Friday, February 28, 2014

the economy is not growing and the environment is vastly less forgiving...,

CNN |  when it was my turn, I explained to them when I was their age, I was a lot like them. I didn't have a dad in the house. And I was angry about it, even though I didn't necessarily realized at the time. I made bad choices. I got high without always thinking about the harm that it could do. I didn't always take school as seriously as I should have. I made excuses. Sometimes I sold myself short.
And I remember when I was saying this, Christian, you may remember this -- after I was finished, the guy sitting next to me said, "Are you talking about you?" I said, "yes."

And the point was I could see myself in these young men. And the only difference is that I grew up in an environment that was a little bit more forgiving. So when I made a mistake, the consequences were not as severe. I had people who encouraged me, not just my mom and grandparents, but wonderful teachers and community leaders. And they pushed me to work hard and study hard and make the most of myself. And If I didn't listen, they said it again. And if I didn't listen, they said it a third time and they would give me second chances and third chances. They never gave up on me, and so I didn't give up on myself.

I told these young men my story then, and I repeat it now, because I firmly believe that every child deserves the same chances that I had.

That's why we are here today, to do what we can in this year of action to give more young Americans the support they need to make good choices, and to be resilient and overcome obstacles and achieve their dreams.

This is an issue of national importance. This is as important as any issue that I work on. It's an issue that goes to the very heart of why I ran for president.

Because if America stands for anything, it stands for the idea of opportunity for everybody. The notion that no matter who you are or where you came from, or the circumstances into which you are born, if you work hard, if you take responsibility, then you can make it in this country.

That's the core idea. That's the idea behind everything that I will do this year and for the rest of my presidency. Because at a time when the economy is growing, we've got to make sure that every American shares in that growth, not just a few, and that means guaranteeing every child in America has access to a world class education. It means creating more jobs and empowering more workers with the skills they need to do those jobs. It means making sure that hard work pays off with wages you can live on, and savings you can retire on and health care that you can count on. It means building more ladders of opportunity and the middle class for anybody who is willing to work hard to climb it. Those are national issues. They have an impact on everybody.

And the problem of stagnant wages, and economic insecurity and stalled mobility are issues that affect all demographic groups across the country. My administration's policies from early childhood education to job training to minimum wages are designed to give a hand up to everybody, every child, every American willing to work hard and take responsibility for their own success. That's the larger agenda.

The plain fact is, there are some Americans who in the aggregate are consistently doing worse in our society. Groups that have had the odds stacked against them in unique way that require unique solutions, groups who have seen fewer opportunities that have spanned generations.

And by almost every measure, the group that is facing some of the most severe challenges in the 21st century, in this country, are boys and young men of color.

Now, to say this is not to deny the enormous strides we've made in closing the gaps that have mired our history for so long. My presence is a testimony to that.

summary execution by firearm IS an answer to public incivility and abuse of the commons...,

contextflorida |  The Armed Occupation Act of 1842 gave 160 acres of Florida land to anyone who could fight the Seminoles and hold his ground for seven years. The congressional legislation was designed to increase the nonnative population of Florida.

In 2005, the Florida Legislature approved the “stand your ground” provision of the self-defense law ostensibly to protect folks who kill in self-defense in a public place. Given the universal reaction to the recent Michael Dunn verdict, “stand your ground” is likely to have the opposite effect. As one friend said to me, “If I were black, I would move out of Florida. I wouldn’t live in a place where it’s OK to gun me down because I am a Negro woman.”

By failing to convict Dunn on first-degree murder charges for killing 17-year-old Jordan Davis, the jurors essentially couldn’t bring themselves to convict a white man who perceived a young black man as a threat. Cynics suggest that by convicting Dunn of attempted murder, it’s as if jurors punished him for failing to finish the job.

Dunn claimed he feared for his life after he complained to a car-load of young black men about their loud music. He said he saw a gun and fired his. So much of Dunn’s defense is laughable except to those who believe “young black man” is synonymous with “thug” and with threat. Dunn wasn’t on his front porch complaining about his neighbor’s music. He was in public. There is no expectation of peace and quiet outside a convenience store.

Dunn’s behavior is a reflection of how gun-toters are irrationally emboldened by legislation that could only be cooked up in the offices of the National Rifle Association. Like the Armed Occupation Act of more than 160 years before, politicians have given folks license to kill people of color.

And they aren’t done yet. The Legislature is poised to expand the legislation to include “the threatened use of force.”

In modern Florida, people have no obligation to retreat if they feel threatened in public, even if as in the case of the retired Tampa police officer in the Pasco County movie theater, the assailant triggered the confrontation.  Sadly, our legislators have imposed a 19th century solution — summary execution by firearm — on a 21st century problem — incivility.

a brief history of ethnic cleansing laws in the deep and dirty south...,

wikipedia |  Forty-six states in the United States have adopted the castle doctrine, that a person has no duty to retreat whatsoever when their home is attacked.[3][4] Twenty-two states go a step further,[5] removing the duty of retreat from other locations outside the home. Such "stand your ground", "Line in the Sand" or "No Duty to Retreat" laws thus state that a person has no duty or other requirement to abandon a place in which he has a right to be, or to give up ground to an assailant. Under such laws, there is no duty to retreat from anywhere the defender may legally be.[6] Other restrictions may still exist; such as when in public, a person must be carrying firearms in a legal manner, whether concealed or openly.

