Saturday, March 22, 2014

russia a patron of true believers


rsn |  ussian President Vladimir Putin is on a geopolitical roll these days, despite US and EU sanctions against some of his closest associates. On Monday he recognized Crimea in the wake of its referendum on secession from the Ukraine, despite Western warnings not to do so, and despite severe questions about the accuracy of the statistics put out by Crimea’s rump authorities concerning the alleged turnout and supposed overwhelming vote in favor of seceding.

Less noticed was the advance on Sunday of Hizbullah fighters and Syrian troops into Yabroud, the last territory that had been held by rebel forces on the Lebanon border. The rebels in that part of Syria have now been cut off from supply lines in Lebanon, a major victory for the regime. From Yabroud, fighters had been able to infiltrate Eastern Ghouta near Damascus, but that tactic has now been forestalled. Increasingly also in control of Homs, the Syrian army appears to be gradually extending its control north toward Hama and then Aleppo. There is no early prospect of victory by the regime, which is stretched thin, but it has inflicted a series of heavy blows on rebel forces in the past 8 months. Some of the comeback of the Bashar al-Assad regime, which seemed doomed only a year ago, derives from money and weapons supplied by Putin.

In the current Sunni-Shiite struggles in the east of the Arab world, Putin has in essence made Russia a patron of the Shiites just as it is a patron of the Eastern Orthodox Christians.

russia not having thugs or the blood funnel at its backside...,


irishtimes | Although wanting friendly relations with Ukraine, Russia refused to accept the new authorities in Kiev who, with the help of radical ultranationalists, had seized power in an unconstitutional coup. Russia, Putin suggested, had a humanitarian responsibility to go to the rescue of Crimea’s large ethnic Russian population, who were in danger of attack from marauding “neo-Nazis, anti-Semites and Russo- phobes”.

Although Putin won permission from Russian lawmakers to deploy troops in Ukraine in the wake of the revolution, he had not yet exercised that right. Russia had deployed extra troops to protect military installations in Crimea but, contrary to western allegations, there had been no invasion of the peninsular.

Putin said the chaos in Ukraine reflected a broader breakdown in global security since the collapse of the Soviet Union, which made way for a unipolar world.

‘Rule of the gun’
Western powers, led by the US, had abused power, ignoring international law in favour of the “rule of the gun”.

As examples, Putin listed the US bombing of Yugoslavia in 1999, the invasion of Iraq in 2003 and the bombing of Libya by US and European forces in 2011 even in the UN-prescribed no-fly zone, all of which Russia had opposed.

More relevant to the Crimea case was the broad acceptance by the West of Kosovo’s controversial decision to secede from Russia’s ally Serbia in 2009 and become an independent state. If a special case had been made for Kosovo, it was two-faced to protest that Crimea’s secession from Ukraine was illegal.

Putin implied that the US and the EU had, not for the first time, fanned the flames of revolution in Ukraine. Sponsorship of regime change in Ukraine was part of a concerted campaign by the West against Russia and against the Kremlin’s plans for Eurasian integration. “With Ukraine, our western partners have crossed the line, playing the bear and acting irresponsibly and unprofessionally,” he said.

If Russia’s national interests were at stake in Ukraine, so too was its position as a resurgent power determined to be involved in shaping the world order.

Constantly sidelined
Putin complained that the West had constantly sidelined Russia in global decision-making since the fall of the Soviet Union. Promises had been broken and deceitful steps taken behind Russia’s back.

A particular grudge was Nato’s failure to honour a pledge made to Mikhail Gorbachev in 1989 not to expand beyond Germany. Russia’s western borders were now flanked by members of the US-backed military alliance from the Baltics to Poland, Hungary and Bulgaria.

The prospect of Nato troops settling down in Crimea, the home of Russia’s Black Sea fleet, was unimaginable, Putin said. “Let them come and visit us there instead,” he said.

parliamentary sissies an organ of the vampire squid...,


pbs |  The U.S. and others want the IMF to be able to do more lending. Under the reforms, the IMF lending capacity would be bigger and borrowing amount — based on the relative size of countries — will go up along with the increase in quotas.

The way that the increase in the United States would take place is by shifting some of our commitment that’s in the form of credit provided to the IMF to become quota (i.e., our shareholder stake).

So there are some doubts; people are asking, is there risk involved to the U.S.? It’s not really a partisan issue though. Republicans want there to be an IMF and want it to be able to operate. Most people want there to be IMF reforms and a reduction of influence of European countries, which is basically a hold-over of the 1940s and 1950s. It’s harder to strengthen the legitimacy of the IMF without allowing emerging economies more influence.

Johnson recommends this primer from the Peterson Institute on why IMF reforms are important for the United States and how the U.S. is standing in their way.

But the House Foreign Affairs Committee has introduced legislation for an aid package without IMF reforms.

