November 2016 Archives

Millisan Electron Chart

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The Kiss of Death

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The last constraints will be removed by a crisis. The crisis will be used to create a climate of fear. The pretense of democracy will end.


Waiting for the Barbarians

Kiss_of_Death_ Fish.jpgMr Fish


By Chris Hedges

We await the crisis. It could be economic. It could be a terrorist attack within the United States. It could be widespread devastation caused by global warming. It could be nationwide unrest as the death spiral of the American empire intensifies. It could be another defeat in our endless and futile wars. The crisis is coming. And when it arrives it will be seized upon by the corporate state, nominally led by a clueless real estate developer, to impose martial law and formalize the end of American democracy.

When we look back on this sad, pathetic period in American history we will ask the questions all who have slid into despotism ask. Why were we asleep? How did we allow this to happen? Why didn't we see it coming? Why didn't we resist?

Why did we allow the corporate state to strip away the rights of poor people of color and force them to live in terror in mini-police states? Why did we build the world's largest system of mass incarceration? Did we not see that the rest of us would be next? Why did we agree that those defined by the state as terrorists could not only be deprived of their rights but be assassinated? Did we think the state would restrict itself to persecuting and murdering Muslims? Why did we remain silent as the state arrogated to itself the right to detain and prosecute people not for what they had done, or even for what they were planning to do, but for holding religious or political beliefs that the state deemed seditious? Why did we stand by and permit the state to torture? Did we not see that once rights became privileges the state would one day revoke them?

The failure of our capitalist democracy was collective. It was bred by ignorance, indifference, racism, bigotry and the seduction of mass propaganda. It was bred by elites, especially in the press, the courts and academia, who chose careerism over moral and intellectual courage. Our rights as citizens were taken from us one by one. There was hardly a word of protest.

Where were the lawyers, judges, law professors and law school deans who should have ferociously defended our rights to privacy, due process and habeas corpus? Why didn't they challenge Barack Obama's signing into law Section 1021 of the National Defense Authorization Act? Section 1021 overturns the 1878 Posse Comitatus Act, which prohibited the military from acting as a domestic police force. The section also permits the military to carry out extraordinary rendition of U.S. citizens, strip them of due process and hold them indefinitely in military detention centers.

Why didn't the legal profession fight against the Obama administration's misinterpretation of the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force Act as giving the executive branch the right to order the assassination of U.S. citizens? How did lawyers and judges allow the misuse of the Espionage Act to target and imprison whistleblowers? How did they permit the Supreme Court to define unlimited corporate contributions to electoral campaigns as a right to petition the government or a form of free speech? Why did they allow those branded as terrorists by the state, and allow poor people of color, to be locked for years in solitary confinement or special detention centers without fair trials? Why were they silent as the state built "black sites" around the globe, including in Chicago, to torture? Why did they permit the state to impose special administrative measures, known as SAMs, to prevent or severely restrict prisoners' communication with other prisoners, attorneys, family, the media and people outside the jails, crippling any possibility of an adequate defense? Did they not know where the erosion of the legal system would lead?

And where were all the economists pointing out the absurdity of the neoliberal ideology that told us that human society should be governed by the dictates of the market--that is, until the market collapsed in an orgy of fraud and corruption and needed the government to bail it out? Why did the political scientists chase after "value-free" data, carry out quantitative projects and seek an unachievable scientific clarity? Why didn't they and others warn us about the dire consequences of eroding democratic institutions? Why did they stand mute as money replaced the vote and lobbyists authored our laws? Where were they when constitutionally protected statements, beliefs and associations were criminalized? Why didn't they protest when dissidents, even those who broke no laws, were stripped of their rights and imprisoned without due process? Why did they continue to speak and write as if the fiction of our democracy was real? Why didn't they illuminate our constitutional crisis? Why did those in academia commit intellectual treason? They traded their intellectual integrity and autonomy for tenure, publishing contracts, lecture fees, research grants and coveted deanships or college presidencies.

