Monday, December 29, 2014

The Democratic Party Keeps Screwing Up: Why Progressives Need to Be Independent of the Party

I getting just as tired of the Left's version of the Tea Party as I am of the Right's Tea Party
Find Democrats who support the Middle Class people of all races along with Working Class and Poverty Class people of all races and get behind them.  Get rid of the self centered identity politics groups who refuse to work with others.
From Alternet:  http://www.alternet.org/time-abandon-democrats?paging=off&current_page=1#bookmark

Progressives have no power in a corporate, focus-grouped, Wall Street-leaning party.

By Bill Curry December 26, 2014

The Democrats’ conduct since the midterm debacle is as sad and sorry as the campaign that caused it. The party’s leaders are a big problem. A bigger one is the closed system of high-dollar fundraising, reductionist polling and vapid messaging in which it is seemingly trapped. Some say a more populist Democratic Party will soon emerge. It won’t happen as long as these leaders and this system are in place.

Nancy Pelosi says it wasn’t a wave election. She’s right. It was the Johnstown Flood; as catastrophic and just as preventable. One year after the shutdown Republicans scored their biggest Senate win since 1980 and their biggest House win since 1928. Turnout was the lowest since 1942, when millions of GIs had the excellent excuse of being overseas fighting for their country.

Every Democratic alibi — midterm lull, sixth-year curse, red Senate map, vote suppression, gerrymandering, money — rings true, but all of them together can’t explain being swept by the most extreme major party in American history. Citing other statistics — demography, presidential turnout, Hillary’s polls — they assure us that in 2016 happy days will be here again. Don’t bet on it.

It took more than the usual civic sloth to produce the lowest turnout in 72 years. It took alienating vast voting blocs, including the young and the working class of both genders and all races. The young now trend Republican. Voters of all ages migrate to third parties or abandon politics altogether. It’s the biggest Democratic defection since the South switched parties in the 1960s. If Democrats don’t change their ways, their 2016 turnout will be a lot harder to gin up than they think.

Democrats are in denial regarding the magnitude and meaning of their defeat. It is a rejection not just of current leaders but of the very business model of the modern Democratic Party: how it uses polls and focus groups to slice and dice us; how it peddles its sly, hollow message and, worst, how it sells its soul to pay for it all. Party elites hope party activists will seek to lift their moods via the cheap adrenaline high of another campaign. For once, activists may resist the urge.

The vital task for progressives isn’t reelecting Democrats but rebuilding a strong, independent progressive movement. Our history makes clear that without one, social progress in America is next to impossible. For 100 years progressive social change movements transformed relations between labor and capital, buyers and sellers, blacks and whites, men and women, our species and our planet. 
But in the 1970s progressives began to be coopted and progress ceased. Their virtual disappearance into the Democratic Party led to political stultification and a rollback of many of their greatest achievements.

Continue reading at:  http://www.alternet.org/time-abandon-democrats?paging=off&current_page=1#bookmark

Turkey's President Erdogan Decries Birth Control As Form Of Treason

Tell me again how Islam respects the rights of women...

From Huffington Post:  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/12/22/erdogan-birth-control-treason_n_6366446.html

Posted:
ISTANBUL, Dec 22 (Reuters) - Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan has described birth control as a form of "treason," saying it threatened the country's bloodline.

Erdogan urged a newly married couple at their wedding late on Sunday to have at least three children to help boost Turkish population figures, a common refrain from the president, who worries a declining birth rate may undermine economic growth.

"For years they committed a treason of birth control in this country, seeking to dry up our bloodline. Lineage is very important both economically and spiritually," he told the couple after serving as their witness at the wedding. A video of the speech was posted on the mainstream Radikal news website.

Last month, Erdogan, a devout Muslim, said it was unnatural to consider women and men equal and said feminists did not understand the importance of motherhood. In 2012, he sought to effectively outlaw abortion, but later dropped the plan amid a public outcry.

Erdogan regularly faces criticism for an authoritarian style of rule after 11 years in power.

Turkey's population growth has been slowing in recent years and the live-birth rate hovered at 2.07 percent last year, according to official statistics. (Reporting by Ayla Jean Yackley; Editing by Dominic Evans)

Friday, December 26, 2014

Friday Night Fun and Culture: Linda Ronstadt












The combined forces of herpes and global warming are threatening to wipe out the world’s oysters

From Salon:  http://www.salon.com/2014/12/16/the_combined_forces_of_herpes_and_global_warming_are_threatening_to_wipe_out_the_worlds_oysters/

How the warming, rapidly acidifying oceans are harming our seafood supply

Tuesday, Dec 16, 2014

An viral disease with a 100 percent mortality rate is decimating the world’s oyster populations, Bloomberg reports, threatening the $4.1 billion industry.

 Climate change, needless to say, isn’t helping the situation.
 
Oyster herpes (no relation to human herpes), also known as Pacific Oyster Mortality Syndrome, has killed the shellfish across Europe, New Zealand and Australia — in one particularly brutal case, the University of Sydney’s Richard Whittington told Bloomberg, wiping out 10 million oysters in just three days. France has been hit especially hard, its harvest now 26 percent below where it was in 2008, when the virus first appeared.

Crucially, experts say, the virus doesn’t begin to kill its victims until water temperatures reach about 61 degrees Fahrenheit or higher — global warming, in other words, could be contributing to its potency. After all, not only is 2014 likely to be the hottest year on record, according to a recently released report from the World Meteorological Organization, but it’s also been marked by record high sea surface temperatures. And it’s only going to get worse.

The full story of what’s killing off oysters at such an alarming rate is still something of a mystery, but herpes isn’t the only factor contributing to die-offs. Quartz points to the increasing acidification of the oceans, yet another consequence of human carbon emissions, that’s literally dissolving the shells of oysters, scallops and other shellfish.

