May 2014 Archives

Another Comment on Snowden

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this time from one:

MJ Olson
commented 7 hours ago

"Unauthorized" carefully crafted misleading leaks were a de rigueur fact of life that could be observed almost daily when I was in the USAF branch of the NSA during my 2.5 years in the middle of the secret air war in Vietnam (TS/SCI cleared). There was no way then, just as now, to do anything other than shut up and stew or be prepared to go to jail for a minimum of 35 years at Leavenworth. Obviously, nothing has changed over the 42 years I have been away from the crazy people.

All the current talk of "reforms" is window dressing designed to placate the masses. NOTHING can reign in the covert world other than dismantling it entirely OR setting up an external protected route to Congress and the POTUS that can raise the alarm bell, have a discussion, and enable a credible vetted route for the substantive information to get public, minimizing the downside of protecting national security.

The facts of intelligence gathered are at odds, as they have always been, with the authorizations and the methods used to operationalize those authorizations. Nothing has emerged yet tha promises change.

Snowden has illustrated the problem expertly. How can anyone cross check anything the NSA states? Who is the external authority that reliably has the knowledge and skill to penetrate an abyss? The old saw "Trust me, I'm from the government" couldn't be more epitomized then by NSA's public statements.

"Ultimately, whether my disclosures were justified does not depend on whether I raised these concerns previously. That's because the system is designed to ensure that even the most valid concerns are suppressed and ignored, not acted upon. The fact that two powerful Democratic Senators - Ron Wyden and Mark Udall - knew of mass surveillance that they believed was abusive and felt constrained to do anything about it underscores how futile such internal action is -- and will remain -- until these processes are reformed."

The secret world is totally, and inadvertently, a product of its culture: paranoid, obsessive-compulsive, sociopathic, schizophrenic, and absolutely convinced of its own nationalistic righteousness. Those who see the problems after taking the national security oath, virtually the only legal "prior constraint" commitment in American democracy, have only one practical choice: to get out. It usually takes a few years before one can see the scope of the issues within the NSA. But the self-vetting process where honest smart people leave, creates the culture where ONLY "true believers" live.

How can anyone seriously believe that individual rights can ever trump this uncontrollable BEAST of a system? The truth does NOT lie within, because the within IS the lie.

Bill Moyers nailed it: "If absolute power corrupts absolutely, invisible power corrupts invisibly." (Look up: "Juan Cole on the Vulnerability of the Network" this site doesn't allow external links).

A Comment on Snowden

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culheath replied 9 hours ago #27.6

In reply to: Bry In VA #27.5

It was a reckless and dangerous move.

Not for him. It was essential.

There is no way he could release the info from within the country. He had to create various security levels for himself and getting out the country was the first totally necessary step - because if he had stayed and released the info they would have closed the borders to him and a gigantic manhunt would have gone down.

The idea that he would divulge info to his various host governments is insane. They would have the info and off him or turn him over immediately afterward. He was smart to use the public attention while he was in Hong Kong and after. The eyes of the world were on him and that tempered and curtailed a great deal of the American push to grab him.

The government is concerned with his crimes per se than in getting a full picture of what and how much he took and what is still out there. That's his gun, as it were.

Put yourself in his shoes while all this drama was going down especially after they canceled his passport and marooned him in the Moscow airport area. The entire US justice dept is after you including the Dept of State and the President What would that be like?

I'm both impressed and amazed really at his poise and calm throughout the whole thing. He's still getting his message out, he's generating deep conversation about what sort of country we want, balancing security over liberty,

He's doing interviews explaining himself. And the entire US government cannot stop him. Think about that. Would you have the balls? Are you THAT patriotic?!

Then I come in here and watch the kneejerk crap about how he "broke the law", "he's a traitor", "he's a reckless @!$%# that put the country and my family in danger" "hang him, put a bullet in his brain" know the tune.

It's disheartening that so many Americans are so kneejerk about flag and country yet say things that are completely opposed to what this country is supposed to be about. people who can't identify with the heroic aspect of Snowden's actions are suckers to the security state and are empowering the NSA and other security agencies drive toward a police state.

Snowden made you aware of the degree of bureaucratic corruption and the construction of a shadow government beholding to no one, not the president not congress.

Think about that.

Full NBC Interview:

A Poet Warrior Passes

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Farewell to a magnificent human and beautiful teacher and eternal shero.


Maya Angelou, the poet, author and advocate for equality and justice, has died. She was 86.

While many remembrances of the legendary woman are sure to follow, it may be best to remember her through her work.

She recited what is perhaps her most well-known poem, "On the Pulse of Morning," at the 1993 inauguration of President Bill Clinton.

Here's Angelou on Iconoclasts, which she appeared on in 2006 with Dave Chappelle.

Part 1

Parts 2,3,4

You know those people who think vaccines are a New World Order plot or cause autism.

I have become enamored of late to the brilliant essays of Ta' Nehisi Coates. He has a habit of turning me inside out and revealing inner truths I didn't know were there.

A Muscular Empathy

Ta-Nehisi Coates

It's easy to say you would have acted better than a slave master if you had lived in the antebellum South; or escaped poverty if you grew up in an inner city in more modern times. But it's much more interesting to assume that you wouldn't have, and then ask "Why?"


Ta-Nehisi Coates and Father, William Paul Coates

from a Forbes piece :"If I Were A Poor Black Kid" by Gene Marks

The President's speech got me thinking. My kids are no smarter than similar kids their age from the inner city. My kids have it much easier than their counterparts from West Philadelphia. The world is not fair to those kids mainly because they had the misfortune of being born two miles away into a more difficult part of the world and with a skin color that makes realizing the opportunities that the President spoke about that much harder.
This is a fact. In 2011.

I am not a poor black kid. I am a middle aged white guy who comes from a middle class white background. So life was easier for me. But that doesn't mean that the prospects are impossible for those kids from the inner city. It doesn't mean that there are no opportunities for them. Or that the 1% control the world and the rest of us have to fight over the scraps left behind. I don't believe that. I believe that everyone in this country has a chance to succeed. Still. In 2011. Even a poor black kid in West Philadelphia.

It takes brains. It takes hard work. It takes a little luck. And a little help from others. It takes the ability and the know-how to use the resources that are available. Like technology. As a person who sells and has worked with technology all my life I also know this. 

When I read this piece I was immediately called back, as I so often am, to my days at Howard and the courses I took looking at slavery. Whenever we discussed the back-breaking conditions, the labor, the sale of family members, etc., there was always someone who asserted, roughly, "I couldn't been no slave. They'd a had to kill me!" I occasionally see a similar response here where someone will assert, with less ego, "Why didn't the slaves rebel?" More commonly you get people presiding from on high insisting that if they had lived in the antebellum South, they would have freed all of their slaves.

What all these responses have in common is a benevolent, and surely unintentional, self-aggrandizement. These are not bad people (much as I am sure Mr. Marks isn't a bad person), but they are people speaking from a gut feeling, a kind of revulsion at a situation that offends our modern morals. In the case of the observer of slavery, it is the chaining and marketing of human flesh. In the case of Mr. Marks, it's the astonishingly high levels of black poverty.