"Stand your ground" governs[citation needed] U.S. federal case law in which right of self-defense is asserted against a charge of criminal homicide. The Supreme Court of the United States ruled in Beard v. U.S.[7] (158 U.S. 550 (1895)) that a man who was "on his premises" when he came under attack and "...did not provoke the assault, and had at the time reasonable grounds to believe, and in good faith believed, that the deceased intended to take his life, or do him great bodily harm...was not obliged to retreat, nor to consider whether he could safely retreat, but was entitled to stand his ground."[8][9] However, the Supreme Court decision did not create case law impugning a state's authority to either adopt or invalidate stand-your-ground law.
wikipedia |  The Florida Armed Occupation Act of 1842 (5 Stat. 502) was passed as an incentive to populate Florida.
The Act granted 160 acres (0.6 km²) of unsettled land south of the line separating townships 9 and 10 South. (a East/West line about three miles (5 km) north of Palatka and about ten miles (16 km) south of Newnansville) to any head of a family as long he satisfied the following conditions:[1]
  • be a resident of Florida and not having 160 acres (0.6 km²) of land in Florida when asking for the permit;
  • get a permit from the Lands Office;
  • he or his heirs reside for five consecutive years on the grant ;
  • clear, enclose and cultivate 5 acres (20,000 m2) of land during the first year;
  • build a house on the lot during the first year;
  • the land should be two or more miles away from a garrisoned military post.
The last statement implied that the person should bear arms for his own protection.
The total land to be granted should not be more than 200,000 acres (800 km²) under the act.

wikipedia |  The Seminole Wars, also known as the Florida Wars, were three conflicts in Florida between the Seminole — the collective name given to the amalgamation of various groups of native Americans and the blacks who settled in Florida in the early 18th century — and the United States Army. The First Seminole War was from 1814 to 1819 (although sources differ), the Second Seminole War from 1835 to 1842, and the Third Seminole War from 1855 to 1858. They were the largest conflicts in the United States between the War of 1812 and the American Civil War.

The first conflict with the Seminoles arose out of tensions relating to General Andrew Jackson's attack and destruction of Negro Fort in Florida in 1816. Jackson also attacked the Spanish at Pensacola. Ultimately, the Spanish Crown ceded the colony to United States rule.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

home economics vs. hoe economics

wikipedia | Euthenics /jˈθɛnɪks/ is the study of the improvement of human functioning and well-being by improvement of living conditions.[1] Affecting the "improvement" through altering external factors such as education and the controllable environment, including the prevention and removal of contagious disease and parasites, environmentalism, education regarding employment, home economics, sanitation, and housing.[2]

Rose Field notes of the definition in a May 23, 1926 New York Times article, "the simplest being efficient living."[3] A right to environment.[4]

The Flynn effect has been often cited as an example of Euthenics. Another example is the steady increase in body size in industrialized countries since the beginning of the 20th century.
Euthenics is not normally interpreted to have anything to do with changing the composition of the human gene pool by definition, although everything that affects society has some effect on who reproduces and who does not.

According to Vassar's chronology entry for March 17, 1924, "the faculty recognized euthenics as a satisfactory field for sequential study (major). A Division of Euthenics was authorized to offer a multidisciplinary program [radical at the time] focusing the techniques and disciplines of the arts, sciences and social sciences on the life experiences and relationships of women. Students in euthenics could take courses in horticulture, food chemistry, sociology and statistics, education, child study, economics, economic geography, physiology, hygiene, public health, psychology and domestic architecture and furniture. With the new division came the first major in child study at an American liberal arts college."[10]

For example, a typical major in child study in euthenics includes introductory psychology, laboratory psychology, applied psychology, child study and social psychology in the Department of Psychology; the three courses offered in the Department of Child Study; beginning economics, programs of social reorganization and the family in Economics; and in the Department of Physiology, human physiology, child hygiene, principles of public health.[11]

The Vassar Summer Institute of Euthenics accepted its first students in June 1926. Created to supplement the controversial euthenics major which began February 21, 1925, it was also located in the new Minnie Cumnock Blodgett Hall of Euthenics (York & Sawyer, architects; ground broke October 25, 1925). Some Vassar faculty members (perhaps emotionally upset with being displaced on campus to make way, or otherwise politically motivated) contentiously "believed the entire concept of euthenics was vague and counter-productive to women's progress."[12]

Having overcome a lukewarm reception, Vassar College officially opened its Minnie Cumnock Blodgett Hall of Euthenics in 1929.[9] Dr. Ruth Wheeler (Physiology and Nutrition - VC '99) took over as director of euthenics studies in 1924. Wheeler remained director until Mary Shattuck Fisher Langmuir (VC '20) succeeded her in 1944, until 1951.[12]

The college continued for the 1934-35 academic year its successful cooperative housing experiment in three residence halls. Intended to help students meet their college costs by working in their residences. For example, in Main, students earned $40 a year by doing relatively light work such as cleaning their rooms.[13]

Book review of Prime Movers of Globalization: the History & Impact of Diesel Engines & Gas Turbines

energyskeptic | Smil makes the case that civilization is based on the billions of engines that make global trade, power plants, transportation, and much more possible.  If you are mechanically minded, you will enjoy his history of the evolution of engines. And if you are afraid to fly, this book may change your mind – airplane turbines are a wonderment, perhaps the pinnacle of engine design, and far safer than they’ve ever been before.

Containerized Ships made globalization and civilization as we know it possible

Over 80% of all cargo moved in the world travels on about 50,000 ships, which burn about 10% of the world’s oil.  They use an order of magnitude less energy than railways and two orders of magnitude less than large long-haul trucks.  Large oil tankers are very efficient fuel-wise.  A 300,000-dead-weight-ton VLCC moving Saudi oil to the USA would only use .7% of the fuel to make the 12,400 mile journey.

Marine diesel engines run on heavy bunker fuel, a black tar-like substance with lots of impurities (sulfur can be 4.5%).

Exports grew from 1% of gross world product (GWP) in 1950 to 29% in 2007.  Almost a third of the world’s wealth is now created by international trade.

My favorite book on this topic is Levinson’s “The Box”. He shows how containerization of ships, trains, and trucks made globalization possible.  For example, until containerization, the cost of transporting shoes from Chicago to Kansas City was so great that shoes were made locally.  Now you can ship shoes from China to Chicago for less than they can be made in Chicago – transportation costs are often less than 1% of the overall cost of the product.

I used to work for a shipping line, and could see that it was mainly raw materials heading from the USA to Asia (wastepaper, food, cotton), with finished goods returning.