Yes, the IMF reforms are being held up by House Republicans, but the question is whether this is a matter of principle or a tactical move since they’re trying to tie it to other things they want. There’s not a big disagreement on the substance of those reforms.

The key difference between the U.S. and any other country [approving the reforms] is that the U.S. has to get the reforms passed through Congress for them to become law. We are the hold up now. The quota increase only goes through when 85 percent [of IMF shareholders] agree, and the United States is the only country that has veto power because we have such a big stake.

Friday, March 21, 2014

banksters strike back



WaPo | President Obama expanded sanctions against top aides and reputed financial associates of Russian President Vladi­mir Putin on Thursday as punishment for the annexation of Crimea, and laid the groundwork for far broader measures against “key sectors of the Russian economy” if Putin further escalates his actions in Ukraine.

The broad measures potentially include Russia’s financial services, energy, mining, engineering and defense sectors, according to language in what was Obama’s third executive order in two weeks. If implemented, he acknowledged, they would not only significantly affect the Russian economy, “they could also be disruptive to the global economy.”

But “Russia must know that further escalation will only isolate it further from the international community,” Obama said in a brief statement on the White House South Lawn.

For now, the measures target Putin’s inner circle and stop well short of the kind of sanctions that have crippled Iran’s economy. Those would be triggered only by a wider military incursion, and Russian troops remain massed on Ukraine’s eastern and southern borders. And although Putin has said Russia has no further territorial designs on Ukraine, he has proved indifferent to Western threats.

putting putin in play?


rsn | Last September, as the prospects for a U.S. military strike against Syria were fading thanks to Putin, NED president Carl Gershman, who is something of a neocon paymaster controlling more than $100 million in congressionally approved funding each year, took to the pages of the neocon-flagship Washington Post and wrote that Ukraine was now “the biggest prize.”

But Gershman added that Ukraine was really only an interim step to an even bigger prize, the removal of the strong-willed and independent-minded Putin, who, Gershman added, “may find himself on the losing end not just in the near abroad [i.e. Ukraine] but within Russia itself.” In other words, the new hope was for “regime change” in Kiev and Moscow.

Putin had made himself a major annoyance in Neocon World, particularly with his diplomacy on Syria that defused a crisis over a Sarin attack outside Damascus on Aug. 21, 2013. Despite the attack’s mysterious origins – and the absence of any clear evidence proving the Syrian government’s guilt – the U.S. State Department and the U.S. news media rushed to the judgment that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad did it.

Politicians and pundits baited Obama with claims that Assad had brazenly crossed Obama’s “red line” by using chemical weapons and that U.S. “credibility” now demanded military retaliation. A longtime Israeli/neocon goal, “regime change” in Syria, seemed within reach.

But Putin brokered a deal in which Assad agreed to surrender Syria’s chemical weapons arsenal (even as he continued to deny any role in the Sarin attack). The arrangement was a huge letdown for the neocons and Israeli officials who had been drooling over the prospect that a U.S. bombing campaign would bring Assad to his knees and deliver a strategic blow against Iran, Israel’s current chief enemy.
Putin then further offended the neocons and the Israeli government by helping to facilitate an interim nuclear deal with Iran, making another neocon/Israeli priority, a U.S. war against Iran, less likely.

So, the troublesome Putin had to be put in play. And, NED’s Gershman was quick to note a key Russian vulnerability, neighboring Ukraine, where a democratically elected but corrupt president, Viktor Yanukovych, was struggling with a terrible economy and weighing whether to accept a European aid offer, which came with many austerity strings attached, or work out a more generous deal with Russia.

post hays code bettie...,


archive | The Hays code left the Fleischers scrambling for new directions in which to take a very much toned-down Betty, and new characters for her (since Bimbo was out), with whom she could interact. Pudgy was cute but, being that he was not anthropomorphic, his scope was limited. What a great character they came up with in Grampy, who was a reflection of their own creative and innovative energy, and no doubt inspired both by Rube Goldberg's Professor Lucifer Gorgonzola Butts character (the supposed inventor of Rube Goldberg machines) and Max Fleischer's own penchant for gadgeteering (he invented the rotoscope, rotograph, and several other processes). In their usual spirit of parody and satire, they combined three cliches-- a thinking cap, the mortarboard hat of a professor, and the idea light bulb (which, according to an article on tvtropes.org, originated in the 'Felix the Cat' cartoons of the 1920's)-- into something for Grampy to wear while brainstorming problems for Betty. Grampy's eminently singable theme song, "We're On Our Way to Grampy's," the melody which became Grampy's signature theme in subsequent cartoons, sets the tone perfectly for this cheerful and energetic character.

The Fleischers knew that they had a strong character in Grampy, and used him in a Color Classics episode ('Christmas Comes But Once a Year') in a possible spin-off attempt. Despite his frenetic energy in that cartoon, his interaction with Betty is at least half of his appeal as a character.

