official-sector debt should be forgiven,” said Ashoka Mody, a former senior economist at the I.M.F. who oversaw the fund’s austerity program in Ireland. “And we really need to get rid of this Washington-Berlin-Brussels supervision of Greece – this is the most corrosive part of the arrangement, and it undermines both Greece and Europe.”

Greece Endgame Nears

By Yves Smith, Naked Capitalism

Thursday, 23 April 2015 11:16

Despite the market jitters of last Friday, which were triggered in part by the recognition that the odds of Greece reaching a deal with its creditors are far lower than had been widely assumed, Greek-related coverage has ratcheted down, even as Greece seems certain not to get any funds released in the April 24 Eurogroup meeting and is very likely to miss the end of April deadline for getting its reforms approved by the Troika and Eurogroup.

But the official enforcers have gotten even firmer in their position: Greece must do its homework, as in prepare detailed reforms, and has to hew closely to the existing structural reforms. Christine Lagarde of the IMF last week increased the pressure by saying it would not give Greece a grace period on its payments coming due, as some had hoped.

Never mind that Greece has actually done more in the way of complying than any other European victim and has also shown the worst economic results. Various European officials have stated that they’d rather not have Greece default but they are not prepared to cut Greece any favors in order to avert that outcome. Making sure Greece complies, in other words, is worth the cost of what they believe will be short-term disruption. And they clearly don’t care one iota as far as the cost in Greek lives is concerned.

It’s puzzling to see the Greek government’s apparent failure to acknowledge that the Troika is effectively insisting that it cross its famed “red lines” such as pension “reform” and implementing labor “reform” which means further lowering wage rates. With another government, there could well be important jockeying going on behind the scenes, but heretofore, the ruling coalition has been disconcertingly open about its schisms. And Tsipras still seems to be hostage to the more radical representatives, who represent one-third of Syriza’s block. If they bolt, he no longer has a working coalition.

But if the government plans to hold firm, it really should impose capital controls, which would allow it to talk more openly to the public about what will happen if they do not reach a deal with their creditors. Similarly, if Syriza were to call referendum to convince its creditors that Greece really will default (and maybe exit) if they don’t budge (something the lenders seem to understand full well), it is similarly not clear how they can campaign candidly with no financial firewalls in place.

It is still astonishing that the European elites have convinced themselves that adhering to the procedures used to implement clearly unsuccessful austerity programs are so important as to justify creating a failed state. Is this what the European project stands for? It’s sadistic and destructive, but there seem to be no cooler heads who can deter the power players, the ECB and the IMF, from this course of action.

Greek default? Wall Street says don’t risk it

By Ben White, Politico

4/23/15 12:31 AM EDT

Some say they are not as freaked out as they were in 2012 about the prospect of always-in-crisis Greece getting kicked out of the eurozone, which could happen if a deal isn’t reached quickly. Some would even like to let the Greeks go and move on with life.

But then people mention Lehman Brothers. And the Russian default. And even an assassination in Sarajevo in 1914. And theoretical discussion of how better prepared the world is for a Greek exit quickly turns into fevered rumination on how it still might spark global financial Armageddon.

Investors got a taste of just how risky a Greek default and possible euro exit could be last Friday when reports that a deal might not be reached helped spark a global sell-off that at one point saw the Dow Jones Industrial Average down over 300 points. Interest rates on Greek debt also rose to two-year highs.

Rates on other European debt, including the debts of Portugal and Italy, also initially rose before ECB buying kicked in, suggesting that if Greece falls, investors could then start to punish other nations viewed as vulnerable to default. Spiking rates could turn once manageable debt loads into crushing burdens.

Fears over this kind of vicious cycle leave many big Wall Street money managers and executives skeptical of the argument that the world is now prepared for a Greek exit and that such an outcome might actually be preferable to going through these near misses over and over.

These money managers say that if Greece does wind up leaving the eurozone, it will probably not be a “Grexit” at all. That phrase, they say, connotes an orderly process in which the country’s euros are carefully replaced with drachma and nobody panics and pulls all their money out of the bank.

Instead, many Wall Street executives say it’s more likely that a Greek departure would be an accident – now known on Wall Street as a “Graccident” – in which the county is forced out of the eurozone by bank runs and a collapse in investor confidence.

