Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Understand the Conservative Right's Attack on Social Security

from Truth-Out.org
by: Dave Johnson, Campaign for America's Future [3] | Op-Ed

You hear over and over that Social Security is "in trouble" or that we "can't afford it." This is as far from true as can be, and the idea behind this is to convince people to just give up on defending the program and let the haters have their way. The people who hate Social Security the most are the ones who say they want to make these changes to "save" it.

Well Bernie Sanders loves the program and has introduced a bill that actually will save it.

The Haters

Conservatives have hated Social Security from the start, because it is a program that demonstrates once and for all the value of progressive governance. Social Security is as clear an example of We, the People watching out for and taking care of each other as there ever was. It has made a huge difference n the lives of older people, and their/our families. It works, is cost-effective and requires minimal overhead to keep it going. So they hate it.

A very recent example of conservative hatred for Social Security came from Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, who said, that We, the People helping each other makes us weak [4],
"These programs actually weakened us as a people. ... All of a sudden, for an increasing number of people in our nation, it was no longer necessary to worry about saving for security because that was the government’s job."
Substitute the words "We, the People" or "each other" for "government" in Rubio's statement and you'll get the point: people don't have to worry so much because we're taking care of each other. He says that makes us weak. Yikes!

Decades Of Attacks

For decades conservatives who hate Social Security have been using every trick in the book to turn people against the program. Over and over you hear, "It's a Ponzi scheme." "It won't be there for you." This latest attack is that it "makes us weak [5]." And of course the old classic: "Social Security is broke."

The "it's going broke" and "won't be there for you" attack strategy goes back to a 1983 Cato Institute Journal document, "Achieving a Leninist Strategy" by Stuart Butler of Cato and Peter Germanis of the Heritage Foundation. The document is still available [6] at Cato, and select quotes are available at Plotting Privatization? [7] from Z Magazine. If you have time it is worth reading the entire document (in particular the section "Weakening the Opposition") to more fully understand the strategy that has been unfolding in the years since. But if you can't, the following quotes give you an idea:
"Lenin recognized that fundamental change is contingent upon ... its success in isolating and weakening its opponents. ... we would do well to draw a few lessons from the Leninist strategy."

" construct ... a coalition that will ... reap benefits from the IRA-based private system ... but also the banks, insurance companies, and other institutions that will gain from providing such plans to the public."

"The first element consists of a campaign to achieve small legislative changes that embellish the present IRA system, making it in practice a small-scale private Social Security system.

"The second main element ... involves what one might crudely call guerrilla warfare against both the current Social Security system and the coalition that supports it."

"The banking industry and other business groups that can benefit from expanded IRAs ..." "... the strategy must be to propose moving to a private Social Security system in such a way as to ... neutralize ... the coalition that supports the existing system."

"The next Social Security crisis may be further away than many people believe. ... it could be many years before the conditions are such that a radical reform of Social Security is possible. But then, as Lenin well knew, to be a successful revolutionary, one must also be patient and consistently plan for real reform."
Here is what to take away from this: Every time you hear that "Social Security is going broke" you are hearing a manufactured propaganda point that is part of a decades-old strategy. Every time you hear that "Social Security is a Ponzi scheme" you are hearing that strategy in operation. Every time you hear that "Social Security won't be there for me anyway" " you are witnessing that strategy unfold.

The Problem

The Social Security program is entirely self-funded, separate from the way that the government taxes and spends for other programs. People set aside money in their working years, they get a monthly amount when they retire. (The program also has other benefits including disability benefits, survivors funds and others.) Social Security does not contribute to the deficit in any way.

You never hear that the huge, vast, bloated, enormous, mammoth military budget is "going broke" or "won't be there for you." But year after year you hear that Social Security is "in trouble."

Currently the program has built up a huge trust fund [8] -- over $2.5 trillion. This is invested in US Treasury Bonds, and is earning interest. But there are projections that this trust fund will be depleted in approx. 2037, and if this happens the program will have to cut payouts by as much as 25%. (Hey. when does the military budget Trust Fund run down?)

One big reason for this shortfall is that the last time the programs was comprehensively adjusted (1983, Greenspan Commission) certain economic growth and income projections were used to decide how much "payroll tax" to take out of people's paychecks. They increased the amount taken out of paychecks, and set up an increasing "cap" on the income that would be taxed. Right now 6.2% (temporarily reduced to 4.2%) is taken out of paychecks, and employers kick in another 6.2%, on income up to a "cap" of $106,800. There is no "payroll tax" on amounts above that "cap."

But something changed between 1983 and now: almost all the income gains have gone to a few at the very top. Instead of people who mostly were under that "cap" getting raises, thereby increasing the amount they pay into the fund, the raises went to people who already pass that amount, so the increased income is not contributing to the program. So that money that was calculated would go into the Social Security Trust Fund instead went to the top few. As a result the program is no longer bringing in enough money to keep the trust fund fully-funded past 2037.

Sen. Sanders' Solution

Senator Bernie Sanders is introducing a bill to the Senate to fix this [9], once and for all. In simple terms, this bill will start taxing income above $250,000 a year to cover this Social Security shortfall. So instead of just "raising the cap" it lets that cap stay, and then takes it off again on income above $250,000. In effect it means there will be a gap between the current top income that is taxed, and $250K.

Get the money from where the money went: So because much of the real Social Security problem is that so much income is now going to just a few at the top, this gets the money to fix the problem from those top-level incomes.

Here is Sanders, talking about his bill:
“When [Social Security] was developed, 50 percent of seniors lived in poverty. Today, poverty among seniors is too high, but that number is ten percent. Social Security has done exactly what it was designed to do!”

Source URL: http://www.truth-out.org/understand-rights-attack-social-security/1314537823
[1] http://www.truth-out.org/print/5696
[2] http://www.truth-out.org/printmail/5696
[3] http://ourfuture.org/blog-entry/2011083426/sen-sanders-plan-actually-fix-social-security
[4] http://www.washingtonmonthly.com/ten-miles-square/2011/08/marco_rubio_remembers_the_good031794.php?page=all&print=true
[5] http://www.dailykos.com/story/2011/08/24/1010254/-Marco-Rubio-says-Social-Security-and-Medicare-made-Americans-weak
[6] http://www.cato.org/pubs/journal/cj3n2/cj3n2-11.pdf
[7] http://zfacts.com/p/486.html
[8] http://www.ssa.gov/oact/progdata/assets.html
[9] http://sanders.senate.gov/newsroom/news/?id=da460dc1-a6be-4ff9-8f92-4759c78f92be
[10] http://www.truth-out.org/printmail
[11] http://www.truth-out.org/content/dave-johnson
[12] http://org2.democracyinaction.org/o/6694/p/salsa/web/common/public/signup?signup_page_KEY=2160
[13] https://members.truth-out.org/donate
[14] http://www.truth-out.org/?q=debt-madness-was-always-about-killing-social-security/1311860216
[15] http://www.truth-out.org/?q=look-chained-cpi-social-security-cuts/1310157259

Sunday, August 28, 2011

The Fastest Radio Controlled Jet Aircraft You've Ever Seen

Radio controlled jet powered by a Jetcat P160 SE.
On the 23rd of May 2009, this Jet was lasered @ 586 KpH
Which makes it a 366 MpH plane...
i'm not even sure this is real. It seems like if you ran this into anything some one would die. I mean accidents do happen, how the fuck did they fly this thing as well as they did?

Thanks, Presurfer.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Populating the Landscape With Idealism

Peasant Woman Lying in the Grass, Pontoise” (1882)

‘Pissarro’s People’ at Clark Art Institute - Review
from The New York Times
Williamstown, Mass.

— If you stumbled into a meeting of French Impressionist painters in the mid-1870s, you’d get some frosty looks. Edgar Degas would eye your clothes. Paul Cézanne, born suspicious, would scowl. Claude Monet might size you up for a sale.

Then a slightly older man with a rabbinical beard and a gaucho hat would step forward and hold out his hand: “Camille Pissarro. Join us, please.”

He’d introduce you around, settle you down and bring the talk back to where he usually left it, a continuing conversation about art, life and revolution.

Pissarro was, by temperament and belief, a welcomer — of people, ideas. And there’s an embracing feel to “Pissarro’s People” at the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute here, a modest, openhearted show that demonstrates how central a role human presence played in the work of an artist usually associated with landscape painting.