It is comforting to believe that we, through our sheer will, could transcend these bindings -- to believe that if we were slaves, our indomitable courage would have made us Frederick Douglass, or if we were slave masters, our keen morality would have made us Bobby Carter. We flatter ourselves, not out of malice, but out of instinct.

Still, we are, in the main, ordinary people living in plush times. We are smart enough to get by, responsible enough to raise a couple of kids, thrifty to sock away for a vacation, and industrious enough to keep the lights on. We like our cars. We love a good cheeseburger. We'd die without air-conditioning. In the great mass of humanity that's ever lived, we are distinguished only by our creature comforts, and we are, on the whole, mediocre.

That mediocrity is oft-exemplified by the claim that though we are unremarkable in this easy world, something about enslavement, degradation and poverty would make us exemplary. We can barely throw a left hook--but surely we would have beaten Mike Tyson.

hat tip to John:

America dumbs down

The U.S. is being overrun by a wave of anti-science, anti-intellectual thinking. Has the most powerful nation on Earth lost its mind?

Jonathon Gatehouse


South Carolina's state beverage is milk. Its insect is the praying mantis. There's a designated dance--the shag--as well a sanctioned tartan, game bird, dog, flower, gem and snack food (boiled peanuts). But what Olivia McConnell noticed was missing from among her home's 50 official symbols was a fossil. So last year, the eight-year-old science enthusiast wrote to the governor and her representatives to nominate the Columbian mammoth. Teeth from the woolly proboscidean, dug up by slaves on a local plantation in 1725, were among the first remains of an ancient species ever discovered in North America. Forty-three other states had already laid claim to various dinosaurs, trilobites, primitive whales and even petrified wood. It seemed like a no-brainer. "Fossils tell us about our past," the Grade 2 student wrote.

And, as it turns out, the present, too. The bill that Olivia inspired has become the subject of considerable angst at the legislature in the state capital of Columbia. First, an objecting state senator attached three verses from Genesis to the act, outlining God's creation of all living creatures. Then, after other lawmakers spiked the amendment as out of order for its introduction of the divinity, he took another crack, specifying that the Columbian mammoth "was created on the sixth day with the other beasts of the field." That version passed in the senate in early April. But now the bill is back in committee as the lower house squabbles over the new language, and it's seemingly destined for the same fate as its honouree--extinction.

What has doomed Olivia's dream is a raging battle in South Carolina over the teaching of evolution in schools. Last week, the state's education oversight committee approved a new set of science standards that, if adopted, would see students learn both the case for, and against, natural selection.

Charles Darwin's signature discovery--first published 155 years ago and validated a million different ways since--long ago ceased to be a matter for serious debate in most of the world. But in the United States, reconciling science and religious belief remains oddly difficult. A national poll, conducted in March for the Associated Press, found that 42 per cent of Americans are "not too" or "not at all" confident that all life on Earth is the product of evolution. Similarly, 51 per cent of people expressed skepticism that the universe started with a "big bang" 13.8 billion years ago, and 36 per cent doubted the Earth has been around for 4.5 billion years.

The American public's bias against established science doesn't stop where the Bible leaves off, however. The same poll found that just 53 per cent of respondents were "extremely" or "very confident" that childhood vaccines are safe and effective. (Worldwide, the measles killed 120,000 people in 2012. In the United States, where a vaccine has been available since 1963, the last recorded measles death was in 2003.) When it comes to global warming, only 33 per cent expressed a high degree of confidence that it is "man made," something the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has declared is all but certain. (The good news, such as it was in the AP poll, was that 69 per cent actually believe in DNA, and 82 per cent now agree that smoking causes cancer.)

If the rise in uninformed opinion was limited to impenetrable subjects that would be one thing, but the scourge seems to be spreading. Everywhere you look these days, America is in a rush to embrace the stupid. Hell-bent on a path that's not just irrational, but often self-destructive. Common-sense solutions to pressing problems are eschewed in favour of bumper-sticker simplicities and blind faith.

In a country bedevilled by mass shootings--Aurora, Colo.; Fort Hood, Texas; Virginia Tech--efforts at gun control have given way to ever-laxer standards. Georgia recently passed a law allowing people to pack weapons in state and local buildings, airports, churches and bars. Florida is debating legislation that will waive all firearm restrictions during state emergencies like riots or hurricanes. (One opponent has moved to rename it "an Act Relating to the Zombie Apocalypse.") And since the December 2012 massacre of 20 children and six staff at Sandy Hook Elementary School, in Newtown, Conn., 12 states have passed laws allowing guns to be carried in schools, and 20 more are considering such measures.

The Rationale for Reparations

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I couldn't agree more with Ta-Nehisi Coates' position in that reparations is exactly what the US owes itself for having being built on slavery.

Facing the Truth: The Case for Reparations

In order to get a true sense of how much wealth the South held in bondage, it makes far more sense to look at slavery in terms of the percentage of total economic value it represented at the time. And by that metric, it was colossal. In 1860, slaves represented about 16 percent of the total household assets--that is, all the wealth--in the entire country, which in today's terms is a stunning $10 trillion.

Signs of overt racism still are all around us, be it a New Hampshire police commissioner's use of an ethnic slur to describe President Obama or an NBA team owner's disturbing remarks about black athletes and fans. By now, we all know the drill, the media calls these people out for their ugly words and we play our parts, shaking our heads in sad disbelief -- then return to our daily lives.

Ta-Nehisi Coates, a senior editor at The Atlantic magazine, thinks it's time for a bold step to change the way we talk and think about race in America. This week, Bill speaks to Coates about his June cover story for the magazine, provocatively titled "The Case for Reparations." In it, Coates argues that we have to dig deeper into our past and the original sin of slavery, confronting the institutional racism that continues to pervade society. From the lynching tree to today's mass incarceration of young African-Americans, he says we need to examine our motives more intently and reconcile the moral debt and economic damage inflicted upon generations of black Americans.

For one, Coates points to a century of racist and exploitive housing policies that made it hard for African-Americans to own homes and forced them to live in poorer neighborhoods with unequal access to a good education, resulting in a major wealth gap between black and white. In fact, the median wealth of white households is 20 times that of black households, according to a Pew Research Center study.

"There are plenty of African-Americans in this country -- and I would say this goes right up to the White House -- who are not by any means poor, but are very much afflicted by white supremacy," Coates says. By white supremacy Coates says he refers to an age-old system in America which holds that whites "should always be ensured that they will not sink to a certain level. And that level is the level occupied by black people."

Coates explains to Moyers: "I am not asking you as a white person to see yourself as an enslaver. I'm asking you as an American to see all of the freedoms that you enjoy and see how they are rooted in things that the country you belong to condoned or actively participated in the past."

the Atlantic article:
The Case for Reparations: An Intellectual Autopsy

Nip Sych Duet

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So Did the Fat Lady

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I really like Louie's sociology classes.

I can't believe he's been gone 5 years.