“If a ‘Graccident’ were to occur, it would be very messy,” said Mohamed A. El-Erian, chief economic adviser at global money management firm Allianz. “And the global economy is still too fragile to take a major shock. The good news is that Europe has done a lot to increase its defenses against contagion. But it could still be very dangerous to stumble into an accident.”

The case for not caring much about a “Grexit” holds that most of the nation’s debt is now held by other countries rather than banks, making financial system failures less likely. Meanwhile, European economic growth is picking up and should be able to withstand a period of turbulence, this line of thinking holds. And Greece has a tiny economy whose collapse would cause localized pain but register barely a blip around the globe.

Some top executives on Wall Street argue that it would be much worse for creditors to cave in to demands for more lenient terms from Greek’s anti-austerity political leaders. Because that would mean other debtor nations would also soon clamor for relief. Better to rip the bandage off and put an end to the charade that Greece will ever pay back all its loans.

But the more widely held view – in Washington and on Wall Street – is that while Europe has, indeed, built more firewalls and reduced private-sector exposure to Greek debt, the unknown reaction to a “Grexit” is potentially much worse than the annoyingly familiar and increasingly tiresome rounds of angst-ridden talks between Greece and its creditors.

“If Greece leaves, it will never be possible to say again that exit is impossible, and if exit is always possible then you put increasing pressure on the weaker countries,” said Summers. “Of course, it’s also not tenable for the euro area to firmly establish that exit is impossible, or no country will feel any disciplinary pressure. So the matter is quite delicate, and we all have to hope and push for a mutually satisfactory conclusion.”

The Game of Drones: The Deaths of Innocents

At news conference, President Barack Obama expressed “profound regret” for killing two civilians, who were being held captive by Al Qaeda, during a counter-terrorism strike in an attempt to rescue them along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border this past January. The operation involved a drone strike.

The US president spoke shortly after the White House announced that intelligence officials had concluded that the January counter-terrorism operation had “accidentally” killed Dr Warren Weinstein, a US government aid worker, and Giovanni Lo Porto, an Italian aid worker. [..]

Separately, the White House also disclosed that it had mistakenly killed two other Americans, both of whom were suspected of being high-level al-Qaida members but had not been specifically targeted.

Obama did not mention the two American al-Qaida members in the statement from the White House, in which he sought to explain how his counter-terrorism strike could have take the lives of two hostages. Neither did he use the word “drone”. [..]

Yet the president struck a surprisingly defiant tone, insisting that his administration had acted on the best intelligence available at the time and claiming that his decision to declassify the operation and initiate a review was a sign of American exceptionalism.

He said he had decided to make the existence of the operation public because Weinstein and Lo Porto’s families “deserve to know the truth” and “the United States is a democracy, committed to openness, in good times and in bad”.

Also mentioned in the article by a team of reporters at The Guardian was that, despite the president’s claim of “transparency,” there is still a great deal of secrecy surrounding the use of drones and a lack of accountability for the number of civilian killed during these raids.

The American Civil Liberties Union in March sued the Obama administration, which has proclaimed itself the most transparent in history, for disclosure of critical legal documents underpinning what the administration calls its “targeted killing” program – including the criteria for placement on a list permitting the US to kill people, including its own citizens, without trial.

Obama’s admission regarding the deaths of Weinstein and Lo Porto is likely to intensify criticism of the president’s worldwide drone strikes, conducted by the CIA and the military’s Joint Special Operations Command. A recent analysis by human-rights group Reprieve estimated that US drone strikes intending to target 41 men had killed 1,147 people as of November.

These drone operations may get even more exposure due to the court on Germany that has allowed a law suit brought by families of Waleed bin Ali Jaber and Salim bin Ali Jaber, innocent civilians who were killed in a drone strike on August 12, 2012 in Yemen, to go forward. It may also put Germany in a awkward position

Salim and Waleed’s deaths sparked protests in their village, and the incident was later well-documented by international media and human rights groups. Their family representative, Faisal bin Ali Jaber, has met with Yemeni and U.S. national security officials and members of Congress. But the United States still has not formally acknowledged or apologized for the incident.

The previously unreported intelligence report, viewed by The Intercept, indicates that the U.S. government knew soon after the strike that it had killed two civilians. It could add fire to a lawsuit that Faisal bin Ali Jaber has launched in Germany, as further evidence that U.S. strikes put innocent Yemenis at risk.