[Update] I think I've finally got the lyrics...

I'm on my way to Grampy's
Oh! He's such good company
It's the only place to be
(Tweet!)
Over at Grampy's house

So I'm on my way to Grampy's
For he always treats me nice
Always something on the ice
(Where?!)
Over at Grampy's house

Daw d'dee d'daw d'dee
It never is too late
Daw d'dee d'daw d'dee
He will always wait!

And when everybody's rusty
He is always full of pep
Everybody's going to be
(Where?!)
Over at Grampy's house

So we're on our way to Grampy's
Oh! He's such good company...

racy bettie


wikipedia |  Betty Boop is an animated cartoon character created by Max Fleischer, with help from animators including Grim Natwick.[1][2][3][4][5][6] She originally appeared in the Talkartoon and Betty Boop film series, which were produced by Fleischer Studios and released by Paramount Pictures. She has also been featured in comic strips and mass merchandising. Despite having been toned down in the mid-1930s as a result of the Hays Code to appear more demure, she became one of the best-known and popular cartoon characters in the world.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

globalization has turned on its western creators


telegraph |  A number of years ago, a story went around that sprouts were being transported from across Britain to an East Anglian airport, from where they were sent to Poland for washing and packaging before being air-freighted back again for sale in supermarkets located but a few miles from where they were grown. 
This is an extreme example of the sometimes insane supply-chain dynamics of modern-day globalisation, but it speaks loudly to widespread disillusionment with the once-unquestioned blessings of free trade. From the Occupy Wall Street and Tea Party movements of the US to the renewed rise of populist politics in Europe, the backlash is everywhere to be seen.
In real terms, Americans are on average no better off than they were 30 years ago; in Britain, the Institute for Fiscal Studies says that our real disposable incomes are in the midst of a 14-year freeze. Vast tracts of gainful employment in textiles, potteries, shoe-making, machine tools and many other industries have disappeared, to be replaced by… well, not very much at all outside the now languishing financial services industry and the housing market.
The West’s competitive advantage, even in hi-tech industries such as pharmaceuticals and aerospace, is being fast whittled away too. The welfare and health entitlements to which we have become accustomed look ever more unaffordable, while the final-salary pensions that workers could once expect as reward for a lifetime of service are now confined to the public sector – and those too will surely be gone within 10 years. It is small wonder that the benefits of free trade are now so widely questioned.
Critics of globalisation, such as Joseph Stiglitz, the Nobel laureate in economics, used to focus on the supposed harm that Western-inspired trade liberalisation was inflicting on the developing world. Few would these days think this the correct way of looking at the problem.

On the contrary, by opening up the global economy to Asia, Latin America and Eastern Europe, the West seems to have unleashed a doomsday machine which threatens ever-greater destruction of its own living standards. After a brief number of years in which globalisation made everything seemingly cheaper, the terms of trade have moved badly against the West. 

Sure enough, the world as a whole is getting a whole lot richer. In the past decade alone, the global economy has doubled in size. But most of the benefits of this explosion in activity have gone to the developing world and, in the West, the already rich, highly educated and talented. The wealth divide has widened to record levels almost everywhere. 

Western business leaders embraced globalisation not just because it opens up new markets, introduces new ideas and weeds out unproductive, protected sectors, but because it allows for lower production costs and so bigger profits. It doesn’t seem to have occurred to them that if you don’t provide Western consumers with jobs, they’ll be priced out of the market and the mother economy will wither and die. 

The principles of free trade are the same for nations as they are for individuals. Rather than trying to produce everything we need to live, most of us choose to work in quite specialist forms of employment, the product of which we sell to others. We then use the proceeds to buy in other goods and services. Nations ought similarly to derive a collective economic benefit by specialising in the things they do best and then trading with others for the rest. 

But the system only works if everyone plays by a common set of rules and standards.

how to be trapped


feasta |  For all sorts of reasons the possibility of a controlled orchestrated de-growth to some viable steady-state position is probably deluded in the extreme. I’ll just point to one thing, such a view tends to embody the confusion that because the globalised economy is human-made it is therefore designed, understandable and controllable – humans can do this in niches, but the emergent structure of multiple niches interacting on many scales over time is not. This mirrors the sort of argument made famous by William Paley in his Natural Theology who said that the existence of living organisms proved the existence of a divine creator/ designer by analogy with how the finding of a watch would lead one to believe in the existence of an intelligent watchmaker. Half a century later Darwin and then his followers showed that natural selection could do emergent design without a controller- the ‘blind’ watchmaker in Richard Dawkins words. But as believers in Man’s progress we seem to have taken on the role that Paley once ascribed to god- that is, as the creators of the complex globalised economy it is therefore designable and controllable and potentially perfectible if only the right people and ideas were in the cockpit. We find all sorts of confusion arising from this when attempts are made to take linguistic dominion over the economy by confusing complex interdependent emergence with intentional design (as in, the economy is capitalist/ neoliberal/ socialist, or, we need to change ‘the monetary architecture’). So even without getting into details about irreversibility in complex systems or the myriad practical problems with a controllable de-growth, the power of the belief in its possibility seems, to me at least, to represent Titanic hubris.

