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Hometown: fly over country
Member since: Sun Aug 14, 2005, 08:23 AM
Number of posts: 297

Journal Archives

Why Won’t Senator Feinstein Call Torture Torture?

By: Barry Eisler Wednesday March 12, 2014 7:18 am at Firedog Lake

Senator Diane Feinstein

There’s been a lot of great commentary already about the brouhaha between the Senate and the CIA regarding Senator Dianne Feinstein’s allegations that the CIA has, in essence, spied on the activities of the Senate’s intelligence oversight committee. I just want to add a few thoughts.

First, it’s fair to wonder why the Senate is calling its own inquiry a report on the CIA’s “detention and interrogation program.” Feinstein herself acknowledges her staff members have been “wading through the horrible details of a CIA program that never, never, never should have existed.” A horrible program that should never existed? Does that sound like detention and interrogation… or like torture and imprisonment


Trans-Pacific Partnership Reveals Deadly Cost of American Patents

Posted on March 11, 2014 by Yves Smith at Naked Capitalism

While US news stories occasionally mention the breathtaking cost of some medications, they almost always skirt the issue of why American drugs are so grotesquely overpriced by world standards. The pharmaceutical industry has managed to sell the story that it’s because they need all that dough to pay for the cost of finding new drugs.

That account is patently false.


The Three Card Monte of Generational Warfare

Stock speculator Jay Gould remarked, “I can hire one half of the working class to kill the other half.” That, sports fans, is the real foundation of the generational warfare propaganda effort.

It’s being openly pushed on college campuses by billionaire and long term heavyweight Republican donor Stan Druckemiller, and is apparently being worked hard through media channels. I was surprised to see a website that has often featured cogent, articulate political analysis serve up a boomer-blaming piece that was all broad stereotypes, and a couple of tidbits presented as evidence when they were at most decoration (I’m not about to dignify it by linking to it). If anyone had tried running a similarly hate-mongering piece about blacks or gays, they would have been called out. At least this post got some pushback in comments.


Want to fix US inequality? Start with worming tablets.

To the extent that middle class and more affluent people think about poverty in America, they likely have blurry, partial images due to distance and lack of direct experience. Their remedies might include better education and training, higher minimum wages, more affordable housing.

New Scientist thinks otherwise. Its headline for a blistering editorial: Want to fix US inequality? Begin with worming tablets.

Reader Francois T, who is a doctor as well as a research scientist, confirms that this piece is as damning as it sounds:

Read more at http://www.nakedcapitalism.com/2013/12/americas-descent-third-world-status-tropical-diseases-rise-among-poor.html#3QlEPGV8EMllQPEB.99

The Skunk Party Manifesto

The best political system that money can buy is doing a great job for its customers and a lousy job for the rest of us.

Most Americans do not realize that they are on the losing end of a 40-year war against them. On August 23, 1971, former Nixon Supreme Court Justice Lewus Powell circulated what came to be known as the Powell memo. It set forth a detailed program for reshaping American institutions and values to favor the interests of corporations over those of ordinary citizens. The success of this initiative has been so complete that it has not only rolled back many of the bulwarks created by the New Deal and the Great Society, but it is also in the process of pauperizing ordinary workers in order to increase record business profits even further. The fact that the campaign has also produced rampant political dysfunction, curtailed civil liberties and helped cement an out-of-control surveillance state is of perilous little concern to powerful elites as long as their plutocratic land-grab continues.

Read more at http://www.nakedcapitalism.com/2013/11/47719.html#ujMq8UOcLUuHZu54.99

Software crisis - healthcare.gov is just the dead canary

It has been a good generation to be involved with software. The scarcity of the skillset combined with the demand for the output have generated outsized incomes, while the work has been consistently rewarding. Our quirky group of builders has had an outsized influence on our industries, not to mention our culture and ideals. But that influence is looking less benign as the rigid procedures of computing are changing commercial relationships and the application of the law.

In our prehistory, the 50s, 60s and into the 70s, there were at first a handful of computers and eventually hundreds of thousands in the world. In those days data was impossible to crunch, and yet data was impossibly valuable to crunch. Any means necessary included costly, limited and ill-behaved combinations of experimental equipment. Memory was literally sewn together by hand, with a magnetic bead for each bit, and a pair of wires running through it along each axis of a grid. Longer term data would be stored on a rotating drum, and the programmer would try to time the placement of the data on the drum so that data would come around about the time it was needed. I was a teenager in the early 70s, and took a non-credit system programming course at Dartmouth when I was junior high school. But my memory of the time was writing programs with toggle switches, and not keyboard, debugging by watching lights, and patching paper tape programs with tape.