More than many of his colleagues, Pissarro understood what it felt like to come from outside, uncertain of the rules. He was born thousands of miles away from Europe in 1830, on the Caribbean island of St. Thomas, then a Danish colony. His father was a dry-goods merchant from Bordeaux, his mother a Caribbean-born daughter of French parents. Both sides of the family were Sephardic Jews. Pissarro himself chose to remain a Danish citizen all his life.

Even on St. Thomas his status was outside the norm. His parents were unmarried when he was born, bringing censure from Jews on the island. As a child he went to a local Moravian school with Afro-Caribbean children, where he spoke English instead of French.

After being sent to a school near Paris for a few years to be Europeanized, he returned to St. Thomas in 1847, ostensibly to join the family business. But by then he had other plans: He had decided to be an artist. And he already was one, painting and drawing the island life around him. He eventually hooked up with the footloose Danish artist Fritz Melbye and took off with him forHaiti, then Venezuela, in the first of several bonding relationships he would form with painters, all of them transformative for him.

It was as an aspiring artist that he went back to France more or less permanently in the 1850s. While keeping the examples of Corot, Courbet and Jean-François Millet as his lodestars, he studied with various painters in Paris, taking a little something from each, in a process of sampling and adopting influences that would lead to the criticism that his art was, stylistically, no more than a sum of many parts.

In 1860 he began a liaison with a young French Roman Catholic woman named Julie Vellay, hired as a servant by his mother, who had also returned to France. In 1861 the first of the couple’s eight children was born. (They married a decade later.)
By then he also had become deeply immersed in revolutionary politics, specifically in anarchist thinking that espoused a radically egalitarian, anti-capitalist, anti-authoritarian society. Partly because this way of life was most easily realized in a rural setting, Pissarro moved his growing family to Pontoise, a farming village outside Paris, where, despite bouts of near poverty, he was known for keeping his home open to all visitors.

His guests included hungry, ambitious younger artists. Cézanne was one. He and Pissarro formed a symbiotic unit that worked at full strength between 1872 and 1874, with Pissarro in a mentor role. Later he paired off for nearly a decade with Paul Gauguin, and then with Georges Seurat, complicated personalities. All these relationships ended in ruptures, when the younger artists went in directions that Pissarro couldn’t or wouldn’t follow. But while the bonds lasted, they had a profound influence on everyone involved, and consequently on modern art.

Pissarro, with his diplomatic skills and forward thinking, also played a crucial role in organizing the group of artists who came to be called Impressionists, a name that began as an insult and became a badge of honor. He was in the first Impressionist salon in 1874, and was the single artist of the original group to appear, loyal to the vanguard cause, in the seven that followed. And, characteristically, he was the Impressionist whose style changed the most, as he experimented with new approaches and theories.

What never changed in his art was the presence of the figure and a trust in human perfectability.

The result, in painting after painting, was a vision of the world as a kind of extended family, or kinship network, with larger circles of relationships rippling outward from Pissarro’s own domestic unit.

He painted his family fairly often, some members more than others. Julie Pissarro is usually seen as a small figure in landscapes, though in the Clark show, organized by the art historian Richard R. Brettell, there’s a beautiful, kissing-close image of her face, in profile, looking down as she sews. There are separate portraits of their children at varying ages, and four paintings and a print devoted to the brief life of their daughter Jeanne-Rachel, nicknamed Minette, who died in 1874 at the age of 11.
We see her first just out of the toddler stage; then as a young girl posed in a garden and indoors; then, in an oddly off-center composition, looking wan, her hair cut short. Finally, in a lithograph fatalistically titled “Dead Child,” she lies on her sickbed two months before her death.

"Suicide," from "Social Disgraces" (1889-90), a series of 30 ink drawings illustrating the brutalities of urban capitalist society.

Along with these portraits of family members come others, comparably candid and tender, of household servants, depicted as if they were family too, Julie Pissarro’s partners in running the household. And a mood of sober concentration extends beyond the home to the countryside, there men and women work the fields but also take time to chat in the shade, nap on the grass and buy and sell in the village market. In this humane and balanced world people have what they need and want no more.

Pissarro’s idealism was insistent. Because he wanted his projection of a better future to be realized, he tried to work it out in the present, through his own practice of ethical generosity, firm in the face of political censorship (he was closely watched by the French police because of his anarchist ties), anti-Semitism (he forgave this in Degas) and professional isolation as an artist who was neither born French nor had French citizenship (a status he shared with his friend Mary Cassatt).

Yet the stranger in him, the foreigner looking in, led him to acknowledge the underside of that vision. In late 1880s he made a series of 30 ink drawings illustrating the brutalities of urban capitalist society. The album, titled “Turpitudes Sociales” (“Social Disgraces”), have the bold, crude look of newspaper cartoons and were made for two of his nieces by way of political instruction. Nothing else by him is like them, and they haven’t been exhibited in a museum until now.

Why? Do they go too much against the grain of Pissarro the temperate utopian? The man who loved children and preached hope? The artist whose work is already considered too stylistically diverse to be major? In Mr. Brettell’s view, which I share, the drawings complete the picture of him, round out the karma of his insider-outsider career, make him an artist to love, even as you question some of his ideas and ask more of his art when it veers too close to blandness.

And in the worldly way that what goes around comes around, love was what he earned from even the most difficult of his contemporaries. “He looked at everybody, you say! Why not? Everyone looked at him, too, but denied him. He was one of my masters and I do not deny him.” So wrote Gauguin before Pissarro died in 1903.

The final acknowledgment of debt by the crusty, withholding Cézanne was simpler still. In 1906, just before his own death, by which time he had become a god to young artists internationally, he identified himself in an exhibition catalog of his paintings with a single head-bowing phrase, “Paul Cézanne, pupil of Pissarro.”

“Pissarro’s People” runs through Oct. 2 at the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute, 225 South Street, Williamstown, Mass.; (413) 458-2303, clarkart.edu. From Oct. 22 to Jan. 22 it will be at the Legion of Honor Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco.

Friday, August 26, 2011

She's Alive... Beautiful... Finite... Hurting...
Worth Dying for.

This is a non-commercial attempt to highlight the fact that world leaders, irresponsible corporates and mindless 'consumers' are combining to destroy life on earth. It is dedicated to all who died fighting for the planet and those whose lives are on the line today. The cut was put together by Vivek Chauhan, a young film maker, together with naturalists working with the Sanctuary Asia network (www.sanctuaryasia.com).
#1 reason I am vegan.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

BABY MARX by Pedro Reyes

“Baby Marx” is an ongoing TV pilot project by Mexican artist Pedro Reyes currently on exhibit at the prestigious Walker Art Center in Minneapolis from August 11 to November 27.

This is the original teaser for Baby Marx, an ongoing project by the Mexican artist Pedro Reyes that explores the intersections of mass entertainment, ideology and contemporary art. The teaser was produced for the Yokohama Triennial in Japan in 2008, and was followed by a television pilot shot in Mexico City in 2009. Baby Marx at the Walker uses the tools and procedures of documentary filmmaking to develop and expand on the questions raised by the project to date.
The founders of communism and capitalism, Karl Marx and Adam Smith who have been brought to the future by way of a glitch-prone Smart-O-Wave magic microwave oven, have a discussion over Warhol. This is the first scene from the latest stage of Baby Marx, the ongoing project at the Walker Art Center.

This is the second scene from the latest stage of Baby Marx, Marx and Smith have lunch at the Garden Café while the exhibition in which they feature is being installed. Expect more scenes in coming weeks.

Thanks, Simi

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Matt Taibbi: Senior SEC investigators order routine destruction of records, promote “self policing,” take jobs with the companies they “investigate”

Via BoingBoing

As always, Rolling Stone's Matt Taibbi is incandescent on the subject of high financial fraud and misdoings, and the government complicity in the vast criminal ripoffs engineered by the finance industry. In his latest feature, he looks at the way that the SEC, America's financial regulator, has combined "self-policing" of criminal finance firms with a policy of destroying all records of previous investigations to produce an world in which no one has been punished for the vast financial crimes that brought the world to its knees.
The circular nature of the case illustrates the revolving-door dynamic that has become pervasive at the SEC. A recent study by the Project on Government Oversight found that over the past five years, former SEC personnel filed 789 notices disclosing their intent to represent outside companies before the agency – sometimes within days of their having left the SEC. More than half of the disclosures came from the agency's enforcement division, who went to bat for the financial industry four times more often than ex-staffers from other wings of the SEC.