William Black is a former bank regulator who's seen firsthand how banking systems can be used to commit fraud -- and how "liar's loans" and other tricky tactics led to the 2008 US banking crisis that threatened the international economy. In this engaging talk, Black, now an academic, reveals the best way to rob a bank -- from the inside.

Did someone drop lime sherbet on the desert? -- and it's melting. Who's going to clean this up?

Nobody. Because this -- believe it or not -- is a plant. It may look like a glob of goo, but it's not at all gooey.

yareta.jpgWhat kind of plant is this? In Spanish it's called , and it's a member of the Apiaceae family, which makes it a cousin to parsley, carrots and fennel. But being a desert plant, high up in Chile's extraordinarily dry Atacama, it grows very, very slowly -- a little over a centimeter a year.

It's solid to the touch, so solid that a man can lie on top of it and not sink in, not even a little.

yareta-02.jpgThink about that. If you asked one of these plants, "What did you do during the 20th century?" it would answer, "I grew a meter bigger." At that rate, plants rising to shoulder height (covering yards of ground, lump after lump) must be really, really old. In fact, some of them are older than the of California, older than towering . In Chile, many of them go back 3,000 years -- well before the Golden Age of Greece.

One imagines that they are mold-like, wrapping themselves around boulders. But that's wrong. The truth is much weirder. That hard surface is actually a dense collection of tens of thousands of flowering buds at the ends of long stems, so densely packed, they create a compact surface. The plant is very, very dry, and makes for great kindling.

As the Bolivian guide explains in the video below (the plant can be found throughout the Andes), llareta is such good fuel that, even though it's very ancient, people regularly use it to start campfires and even, back in the day, to run locomotives. (That's 3, 000 to 4,000 years of captured sunshine thrown into a steam engine for a quick ride.

It's also good for muscle pain and smells like mint.

Now you know.

Another great interview from VOX

Susan Crawford, Former Special Assistant to President Obama on Science, Technology, and Innovation Policy, talks to Ezra Klein about how the internet is too important to be left to the private market.

Another look at it..

Polarization, gridlock, debt-ceiling crises, government shutdowns, filibusters -- nobody would describe Washington as finally coming to a post-partisan era of cooperation. But how did it get this way?

Ezra Klein talks with Frances Lee, Professor of American Politics at University of Maryland and author of Beyond Ideology: Politics, Principles and Partisanship in the U.S. Senate.

The Young Cowards of Wall St

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From VOX:

How Wall Street recruits so many insecure Ivy League grads

Kevin Roose is a New York magazine writer and author of the book "Young Money," in which he follows eight young Wall Street recruits through their first few years as investment bankers. The result is a searing portrait of confused kids getting what they thought they wanted and, in most cases, finding themselves truly miserable, and even a little broken by the experience. With graduation season upon us, I asked Roose to explain why so many kids who could seemingly do anything choose to work 120-hour weeks at investment banks.

Ezra Klein: My big takeaway from your book was that Ivy League graduates aren't going to Wall Street because they love risk and want to make a ton of money. They're going because they hate risk and are terrified about what to do next and Wall Street has figured out a way to calm their anxieties.

Kevin Roose: Wall Street invented this new way of recruiting in the early 80s. Before that they hired like any other industry. If you wanted to be a banker you applied for a job at a bank and they hired you or they didn't. But in the early 80s Goldman Sachs and others figured out they could broaden their net and get lots of really smart people if they made it a temporary position rather than a permanent one.

So they created the two-and-out program. The idea is you're there for two years and then you move onto something else. That let them attract not just hardcore econ majors but people majoring in other subjects who had a passing interest in finance and didn't know what else to do. People now think going to a bank for two years will help prepare them for the next thing and keep them from having to make these hard decisions about the rest of their life. It made it like an extension of college. And it was genius. It led to this huge explosion in recruitment and something like a third of Ivy League graduates going to Wall Street.

EK: This seems really at odd with finance's vision of itself as a world of capitalist cowboys.

KR: We think of Wall Street as being full of these crazy risk takers. But in a lot of schools it's these scared organization kids going to Wall Street. One thing Wall Street does that's really smart is they actually tell you way earlier than other industries if you got a job. They'll let you lock the job down in the fall of your senior year. So you can take that job on Wall Street or you can gamble on getting something after you graduate.

EK: One of the other programs that uses that model is Teach for America. And it's amazing, anecdotally, how often you see college seniors deciding between making huge money on Wall Street or making almost nothing with Teach For America. It really suggests to me that this isn't nearly as much about the money as people think.

KR: The lesson of that is you don't have to pay people a ton of money to come to your program after college if what you're giving them still offers prestige and structure and the sense that they're not signing up for something forever. Teach for America has really approximated the banking model without the money. If what you're seeking is short-term rewards there's no way you'd choose teaching in the Mississippi Delta over working at Goldman Sachs but there's something calling people to do work they find meaningful.

EK: Wall Street seems particularly good at both valuing the skills and managing the fears of liberal arts majors. A lot of kids graduated with a degree in sociology or English literature and feel they don't know any skills that will help them get a job. Wall Street both seems to see the value of that kind of learning and see how to position themselves as a kind of continuing-education program.

KR: It's amazing. They have turned investment banking into this two-year bootcamp for adulthood. They teach you to make powerpoint slides and Excel spreadsheets. But if you ask the banks what's interesting is they see this as a labor advantage: they can get not only the smartest econ majors but the smartest history majors. Lloyd Blankfein was a history major, for instance. And they view this as a source of prestige. They're not just getting finance-minded kids but they're getting the smartest kids from all fields. That lets them broaden their intellectual inputs. A history major might have different perspectives on a trading desk than an econ major.

EK: Does Wall Street have data on which majors end up working well for them?

KR: In my experience, when I was following these eight people, the ones most likely to wash out were the ones without clear reasons for being there in the first place. The people with pragmatic reasons, like having lots of student debt to pay off or having immigrant parents and wanting to build a better life for them, tend to stay. The kids who got into trouble were the ones who did this as a kind of cultural drift. So I think it has less to do with what they study than with their basic motivations.

EK: The recruiting model is smart but it also seems to require Wall Street's massive profit base. I'm sure the Washington Post or the New York Times or Vox would love to hoover in dozens of top Ivy League graduates and pay them huge salaries knowing that most will drop out pretty quickly but journalism doesn't quite have the business model to make that possible.

KR: I think to a certain extent consulting firms can do that and now you see tech companies like Google and Facebook emulating the recruiting model. But most industries can't. It doesn't just require money but also stability in your business model. The secret of young Wall Street is these people are essentially commodities. The banks care less about their qualifications than their work ethic. Being a Rhodes Scholar doesn't make much of a difference when you're a young banker. More of it is being willing to stay at the office for 120 hours a week.

EK: This is something your book goes into really great detail on. Being a young banker seems like an incredibly miserable existence. The people you follow are beyond unhappy. Putting aside the ethics of the workload, it seems like a dumb recruitment practice. In your book, the most talented recruits leave for jobs they like better. It seems off to put so much energy into recruitment and then drive the best recruits out.