The company I worked for had no oil tankers or break-bulk carriers, so I never realized that the main commodity shipped by weight are fossil fuels.
  • Oil: 37% of all cargo on ships (Wiki Oil). 45% of the oil is from the Middle East
  • Coal: 43% of all cargo on trains in the USA (Wiki Rail)
  • Other essential goods: 25% (iron ore, phosphates, grain, etc.)
If anyone doubted that fossil fuels are the lifeblood of civilization, surely this dispels any doubts!
Other stats on sea-borne dry bulk commodities:
  • Coal. 790 Mt. 85% of all coal exports, 75% of that for electricity generation
  • Iron ore. 792 Mt. 44% of all iron ore
  • Grain. 300 Mt. 19% of all cereal grains
  • Bauxite and Alumina 82 Mt. 30%.
  • Phosphates. 30 Mt. 20% of all phosphates.
Other bulk goods shipped: Steel 270 Mt, Wood 175 Mt, Coke, pig, scrap iron, mineral ores, cement 335 Mt, dry bulk agricultural products (mainly sugar, fertilizer, feed meals) 275 Mt.

That made me wonder if the life-span of the 4,300 oil tankers will be a factor in how much longer civilization will last, since they wear and rust apart within decades.  Worse yet, they’re being scrapped after only 21 years now — long before they need to because they’re so unprofitable (Bimco).  These oil carriers are so large they can comprise 91% of the weight of all ships scrapped.
On the other hand, oil has been on a plateau of production since 2005 and will soon start declining, so fewer ships will be needed.  And the exporting countries remaining are likely to keep more of their oil for themselves (Wiki ELM).

beginning of the end? oil companies cut back on spending...,

ourfiniteworld | Steve Kopits recently gave a presentation explaining our current predicament: the cost of oil extraction has been rising rapidly (10.9% per year) but oil prices have been flat. Major oil companies are finding their profits squeezed, and have recently announced plans to sell off part of their assets in order to have funds to pay their dividends. Such an approach is likely to lead to an eventual drop in oil production. I have talked about similar points previously (here and here), but Kopits adds some additional perspectives which he has given me permission to share with my readers. I encourage readers to watch the original hour-long presentation at Columbia University, if they have the time.

Controversy: Does Oil Extraction Depend on “Supply Growth” or “Demand Growth”?
The first section of the presentation is devoted the connection of GDP Growth to Oil Supply Growth vs Oil Demand Growth. I omit a considerable part of this discussion in this write-up. Economists and oil companies, when making their projections, nearly always make their projections depend on “Demand Growth”–the amount people and businesses want. This demand growth is seen to be rising indefinitely in the future. It has nothing to do with affordability or with whether the potential consumers actually have jobs to purchase the oil products.

energy accounts for 33% of S&P 500 capex spending?!?!

BI | There's a lingering hope out there that America's corporations will unleash their cash hoards and replace their aging equipment.

"The whole debate about the S&P is about when this turns back up again," said Deutsche Bank's David Bianco back in November.

"We forecast capital spending by S&P 500 companies will rise by 9% in 2014 to $700 billion following a modest 2% growth in 2013," said Goldman Sachs' David Kostin in a new note to clients.
Based on Kostin's reading of the recent earnings season conference calls, growth expectations are currently trending a bit below that 9% rate.

"S&P 500 companies that provided guidance plan to boost capex by 7% in 2014, [are] slightly below our forecast," added Kostin. "171 S&P 500 companies provided capex guidance during recent quarterly earnings conference calls. These firms account for 50% of aggregate capex spending by the S&P 500. All sectors plan to increase capex in 2014 with the exception of Telecom Services, which guided flat."

For some context, Kostin provided this chart that breaks down how much each industry contributes to the capex story.

FT's gold price manipulation article removed by government researchers to the memory hole?

zerohedge | Global gold prices may have been manipulated on 50 per cent of occasions between January 2010 and December 2013, according to analysis by Fideres, a consultancy.

The findings come amid a probe by German and UK regulators into alleged manipulation of the gold price, which is set twice a day by Deutsche Bank, HSBC, Barclays, Bank of Nova Scotia and Société Générale in a process known as the “London gold fixing”.

Fideres’ research found the gold price frequently climbs (or falls) once a twice-daily conference call between the five banks begins, peaks (or troughs) almost exactly as the call ends and then experiences a sharp reversal, a pattern it alleged may be evidence of “collusive behaviour”.

“[This] is indicative of panel banks pushing the gold price upwards on the basis of a strategy that was likely predetermined before the start of the call in order to benefit their existing positions or pending orders,” Fideres concluded.

“The behaviour of the gold price is very suspicious in 50 per cent of cases. This is not something you would expect to see if you take into account normal market factors,“ said Alberto Thomas, a partner at Fideres.

Alasdair Macleod, head of research at GoldMoney, a dealer in physical gold, added: “When the banks fix the price, the advantage they have is that they know what orders they have in the pocket. There is a possibility that they are gaming the system.”

Pension funds, hedge funds, commodity trading advisers and futures traders are most likely to have suffered losses as a result, according to Mr Thomas, who said that many of these groups were “definitely ready” to file lawsuits.

Daniel Brockett, a partner at law firm Quinn Emanuel, also said he had spoken to several investors concerned about potential losses.

“It is fair to say that economic work suggests there are certain days when [the five banks] are not only tipping their clients off, but also colluding with one another,” he said.

Matt Johnson, head of distribution at ETF Securities, one of the largest providers of exchange traded products, said that if gold price collusion is proven, “investors in products with an expiry price based around the fixing could have been badly impacted”.

Gregory Asciolla, a partner at Labaton Sucharow, a US law firm, added: “There are certainly good reasons for investors to be concerned. They are paying close attention to this and if the investigations go somewhere, it would not surprise me if there were lawsuits filed around the world.”

All five banks declined to comment on the findings, which come amid growing regulatory scrutiny of gold and precious metal benchmarks.

BaFin, the German regulator, has launched an investigation into gold-price manipulation and demanded documents from Deutsche Bank. The bank last month decided to end its role in gold and silver pricing. The UK’s Financial Conduct Authority is also examining how the price of gold and other precious metals is set as part of a wider probe into benchmark manipulation following findings of wrongdoing with respect to Libor and similar allegations with respect to the foreign exchange market.