Even a cursory glance at a list of the agency's most recent enforcement directors makes it clear that the SEC's top policemen almost always wind up jumping straight to jobs representing the banks they were supposed to regulate. Lynch, who represented Deutsche in the Flynn case, served as the agency's enforcement chief from 1985 to 1989, before moving to the firm of Davis Polk, which boasts many top Wall Street clients. He was succeeded by William McLucas, who left the SEC in 1998 to work for WilmerHale, a Wall Street defense firm so notorious for snatching up top agency veterans that it is sometimes referred to as "SEC West." McLucas was followed by Dick Walker, who defected to Deutsche in 2001, and he was in turn followed by Stephen Cutler, who now serves as general counsel for JP Morgan Chase. Next came Linda Chatman Thomsen, who stepped down to join Davis Polk, only to be succeeded in 2009 by Khuzami, Walker's former protégé at Deutsche Bank.

This merry-go-round of current and former enforcement directors has repeatedly led to accusations of improprieties. In 2008, in a case cited by the SEC inspector general, Thomsen went out of her way to pass along valuable information to Cutler, the former enforcement director who had gone to work for JP Morgan. According to the inspector general, Thomsen signaled Cutler that the SEC was unlikely to take action that would hamper JP Morgan's move to buy up Bear Stearns. In another case, the inspector general found, an assistant director of enforcement was instrumental in slowing down an investigation into the $7 billion Ponzi scheme allegedly run by Texas con artist R. Allen Stanford – and then left the SEC to work for Stanford, despite explicitly being denied permission to do so by the agency's ethics office. "Every lawyer in Texas and beyond is going to get rich on this case, OK?" the official later explained. "I hated being on the sidelines."

...[E]ven if SEC officials manage to dodge criminal charges, it won't change what happened: The nation's top financial police destroyed more than a decade's worth of intelligence they had gathered on some of Wall Street's most egregious offenders. "The SEC not keeping the MUIs – you can see why this would be bad," says Markopolos, the fraud examiner famous for breaking the Madoff case. "The reason you would want to keep them is to build a pattern. That way, if you get five MUIs over a period of 20 years on something similar involving the same company, you should be able to connect five dots and say, 'You know, I've had five MUIs – they're probably doing something. Let's go tear the place apart.'" Destroy the MUIs, and Wall Street banks can commit the exact same crime over and over, without anyone ever knowing."
Is the SEC Covering Up Wall Street Crimes?

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Religion may become extinct in nine nations, study says

By Jason Palmer
Science and technology reporter, BBC News, Dallas
A study using census data from nine countries shows that religion there is set for extinction, say researchers.

The study found a steady rise in those claiming no religious affiliation.

The team's mathematical model attempts to account for the interplay between the number of religious respondents and the social motives behind being one
The result, reported at the American Physical Society meeting in Dallas, US, indicates that religion will all but die out altogether in those countries.

The team took census data stretching back as far as a century from countries in which the census queried religious affiliation: Australia, Austria, Canada, the Czech Republic, Finland, Ireland, the Netherlands, New Zealand and Switzerland.

Their means of analysing the data invokes what is known as nonlinear dynamics - a mathematical approach that has been used to explain a wide range of physical phenomena in which a number of factors play a part.

One of the team, Daniel Abrams of Northwestern University, put forth a similar model in 2003 to put a numerical basis behind the decline of lesser-spoken world languages.

At its heart is the competition between speakers of different languages, and the "utility" of speaking one instead of another.
"The idea is pretty simple," said Richard Wiener of the Research Corporation for Science Advancement, and the University of Arizona.

"It posits that social groups that have more members are going to be more attractive to join, and it posits that social groups have a social status or utility.

"For example in languages, there can be greater utility or status in speaking Spanish instead of [the dying language] Quechuan in Peru, and similarly there's some kind of status or utility in being a member of a religion or not."

Dr Wiener continued: "In a large number of modern secular democracies, there's been a trend that folk are identifying themselves as non-affiliated with religion; in the Netherlands the number was 40%, and the highest we saw was in the Czech Republic, where the number was 60%."

The team then applied their nonlinear dynamics model, adjusting parameters for the relative social and utilitarian merits of membership of the "non-religious" category.

They found, in a study published online, that those parameters were similar across all the countries studied, suggesting that similar behaviour drives the mathematics in all of them.

And in all the countries, the indications were that religion was headed toward extinction.

However, Dr Wiener told the conference that the team was working to update the model with a "network structure" more representative of the one at work in the world.

"Obviously we don't really believe this is the network structure of a modern society, where each person is influenced equally by all the other people in society," he said.

However, he told BBC News that he thought it was "a suggestive result".

"It's interesting that a fairly simple model captures the data, and if those simple ideas are correct, it suggests where this might be going.

"Obviously much more complicated things are going on with any one individual, but maybe a lot of that averages out."

Monday, August 22, 2011

How the human brain lies to us

from BoingBoing:

Even in important moments, our brains are not as good at creating accurate memories as we think they are.

This clip from the World Science Festival features two stories that show how easily the brain can be manipulated. In the first, writer Jonah Lehrer describes how he remembers his cousin ruining his 8th birthday party (except, that, he later found out, this incident never happened). The second is significantly more rattling, as Harvard psycholigst Daniel L. Schacter describes a case of mistaken identity that could have led to an innocent man being tried for rape.

This tendency of the brain to naturally distort memories has been studied in relation to what people believe they remember about September 11th. It turns out, even memories that we think of as being seared into our brains aren't as accurate as they're often treated as being, writes Greg Bousted in a piece for Scientific American. Human memory simply isn't that reliable.

Memories of tragic public events have been of interest to researchers for years. Dubbed as “flashbulb memories” for their extraordinary vividness of detail and photographic recall, these emotionally charged memories are described as being “burned” into one’s mind. Knowing exactly where one was or what one was doing during the assignation of John F. Kennedy, the Challenger disaster, or now, the September 11 attacks has become a quintessential phenomenon of the past few generations. In 1977, a pair of Harvard psychologists studied the reported memories of the JFK assassination. Participants had “an almost perceptual clarity” for recalling when they learned about the assassination and during the immediate aftermath, noting even trivial details with impressive accuracy. The researchers concluded that flashbulb memory is more detailed and accurate than memories of ordinary daily events. The defining characteristic of these types of emotionally charged, shared memories is that one’s confidence in their accuracy tends to be unshakable. But does that really make them more accurate?

In an attempt to answer that, Duke University’s Jennifer Talarico and David Rubin conducted a study on the day after the 9/11 attacks. They gave volunteers a questionnaire about their memories of the morning of September 11 as well as some other unremarkable event a day earlier. They later followed up with the questionnaires at several intervals up until almost a year later. What the researchers found is that the memories of the individuals’ goings-on during the events of September 11—the vivid and picture-like ones—were in fact no better than their recall of, say, lunch the day before. Like most memories, they predictably declined in accuracy over time.
I certainly have very detailed childhood memories that, upon reflection, can't possibly be true—in particular, I remember cooking soup for my mom while she was sick in an apartment that we moved out of somewhere around the time I was 4 years old. Obviously, she didn't actually let a toddler stand over the stove with chicken soup. But my brain "remembers" it. Maybe, at the time, that was simply something I wanted to do and my brain mixed that desire up with later memories of cooking in other, similar, kitchens.

What false memories has your brain concocted up?

Sunday, August 21, 2011

From omnivore to vegan: The dietary education of Bill Clinton

from CNN:
(CNN) -- By the time he reached the White House, Bill Clinton's appetite was legend. He loved hamburgers, steaks, chicken enchiladas, barbecue and french fries but wasn't too picky. At one campaign stop in New Hampshire, he reportedly bought a dozen doughnuts and was working his way through the box until an aide stopped him.

Former President Clinton now considers himself a vegan. He's dropped more than 20 pounds, and he says he's healthier than ever. His dramatic dietary transformation took almost two decades and came about only after a pair of heart procedures and some advice from a trusted doctor.

His dietary saga began in 1993, when first lady Hillary Clinton decided to inaugurate a new, healthier diet for her husband. In a meeting, she asked Dr. Dean Ornish to work with the White House chefs, who were accustomed to high fat, French cuisine.

What your cholesterol numbers really mean

"The president did like unhealthy foods, and we were able to put soy burgers in White House, for example, and get foods that were delicious and nutritious," said Ornish, director and president of the Preventive Medicine Research Institute in Sausalito, California. Other new menu items included such healthy fare as stir fry vegetables with tofu, and salmon with vegetables.