KR: It's a terrible labor practice and the banks are getting wise to that. They're seeing their attrition rates going up and their recruitment going a bit down and they're trying to limit the hours junior bankers are working. But until the last four or five years the hours weren't really a problem. The banks had this social contract with young people: give us two years of your lives, don't see your friends, chain yourself to your desk, but we will give you this glorious life where you're making many times what you could ever imagine. But now that contract is being broken.

EK: I think the conventional wisdom in Washington is that Dodd-Frank didn't do much to structurally change Wall Street. But your book argues that Wall Street really feels like a different place to the people on it. The salaries are still high by any reasonable standard, but the insanely good times feel, to the participants, like they're over.

KR: You could argue at a systemic level that not enough has changed. But on a cultural level it's just not the same place. You could talk to 100 people who've been on Wall Street for years and they'll all tell you it's very different from before the crash. People just don't believe things will ever get back to where they were before the crash. They don't think the banks will ever make the kind of money they did before the crash. So what you're seeing now is banks are making themselves smaller and safer. Barclays is shedding its investment bank. Morgan Stanley has gotten into safer lines of business. Prop trading is going away among the big banks. So the young people have had to resign themselves to this being a safer and more austere place to work.

I should also say that I think the bigger factor in causing disillusionment among young people is the rise of Silicon Valley and other parts of the economy growing much faster than Wall Street.

EK: Google and Apple and Facebook and Twitter now seems to occupy the place in the Ivy League firmament that the major banks once did. It's the place where everyone envies you for getting to work.

KR: College students basically want a couple of things out of their job. They want money. They want structure. And they want respect when they tell people where they work. And Google now has that in a way the banking industry doesn't. There's a lot of risk aversion in that. You get the sex appeal and allure of the tech industry without taking on the personal risk of starting your own company.

EK: Have you been watching HBO's Silicon Valley?

KR: Yes, I love it. But the part it gets wrong is that if you look at who actually works in Silicon Valley now, the geek contingent - the stereotypical socially awkward hackers - is no longer the dominant phenotype of SIlicon Valley. Now it's people who are well adjusted, good looking graduates of elite institutions. It's gone from weirdos in pocket protectors to the guys who used to go to Wall Street.

I talked to one guy who's a former Goldman Sachs guy who left to go to the tech industry who said the adage in the tech world now is "be wary when the pretty people show up."

EK: So after writing this book, what would you say to a college senior thinking of going to Wall Street?

KR: First I would ask them why they wanted to work in an investment bank. If the answer is "because I'm tremendously in debt and need to pay it out" or "I've been reading Barron's since I was 12 years old and I desperately want to be an investment banker" then those are legitimate reasons. Go ahead. But if it's just about taking risk off the table and doing the safe prestigious thing, I'd tell them first that it will make them truly miserable, the kind of miserable it could take years to recover from, and that it also no longer has that imprimatur. It can actually hinder you. I've spoken to tech recruiters who say they only hire bankers in their first year or two because after that banking ruins them.

EK: How does it ruin them?

KR: It makes them too risk-conscious. It gets them used to a standard of lifestyle they may not be able to replicate in any other industry. And it has a deleterious effect on creativity. Of the eight people I followed, a few came out very damaged by the experience. And not in a way a vacation can cure. It's not about having bags under your eyes. It destroys your ability to think in creative ways about what it means to build something of value. The people I followed would admit they got a lot out of being a banker but I don't think they're all that tuned into the ways the experience changed them.

The MOVE Tragedy

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Everyone should see this documentary from PBS INDEPENDENT LENS

Let the Fire Burn

Bulldogs and Englishmen

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Only in Britain, you say?

Victorian strangeness: The man who fired a torpedo down a High Street


Europe goes to the polls next week, but election fever sometimes seems in short supply. Maybe that's not such a bad thing. Author Jeremy Clay tells the tale of a 19th Century election rally and the drunken inventor who fired a torpedo down his own High Street.

The man they came to know as "Wild" Cunningham gazed ruefully down the main street of his home town at a scene of devastation. Wrecked buildings. A flattened shop. Debris littered all around. And a smoke trail, like an accusing finger, leading right back to where he stood.

Perhaps, on reflection, he had gone too far.

Patrick Cunningham was an inventor who had built a torpedo for the US Navy. It was 17ft long, and packed with enough explosive to do serious damage to a ship. Or, as it turned out, a High Street.

The damage was done at the tail end of October 1896, on the cusp of the presidential election, as the political hoopla came rolling into the Massachusetts whaling town of New Bedford.

Crowds crammed the streets. The buildings were festooned with thousands of flags. There were bands and parades and tub-thumping speeches. And after it all, a display of fireworks.

Perhaps it was the pyrotechnics that gave Patrick the lightbulb moment he came to regret. The pyrotechnics, or the booze. Possibly a combination of the two.

With the flamboyant stupidity of a man who knew it all, except when to stop, Cunningham hurried to his workshop and loaded the invention that came to be known as the Flying Devil on to a wagon and brought it to a suitably unsuitable spot.

"Placing the torpedo in the middle of the street he lighted it, and the machine at once started down the street at a terrific pace," reported the Worcestershire Chronicle.

Tearing along a foot off the ground, following the haphazard flight path of a drunken wasp, the hissing torpedo rebounded off a tree, veered across the road and smashed sideways into a shop. Some reports say it was a grocery. Some say it was a butcher's shop. Some say it was the market hall. All agree on the upshot. "The building at once collapsed," said the Chronicle. "The torpedo then exploded, shattering several blocks of houses in the vicinity."

The fearsome blast was heard several miles away.

"Fortunately no-one was killed," the paper continued, "but four persons who were in the market place at the time were thrown violently upon a heap of debris, while others were injured by flying pieces of stone and timber."

Later, a chunk of shrapnel weighing 75lb was found in the next street, where it had been flung over the rooftops.

Things looked grim for the soon-to-be-arrested Mr Cunningham, but as he contemplated the chaos he'd created, there was one minor consolation. That invention of his - it worked.

Eight Pseudoscientific Climate Claims Debunked by Real Scientists

Joshua Holland

Most people who deny that human activity is warming the planet just dismiss a massive body of scientific evidence as a big hoax.

But there's a more sophisticated set of climate "skeptics" who make arguments that, at least to the lay ear, sound like they're grounded in scientific evidence. And because most of us lack the background to evaluate their claims, they can muddy the waters around an issue that's been settled in the scientific community.
So, as a public service, we gathered eight of the most common of these pseudoscientific arguments and asked some serious climate scientists -- all working climatologists who have been widely published -- to help us understand what makes these claims so misleading.

1. No, the Earth Hasn't Stopped Warming Since 1998 (or 1996 or 1997)

This claim was popularized by "Lord" Christopher Monckton, a prominent British climate "skeptic" with a fake hereditary title (and no scientific background). His so-called "research" relies on people's confusion about the difference between weather, which fluctuates all the time, and climate, which speaks to long-term trends. With some careful cherrypicking of data, you get the argument that there's been "no global warming for 17 years, 3 months."