The US Commodity Futures Trading Commission has reportedly held private meetings to discuss gold manipulation, but declined to confirm or deny that an investigation was ongoing.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

intellectually strong use pied pipers and digital snipers to herd and control the intellectually weak

firstlook | One of the many pressing stories that remains to be told from the Snowden archive is how western intelligence agencies are attempting to manipulate and control online discourse with extreme tactics of deception and reputation-destruction. It’s time to tell a chunk of that story, complete with the relevant documents.

Over the last several weeks, I worked with NBC News to publish a series of articles about “dirty trick” tactics used by GCHQ’s previously secret unit, JTRIG (Joint Threat Research Intelligence Group). These were based on four classified GCHQ documents presented to the NSA and the other three partners in the English-speaking “Five Eyes” alliance. Today, we at the Intercept are publishing another new JTRIG document, in full, entitled “The Art of Deception: Training for Online Covert Operations.”

By publishing these stories one by one, our NBC reporting highlighted some of the key, discrete revelations: the monitoring of YouTube and Blogger, the targeting of Anonymous with the very same DDoS attacks they accuse “hacktivists” of using, the use of “honey traps” (luring people into compromising situations using sex) and destructive viruses. But, here, I want to focus and elaborate on the overarching point revealed by all of these documents: namely, that these agencies are attempting to control, infiltrate, manipulate, and warp online discourse, and in doing so, are compromising the integrity of the internet itself.

Among the core self-identified purposes of JTRIG are two tactics: (1) to inject all sorts of false material onto the internet in order to destroy the reputation of its targets; and (2) to use social sciences and other techniques to manipulate online discourse and activism to generate outcomes it considers desirable. To see how extremist these programs are, just consider the tactics they boast of using to achieve those ends: “false flag operations” (posting material to the internet and falsely attributing it to someone else), fake victim blog posts (pretending to be a victim of the individual whose reputation they want to destroy), and posting “negative information” on various forums. Here is one illustrative list of tactics from the latest GCHQ document we’re publishing today:

intellectually strong people will grow stronger and have no need for intellectually weak people...,

declineofscarcity | Now, it is worth noting that the “end of work” scenario is not a foregone conclusion. Here are two potential defeaters to this outcome:
  1. Human capabilities are not necessarily fixed. One byproduct of future technologies might be a redefinition of what it is to be human. If we begin to “upgrade” humans, whether through genetics or brain-computer interfaces or some other means, many technological unemployment concerns could become irrelevant. Upgradeable humans could solve both the retraining problem (just download a new skill set to your brain, matrix-style) and the issue of inelastic demand (super-humans might develop brand new classes of needs).
  2. A wide range of intangible goods—such as attention, experiences, potential, belonging, and status—might remain scarce indefinitely and continue to drive a market for human labor, even after the androids have arrived. Although it’s hard to imagine a market in such goods replacing our current manufacturing and service economy, it must have been equally hard for pre-industrial people working on farms to imagine the economy of today. Thus we may simply be lacking imagination when it comes to envisioning the jobs of the future. (For a more detailed discussion of this topic see episode 10 of the Review the Future podcast.)
Despite these defeaters, we definitely think the technological unemployment scenario is worth thinking about. First of all, the issue of timing is paramount, and at present it seems like we have a good chance of automating away many jobs long before we figure out how to upgrade human minds or develop brand new uses for human labor. Second, it won’t take anything close to full unemployment to create problems for our system. Even a twenty percent unemployment rate, (or an equivalent drop in Labor Force Participation) for example, might be enough to trigger a consumer collapse or at least great suffering and social unrest among lower classes.

Final Thought
Wage labor is a means to an end, not an end in itself. While the Second Machine Age paints a clear picture of some of the potential problems facing our economy, it fails to fully take to heart this fundamental distinction.

shock the monkey

NYTimes |  For some modern soldiers, caffeine is just not enough to stay vigilant, especially for the growing ranks of digital warriors who must spend hours monitoring spy drone footage and other streams of surveillance data.

So the Pentagon is exploring a novel way to extend troops’ attention spans and sharpen their reaction times: stimulate the brain with low levels of electricity.

It sounds like science fiction, but commanders in search of more effective tools than the ubiquitous cups of coffee and energy drinks are testing medical treatments designed to treat such brain disorders as depression to determine whether they can also improve the attentiveness of sleepdeprived but otherwise healthy troops.

Early experiments using “noninvasive” brain stimulation have been performed on several dozen volunteers at the Air Force Research Laboratory at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio. The results show the technique improves both alertness and acuity, researchers say. 

“We found that people who receive the stimulation are performing consistently,” R. Andy McKinley, a biomedical engineer who oversees the research, said in an interview.

Project officials want to study the effects further — especially to determine whether it is safe to stimulate the brain regularly — but said there have been few side effects, such as some skin irritation from the electrodes, as well as mild but brief headaches. They expressed confidence that the work could ultimately result in a pair of easy-to-apply electrodes becoming standard issue for some military personnel.

But the hardware is unlikely to be standard issue for civilians any time soon. For now, researchers don’t envision non-military application for the high-tech caffeine high.

The research grew out of a recognition that while computers have automated many military functions, humans are needed in ever-larger numbers to monitor massive amounts of information in order to make crucial battlefield decisions.

“It used to be the people who would win the arm wrestling match would win the war,” said Alan Shaffer, the acting assistant secretary of defense for research and engineering. “In the future it is going to be who can process information most quickly and react to that. If you can’t make sense of all the information coming in around you and get to a decision it has little value.”

intellectually strong people have always tended to take advantage of intellectually weak people...,

triblive |  The United Auto Workers has been dealt a stinging defeat, with a majority of employees at a Volkswagen plant in Tennessee voting against joining the union. 

The failure of the UAW underscores a cultural disconnect between a labor-friendly German company and anti-union sentiment in the South. 

