May 24, 2015

The killer in my classroom

Steven Singer, Gadfly on the Wall - A parade of faces. No names. Words are all lost in the haze of time.

But the faces remain.

Kids I’ve taught and wondered about.

What ever happened to Jason? Did Rayvin ever get into dance school? I wonder if the army took Tyler…

But there’s one face that always comes last.

A strong straight lip. Soft nose. Brooding eyes.

Terance… Terrell… TYRELL.

Yes. That’s his name.

One of my first students. One of my biggest failures.

And I don’t have to wonder what happened to him. I know with a dread of certainty.

He never got to play professional basketball like he wanted. He never even made it out of high school.

No, not dead – though I do have I gaggle of ghosts on my class roster.

He’s a murderer. Life in prison.

I was his 8th grade language arts teacher. It was my first year teaching in the district.


Links; War & peace

War Department
Torture Veterans
War on terror: Misnamed, misfought, misthought
Behind the Paris killings
Backing off of hate
The good thing about war
Essays on war
Mission creep: the militarizing of America
Spooks & spies
All war all the time
The biggest threast to us: ourselves
Why is the military sacred?
A speech CSPAN didn't like
American Friends Service Committee
War is a Crime
World Beyond War
Daniel Ellsberg
Tim Shorrock
Spy Talk
Guide to how we helped create ISIS & other terror groups


Here's to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently. They're not fond of rules, and they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify, or vilify them. About the only thing you can't do is ignore them because they change things. They push the human race forward. And while some may see them as crazy, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do. - Jack Kerouac, letter to Ed White, 1950

May 23, 2015

Rand Paul compared national healthcare to slavery

Rand Paul, 2011 - With regard to the idea of whether you have a right to health care, you have realize what that implies. It’s not an abstraction. I’m a physician. That means you have a right to come to my house and conscript me. It means you believe in slavery. It means that you’re going to enslave not only me, but the janitor at my hospital, the person who cleans my office, the assistants who work in my office, the nurses.

Basically, once you imply a belief in a right to someone’s services — do you have a right to plumbing? Do you have a right to water? Do you have right to food? — you’re basically saying you believe in slavery.

I’m a physician in your community and you say you have a right to health care. You have a right to beat down my door with the police, escort me away and force me to take care of you? That’s ultimately what the right to free health care would be.

Dublin today

Embedded image permalink 


Des Wilson - The Church of England has decided that bishops can have civil partnerships provided they do not actually have sex together.

I propose:
l) people can go to restaurants - but only if they do not eat

2) people can get in to swimming pools provided they don't get wet

3) people can go to church provided they don't listen to a word they're told.

Another banker found dead

There have been scores of bankers who have committed suicide or found dead under uncertain circumstances in the last few years. Here's the latest:

Bloomberg -  Murray Abbott, an institutional sales trader at Morgan Stanley in Toronto who had been missing since April 25, was found Monday by the shore of Lake Ontario near the city’s Beaches neighborhood where he lived. He was 36.

His death wasn’t suspicious, Mark Pugash, a Toronto Police Service spokesman, said Tuesday in a telephone interview. “It was obviously a very tragic missing person’s case.”

Ireland approves same sex marriage

CNN - Ireland became the first country in the world to legalize same-sex marriage through a popular vote on Saturday... With votes tallied from nearly all of Ireland's 43 parliamentary constituencies, the measure will sail through with more than 60% of voters approving, according to official results...More than 1.8 million Irish voters participated in the election, about 60% percent of the total electorate in the majority Catholic nation.

How TPP could affect freedom of speech

Hundreds of tech companies and digital rights groups havesigned a letter to Congress that outlines some of the freedom of speech issues in TPP. Excerpt:

Threats to Fair Use: The TPP contains language that could prevent countries from expanding exceptions and limitations to copyright. The Fast Track Bill also contains nothing to promote balance in copyright law. This is despite how much value fair use has added to the U.S. economy and could add for investors in the growing economies of our trading partners.

Expensive and Harmful Costs of Online Enforcement: U.S. law incentivizes online content providers to take down content over a mere allegation of infringement. The TPP will likely emulate these rules, continuing to make it expensive and onerous for startups and small companies to oversee users’ activities and process each take down notice.