Ornish: Asking the right questions about health care

Even with the revamped White House menu, Clinton battled his weight throughout his two terms as president. At his annual physical in 1999, the White House physician noted the president had put on 18 pounds since a checkup two years earlier. The prescription: refocus on exercise and a low-calorie diet.

Clinton didn't know it, but weight was not his biggest health concern. The 42nd president has a family history of heart disease, and plaque was building up in the coronary arteries leading to his heart, undetected by White House doctors.

American Heart Association: Learn and live

In 2004, less than four years after leaving office, the 58-year-old Clinton felt what he described as a tightness in his chest as he returned home from New Orleans, where he was promoting his memoir, "My Life." Days later, he underwent quadruple bypass surgery to restore blood flow to his heart.

"I was lucky I did not die of a heart attack," Clinton told CNN's Dr. Sanjay Gupta. After the surgery, the former president cut down on his calories and lowered the cholesterol in his diet, but his heart troubles were not over.

Last year, the former president went to Haiti to support the relief efforts but he felt weak. When he returned home, he learned he needed another heart procedure: two stents to open one of the veins from his bypass surgery, which had become, in Clinton's words, "pretty bent and ugly."

Ornish recalls meeting with Clinton a few days after his angioplasty. "I shared with him that because of his genetics, moderate changes in diet and lifestyle weren't enough to keep his disease from progressing. However, our research showed that more intensive changes change actually reverse progression of heart disease in most people."

Will you have a heart attack? These tests can tell

"I told him, 'The friends that mean the most to me are the ones that tell me what I need to hear, not necessarily what I want to hear. And you need to know your genes are not your fate. And I say this not to blame you but to empower you. And I'm happy to work with you to whatever extent you want,'" Ornish recalled. They met a few days later, he said.

Clinton then decided to make profound changes in the way he eats.

"I essentially concluded that I had played Russian roulette," Clinton said, "because even though I had changed my diet some and cut down on the caloric total of my ingestion and cut back on much of the cholesterol in the food I was eating, I still -- without any scientific basis to support what I did -- was taking in a lot of extra cholesterol without knowing if my body would produce enough of the enzyme to support it, and clearly it didn't or I wouldn't have had that blockage. So that's when I made a decision to really change."

The former president now says he consumes no meat, no dairy, no eggs, almost no oil.

"I like the vegetables, the fruits, the beans, the stuff I eat now," Clinton told Gupta.

The former president's goal is to avoid any food that could damage his blood vessels. His dietary guides are Ornish and Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn Jr., who directs the cardiovascular prevention and reversal program at The Cleveland Clinic Wellness Institute. Both doctors have concluded that a plant-based diet can prevent and, in some cases, actually reverse heart disease.

"All my blood tests are good, and my vital signs are good, and I feel good, and I also have, believe it or not, more energy," Clinton said. His latest goal: getting his weight down to 185, what he weighed when he was 13 years old.

Clinton is trying to spread his newfound zeal for healthy eating to children. The Clinton Foundation has teamed up with the American Heart Association and is helping 12,000 schools promote exercise and offer better lunches so decades from now, today's children will not face the same heart troubles he has.

"It's turning a ship around before it hits the iceberg, but I think we're beginning to turn it around," Clinton said.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Economic inequality in America: how bad is it?

from Xeni at BoingBoing

Real bad. On PBS NewsHour last night, correspondent Paul Solman went to the line outside the Letterman show in NYC and showed people three different pie charts representing the possible distribution of wealth in three different countries. Most people figured the most equal of those was the US. It wasn’t. The US was the most unequal: the top 20% own 84% of the wealth in America, and the bottom 40% have only 0.3%. Land of the increasingly screwed, more like it.

Watch video here (or at YouTube)

Friday, August 19, 2011


from DangerousMinds:
The Black Power Mixtape 1967-1975 utilizes dozens of hours of 16mm footage shot by Swedish documentarians during the height of the Black Power movement to tell the era’s story of radical revolutionary promise and what happened when that promise went unfulfilled. The film sat in the basement of a Swedish TV station for decades.

Contemporary director Göran Olsson (who also helmed 2009’s Am I Black Enough for You? doc about the Philly music scene) used this footage, including interviews with Angela Davis, Bobby Seale, Huey P. Newton, Stokely Carmichael, and Kathleen Cleaver, along with modern commentary from Erykah Badu, Harry Belafonte, Talib Kweli and Melvin Van Peebles, to create this new film, now being released by Sundance. After a limited NYC/Los Angeles theatrical run, it’s supposed to air on PBS.

I’m a sucker for this kind of stuff anyways, but damn this looks amazing:

Thursday, August 18, 2011

School Vouchers: How the GOP is Using Free Market Philosophy To Wipe Out Public Education

via Alternet By Julianne Hing, ColorLines
Legislators in at least 30 states introduced school voucher bills this year that would allow students to take the public money set aside for their public education and “spend” it in private schools. It’s the largest rush of such policy proposals ever, according to the National Conference on State Legislatures, the AP reported. The surge was enabled in part by new Republican majorities that have taken hold of state legislatures in the past year.

In 2010, just nine voucher bills were debated in state legislatures, less than a third of this year’s volume. As of July, 28 states had also considered offering tax breaks to students who enroll in private schools.

Indiana’s voucher law, passed this year, is the most notable—and it offers both vouchers and tax breaks for private education. Republican Gov. Mitch Daniels aggressively pushed for the law, which would allow families who qualify to receive up to $4,500 a year if they send their child to a private school. It will allow 7,500 students in its first year, 15,000 the second and an unlimited number of students in its third to take advantage of the program.

While school vouchers have been traditionally promoted as a tool for low-income students, Indiana’s new law enables students from middle class backgrounds to take advantage of the vouchers. The law is estimated to eventually allow 60 percent of Indiana families to spend public dollars on private education.

“What we’re seeing now is building momentum in preparation for the reauthorization of No Child Left Behind,” said Karen Hunter Quartz, an education professor at UCLA. The educational philosophy embedded within No Child Left Behind asserts that we can improve public education by expanding the role of private entities like charter schools and voucher-supported private schools.

“There’s an idea that something’s wrong with public schools and that they shouldn’t have a monopoly on young people’s education and therefore families should be able to opt out,” Quartz said. “This has been the larger political aim of NCLB all along.”

School vouchers are a reflection of a particular approach to thinking about education, in which parents and students are consumers and schools are marketplaces, and they’re just one of the many popular market-based policy options being pushed by the mainstream school reform movement. Vouchers are similar to policies that weaken teacher tenure and tie teachers’ job security to their students’ test scores and encourage the creation of charter schools in that they borrow ideas from the business world with the stated intent of bettering public education. With vouchers, the idea is that families can exercise their power as consumers by taking their cash to the best schools and that this competitiveness will force underperforming schools to improve.

“The metaphor is really flawed,” Quartz said. “School is a public institution. It’s a public good, so when we’re trying to figure out how to talk about improving public education, I don’t think the comparison to financial markets helps very well or very much.”

Still, Quartz acknowledged that school vouchers have a particular allure to them, especially for parents who’ve been taken in by education films like “Waiting for Superman,” which pitch a market-based reform philosophy as the solution to the U.S.’s struggling system.

“There’s a large majority of proponents for vouchers who are just at the end of their rope,” Quartz said. “They see these films, or see public media attention against teacher unions and the cultural dialogue against public schooling and they don’t know what to do.”

Still, school vouchers have been found to lead to no measurable improvement on student achievement when compared to students who don’t use vouchers. The most recent (roundup of research) was released by the Center for Education Policy in July. Part of the difficulty of measuring the impact of school vouchers comes from the difficulty of isolating variables when many of the schools and students that are impacted are also the target of other school reform efforts. Still, the CEP said there isn’t conclusive evidence that shows vouchers actually improve educational outcomes. The CEP highlighted a voucher program in Milwaukee for low-income students, where test score gains over the course of three years were about the same for those who used vouchers and for those who didn’t. And yet, states are increasingly pushing for these policies in their states.

Julianne Hing is co-editor of the ColorLines magazine blog, RaceWire, and editorial assistant of ColorLines magazine.

© 2011 ColorLines All rights reserved.
View this story online at: http://www.alternet.org/story/151939/

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

the Antics Road Show

from the BBC's Channel 4:
An hour-long special made by Banksy charting the history of behaving badly in public, from anarchists and activists to attention seeking eccentrics.