Why did the press render the poor and the working poor invisible? Why did it walk away from its role as the investigator of corruption and abuse of power? Why did it become a courtier to the elites? Why did it measure the success of its broadcasts and publications solely by the profits produced? Why did it refuse to give a platform to critics of corporate capitalism and imperial war? Why did it serve as an echo chamber for the arms industry and Wall Street? Why did it hide behind the fiction of neutrality and objectivity? Why did it debase reporting to quoting establishment experts--most of whom lied--in order to stay within the narrow confines of opinion sanctioned by the power elites? Why did the press obscure the truth?

Where were the great moral and religious truth tellers? Why did they use the language of identity politics as a substitute for the language of social justice? Why did they refuse to condemn as heretics those on the Christian right, which fused the symbols of the state with those of the Christian religion? Why did they collaborate with the evil of corporate capitalism? Why did they retreat into churches and synagogues, establishing exclusive social clubs, rather than fight the injustice outside their doors? Why did they abandon the poor? Why did they replace prophetic demands for justice with cloying political correctness and personal piety?


The Strongest People Alive

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Death by Fake News

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Facebook and the Digital Virus Called Fake News

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This year, the adage that "falsehood flies and the truth comes limping after it" doesn't begin to describe the problem. That idea assumes that the truth eventually catches up. There's not much evidence of this happening for the millions of people taken in by the fake news stories -- like Pope Francis endorsing Donald Trump or Mr. Trump pulling ahead of Hillary Clinton in the popular vote -- that have spread on social media sites.

Most of the fake news stories are produced by scammers looking to make a quick buck. The vast majority of them take far-right positions. But a big part of the responsibility for this scourge rests with internet companies like Facebook and Google, which have made it possible for fake news to be shared nearly instantly with millions of users and have been slow to block it from their sites.

Mark Zuckerberg, the founder and chief executive of Facebook, has dismissed the notion that fake news is prevalent on his platform or that it had an influence on the election. But according to a BuzzFeed News analysis, during the last three months of the presidential campaign, the 20 top fake news stories on Facebook generated more engagement -- shares, likes and comments -- than the 20 top stories from real news websites.

These hoaxes are not just bouncing around among like-minded conspiracy theorists; candidates and elected officials are sharing them, too. Senator Ben Sasse, Republican of Nebraska, on Thursday tweeted about people who have been paid to riot against Mr. Trump -- an idea propagated by fake news stories. A man who wrote a number of false news reports told The Washington Post that Trump supporters and campaign officials often shared his false anti-Clinton posts without bothering to confirm the facts and that he believes his work may have helped elect the Republican nominee.

Abroad, the dissemination of fake news on Facebook, which reaches 1.8 billion people globally, has been a longstanding problem. In countries like Myanmar, deceptive internet content has reportedly contributed to ethnic violence. And it has influenced elections in Indonesia, the Philippines and elsewhere. Social media sites have also been used to spread misinformation about the referendum on the peace deal in Colombia and about Ebola in West Africa.

Facebook says it is working on weeding out such fabrications. It said last Monday that it would no longer place Facebook-powered ads on fake news websites, a move that could cost Facebook and those fake news sites a lucrative source of revenue. Earlier on the same day, Google said it would stop letting those sites use its ad placement network. These steps would help, but Facebook, in particular, owes its users, and democracy itself, far more.

Facebook has demonstrated that it can effectively block content like click-bait articles and spam from its platform by tweaking its algorithms, which determine what links, photos and ads users see in their news feeds. Nobody outside the company knows exactly how its software works and why you might see posts shared by some of your friends frequently and others rarely. Recently, the company acknowledged that it had allowed businesses to target or exclude users for ads for housing, employment and credit based on their ethnicity, in apparent violation of anti-discrimination laws. It has said it will stop that practice.

Facebook managers are constantly changing and refining the algorithms, which means the system is malleable and subject to human judgment. This summer, Facebook decided to show more posts from friends and family members in users' news feeds and reduce stories from news organizations, because that's what it said users wanted. If it can do that, surely its programmers can train the software to spot bogus stories and outwit the people producing this garbage.

Blocking misinformation will help protect the company's brand and credibility. Some platforms have suffered when they have failed to address users' concerns. Twitter users, for instance, have backed away from that platform because of abusive trolling, threatening posts and hate speech, which the company hasn't been able to control.