Criminalizing Journalism and Whistleblowing: TPP’s trade secrets provisions could make it a crime for people to reveal corporate wrongdoing "through a computer system.” The language is dangerously vague, and enables signatory countries to enact rules that would ban reporting on timely, critical issues affecting the public.

•State Courts Jeopardize User Protections: The TPP Investment Chapter contains text that would enable corporations to sue nations over democratic rules that allegedly harm expected future profits. Companies can use this process to undermine U.S. rules like fair use, net neutrality, and others designed to protect the free, open Internet and users' rights to free expression o

Kansas rips off poor people's money for banks

Vox - Kansas Republicans have put forward a new policy initiative that's almost shocking in its clear intent to harm the interests of poor people. The provision, which takes effect July 1, will ban welfare recipients from taking out more than $25 in benefits a day from an ATM.

...As the Washington Post's Max Ehrenfreund explains, this places a massive burden on recipient families. For one thing, it's a de facto benefit cut. As of last July, a single parent family of three in Kansas with no other earnings received $429 a month from Temporary Assistance for Needy Families according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. Most ATMs don't stock $5 bills, so the Kansas rule effectively limits withdrawals to $20.

Taking out that money isn't free. Many banks charge substantial fees for withdrawals from Electronic Benefit Transfer accounts to which TANF money is distributed. I called Intrust Bank in Wichita, which says it charges $2 per EBT transaction. Emprise Bank says it charges $1.50. In addition to that, Kansas itself charges $1 per ATM withdrawal. So taking the cheaper option, withdrawing $420 from Emprise under the new rules would mean $52.50 in fees. Effectively you'd be limited to taking out $380 a month if you didn't want to go over your monthly allowance, fees inclusive.

The renaissance of student activism

The Atlantic

Thought for today

Adam and Eve had belly buttons in all their depictions - So Bad So Good

Motocycle gangs ties to military, FBI, Homeland Security revealed

Nuclear power plant technicians, senior military officers, FBI contractors and an employee of “a highly-secretive Department of Defense agency” with a Top Secret clearance. Those are just a few of the more than 100 people with sensitive military and government connections that law enforcement is tracking because they are linked to “outlaw motorcycle gangs.”

Intercept -  A year before the deadly Texas shootout that killed nine people on May 17, a lengthy report by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives detailed the involvement of U.S. military personnel and government employees in outlaw motorcycle gangs, or OMGs. A copy of the report was obtained by The Intercept.

The report lays out, in almost obsessive detail, the extent to which OMG members are represented in nearly every part of the military, and in federal and local government, from police and fire departments to state utility agencies. Specific examples from the report include dozens of Defense Department contractors with Secret or Top Secret clearances; multiple FBI contractors; radiological technicians with security clearances; U.S. Department of Homeland Security employees; Army, Navy and Air Force active-duty personnel, including from the special operations force community; and police officers.

Links: Transportation

Transportation news Bike news


The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore, all progress depends on the unreasonable man -- GB Shaw

How the Me Generation approaches major foreign policy matters

"Look, 20 years from now, I'm still going to be around, God willing. If Iran has a nuclear weapon, it's my name on this. I think it's fair to say that in addition to our profound national-security interests, I have a personal interest in locking this down." - Barack Obama

The old alchemical dream was changing base metals into gold. The new alchemical dream is: changing one’s personality—remaking, remodeling, elevating, and polishing one’s very self . . . and observing, studying, and doting on it.- Tom Wolfe

Notes from the liberal intensive care unit

Listening to panelists on the Steve Kornaki show making snide comments about Bernie Sanders was a helpful reminder of why liberalism is still in the intensive care unit. One panelist suggested that Sanders' supporters didn't really know where he stood on issues, implying that the senator had bizarre positions. In fact, Sanders would have been part of the liberal mainstream during either the New Deal or the Great Society, the last times liberals got anything significant done.

Because liberals today prefer demographic correctness - support a black or woman regardless of their position - over political perception the ability to even understand a Bernie Sanders is incapacitated for many. Regardless of whether you support him for the White House, he is a tiny island of political sanity on Capitol Hill. 