That said, a disorderly de-growth/collapse would bring us to a new era where we would end up with a much reduced capacity to access and use resources and dump waste. But we’d still have to respond to problems and that would generally require whatever energy and resources were at hand. For example, anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions would likely nose-dive, a good thing of course, although the effects of climate changes would continue to get worse because of lags in the climate system while our adaptive capacity compared to today would have been shattered. Thus the real cost of climate change would escalate beyond our ability to pay quite suddenly and much faster than conventional climate-economic models would suggest. The danger here is that in a state of poverty and forced localization our attempts to respond to such emergent stress and crises mean we start undermining our local environments and their on-going capacity to support us. So any form of steady-state economy in the foreseeable future is inherently problematic.

But in time some of us might be able to maintain a simple steady-state economy by acculturating to that new reality, at least for a while. Maybe a world where parsimonious poets and threadbare social nurturers are loved and admired, while an affliction for stuff would leave one pitied and dateless! I’m pretty sure there will people living good, meaningful and ecologically responsible lives long into the future.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

the flight 370 in kiev open thread...,

Cause inquiring minds want to know what Bro. Umbra thinks about the impossible phenomenon of a Boeing 777 being lost? Somebody DEFINITELY knows where that plane is sitting and has known exactly where it's been sitting since this narrative jumped off. Any liminal perspectives causing you to itch, now's the time to scratch.

diversity and the free market?


thefederalist | The bromide that brings out the most sanctimonious chest pounding in American life is the demand for greater diversity in the most diverse country in the world. Liberals are especially adept celebrating their own virtue, while obscenely flashing, and thereby shaming, the barbarians they deem less sophisticated, cultured, or progressive. Using the garret of political correctness to silence critics, and employing the bludgeon of institutional authority to beat subordinates into submission, liberals have created a culture that takes a good concept and mutates it into a monster of social repression, censorship, and political shrinkage.

The machinery of liberalism mechanizes the media and academia to undermine diversity, all in the name of upholding it. Tyrannical limitations on acceptable speech, otherwise known as political correctness, make people less likely to interact with those of different races, not more, for the same reasons a pedestrian out for a stroll is likely to avoid a minefield. The liberal conception of diversity is also so narrow that it becomes silly and, in the process, loses all meaning. Universities that hire diversity czars and do everything to ensure a more diverse student population, short of lowering tuition, rarely advocate intellectual diversity, because that might cause students to question the presuppositions of liberal dogma. No one will ever catch the campus bureaucrat bolstering behavioral diversity, because that would require a critical examination of the gender codes (masculinity is bad), green codes (eating meat is bad), speech codes (jokes are bad), activism codes (anything conservative is bad), consumer codes (too much shopping is bad) and other codes that dictate exactly how an educated person is supposed to behave.
Intellectual diversity opens minds and behavioral diversity presents alternative options for lifestyle comfort and happiness. Liberals neglect, and often attack, those forms of diversity in an effort to reduce the concept of diversity to ethnic and racial bean counting. Diversity, according to the liberal vision, becomes as exciting as an average day of a census worker, and relegates potentially positive human interaction into the force feeding of medicine. The enforcement of quotas, both written and unwritten, expose the authoritarian streak in contemporary liberalism, and nothing demonstrates the we-know-what-is-good-for-you soft tyranny of liberals more than their suspicion, and often hatred, of the one force that creates and maintains maximum diversity in American life: the free market.


As Black History Month closes, it is timely to acknowledge that jazz music is one of the world’s greatest art forms. Created primarily and largely by black Americans in New York City, New Orleans, Chicago, and Kansas City, it was an attempt, in the poetic words of literary master Ralph Ellison, to “live with music” rather than “dying with noise.”

Close minded moralists speaking from the podiums of the State and the pulpits of the church condemned jazz for its sexuality and daring engagement with the romance of the urban night and city loner. If authoritarians won their battle against jazz music, the entire world would have lost the beauty and humanizing influence of Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Billie Holiday, and John Coltrane. Jazz was able to establish dominance over the American airwaves, and establish itself as an art form, only because the free market provided an opportunity for jazz clubs, jazz radio stations, and jazz record companies to make large amounts of money by serving the consumer demand for jazz music. One of the greatest achievements of black Americans – the greatest achievements of American civilization – exists not because a college dean in a sweater vest listening to NPR suggested it, or because a political hack had his intern help him roll up his sleeves and then demanded it, it exists because of the laws of supply and demand, the excellence of the free market, and the incentive of profit.

the rise of anti-capitalism?