Mr. Zuckerberg himself has spoken at length about how social media can help improve society. In a 2012 letter to investors, he said it could "bring a more honest and transparent dialogue around government that could lead to more direct empowerment of people, more accountability for officials and better solutions to some of the biggest problems of our time."

None of that will happen if he continues to let liars and con artists hijack his platform.

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How did we get to this point? And what do we do now?

Quote de jour #777

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Amateurs built the Ark

Professionals built the Titanic

Gwen Ifill Passes

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Renowned PBS journalist Gwen Ifill dead at 61

gwen_ifill.jpgPioneering television news anchor Gwen Ifill died Monday after a battle with cancer. She was 61.

One of the nation's most prominent black journalists and a longtime newscaster at PBS who previously worked at NBC News, Ifill was in hospice care when she passed away.

One of the nation's most prominent black journalists and a longtime newscaster at PBS who previously worked at NBC News, Ifill was in hospice care when she passed away.

"Gwen was a standard bearer for courage, fairness and integrity in an industry going through seismic change," Sara Just, PBS News Hour's executive producer, said in a statement.

"She was a mentor to so many across the industry and her professionalism was respected across the political spectrum. She was a journalist's journalist and set an example for all around her."

Ifill was the host of PBS' Washington Week and co-host of PBS NewsHour. She covered seven presidential campaigns and moderated the vice presidential debates in 2004 and 2008. She was also the author of "The Breakthrough: Politics and Race in the Age of Obama," which was published on inauguration day 2009.

"Gwen was a friend of ours, she was an extraordinary journalist," President Obama said after offering condolences to Ifill's family and to the reporters gathered at a White House press conference. "I always appreciated Gwen's reporting even when I was at the receiving end of one of her tough interviews."

Obama called her a "powerful role model for young women and girls" who "blazed a trail" for female reporters everywhere.


Bill Maher on Trump

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Trump as Inevitable as Brexit

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I first heard him in 1967 singing Suzanne and was stunned by these lyrics:

And Jesus was a sailor when he walked upon the water,
And he spent a long time watching from his lonely wooden tower,
And when he knew for certain only drowning men could see him,
He said "All men will be sailors then until the sea shall free them."
But he himself was broken, long before the sky would open,
Forsaken, almost human, he sank beneath your wisdom like a stone.


Poet and Singer-Songwriter Leonard Cohen Dies at 82

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Musician, poet and author Leonard Cohen, whose works spanned six decades and inspired numerous other artists, has died at the age of 82, his label announced.

"It is with profound sorrow we report that legendary poet, songwriter and artist, Leonard Cohen has passed away," a statement on his Facebook page said. "We have lost one of music's most revered and prolific visionaries."
Image: FILE: Leonard Cohen Dies At 82
Canadian singer Leonard Cohen performs on stage at the Isle of Wight Festival on Aug. 30, 1970. Tony Russell / Getty Images

His music label, Sony Music Canada, confirmed the death in a statement. "Leonard Cohen was an unparalleled artist whose stunning body of original work has been embraced by generations of fans and artists alike."

Cohen's most famous song, "Hallelujah," in which he invoked the biblical King David and drew parallels between physical love and a desire for spiritual connection, has been covered hundreds of times since he released it in 1984.

Cohen, a native of Quebec, was already a celebrated poet and novelist when he moved to New York in 1966 at age 31 to break into the music business. He released his first album, Songs of Leonard Cohen, in 1967 and his musical career has been compared to Bob Dylan and Paul Simon in terms of the influence on other artists.

As a songwriter, his themes encompassed love in all its manifestations, religion, faith and the tenuous state of the world. Like "Hallelujah," many of his tunes -- his breakthrough composition "Suzanne," "Bird on the Wire," "Tower of Song" -- became much-covered keystones of the popular songbook.

His longtime accompanist Jennifer Warnes recorded several of his best-known works on her 1987 Cohen recital "Famous Blue Raincoat."

"Unmatched in his creativity, insight, and crippling candor, Leonard Cohen was a true visionary whose voice will be sorely missed," Cohen's manager, Robert B. Kory, said in a statement. "I was blessed to call him a friend, and for me to serve that bold artistic spirit first hand, was a privilege and great gift. He leaves behind a legacy of work that will bring insight, inspiration, and healing for generations to come."