Due to the specific nature of Pacific Northwest wind patterns, shellfish in that area are currently facing the greatest risk: a massive die-off there, which also occurred in 2008, caused the population to plummet.

“I think the oyster industry is kind of the canary in the mineshaft,” Dave Nisbet, an oyster farmer who saw production drop 42 percent by 2012, told Al Jazeera of acidification’s growing threat. “I think we’re kind of the first ones, the first ones to really identify and be able to have a direct linkage to the acidification part of global warming.”

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Merry Christmas


Monday, December 22, 2014

The day I saw 248 girls suffering genital mutilation

From The Guardian UK:  http://www.theguardian.com/society/2012/nov/18/female-genital-mutilation-circumcision-indonesia

In 2006, while in Indonesia and six months pregnant, Abigail Haworth became one of the few journalists ever to see young girls being 'circumcised'. Until now she has been unable to tell this shocking story

It's 9.30am on a Sunday, and the mood inside the school building in Bandung, Indonesia, is festive. Mothers in headscarves and bright lipstick chat and eat coconut cakes. Javanese music thumps from an assembly hall. There are 400 people crammed into the primary school's ground floor. It's hot, noisy and chaotic, and almost everyone is smiling.

Twelve-year-old Suminah is not. She looks like she wants to punch somebody. Under her white hijab, which she has yanked down over her brow like a hoodie, her eyes have the livid, bewildered expression of a child who has been wronged by people she trusted. She sits on a plastic chair, swatting away her mother's efforts to placate her with a party cup of milk and a biscuit. Suminah is in severe pain. An hour earlier, her genitals were mutilated with scissors as she lay on a school desk.
During the morning, 248 Indonesian girls undergo the same ordeal. Suminah is the oldest, the youngest is just five months. It is April 2006 and the occasion is a mass ceremony to perform sunat perempuan or "female circumcision" that has been held annually since 1958 by the Bandung-based Yayasan Assalaam, an Islamic foundation that runs a mosque and several schools. The foundation holds the event in the lunar month of the Prophet Muhammad's birthday, and pays parents 80,000 rupiah (£6) and a bag of food for each daughter they bring to be cut.

It is well established that female genital mutilation (FGM) is not required in Muslim law. It is an ancient cultural practice that existed before Islam, Christianity and Judaism. It is also agreed across large swathes of the world that it is barbaric. At the mass ceremony, I ask the foundation's social welfare secretary, Lukman Hakim, why they do it. His answer not only predates the dawn of religion, it predates human evolution: "It is necessary to control women's sexual urges," says Hakim, a stern, bespectacled man in a fez. "They must be chaste to preserve their beauty."

I have not written about the 2006 mass ceremony until now. I went there with an Indonesian activist organisation that worked within communities to eradicate FGM. Their job was difficult and highly sensitive. Afterwards, in fraught exchanges with the organisation's staff, it emerged that it was impossible for me to write a journalistic account of the event for the western media without compromising their efforts. It would destroy the trust they had forged with local leaders, the activists argued, and jeopardise their access to the people they needed to reach. I shelved my article; to sabotage the people working on the ground to stop the abuse would defeat the purpose of whatever I wrote. Such is the tricky partnership of journalism and activism at times.

Yet far from scaling down, the problem of FGM in Indonesia has escalated sharply. The mass ceremonies in Bandung have grown bigger and more popular every year. This year, the gathering took place in February. Hundreds of girls were cut. The Assalaam foundation's website described it as "a celebration". Anti-FGM campaigners have proved ineffective against a rising tide of conservatism. Today, the issue is more that I can't not write about that day.

Continue reading at:  http://www.theguardian.com/society/2012/nov/18/female-genital-mutilation-circumcision-indonesia

Women sold as sex slaves in Islamic State markets, says UN official

From Jerusalem Post:   http://www.jpost.com/Middle-East/Women-sold-as-sex-slaves-in-Islamic-State-markets-says-UNs-Valerie-Amos-384804

By Michelle Malka Grossman 12/16/2014

The situation for Syrian women has worsened since July at the hands of Islamic State, said Valerie Amos, the UN's under-secretary-general for humanitarian affairs and emergency relief.

She described how women and female children as young as 12 are enslaved and sexually abused. "Women captured as slaves by [Islamic State] have been sold in markets in Raqqa. Some are sold to individual men. Others are kept by [Islamic State] in rest houses and face multiple rapes by fighters returning from the battlefield," Amos reported during a UN Security Council session on Monday.

"Kurdish refugees from Kobani reported the capture of young girls by [Islamic State] for sexual purposes, girls as young as 12."

Amos said there has also been a rise in the incidence of forced marriage. "This is in part due to a depletion of family resources and more recently because parents are terrified of their daughters being forced to marry [Islamic State] fighters in areas under their control."

She called these and other horrible acts war crimes. "[Islamic State] has carried out mass victimization of civilians including murder, enslavement, rape, forcible displacement and torture, and has violated its obligation toward civilians."

Amos spoke harshly about the lack of progress since the Security Council passed Resolution 2139 in February, which laid out a number of basic human rights demands that the Syrian government and opposition fighters must follow.

Amos criticized the international community for becoming numb in the face of almost 200,000 deaths in Syria, with millions more injured and displaced. She said that Syrian refugees now account for a fifth of the world's number of displaced people. 


Continue reading at:  http://www.jpost.com/Middle-East/Women-sold-as-sex-slaves-in-Islamic-State-markets-says-UNs-Valerie-Amos-384804

How To Wrap A Cat For Christmas


Thursday, December 18, 2014

For Low-Wage Americans, The Holiday Season Is A Time To Work

From Huffington Post:  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/12/17/low-wage-workers-holiday_n_6317226.html


For many American workers, this is the time of year for tying up loose ends and taking it easy. For Simon Ting, this is the time of year for working harder than ever.