Contributors include Michael Fagan talking about breaking into the Queen's bedroom: 'I looked into her eyes, they were dark'; and Noel Godin, who pioneered attacking celebrities with custard pies: 'Instead of a bullet I give them a cake'.

Explaining his reasoning behind the show, Banksy said: 'Basically I just thought it was a good name for a TV programme and I've been working back from there'.

Narrated by Kathy Burke and produced by Jamie D'cruz, The Antics Roadshow examines the stories behind some of the most audacious stunts of recent times and what motivates the perpetrators, from mindless boredom to heartfelt political beliefs.

It includes a world exclusive first interview with the man responsible for putting the turf Mohican on Winston Churchill's head.

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

thanks, Doug!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Air Force’s “Jesus Loves Nukes” training no more?

from BoingBoing
The Air Force is no longer providing ethics training that is meant to make Christian soldiers feel better about nuclear weapons. From Military.com:
The training slides include quotations from the Bible, portraits of Christian saints, prophets, and famous American generals known for their faith, including George Washington, Union Army Gen. Joshua Chamberlain, and Confederate Gen. Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson...

(Air Education and Training Command) halted the ethics training last week after an article on the training was posted at Truthout.org. Former Air Force Capt. Damon Bosetti -- described as a missile officer who took the training in 2006 -- said he and others referred to the religious section of the ethics training as the "Jesus loves nukes speech."

The website also published the training slides, which it acquired from the watchdog group Military Religious Freedom Foundation, an organization that has filed numerous lawsuits against the Air Force for allegedly infringing on the rights of religious minorities and non-believers and promoting evangelical Christian beliefs.
"AF Pulls 'Jesus Loves Nukes' Training" (Military.com)
"Air Force Cites New Testament, Ex-Nazi, to Train Officers on Ethics of Launching Nuclear Weapons" (Truthout.org)

Monday, August 15, 2011

Shock Doctrine: How Conservatives and Corporate Elites Are Stoking Economic Hysteria to Force Catastrophic Cuts

from AlterNet By Robert L. Borosage, Blog for Our Future
Global economic turmoil is getting worse. Europe’s financial crisis now imperils Spain and Italy. The folly of premature austerity savages economies in Great Britain, Europe and, increasingly, the United States. China and the emerging economies are slowing down. This economy seems stalled at best. People are sensibly scared, worried about their jobs, their homes, their lost savings, their prospects.

Conservative and corporate elites are stoking the turmoil, and using fear to panic a public into accepting harsh measures that would be otherwise unacceptable. The stock market tanks after the debt ceiling debacle. Standard & Poor's, the discredited and corrupted rating agency, rushes to downgrade U.S. debt, with such haste it doesn’t even get its math right. China’s news service announces the U.S. must roll back its bloated “welfare state” and its bloated military. The talk shows are inundated with pundits expounding the urgent need for the U.S. to get its deficits under control to regain its credit status.

One theme emerges; the Gang of 12 – the Super Committee created in the debt ceiling deal – is portrayed as our last hope. It is charged with identifying $1.5 trillion in deficit reduction over 10 years by some combination of cuts from Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security and increased tax revenues. Only if it acts responsibly, we’re told, and the Congress passes its measures under expedited procedures with no amendments, limited debate, and no filibuster, do we have a chance.

Pressure builds on the congressional leaders to pick responsible legislators to the committee, like the previous Gang of Six in the Senate, who will combine cuts in Social Security and Medicare with increased revenues. Republican leaders pledge to appoint members who will oppose any increase in taxes on the rich or the great corporations. Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security – the core promises we make to the elderly, the disabled, the dying – in our society are at risk. In an era of Gilded Age extremes of inequality, the largest and most effective anti-poverty programs are targeted for deep cuts.

Ignore the hysteria. Fight back against the shock doctrine. All of this is utterly wrong-headed. America doesn’t have a serious debt crisis. We have a jobs crisis. We’re digging out of a severe financial collapse and need to build a new foundation for the economy, for we can’t go back to the old economy that was built on debt and bubbles.

In the long term, the scary deficit projections are almost completely due to our broken health care system. Make reforms that move us closer to the norm of industrial countries in health care costs and we have no long-term debt problem. That requires taking on drug companies, private insurance companies, hospital complexes, the inane way we let powerful interests rig the rules for their profit. We’ve got to get the costs under control, not push the rising costs onto the most vulnerable.

In the short term, we need a strategy for reviving the economy so that it works for working people. That requires a serious strategy for making things in America again, combined with a commitment to balance our trade, confronting the mercantilist nations like China that trample global trading rules. It requires incentives and investments to capture a lead role in the green industrial revolution, moving to clean energy and reducing our dependence on foreign oil while addressing catastrophic climate change. It requires investment in strengthening the sinews of growth – investments in education and training, in research and development, in innovation, as well as building a modern infrastructure for the next century, updating the decrepit systems now crumbling around us. With interest rates near zero, despite the hyped rating agency fandango, there has never been a better time to borrow long term to build now.

Fight Back

The elite roll-out is clear. The gang of 12 produces a “deal,” combining a hike in eligibility age for Medicare, a cut in Social Security by reducing the inflation adjustment, caps on Medicaid and increased revenues from LOWERING rates on the corporations and the rich, while limiting deductions that reach middle-class families – on mortgages, employer based health care or retirement plans. They may well throw in the current scam – funding the infrastructure bank with proceeds from allowing multinationals who have secreted a trillion on profits offshore to bring the money back at a cut-rate 5 percent.
Yes, the panic will be used to cut the basic promises made to working families in order to pay for the deficits caused by the excesses of Wall Street.

Don’t fall for it. Fight back. On August 9, Republican state senators in Wisconsin who sought to trample basic worker rights are facing recall elections. On August 10, the American Dream Movement, supported by Moveon.org, the Center for Community Change, and the Campaign for America’s Future and others, will sponsor events across the country. Citizens will be taking the new Contract for the American Dream to their legislators, and demanding action on jobs, not on cuts.

Legislators across the country will face constituents saying, “We are all Wisconsin now. Start doing the people’s business or you too will face a challenge to your re-election." August must generate enough street heat to supplant the hysteria now coming to you wall to wall over the mainstream media.

The right and their corporate sponsors want to use the lousy economy to strike – to roll back the already inadequate supports that exist for working families. They are even aiming at Social Security, which is in surplus and contributes nothing to the deficit. Don’t let them destroy the American dream. Join the movement that will lead the fight back.

Robert Borosage is co-director of the Campaign For America's Future, and he has written on political, economic, and national security issues for publications including The New York Times and The Nation.

© 2011 Blog for Our Future All rights reserved.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Photo: Escher painting refracted in a drop of falling water

Reddit's Smsilton took this incredible 60mm macro shot of an iconic MC Escher painting being refracted through a drop of falling water, and documented the process:
Yeah I used the Canon 60mm macro f/2.8. I shot at ISO 640 and 1/250. It took about 150ish shots to get that one, ~2 hours. The hardest part was focusing, in the set up picture I posted in the first comment you can see a piece of string above the eye dropper. I would let that hang down off the eye dropper and focus on that, then move it and squeeze the dropper and the shutter at almost the same time. I have like 30ish more pictures with the drop clearly in the shot but the sketch behind it isn't in focus, this was the clearest one I got.
Thanks, BoingBoing

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Monsanto's GMO Corn Linked To Organ Failure, Study Reveals

from The Huffington Post

In a study released by the International Journal of Biological Sciences, analyzing the effects of genetically modified foods on mammalian health, researchers found that agricultural giant Monsanto's GM corn is linked to organ damage in rats.

According to the study, which was summarized by Rady Ananda at Food Freedom, "Three varieties of Monsanto's GM corn - Mon 863, insecticide-producing Mon 810, and Roundup® herbicide-absorbing NK 603 - were approved for consumption by US, European and several other national food safety authorities."

Monsanto gathered its own crude statistical data after conducting a 90-day study, even though chronic problems can rarely be found after 90 days, and concluded that the corn was safe for consumption. The stamp of approval may have been premature, however.

In the conclusion of the IJBS study, researchers wrote:
"Effects were mostly concentrated in kidney and liver function, the two major diet detoxification organs, but in detail differed with each GM type. In addition, some effects on heart, adrenal, spleen and blood cells were also frequently noted. As there normally exists sex differences in liver and kidney metabolism, the highly statistically significant disturbances in the function of these organs, seen between male and female rats, cannot be dismissed as biologically insignificant as has been proposed by others. We therefore conclude that our data strongly suggests that these GM maize varieties induce a state of hepatorenal toxicity....These substances have never before been an integral part of the human or animal diet and therefore their health consequences for those who consume them, especially over long time periods are currently unknown."