NYTimes |  THE unresolved question is, how will this economy of the future function when millions of people can make and share goods and services nearly free? The answer lies in the civil society, which consists of nonprofit organizations that attend to the things in life we make and share as a community. In dollar terms, the world of nonprofits is a powerful force. Nonprofit revenues grew at a robust rate of 41 percent — after adjusting for inflation — from 2000 to 2010, more than doubling the growth of gross domestic product, which increased by 16.4 percent during the same period. In 2012, the nonprofit sector in the United States accounted for 5.5 percent of G.D.P. 

What makes the social commons more relevant today is that we are constructing an Internet of Things infrastructure that optimizes collaboration, universal access and inclusion, all of which are critical to the creation of social capital and the ushering in of a sharing economy. The Internet of Things is a game-changing platform that enables an emerging collaborative commons to flourish alongside the capitalist market.

This collaborative rather than capitalistic approach is about shared access rather than private ownership. For example, 1.7 million people globally are members of car-sharing services. A recent survey found that the number of vehicles owned by car-sharing participants decreased by half after joining the service, with members preferring access over ownership. Millions of people are using social media sites, redistribution networks, rentals and cooperatives to share not only cars but also homes, clothes, tools, toys and other items at low or near zero marginal cost. The sharing economy had projected revenues of $3.5 billion in 2013.

Nowhere is the zero marginal cost phenomenon having more impact than the labor market, where workerless factories and offices, virtual retailing and automated logistics and transport networks are becoming more prevalent. Not surprisingly, the new employment opportunities lie in the collaborative commons in fields that tend to be nonprofit and strengthen social infrastructure — education, health care, aiding the poor, environmental restoration, child care and care for the elderly, the promotion of the arts and recreation. In the United States, the number of nonprofit organizations grew by approximately 25 percent between 2001 and 2011, from 1.3 million to 1.6 million, compared with profit-making enterprises, which grew by a mere one-half of 1 percent. In the United States, Canada and Britain, employment in the nonprofit sector currently exceeds 10 percent of the work force. 

Despite this impressive growth, many economists argue that the nonprofit sector is not a self-sufficient economic force but rather a parasite, dependent on government entitlements and private philanthropy. Quite the contrary. A recent study revealed that approximately 50 percent of the aggregate revenue of the nonprofit sectors of 34 countries comes from fees, while government support accounts for 36 percent of the revenues and private philanthropy for 14 percent.

As for the capitalist system, it is likely to remain with us far into the future, albeit in a more streamlined role, primarily as an aggregator of network services and solutions, allowing it to thrive as a powerful niche player in the coming era. We are, however, entering a world partly beyond markets, where we are learning how to live together in an increasingly interdependent, collaborative, global commons.

do you believe the Hon.Bro.Preznit is Brer Rabbit sneaking in policies for the least of these?


salon | The big news after President Obama’s State of the Union address in January was that he didn’t really talk about the issues of inequality that everyone expected him to talk about. Instead, he shifted the “conversation,” as we call it, toward the subject of opportunity. He shied away from the extremely disturbing fact that when you work these days only your boss prospers, and brought us back to the infinitely less disturbing fact that sometimes poor people do get ahead despite it all. In a clever oratorical maneuver, Obama illustrated this comforting idea by referencing the success stories of both himself—“the son of a single mom”—and his arch-foe, Republican House Speaker John Boehner—“the son of a barkeep.” He spoke of building “new ladders of opportunity into the middle class,” a phrase that has become a trademark for his administration.

The problem, as Obama summed it up, is that Americans have ceased to believe they can rise from the ranks. “Opportunity is who we are,” he said. “And the defining project of our generation must be to restore that promise.”

The switcheroo was subtle, but if you’ve been paying attention you couldn’t miss it: These were almost precisely the words Obama had used the month before (“The defining challenge of our time”) to describe inequality itself.

Well, the Democratic apparat heard it, and as one body did they sway and swoon. This was a move of statesmanlike genius, they said. “Opportunity” and social mobility are what Americans have always liked to hear about, they declared; “inequality” sounds like a demand for entitlements—or something much worse. “What you want to do is focus on the aspirational side of this,” said Paul Begala in a typical remark, “lifting people up, not on just complaining about a lack of fairness or inequality.”

If you’re in the right mood, you might well agree with him. In the distant past, “opportunity” used to be something of a liberal buzzword, a way of selling welfare-state inventions of every description. The reason was simple: true equality of opportunity is not possible without achieving, well, greater equality, period. If we’re really serious about opportunity—if we’re going to ensure that every poor kid has a chance in life that is the equal of every rich kid—it’s going to require a gigantic investment in public schools, in housing, in food stamps, in infrastructure, in public projects of every description. It will necessarily mean taking on the broader problem of the One Percent along the way.