Jaber will testify next month in front of a German court, alleging that Germany is violating a constitutionally enshrined duty to protect the right to life by allowing the United States to use Ramstein Air Base as part of its lethal drone operations.

It is the first time a victim of a U.S. drone strike will air his grievances in court, lawyers for the case told The Intercept. The lawsuit could put Germany in the awkward position of having to publicly defend its role in the U.S. drone program.

As The Intercept reported today, the U.S. military sees Ramstein as an essential node in the technical infrastructure for its armed and unarmed drone operations. A budget request for the Ramstein station stated that without the facility, “weapon strikes cannot be supported.”

The Obama administration has come under heavy criticism from international and human rights organizations over the legality of its drone program and the targeted assassinations of American citizens suspected of terrorist involvement without due process.

In a another case in Pakistan, a judge has ordered the [police to investigate the CIA for its authorization of drone strikes in 2009:

Last Tuesday, the Islamabad High Court ordered police to open a criminal case against former CIA Islamabad Station Chief Jonathan Bank and ex-CIA legal counsel John A. Rizzo for murder, conspiracy, terrorism and waging war against Pakistan.

The complainant is Kareem Khan, whose son Zahin Ullah Khan and brother Asif Iqbal were killed in an alleged December 2009 CIA drone strike in the mountainous Waziristan region bordering Afghanistan.

The case was lauded as the “first of its kind for directly implicating and naming a CIA official” by University of Hull international legal expert Niaz Shah. [..]

However, the case appears to rest on whether Pakistan’s political apparatus is willing to pursue a sensitive legal action that police say may imperil U.S.-Pakistan relations.

According to court documents seen by TIME, not only does Khan’s case implicate ex-CIA officials, it also calls for an investigation into the U.S. embassy in Islamabad, where Khan believes the drone strike was ordered. [..]

Even if the investigation receives the green light, bringing ex-CIA officials to trial will be an onerous battle in Pakistan. Should Bank and Rizzo fail to appear, one recourse is the international police body Interpol, which can extradite former CIA officials to stand trial, says Mirza Shahzad Akbar, the Pakistani attorney leading case. However, cases against CIA officials seldom succeed, even when Interpol is invoked, for reasons of diplomatic sensitivity. [..]

Even if the investigation receives the green light, bringing ex-CIA officials to trial will be an onerous battle in Pakistan. Should Bank and Rizzo fail to appear, one recourse is the international police body Interpol, which can extradite former CIA officials to stand trial, says Mirza Shahzad Akbar, the Pakistani attorney leading case. However, cases against CIA officials seldom succeed, even when Interpol is invoked, for reasons of diplomatic sensitivity.

Assassin and murder, this is Obama’s legacy.

Framing the Innocent and Vulnerable

The Federal Bureaus of Investigation has been in the news lately for a couple of reasons and none of it very good. The FBI sting operations, which on a whole dubious since it most often involves entrapment, have not actually infiltrated criminal enterprises or terrorist plots. In other words, the vast majority of the victims of FBI stings are the vulnerable who are disenfranchised or mentally unstable who have neither the means or mental capability to even hatch a plot or be a real threat.

The FBI Informant Who Mounted a Sting Operation Against the FBI

By Trevor Aaronson, The Intercept

When you’re introduced to Saeed Torres in the new documentary (T)ERROR, you hear him bickering with the filmmaker, Lyric Cabral. The screen is black. [..]

The blackness lifts. Torres is dressed in a chef’s apron and a white headscarf, making hot dogs at an amateur basketball game, as if he were an all-American guy. [..]

Torres isn’t an all-American guy. He’s an FBI informant, one of more than 15,000 domestic spies who make up the largest surveillance network ever created in the United States. During J. Edgar Hoover’s COINTELPRO operations, the bureau had just 1,500 informants. The drug war brought that number up to about 6,000. After 9/11, the bureau recruited so many new informants – many of them crooks and convicts, desperate for money or leniency on previous crimes – that the government had to develop software to help agents track their spies. [..]