Read more at http://www.nakedcapitalism.com/2013/11/bob-goodwin-software-engineering-in-crisis-healthcare-gov-is-just-the-dead-canary.html#UP2Bt6T1HYuqVWuD.99

How Our Everyday Life Creates Our Character Our Destiny

We are what we do. What experience during our daily lives creates our habits, both of action and thought and those habitual actions and thoughts are our character. The character of men and women, and the shared character of a society is destiny: it determines how we respond to what happens, it is as close to fate as exists in a world awash in choice, where we make the choices we are expected to.

The defining characteristic of growing up in the modern world is school. In school we are taught to sit still, speak only when we are allowed to by an authority figure, and do meaningless work that is not suited to us. For the bright kids, school is stultifyingly boring. They sit there bored out of their skulls by how slowly the class proceeds. For the active child, school is stultifyingly boring because they are told to sit on their butt for most of the day, when they’d rather be doing something physical. For the creative child (which is all children, till they have it schooled out of them), school is, yes, stultifyingly boring, since it is all doing what someone else tells you to.


Back Door Secession

On Monday, The New York Times reported that eleven counties in Colorado are promoting efforts to secede from their state government. Of course, men like Governor Rick Perry of Texas have gone further and threatened secession from the federal government. It is not much noticed that parts of the country act as if they had already seceded from the union. They do not recognize laws and Supreme Court decisions, or constitutional guarantees of free speech. For instance seventeen states have violated the First Amendment by preventing or hindering the work of “navigators”—organizations and businesses funded by the federal government to educate people on ways to follow the rules of the Affordable Care Act. Some groups routinely attempt to block health centers from advising women on the legal right to contraception. Eight state legislatures this year have passed voter restrictions that may violate the Fourteenth Amendment, and similar measures are pending in other states.


Close the borders – gangs of benefit cheats are coming!

So the American conservatives wimped out again after a month or so of mindless bluster and hot air. The only problem is that their posturing, in itself, causes damage to the economy. It’s interesting that the conservative economists keep harping on about their belief that the existence of a budget deficit causes uncertainty among private firms who are then reluctant to invest because they fear higher tax rates to pay back the deficit. While this flawed narrative is not theoretically robust, defies history, and is empirically bereft, uncertainty is a problem for firms and the ridiculous behaviour of the American conservatives in the Congress in recent times has dramatically increased it. The world is moving now into a second phase of the retrenchment of the state. The first phase required the neo-liberals to redefine the crisis, which was clearly an issue of excessive private debt, as crisis of sovereign debt. They have been successful in achieving this step. Our ignorance and obsequiousness has allowed this mindless narrative to dominate the public debate. The second phase is now well underway way where the victims of the austerity become the focus of attention for the Conservative politicians. The unemployed are vilified as lazy and welfare cheats (their benefits are targeted – for example, in Ireland now); single mothers are accused of strategic pregnancies; and the old furphy – benefit migration – is wheeled out into the public debate to engender an increasing resentment of the presence of ethnic minorities who is simply trying to do what all of us want – to improve the lives of their families and themselves. All of these campaigns are designed to divide and conquer the populace, segment this into conflictual factions (“them and us” mentality), and justify further unwarranted cuts to government spending.


Andrew Bacevich: The Hill to the Rescue on Syria?

Sometimes history happens at the moment when no one is looking. On weekends in late August, the president of the United States ought to be playing golf or loafing at Camp David, not making headlines. Yet Barack Obama chose Labor Day weekend to unveil arguably the most consequential foreign policy shift of his presidency.

In an announcement that surprised virtually everyone, the president told his countrymen and the world that he was putting on hold the much anticipated U.S. attack against Syria. Obama hadn’t, he assured us, changed his mind about the need and justification for punishing the Syrian government for its probable use of chemical weapons against its own citizens. In fact, only days before administration officials had been claiming that, if necessary, the U.S. would “go it alone” in punishing Bashar al-Assad’s regime for its bad behavior. Now, however, Obama announced that, as the chief executive of “the world’s oldest constitutional democracy,” he had decided to seek Congressional authorization before proceeding.

Obama thereby brought to a screeching halt a process extending back over six decades in which successive inhabitants of the Oval Office had arrogated to themselves (or had thrust upon them) ever wider prerogatives in deciding when and against whom the United States should wage war. Here was one point on which every president from Harry Truman to George W. Bush had agreed: on matters related to national security, the authority of the commander-in-chief has no fixed limits. When it comes to keeping the country safe and securing its vital interests, presidents can do pretty much whatever they see fit.

Read more at http://www.nakedcapitalism.com/2013/09/andrew-bacevich-the-hill-to-the-rescue-on-syria-dont-hold-your-breath.html#SDBuOG8WfKvt1Ga1.99
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