But that was what the word meant long ago. It’s different today. When people talk about opportunity nowadays, they’re often not trying to refine the debate over inequality, they’re trying to negate it. The social function of mobility-talk is usually to excuse inequality, not to change it; to persuade us that the system we have now is fair and even natural—or that it can be made so with a few more charter schools or student loans or something. Because everyone has a chance at making it into the One Percent, this version of “opportunity” tells us, there’s nothing wrong with letting the One Percent hog every dish at the banquet.  Fist tap Vic.

the rich strike back


politico | In two-dozen interviews, the denizens of Wall Street and wealthy precincts around the nation said they are still plenty worried about the shift in tone toward top earners and the popularity of class-based appeals. On the right, the rise of populists including Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz still makes wealthy donors eyeing 2016 uncomfortable. But wealthy Republicans — who were having a collective meltdown just two months ago — also say they see signs that the political zeitgeist may be shifting back their way and hope the trend continues.

“I hope it’s not working,” Ken Langone, the billionaire co-founder of Home Depot and major GOP donor, said of populist political appeals. “Because if you go back to 1933, with different words, this is what Hitler was saying in Germany. You don’t survive as a society if you encourage and thrive on envy or jealousy.”

Langone’s comments — sure to draw ire from those who find such comparisons to Nazi Germany insensitive — echo previous remarks from venture capitalist Tom Perkins, who likened the actions of some in the Occupy Wall Street movement to the Kristallnacht attacks on Jews in 1938. Perkins gave several interviews after the ensuing uproar, but he never really backed away from the comparison. And Langone showed no hesitancy in invoking the Nazis when describing current populist rhetoric.

The Democratic power elite now believe that appeals to raise the minimum wage and extend unemployment insurance are not enough to overcome Obama’s deep unpopularity and frustration with the president’s signature health care law. They fear that unless Democrats shift footing to a more hopeful, growth-based message, the party could lose the Senate and drop double-digit seats in the House.

“Reducing inequality is good, but it’s 50 times better to do it by lifting those up who are low than by tearing those down who are high,” said Larry Summers, the former treasury secretary whose bid to become Fed chair got derailed by the more liberal wing of the Democratic Party. “The politics of envy are the wrong politics in America. The better politics are the politics of inclusion where everyone shares in economic growth.”

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Welcome to Reality PhD Bon Qui Qui...,


slate |  As my Slate colleague Katy Waldman has written, it appears that in the buyer’s market of academia, “lean in” is a dangerous fallacy. For men and women both, it’s not “lean in” so much as “bend over.” According to the widely read blog the Philosophy Smoker, a job candidate identified as “W” recently received an offer for a tenure-track position at Nazareth College, a small liberal-arts school near Rochester, N.Y. Like many recipients of job offers, W viewed the original bid as the opening move in a series of negotiations, and thus submitted the following counteroffer, after informing the department—with whom she says she had been in friendly contact—that she was about to switch into “negotiation mode”:
As you know, I am very enthusiastic about the possibility of coming to Nazareth. Granting some of the following provisions would make my decision easier. 
1) An increase of my starting salary to $65,000, which is more in line with what assistant professors in philosophy have been getting in the last few years.
2) An official semester of maternity leave.
3) A pre-tenure sabbatical at some point during the bottom half of my tenure clock.
4) No more than three new class preps per year for the first three years.
5) A start date of academic year 2015 so I can complete my postdoc. 
I know that some of these might be easier to grant than others. Let me know what you think.
However, instead of coming back with a severely tempered counter-counter (“$57k, maternity, and LOL”), or even a “Take it or leave it, bub,” Nazareth allegedly rescinded the entire offer:
Thank you for your email. The search committee discussed your provisions. They were also reviewed by the Dean and the VPAA. It was determined that on the whole these provisions indicate an interest in teaching at a research university and not at a college, like ours, that is both teaching and student centered. Thus, the institution has decided to withdraw its offer of employment to you. 
Thank you very much for your interest in Nazareth College. We wish you the best in finding a suitable position.
The candidate was shocked. “This is how I thought negotiating worked,” she explained to the Philosophy Smoker in a follow-up missive, “how I learned to do it, and, for that matter, how I think it should work: You ask about a number of perks and maybe get some of them. I was expecting to get very few of the perks I asked about, if anything … I just thought there was no harm in asking.” The Philosophy Smoker found it “flabbergasting.” (A representative for Nazareth College told us they were unable to comment on a personnel matter; an attempt to reach out to W for comment has so far been unsuccessful.)