What's going on? "1998 was the warmest year in the last century," explains Kevin Trenberth, a distinguished senior scientist in the Climate Analysis Section of the National Center for Atmospheric Research. "There was a big El Niño event in 1997 and 1998, and we have a lot of evidence that there was a lot of heat coming out of the ocean at that time. So that's the real anomaly -- the fact that we had what was perhaps the biggest El Niño event on record."

"That's one of the cherrypicking points for deniers -- they take the highest value and then compare it" with lower points in the natural temperature fluctuation we know as "weather." "If you choose the highest value," says Trenberth, "then the odds are that all the other values are going to be lower -- even in the presence of an overall warming climate."

Here's what the long-term warming trend looks like, according to both surface and ocean readings:

globalwarmingmyth01.jpgBut the idea that the climate stopped warming at some point goes back even further. In the 1990s, two climatologists, Roy Spencer and Richard Lindzen, published a series of papers hypothesizing that global warming had stopped. Spencer and Lindzen are among the few climate contrarians with real scientific credentials, and have been widely cited by climate skeptics; Spencer has testified at a number of Republican congressional hearings on climate science.

Spencer also dismisses the theory of evolution, and has written: "I view my job a little like a legislator, supported by the taxpayer, to protect the interests of the taxpayer and to minimize the role of government."

Of course, none of that matters if their science is sound. But according to John Abraham, a professor of thermal and fluid sciences at the University of St. Thomas School of Engineering, who has published over 130 papers in peer-reviewed journals, it isn't. "It turns out that they made three serious errors in their data," he explains. "It took years, and it took a lot of time from other scientists to find these errors in their calculations. In fact, they switched a positive sign for a negative sign in one of their equations."

He adds that while warming has in fact slowed on the earth's surface, "93 percent of the heat goes into the ocean, and the ocean continues to heat, so people are confusing temperature fluctuations in the atmosphere -- the weather -- with long-term climate change."

This graphic shows the change in total heat content on the planet's surface and in its oceans:



Fame Rubbing Off

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A man ducks under America Ferrera's gown at Cannes

cannes_dress_raid.jpgI like the viking hat at bottom of pic

more about this prankster

Where the Whales Go?

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Deep-sea 'graveyard' reveals fate of dead ocean giants

Rebecca Morelle

The chance discovery of a deep-sea "graveyard" is helping scientists to shed light on the fate of dead ocean giants, scientists report.

Footage recorded by the oil and gas industry shows the carcasses of four large marine creatures in a small patch of sea floor off the coast of Angola.


Around the dead whale shark and three deceased rays, scavengers flocked to the food bonanza.

The findings are published in the journal Plos One.

There were lots of these fish sitting around the carcasses - they seemed to be guarding it"

Lead author Dr Nick Higgs, from the University of Plymouth's Marine Institute, said: "There's been lots of research on whale-falls, but we've never really found any of these other large marine animals on the sea bed."

Whale carcasses are home to complex ecosystems, first attracting scavengers such as sharks, then smaller opportunists such as crabs and shrimp-like creatures called amphipods. Osedax - or "zombie worms" - feed on the animal's bones, while specialist bacteria break down fats.

But with this latest footage, scientists have been able to see how the feeding frenzy that takes place around other big animal carcasses compares.

The video was recorded by remotely operated vehicles (ROVs), which were surveying the seafloor around Angola for industrial exploration.

The dead creatures were found between 2008 and 2010 on a one-square-kilometre patch of the sea floor and had been dead for an estimated one or two months.

Crazy Climate Economics

Paul Krugman

Everywhere you look these days, you see Marxism on the rise. Well, O.K., maybe you don't -- but conservatives do. If you so much as mention income inequality, you'll be denounced as the second coming of Joseph Stalin; Rick Santorum has declared that any use of the word "class" is "Marxism talk." In the right's eyes, sinister motives lurk everywhere -- for example, George Will says the only reason progressives favor trains is their goal of "diminishing Americans' individualism in order to make them more amenable to collectivism."

So it goes without saying that Obamacare, based on ideas originally developed at the Heritage Foundation, is a Marxist scheme -- why, requiring that people purchase insurance is practically the same as sending them to gulags.

And just wait until the Environmental Protection Agency announces rules intended to slow the pace of climate change.

Until now, the right's climate craziness has mainly been focused on attacking the science. And it has been quite a spectacle: At this point almost all card-carrying conservatives endorse the view that climate change is a gigantic hoax, that thousands of research papers showing a warming planet -- 97 percent of the literature -- are the product of a vast international conspiracy. But as the Obama administration moves toward actually doing something based on that science, crazy climate economics will come into its own.

You can already get a taste of what's coming in the dissenting opinions from a recent Supreme Court ruling on power-plant pollution. A majority of the justices agreed that the E.P.A. has the right to regulate smog from coal-fired power plants, which drifts across state lines. But Justice Scalia didn't just dissent; he suggested that the E.P.A.'s proposed rule -- which would tie the size of required smog reductions to cost -- reflected the Marxist concept of "from each according to his ability." Taking cost into consideration is Marxist? Who knew?

And you can just imagine what will happen when the E.P.A., buoyed by the smog ruling, moves on to regulation of greenhouse gas emissions.

What do I mean by crazy climate economics?

First, we'll see any effort to limit pollution denounced as a tyrannical act. Pollution wasn't always a deeply partisan issue: Economists in the George W. Bush administration wrote paeans to "market based" pollution controls, and in 2008 John McCain made proposals for cap-and-trade limits on greenhouse gases part of his presidential campaign. But when House Democrats actually passed a cap-and-trade bill in 2009, it was attacked as, you guessed it, Marxist. And these days Republicans come out in force to oppose even the most obviously needed regulations, like the plan to reduce the pollution that's killing Chesapeake Bay.

Second, we'll see claims that any effort to limit emissions will have what Senator Marco Rubio is already calling "a devastating impact on our economy."

Why is this crazy? Normally, conservatives extol the magic of markets and the adaptability of the private sector, which is supposedly able to transcend with ease any constraints posed by, say, limited supplies of natural resources. But as soon as anyone proposes adding a few limits to reflect environmental issues -- such as a cap on carbon emissions -- those all-capable corporations supposedly lose any ability to cope with change.

Now, the rules the E.P.A. is likely to impose won't give the private sector as much flexibility as it would have had in dealing with an economy-wide carbon cap or emissions tax. But Republicans have only themselves to blame: Their scorched-earth opposition to any kind of climate policy has left executive action by the White House as the only route forward.

Furthermore, it turns out that focusing climate policy on coal-fired power plants isn't bad as a first step. Such plants aren't the only source of greenhouse gas emissions, but they're a large part of the problem -- and the best estimates we have of the path forward suggest that reducing power-plant emissions will be a large part of any solution.

What about the argument that unilateral U.S. action won't work, because China is the real problem? It's true that we're no longer No. 1 in greenhouse gases -- but we're still a strong No. 2. Furthermore, U.S. action on climate is a necessary first step toward a broader international agreement, which will surely include sanctions on countries that don't participate.