Ting, 24, works at a Macy’s in San Francisco, and he’s paid largely on commission. That means the more he sells, the more money he makes -- and the holiday season is a great time for selling. Ting tries to be at Macy’s for as many of the store’s extended hours as he can during the holiday rush. He knows sales will be hard to come by after New Year’s. In past holiday seasons, when he staffed other retailers’ stores, Ting worked so much he slept on the stockroom floor between shifts.

“I get a really massive amount of my paycheck during these two months, so I have to save that money,” Ting said. “After the holiday season is over, no one is really in the store anymore, and you don’t make any money anymore. That’s going to be really rough.”

Ting isn’t alone. A steady paycheck has grown elusive for many Americans in an economic recovery dominated by part-time, low-wage work. That work is often in retail, where the holiday season is a time to put in as many hours as possible -- sometimes at multiple jobs and on holidays like Thanksgiving -- to build a cushion for leaner months. Those leaner months often come right after the holidays, as stores hire less, lay off seasonal employees and cut permanent workers’ hours to cope with slower sales.

Retail companies typically boost payrolls by 3 percent to 4 percent from October to December, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of Bureau of Labor Statistics data. That’s followed by a 5 percent to 6 percent decline in retail payrolls from December to February.

“If you’re looking for extra money, or that’s the only job you can find, that’s better than nothing, but it’s certainly not something you can build a life on,” said Drew DeSilver, a senior writer at Pew who conducted the analysis.

The people lucky enough to work for a retailer year-round typically make less after Christmas ends. Rank-and-file employees at clothing and clothing accessories stores made $266.64 a week, on average, in December 2013, according to BLS data that is not seasonally adjusted. The following month, that number fell to $248.35.

Continue reading at:  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/12/17/low-wage-workers-holiday_n_6317226.html

How Not to Be an Ally: White screaming drowns out black voices at protests

From SF Gate:  http://www.sfgate.com/bayarea/johnson/article/White-screaming-drowns-out-black-voices-at-5958642.php

By Chip Johnson Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Bay Area protests over the deaths of Eric Garner, Michael Brown and scores of others may assuage white liberal guilt and provide a righteous reason to rail against the machine, but it would be nice to actually hear from some black folks.

So far, it seems all I’ve seen and heard in three weeks of protest are some pretty vocal white folks screaming to have their way, or dismissing the actions of the wolves inside the flock as the ugly backside of democracy.

Assault, vandalism and looting are not protected forms of free speech.

In Oakland, black religious leaders who have traditionally stood front and center in every successful civil rights movement were not part of the revolution this time.

Their conspicuous absence has led to marches that, quite frankly, appear to be more about white rage than black empowerment. It’s more about what they want than it is about what African American communities truly need.

Black leadership whether from churches or community organizations would add credibility, foster communication and bridge the gap between demonstrators and middle-aged and older African Americans who’ve been down this road before.

“I’m waiting for someone to say all black lives matter, whether they are being killed by police officers or other young black men,” said Bishop Bob Jackson, the African American pastor at Acts Full Gospel Church, which has more than 12,000 congregants from across the Bay Area.
“I like the mantra, but if we’re going to do it, let’s do it right.”

The annual Martin Luther Day King March planned for Oakland will call on police officers as well as citizens who resolve disputes with violence to declare a moratorium on all killings of black men, Jackson said.

But in an era where Sunday church services take a backseat to weekend sales and football games, that influence and their message is waning.

“The clergy in Oakland have not really come together,” said Bishop Joseph Simmons, pastor at Greater St. Paul Church in West Oakland. “We’re still trying to figure out where we fit in in all of this. This generation doesn’t have respect for the church, and we don’t have the power we once had.”
All the same, the violence, vandalism and looting that have been part of the demonstrations in Oakland, Berkeley and San Francisco have disappointed some of the black community leaders.

“When you see protesters taking the opportunity to loot stores and burn stuff, it doesn’t help preserve the memories of young men like Brown and Garner,” Jackson said. “Using their deaths as an excuse to terrorize innocent citizens, loot, rob and destroy only hurts our cause.”

Continue reading at:  http://www.sfgate.com/bayarea/johnson/article/White-screaming-drowns-out-black-voices-at-5958642.php

Friday, December 12, 2014

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Surviving Whole Foods

From Huffington Post:  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/kelly-maclean/surviving-whole-foods_b_3895583.html


09/16/2013


Whole Foods is like Vegas. You go there to feel good but you leave broke, disoriented, and with the newfound knowledge that you have a vaginal disease.

Unlike Vegas, Whole Foods' clientele are all about mindfulness and compassion... until they get to the parking lot. Then it's war. As I pull up this morning, I see a pregnant lady on the crosswalk holding a baby and groceries. This driver swerves around her and honks. As he speeds off I catch his bumper sticker, which says 'NAMASTE'. Poor lady didn't even hear him approaching because he was driving a Prius. He crept up on her like a panther.

As the great, sliding glass doors part I am immediately smacked in the face by a wall of cool, moist air that smells of strawberries and orchids. I leave behind the concrete jungle and enter a cornucopia of organic bliss; the land of hemp milk and honey. Seriously, think about Heaven and then think about Whole Foods; they're basically the same.

The first thing I see is the great wall of kombucha -- 42 different kinds of rotten tea. Fun fact: the word kombucha is Japanese for 'I gizzed in your tea.' Anyone who's ever swallowed the glob of mucus at the end of the bottle knows exactly what I'm talking about. I believe this thing is called "The Mother," which makes it that much creepier.