Monsanto has immediately responded to the study, stating that the research is "based on faulty analytical methods and reasoning and do not call into question the safety findings for these products."

The IJBS study's author Gilles-Eric Séralini responded to the Monsanto statement on the blog, Food Freedom, "Our study contradicts Monsanto conclusions because Monsanto systematically neglects significant health effects in mammals that are different in males and females eating GMOs, or not proportional to the dose. This is a very serious mistake, dramatic for public health. This is the major conclusion revealed by our work, the only careful reanalysis of Monsanto crude statistical data."
Is Monsanto the World' s Most Evil Corporation?

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Chomsky: Public Education Under Massive Corporate Assault — What's Next?

The following is a partial transcript of a recent speech delivered by Noam Chomsky at the University of Toronto at Scarborough on the rapid privatization process of public higher education in the United States.

A couple of months ago, I went to Mexico to give talks at the National University in Mexico, UNAM. It's quite an impressive university — hundreds of thousands of students, high-quality and engaged students, excellent faculty. It's free. And the city — Mexico City — actually, the government ten years ago did try to add a little tuition, but there was a national student strike, and the government backed off. And, in fact, there's still an administrative building on campus that is still occupied by students and used as a center for activism throughout the city. There's also, in the city itself, another university, which is not only free but has open admissions. It has compensatory options for those who need them. I was there, too; it's also quite an impressive level, students, faculty, and so on. That's Mexico, a poor country.

Right after that I happened to go to California, maybe the richest place in the world. I was giving talks at the universities there. In California, the main universities — Berkeley and UCLA — they're essentially Ivy League private universities — colossal tuition, tens of thousands of dollars, huge endowment. General assumption is they are pretty soon going to be privatized, and the rest of the system will be, which was a very good system — best public system in the world — that's probably going to be reduced to technical training or something like that. The privatization, of course, means privatization for the rich [and a] lower level of mostly technical training for the rest. And that is happening across the country. Next year, for the first time ever, the California system, which was a really great system, best anywhere, is getting more funding from tuition than from the state of California. And that is happening across the country. In most states, tuition covers more than half of the college budget. It's also most of the public research universities. Pretty soon only the community colleges — you know, the lowest level of the system — will be state-financed in any serious sense. And even they're under attack. And analysts generally agree, I'm quoting, "The era of affordable four-year public universities heavily subsidized by the state may be over."

Now that's one important way to implement the policy of indoctrination of the young. People who are in a debt trap have very few options. Now that is true of social control generally; that is also a regular feature of international policy — those of you who study the IMF and the World Bank and others are well aware. As the Mexico-California example illustrates, the reasons for conscious destruction of the greatest public education system in the world are not economic. Economist Doug Henwood points out that it would be quite easy to make higher education completely free. In the U.S., it accounts for less than 2 percent of gross domestic product. The personal share of about 1 percent of gross domestic product is a third of the income of the richest 10,000 households. That's the same as three months of Pentagon spending. It's less than four months of wasted administrative costs of the privatized healthcare system, which is an international scandal.

It's about twice the per capita cost of comparable countries, has some of the worst outcomes, and in fact it's the basis for the famous deficit. If the U.S. had the same kind of healthcare system as other industrial countries, not only would there be no deficit, but there would be a surplus. However, to introduce these facts into an electoral campaign would be suicidally insane, Henwood points out. Now he's correct. In a democracy where elections are essentially bought by concentrations of private capital, it doesn't matter what the public wants. The public has actually been in favor of that for a long of time, but they are irrelevant in a properly run democracy.

We should recall that the great growth period in the economy -- the U.S. economy -- was in the several decades after WWII, commonly called the "Golden Age" by economists. It was substantially fueled by affordable public education and by university research. Affordable public education includes the GI Bill, which provided free education for veterans — and remember, that was a much poorer country than today. Extremely low tuition was found even at private colleges. Actually, I went to an Ivy League college, and it cost $100 a year; that's more now, but it's not that high, it's not 30 or 40,000, you know?

What about university-based research? Well, as I mentioned, that is the core of the modern high-tech economy. That includes computers, the Internet — in fact, the whole IT revolution — and a whole lot more. The dismantling of this system since the 1970s is among the many moves toward a very sharply two-tiered society, a very narrow concentration of wealth and stagnation for most everyone else. It also has direct economic consequences. Take, say, California. What they are doing to the public education system is going to undermine the economy that relies on a skilled work force and creative innovation, Silicon Valley and so on. Well, apart from the enormous human cost of depriving most people of decent educational opportunities, these policies undermine the U.S. competitive capacity. That's very harmful to the mass of the population, but it doesn't matter to the tiny percent of concentrated wealth and power. In fact, in the years since the Pell Memorandum, we've entered into a new stage in state capitalism in which the future just doesn't amount to much. Profit comes increasingly from financial manipulations. The corporate policies are geared toward the short-term profit, and that reduces the concern for loyalty to a firm over a longer stretch. We'll talk about this more tomorrow, but right now let me talk about the consequences for education, which are quite significant.

Suppose, as is increasingly happening not only in the United States, incidentally, that universities are not funded by the state, meaning the general community. So how are the universities going to survive? Universities are parasitic institutions; they don't produce commodities for profit, thankfully. They may one of these days. The funding issue raises many troubling questions, which would not arise if fostering independent thought and inquiry were regarded as a public good, having intrinsic value. That's the traditional ideal of the universities, although there are major efforts to change that. Take Britain. According to the British press, the Arts and Humanities Research Council was just ordered to spend a significant amount of funding on the prime minister's vision for the country. His so-called "Big Society," which means big corporate profits, and the rest look out for themselves. The government produced what they call a clarification of the famous Haldane Principle. That's the century-old principle that barred such government intrusion into academic research. If this stands, which I think is kind of hard to believe, but if it stands, the hand of Big Brother will rest quite heavily on inquiry and innovation in the arts and humanities as the masters of mankind follow the advice of the Pell Memorandum. Of course, defending academic freedom in ways that would receive nods of approval from Those-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named, borrowing my grandchildren's rhetoric. Cameron's Britain is seeking to take the lead on the assault on public education. The rest of the Western world is not very far behind. In some ways the U.S. is ahead.

More generally, in a corporate-run culture, the traditional ideal of free and independent thought may be given lip service, but other values tend to rank higher. Defending authentic institutional freedom is no small task. However, it is not hopeless by any means. I'll talk about the case I know best, at my own university. It is a very striking case, because of the nature of its funding. Technically, it's a private university, but it has vast state funding, overwhelming, particularly since the Second World War. When I adjoined the faculty over 55 years ago, there were military labs. Since then, they've been technically severed. The academic programs, too, at that time, the 1950s, were almost entirely funded by the Pentagon. Under student pressure in the time of troubles, the 1960s, there were protests about this and calls for investigation. A faculty-student commission was formed in 1969 to investigate the matter. I was a member, thanks to student pressure. The commission was interesting. It found that despite the funding source, the Pentagon, almost the entire academic program, there was no military-related work on campus, except in the sense that virtually anything can have some military application. Actually, there was an exception to this, the political science department, [which] was deeply engaged in the Vietnam War under the guise of peace research. Since that time, Pentagon funding has been declining, and funding from health-related state institutions — National Institute of Health and so on — that's been increasing. There's a reason for that. It's reflecting changes in the economy.

In the 1950s and 1960s the cutting edge of the economy was electronics-based. The Pentagon was a natural way to steal money from the taxpayers, making them think they're being protected from the Russians or somebody, and to direct it to eventual corporate profits. That was done very effectively. It includes computers, the Internet, the IT revolution. In fact most of the modern economy comes from that. In more recent years, the economy is becoming more biology based. Therefore state funding is shifting. Fifty years ago, if you looked around MIT, you found small electronics startups from the faculty. They were drawing on Pentagon funding for research, and if they were successful, they were bought up by major corporations. Those of you who know something about the high-tech economy will know that that's the famous Route 128. That was 50 years ago. Now, if you go around the campus, the startups are biology based, and the same process continues. The genetic engineering, biotechnology, pharmaceuticals and the big buildings going up are Novartis and so on. That's the way the so-called free enterprise economy works. There's also been a shift to more short-term applied work. The Pentagon and the National Institutes of Health are concerned with the long-term future of the advanced economy. In contrast to a business firm, it typically wants something that it can use — it can use and not its competitors, and tomorrow. I don't actually know of a careful study, but it seems pretty clear that the shift toward corporate funding is leading towards more short-term applied research and less exploration of what might turn out to be interesting and important down the road.