May 22, 2015

Towards better policing

An ACLU manual for dealing with police abuse in your community

How health insurance is getting worse


It takes a village to write a Hillary Clinton speech or book

Hillary Clinton initially pretended that she wrote It Takes a Village herself. Eventually it came out that this wasn't true and that she had paid a writer $120,000 to do the job. In the interest of further transparency shouldn't the Clintons reveal the ghostwriters or their multi-million dollar collection of speeches, and how much these writers were paid?

Things that happened to Barbara Feinman after
becoming ghostwriter for "It Takes a Village"

-- She got no acknowledgement in the book by HR Clinton, contrary to what was stipulated in the contract
-- A reporter asked her how much she had written and she replied, "All I can say is they didn't pay me $120,000 to spell-check it."
-- The White House spread rumors that Feinman had been fired.
-- Simon & Schuster refused to pay the last $30,000 of her fee. Asked why, Feinman was told that the White House didn't want her paid.
-- Feinman is still getting Christmas cards from the White House
-- The cards always spell her name wrong.

[Reported by William Triplett in Capital Style]

Wikipedia - The majority of [It Takes a Village] was reportedly written by ghostwriter Barbara Feinman. When the book was first announced in April 1995, The New York Times reported publisher Simon & Schuster as saying "The book will actually be written by Barbara Feinman, a journalism professor at Georgetown University in Washington. Ms. Feinman will conduct a series of interviews with Mrs. Clinton, who will help edit the resulting text."

Feinman spent seven months on the project and was paid $120,000 for her work. Feinman, however, was not mentioned anywhere in the book. Clinton's acknowledgment section began: "It takes a village to bring a book into the world, as everyone who has written one knows. Many people have helped me to complete this one, sometimes without even knowing it. They are so numerous that I will not even attempt to acknowledge them individually, for fear that I might leave one out."

During her promotional tour for the book, Clinton said, "I actually wrote the book ... I had to write my own book because I want to stand by every word." Clinton stated that Feinman assisted in interviews and did some editorial drafting of "connecting paragraphs," while Clinton herself wrote the final manuscript in longhand.

In 2001, The Wall Street Journal reported that "New York literary circles are buzzing with vitriol over Sen. Clinton's refusal, so far, to share credit with any writer who helps on her book." Later, in a 2002 article for The Writer's Chronicle, Barbara Feinman Todd (now using her married name) related that the project with Clinton had gone smoothly, producing drafts in a round-robin style. Feinman agrees that Clinton was involved with the project, but also states that, "Like any first lady, Mrs. Clinton had an extremely hectic schedule and writing a book without assistance would have been logistically impossible." Feinman reiterates that her only objection to the whole process was the lack of any acknowledgement

Greg Estervbrook, ESPN - Once again, Clinton is presented as the author of what is actually a ghosted book. . . This time around, the pages of "Living History" thank three people -- the much-admired former White House speech writer Alison Muscatine, veteran ghost Maryanne Vollers and researcher Ruby Shamir -- who are assumed to be the actual authors. But the cover and the frontispiece still boldly state, "by Hillary Rodham Clinton."

"Living History" is a 562-page book. A work of that length would take an average writer perhaps four years to produce; a highly proficient writer might finish in two years, if working on nothing else. Clinton signed the contract to "write" the book about two years ago. About the same time, she also was sworn in as a member of the United States Senate. Clinton took an oath to protect the Constitution and to serve the citizens of New York. So in the last two years Clinton has either been neglecting her duties as a United States Senator - that is, violating her oath -- in order to be the true author of "Living History," or she is claiming authorship of someone else's work. . .

Perhaps you're thinking, "But all people who reach the limelight lie about being authors." No, they don't. Consider that the previous book project of Maryanne Vollers, one of Hillary's ghosts, was about Jerri Nielsen, the doctor who had to be airlifted out of Antarctica. How was that book presented? As "Ice Bound: A Doctor's Incredible Battle for Survival at the South Pole" by Jerri Nielsen with Maryanne Vollers. No lying about the true author.