Informants represent the manpower behind the FBI’s controversial stings, which are intended to find would-be terrorists before they attack. In the decade after 9/11, 158 defendants were prosecuted following these undercover operations, which are usually led by an informant and provide the means and opportunity for someone to attempt to commit an act of terrorism. A Human Rights Watch report in 2014 criticized the FBI for targeting “particularly vulnerable people, including those with intellectual and mental disabilities and the indigent.” Late last week, for example, the FBI arrested a mentally troubled 20-year-old in Topeka, Kansas, after he allegedly attempted to bomb Fort Riley with the help of two undercover FBI informants.

While there are more than 15,000 FBI informants, most are low-level operatives who provide scraps of information or tips about people in their community. Only a few of them at any time are high-level operators like Torres – professional liars who travel the country as agents provocateur in elaborate stings. [..]

There’s no shortage of embarrassing moments for the FBI in its dozens of counterterrorism stings since 9/11. In Boston, an FBI informant who was working a counterterrorism case was caught on an FBI camera purchasing heroin, which wasn’t part of his assignment. In case after case, the FBI experiences so-called “recorder malfunctions” – usually at the most unfortunate time for the defendant, such as at the very beginning of the sting or, as in an operation involving a Baltimore teenager, when the target was attempting to back out of the plot. More recently, FBI agents accidentally recorded themselves calling the subject of their undercover investigation a “retarded fool” whose terrorist ambitions were “wishy-washy.”

Democracy Now!‘s Amy Goodman interviews the independent documentary filmmakers, Lyric R. Cabral and David Felix Sutcliffe, who co-directed the documentary film (T)Error. Along with Steve Downs, executive director of the National Coalition to Protect Civil Freedoms, Khalifah al-Akili, a Muslim-American victim of an FBI sting from Pittsburgh, and Marlene, mother of Tarik Shah, who was arrested in 2005 after a joint FBI-NYPD sting operation, they discuss these oprations.

FBI Informant Exposes Sting Operation Targeting Innocent Americans in New “(T)ERROR” Documentary

Transcript can be read here.

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

Dean Baker: Obama is failing us all by ignoring the need for currency rules in TPP

The Obama administration is doing its full court press, pulling out all the stops to get Congress to approve the fast-track authority that is almost certainly necessary to get the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) through Congress. One of the biggest remaining stumbling blocks is that the deal will almost certainly not include provisions on currency. This means that parties to the agreement will still be able to depress the value of their currency against the dollar in order to gain a competitive advantage. This is a really big deal, which everyone thinking about the merits of the TPP should understand.

The value of the dollar relative to other currencies is by far the main determinant of our balance of trade. We can talk about better education and training for our workforce, improving our infrastructure and better research, all of which are important for the economy.

But anyone who claims that improvements in these areas can offset the impact of a dollar that is overvalued against another currency by 15-20% is out of touch with reality. If the dollar is overvalued by 20% against another country’s currency, it has the same effect as imposing a 20% tariff on US exports and giving a government subsidy of 20% to imports.

Anthony D. Romero: The Sun Must Go Down on the Patriot Act

Not long after the Patriot Act was passed in 2001, I had dinner with the late Senator Paul Wellstone in Washington, who was a stalwart defender of civil liberties throughout his career. I asked him how he could have possibly voted for a law that so vastly expanded the government’s spying powers. He told me that he was facing a tough election, but as soon as it was over he’d invite my organization, the American Civil Liberties Union, to testify before Congress about the Patriot Act’s flaws and the threats it presented to privacy and civil liberties. “We’ll work together to get this repealed,” he promised. Unfortunately, that day never came, as the senator tragically died in a plane crash in October of 2002.

Almost 13 years later, the most egregious part of the Patriot Act, Section 215 — which underlies the National Security Agency’s call-records program — is scheduled to expire on June 1. Some legislators want Congress to reauthorize it in its current form — Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has just introduced a bill that would do exactly that, extending it for another five years. Others want to make relatively minor changes. Congress shouldn’t do either of these things. Unless Congress can coalesce around far-reaching reform, it should simply let the provision expire.

Trevor Timm: Sony should not be able to tell journalists what to print Sony should not be able to tell journalists what to print

Sony, which spent weeks holding itself out as a free speech martyr after North Korea allegedly hacked its emails, is now trying to do more damage to the spirit of the First Amendment than North Korea ever did. The corporation is using high-powered lawyers and lobbyists in an attempt to stifle the rights of media organizations to publish newsworthy information already in the public domain. Ironically, some of those emails include Sony and the MPAA’s attempts to censor the Internet on a much larger scale.

Sony’s lawyer, David Boies, has spent the week sending out a hyperbolic letter to various news organizations, pressuring them to avert their eyes from the hacked email trove that WikiLeaks published on its site last week. Boies, while misleadingly claiming that journalists could be breaking US law by even looking at the emails, also said if media organizations refused to write stories about them, they would somehow be “protecting the First Amendment.”

The head of the MPAA and former Democratic Senator Chis Dodd went a step further yesterday, outrageously suggesting the US government should go after WikiLeaks in some fashion for re-publishing the emails.

Jon Stotz: The New Sponsor of Terrorism: Climate Change

For years, we have been warned that climate change would lead to a less stable world, with some very serious implications for the United States, its military, and its security. Beginning in 2010, in its Quadrennial Defense Review, the Pentagon warned that while climate change “alone does not cause conflict, it may act as an accelerant of instability or conflict, placing a burden to respond on civilian institutions and militaries around the world.”

This was followed up in 2014, when the Pentagon once again warned that the effects of climate change are “threat multipliers that will aggravate stressors abroad such as poverty, environmental degradation, political instability, and social tensions – conditions that can enable terrorist activity and other forms of violence.”

Finally, this year, a groundbreaking study concluded that the Zero Hour had come. Climate change, indeed, contributed to conditions that hastened the rise of extremism, in the form of ISIS, in Syria.

Mark Weisbrot: European officials may be pushing regime change in Greece

Destabilization efforts are causing economic damage

There are various narratives for what is happening to Greece as another deadline looms – the April 24 gathering of eurozone finance ministers in Riga, Latvia – and European officials show no sign of compromise. The most common tale is that this is a game of brinkmanship, with the Germans and their allies pushing for “reforms” that the Syriza government in Greece doesn’t want to adopt. Most of the media seems more partial to the European officials than to Greece. But even among those who are more neutral or sympathetic to Greece, it is still a story about hardline European officials threatening to use their control over funding to the Greek government and banking system in order to bring Greece to its knees.

But this narrative misses the elephant in the middle of the negotiating table: While the Greek government cannot do anything to replace its negotiating partners with people more to their liking, the European officials on the other side seem to believe they can do exactly that. And it is becoming increasingly clear that this is their current strategy.

The Breakfast Club (Clio)

breakfast beers photo breakfastbeers.jpgDo you know why the muse of history plays a lyre?  Well it’s because in the western classic tradition the earliest recorded history is the Iliad.  It’s an epic poem, sung rather than spoken, legendarily written by Homer between 760 – 710 BCE though it’s far more likely that it was assembled out of much older pieces.

It recounts events of the Trojan War which was generally considered by the Greeks to have occurred sometime between the 14th and 12th century BCE.  Modern Historians associate it with Troy VIIa which was destroyed by fire sometime around the 1180s BCE.

Before the development of writing, songs and poems were the best way of preserving the accuracy of oral traditions because they are easier to memorize than prose and errors are recognizable through a failure of rhyme or meter.  Even after written language a sense of history, the concept that there is a continuous sequence of cause and effect and not a random collection of happenings mediated by the random actions of gods and fortune, can be slow to emerge.

The “father” of history as is commonly taught today (at least in U.S. primary and secondary schools) is Herodotus who in the 5th century BCE wrote The Histories, an account of the Greco-Persian Wars that occurred in the early to mid part of the century.

Thucydides is often labeled the first “scientific” historian and his great work the History of the Peloponnesian War which recounts events of the late 5th century BCE conflict between Athens and Sparta in which he probably participated or had access to first hand accounts.  Xenophon, another early historian, was considered his successor and wrote about the last stages of the war as well as his own experiences as a mercenary in Persia.  He was a contemporary of Socrates, Plato, and Aristophanes.

Of course the century long slice of time recorded by these authors 2600 years ago really represents the parochial views of a single state, Athens, and as we know today time is much longer than that, even recorded time.  Egypt, Minos, the Fertile Crescent, the Indus Valley, and China among others had vast organized civilizations with their own written language and histories predating the earliest Hellenic efforts by thousands of years.

Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.- George Santayana, The Life of Reason

All great historical facts and personages occur, as it were, twice … the first time as tragedy, the second time as farce.- Karl Marx, The 18th Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte

History doesn’t repeat itself, but it does rhyme.― Mark Twain

The great fascination of history is that it’s really a study of human nature.  Because of our underlying psychology and methods of social organization, tantalizing patterns tend to emerge, different in detail but often with the same result.  What I think is important to remember in it’s study is that the people were no dumber or inherently primitive than you or I.  The thought experiment I frequently propose is the phonograph.

The mechanics of recording and playing back analog sound are not particularly difficult.  You need a diaphragm and a stylus (one unit), a recording medium and a method for moving the recording medium at a constant rate relative to the stylus/diaphragm (another unit).  When recording the diaphragm vibrates with the air pressure generated by the sound and the stylus creates an image of those patterns in the recording medium.  When playing back the stylus follows the pattern recorded in the medium and generates vibrations in the diaphragm which moves the air in a duplicate of the original event.  Now there are some minor details such as amplification but there is no inherent advantage to wax on a cranked cylinder as opposed to clay on a well regulated potter’s wheel.

Where then is the Voice of the Pharohs?

It may in fact exist.  Certain pots with strange spiraling “decorations” do suggest the surface of a record, the problem may be that we have lost the knowledge we need to play them back.  Do you think you could recognize spoken Sumerian if you heard it?  Me either.

And gaps like this are more the rule than the exception.  We can’t fix the Iowa because the tools needed to do it have long since been sold for scrap and most of the craftsmen are dead.  Until the recent revival of vinyl the future of musical recording seemed to be fast deteriorating magnetic films in a variety of incompatible formats or optical dots in a whole different panoply of incompatible formats.

Anyway, many of today’s featured stories have to do with history about which it must always be remembered that it is written by the victors.

History will be kind to me for I intend to write it.― Winston S. Churchill

Science and Technology News and Blogs

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 Oriented Video

Obligatories, News and Blogs below.

On This Day In History April 23

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.

April 23 is the 113th day of the year (114th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 252 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1564, William Shakespeare born.

According to tradition, the great English dramatist and poet William Shakespeare is born in Stratford-on-Avon on April 23, 1564. It is impossible to be certain the exact day on which he was born, but church records show that he was baptized on April 26, and three days was a customary amount of time to wait before baptizing a newborn. Shakespeare’s date of death is conclusively known, however: it was April 23, 1616. He was 52 years old and had retired to Stratford three years before.

Shakespeare’s father was probably a common tradesman. He became an alderman and bailiff in Stratford-upon-Avon, and Shakespeare was baptized in the town on April 26, 1564. At age 18, Shakespeare married Anne Hathaway, and the couple had a daughter in 1583 and twins in 1585. Hamnet, Shakespeare’s only son, died 11 years later, and Anne Shakespeare outlived her husband, dying in 1623. Nothing is known of the period between the birth of the twins and Shakespeare’s emergence as a playwright in London in the early 1590s, but unfounded stories have him stealing deer, joining a group of traveling players, becoming a schoolteacher, or serving as a soldier in the Low Countries.

Sometime later, Shakespeare set off for London to become an actor and by 1592 was well established in London’s theatrical world as both a performer and a playwright. The first reference to Shakespeare as a London playwright came in 1592, when a fellow dramatist, Robert Greene, wrote derogatorily of him on his deathbed. His earliest plays, including The Comedy of Errors and The Taming of the Shrew, were written in the early 1590s. Later in the decade, he wrote tragedies such as Romeo and Juliet (1594-1595) and comedies including The Merchant of Venice (1596-1597). His greatest tragedies were written after 1600, including Hamlet (1600-01), Othello (1604-05), King Lear (1605-06), and Macbeth (1605-1606).

Shakespeare died in Stratford-on-Avon on April 23, 1616. Today, nearly 400 years later, his plays are performed and read more often and in more nations than ever before. In a million words written over 20 years, he captured the full range of human emotions and conflicts with a precision that remains sharp today. As his great contemporary


The Daily/Nightly Show (Soulless)

Black Ice Ice Baby

Tonightly’s topic is “Drought Shaming” and our panelists are Kevin Johnson, Judy Gold, and Guy Branum.


Going Postal

This week’s guests-

Dana Perino is a soulless whore who now plies her stock in trade of baldfaced lies on Faux Noise.

Way to spend one of your last interviews Jon, unless of course you crush her like Cramer.

Jeff Garlin’s web exclusive extended interview and the real news below.