Another consequence of corporate funding is more secrecy. This surprises a lot of people, but during the period of Pentagon funding, there was no secrecy. There was also no security on campus. You may remember this. You walk into the Pentagon-funded labs 24 hours a day, and no cards to stick into things and so on. No secrecy; it was all entirely open. There is secrecy today. A corporation can't compel secrecy, but they can make it very clear that you're not going to get your contract renewed if your work leaks to others. That has happened. In fact, it's lead to some scandals, some big enough to appear on the front page of the Wall Street Journal.

Outside funding has other effects on the university, unless it's free and unconstrained, observing the Haldane Principle. Indeed, it has been true to a significant degree by funding from the Pentagon and the other national institutions. However, any kind of outside funding [has effects], even keeping to the Haldane Principle, supposing it establishes a teaching or research facility. That kind of automatically shifts the balance of academic activity, and that can threaten the independence and integrity of the institution. And in the case of corporate funding, quite severely.

Corporatization can have considerable influence in other ways. Corporate managers have a duty. They have to focus on profit making and seeking to convert as much of life as possible into commodities. It's not because they're bad people; it's their task. Under Anglo-American law, it's their legal obligation as well. There's a lot to say about this topic, but one element of it concerns the universities and much else. One particular consequence is the focus on what's called efficiency. It's an interesting concept. It's not strictly an economic concept. It has crucial ideological dimensions. If a business reduces personnel, it might become more efficient by standard measures with lower costs. Typically, that shifts the burden to the public, a very familiar phenomenon we see all the time. Costs to the public are not counted, and they're colossal. That's a choice that's not based on economic theory. That's based on an ideological decision, which applies directly to the "business models," as they're called, of the universities. Increasing class-size or employing cheap temporary labor, say graduate students instead of full-time faculty, may look good on a university budget, but there are significant costs. They're transferred and not measured. They're transferred to students and to the society generally as the quality of education, the quality of instruction is lowered.

There's, furthermore, no way to measure the human and social costs of converting schools and universities into facilities that produce commodities for the job market, abandoning the traditional ideal of the universities. Creating creative and independent thought and inquiry, challenging perceived beliefs, exploring new horizons and forgetting external constraints. That's an ideal that's no doubt been flawed in practice, but to the extent that it's realized is a good measure of the level of civilization achieved.

That idea is being challenged very openly by Adam Smith's Principal Architects of Policy in the State Corporate Complex, the direct attack on the Haldane Principle in Britain. That's an extreme case; in fact so extreme I assume it may be beaten back. There are less blatant examples. Many of them are just inherent in the reliance on outside funding, state or private. These are two sources that are not easy to distinguish given the control of the state by private interest. So what's the right reaction to outside funding that threatens the ideal of a free university? Well one choice is just to reject it in principle, in which case the university would go down the tubes. It's a parasitic institution. Another choice is just to recognize it as a fact of life that when I'm at work, I have to walk past the Lockheed Martin Lecture Hall, and I have to look out my office window at the Koch building, which is named after the multibillionaires who are the major funders of the Tea Party and a leading force in ongoing campaigns to wipe out the remnants of the labor movement and to institute a kind-of corporate tyranny.

Now, if that outside funding seeks to [influence] teaching, research and other activities, then there's a strong argument that it should simply be resisted or rejected outright no matter what the costs. Such influences are not inevitable, and that's worth bearing in mind.

Read more of Noam Chomsky's work at Chomsky.info.

© 2011 Independent Media Institute. All rights reserved.
View this story online at: http://www.alternet.org/story/151921/

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Song Of the Spindle

Created by Drew Christie for the Possible Futures Film Contest. Music by Spencer Thun. 2011.

View more of Drew Christie's stuff here: democracyforthecartoons.blogspot.com

Monday, August 8, 2011

Great Programs to watch
from AlJazeera in the last week

These are incredible reports just aired on AlJazeera in the last week.

Bahrain: An island kingdom in the Arabian Gulf where the Shia Muslim majority are ruled by a family from the Sunni minority. Where people fighting for democratic rights broke the barriers of fear, only to find themselves alone and crushed.

This is their story and Al Jazeera is their witness - the only TV journalists who remained to follow their journey of hope to the carnage that followed.

This is the Arab revolution that was abandoned by the Arabs, forsaken by the West and forgotten by the world.
Thanks, Takuji

And here's another great report aired recently:

The richest 1% of US Americans earn nearly a quarter of the country's income and control an astonishing 40% of its wealth. Inequality in the US is more extreme than it's been in almost a century — and the gap between the super rich and the poor and middle class people has widened drastically over the last 30 years.

Meanwhile, in Washington, a bitter partisan debate over how to cut deficit spending and reduce the US' 14.3 trillion dollar debt is underway. As low and middle class wages stagnate and unemployment remains above 9%, Republicans and Democrats are tussling over whether to slash funding for the medical and retirement programs that are the backbone of the US's social safety net, and whether to raise taxes — or to cut them further.

The budget debate and the economy are the battleground on which the 2012 presidential election race will be fought. And the United States has never seemed so divided — both politically and economically.

How did the gap grow so wide, and so quickly? And how are the convictions, campaign contributions and charitable donations of the top 1% impacting the other 99% of Americans? Fault Lines investigates the gap between the rich and the rest.

This episode of Fault Lines first aired on Al Jazeera English on August 2, 2011 at 0930 GMT.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Algae beach party

from BoingBoing:

Beachgoers in Qingdao, Shandong province, China, were met with a fuzzy, green blanket of ocean last week, as the water there exploded with algae.

You’ve heard before about dead zones. These are patches of coastal ocean where river runoff full of fertilizer chemicals have produced massive algae blooms. As the algae die, their decomposition reduces the oxygen level of the water to the point that many fish and other aquatic life can no longer live there.

This is what a dead zone looks like, just before the death.

It’s worth noting, when I pulled this photo out of the Reuters files, I could see similar shots, taken on the same beach, in 2010, 2009, and 2008. This isn’t a fluke. It’s an endemic problem.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

30 Years Ago Today: The Day the Middle Class Died
...a letter from Michael Moore‏

from Michael Moore's mailing list:
Friday, August 5th, 2011


From time to time, someone under 30 will ask me, "When did this all begin, America's downward slide?" They say they've heard of a time when working people could raise a family and send the kids to college on just one parent's income (and that college in states like California and New York was almost free). That anyone who wanted a decent paying job could get one. That people only worked five days a week, eight hours a day, got the whole weekend off and had a paid vacation every summer. That many jobs were union jobs, from baggers at the grocery store to the guy painting your house, and this meant that no matter how "lowly" your job was you had guarantees of a pension, occasional raises, health insurance and someone to stick up for you if you were unfairly treated.

Young people have heard of this mythical time -- but it was no myth, it was real. And when they ask, "When did this all end?", I say, "It ended on this day: August 5th, 1981."

Beginning on this date, 30 years ago, Big Business and the Right Wing decided to "go for it" -- to see if they could actually destroy the middle class so that they could become richer themselves.

And they've succeeded.

On August 5, 1981, President Ronald Reagan fired every member of the air traffic controllers union (PATCO) who'd defied his order to return to work and declared their union illegal. They had been on strike for just two days.

It was a bold and brash move. No one had ever tried it. What made it even bolder was that PATCO was one of only three unions that had endorsed Reagan for president! It sent a shock wave through workers across the country. If he would do this to the people who were with him, what would he do to us?

Reagan had been backed by Wall Street in his run for the White House and they, along with right-wing Christians, wanted to restructure America and turn back the tide that President Franklin D. Roosevelt started -- a tide that was intended to make life better for the average working person. The rich hated paying better wages and providing benefits. They hated paying taxes even more. And they despised unions. The right-wing Christians hated anything that sounded like socialism or holding out a helping hand to minorities or women.

Reagan promised to end all that. So when the air traffic controllers went on strike, he seized the moment. In getting rid of every single last one of them and outlawing their union, he sent a clear and strong message: The days of everyone having a comfortable middle class life were over. America, from now on, would be run this way:

* The super-rich will make more, much much more, and the rest of you will scramble for the crumbs that are left.