The multiyear effort to organize Volkswagen's only American plant was defeated on a 712-626 vote on Friday night amid heavy campaigning on both sides. 

Workers voting against the union said that while they remain open to forming a German-style “works council” at the plant, they were unwilling to risk the Volkswagen factory that opened to great fanfare on the site of a former Army ammunition plant in 2011. 

“Come on, this is Chattanooga, Tennessee,” said worker Mike Jarvis, who was among the group in the plant that organized to fight the UAW. “It's the greatest thing that's ever happened to us.” 

Jarvis, who hangs doors, trunk lids and hoods on cars, said workers were worried about the union's historical impact on Detroit automakers and the many plants that have closed in the North, he said.
“Look at every company that's went bankrupt or shut down or had an issue,” he said. “What is the one common denominator with all those companies? UAW. We don't need it.” 

Pocketbook issues were on opponents' minds, Jarvis said. Workers were suspicious that Volkswagen and the union might have reached “cost containment” agreements that could have led to a cut in their hourly pay rate to that made by entry-level employees with the Detroit Three automakers, he said.
The concern, he said, was that the UAW “was going to take the salaries in a backward motion, not in a forward motion,” said Jarvis, who makes about $20 per hour as he approaches his three-year anniversary at the plant. 

Southern Republicans were horrified when Volkswagen announced it was engaging in talks with the UAW last year. Republican Sen. Bob Corker, who has been among the UAW's most vocal critics, said at the time that Volkswagen would become a “laughingstock” in the business world if it welcomed the union to its plant. 

Volkswagen wants to form a works council at the plant to represent blue-collar and salaried workers. But to do so under U.S. law requires the establishment of an independent union. Fist tap Dale.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

speaking of "fuzz"lims and hardcore kayfabe perpetrated against the most vulnerable...,

allaahuakbar | It is my hypothesis that Farrakhan's mission has been:
  •     To be an informant of the FBI until 1978 and cause a split within the organization of NOI.
  •     To lend a hand to the FBI in the murder of Malcolm X.
  •     During the period 1975 to 1978 his job was to prevent Warith Deen Muhammad from taking the NOI towards real Islam.
  •     When his mission against Warith Deen Muhammad failed, his job was to reorganize NOI and make it a barrier in the propagation of Islam in America, particularly in the white population.
  •     To attract anti-U.S. Government elements to a point where they become known, watched and possibility eliminated.
  •     To attract anti-U.S. leaders in the Middle East and Africa to an American “Muslim leader” they can trust and open their hearts to, so that the CIA can obtain reports about their intentions and activities.
  •     To help Zionists and Israel with sympathy world-wide whenever they needed it because whenever Farrakhan opened his mouth about Jews it served the needs of the Zionists, not Islam.
From my observation and analysis I can discern nine colors of Louis Farrakhan, the Chameleon: (The article, FARRAKHAN: THE CHAMELEON was published in THE MESSAGE published from New York in September 1997)

1. In front of all African-American people, including his followers – his speeches are centered around the hate of white people, adoration of black people, praise of Elijah Muhammad and W.D. Fard and his weird philosophies.

2. In front of the people in Africa, when he visits the former colonies of the European powers – his speeches are centered around the condemnation of the West and in praise of African nationalism.

3. In front of Christian audiences – his speeches are centered around the Bible and the message of Jesus with rare corroboration from the Qur'an, if any.

4. In front of all Muslim audiences, which may include some of his followers – his speeches are centered around the unity of Muslims, bridge-building, Islamization of America and the world, with profuse quotations from the Qur'an and some sayings of the Prophet Muhammad (Saw).

5. In front of mixed audiences –  his speeches center around brotherhood in humanity, economic and social justice and some quotations from the Bible and rare mention of a quote or two from the Qur'an.

The above mentioned five colors are on record, available in newspaper archives, magazines, video and audiotapes available from the NOI bookstores. The following four colors are not publicly discernable but available from circumstantial evidence which I have gathered. The reader may call them my theories.

6. I can only imagine him being debriefed by the FBI and/or CIA officials, appearing as a red-blooded patriot and loyal American.

7. I can also imagine him with his cronies and members of his gang's inner circle: all of them laughing together about how successfully they are able to fool the world, divide the loot, exercise power over poor and ignorant people but themselves can live happily ever after.

8. I see him huddled with gullible Jewish leaders in some private environment, trying to convince them that his anti-Jewish and anti-Israel rhetoric is really helping them more than hurting them. In addition, his anti-Jewish rhetoric is designed to open doors in the Arab capitols, which enables him to bring money for himself and his cronies and intelligence for the U.S. government.  African-American people have to be satisfied with his sweet talk.

9. Also, I see him in a huddle with liberal media people trying to convince them that his rhetoric is designed to contain spread of Islam in America and to extract economic, social justice for the blacks and foolish Arab and African dictators.

the modern world owes its very existence to slavery

tomsdispatch | Many in the United States were outraged by the remarks of conservative evangelical preacher Pat Robertson, who blamed Haiti’s catastrophic 2010 earthquake on Haitians for selling their souls to Satan. Bodies were still being pulled from the rubble -- as many as 300,000 died -- when Robertson went on TV and gave his viewing audience a little history lesson: the Haitians had been "under the heel of the French" but they "got together and swore a pact to the devil. They said, 'We will serve you if you will get us free from the French.' True story. And so, the devil said, 'OK, it's a deal.'"

A supremely callous example of right-wing idiocy? Absolutely. Yet in his own kooky way, Robertson was also onto something. Haitians did, in fact, swear a pact with the devil for their freedom. Only Beelzebub arrived smelling not of sulfur, but of Parisian cologne. 

Haitian slaves began to throw off the “heel of the French” in 1791, when they rose up and, after bitter years of fighting, eventually declared themselves free. Their French masters, however, refused to accept Haitian independence. The island, after all, had been an extremely profitable sugar producer, and so Paris offered Haiti a choice: compensate slave owners for lost property -- their slaves (that is, themselves) -- or face its imperial wrath. The fledgling nation was forced to finance this payout with usurious loans from French banks. As late as 1940, 80% of the government budget was still going to service this debt.