Psycho Huge

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The Top 5 Most Urgent Climate Change Election Stories the Mainstream Media Suppressed

Juan Cole

I used the word "suppressed" in the title quite deliberately. Corporate television media in the United States is colluding in a cover-up of the threat of climate change, and they have specifically blacked out the climate change issue with regard to this election.

The guilty parties are Comcast (owner of NBC Universal, including MSNBC/ NBC.com), the Walt Disney Company (the owner of ABC), Viacom/ CBS, Time Warner (owner of CNN), and Twenty-First Century Fox (i.e. sleazy pressslord Rupert Murdoch).I used the word "suppressed" in the title quite deliberately. Corporate television media in the United States is colluding in a cover-up of the threat of climate change, and they have specifically blacked out the climate change issue with regard to this election.

The guilty parties are Comcast (owner of NBC Universal, including MSNBC/ NBC.com), the Walt Disney Company (the owner of ABC), Viacom/ CBS, Time Warner (owner of CNN), and Twenty-First Century Fox (i.e. sleazy pressslord Rupert Murdoch).

These five media conglomerates run by Stephen B. Burke, Robert A. Iger, Leslie Moonves, Jeff Zucker, and, well, Rupert Murdoch are trying to drown your grandchildren. Please do drop them a line (contacts hyperlinked except Fox, which is a multi-billion-dollar trolling operation so why bother?) and let them know you aren't happy about their plans for genocide against our future generations.

Several studies have substantiated that none of the television news operations have bothered to report on policy during this election- it has all been horse race 24/7. This is because multi-billion dollar corporations are extracting money from you and they don't want you getting uppity about policy issues.

Since they didn't tell you, I will. Here are 5 climate tie-ins with the election that the news channels didn't convene panels to dissect at length. Maybe they didn't report them at all. Maybe it was in a single sentence or in that ticker at the bottom where they sometimes put real news.

Several studies have substantiated that none of the television news operations have bothered to report on policy during this election- it has all been horse race 24/7. This is because multi-billion dollar corporations are extracting money from you and they don't want you getting uppity about policy issues.

Since they didn't tell you, I will. Here are 5 climate tie-ins with the election that the news channels didn't convene panels to dissect at length. Maybe they didn't report them at all. Maybe it was in a single sentence or in that ticker at the bottom where they sometimes put real news.

1. It is rare for China to say anything to a US presidential candidate publicly. Beijing nevertheless came out and blasted Donald Trump for saying he would renege on the Paris climate agreement. Xie Zhenhua, China's top climate negotiator, said that "The world is moving towards balancing environmental protection and economic growth." Of politicians like Trump, he added, "If they resist this trend, I don't think they'll win the support of their people, and their country's economic and social progress will also be affected . . . I believe a wise political leader should take policy stances that conform with global trends . . ." China is investing heavily in renewables at some social cost and won't sit still for US backsliding.

2. While the election has been going on, something has gone seriously wrong with this year's arctic sea ice cover. Zack Labe, a doctoral student in climate science, posted to Twitter, "Sea ice extent has set 142 new daily record lows." and for the first time since 1970 "hadn't reached seven million square kilometres by November." Trust me. This is monstrously bad. The less ice on land in the arctic and antarctic, the more water in the sea. If your house is near a beach, this should concern you. A lot. Why, you might even expect it to be on the news.

3. The Paris Climate accord became international law on Friday. Question: Is America going to be a scofflaw nation and rampage around destroying the climate for everyone on earth?

4. Americans are already being displaced from their homes by climate change.

5. Our burning of fossil fuels now seems likely to throw the Southwest into a decades-long mega-drought.

So go ahead and talk about the trivial things, about the horse race, about the petty insults back and forth and the emails (there doesn't seem anything interesting in the emails).

Meanwhile the single biggest story of this election season is being studiedly ignored in the campaign (well, Hillary brought out Al Gore for one day and she wants lots of solar panels) and more especially on our television sets. It is like an alternate reality where we have no idea that emitting billions of metric tons of carbon dioxide every year by driving cars and heating homes and businesses etc. are causing a planetary melt-down.

At least please let your congressional representatives know you are worried about this issue. They can be pressured. And, I think we need some nice legal marches.


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