So the coming firestorm over new power-plant regulations won't be a genuine debate -- just as there isn't a genuine debate about climate science. Instead, the airwaves will be filled with conspiracy theories and wild claims about costs, all of which should be ignored. Climate policy may finally be getting somewhere; let's not let crazy climate economics get in the way.

Franken: Save the Net

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Al Franken Wants You to Save the Internet From the FCC and Greedy Corporations

The senator has positioned himself as the most ardent defender of a free and open Internet, and has just issued a direct challenge to FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler.

Franken opposes the impending merger of Time Warner and Comcast that would leave 19 of the top 20 markets with only one choice for truly broadband Internet.

Now the senator is ramping up his campaign to preserve net neutrality. He has successfully urged interested corporations, such as Netflix and Google, to become more involved, and he's issued the following video plea:

Benghazi Hypocrisy

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Our sad "Mad Men" revolution:
How consumerism co-opted rebellion

Talking revolution with Lewis Lapham -- and how capitalism manages to keep coming out on top

Thomas Frank

Aspiring writers of my generation regarded -- still regard -- Lewis Lapham as the greatest essayist of our time. We tried to emulate everything from his glittering sentences to his rugged skepticism to his sartorial elegance.

For many years he was editor of Harper's Magazine; today he runs Lapham's Quarterly, which has just released a new issue on "Revolutions," filled with historical writings on the subject in question. Back in March, Lewis asked me to join him in a public conversation at Book Court bookstore in Brooklyn to celebrate the launch of the issue; what follows is an edited transcript of the proceedings. Thanks to Book Court for making the recording available to us.

Lewis Lapham: As has been stated, we have no prepared script. The current issue of Lapham's Quarterly talks about revolutions of various kinds -- political, scientific, technological. My thought is that we are always in the midst of a revolution, which is the revolution that Karl Marx announced in 1848, which is the bourgeois revolution. Which is the constant change in the means of production and the reducing of all human meaning and endeavor to a money transaction. That's his "cash nexus." And that's the revolution that's been going on at an ever-increasing rate beginning in the... well, you can take it back to the early days of capitalism. But it really gets its start in the 19th century.

I'm 79 and I started in the newspaper business in 1957, when they still had hot type and copy paper and pencils, dial phones, and you were allowed to smoke in the City Room. The intel revolution has been going on for the last 50 years; large newspapers and magazines were all but wiped out in the 1960s by television. Then we come to the Internet and cable and so on and it keeps changing.

But the same thing has been happening in the realms of agriculture and finance, transportation, almost all means of bourgeois production and so the thought of political revolution becomes increasingly romantic, at least this is the argument of "Crowd Control," introducing the current issue. Simone Weil regards the word "revolution" as a magic word which by all intents and purposes is meaningless. I have seen, over the course of my lifetime, revolutions practically every year somewhere in the world, whether it's in North Africa, Ukraine, the Sudan, Hungary, Cuba. . . it's a long list. And what usually happens is that one police force replaces another police force.

This issue of Lapham's Quarterly has readings or remarks on revolution from people like Nicholas Carr, who to my mind is one of the best writers about the technological revolution, what (Marshall) McLuhan was talking about, and the consequences of the shift from print, first to television and then to the Internet. But we also have Shakespeare talking about it in the play "Coriolanus." Martin Luther mounting his 95 objections to the Vatican; actually he didn't post them on the church at Wittenberg, but he published them. And the consequence is the Reformation. You have Jefferson's idea of revolution where he says every 20 years the tree of liberty needs to be refreshed with the blood of tyrants and patriots. What he had in mind was a cyclical phenomenon, like the revolutions of the stars. It was a form of environmental protection. The soil of politics grows despotism, but it also grows liberty. In certain seasons it comes forth with an orchard, in other seasons with a cesspool. The thing is to keep the balance of nature. We would think of that as a conservative notion.

But the American revolution is unique because the people that held power in America before the revolution are the same people that hold power in America after the revolution. By the time we come to the Declaration of Independence, we have had 100 years, half the 17th century and most of the 18th century, to construct our own political instruments of governance, whether it's a church congregation or a town meeting or a municipal assembly throughout not only New England, but also Virginia and the Carolinas. So it's not like the revolutions going on in Syria or Sudan or Tunisia or Egypt where you can overthrow the tyrants but then what do you do on the morning after?

Tom has written about this, although he may not know it, but he has, over the last 20 years?

A long time.

He had a wonderful book called "The Conquest of Cool." And the way we deal with revolution in the United States is to turn it into a product. It's sort of an advertisement for rebellious clothes. But nobody is particularly willing to go up against the military force of the state. I open my essay by saying there is a lot of talk about revolution. We know and understand and see in plain sight that our government is in the hands of the banks. That the war of the rich against the poor, the class conflict that's going on . . . this is in the newspapers every day. The biggest growth industry in the United States is surveillance, and NSA, and everybody's cell phone is a tracking device. These are means of crowd control.

The American government, which I would call the American oligarchy, is afraid of the American people. And God forbid, they should have too many dangerous ideas wandering around loose in the streets. Thus, we have I don't know how many hundred thousand surveillance cameras on the streets of New York. That's only going to get worse in my view, because as we get more and more people and more and more people reduced to food stamps and poverty and as the resources of the planet are finite and the American dream assumes infinite growth which is a contradiction in terms with a finite planet. The divisions between rich and poor are going to become more and more well-defined and heavily patrolled.

I suspect that if any genuinely revolutionary change takes place it will be forced upon us by a collapse of some kind in the system. That's another form of revolution that you find across time where the civilization or the ancien regime falls apart of its own dead weight. And in the ruins, the phoenix of a new idea or a new thought or a new system of value takes its place. But that's not something that can be organized by a committee or preached from a column in the New York Times, or even by a four-day conference about American values sponsored by the Rockefeller Foundation.

There's an old axiom of Trotsky's: "You may not be interested in war, but war is interested in you." And you could say the same thing about revolution. So I don't think we have to be concerned that we're not parading around in the streets. It will come of its own accord sooner rather than later.

Those are some of the ideas that are remarked upon in this issue of Lapham's Quarterly. As we do in every issue, we bring all kinds of voices in time to open up different angles of that conversation. So together with Aristotle and Shakespeare, we have Robespierre and Simone Weil and Václav Havel and Albert Camus. It's a joy to edit because you learn things.

My favorite thing in the whole issue is this image, "The Nouveau Riche Leads the People." It's a photo by a Chinese artist that features all the classic Communist signifiers, except the central figure is a guy in a shiny suit with all these gold bars. I love that.

You mentioned our cell phones spying on us. There's a moment of enlightenment that happens when it dawns on you one day that this device you bought as an instrument of liberation is, in fact, an instrument of surveillance. That was a shocking moment for me, and I suspect a shocking moment for a lot of people. On the other hand, I probably shouldn't complain -- it fit right into what I had been writing for many years.

Let me take a step into the past. There have been other, lesser, bloodless revolutions in American life. They happen periodically from time to time. My favorite one is the Populists in 1890s. I'm from Kansas. And in the 1890s the farmers in Kansas were angry about various things; they had formed a farmers' union and one day they basically voted out all of the senior Republican politicians in the state. Just threw these guys out. Ended all these career politicians' careers. It was very shocking and the Populists rolled on and on, from state to state, and won this and that. Eventually, 30 years later, a bunch of the things they were demanding became policy.