In the on-again, off-again debate that has taken place in the United States over the years about paying reparations for slavery, opponents of the idea insist that there is no precedent for such a proposal. But there is. It’s just that what was being paid was reparations-in-reverse, which has a venerable pedigree. After the War of 1812 between Great Britain and the U.S., London reimbursed southern planters more than a million dollars for having encouraged their slaves to run away in wartime. Within the United Kingdom, the British government also paid a small fortune to British slave owners, including the ancestors of Britain’s current Prime Minister, David Cameron, to compensate for abolition (which Adam Hochschild calculated in his 2005 book Bury the Chains to be “an amount equal to roughly 40% of the national budget then, and to about $2.2 billion today”).

Advocates of reparations -- made to the descendants of enslaved peoples, not to their owners -- tend to calculate the amount due based on the negative impact of slavery. They want to redress either unpaid wages during the slave period or injustices that took place after formal abolition (including debt servitude and exclusion from the benefits extended to the white working class by the New Deal). According to one estimate, for instance, 222,505,049 hours of forced labor were performed by slaves between 1619 and 1865, when slavery was ended. Compounded at interest and calculated in today’s currency, this adds up to trillions of dollars.

But back pay is, in reality, the least of it. The modern world owes its very existence to slavery.

what's going on here?

utopiathecollapse |  Seven Dead Bankers, No Questions Asked… What is going on with this apparent epidemic of banker “suicides”?  Is anyone buying this as suicides?  Can so many bankers be so mentally ill that they would all decide to go at the same time?  … Did they sing to government investigators?  Did they talk to missing Wall Street Journal reporter David Bird?  Were they whistleblowers?  Were they negotiating for sentencing?  Were they going to sell out their masters?  … Dead men tell no tales, or do they?

[Ryan Henry Crane, Executive Director Global Program Trading ] was the head at the program trading desk. Meaning he over saw all of the trades and was familiar with all of the software ( trade platforms) that these trades were done in. This job works closely with guess what? That’s right the London desk and who died last week in London? That’s right Gabriel Magee the one who jumped off the 33rd floor. What was his post? Head of IT and trade platforms meaning he had access to info that Ryan Henry Cross would have. They knew each other and uncovered something they were about the same age and these hits happen when two big announcements by JPM. One they are out of commodities and two the wholesale selling of their HQ downtown.

Monday, February 24, 2014

america's temple of pseudoscience

dailybeast | Americans get riled up about creationists and climate change deniers, but lap up the quasi-religious snake oil at Whole Foods. It’s all pseudoscience—so why are some kinds of pseudoscience more equal than others?

If you want to write about spiritually-motivated pseudoscience in America, you head to the Creation Museum in Kentucky. It’s like a Law of Journalism. The museum has inspired hundreds of book chapters and articles (some of them, admittedly, mine) since it opened up in 2007. The place is like media magnet. And our nation’s liberal, coastal journalists are so many piles of iron fillings.
But you don’t have to schlep all the way to Kentucky in order to visit America’s greatest shrine to pseudoscience. In fact, that shrine is a 15-minute trip away from most American urbanites.

I’m talking, of course, about Whole Foods Market. From the probiotics aisle to the vaguely ridiculous Organic Integrity outreach effort (more on that later), Whole Foods has all the ingredients necessary to give Richard Dawkins nightmares. And if you want a sense of how weird, and how fraught, the relationship between science, politics, and commerce is in our modern world, then there’s really no better place to go. Because anti-science isn’t just a religious, conservative phenomenon—and the way in which it crosses cultural lines can tell us a lot about why places like the Creation Museum inspire so much rage, while places like Whole Foods don’t.

My own local Whole Foods is just a block away from the campus of Duke University. Like almost everything else near downtown Durham, N.C., it’s visited by a predominantly liberal clientele that skews academic, with more science PhDs per capita than a Mensa convention.

Still, there’s a lot in your average Whole Foods that’s resolutely pseudoscientific. The homeopathy section has plenty of Latin words and mathematical terms, but many of its remedies are so diluted that, statistically speaking, they may not contain a single molecule of the substance they purport to deliver. The book section—yep, Whole Foods sells books—boasts many M.D.’s among its authors, along with titles like The Coconut Oil Miracle and Herbal Medicine, Healing, and Cancer, which was written by a theologian and based on what the author calls the Eclectic Triphasic Medical System.

correlation, causation, contagion...,

vice | It's happening in Ukraine, Venezuela, Thailand, Bosnia, Syria, and beyond. Revolutions, unrest, and riots are sweeping the globe. The near-simultaneous eruption of violent protest can seem random and chaotic; inevitable symptoms of an unstable world. But there's at least one common thread between the disparate nations, cultures, and people in conflict, one element that has demonstrably proven to make these uprisings more likely: high global food prices. 

Just over a year ago, complex systems theorists at the New England Complex Systems Institute warned us that if food prices continued to climb, so too would the likelihood that there would be riots across the globe. Sure enough, we're seeing them now. The paper's author, Yaneer Bar-Yam, charted the rise in the FAO food price index—a measure the UN uses to map the cost of food over time—and found that whenever it rose above 210, riots broke out worldwide. It happened in 2008 after the economic collapse, and again in 2011, when a Tunisian street vendor who could no longer feed his family set himself on fire in protest. 

Bar-Yam built a model with the data, which then predicted that something like the Arab Spring would ensue just weeks before it did. Four days before Mohammed Bouazizi's self-immolation helped ignite the revolution that would spread across the region, NECSI submitted a government report that highlighted the risk that rising food prices posed to global stability. Now, the model has once again proven prescient—2013 saw the third-highest food prices on record, and that's when the seeds for the conflicts across the world were sewn.

"I have a long list of the countries that have had major social unrest in the past 18 months consistent with our projections," Bar-Yam tells me. "The food prices are surely a major contributor---our analysis says that 210 on the FAO index is the boiling point and we have been hovering there for the past 18 months."