Next I see the gluten-free section filled with crackers and bread made from various wheat-substitutes such as cardboard and sawdust. I skip this aisle because I'm not rich enough to have dietary restrictions. Ever notice that you don't meet poor people with special diet needs? A gluten intolerant house cleaner? A cab driver with Candida? Candida is what I call a rich, white person problem. You know you've really made it in this world when you get Candida. My personal theory is that Candida is something you get from too much hot yoga. All I'm saying is if I were a yeast, I would want to live in your yoga pants.

Next I approach the beauty aisle. There is a scary looking machine there that you put your face inside of and it tells you exactly how ugly you are. They calculate your wrinkles, sun spots, the size of your pores, etc. and compare it to other women your age. I think of myself attractive but as it turns out, I am 78 percent ugly, meaning less pretty than 78 percent of women in the world. On the popular 1-10 hotness scale used by males the world over, that makes me a 3 (if you round up, which I hope you will.) A glance at the extremely close-up picture they took of my face, in which I somehow have a glorious, blond porn mustache, tells me that 3 is about right. Especially because the left side of my face is apparently 20 percent more aged than the right. Fantastic. After contemplating ending it all here and now, I decide instead to buy their product. One bottle of delicious smelling, silky feeling creme that is maybe going to raise me from a 3 to a 4 for only $108 which is a pretty good deal when you think about it.

I grab a handful of peanut butter pretzels on my way out of this stupid aisle. I don't feel bad about pilfering these bites because of the umpteen times that I've overpaid at the salad bar and been tricked into buying $108 beauty creams. The pretzels are very fattening but I'm already in the seventieth percentile of ugly so who cares.

Continue reading at:  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/kelly-maclean/surviving-whole-foods_b_3895583.html

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Democrats vs. the New Deal: Who really runs the party — and why it might surprise you

From Salon:  http://www.salon.com/2014/12/09/democrats_vs_the_new_deal_who_really_runs_the_party_and_why_it_might_surprise_you/

Dems taking pride in FDR's historic legacy need to reckon with a basic truth: The party is now firmly anti-New Deal

Tuesday, Dec 9, 2014

In the aftermath of the shellacking they took in the midterm congressional and state elections, many Democrats are calling for their party to return to its New Deal roots.

 This is inadvertently comical.  The present-day Democratic Party has next to nothing to do with Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal or Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society.  Today’s Democratic Party is a completely different party, which coalesced between 1968 and 1980.  And this half-century-old party has been anti-New Deal from the very beginning.
 
Now that I have your attention, allow me to explain.

While there have been two parties called “the Democrats” and “the Republicans” since the mid-19th century, these enduring labels mask the fact that party coalitions change every generation or two.  Franklin Roosevelt created a new party under the old name of “the Democrats” by welding ex-Republican Progressives in the North together with the old Jacksonian Farmer-Labor coalition.  The contentious issue of civil rights nearly destroyed the Roosevelt Democrats in 1948 — and finally wrecked it in 1968, when George Wallace’s third party campaign proved to be a way-station for many working-class whites en route from the Democrats to the Republicans.

Today’s Democratic Party, in contrast, took shape between 1968 and 1980.  Although George McGovern lost the 1972 presidential race to Richard Nixon in a landslide, the McGovernites of the “New Politics” movement wrested control of the Democratic Party from the old state politicians and urban bosses of the Roosevelt-to-Johnson New Deal coalition.  Robert Kennedy’s aide Fred Dutton, one of the architects of the disempowerment of the old New Deal elite, called for a new coalition of young people, college-educated suburbanites and minorities in his 1971 book “Changing Sources of Power: Politics in the 1970s.”  Sound familiar?  That’s because, nearly half a century later, the same groups are the core constituents of today’s Democrats.

Jimmy Carter was the first New Politics president (or New Democrat or neoliberal, as they were later called).  He was a center-right Southern governor who ran against big government and touted his credentials as a rich businessman.  He did not get along with organized labor, one of the key constituencies of the Roosevelt Democrats.  His major domestic policy achievement was dismantling New Deal regulation of transportation like trucking and air travel.  He appointed a Federal Reserve chairman from Wall Street, Paul Volcker, who created an artificial recession, the worst between the Great Depression and the Great Recession, to cripple American unions, whose wage demands were blamed for inflation.

Even before Carter’s election, the Democratic “class of ’74” in Congress wrested power from the old largely Southern politicians of the New Deal era. The  northern Irish Catholic-Southern alliance, symbolized by House Speakers Tip O’Neill and Jim Wright, gave way among congressional Democrats to a new Northeastern-West Coast domination, beginning with Democratic House Speaker Tom Foley, of the state of Washington.  Many of these younger Democrats were deficit hawks, like Bill Bradley of New York and Paul Tsongas of Massachusetts.  Democrats like these supported the 1983 Social Security “reform,” which cut Social Security benefits by raising the formal retirement age from 65 to 67.  In his 1984 presidential campaign, Carter’s former vice-president, Fritz Mondale, made deficit reduction his central issue.

Continue reading at:  http://www.salon.com/2014/12/09/democrats_vs_the_new_deal_who_really_runs_the_party_and_why_it_might_surprise_you/

Monday, December 8, 2014

Propaganda Has Triumphed over Journalism, and the Consequences Are Enormous

From Alternet:  http://www.alternet.org/propaganda-has-triumphed-over-journalism-and-consequences-are-enormous

We need a press that teaches the young to be agents of people, not power.

By John Pilger December 5, 2014

Why has so much journalism succumbed to propaganda? Why are censorship and distortion standard practice? Why is the BBC so often a mouthpiece of rapacious power? Why do the New York Times and theWashington Post deceive their readers?