contesting patriarchy-as-governance: lessons from youth-led activism


opendemocracy | The recent waves of citizen-led activism that swept the globe inspired numerous attempts to identify common drivers [23] across diverse instances of public disobedience and protest.  Growing numbers of educated, unemployed, alienated youth, the humiliations  of autocracy, the authority- busting potential of the internet and social media, and the coming of age of Generation Y [24] are among recurrent leitmotifs. These common denominators – broadly  related to the tensions between the global forces of neoliberalism [25]seeking to expand the freedom of capital, and the forces of social resistance struggling to preserve and redefine community and solidarity - provide  an overly broad umbrella for phenomena  as diverse as the Arab uprisings, the Occupy [26] movement, the indignados [27] of Southern Europe, the student movement in Chile [28] or the Gezi protests [29] in Turkey.  Could the lure of the “global” be making us lose sight of more subtle and context specific idioms of discontent? 

In this article, the fourth in a series of reflections on the Arab uprisings (and beyond), I explore the reasons behind the apparent anti-patriarchal thrust of struggles against authoritarianism in some parts of the MENA region, and pose a relatively neglected question: Are there any lessons to be drawn from youth-led activism for a new politics of gender? 

At first sight, the answer would appear to be negative.  A mobilized citizenry was, first and foremost, demanding their social and political rights, clamouring for justice and freedom and an end to state violence and corruption. If and when gender issues came up - as they did[30] in the context of the Arab uprisings - they were treated in a rather truncated manner, mainly to document levels of  women’s participation in popular protests, their subsequent exclusion from formal processes of transition and their exposure to increasing levels of violence. Feminism and women’s rights activism - considered by some as  “old politics”[31] par excellence - appeared to elicit ambivalence, if not outright indifference, among members of a new insurrectionary generation. Yet this distancing was taking place against the background of widespread popular protests against gender-based violence[32], involving both men and women, who were plainly engaged in new forms of grass roots activism and social critique. How can we account for this state of affairs?  Is the language of feminism up to the challenge of capturing the new sensibilities and aspirations animating the actions and idioms of multitudes of youth, both male and female? Or do the lenses we train on the politics of gender inadvertently restrict our vision?

Is The Atlantic a tweed-jacketed World Star - lampooning and ridiculing by showcasing?


TheAtlantic |  Black fraternities and sororities don’t share the same peripheral issues. A miniscule number own or even rent chapter houses due to very small numbers. The same is true with alcohol. Studies indicate less alcohol usage for example by Black college students, not so much because of less interest, but less disposable income to provide large quantities to guests at an event.

But there are different symptoms that indicate the same dark power or force exists in black groups, one that also creates tragic problems. It invades undergraduates who have been members of a group for a year or two, and miraculously overnight are the authorities on their group and how one should become a member. Their national leaders, scholars, lawyers, and experts, all who say don’t haze, have no credibility with these young geniuses.

And so they employ an “old school” approach to hazing, and I mean old, as in 1800s when all college students had few resources, so the upperclassmen physically punished freshmen during that first year. In 2014 alone, black fraternity members were arrested at the University of Central Arkansas for paddling and being pelted with raw eggs. Six members of another black fraternity (my fraternity) were arrested for paddling that sent one student to the hospital for a month. And at the University of Georgia, 11 black fraternity members were arrested after allegedly lining up potential new members along a wall and striking them.

They all must know hazing is illegal. They must know it is against their respective fraternity and campus policies. They must know that if caught there could be harsh sanctions, including legal ones. And year after year, they beat people.

Hazing is the dark side of the force, if you will. For social fraternities, it’s Count Dooku, using Jedi mind tricks to have pledges drink themselves to death. For black groups, it’s Darth Maul, a brawler physically punishing pledges.

Undergraduates all start off with these noble intentions in their groups, but they become exposed to the dark side. For black groups, if I continue the analogy, they are impacted by Darth Sidious—men and women actively convincing new members that hazing is the only way. They are an insidious group, operating inconspicuously on campuses but causing great harm.

I call these people extended adolescents. They are recent grads (or just no longer enrolled), who are employed, underemployed, or unemployed. Their most significant accomplishment is often fraternity or sorority membership, so they are on campus often- at events, in chapter meetings, or just hanging out. So their “wisdom” is valued more than the legitimate authorities within the national fraternity, or campus administrators.

This group embodies the dark side of black fraternities.

letterman stills o'reilly, po russell jes dayyum....,



twcc |  FOX News political commentator Bill O’Reilly is making his own news again, this time targeting R&B star Beyoncé. O’Reilly – who himself has been accused of sexual harassment – claims that videos for Beyoncé’s new eponymous album released in December are a threat to society and encourage teen pregnancy. His thoughts came out on his show The O’Reilly Factor during an interview with Def Jam founder Russell Simmons.