There are certainly many other factors fueling mass protests, but hunger—or the desperation caused by its looming specter—is often the tipping point. Sometimes, it's clearly implicated: In Venezuela—where students have taken to the streets and protests have left citizens dead—food prices are at a staggering 18-year high.

"In some of the cases the link is more explicit, in others, given that we are at the boiling point, anything will trigger unrest. At the boiling point, the impact depends on local conditions," Bar-Yam says. But a high price of food worldwide can effect countries that aren't feeling the pinch as much. "In addition, there is a contagion effect: given widespread social unrest that is promoted by high food prices, examples from one country drive unrest in others."

Sunday, February 23, 2014

the commons

The law locks up the man or woman Who steals the goose from off the common
But leaves the greater villain loose Who steals the common from off the goose.
The law demands that we atone When we take things we do not own
But leaves the lords and ladies Alone Who take things that are yours and mine.
The poor and wretched don’t escapeIf they conspire the law to break;
This must be so but they endure Those who conspire to make the law.
The law locks up the man or woman Who steals the goose from off the common
And geese will still a common lackTill they go and steal it back.
This folk poem (a common in itself) dates to seven-teenth century England and was a protest directed at the privatisation of common land on a nation-wide scale known as the Enclosure Movement.

scribd | Freerange Vol.7 is being edited by Jessie Moss, Joe Cederwall and Tim Gregory.

This edition will aim to explore the issue of “The Commons” from many different angles, perspectives, disciplines and media. The concept of ‘the commons’ has particular relevance in light of the multiple crises we face for the environmental, financial and social future of our planet. We want this edition to be an exploration of how the commons are actually being utilised and engaged by communities in reality in today’s transforming society. We want to get down to the nitty gritty of the concept and look at workable commons models both past and future. It will be a celebration and exploration of this transformative vision as applied in practice all around us.

A succinct definition of ‘the commons’ is elusive, but the following is as good an attempt as any by commons academic David Bollier:
‘The commons is….
  • A social system for the long-term stewardship of resources that preserves shared values and community identity.
  • A self-organized system by which communities manage resources (both depletable and and replenishable) with minimal or no reliance on the Market or State.
  • The wealth that we inherit or create together and must pass on, undiminished or enhanced, to our children.  Our collective wealth includes the gifts of nature, civic infrastructure, cultural works and traditions, and knowledge.
  • A sector of the economy (and life!) that generates value in ways that are often taken for granted – and often jeopardized by the Market-State.’Full article
The concept is very broad and has relevance to topics as diverse as Architecture and design / Art and culture / Intellectual property / The open internet / Community control / Sustainability and environment / Resilience / Politics / Gender / History / Town planning / History / Architecture / Anthropology / Sociology & Psychology / Intellectual property / Indigenous culture / The local food movement / Academia / Science.

We are happy to work with contributors to find or refine a topic to suit the overall blend.

Further suggested reading for inspiration:

your ancestors your fate...,

NYTimes |  Inequality of income and wealth has risen in America since the 1970s, yet a large-scale research study recently found that social mobility hadn’t changed much during that time. How can that be?

The study, by researchers at Harvard and Berkeley, tells only part of the story. It may be true that mobility hasn’t slowed — but, more to the point, mobility has always been slow. 

When you look across centuries, and at social status broadly measured — not just income and wealth, but also occupation, education and longevity — social mobility is much slower than many of us believe, or want to believe. This is true in Sweden, a social welfare state; England, where industrial capitalism was born; the United States, one of the most heterogeneous societies in history; and India, a fairly new democracy hobbled by the legacy of caste. Capitalism has not led to pervasive, rapid mobility. Nor have democratization, mass public education, the decline of nepotism, redistributive taxation, the emancipation of women, or even, as in China, socialist revolution. 

To a striking extent, your overall life chances can be predicted not just from your parents’ status but also from your great-great-great-grandparents’. The recent study suggests that 10 percent of variation in income can be predicted based on your parents’ earnings. In contrast, my colleagues and I estimate that 50 to 60 percent of variation in overall status is determined by your lineage. The fortunes of high-status families inexorably fall, and those of low-status families rise, toward the average — what social scientists call “regression to the mean” — but the process can take 10 to 15 generations (300 to 450 years), much longer than most social scientists have estimated in the past.

We came to these conclusions after examining reams of data on surnames, a surprisingly strong indicator of social status, in eight countries — Chile, China, England, India, Japan, South Korea, Sweden and the United States — going back centuries. Across all of them, rare or distinctive surnames associated with elite families many generations ago are still disproportionately represented among today’s elites.

Does this imply that individuals have no control over their life outcomes? No. In modern meritocratic societies, success still depends on individual effort. Our findings suggest, however, that the compulsion to strive, the talent to prosper and the ability to overcome failure are strongly inherited. We can’t know for certain what the mechanism of that inheritance is, though we know that genetics plays a surprisingly strong role. Alternative explanations that are in vogue — cultural traits, family economic resources, social networks — don’t hold up to scrutiny.

Because our findings run against the intuition that modernity, and in particular capitalism, has eroded the impact of ancestry on a person’s life chances, I need to explain how we arrived at them.

the united states of poverty and inequality

From 1979 to 2011, the average income of the bottom 99 percent of U.S. taxpayers grew by 18.9 percent, while the average income of the top 1 percent grew over 10 times as much—by 200.5 percent.

commondreams |  Over the last three decades the wealth of the nation's very richest 1% has grown ten times that of the average worker and over that time period that same tiny elite has captured more than half of the entire income increases, leaving the bottom 99% to divide the remaining gains.

This is all based on a new state-level study, The Increasingly Unequal States of America: Income Inequality by State, which looks at how inequality has seized hold of the national economy both in the generation leading up to the great recession of 2008 and in the several years following where a so-called "recovery" was experienced by the financial elite while the majority of U.S. population continues to claw its way back.