* Everyone must work! Mom, Dad, the teenagers in the house! Dad, you work a second job! Kids, here's your latch-key! Your parents might be home in time to put you to bed.

* 50 million of you must go without health insurance! And health insurance companies: you go ahead and decide who you want to help -- or not.

* Unions are evil! You will not belong to a union! You do not need an advocate! Shut up and get back to work! No, you can't leave now, we're not done. Your kids can make their own dinner.

* You want to go to college? No problem -- just sign here and be in hock to a bank for the next 20 years!

* What's "a raise"? Get back to work and shut up!

And so it went. But Reagan could not have pulled this off by himself in 1981. He had some big help:


The biggest organization of unions in America told its members to cross the picket lines of the air traffic controllers and go to work. And that's just what these union members did. Union pilots, flight attendants, delivery truck drivers, baggage handlers -- they all crossed the line and helped to break the strike. And union members of all stripes crossed the picket lines and continued to fly.

Reagan and Wall Street could not believe their eyes! Hundreds of thousands of working people and union members endorsing the firing of fellow union members. It was Christmas in August for Corporate America.

And that was the beginning of the end. Reagan and the Republicans knew they could get away with anything -- and they did. They slashed taxes on the rich. They made it harder for you to start a union at your workplace. They eliminated safety regulations on the job. They ignored the monopoly laws and allowed thousands of companies to merge or be bought out and closed down. Corporations froze wages and threatened to move overseas if the workers didn't accept lower pay and less benefits. And when the workers agreed to work for less, they moved the jobs overseas anyway.

And at every step along the way, the majority of Americans went along with this. There was little opposition or fight-back. The "masses" did not rise up and protect their jobs, their homes, their schools (which used to be the best in the world). They just accepted their fate and took the beating.

I have often wondered what would have happened had we all just stopped flying, period, back in 1981. What if all the unions had said to Reagan, "Give those controllers their jobs back or we're shutting the country down!"? You know what would have happened. The corporate elite and their boy Reagan would have buckled.

But we didn't do it. And so, bit by bit, piece by piece, in the ensuing 30 years, those in power have destroyed the middle class of our country and, in turn, have wrecked the future for our young people. Wages have remained stagnant for 30 years. Take a look at the statistics and you can see that every decline we're now suffering with had its beginning in 1981 (here's a little scene to illustrate that from my last movie).

It all began on this day, 30 years ago. One of the darkest days in American history. And we let it happen to us. Yes, they had the money, and the media and the cops. But we had 200 million of us. Ever wonder what it would look like if 200 million got truly upset and wanted their country, their life, their job, their weekend, their time with their kids back?

Have we all just given up? What are we waiting for? Forget about the 20% who support the Tea Party -- we are the other 80%! This decline will only end when we demand it. And not through an online petition or a tweet. We are going to have to turn the TV and the computer and the video games off and get out in the streets (like they've done in Wisconsin). Some of you need to run for local office next year. We need to demand that the Democrats either get a spine and stop taking corporate money -- or step aside.

When is enough, enough? The middle class dream will not just magically reappear. Wall Street's plan is clear: America is to be a nation of Haves and Have Nothings. Is that OK for you?

Why not use today to pause and think about the little steps you can take to turn this around in your neighborhood, at your workplace, in your school? Is there any better day to start than today?

Michael Moore

P.S. Here are a few places you can connect with to get the ball rolling:

Showdown in America
Democracy Convention
Occupy Wall Street
October 2011
How to Join a Union, from the AFL-CIO (They've learned their lesson and have a good president now) or UE
Change to Win
High School Newspaper (Just because you're under 18 doesn't mean you can't do anything!)

Friday, August 5, 2011

In The Future Everyone Will Be President for 15 Minutes

from our friend Richard Metzger at DangerousMinds:

This is a rather extraordinary news item, coming from Thomas Friedman’s New York Times column on July 23. What a revolutionary idea. No matter how you slice it, this is a situation that will wreak havoc on the 2012 election if it catches on, which I suspect it will:
Thanks to a quiet political start-up that is now ready to show its hand, a viable, centrist, third presidential ticket, elected by an Internet convention, is going to emerge in 2012. I know it sounds gimmicky — an Internet convention — but an impressive group of frustrated Democrats, Republicans and independents, called Americans Elect, is really serious, and they have thought out this process well. In a few days, Americans Elect will formally submit the 1.6 million signatures it has gathered to get on the presidential ballot in California as part of its unfolding national effort to get on the ballots of all 50 states for 2012.

The goal of Americans Elect is to take a presidential nominating process now monopolized by the Republican and Democratic parties, which are beholden to their special interests, and blow it wide open — guaranteeing that a credible third choice, nominated independently, will not only be on the ballot in every state but be able to take part in every presidential debate and challenge both parties from the middle with the best ideas on how deal with the debt, education and jobs.

“Our goal is to open up what has been an anticompetitive process to people in the middle who are unsatisfied with the choices of the two parties,” said Kahlil Byrd, the C.E.O. of Americans Elect, speaking from its swank offices, financed with some serious hedge-fund money, a stone’s throw from the White House.

As the group explains on its Web site, www.americanselect.org: “Americans Elect is the first-ever open nominating process. We’re using the Internet to give every single voter — Democrat, Republican or independent — the power to nominate a presidential ticket in 2012. The people will choose the issues. The people will choose the candidates. And in a secure, online convention next June, the people will make history by putting their choice on the ballot in every state.”

Here is how it will work, explains Elliot Ackerman, an Iraq war veteran with a Silver Star, who serves as the chief operating officer of Americans Elect, and whose father, Peter, a successful investor, has been a prime engine behind the group. First, anyone interested in becoming a delegate goes to the Americans Elect Web site and registers. As part of that process, you will be asked to fill in a questionnaire about your political priorities: education, foreign policy, the economy, etc. This enables Americans Elect to put you in contact with others who share your views so you can discuss them and organize together. Then you will be invited to draft a candidate or support one who has already been drafted and to contribute to the list of questions that anyone running on the Americans Elect platform will have to answer on the site.

“The questions, the priorities, the nominations and the rules will all come from the community, not from two entrenched parties,” said Ackerman.

If Americans Elect are already getting such high-level press coverage, the media at large might sniff a sexy story here. Is Americans Elect the American Idol of politics? It looks like we’re about to find out. This eagle seems to landing fully-formed. On the ballot in California when they launch? C’est formidable. The outcome of this, if it catches on, will really be something to see unfold.

This seems like quite a positive development and I will be watching this space closely myself. This has some potential to unleash some real populism and that can be a mixed blessing. If there was a modern day Huey Long, for instance, who came out of something like this, to me this would be fantastic. Or if given a chance to nominate Bernie Sanders for POTUS came about so more people had to hear what he has to say, again, sounds great to me.

Now imagine the Teabagger flip-side to that equation. Not nearly so pretty.

ON THE OTHER HAND, this might also be the right vehicle for exposing and laying bare the way the political system really works for the common man. It’s very difficult to see where something like this will eventually land, but almost certainly it will have repercussions for the two main political parties in this nation. It’s impossible to predict exactly how at this early juncture, so I won’t try.

What’s still unclear to me is WHO these potential nominees will be and where they will come from. It’s not like a city council member from Battle Creek, Michigan or a Harvard professor of French literature or Joe the Plumber really have much of a chance of winning the general election, of course. Keep in mind that almost no members of the House have ever won a US Presidential election. Senators and governors, yes. Eisenhower, of course, was a great war hero. WHO is the as yet unknown person of great stature who could really beat the candidates of the two major parties? Not saying it’s impossible, but it sure seems unlikely. For now this seems closer to fantasy football than real electoral politics, but if the right individuals present themselves—and again, I can’t imagine who they are—then all bets would be off. What is so compelling about this, to my mind, is its potential to influence the national debate. The fact that there is a level of American Idol to it is an absolute stroke a genius. The population could become really emotionally invested in this.

I intend to sign up at Americans Elect today. I’ll probably nominate Bernie Sanders when I do

Friedman concluded:
Write it down: Americans Elect. What Amazon.com did to books, what the blogosphere did to newspapers, what the iPod did to music, what drugstore.com did to pharmacies, Americans Elect plans to do to the two-party duopoly that has dominated American political life — remove the barriers to real competition, flatten the incumbents and let the people in. Watch out.
Below, a short biography of Huey Long from the Pathe News service: