The world’s losers are revolting, and Brexit is only the beginning

Wonkblog 

The world’s losers are revolting, and Brexit is only the beginning

via WonkBlog –  June 27 at 7:14 AM

THE world has enjoyed an unprecedented run of peace, prosperity and cooperation the last 25 years, but now that might be over. At least when it comes to those last two.

That, more than anything else, is what Britain’s vote to leave the European Union means. A British exit, or Brexit, will make the country poorer in the short run, perhaps in the long run too, and might drag the rest of Europe down with it. That’s because Britain is essentially ripping up its free trade deal with the rest of Europe. But of far greater concern than just dollars and cents is that this is the most significant setback in Europe’s 60-year quest for “ever closer union,” and the most shocking success for the new nationalism sweeping the Western world.
Continue reading The world’s losers are revolting, and Brexit is only the beginning

Jesse Williams gave one of the most memorable speeches in award show history [full transcript] BET 2016

BET 2016: Jesse Williams – [full transcript]

June 27 at 12:11 AM

Political speeches and emotional tributes dominate BET awards

Jesse Williams was among the stars who got political on stage at the BET awards June 26. The actor spoke passionately about the Black Lives Matter movement, while other performers and presenters paid tribute to Prince and Muhammad Ali. (Courtesy of BET)

Jesse Williams was honored Sunday night at the 2016 BET Awards with the Humanitarian Award. The actor/activist, best known for his role on “Grey’s Anatomy,” has been a visible part of the Black Lives Matter movement since the 2014 events in Ferguson, Mo.

A pre-recorded video featuring Williams, Harry Belafonte, Nate Parker and Debbie Allen played before he took the stage. In the clip they discussed using their fame to speak out for change. Here is the full speech:

| _________________________________________________________ |

“Peace. Peace. Thank you Debra. Thank you, Nate Parker. Thank you, Harry and Debbie Allen, for participating in that. Before we get into it, I just want to say I brought my parents out tonight — I just want to thank them for being here and teaching me to focus on comprehension over career. They made sure I learned what the schools were afraid to teach us. And also, thank you to my amazing wife for changing my life.

“Now, this award, this is not for me. This is for the real organizers all over the country. The activists, the civil rights attorneys, the struggling parents, the families, the teachers, the students that are realizing that a system built to divide and impoverish and destroy us cannot stand if we do. All right? It’s kind of basic mathematics. The more we learn about who we are and how we got here, the more we will mobilize.

“Now, this is also in particular for the black women in particular who have spent their lifetimes dedicated to nurturing everyone before themselves. We can and will do better for you.

“Now, what we’ve been doing is looking at the data and we know that police somehow manage to deescalate, disarm and not kill white people every day. So what’s going to happen is we’re going to have equal rights and justice in our own country or we will restructure their function in ours.

“Now, [standing ovation] I got more, y’all.

“Yesterday would have been young Tamir Rice’s 14th birthday. So, I don’t want to hear anymore about how far we’ve come when paid public servants can pull a drive-by on a 12-year-old playing alone in a park in broad daylight, killing him on television and then going home to make a sandwich.

 “Tell Rekia Boyd how it’s so much better to live in 2012, than it is to live in 1612 or 1712. Tell that to Eric Garner. Tell that to Sandra Bland. Tell that to Darrien Hunt.

“Now, the thing is, though, all of us in here getting money that alone isn’t going to stop this. All right? Now dedicating our lives to getting money just to give it right back. To put someone’s brand on our body when we spent centuries praying with brands on our bodies and now we pray to get paid with brands for our bodies. There has been no war that we have not fought and died on the front lines of. There has been no job we haven’t done. There’s no tax they haven’t levied against us. And we pay all of them. But freedom is somehow always conditional here. You’re free, they keep telling us, but she would have been alive if she hadn’t acted so free.

“Now, freedom is always coming in the hereafter but, you know what, though, the hereafter is a hustle. We want it now. And let’s get a couple of things straight here, just a little sidenote. The burden of the brutalized is not to comfort the bystander. That’s not our job. All right, stop with all that. If you have a critique for the resistance, for our resistance, then you better have an established record of critique of our oppression. If you have no interest in equal rights for black people, then do not make suggestions to those who do. Sit down.

“We’ve been floating this country on credit for centuries, yo. And we’re done watching, and waiting while this invention called whiteness uses and abuses us. Burying black people out of sight and out of mind, while extracting our culture, our dollars, our entertainment like oil — black gold. Ghettoizing and demeaning our creations then stealing them. Gentrifying our genius and then trying us on like costumes before discarding our bodies like rinds of strange fruit. The thing is, though, the thing is, that just because we’re magic doesn’t mean we’re not real. Thank you.”

Everytown Research: Analysis of Mass Shootings

The War on Stupid People

The War on Stupid People

American society increasingly mistakes intelligence for human worth.

image by Edmon de Haro
As recently as the 1950s, possessing only middling intelligence was not likely to severely limit your life’s trajectory. IQ wasn’t a big factor in whom you married, where you lived, or what others thought of you. The qualifications for a good job, whether on an assembly line or behind a desk, mostly revolved around integrity, work ethic, and a knack for getting along—bosses didn’t routinely expect college degrees, much less ask to see SAT scores. As one account of the era put it, hiring decisions were “based on a candidate having a critical skill or two and on soft factors such as eagerness, appearance, family background, and physical characteristics.”
The 2010s, in contrast, are a terrible time to not be brainy. Those who consider themselves bright openly mock others for being less so. Even in this age of rampant concern over micro-aggressions and victimization, we maintain open season on the non-smart. People who’d swerve off a cliff rather than use a pejorative for race, religion, physical appearance, or disability are all too happy to drop the s‑bomb: Indeed, degrading others for being “stupid” has become nearly automatic in all forms of disagreement.
 It’s popular entertainment, too. The so-called Darwin Awards celebrate incidents in which poor judgment and comprehension, among other supposedly genetic mental limitations, have led to gruesome and more or less self-inflicted fatalities. An evening of otherwise hate-speech-free TV-watching typically features at least one of a long list of humorous slurs on the unintelligent (“not the sharpest tool in the shed”; “a few fries short of a Happy Meal”; “dumber than a bag of hammers”; and so forth). Reddit regularly has threads on favorite ways to insult the stupid, and fun-stuff-to-do.com dedicates a page to the topic amid its party-decor ideas and drink recipes.
This gleeful derision seems especially cruel in view of the more serious abuse that modern life has heaped upon the less intellectually gifted. Few will be surprised to hear that, according to the 1979 National Longitudinal Survey of Youth, a long-running federal study, IQ correlates with chances of landing a financially rewarding job. Other analyses suggest that each IQ point is worth hundreds of dollars in annual income—surely a painful formula for the 80 million Americans with an IQ of 90 or below. When the less smart are identified by lack of educational achievement (which in contemporary America is closely correlated with lower IQ), the contrast only sharpens. From 1979 to 2012, the median-income gap between a family headed by two earners with college degrees and two earners with high-school degrees grew by $30,000, in constant dollars. Studies have furthermore found that, compared with the intelligent, less intelligent people are more likely to suffer from some types of mental illness, become obese, develop heart disease, experience permanent brain damage from a traumatic injury, and end up in prison, where they are more likely than other inmates to be drawn to violence. They’re also likely to die sooner.
Continue reading The War on Stupid People

How important is religion to citizens around the World?

The following chart is based on a World survey of major countries conducted in 2014, and shows the percentages of citizens who consider religion important, or not important in their lives.

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Country Yes, important[1] No, unimportant[1]
 Estonia 16% 84%
 Sweden 17% 82%
 Denmark 19% 80%
 Japan 24% 75%
 Hong Kong 24% 74%
 United Kingdom 27% 73%
 Vietnam 30% 69%
 France 30% 69%
 Russia 34% 60%
 Belarus 34% 56%
 Luxembourg 39% 59%
 Hungary 39% 58%
 Albania 39% 53%
 Latvia 39% 58%
 Germany 40% 59%
 Uruguay 41% 59%
  Switzerland 41% 57%
 Kazakhstan 43% 48%
 Canada 42% 57%
 Lithuania 42% 49%
 South Korea 43% 56%
 Ukraine 46% 48%
 Slovenia 47% 52%
 Spain 49% 50%
 Azerbaijan 50% 49%
 Uzbekistan 51% 46%
 Israel 51% 48%
 Serbia 54% 44%
 Ireland 54% 46%
 United States 65% 34%
 Argentina 66% 33%
 Croatia 70% 28%
 Chile 70% 29%
 Singapore 70% 29%
 Montenegro 71% 28%
 Greece 71% 28%
 Italy 72% 25%
 Moldova 72% 19%
 Kyrgyzstan 72% 25%
 Mexico 73% 25%
 Armenia 73% 25%
 Poland 75% 19%
 Cyprus 75% 24.5%
 Macedonia 76% 22%
 Bosnia and Herzegovina 77% 21%
 Venezuela 79% 21%
 Costa Rica 79% 19.5%
 Turkmenistan 80% 18%
 Georgia 81% 16%
 Turkey 82% 15%
 Ecuador 82% 17%
 Colombia 83% 16%
 El Salvador 83% 16%
 Peru 84% 14%
 Iraq 84% 11%
 Nicaragua 84% 15%
 Romania 84% 12%
 Pakistan 92%+ 6%
 Saudi Arabia 93%+ 4%
 Democratic Republic of the Congo 94% 5%
 Ghana 95% 5%
 Zambia 95% 5%
 Qatar 95% 4%
 Algeria 95% 4%
 Chad 95% 5%
 Rwanda 95% 5%
 Mali 95% 3%
 Cameroon 96% 4%
 Malaysia 96% 3%
 Nigeria 96% 3%
 Philippines 96% 4%
 Cambodia 96% 3%
 Senegal 96% 4%
 Afghanistan 97% 3%
 Morocco 97% 2%
 Egypt 97% 2%
 Comoros 97% 2%
 Thailand 97% 2%
 Burundi 98% 2%
 Djibouti 98% 2%
 Mauritania 98% 2%
 Somalia 98% 2%
 Bangladesh 100% 0%
 Sri Lanka 99% 1%
 Malawi 99% 1%
 Indonesia 100% 0%
 Yemen 99% 1%
 Niger 100% 0%

Importance of Religion by Country – 2014

Another exemplary commencement address: at Caltech 2016

The following was delivered as the commencement address at the California Institute of Technology, on Friday, June 10th, 2016

If this place has done its job—and I suspect it has—you’re all scientists now. Sorry, English and history graduates, even you are, too. Science is not a major or a career. It is a commitment to a systematic way of thinking, an allegiance to a way of building knowledge and explaining the universe through testing and factual observation. The thing is, that isn’t a normal way of thinking. It is unnatural and counterintuitive. It has to be learned. Scientific explanation stands in contrast to the wisdom of divinity and experience and common sense. Common sense once told us that the sun moves across the sky and that being out in the cold produced colds. But a scientific mind recognized that these intuitions were only hypotheses. They had to be tested.

When I came to college from my Ohio home town, the most intellectually unnerving thing I discovered was how wrong many of my assumptions were about how the world works—whether the natural or the human-made world. I looked to my professors and fellow-students to supply my replacement ideas. Then I returned home with some of those ideas and told my parents everything they’d got wrong (which they just loved). But, even then, I was just replacing one set of received beliefs for another. It took me a long time to recognize the particular mind-set that scientists have. The great physicist Edwin Hubble, speaking at Caltech’s commencement in 1938, said a scientist has “a healthy skepticism, suspended judgement, and disciplined imagination”—not only about other people’s ideas but also about his or her own. The scientist has an experimental mind, not a litigious one.

Continue reading Another exemplary commencement address: at Caltech 2016

Why Washington doesn’t attend to the people’s business

simple

Reason #1:  There are too many people in Washington beholden to special interest groups and lobbyists. They don’t want to take a stand against the people who finance their campaigns.

Reason #2: District representatives have been allowed to assume voters want the representative to vote based on their own personal considerations, rather than being based on, or even be influenced by,  the enlightened knowledge preferences of all the district’s citizens.

Reason #3: Congressional rules, practices, and procedures related to graft, corruption, extortion, and bribery are antiquated and insufficient to address modern conditions; which permits all but the sloppiest practitioners to escape punishment.

Reason #4: Modern day mass media reflects and amplifies the military-industrial-corporate-security state-status quo power system of administration suited to a Darwinian envisioned World, where survival of the fittest is the implicit and explicit operational framework.

Reason #5: America’s two party political system does not allow room for alternate, or ad hoc parties to form and become mainstream.

Reason #6: Money, power, and dispensed propaganda control political actions, with only casual reference to science, citizen preferences, international law, or expert advise.

How Doctors die

docs_die_grave_pic

Years ago, Charlie, a highly respected orthopedist and a mentor of mine, found a lump in his stomach. He had a surgeon explore the area, and the diagnosis was pancreatic cancer. This surgeon was one of the best in the country. He had even invented a new procedure for this exact cancer that could triple a patient’s five-year-survival odds–from 5 percent to 15 percent–albeit with a poor quality of life. Charlie was uninterested. He went home the next day, closed his practice, and never set foot in a hospital again. He focused on spending time with family and feeling as good as possible. Several months later, he died at home. He got no chemotherapy, radiation, or surgical treatment. Medicare didn’t spend much on him.

It’s not a frequent topic of discussion, but doctors die, too. And they don’t die like the rest of us. What’s unusual about them is not how much treatment they get compared to most Americans, but how little. For all the time they spend fending off the deaths of others, they tend to be fairly serene when faced with death themselves. They know exactly what is going to happen, they know the choices, and they generally have access to any sort of medical care they could want. But they go gently.

Of course, doctors don’t want to die; they want to live. But they know enough about modern medicine to know its limits. And they know enough about death to know what all people fear most: dying in pain, and dying alone. They’ve talked about this with their families. They want to be sure, when the time comes, that no heroic measures will happen–that they will never experience, during their last moments on earth, someone breaking their ribs in an attempt to resuscitate them with CPR (that’s what happens if CPR is done right).

Almost all medical professionals have seen what we call “futile care” being performed on people. That’s when doctors bring the cutting edge of technology to bear on a grievously ill person near the end of life. The patient will get cut open, perforated with tubes, hooked up to machines, and assaulted with drugs. All of this occurs in the Intensive Care Unit at a cost of tens of thousands of dollars a day. What it buys is misery we would not inflict on a terrorist. I cannot count the number of times fellow physicians have told me, in words that vary only slightly, “Promise me if you find me like this that you’ll kill me.” They mean it. Some medical personnel wear medallions stamped “NO CODE” to tell physicians not to perform CPR on them. I have even seen it as a tattoo.
Continue reading How Doctors die

In summary…

  • President Barack Obama delivers remarks at Concord Community High School in Elkhart, Indiana, June 1, 2016. (Zach Gibson / The New York Times)
  • President Obama delivers remarks at Concord Community High School in Elkhart, Indiana, June 1, 2016. (Zach Gibson / The New York Times)

Anyone looking attentively at contemporary developments in the United States will surely notice that the country is undergoing a profound crisis of purpose and institutional legitimacy under a neoliberal regime in overdrive. And this is occurring less than eight years after the election of Barack Obama, whose political campaign raised hopes for a shift away from the neoconservative fallacies and imperial crimes that characterized the administration of George W. Bush.

Welcome to the future of the past. The United States is a nation in disarray whose economic and political elite are still trying to recapture and reproduce the Gilded Age at a time when the overwhelming majority of citizens are experiencing a sharp decline in their standard of living and an increase in large-scale economic insecurity, coupled with sharply diminishing social services, a collapsing infrastructure and loss of hope in the future. Hence the explanation for the rise of political charlatans like Donald Trump, a man who aspires to become president without even pretending to have what may be loosely described as a coherent ideology (which is why the popular version among certain segments of the US progressive movement that Donald Trump is a “fascist” is a crude joke). Hence, also, the appearance on the national political stage of Bernie Sanders, whose message about the need for a more democratic United States resonates extremely well with young people, many of whom fear that, given the current conditions, their future will involve massive unemployment and economic insecurity.

Be that as it may, it seems beyond reasonable doubt at this point that the November election will be between a Republican candidate who believes that the rich deserve to get richer off the brutal exploitation of the working class and a Democrat who has fully embraced neoconservatism on foreign policy issues and is in bed with the Wall Street wolves. In this respect, Hillary Clinton hardly offers a meaningful alternative to Donald Trump, whose incoherent mumblings have scared even the Republican establishment to the point that his opponent can count on measurable support, both in terms of money and votes, from traditional conservatives and many neoconservatives.

With the November election still several months away, it would be instructive to reflect on the state of the country and the world under the Obama administration as the past always shapes and conditions the present. Noam Chomsky, one of the US’ premier dissidents, social critics and intellectuals for more than half a century, was among a handful of souls who never “bought” the promotion of Barack Obama as a real reformer, let alone a sincere progressive. In this exclusive interview with Truthout, Chomsky lays bare the reasons why Obama’s election did not lead to any significant changes in the realms of foreign and economic policymaking, although it did represent some kind of progress after eight grim years of neoconservative rule under a messianic administration.
Continue reading In summary…

Want to make less from your vocational training choice? Go to a for profit school

A popular college investment promised students a career, but didn’t pay off

May 31 at 5:36 PM

Students who earned vocational certificates from for-profit colleges made an average of $900 less annually after attending the schools than they did before, according to a new study, leaving those who took out loans hard-pressed to pay them back.

By contrast, demographically similar students who received the same certifications from public community colleges earned $1,500 more than they did before attending school.

The paper from the National Bureau of Economic Research, published this week, offered new evidence for critics who say the for-profit college industry swindled students by pressuring them into racking up tens of thousands of dollars in debt while adding comparatively little value to their careers.

In 2014, the Obama administration issued new rules limiting the amount of debt students can take on in career-training programs. Though no schools were named in the study, some of the biggest for-profit colleges — including DeVry University and the University of Phoenix — have faced federal lawsuits or investigations that suggested they deceived students about the likelihood of finding jobs in their fields of study and how much they would earn.

The NBER paper analyzed data for 567,000 students who pursued vocational certificates at for-profit schools between 2006 and 2008. Eighty-three percent of them carried student loan debt. Of the 278,000 who earned similar certificates from public community colleges, just 25 percent were indebted, adjusting for demographic differences between the groups.

In 2014, the average tuition for certificate students at for-profit colleges was $8,118, compared to $712 for community college students in these programs, again adjusting for differences between the groups.
Continue reading Want to make less from your vocational training choice? Go to a for profit school

The Oil World in Chaos

Michael Klare, The Oil World in Chaos | TomDispatch

Forward by Tom Engelhardt @ TomDispatch
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Tomgram: Michael Klare, The Oil World in Chaos | TomDispatch

One small aspect of a trip I took to El Paso, Texas, back in the 1970s remains in my mind: the weather.  No, not the weather in El Paso, which is more or less the same much of the year, but the weather on the local television news.  I remember watching a weatherman begin his report in — of all places at the time — the Persian Gulf and sweep swiftly and dramatically across the globe (and its various weather perturbations) before finally reaching El Paso where things were, of course, predictably hot and dull.  It might have been my earliest introduction to the charms of the weather to television news, which could be summed up this way: plenty of drama — storms, floods, droughts, fires, wrecked homes, weeping survivors, shipwrecked people — and no politics to muck things up.  Just Ma Nature, just The Weather

What was then a strange phenomenon on one city’s news has since become the definition of all TV news.  At this point who hasn’t watched countless weather reporters struggling against the slashing winds and driving rain of some oncoming hurricane while shouting out commentary or heading into the waters of what had only recently been a town or city in the hip waders that are now requisite gear for flood coverage?

Only one problem: climate change threatens to screw up the formula.  That phenomenon has complicated weather coverage by inserting human (that is, fossil fuel) politics where only the periodically awesome destructive power of nature and raw human emotion once were.  All too often, bad weather may now be traced back, at least in part, to our endless burning of fossil fuels.  On the whole, however, onscreen news coverage continues to ignore that reality even as it features the weather ever more prominently.  In a sense, the news has been coopting climate change.  A small sign of this is the way the tag “extreme weather” has become commonplace as reports of floods ravaging the Southwest, fires the West, and tornadoes the South and the Great Plains proliferate.  Extreme weather, in other words, has gained its place in our consciousness largely shorn of the crucial factor in that extremity: the increasing amounts of greenhouse gases humanity has been dumping into the atmosphere.

Case in point: the staggering fire that continues to ravage the tar sands regions of Alberta, Canada, after an uncomfortably hot and dry winter and early spring that left local forests little more than kindling (in a world in which fire seasons are extending and intensifying globally).  With the industry that extracts those carbon-heavy tar-sands deposits endangered — their work camps incinerated, the city of Fort McMurray, which supports their operations, devastated, and tens of thousands of climate refugees created — you would think that some sense of irony, if nothing else, might have led the onscreen news to focus on climate change this one time.

But no such luck (at least as far as I could tell), even if the extremity of that fire was indeed big news.  There were, of course, mainstream exceptions to this — in print.  Among others, perhaps our finest environmental journalist, Elizabeth Kolbert of the New Yorker, weighed in early, as did Justin Gillis of the New York Times with a similarly themed front-page story. Otherwise, to this day, extreme weather remains the great-grandchild of the TV weather reporting I first saw in El Paso four decades ago.

Fortunately, at TomDispatch, Michael Klare continues to follow the world of oil exploitation and the extremity that accompanies it with a keen eye. For the petro-states of our planet, the “weather,” it seems, has been undergoing a distinct change for the worse.  For them, extremity of an unsettling sort is becoming a way of life. Tom

The Desperate Plight of Petro-States
With a Busted Business Model, Oil Economies Head for the Unknown
By Michael T. Klare

Pity the poor petro-states. Once so wealthy from oil sales that they could finance wars, mega-projects, and domestic social peace simultaneously, some of them are now beset by internal strife or are on the brink of collapse as oil prices remain at ruinously low levels. Unlike other countries, which largely finance their governments through taxation, petro-states rely on their oil and natural gas revenues. Russia, for example, obtains about 50% of government income that way; Nigeria, 60%; and Saudi Arabia, a whopping 90%. When oil was selling at $100 per barrel or above, as was the case until 2014, these countries could finance lavish government projects and social welfare operations, ensuring widespread popular support.  Now, with oil below $50 and likely to persist at that level, they find themselves curbing public spending and fending off rising domestic discontent or even incipient revolt.

Continue reading The Oil World in Chaos

A Multi-Trillion-Dollar Bridge to Nowhere in the Greater Middle East

Tomgram: Andrew Bacevich, America’s Sinkhole Wars

Forward by Tom Engelhardt @ TomDispatch

____

From one end of the Greater Middle East to the other, things are looking up for Washington. A U.S. Air Force drone struck for the first time in Baluchistan province and took out the leader of the Taliban with two Hellfire missiles (whereupon the Pakistani government denounced Washington for violating the country’s sovereignty). The action was taken, President Obama later announced, as part of “our longstanding effort to bring peace and prosperity to Afghanistan.” (Admittedly, you may not have heard much about such peace and prosperity recently with fierce fighting raging on Afghan battlefields, the Taliban gaining ground, the government in its usual pit of corruption, and the country maintaining its proud position as the uncontested global leader in the production and sale of opium.)

Soon after, the president paid a historic visit to Vietnam and finally put to bed memories of a disastrous American war there in the only way conceivable — by ensuring that American arms and munitions would once again be allowed to flow freely into that country. And while he was at it, he sternly rebuked China (without mentioning it by name) for its actions in the waters off Vietnam.  “Nations are sovereign,” he said, “and no matter how large or small a nation may be, its territory should be respected.”

On the other side of the Greater Middle East, U.S. Green Berets were photographed in northern Syria engaged with Kurdish rebels in fighting aimed at someday retaking Raqqa, the “capital” of the Islamic State. Several of those soldiers were wearing the insignia of the Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Forces, or YPG (which the Turkish government considers a terrorist outfit), even as the Pentagon continued to insist that theirs was a non-combat role. In other words — in the good news category — those boots, whatever the photos might seem to indicate, were not actually on the ground. Meanwhile, some genuinely upbeat news arrived in the midst of a little distinctly out-of-date bad news. Members of the U.S. team now conducting the air war against the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq told New York Times reporter Eric Schmitt that, despite thousands of air strikes, their predecessors had essentially botched the job, thanks to “poor intelligence collection and clumsy process for identifying targets.” Fortunately, they were now in charge and the results were stunning. The Islamic State was finally being hit in its pocketbook, where it truly hurts, damaging its “ability to pay its fighters, govern, and attract new recruits.”

“Every bomb now has a greater impact,” reported U.S. air war commander Lieutenant General Charles Brown Jr. Yes, after 15 years of American air war across the Greater Middle East, it seems that, from Pakistan to Syria, the Obama administration has finally found the winning formula. If, as Schmitt’s piece indicated, you want confirmation of that, who better to turn to than the very people who have gotten the formula right?  Having no access to similar in-the-know figures capable of throwing light on the subject of Washington’s ongoing conflicts, TomDispatch instead turned to outsider Andrew Bacevich, author most recently of a groundbreaking book, America’s War for the Greater Middle East: A Military History, to assess the recent spate of upbeat news from America’s war zones. We sent him directly into that infamous Vietnam-era tunnel of darkness to see what might be glimpsed so many decades later when it comes to the American way of war, and here’s his report. Tom

Milestones (Or What Passes for Them in Washington)
A Multi-Trillion-Dollar Bridge to Nowhere in the Greater Middle East
By Andrew J. Bacevich

We have it on highest authority: the recent killing of Taliban leader Mullah Akhtar Muhammad Mansour by a U.S. drone strike in Pakistan marks “an important milestone.” So the president of the United States has declared, with that claim duly echoed and implicitly endorsed by media commentary — the New York Times reporting, for example, that Mansour’s death leaves the Taliban leadership “shocked” and “shaken.”

But a question remains: A milestone toward what exactly?

Continue reading A Multi-Trillion-Dollar Bridge to Nowhere in the Greater Middle East

The quintessential George Carlin (?)

Allen B. Konis's photo.

An observation by George Carlin   –   (but really it’s not by Carlin – it’s from another author)

* * * *

The paradox of our time in history is that we have taller buildings but shorter tempers, wider Freeways, but narrower viewpoints. We spend more, but have less, we buy more, but enjoy less. We have bigger houses and smaller families, more conveniences, but less time. We have more degrees but less sense, more knowledge, but less judgment, more experts, yet more problems, more medicine, but less wellness.

We drink too much, smoke too much, spend too recklessly, laugh too little, drive too fast, get too angry, stay up too late, get up too tired, read too little, watch TV too much, and pray too seldom.

We have multiplied our possessions, but reduced our values. We talk too much, love too seldom, and hate too often.

We’ve learned how to make a living, but not a life. We’ve added years to life not life to years. We’ve been all the way to the moon and back, but have trouble crossing the street to meet a new neighbor. We conquered outer space but not inner space. We’ve done larger things, but not better things.

We’ve cleaned up the air, but polluted the soul. We’ve conquered the atom, but not our prejudice. We write more, but learn less. We plan more, but accomplish less. We’ve learned to rush, but not to wait. We build more computers to hold more information, to produce more copies than ever, but we communicate less and less.

These are the times of fast foods and slow digestion, big men and small character, steep profits and shallow relationships. These are the days of two incomes but more divorce, fancier houses, but broken homes. These are days of quick trips, disposable diapers, throwaway morality, one night stands, overweight bodies, and pills that do everything from cheer, to quiet, to kill. It is a time when there is much in the showroom window and nothing in the stockroom. A time when technology can bring this letter to you, and a time when you can choose either to share this insight, or to just hit delete.

Remember to spend some time with your loved ones, because they are not going to be around forever.

Remember, say a kind word to someone who looks up to you in awe, because that little person soon will grow up and leave your side.

Remember, to give a warm hug to the one next to you, because that is the only treasure you can give with your heart and it doesn’t cost a cent.

Remember, to say, ‘I love you’ to your partner and your loved ones, but most of all mean it. A kiss and an embrace will mend hurt when it comes from deep inside of you.

Remember to hold hands and cherish the moment for someday that person will not be there again.

Give time to love, give time to speak! And give time to share the precious thoughts in your mind.

And always remember, life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by those moments that take our breath away.

A hazard: overconfidence in America’s ability to recover

“The Signing of the Constitution of the United States,” by Howard Chandler Christy (Wikimedia)

Over the weekend a Washington Post op-ed titled “We Must Weed Out Ignorant Voters from the Electorate” got a lot of negative attention, including from me. And on reflection I still don’t agree with the surface-level argument of the piece, which is that people who don’t know enough about civics should be denied the vote. There’s too long an American history of struggles over the franchise to welcome an argument couched this way.

But here is the part of the argument that does strike a chord with me. It is the reminder that overconfidence about civics, by everyone, is part of what makes this election cycle an unsettling and potentially dangerous one. Let me explain:

Any exposure to American history offers reminders that public affairs in the country have often been in bad shape. The latest in the very long shelf of Lincoln biographies, A Self-Made Man by Sidney Blumenthal, takes its protagonist only to age 40 but offers a very vivid look at the close-run struggles over economic policy, tariffs and national banks, nation-building and nullification, and of course the extension of slavery in the 1830s and 1840s. The country would have been much worse off if several of those struggles had gone the other way, and of course it nearly came apart during the Civil War. Even beyond that unparalleled emergency, pick your decade and you can pick your crisis in the performance of the American government, the injustices of the American economy, and the cruelties or blind spots of American society. Things have always been dicey.
Continue reading A hazard: overconfidence in America’s ability to recover

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The sanctity of unborn life meshes with the limitations of mentally challenged adults

A lab technician separates cells from umbilical cord blood at StemExpress in Placerville, California, May 5, 2016.

A lab technician separates cells from umbilical cord blood at StemExpress in Placerville, California, May 5, 2016. (Max Whittaker / For The Washington Post)

By Danielle Paquette

PLACERVILLE, CALIF. — StemExpress, a tiny biomedical company in this foothill town east of Sacramento, has emerged at the heart of the contentious national debate over abortion and the scientific use of human fetal tissue. FBI agents say its floor-to-ceiling windows are security hazards, a potential line of sight for snipers. The backdrop of pine trees and hills provides cover, employees say, to strangers who crouch with cameras.

Inside, Melanie Rose, a laboratory technician, knows anyone could be watching. One recent May morning, she opened a foam box with fetal tissue packed in ice — a donation for medical research.

Rose, who is working toward a master’s degree in stem cell treatment, is one of 24 employees here thrust into view after antiabortion activists released a series of videos last year.

The videos shed light on an uncomfortable aspect of a little-known industry. They targeted Planned Parenthood, which provides abortions and for a time sold fetal tissue to StemExpress. The tissue, which is in limited supply, is a vital component in stem cell research — a great hope for medical breakthroughs. StemExpress collects the tissue and extracts the stem cells to sell to researchers worldwide. Most of it is from adult sources — drawn from blood and bone marrow — but a small amount is from fetal tissue.

That work, with fetal tissue, has catapulted the small biotech firm out from under the radar. It is now the target of loiterers, protesters and death threats and the subject of a congressional inquiry.

At the heart of the issue appears to be whether the work is done for profit. The exchange of fetal tissue for research is legal, so long as neither party makes money in the deal.

* * * *

Note: Of course anyone with a functional brain must know there are costs in the acquisition, transport, extraction, storage, and sale of anything whether it’s potatoes, or human body parts. While some restrictions and controls over human genetic material are warranted, it must come from either government or a citizen-level-commons-management-group, not from corporate monopolies, or political Wingnuts.    -ed.-

I wish…

iwish

“I wish we taught the modern generation the true meaning of “love” and the human race. The love for all people regardless of their religion, race, culture or Political beliefs. The love of justice in the face of injustice.The love of wisdom in the face of ignorance, the love of country in the midst of unpatriotic beings and the love of self in the face of wanna be’s.

I wish we showed them that racism is not something that “Human Beings” should accept or brand. I hope we teach them that character matters more than race. I wish we taught them that “Islam” is not the biggest problem that America faces and vengeance, itself, is harm!

In this time of divides, we have seen what the media can do. It has the power to uplift and break a candidate. In this uncertain times, we must be courageous as Americans and stand for what’s right, not what the media think is.

In this time, President Obama, Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders or Donald J. Trump will not and can not fundamentally change this country.

It will take you, as an American to liberate your minds from hate, racial divides, injustice, and discrimination. It will take you as an American to rethink Islam, Health Care issues, Free Education for all, Unemployment, Environment and Climate Change, Obesity, Foreign Relations, Illegal Immigration, Equality Between Men and Women, and Individual Liberty vs. Government Control

#Movebeyonddisparities.”

Henry Johnson Jr, (Good reads quotes)

Who Was the First African American?

100 Amazing Facts About the Negro: We know his name, and that he arrived well before the Mayflower.

Posted: Oct. 22 2012 12:15 AM

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JUAN GARRIDO (LEFT) (DIEGO DURAN, HISTORIA DE LAS INDIAS DE NUEVE ESPANA
E ISLAS DE LA TIERRA FIRME, 1581)

(The Root) — Amazing Fact About the Negro No. 2: Who was the first African to arrive in America?

Like many of you, I was always told that the first Africans to arrive in what is now the United States were the “20 and odd” Africans who arrived as slaves in Jamestown, Va., from what is now the country of Angola, in 1619. But this turns out not to be true. As a matter of fact, Africans arrived in North America more than a century before both the Mayflower landed at Plymouth Rock and before these Angolans arrived in Virginia. What’s more, we even know the identity of the first documented African to arrive. His name was Juan Garrido, and more astonishing, he wasn’t even a slave. Next year will be the 500th anniversary of his arrival in Florida, and the state plans to commemorate this remarkable event.

Juan Garrido was born in West Africa around 1480. According to the historians Ricardo Alegria and Jane Landers, Garrido’s notarized “probanza” (his curriculum vitae, more or less), dated 1538, says he moved from Africa to Lisbon, Portugal, of his own volition as a free man, stayed in Spain for seven years, and then, seeking his fortune and perhaps a bit of fame, he joined the earliest conquistadors to the New World. All the sworn witnesses to this document affirm that Garrido was “horro,” or free, when he arrived in Spain. Sailing from Seville around 1508, he arrived on the island of La Española, which is today called Hispaniola, the island on which the Dominican Republic and Haiti reside. He later settled in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

Garrido is the first documented black person to arrive in this country, and he is also the first known black conquistador. And like the other conquistadors, Garrido soon succumbed to the lure of wealth and fame in the New World. He joined Diego Velazquez de Cuéllar and the legendary Juan Ponce de León in the colonizations of Cuba and Puerto Rico, respectively. Then, in 1513, he joined de León’s well-known expedition to Florida in search of the Fountain of Youth, when he became the first known African to arrive in this country.
Continue reading Who Was the First African American?

University of Pennsylvania Commencement Address 2016

Soul-Sustaining Necessity of Resisting Self-Comparison and Fighting Cynicism
A Commencement Address given at the Annenberg School for Communications at University of Pennsylvania

by Maria Popova – May 16th, 2016
* * * *
“In its passivity and resignation, cynicism is a hardening, a calcification of the soul. Hope is a stretching of its ligaments, a limber reach for something greater.”

I have long relished the commencement address as one of our few cultural forms that render us receptive to sincerity — receptive to messages we might dismiss as trite in any other context, but which we recognize here as the life-earned truth of the human being at the podium, shared in a spirit of goodwill with a group of young humans just starting out on the truth-earning gauntlet called life.

So I was thrilled to deliver the address to the 2016 graduating class at the University of Pennsylvania’s Annenberg School for Communication, my own alma mater. Speech text below.
Continue reading University of Pennsylvania Commencement Address 2016

Low is not only a measure, it’s also a condition

Why Do Donald sTrumpf’s Positions Appeal To You When He Clearly Has None?

We on the Left often talk about low information voters more than they do on the Right, but that’s only because the Right depends on them so much to stay in power. Without the low information voter and the low effort thinkers, Republicans would never have been able to grab onto and retain the political power they currently enjoy and abuse, not only on the national level, but at the state level, too. An informed voter would never vote for a Republican unless that voter was a greedy, rich, selfish bastard who couldn’t care less about helping his or her fellow human beings who are in trouble (often due to Republican policies.) And face it. If you aren’t greedy, rich, or selfish, you really have no reason to vote for a member of a party that openly admits to doing things that help the super rich far more than they help you or anyone else you personally know. I mean, seriously, do rich people need more tax cuts?

We are talking about taxing income beyond a ridiculously high point at which they’ll literally be bringing in (not necessarily earning) more money than they can possibly use in their life times or their grandchildren’s, so why do Republicans insist on lying and acting like taxing more of that income will take away all incentive to make money? That’s pure selfishness talking, not sound public policy. And if it’s sound public policy you want out of your public servants, then why on Earth would you vote for Donald J. Trump? What possible argument could you have?

It can’t be because of sTrumpf’s positions on any of the major issues. In addition to the fact that Trump often speaks in incoherent phrases, he has often been unable to state a position and stick to it. Whether it’s on taxing the rich, paying down the national debt, a woman’s right to exercise her constitutional right to an abortion, the minimum wage, money in politics, defeating ISIS, following international laws, immigration, H-1B visas, border control, the Syrian refugee crisis, banning Muslims, being so popular with white supremacists, the KKK and David Duke, the multi-national Iran nuclear deal, or even healthcare in the US, sTrumpf has often stated, then reversed, then modified whatever position he had, sometimes within hours. He expressed three separate and conflicting opinions on abortion in less than an hour and a half.
Continue reading Low is not only a measure, it’s also a condition