Thursday, June 30, 2011

30 June 2011

Video: "Breaking the Blockade", via Alternate Focus. The International Solidarity Movement (ISM) is a Palestinian led movement committed to solving issues between Israel and Palestine. Huwaida Arraf is one of the co-founders of the group and was filmed giving a speech at San Diego State University.

The Christan Science Monitor's title, reinforcing my sense of their recent rightward turn, was "Violent video games: Do parents want help from a nanny state?"

Parents weigh in on Monday's Supreme Court ruling, which struck down, by a 7-2 vote, a California law that prevented the sale of violent video games to minors.

ZDNet:USA PATRIOT Act: The Myth of a Secure European Cloud

Bachmann Backers Edit John Quincy Adams Wikipedia Page, Emulate Palin Camp
Gaffe-prone presidential candidate Michele Bachmann‘s supporters are changing history to support her claim John Quincy Adams was one of our nation’s Founding Fathers.

Attorney General Eric Holder announced that the Justice Department is conducting a full investigation into the deaths of two individuals in CIA custody during the Bush administration.

Rob Payne, "How America spent trillions, murdered over a million, just so China can drill for oil in Iraq"

Jyoti Prasad Das, "Why Is Libya in the Crosshairs of the West?" June 13, 2011

The thaw in US-Libyan relations came in 2003, when Qaddafi abandoned his WMD program, renounced terrorism, opened up the oil sector to Big Oil, and compensated the victims of the 1986 Berlin disco attack and the 1988 Lockerbie bombing.

Alternet, "Assault on Gaza Flotilla Ship: 'Sabotaged by Divers' in Port, Attacked by Legal Group Funded by Christian Right 'Mad Pastor' John Hagee"

from CNN: Extreme tuition hikes ahead,Main Street whiplashed on debit fees, Minnesota braces for a shutdown, Milwaukee lays off 354 teachers, Gates gets Medal of Freedom

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Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Carnegie Mellon should be worried about DARPA funding

Speaking at Carnegie Mellon University's National Robotics Engineering Center last Friday, Obama said:
I just met with folks from some cutting-edge companies and saw some of their inventions here in your National Robotics Engineering Center. But that’s not the only reason I’m here. You might not know this, but one of my responsibilities as Commander-in-Chief is to keep an eye on robots. (Laughter.) And I’m pleased to report that the robots you manufacture here seem peaceful -- (laughter) -- at least for now.

Wasn’t there a folk song called “When will the Robots turn their Guns Around”?

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Ayn Rand and Mike Wallace 25 Feb 1959

This Mike Wallace interview with Ayn Rand is from 1959, with Rand sounding like Reagan before Reagan did. This interview is from February of that year, when Grover Norquist was 2 ½ years old, no doubt splashing around in his mother's bathtub and dreaming of browbeating politicians and world conquest.[27 min]

At around 15:15 Rand says that "this country was not founded by robber barons, but [by] independent men who succeeded on sheer ability." Well, that, and they stole the Indian's land, and in some cases, stole Africans to have cheap labor to toil on the land for them. Otherwise, sure.

Also, at around 7:50, she refers to a hypothetical selfless husband(i.e., the kind she despised) and says he'd say to his wife, "I am so unselfish that I am nailing you only for your own good." Later I realized she meant marrying not nailing, and I had misheard her.

More recently:

Ayn Rand vs Jesus

CNN, "Jesus or Ayn Rand - can conservatives claim both?"

Eric Sapp, AVN’s executive director, said the Republican Party cannot portray itself as a defender of Christian values and then defend the worldview of "the patron saint of selfishness" who scorned religion and compassion.

FYI, AVN stands for the American Values Network.

And, this AVN video below:

Ayn Rand & GOP vs. Jesus

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Tuesday, June 28, 2011

The awfulness of TV news, cont'd: a Bloomberg edition

Two things:

1.I wonder sometimes just how off the cuff seemingly spontaneous conversations on television are, especially in a news/chat format like this. For example, at around 4:00 Veronique de Rugy seems to practically do a super slow wind-up of a pitch about "Univerity of Chicago professor Stephen Lev-something, something, and his theory of something-or-other," giving the interviewer plenty of time to anticipate when to deftly interrupt her and talk over her so we don't know what the Univ of Chi-town prof has a theory about. Maybe it just my imagination.

But who knows, maybe we're supposed to think we're being unduly churlish and fussy if we want to know what exactly they're talking about, and what we missed in the crosstalk. After all, Ms. de Rugy and the interviewer are both so nice and serious and knowledgeable, so they couldn't possibly be trying to befuddle or misdirect us, and it couldn't have been that important anyway.

Anyway I went to the University of Chicago's website to find Professor Steve, he of the blah blah blah department. Sociology? Public Policy? I dunno, but I am a major nerd, and unduly churlish, so I had to do it.

Steven Levitt's page at the U. of Chicago says "Levitt, editor of the Journal of Political Economy, has authored several recent articles about crime, including "Legalized Abortion as an Explanation for the Decline in Crime"

I assume this article's thesis is what de Rugy is referring to, and I'll admit I find myself wondering how important its thesis is relative to the subject of the US prison population. Is it considered a really big intellectual storm in the study of prisons? I don't know. Likewise, I don't know that the apparently rehearsed crosstalk was in fact intentional, although if my thesis is correct about de Rugy and the interviewer is correct, it reinforces my overall sense that the whole segment may be a bit of flim-flam misdirection, acknowledging the massive US prison population while also indirectly suggesting it's for the best and not really due to excessive sentences, or any other reasons worth worrying too much about.

2. I suppose I shouldn't be amazed by the chart a visual that suggests the other 75% 'other factors' apart from long sentences are essentially too murky and unknowable. What's interesting to me is how they pivot away from discussing how huge the US prison population is to the drop in crime, as if the questions of whether or not US prison sentences are too long or whether we allocate too many resources to locking people up were about to be discussed, but then they shift the conversation to the drop in crime, suggesting to the lazy viewer in a very indirect way that yes, the US has a large prison population and long prison sentences, but it's worth it. And perhaps most importantly, they never even discuss the war on drugs, another elephant in the room.

de Rugy has an article discussing this at, which also avoids the question of the drug war but is somewhat less fuzzy about those mysterious 'other factors.'

see also

Alternet,"Why Ending the War on Drugs is a Social Justice Imperative"

Also from, an interview with Mark Kleiman,‘Long Prison Terms Are Wasteful Government Spending’, "The day the drug war really started"

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Sunday, June 26, 2011

26 June 2011 Fukuyama re economics

“So here is the evidence for an American plutocracy of a narrow and discrete but hardly harmless sort. Wall Street seduced the economics profession not through overt corruption, but by aligning the incentives of economists with its own. It was very easy for academic economists to move from universities to central banks to hedge funds — a tightly knit world in which everyone shared the same views about the self-regulating and beneficial effects of open capital markets. The alliance was enormously profitable for everyone: The academics got big consulting fees, and Wall Street got legitimacy. And it has kept the system going despite the enormous policy failures it has generated, not to exclude the recent crisis.”
—Francis Fukuyama, The American Interest, January 2011

via "Evidence of an American Plutocracy: The Larry Summers Story"

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Saturday, June 25, 2011

25 June 2011; Low self esteem edition

From the Daily Mail story referenced in the video above:

'Debt can be a positive resource for young adults, but it comes with some significant dangers. Young people seem to view debt mostly in just positive terms rather than as a potential burden.' But how debt affected young people depended on what other financial resources they had available, the study found. Results showed that those in the bottom 25 per cent in total family income got the largest boost from holding debt.
'The groups that most need the debt – the middle and lower classes – get the most benefits to their self-concept, but may also face the greatest difficulties in paying off what they owe.' Overall, Professor Dwyer said the results suggest that debt can be an important resource for young adults, allowing them to make investments that improve their self-concept. But the results may also have troubling implications for the future.

'Debt may make young people feel better about themselves in the short-term, but that doesn't mean it won't have negative consequences in the long term,' she said. 'We found that the positive effects may wear off over time, but they still have to pay the bills. The question is whether they will be able to. There needs to be additional research to answer this question.'

Emphases mine. Maybe seeing things in terms of questions that need additional research means never having to say you're sorry.

CNN,"My degree isn't worth the debt!"

Esther Quintero, "College For All, Profit For Some"

Gary North, The #2 Port in the Academic Storm Is About to Close

Charles Hugh Smith, An Open-Source Web-Enabled Revolution in Education

NYT,Burden of College Loans on Graduates Grows:

Student loan debt outpaced credit card debt for the first time last year and is likely to top a trillion dollars this year as more students go to college and a growing share borrow money to do so.
Department of Education officials break down Stockton(Ca) man's door

and, related to the Stockton story: SWAT team collections student loans, updated

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Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Afghan lite, or believe what you will

Arthur Silber,("Every Word He Utters Is a Lie") listened to Obama's speech, and writes:

"...In fact, and this is the point of significance, no man or woman is going to ascend to the office of president unless he or she will utter precisely the same empty phrases and offer the identical meaningless assurances."

and concluded that we will be in Afghanistan for a very long time.

I tend to agree. Not the part about how every word he utters is a lie, insofar as I believe the president really was born in Hawaii, really attended law school and so forth, but you have to allow Arthur his poetic license. (Incidentally he's been on quite a roll of late, if you haven't noticed.) Yahoo and CNN and the New York Times and undoubtedly others provide handy links to texts of the speech, so you can read it for yourself.

To me Obama is a sort of gestalt president, insofar as his words can be interpreted as representing pretty much whatever you think they should represent, presumably consistent with your hopes, or your fears, or whether or not the frozen lasagna you had last night agreed with you. And no, I don't see this as a compliment, nor as proof of his 'special genius' playing political chess so many moves ahead of his opponents and mugs like you and me who are too benighted to understand his long game and all that.

If Obama is a gestalt president, this is in substantial part because of how dizzyingly tribal our culture has gotten, which of course he has been happy to exploit. If he pushes through a scheme that further entrenches for-profit health insurance companies and liberals gush, or he pushes through a 'stimulus' package that consists mainly of tax cuts for employed people and conservatives call him a socialist, then his opacity isn't so much a function of his cleverness but the heightened screwiness of our culture. (Don't forget that the Nobel people helped, awarding him a nifty peace prize after he amped up airstrikes on Afghanistan. Hey, but at least he gave a swell speech about nuclear disarmament!)

I assume we will have a modest reduction in troop levels, but this proves he's a liberal and a really a good guy at heart, and really hates the fact that he ordered a surge in '09(he had to!), and that any reduction will likely only take us back to GWB levels but he can't help that because look at the tough spot he's in, and he really hates how we've been in Afghanistan for a decade, and if some of those troops are subsequently deployed across the border in Pakistan he can't help that either because the world is a dangerous place, etc, etc, etc,

[hold on, I need a breath...]

only if you supply the belief. You gotta BELIEVE.

On the other hand, there are actually people who believe that Michelle Bachmann or Sarah Palin have all the answers. Well, they're plumb loco.

Henry Giroux, "Reveling in the Pain of Others: Moral Degeneracy and Violence in the "Kill Team" Photos"

CNN, "Should the US negotiate with the Taliban?"

Stan Goff, Feral Scholar, "Why I won’t vote (and you shouldn’t either)"

(Silber also supplies this helpful Caruso link.)

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Saturday, June 11, 2011

11 June 2011

Even allowing for the general crappiness of mainstream news, this video startled me. Actually labeling Khaddafy's statements as lies, as opposed to contrasting them with the statements of a US or NATO spokesman. Yes I know, all governments lie, as do all leaders, but given the usual benefit of the doubt afforded others this seems especially brazen. Apparently if our government wants to bomb them and they object, then they are liars. Wasn't the goal of the NATO mission initially supposed to be about reducing the lethality of the struggle in Libya?

elsewhere at CNN: "Daniel Ellsberg: All the crimes Richard Nixon committed against me are now legal" (via)

"A Gay Girl In Damascus" blogger may not be real, according to Facebook pictures

Kevin Carson, "It’s Not Big Government If It Helps the Rich"

Doug: "What I've never understood about 'what will the children think' is that it is always applied to something trivial, usually to consensual sexual relations among adults. No one ever asks 'what will the children think about genocide in the Sudan?' or 'what will the children think about the government torturing people?'. I can remember as a kid, listening to the news and hearing of horrible atrocities and being genuinely troubled by it (truth be told, I still don't like to listen to that stuff, even though I think it's important that it be reported)."(via)

How Roger Ailes Built the Fox News Fear Factory

Paul Ryan Confronted By Bible-Wielding Protester Decrying Ayn Rand

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Thursday, June 09, 2011

Mission: Readiness

I just became aware of a truly horrifying organization called Mission: Readiness that is bent on preparing children for an Orwellian future:
Note the mission statement:
"Mission: Maintaining the strength of our military and our nation will depend on new generations of young Americans who are willing and able to serve our country with courage, compassion, and sacrifice."
High-sounding words that translate into: "We're going to need more and more cannon fodder from the lower ranks of society, so must brainwash children into believing military servitude is a high calling."
Beyond belief. It isn't enough that children are indoctrinated from their earliest days to worship "our boys in uniform" (oh, I forgot, it's "our boys and girls in uniform"), now there has to be a conscious effort to mold them to serve the imperialist agenda. This is not, you understand, an effort to encourage future generations to be intelligent citizens. The danger is that then they might begin to probe and question their corporate masters. No, the aim is "maintaining the strength of our military" to ensure that our wars go on and on and on....
Wonders never cease in this brave new world.
(Cross-posted with "Mimi's Musings.")


Tuesday, June 07, 2011

7 June 2011(special Florida edition)

Florida justice: rich man will do no time for killing two tourists in exchange for cash restitution.

A "millionaire playboy" who killed two British tourists in Florida when his $150,000 Porsche jumped the curb will not go to jail, despite the fact that he fled the scene and lied to police officers about who was behind the wheel during the accident.

Three arrested, accused of illegally feeding homeless

Members of Orlando Food Not Bombs were arrested Wednesday when police said they violated a city ordinance by feeding the homeless in Lake Eola Park .

MIAMI:I harp on Digby's obeisance towards the Democratic party hierarchy from time to time, and naturally I think she deserves that. But she also deserves credit when it's due, such as with her keeping up of incidents like this one:

"To Protect and To Serve"

The government's war on videographers is getting worse. In Miami a bystander filmed police firing a hail of bullets into a car and the cops went after him, smashed his phone, threw him to the ground and took him to a command center and photographed him. Unfortunately for them:
But what they didn’t know was that Narces Benoit had removed the SIM card and hid it...

NAPLES: Tara-Nicholle Nelson, Time, "Homeowner Forecloses on Bank of America"
What must have seemed to observers like a scene out of a parallel universe — you can see some video here — was actually the fair and logical conclusion to a situation which, the court had ruled, had an unfair and illogical start. In 2009, retired police officer Warren Nyerges and his wife, Maureen Collier, paid $165,000 cash for their 2,700 square foot home in the Golden Gate Estates subdivision, and never took a mortgage out on it. So imagine their surprise when, in February of 2010, Bank of America initiated foreclosure proceedings against them. The Nyerges hired an attorney, Todd Allen, to defend them against the wrongful foreclosure, and the bank eventually abandoned the matter.

But not before the Nyerges incurred $2,534 in attorney’s fees, which they requested informally from Bank of America multiple times before resorting to the courts, which ordered the bank to make the couple whole. When B of A still had not paid the judgment after five months of phone calls and letter writing by Allen and the Nyerges to the bank insisting that the court order be obeyed, Allen took the next step in the legal collection process, obtaining an order of foreclosure against the bank.

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Monday, June 06, 2011

Weiners in the news

When you watch the network nightly news on TV, if you are a watch-the-network-news sort, you probably want to congratulate yourself on your effort to be well-informed yet normal. Once in a while, I too worry about being well-informed yet normal, so I watched the NBC nightly news this evening where I found out the most important news of the day was Anthony Weiner's press conference contriteness at having 'sexted' some women via Twitter and Facebook.The second item Brian Williams discussed was about how some Sarah Palin supporters editing the Wikipedia biography of Paul Revere to make it seem to conform with Mrs Palin's comments regarding his famous ride, which seems both pathetic and creepy.

But Yemen's Saleh skipping the country and Israel attacking Palistineans at the Syrian border were apparently not so important. Now I realize that Weiner's virtual hanky panky makes for "sexier" and more readily digested news(especially with that name!), and since it's a story about a congressman and not the never-ending Casey Anthony trial, I suppose the typical network nightly news viewer might be forgiven (a bit) if he thinks he did his part to try and get better informed.

Even among Americans who might get their news from the internet, I'm guessing most who might go to or Yahoo News aren't aware of, for example, Asia Times Online or the Guardian(of course The Guardian also has some problems as far as perspective goes ).

Still, I have to believe most educated and semi-educated people here must realize how awful most mass media journalism is, and have at least an inkling they can try to use that internet thingie to access broader and more sober perspectives(at least for now). So it's "on them", as the saying goes.

As far as the notion that the big media powers that be are just giving people what they want, I wonder if that's entirely true. For example I seem to remember that at the height of protests in Egypt the networks said their viewership rose a bit, so maybe there's more to it than that. In the case of the protests in Syria, for example, we have another country that borders Israel, and if you believe that most US news coverage from the Middle East is calculated in terms of whether it may have an impact on Israel, then the protests in Syria certainly fit the bill, but the networks seem less interested. I suspect this is less about whether Syria's government's fate would affect Israel, but simply because there was already a Western news bureau presence in Cairo, but very little in the way of a Western journalistic presence in Syria. In the case of Saleh of Yemen I guess the "Arab Spring" is so February 2011, and the Western news people have moved on. Maybe they're weiners too.

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Sunday, June 05, 2011

5 June 2011

RSA video: Barbara Ehrenreich, "Smile or die"(above)

Richard Arum and Josipa Roksa,"Are Undergraduates Actually Learning Anything?"

Paul Craig Roberts:"The Default Specter as Political Theater"

OBL video fake?

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Saturday, June 04, 2011

The Soul of Osama Bin Laden

I heard something from a parishioner at St. Theresa's, which would be my parish if I was still a Catholic. It seems that my friend, Lily M., a native of Ventnor, as I am, had requested that a mass be said at St. T.'s for the soul of Osama Bin Laden. The priest agreed, but when the request become known (I don't know how), there was such a protest that he reneged and refused to dedicate the mass to OBL. I e-mailed Lily and asked if this account was true. She wrote back promptly and confirmed it.
Now, I am no longer religious, but I remember plenty from my years at St. James Parochial School. To have those who purport to be the followers of Christ, the Prince of Peace, display such vindictiveness would be laughable if it wasn't so repelling. Naturally, the vast majority of Americans--at least the ones who have been vocal about it--are thrilled and overjoyed at the assassination of Bin Laden. Extra-legal? Immoral? Oh, so what, he was a killer and everybody knows it. Others, not necessarily involved in 9/11, were killed with him? Well, they shouldn't have been hanging with him, anyway. A fair trial, in a court of law? That doesn't apply to people like him.
Come to think of it, maybe it shouldn't apply either to those weird peaceniks always jeopardizing our brave men and women in uniform who are defending our way of life and fighting for our freedom and freedom isn't free and buzz, buzz, buzz...klakklakklak...mmmmmmmmmmm...


Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Unintentionally ominous, or so one would hope

pop-up ad outliving your money

I saw this ad on Yahoo's home page yesterday. What exactly is Prudential going to do to me if I outlive my money? Should I hide? Somebody got paid money to come up with this ridiculous ad, and I'm blogging for free. It just ain't right.

And today in a peculiar thematic coincidence, I saw this link at the bottom of a story over at

"Identification Cards Required to Leave the State"(eHow)

(This item originally appeared in October 2010.) Maybe author Jennifer Sandberg or somebody else at eHow thought the title would encourage people to read it.

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