Another moment in history that has always intrigued me is when the endless bourgeois revolution of creative destruction and planned obsolescence, of constant superficial change, when that revolution squares off against the political revolutions -- the Populists, Franklin Delano Roosevelt -- and that's what we see in our own day. In this showdown of revolution against revolution, the capitalist revolution is basically batting 1.000 these days. It doesn't matter that they discredit themselves again and again and again. Take the financial crisis in 2008, the worst situation imaginable, people are furious, and what happens? Literally, the capitalists -- I'm speaking of that CNBC reporter standing on the floor of the Chicago Board of Trade -- managed to make themselves the leaders of public anger against the banks. It was the most extraordinary thing. The Chicago Board of Trade. What was that character's name? Rick Santelli, right? Remember this guy?

The founder of the Tea Party.

That's right. And by God, they got out in front of it and led everybody off down the wrong path, this sort of disastrous result. But it goes way, way back. "The Conquest of Cool," which you mentioned -- but, say, (holding up a copy of the book) doesn't it look familiar? Have you seen the new "Mad Men" advertisements? Anyhow, the book is about the advertising industry in the 1960s. I was fascinated by the ad biz because these were people who -- you said "revolution" was a magic word. Well, these people figured that out and they grabbed it with both hands and made it into this sort of talismanic word of Madison Avenue during the 1960s. They called what they were doing the "Creative Revolution." That was what was supposedly going on in those days on Madison Avenue. It was part of a larger revolution in the way capitalism works and the way capitalism thinks about itself. There was also a revolution in management theory. There was a revolution in the computer industry. Revolutions in media and in fashion. All of this stuff was going on at the same time. Post-industrialism is what was happening.

The word is being used today as an adjective, not as a noun. The idea of political revolution as a noun is not in very high standing. But to use "revolutionary" for a new cell phone app or a new shade of lipstick is, as you say, the context.

The Party's Over

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At the close of the Constitutional Convention of 1787, Franklin was queried as he left Independence Hall on the final day of deliberation. In the notes of Dr. James McHenry, one of Maryland's delegates to the Convention, a lady asked Dr. Franklin

"Well Doctor what have we got, a republic or a monarchy." Franklin replied, "A republic . . . if you can keep it."

The Post-Constitutional Era

postconstitution.jpgActivist Lauren DiGioia is arrested during a demonstration in New York City's Grand Central Station on Jan. 3, 2012, held to call attention to the National Defense Authorization Act, signed by President Barack Obama on the previous New Year's Eve. (AP/Mary Altaffer)

Chris Hedges

The U.S. Supreme Court decision to refuse to hear our case concerning Section 1021(b)(2) of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which permits the military to seize U.S. citizens and hold them indefinitely in military detention centers without due process, means that this provision will continue to be law. It means the nation has entered a post-constitutional era. It means that extraordinary rendition of U.S. citizens on U.S. soil by our government is legal. It means that the courts, like the legislative and executive branches of government, exclusively serve corporate power--one of the core definitions of fascism. It means that the internal mechanisms of state are so corrupted and subservient to corporate power that there is no hope of reform or protection for citizens under our most basic constitutional rights. It means that the consent of the governed--a poll by showed that this provision had a 98 percent disapproval rating--is a cruel joke. And it means that if we do not rapidly build militant mass movements to overthrow corporate tyranny, including breaking the back of the two-party duopoly that is the mask of corporate power, we will lose our liberty.

Issa's Destructive Folly

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The Next American Revolution

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Lewis Lapham and Thomas Frank Forecast


Harper's Magazine associates Lewis Lapham and Thomas Frank have had their eyes on America and its moneyed rulers for a combined nine decades. In a conversation in late March at the Brooklyn bookstore BookCourt, the two talked about the current "Revolution" issue of Lapham's Quarterly and named the forces conspiring to drive the nation into another age of upheaval. The discussion was featured in Frank's column on Salon on Sunday under the title "Our Sad 'Mad Men' Revolution: How Consumerism Co-Opted Rebellion."

To begin, Lapham, who says that as a journalist he has never been concerned with stoking revolution, describes the current issue of his Quarterly as taking on revolutions of various kinds--"political, scientific, technological." To his mind, he says, those of us alive today are always in the midst of the revolution announced by Karl Marx in 1848, which is "the constant change in the means of production and the reducing of all human meaning and endeavor to a money transaction."

Americans on both the right and left are anxious for drastic social change. Many are seeking to make it happen themselves. Lapham understands the evolution of civilizations, of which revolution is a part, to occur along lines determined by ongoing historical trends, including the breakdown of a society's overextended parts in the manner that growing bubbles inevitably pop. "I suspect that if any genuinely revolutionary change takes place it will be forced upon us by a collapse of some kind in the system," he told the bookstore audience. "That's another form of revolution that you find across time where the civilization or the ancien regime falls apart of its own dead weight. And in the ruins, the phoenix of a new idea or a new thought or a new system of value takes its place. But that's not something that can be organized by a committee or preached from a column in the New York Times, or even by a four-day conference about American values sponsored by the Rockefeller Foundation."

"I don't think we have to be concerned that we're not parading around in the streets," he added. "It will come of its own accord sooner rather than later."

In a chilling story about the limited vitality available to the American counterculture, Lapham described "the death of the Beat Generation in San Francisco in 1959," which he said he witnessed. He was at the scene's "last holdout" bar on a Tuesday afternoon. Beat figures John Kerouac, Ken Kesey and Allen Ginsberg were long gone. Out of nowhere a Hollywood producer, "dreadful looking ... gold chain, white shirt, paunch, slicked back hair," walks in and tells all the young, somnolent patrons he wants to cast them as extras in a movie. The pay was $50 a day each, but the boys had to shave their faces and put on khaki pants and blue button-down shirts, and the girls, tweed skirts. "One of you can still look dark and sullen," the guy said. "This is a movie for Americans." Everyone ignored him. Then he finally stopped talking.

"There's a terrible, terrible silence," Lapham recalled. "And then comes the even more terrible sound of a scraping of chairs. And the entire place emptied out and they were back in an hour, clean-shaven, white blouse, bobby socks. And that was the end of the Beat Generation."

Frank, the author of "The Conquest of Cool," a 1998 book about how capitalists subverted the mid-to-late 20th-century critique that it generates conformity by co-opting and commodifying the culture of rebellion, confirmed the meaning of Lapham's story. "Individual economic leaders can be very stupid people. ... But the system itself has a kind of genius. And what the system did back in the Sixties is it took the symbols of the counterculture and used them to reinvent itself. ... By the end of the 1960s capitalism is this wonderful, sensitive, fantastic thing," Frank said.