Why are young journalists not taught to understand media agendas and to challenge the high claims and low purpose of fake objectivity?  And why are they not taught that the essence of so much of what’s called the mainstream media is not information, but power?

These are urgent questions. The world is facing the prospect of major war, perhaps nuclear war – with the United States clearly determined to isolate and provoke Russia and eventually China. This truth is being turned upside down and inside out by journalists, including those who promoted the lies that led to the bloodbath in Iraq in 2003.

The times we live in are so dangerous and so distorted in public perception that propaganda is no longer, as Edward Bernays called it, an “invisible government”. It is the government. It rules directly without fear of contradiction and its principal aim is the conquest of us: our sense of the world, our ability to separate truth from lies.

The information age is actually a media age. We have war by media; censorship by media; demonology by media; retribution by media; diversion by media – a surreal assembly line of obedient clichés and false assumptions.

This power to create a new “reality” has been building for a long time. Forty-five years ago, a book entitled The Greening of America caused a sensation. On the cover were these words: “There is a revolution coming. It will not be like revolutions of the past. It will originate with the individual.”

I was a correspondent in the United States at the time and recall the overnight elevation to guru status of the author, a young Yale academic, Charles Reich. His message was that truth-telling and political action had failed and only “culture” and introspection could change the world.

Continue reading at:  http://www.alternet.org/propaganda-has-triumphed-over-journalism-and-consequences-are-enormous

“Slow-motion disaster”: Paul Krugman sounds the alarm about Europe’s economic mess

From Salon:  http://www.salon.com/2014/12/01/slow_motion_disaster_paul_krugman_sounds_the_alarm_about_europes_economic_mess/

The economist explains why the continent's woes keep him up at night

Monday, Dec 1, 2014

A specter is haunting Europe — the specter of a lost decade.

So warns Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman in his New York Times column today, which examines the continent’s “slow-motion disaster.” As Krugman notes, the United States and Europe are diverging in their economic paths: while the U.S. seems to be slowly but surely recovering from the financial crisis, Europe is in the midst of another, with high unemployment and a looming risk of deflation. Why is the continent staring down the economic abyss? “The conventional wisdom among European policy makers is that we’re looking at the price of irresponsibility,” 
Krugman observes, with countries like Greece, Spain, France, and Italy blamed for alleged profligacy and uncompetitive economic policies. But the conventional wisdom is dead wrong, Krugman argues.
If you want to know how Europe reached its current state of affairs, don’t look to the continent’s traditional scapegoats. “[T]he bad behavior at the core of Europe’s slow-motion disaster isn’t coming from Greece, or Italy, or France,” Krugman contends. “It’s coming from Germany.”

Purveyors of the standard narrative about the European economy depict countries like Greece, Italy, and France as racked with high labor costs and reckless fiscal policies. But this narrative is bunk; just glance at some of the data:
Since the euro came into existence in 1999, France’s G.D.P. deflator (the average price of French-produced goods and services) has risen 1.7 percent per year, while its unit labor costs have risen 1.9 percent annually. Both numbers are right in line with the European Central Bank’s target of slightly under 2 percent inflation, and similar to what has happened in the United States. Germany, on the other hand, is way out of line, with price and labor-cost growth of 1 and 0.5 percent, respectively.
Moreover, Krugman writes, costs are coming under control in Spain and Italy. And as for the argument that fiscal irresponsibility is wrecking economies, Krugman points out that France’s borrowing costs are barely higher than Germany’s; there’s no fiscal crisis on the horizon.

Continue reading at:  http://www.salon.com/2014/12/01/slow_motion_disaster_paul_krugman_sounds_the_alarm_about_europes_economic_mess/

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Technology is making us blind: The dangerous complacency of the iPhone era

From Salon:  http://www.salon.com/2014/11/29/technology_is_making_us_blind_the_dangerous_complacency_of_the_iphone_era/

The rise of smartphones and social media has ushered in a new age of techno-optimism. And that's a big problem

Saturday, Nov 29, 2014
The technology pages of news media can make for scary reading these days. From new evidence of government surveillance to the personal data collection capabilities of new devices, to the latest leaks of personal information, we hear almost daily of new threats to personal privacy. It’s difficult to overstate the implications of this: The separation of the private and public that’s the cornerstone of liberal thought, not to mention the American Constitution, is being rapidly eroded, with potentially profound consequences for our freedom.

 As much as we may register a certain level of dismay at this, in practice, our reaction is often indifference. How many of us have taken to the streets in protest, started a petition, canvassed a politician, or even changed our relationship with our smartphone, tablet or smartwatch? The question is why are we so unconcerned?
 
We could say that it’s simply a matter of habit, that we have become so used to using devices in such a way that we cannot imagine using them any differently. Or we could, for example, invoke a tragic fate in which we simply have no option but to accept the erosion of our privacy because of our powerlessness against corporations and governments.

These are, however, retrospective justifications that miss the kernel of the truth. To reach this kernel, we have to excavate the substratum of culture to uncover the ideas that shape our relationship with technology. Only here can we see that the cause is a profound ideological shift in this relationship.
Over the last few hundred years, it has been one characterized by deep ambivalence. On the one hand, we have viewed technology as emancipatory, and even, as David Nye, James Carey and other scholars have argued, as divine. On the other hand, we have seen it as dehumanizing, alienating and potentially manipulative — a viewpoint shaped by historical figures as diverse as William Blake, Mark Twain, Mary Shelley, Charlie Chaplin, Friedrich Nietzsche, Ned Lud, Samuel Beckett and Karl Marx. However, over the last 20 years or so, this latter perspective has largely been thrown out of the window.

There are many areas of culture that witness this shift, but none does so as lucidly as science fiction film. Even when set in the future, science fiction explodes onto the silver screen the ideas held about technology in the present. Indeed, the success of many of the best science fiction films is undoubtedly because they illustrate their time’s hopes and fears about technology so clearly.

Those of the late 20th century clearly suggest the prevalence in American culture of the old fearful view of technology. The 1980s, for example, saw the advent of personal computing, innovation in areas like genetic engineering and robotics, job losses brought about by industrial mechanization, and the creation of futuristic military technologies such as the Strategic Defense Initiative (aka Star Wars).

Lo and behold, the science fiction films of the time betray cultural fears of keeping up with the pace of change. Many explore the dehumanizing effects of technology, depicting worlds where humans have lost control. “Terminator,” for example, conjoins fears of mechanization and computing. The human protagonists are powerless to kill Schwarzenegger’s cyborg directly; it ultimately meets its end via another piece of industrial technology (a hydraulic press). Another classic of the era, “Blade Runner,” is a complex thought experiment on the joining of technology and humans as hybrids. The antagonist, Roy, whom Harrison Ford’s Deckard must kill, represents the horrific synthesis of unfettered human ambition and technological potency.

Continue reading at:  http://www.salon.com/2014/11/29/technology_is_making_us_blind_the_dangerous_complacency_of_the_iphone_era/

Monday, December 1, 2014

Krugman’s doom and gloom: Why our Very Serious elites still don’t get it

From Salon:  http://www.salon.com/2014/11/24/krugmans_doom_and_gloom_why_our_very_serious_elites_still_dont_get_it/

Six years after the global financial crisis hit, we still aren't out of the woods

Monday, Nov 24, 2014

Six years after the global economy reached the edge of the precipice, what have economic elites learned about policymaking?
 
Not much, Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman laments in his New York Times column today.
Mainstream economic scholarship tells us that the normal rules don’t apply in a “rock-bottom economy,” Krugman writes:
Government spending doesn’t compete with private investment — it actually promotes business spending. Central bankers, who normally cultivate an image as stern inflation-fighters, need to do the exact opposite, convincing markets and investors that they will push inflation up. “Structural reform,” which usually means making it easier to cut wages, is more likely to destroy jobs than create them.
Still, Very Serious People insisted otherwise, claiming that the most urgent threat confronting the country was the federal budget deficit, demanding sharp cuts in interest rates lest hyperinflation begin at any moment, and championing a belt-tightening austerity regime. As Krugman points out, some policymakers — including at the European Central Bank — heeded this disastrous advice, and the continent hasn’t recovered since.

And don’t be fooled by indicators that suggest the global economy is — if not out of the woods — slowly emerging, Krugman cautions:

It’s true that with the U.S. unemployment rate dropping, most analysts expect the Fed to raise interest rates sometime next year. But inflation is low, wages are weak, and the Fed seems to realize that raising rates too soon would be disastrous. Meanwhile, Europe looks further than ever from economic liftoff, while Japan is still struggling to escape from deflation. Oh, and China, which is starting to remind some of us of Japan in the late 1980s, could join the rock-bottom club sooner than you think.

So the counterintuitive realities of economic policy at the zero lower bound are likely to remain relevant for a long time to come, which makes it crucial that influential people understand those realities. Unfortunately, too many still don’t; one of the most striking aspects of economic debate in recent years has been the extent to which those whose economic doctrines have failed the reality test refuse to admit error, let alone learn from it. The intellectual leaders of the new majority in Congress still insist that we’re living in an Ayn Rand novel; German officials still insist that the problem is that debtors haven’t suffered enough.


Naomi Klein Lays Bare the Conflict Between Capitalism and the Climate

From Alternet:  http://www.alternet.org/naomi-klein-lays-bare-conflict-between-capitalism-and-climate

Tom Athanasiou’s review of Klein’s latest book, 'This Changes Everything.'

By Tom Athanasiou November 24, 2014

The first thing to say about Naomi’s Klein’s latest book is that its title makes a grand promise,  This Changes Everything – and that’s before you even get to the subtitle, which sets up a face-off between capitalism on one side and the climate on the other. The second thing to say is that no single book could ever meet such a promise. Klein, with careful aplomb, does not attempt to do so. Rather, she offers a tour of the horizon upon which we will meet our fates. Or, rather, the horizon upon which we will attempt to change them.

In the face of such huge topics, Klein’s strategy is a practical one. She defers the problem of capitalism-in-itself (as German philosophers used to call it) and focuses instead on our era’s particular type of capitalism – the neoliberal capitalism of boundless privatization and deregulation, of markets-über-alles ideology and oligarchic billionaires. Her central argument is not (as some have insisted) that capitalism has to go before we can begin to save ourselves, but rather that we’re going to have to get past neoliberalism if we want to face the greater challenges. Klein writes:
Some say there is no time for this transformation; the crisis is too pressing and the clock is ticking. I agree that it would be reckless to claim that the only solution to this crisis is to revolutionize our economy and revamp our worldview from the bottom up – and anything short of that is not worth doing. There are all kinds of measures that would lower emissions substantively that could and should be done right now. But we aren’t taking those measures, are we?
At the outset Klein asks the obvious question: Why haven’t we, in the face of existential danger, mobilized to lower emissions? There are lots of reasons, but one stands above all others. We have not mobilized because “market fundamentalism has, from the very first moments, systematically sabotaged our collective response to climate change, a threat that came knocking just as this ideology was reaching its zenith.” In other words the climate crisis came with spectacularly “bad timing.” The severity of the danger became clear at the very time when “there-is-no-alternative” capitalism was rising to ideological triumph, foreclosing the exact remedies (long-term planning, stricter government regulation, collective action) that could address the crisis. It’s a crucial insight, and it alone justifies the price of admission.

Klein reports that her “environmentalist friends” constantly ask her, “Do you have to say ‘capitalism’?” It’s a great laugh line, but it’s important to acknowledge that the question is a fair one. Because if capitalism – the hard core of our woe-begotten economy – is the problem, then our near-impossible task becomes even more difficult. Given her animus against neoliberalism (see her previous bestsellers,  No Logo and The Shock Doctrine), you might expect her to agree that vocal anti-capitalism is unnecessary; neoliberalism is quite enough to fear all by itself. But Klein is playing another game, and it requires her to call things by their proper names. In this sense she may not even be an environmentalist, at least not in the old sense of the word. The modern American green movement has so long strained to avoid charges of anti-capitalism that you could write its history in terms of this avoidance. Such a history would recount endless screeds against “industrialism,” “technology,” “reductionism,” “patriarchy,” “overpopulation,” and, lately, even agriculture. All of these, no doubt, have something to teach us, but absent a coherent understanding of political economy, they shade together into noise and confusion.

Continue reading at:  http://www.alternet.org/naomi-klein-lays-bare-conflict-between-capitalism-and-climate

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

It's OK to tell your abortion story. Some women just don't want to be pregnant

From The Guardian UK:  http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/nov/20/abortion-story-women-dont-want-be-pregnant

You don’t owe anyone an explanation for your abortion. But with so many women being shamed, shouldn’t we speak out?

Thursday 20 November 2014

I know a woman in her 30s: she’s married, she has a toddler, and she desperately wants a second child – but a dangerous medical condition means that having another baby would be life-threatening. Despite being careful, she got pregnant. She had an abortion because she wasn’t willing to risk her life and leave her child motherless, but she still feels a deep sadness.

I know another woman, in her 20s, who had a shitty boyfriend (but no kids) when her birth control failed and she found herself with a pregnancy she knew she didn’t want – a pregnancy she wasn’t ready for. She was upset about the situation, but had no doubts about what she wanted to do and, after the abortion, no regrets. She rarely thinks about the pregnancy or the abortion anymore.

If you’re like a lot of people, you probably have much more sympathy for the first woman than the second. Though the majority of people in America and Northern Ireland and so many other places believe abortion should be legal, too many of us still think about reproductive rights as if there’s a hierarchy of good and bad abortions – the kind that women “deserve”, and the kind women should be ashamed of.

But those two women? They’re both me.

On Thursday, the 1 in 3 Campaign (a hat tip to the fact that 1 in 3 American women will have an abortion) launched a live-streamed, national abortion speak-out featuring people like Planned Parenthood president Cecile Richards, comedian Lizz Winstead and artist Favianna Rodriguez – and me.

I’ve written about ending my wanted pregnancy and the turmoil I faced with the decision, but I’ve never before spoken publicly about my first abortion – not because I was ashamed, but because it truly didn’t have that tremendous of an impact on my life. If anything, being able to have that abortion made my life better: I was able to publish my first book, meet my now-husband, cultivate the life that I’m living and build the family that I love.

Continue reading at:  http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/nov/20/abortion-story-women-dont-want-be-pregnant

Why College Is Necessary But Gets You Nowhere

From Robert Reich:  http://robertreich.org/post/103472733520

Robert Reich
Monday, November 24, 2014


This is the time of year when high school seniors apply to college, and when I get lots of mail about whether college is worth the cost.

The answer is unequivocally yes, but with one big qualification. I’ll come to the qualification in a moment but first the financial case for why it’s worth going to college.

Put simply, people with college degrees continue to earn far more than people without them. And that college “premium” keeps rising.

Last year, Americans with four-year college degrees earned on average 98 percent more per hour than people without college degrees.

In the early 1980s, graduates earned 64 percent more.

So even though college costs are rising, the financial return to a college degree compared to not having one is rising even faster.

But here’s the qualification, and it’s a big one.

A college degree no longer guarantees a good job. The main reason it pays better than the job of someone without a degree is the latter’s wages are dropping.

In fact, it’s likely that new college graduates will spend some years in jobs for which they’re overqualified.

According to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, 46 percent of recent college graduates are now working in jobs that don’t require college degrees. (The same is true for more than a third of college graduates overall.)

Their employers still choose college grads over non-college grads on the assumption that more education is better than less.

As a result, non-grads are being pushed into ever more menial work, if they can get work at all. Which is a major reason why their pay is dropping.

What’s going on? For years we’ve been told globalization and technological advances increase the demand for well-educated workers. (Confession: I was one of the ones making this argument.)

This was correct until around 2000. But since then two things have reversed the trend.

Continue reading at:  http://robertreich.org/post/103472733520

Friday, November 21, 2014

Thursday, November 20, 2014

The Daily Show with Jon Stewart ~ Lewis Black - Back in Black (November 19th 2014)


Tommy Chong defends Obamacare on Fox News


Bernie Sanders: US may be at ‘tipping point’ where only ‘the billionaire class’ picks presidents

From Raw Story:  http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2014/11/bernie-sanders-us-may-be-at-tipping-point-where-only-the-billionaire-class-picks-presidents/


17 Nov 2014


Independent Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders warned on Monday that the United States may have reached a “tipping point” where the “billionaire class” could block any presidential candidates who were fighting for the working class.

Sanders explained during an interview on CNN that he had been traveling the country to determine if he would have the necessary support for a presidential run in 2016.

“I’m giving some thought to it,” he said. “Taking on the billionaire class, and Wall Street, and the Koch brothers is not an easy task.”

“How are you going to get elected president if you take on the billionaire class?” CNN host Chris Cuomo snarked. “Don’t you watch the elections?”

“I’m going to be very honest with you,” Sanders replied. “We may have reached the tipping point where candidates who are fighting for the working class and the middle class of this country may not be able do it anymore because of the power of the billionaire class.”