“The levels of inequality we are seeing across the country provide more proof that the economy is not working for the vast majority of Americans and has not for decades,” said Mark Price, an economist at the Keystone Research Center, who co-authored the report on behalf of the Economic Analysis and Research Network (EARN). “It is unconscionable that most of America’s families have shared in so little of the country’s prosperity over the last several decades.”

Check out the interactive state-by-state map on inequality generated by the study's authors.
Numerous studies in recent years have exposed the persistent pattern of income and wealth inequality in the United States, but as Price's co-author Estelle Sommeiller explains, “our study shows that this one percent economy is not just a national story but is evident in every state, and every region.”

Saturday, February 22, 2014

i had no idea this is going on...,

theatlantic | Julie, an immaculately made-up woman, sits down in front of a camera. She has thick, voluminous hair that frames the high cheekbones of her conspicuously crease-free face. Her elegant, arched eyebrows and extra-long eyelashes act as a counterbalance to her plump, painted lips. She looks out of frame, as if admiring herself in a mirror, before giggling and batting her eyelids.

“Oh dear,” she purrs, tilting her head from side to side. “Another long day in a wig and a girdle.”
She reaches up and emits a light moan as she unclips her gold earrings and gently sets them aside, one by one. She considers her image a few moments longer, then places her hands just below her ears and begins to pull her blemish-free skin off and away from her jawline. It’s only now that we realize it’s not human skin, but rather a mask made of soft, flesh-like silicone rubber.

Julie is one of the most visible faces of female masking, a specific subset of cross-dressing men who wear masks, and occasionally skin-tone bodysuits, to make them look more like biological women. The videos that she uploads to YouTube have received hundreds of thousands of views, attracting both fans and detractors.

Julie is but one of scores of maskers around the globe; the most popular masking website, Dolls Pride, has almost 10,000 active members. But, until now, the subculture has remained relatively unknown outside the tight-knit community. Even the nation’s foremost experts on sexuality haven’t heard of masking (though it’s worth noting that the practice isn’t always sexually motivated).

“I just checked with Dr. Kaplan and neither one of us have heard this term before,” said Dr. Richard Krueger, who, with Dr. Meg Kaplan, heads up the Sexual Behavior Clinic at the New York State Psychiatric Institute.

pajamas in public?

dispatch |  I saw one at the airport on Monday and then another in the elevator on Wednesday. I see them on the street, at coffee shops around town, often at the grocery. Now Obamacare supporters have adopted one as the face of their new public-relations campaign.

I’m speaking of adults of both sexes and all ages — though the style seems to be most popular among those under 30 — who can’t be bothered to change out of their pajamas when they go out in public. The latest entry into the fashion craze is Pajama Boy, the now infamous, plaid-clad twerp pushing Obamacare on Twitter. At least Pajama Boy is dressed in his onesie only in cyberspace, not sitting on an airplane at four o’clock in the afternoon.

I don’t know what irritates me most about this phenomenon. Is it the lack of simple decorum? Or is it the infantilization of our popular culture?

The first time I saw a young woman wearing PJs in public, I assumed she was mentally ill or homeless, or both. The flimsy cotton bottoms looked like they’d been lifted from the local hospital and were held up by a tattered drawstring. But she had enough money to order a venti Frappuccino at Starbucks and sit sipping it in her T-shirt and pajama bottoms at a suburban mall. That was a few years ago, and since then the trend seems to have accelerated.

What exactly are these sartorially challenged young people saying? For one, “I make my own rules.”
Granted, it is only convention that says we wear one type of clothing for one purpose — sleeping, lounging around before we go to bed — and another for a different purpose — shopping, traveling across country, going to the office. But convention matters.

Humans make rules that govern behavior. (Actually, all species do; ours are simply more numerous and elaborate.) Without those rules, we’d have not only anarchy, but shorter, less pleasant, more dangerous lives.

not giving a f**k IS the point...,

slate |  Leggings are practical. BuzzFeed would have you believe that a legging should be hidden from public view. But the greatest barriers to lower-body freedom are those we have erected in our own minds. Once we accept that leggings are ideal for lounging at home alone, it becomes more and more difficult to justify hiding this feeling from the wider world. You can wear leggings on a train. On a plane. In a house. With a mouse. At the gym, or in front of the 7-Eleven novelty ice cream freezer. Wear them while pregnant with a human baby, or stuffed with a food baby. Just wear them outdoors in the hope that one day, our daughters, and our daughters’ daughters, will be free to live in comfort without shame.

Leggings are not fashionable. In typical BuzzFeed fashion, Odell has presented her argument in the form of a cursory Google image search: Two dozen photos of people looking dumb in leggings. (Did you really need to put pants on for that, Odell?) Point taken: Leggings are not fashionable. They’re like sweatpants for people who care even less. And you know who doesn’t care? Cool people. Do you think this lady wearing a pair of “Bodies: The Exhibition” leggings while standing in line at some soulless bureaucratic office cares that her butt doesn't look "good"? Wake up, sheeple! Not giving a fuck is the point of leggings.

the name says it all...,

slate |  First BuzzFeed came for our leggings. Now they’re back for our tights. On Thursday staff writer Diana Bruk fabricated a list of 21 reasons tights are “the most evil form of clothing.” It is stuffed with lies and weird metaphysical claims about how tights constrict our souls along with our bodies. It details a completely imaginary progression of tights-wearing, whereby the tights first “terrorize your legs with itchiness,” then pinch your bladder, then suffocate your internal organs, then snag, then decimate your circulation, then—in the course of their removal—tear off shreds of your life force. I have no idea what kind of demonic stockings Bruk is dealing with, but clearly her piece belongs more in the genre of paranormal phenomena journalism than fashion writing. For the rest of us, wearing tights goes something like this:
1. Pull on tights
2. Oh hey, my legs look really good
3. Pull off tights
The end! There are perhaps some variations (2.5: Tights rip. Cool, now I’m wearing ripped tights and look like Rihanna) and footnotes (it’s true that unpeeling tights feels vividly great). But the process of donning silky legwear that conforms to the unique shape of your thighs and calves is neither as complicated nor as psychologically demeaning nor as physically harrowing as BuzzFeed makes it out to be.