O’Reilly doesn’t seem to be finished with the topic and told David Letterman on the Late Show last Friday that he had a question ready for Beyoncé, should O’Reilly ever have her on his show.
“Here’s my question for Beyoncé if she ever came on my program,” O’Reilly told Letterman. “She has 350 million in the bank … she doesn’t have to do this. I mean some of these thugs, that’s all they can do. But she doesn’t have to!”
O’Reilly added that he would tell Beyoncé, “Look, these girls love you – they idolize you – you have all the money you need. Do some uplifting stuff. You’ll sell as many records.”
Letterman defended Beyoncé, pointing out to O’Reilly that older generations have been outraged at the music of younger generations for decades, referring to a scandalous performance by the Rolling Stones a half-century earlier in the very theater where the two talk show hosts were chatting.
The same kind of questions were raised about popular music of my day that are being raised about the music today,” Letterman said. “Beyoncé is not the first one.” The Late Show host went further, adding, “In her way [Beyoncé] does as much uplifting activity as anybody in popular culture today, [but] you just found something to whine about because you’re getting to be an old guy like me.”

Monday, March 17, 2014

US and EU expected to announce sanctions against Russia

Map by LMV, all rights reserved (see Contact/Our maps)

guardian | The US and its allies in Europe are expected to announce sanctions against Russia, including visa bans and potential asset freezes, one day after Crimeans voted to secede from Ukraine and join Russia.

The US president, Barack Obama, told his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, on Sunday that Crimea’s vote “would never be recognised” by the United States, as he and other US officials warned Moscow against making further military moves toward southern and eastern Ukraine.

The leaders spoke after people in Crimea voted overwhelmingly in favour of the split in a referendum that the US, European Union and others said violated the Ukrainian constitution and international law and took place in the strategic peninsula under duress of Russian military intervention. Putin maintained that the vote was legal and consistent with the right of self-determination, according to the Kremlin.

Russia’s lower house of parliament will pass legislation allowing the Crimea region to join Russia “in the very near future”, Interfax news agency said on Monday, quoting the chamber’s deputy speaker.
The final results of the referendum showed that 86.8% of voters had supported union with Russia, the head of the election commission said. Mikhail Malyshev told a televised news conference that the commission had not registered a single complaint about the vote.

“The results of the referendum in Crimea clearly showed that residents of Crimea see their future only as part of Russia,” the deputy speaker of the State Duma, Sergei Neverov, was quoted as saying.
But the White House said Obama reminded Putin that the US and its allies in Europe would impose sanctions against Russia should it annex Crimea.  Fist tap Woodensplinter.

plutocratic risk inequality is what chaps me...,



nationofchange |  There’s been a lot of discussion about the historically high levels of income and wealth inequality lately—mostly from people on the shorter end of that stick—with good reason: There’s no end in sight.

In his new book, “Capital in the Twenty-First Century,” economist Thomas Piketty argues that worsening inequality is inevitable in a mature capitalist system, based on his analysis of 200 years of data. But inequality isn’t just an evolving condition like a crippling allergy that comes and goes, or just grows, enumerated by horrifying statistics. Nor is it just the result of a capitalist-utopian idea of free markets in which everyone gets a fair shot armed with equal information (which simply don’t exist in the real world, where markets are routinely gamed by the biggest players).

Inequality is endemic to the core structure of an America that operates more as a plutocracy than a democracy. It is an inherent result of the consolidation of a substantial amount of both financial power and political influence in the hands of a few families.

In my upcoming book, “All the Presidents’ Bankers,” I trace the lineage of the banking and political families and their associates who have had the most combined influence on American policy. Inequality of income or wealth is a byproduct of the predisposition and genealogy of this coterie of America’s power elite. True, being born into wealth means having a greater chance of accumulating more of it—but take it a step further. Expanding on the adage of “it takes money to make money,” we get a much better idea of why inequality is so rampant: Because aside from income and wealth issues, it takes power to keep power.

By nature of the construct and self-reinforcing behavior of a small circle of American families and their enterprises—particularly over the past century since financial capitalism replaced productive capitalism as the means to expand power, wealth and influence—a comparative handful of families and their connections run Wall Street and Washington collectively. They run America as two sides of one political-financial coin, not as divided factions but as co-influencers of policy through public and private office.

There have been times during the past century when the specific individuals commanding this joint effort paid credence to the public interest, or were imbued with more humility. During those times, levels of inequality happened to decrease. At other times, the power elite solely promoted private gain, as from WWI through the crash of 1929, and since the 1970s, particularly since the 2008 crisis. At those times,  inequality happened to grow. This is not to imply that the moods of the elite were the sole arbiters of the direction of inequality, but that whatever the direction of these levels, general economic health is more dependent on the actions of this long-term, tightknit and concentrated few than on the ideal of a democracy. In this environment of such power inequality, economic inequality is unavoidable—and unsolvable.