“That’s the simple reality,” he continued. “And I have got to ascertain — if I do it, I want to do it well. If I do it, I know that I will need millions of people engaged in a real grassroots campaign to take on big money, and to fight for an agenda, a jobs program, raising the minimum wage, pay equity for women, dealing with climate change, all of these things.”

“And I have to ascertain what kind of support there is out there.”

Thomas Frank on Ronald Reagan’s secret tragedy: How ’70s and ’80s cynicism poisoned Democrats and America

From Salon:  http://www.salon.com/2014/11/16/thomas_frank_on_ronald_reagans_secret_tragedy_how_70s_and_80s_cynicism_poisoned_democrats_and_america/

Nixon's lies and Reagan's charms created the space for Clinton, Carter and Obama to redefine (and gut) liberalism

Sunday, Nov 16, 2014

“The Invisible Bridge” is the third installment in Rick Perlstein’s grand history of conservatism, and like its predecessors, the book is filled with startling insights. It is the story of a time much like our own—the 1970s, which took America from the faith-crushing experience of Watergate to economic hard times and, eventually, to a desperate enthusiasm for two related figures: the nostalgic presidential aspirant Ronald Reagan, and the “anti-politician” Jimmy Carter. (I discussed Perlstein’s views on Carter in this space a few weeks ago.)

 In blending cultural with political history, “The Invisible Bridge” strikes me as an obvious addition to any list of nonfiction masterpieces. But I also confess to being biased: Not only do I feel nostalgia for many of the events the book describes—Hank Aaron’s pursuit of the home run record, for example—but I have been friends with Rick since long ago, when he was in college and The Baffler was publishing his essays. I interviewed Rick on an Amtrak train traveling from Seattle to Portland, Oregon, a few weeks ago (we were there to do readings from a new anthology of essays); here is an edited transcript of our conversation.
 
Let’s talk Watergate. It’s a Republican scandal, obviously, but here’s the thing: It’s liberalism that has never really recovered. Think about it. Your book starts with Watergate and ends with…well, it doesn’t quite get to the triumph of Reagan, but it comes close.

That’s a profound question. That’s deep. I think that liberalism indeed has never really recovered from Watergate in the following sense: It gave a certain generation of Democrats — and we’ll talk about Gary Hart. . . .

Yeah. He’s going to come up.

It gave a certain generation of Democrats an argument to take on the Republicans at the exact same moment that a new political generation was coming up that had indifference, at best, and contempt, at worst, for the New Deal tradition. So you get this class of Congresspeople who hadn’t really run for any office at all. Very young. Swept into office in 1974, very much arguing on issues of corruption, to be sure, but also lifestyle issues. Often they were representing new suburban constituencies that had traditionally elected Republicans and their spokesman was, in fact, this guy Gary Hart…

You’re getting ahead of yourself here, Rick. There’s a more direct route — I probably should have hinted at it — which is cynicism. That Watergate kicked up this huge cultural contempt for government and all its works. 
\
For government itself. Right, right. You know Ronald Reagan, his speech announcing his surprise challenge against Gerald Ford for the Republican nomination centered around this idea of the “buddy system” in Washington.

Continue reading at:  http://www.salon.com/2014/11/16/thomas_frank_on_ronald_reagans_secret_tragedy_how_70s_and_80s_cynicism_poisoned_democrats_and_america/

Why It's Harder Than Ever for Religions to Con Their Followers

From Alternet:  http://www.alternet.org/belief/why-its-harder-ever-religions-con-their-followers

It's more difficult for religions to control their believers’ access to information.

By Amanda Marcotte November 12, 2014

While the burgeoning atheist movement loves throwing conferences and selling books, a huge chunk--possibly most--of its resources go toward the Internet. This isn’t borne out of laziness or a hostility to wearing pants so much as a belief that the Internet is  uniquely positioned as the perfect tool for sharing arguments against religion with believers who are experiencing doubts. It’s searchable, it allows back-and-forth debate, and it makes proving your arguments through links much easier. Above all else, it’s private. An online search on atheism is much easier to hide than, say, a copy of The God Delusion on your nightstand.

In recent months, this sense that the Internet is the key for atheist outreach has started to move from “hunch” to actual, evidence-based theory. Earlier this year, Allen Downey of the Olin College of Engineering in Massachusetts examined the spike in people declaring  they had no religion that started in the '90s and found that while there are many factors contributing to it--dropping familial pressure, increased levels of college education--increased Internet usage was likely a huge part of it, accounting for up to 25 percent of the decline in religious belief. While cautioning that correlation does not mean causation, Downey did go on to point out that since so many other factors were controlled for, it’s a safe bet to conclude that the access to varied thought and debate the Internet provides is persuading people to drop their religions.

But in the past few months, that hypothesis grew even stronger when a major American religion basically had to admit that Internet arguments against their faith is putting them on their heels. The Church of Latter Day Saints has quietly released a series of essays, put together by church historians, addressing some of the less savory aspects of their history, such as the practice of polygamy or the ban on black members. The church sent out a memo in September telling church leaders to direct believers who have questions about their religion’s history to these essays, which they presented as a counter to “detractors” who “spread misinformation and doubt.”

While there are plenty of detractors who will share their opinions offline, there’s little doubt that the bulk of the detractors plaguing the church are explaining their views online, which is why this has become a problem now for a church that used to act like it could exert total control over believers’ access to information. One of the church historians, Steven Snow, openly cited the internet as the source of the criticisms. “There is so much out there on the Internet ,” he told the New York Times, “that we felt we owed our members a safe place where they could go to get reliable, faith-promoting information that was true about some of these more difficult aspects of our history.”

Continue reading at:  http://www.alternet.org/belief/why-its-harder-ever-religions-con-their-followers