The conversation moved on to a recognition of the finance sector as a parasite "eating the brains out of the host" of the real American economy, "much of which has been outsourced in one way or another, or entrusted to machines." Each time the economy collapses, Lapham explained, the foundation upon which it rests "gets thinner" as "the debt gets higher." Frank recognized that the opposition located in today's American left consists mainly of "journalists and bloggers," lacking almost entirely the organized labor that "actually used to get things done." Their enemy is not an idea known as capitalism, but simply an economic "mechanism" that goes by the name, which is captained and exploited by the leaders of "heavily entrenched interests."

"The only idea that I can ever see in the minds of the moneyed interests is that money is good for rich people and bad for poor people," Lapham said. "That's about the beginning and end of their idea, I think."

But what about opposition to economic selfishness masquerading as an idea? Where is the will to set things right? Lapham addressed himself to the genuine ideas that informed the values stated in the U.S. Constitution and their ability to survive in the atmosphere of moral and creative deprivation that enshrouds the country today.

"Civilizations, empires only last as long as there is a morale and an idealism and an energy sustaining it. To me, that seems to be exhausted," he said. "There's a good deal of cynicism. We don't have enough people in this society who believe in democracy. That goes to your point about they're there for the speech and then they leave for the rest of it. [Ralph] Nader has written wonderful books about this. He said, If a million people in the United States would give $100 and 100 hours of their time we could make truly significant change. But if you don't have people who believe in it passionately it loses its energy. It dies according to the second law of thermodynamics. It's a form of moral entropy." Hence our present kind of civilization, "based on the global capitalist system of money," faces virtually no external threat.

Among the conversation's themes is the idea that capitalism threatens itself. One of the ways it does so is by continually abusing the population, of which many members are nonessential to its operation. Frank said that many of his young friends "supposed to be going out and starting life" carry over $100,000 in student debts. Lapham referred to the efforts of economist Michael Hudson, whose scholarly and popular work is concerned with the conversion of American citizens into debt slaves, as if democracy never existed.

"That is how we will enslave the American people," Lapham said. "I mean, the great source of capital, of course, is milking the American public on their debt. That's how the credit card companies operate. You think of cattle in pens in California, the way they grow beef. You might as well think of the American population as giving off interest, stuffed with junk commodities and then paying forever with ... just standing still."

Counting Down from 21

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14 Things The GOP Gets Totally Wrong About Poverty


In an era of soaring income inequality, stagnant wage growth and a dismal job market, the Republican Party has decided that its hard-line, welfare-mocking image might not go over so well in the 2016 election cycle. So now, 50 years after Lyndon B. Johnson launched the War On Poverty initiatives, the Republicans are debuting their own version of anti-poverty strategies.

While it's admirable that Republicans are actually acknowledging the problem, their solutions are off target. Here are their 14 most common misconceptions about the War On Poverty:

1. The 'War On Poverty' was lost.

Just like Ronald Reagan before him, this month Marco Rubio declared: "The 'War On Poverty' has been lost." But that's not true. While poverty is still at epidemic levels, the supplemental poverty rate (the most complete measure of poverty, according to most experts) has fallen significantly in the last few decades, largely thanks to government welfare programs.

2. Welfare costs us $1 trillion a year.

Republicans often cite this as fact, but as the Washington Post's Mike Konczal points out, this figure, which comes from the libertarian Cato Institute, includes the cost of things like Medicaid, Headstart and community programs like adoption assistance and taxpayer clinics. What is commonly considered "welfare," like food stamps and housing vouchers, only cost us about $212 billion per year.

3. Poverty is largely caused by social and moral decay.

In reality, poverty is largely attributed to wage stagnation and other macroeconomic factors. For most of history, wages rose as workers' productivity increased. But that's changed in the last half-century. While worker productivity grew 80 percent between 1973 and 2011, real wages only ticked up 4 percent, according to the Economic Policy Institute.

4. Federal poverty reduction programs are inefficient and wasteful.

A recent analysis of six of America's largest anti-poverty programs (Medicaid, SNAP, Supplemental Security Income, Section 8 housing vouchers, school meals programs, and the EITC) found that 90 to 99 percent of money spent on the programs reaches their intended beneficiaries, meaning overhead costs are pretty minimal.

5. Food stamps make people complacent, so they don't transition from welfare to work.

Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (or food stamps) helps its beneficiaries advance in the workforce because it allows people to focus on career development rather than just putting food on the table. The number of SNAP households that are working and earning wages has tripled from about 2 million in 2000 to 6.4 million in 2011.

6. Big government is keeping people poor.

In fact, public programs lifted 40 million people -- including almost 9 million children -- out of poverty in 2011, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

7. Anti-poverty programs are merely short-term solutions.

Many studies have shown that federal anti-poverty programs for children in low-income households yield long-term improvements for children's health, educational attainment and career development.

8. The official poverty rate has been the same for 50 years.

Conservatives often say that the poverty rate has been the same for 50 years, but they may be looking at a misleading figure. Dylan Matthews of the Washington Post calls the official rate "a horrendously flawed measure, which excludes income received from major anti-poverty programs like food stamps or the EITC. It also fails to take into account expenses such as child care and out-of-pocket medical spending." The official rate hasn't been updated (other than for inflation) since 1964, and was based on the affordability of food for a family of three at the time.

9. Income inequality isn't that big of a deal.

Conservatives like to downplay the issue of income inequality. But it's actually the highest it's ever been since 1928 (that was right before the start of the Great Depression). Income inequality hampers economic growth, heightens social tensions and stifles class mobility.

10. Marriage is the key to solving poverty.

Marco Rubio recently said that marriage is, "The greatest tool to lift children and families from poverty." But there's plenty of new research that supports the contrary. And as Slate's Matthew Yglesias, marriage "lifts" families out of poverty not by increasing their incomes but by reducing what the federal government assumes their expenses to be. For example, a person is considered poor if they make less than $11,490, but two-person households are only poor if they combine to make $15,510, not $22,980. The greater efficiency of shared expenses doesn't mean that marriage magically reduces poverty.

11. Poverty only affects a small percentage of Americans.

One in three Americans slipped below the poverty line between 2009 and 2011, according to the U.S. Census. Yet, the official poverty rate was merely 15 percent in 2012.

12. Raising the minimum wage wouldn't help get to the root of the problem.

In fact, raising the federal minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.10 in 2011would have lifted more than half of America's working poor out of poverty.

13. A higher minimum wage would kill the economy.

Actually, with a $10.10 minimum wage the U.S. economy would grow by about $22 billion, according to EPI. The growth in the U.S. economy would also result in about 85,000 new jobs.

14. "Economic Freedom Zones" would alleviate poverty in depressed areas.

So-called "Economic Freedom Zones" are inadequate solutions to a national crisis. Republicans, and Rand Paul in particular, are pushing "economic freedom zones" to alleviate poverty. While this is pretty similar to Obama's "Promise Zones," research shows their impact is negligible.

The idea is basically that if you slash taxes for business and individuals in a designated "zone," jobs and prosperity will follow. However "they just seem to move the locus of activity across the zone's boundary -- reducing activity outside the zone and increasing it inside," Len Burman, director of the Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center and a former Clinton administration official, told Politico.

Here's the difference between conservative and liberals;


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