Consider that John McCain's autobiographical work, "Faith of My Fathers," proclaims on its cover "by Mark Salter, with John McCain." The true author's name is there for everyone to see, and this neither detracts from sales ("Faith of My Fathers" was a commercial success) nor causes anyone to think any less of McCain. Famous people who care about their honor, like McCain, freely acknowledge using ghostwriters -- this is called "honesty." Famous people with serious ego problems, or who don't care about their honor, lie about being authors.

Now suppose you were a college student, hired someone to write a thesis paper for you, then submitted the work as your own. Suppose, when caught, rather than confess, you indignantly insisted you were the true author. What would happen to you is that you'd be expelled. For you to lie about having written something would be considered inexcusable

America’s biggest criminals

JP Morgan and Citibank
Major drug dealers and their pals

Sam Smith - Although lawyers would have you believe that you aren’t a criminal unless you violate a law that subjects you to criminal punishment, lawyers aren’t in charge of our words and their meanings. If we turn instead to the Merriam Webster Dictionary we find that crimes are more generally defined:

·       An illegal act for which someone can be punished by the government
·       Activity that is against the law: illegal acts in general
·       An act or the commission of an act that is forbidden or the omission of a duty that is commanded by a public law and that makes the offender liable to punishment by that law
·       A grave offense especially against morality

By such a definition, a president who is impeached has actually been charged with a criminal offense even though the penalty only includes having to leave office. And by such a definition, the aforementioned offenders are fairly described as criminals even if most of them, or their employees, won’t likely ever go to prison. JP Morgan and Citibank clearly engaged in criminal activities that resulted in the $5 billion settlement that involved three European banks as well.

Only a few nonviolent criminals in American history such as Bernie Madoff – responsible for losses of around $18 billion - have committed crimes this large.

And checking a list of the 21 known richest drug dealers there were only two who were American who had been active in the past quarter century and their net worth was less than $200 million each.

Yet it has been estimated that the illegal drug trade is roughly the size of the American pharmaceutical industry. Obviously, the bulk of those at the pinnacle of the drug trade remain free. Meanwhile close to 100,000 minor drug dealers and users are in prison.

Beyond this inequity is the high probability that this would not be the case were it not for police, government officials and politicians helping to protect the major drug dealers. This is an issue never discussed in the mainstream media.  As I have suggested, based on the way the media covers the story, the criminal drug industry must be the most honest in America because it apparenlty never bribes politicians, establishes PACs or lobbies for legislation.

Finally, like presidents who are impeached, the extraordinary criminal actions of agencies like the NSA and CIA remain illegal even if no one goes to prison for them. Torture and unconstitutional spying are illegal no matter what barriers the government creates to conceal the fact.

Just a few things to think about the next time the topic of street crime comes up.

One simple reason there isn't more popular support for infrastructure

One simple reason there isn't more public support for infrastructure is because it's called infrastructure and not - as it was back when it was popular - public works. It's another example of how products of grad schools - lawyers, MBAs, economists - have made government lose touch with its people. If you don't speak United States, how is anyone going to understand you?  

Here, from a pamphlet published by the American Public Works Assn, is how this stuffy term came to dominate our discussion of public works:

American Public Works Assn - The word infrastructure is a French word coined slightly more than 80 years ago to mean “installations that form the basis for a system or operation.” The word was used predominantly in military applications until 1981, then it became popular when Pat Choate and Susan Walter used it in their book, America in Ruins, to discuss an “infrastructure crisis” set off by years of inadequate investment and poor maintenance of public works.

Some people choose to apply the word “infrastructure” to public works to refer to an interdependent system of works beneficial to society. Other people believe that the implied interdependency doesn’t provide enough flexibility to describe all of the varied facets of what they consider to be public works. In public policy discussion, the U.S. National Research Council adopted the term “public works infrastructure” to refer to the system and its individual elements simultaneously. Use of the term “infrastructure” got a boost in 2009 when President Barack Obama included funding for infrastructure projects in his stimulus package and endorsed a National Infrastructure Bank. However, columnist Alex Marshall of the online Governing magazine, registered his preference for the term “public works” in his February 2009 column “because it denotes that these are ‘works’ that we the people do together.” 

France approves law to reduce waste food

Guardian - France’s parliament has pledged to crack down on a national epidemic of food waste by passing a law banning supermarkets destroying unsold food, instead obliging them to give it to charities or put it to other uses such as animal feed. The national assembly voted unanimously in favor of the measure, proposed by the Socialist deputy Guillaume Garot, a former food minister. “It’s scandalous to see bleach being poured into supermarket dustbins along with edible foods,” he said.

TOP of the GOP

From Think Progress

Angered by the Obama administration’s work to protect the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge from oil drilling, Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) said that administration “is willing to negotiate with Iran, but they won’t negotiate with Alaska.”

According to the Salt Lake Tribune: Rep. Ken Ivory, R-West Jordan, said he was told by a terrorism expert that forests are now a terrorist target and argued that the fire risk would be reduced if they were managed by the states instead of the federal government.

Rep. Don Young (R-AK)...  “mocked” 78 members of Congress who asked the Secretary of the Interior to protect gray wolves. Young — who has long fought protections for land and wildlife — claimed that their districts would benefit from releasing wolves in urban areas because “you wouldn’t have a homeless problem anymore.”

Why are pop lyrics so dumb?

Claire Bernish, Antimedia - Ten years ago, the most popular songs read between a third and fourth grade level, but the inanity only increased with time, and after a five-year downward tumble ending in 2014 (the last year of the study), chart-topping hits had a reading level equivalent to second or third grade. Broken into genres, the levels measured just 2.6 for Hip-hop/R&B, a tie of 2.9 for Rock and Pop, and faring best was Country at 3.3 ...

Even further to that point, the most intellectually stimulating song, Blake Shelton’s Country hit “All About Tonight”, measured just 5.8, while wading deeply into the ludicrous was Three Days Grace’s “The Good Life”, at a level equivalent to 0.8 — begging the question, did they have to try to craft lyrics a kindergartner could easily read?

When just six corporations control 90% of the media, and 80% of radio stations have identical playlists, mindless content isn’t a choice — it’s a virtual mandate. In this self-propelled cycle of banality, the conglomerates dictate content to be promoted by radio, which in turn pushes it endlessly, creating a false perception that what is being played is due to listener demand. But this insidious marketing ploy is more akin to kidnapping and is every bit as dangerous.

There is a dearth in music options over the airwaves, so when vacuous lyrics are foisted on listeners, they become captives under duress. It is scientifically proven that flexing the intellect can slow cognitive decline, but there has been a cultural shift away from stimulating thought in favor of homogenization and living for the moment, and empty radio content is both symptom and reinforcement of that trend. Society is focused on entertainment, materialism, and self-promotion, and when coupled with a need for instant gratification, it’s really no wonder we’re in such a sorry state.

A new type of wind turbine


 Grist - Instead of blades that turn in the breeze, the turbine is just a hollow straw that sticks up 40 feet from the ground and vibrates like a guitar string when the wind thrums by...

The result is a turbine that’s 50 percent less expensive than a bladed one, nearly silent, and, as one of the turbine’s engineers put it, “looks like asparagus” And while each Vortex turbine is also 30 percent less efficient at capturing energy, wind farms can double the number of turbines that occupy a given area if they go bladeless.

FBI can't point to any major case aided by unconstitutional Patriot Act

Washington Times - FBI agents can’t point to any major terrorism cases they’ve cracked thanks to the key snooping powers in the Patriot Act, the Justice Department’s inspector general said in a report Thursday that could complicate efforts to keep key parts of the law operating.

Inspector General Michael E. Horowitz said that between 2004 and 2009, the FBI tripled its use of bulk collection under Section 215 of the Patriot Act, which allows government agents to compel businesses to turn over records and documents, and increasingly scooped up records of Americans who had no ties to official terrorism investigations.

Why it's okay to call the TPP fast track fascism

The effort to ram through a secret anti-democratic, anti-constitutional trade bill is another sign of America's silent drift towards fascism. Fascism is not Nazism, but rather a form of government as definable as, say, democracy. Here's how I described it almost a decade ago: 

Sam Smith, 2006 - In the first place, one needs to separate Hitler, Nazism and fascism. Conflating these leads the unwary to assume easily that all three are inevitably characterized by anti-semitism, when in fact only the first two are. By avoiding this distinction we don't have to face the fact that America is closer to fascism than it has ever been in its history.

To understand why, one needs to look not at Hitler but at the founder of fascism, Mussolini. What Mussolini founded was the estato corporativo - the corporative state or corporatism. Writing in Economic Affairs in the mid 1970s, R.E. Pahl and J. T. Winkler described corporatism as a system under which government guides privately owned businesses towards order, unity, nationalism and success. They were quite clear as to what this system amounted to: "Let us not mince words. Corporatism is fascism with a human face. . . An acceptable face of fascism, indeed, a masked version of it, because so far the more repugnant political and social aspects of the German and Italian regimes are absent or only present in diluted forms."

Thus, although the model generally cited in defense of organized capitalism is that of the contemporary Japanese, the most effective original practitioners of a corporative economy were the Italians. Unlike today's Japanese, but like contemporary America, their economy was a war economy.

Adrian Lyttelton, describing the rise of Italian fascism in The Seizure of Power, writes: "A good example of Mussolini's new views is provided by his inaugural speech to the National Exports Institute on 8 July 1926. . . Industry was ordered to form 'a common front' in dealing with foreigners, to avoid 'ruinous competition,' and to eliminate inefficient enterprises. . . The values of competition were to be replaced by those of organization: Italian industry would be reshaped and modernized by the cartel and trust. . .There was a new philosophy here of state intervention for the technical modernization of the economy serving the ultimate political objectives of military strength and self-sufficiency; it was a return to the authoritarian and interventionist war economy."

Lyttelton writes that "fascism can be viewed as a product of the transition from the market capitalism of the independent producer to the organized capitalism of the oligopoly." It was a point that Orwell had noted when he described fascism as being but an extension of capitalism. Lyttelton quoted Nationalist theorist Affredo Rocco: "The Fascist economy is. . . an organized economy. It is organized by the producers themselves, under the supreme direction and control of the State."....

Germany's willingness to accept Hitler was the product of many cultural characteristics specific to that country, to the anger and frustrations in the wake of the World War I defeat, to extraordinary inflation and particular dumb reactions to it, and, of course, to the appeal of anti-Semitism. Still, consideration of the Weimar Republic that preceded Hitler does us no harm. Bearing in mind all the foregoing, there was also:

- A collapse of conventional liberal and conservative politics that bears uncomfortable similarities to what we are now experiencing.

- The gross mismanagement of the economy and of such key worker concerns as wages, inflation, pensions, layoffs, and rising property taxes. Many of the actions were taken in the name of efficiency, an improved economy and the "rationalization of production." There were also bankruptcies, negative trade balance, major decline in national production, large national debt rise compensated for by foreign investment. In other words, a hyped version of what America and its workers are experiencing today.

- The Nazis as the first modern political party. As University of Pennsylvania professor Thomas Childers explains, the Nazis discovered the importance of campaigning not just during campaigns but between elections when the other parties folded their tents. With this "perpetual campaigning" they spread themselves like a virus, considering the public reaction to everything right down to the colors used for posters and rally backgrounds....

- The use of negative campaigning, a contribution to modern politics by Joseph Goebbels. The Nazi campaigns argued what was wrong with their opponents and ignored stating their own policies.

- The Nazis as the inventors of modern political propaganda. Every modern American political campaign and the types of arguments used to support them owes much to the ideas of the Nazis.

- The suddenness of the Nazi rise. The party went from less than 3% of the vote to being the largest party in the country in four years.

- The collapse of the country's self image. Childers points out that Germany had had been a world leader in education, industry, science, and literacy. Much of the madness that we see today stems from attempts to compensate for our battered self-image.

So while many of the behaviors that would come to be associated with Nazis and Hitler - from physical attacks on political opponents to the death camps - seem far removed from our present concerns, there is still much to learn from their history.

We are clearly in a post-constitutional era; the end of the First American Republic. Depending on what day it is we think of its replacement variously - ranging from an adhocracy to proto-fascism. But one does not need to know the end of the story to know that we headed at a rapid pace away from the extraordinary principles of American democracy towards the dark hole of power with impunity, to the sort of world in which, as Rudolph Giuliani has calmly asserted, "freedom is about authority."

If we describe present differences only in contemporary terms then we have nothing to guide us but what happened yesterday...

Article 48 of the constitution of the Weimar Republic stated, "In case public safety is seriously threatened or disturbed, the Reich President may take the measures necessary to reestablish law and order, if necessary using armed force. In the pursuit of this aim, he may suspend the civil rights described in articles 114, 115, 117, 118, 123, 124 and 153, partially or entirely. The Reich President must inform the Reichstag immediately about all measures undertaken . . . The measures must be suspended immediately if the Reichstag so demands."

It was this article that Hitler used to peacefully establish his dictatorship. And why was it so peaceful and easy? Because, according to Childers, the 'democratic" Weimar Republic had already used it 57 times prior to Hitler's ascendancy.

When you add to this the remarkable incompetence of the current regime, the collapse of both traditional liberal and conservative politics, and the economic crises, it feels like a new Weimar Republic setting the stage for awful things we can not at this point even imagine. It may be that history has something to tell us after all.

Kansas proves massive tax cuts don't work

Center on Budget & Policy Priorities - The latest projections from Kansas' nonpartisan Legislative Research Department add to the mounting evidence that Kansas' massive tax cuts won't likely generate an economic surge. Personal incomes will grow more slowly in Kansas than in the nation as a whole this year, next year, and the year after that, the department predicts.

Kansas' Own Projections Show State Lagging Behind US

This isn't what tax-cut proponents predicted. Three years ago this month, when Governor Sam Brownback signed the tax cuts into law, he said they would provide "a shot of adrenaline into the heart of the Kansas economy." Economist Art Laffer, who helped design the tax cuts, said they would provide an "immediate and lasting boost" to the state's economy.

But Kansas job growth has been weak, and the tax cuts have blown a hole in the state budget. Huge revenue losses have forced even more cuts in funding for schools and other building blocks of a strong future economy -- on top of the damage done by the Great Recession -- and persuaded the legislature to debate scaling back a major part of the tax-cut package.

The tax cuts' failure so far shouldn't be a surprise. History suggests that deep cuts in personal income taxes are a poor strategy for economic growth, and the serious academic literature typically finds little relationship between a state's tax levels and its economic performance. So there's no reason to think that the tax cuts will cause Kansas' economy to boom in the future

Special ops leaders want another a couple of decades of failure in the Mid East

Fighting simmering frustration in their ranks over ISIS advances in Iraq and Syria, top U.S. special operations commanders say they are building forces for a multi-generational fight—not a war that will be won in the next few years.

“We talk about it being a 15-year struggle,” Lt. Gen. Bradley Heithold, who heads the Air Force Special Operations Command, said during a special operations forum in Tampa.

They blame the hands-off approach on an Obama administration unwilling to risk even small numbers of American lives in battle, burned by the fallout of the loss of four Americans in Benghazi, Libya, and intent on preserving the legacy of President Barack Obama’s troop draw downs in Iraq and Afghanistan.

... Another former senior special operations officer said this is the normal tension that occurs every few years between America’s political leadership that weighs the public’s reaction to U.S. casualties, and a group of professional risk-takers who want to fight alongside those they’ve trained to fight.

“It’s a generational thing,” said the officer, who said U.S. forces were similarly frustrated when training Nicaraguan forces in the 1980s. “Every few years, there is a place where the U.S. administration won’t let U.S. forces accompany those they’ve trained,” the officer said. “This younger generation has to get over it.”

Links: Seniors

Senior news
Old age
Social Security
No retirement age for rebellion
Thoughts on old age
The real problem with Social Security
Word: Social Security
Why Social Security and Medicare are not going bankrupt
Social Security is massive anti-poverty program
Nat Com on Preserving Social Security and Medicare


Wandering between two worlds, one dead, the other powerless to be born. -- Matthew Arnold

Great thoughts of Chris Chjristie

NY Times - Gov. Chris Christie ridiculed New Jersey’s largest newspaper, The Star Ledger of Newark, suggesting it provided a refuge for “angry drunks.”

He joked about a reporter who was involved in a car accident a few hours earlier, seemingly wishing that the vehicle had contained more of the journalists who cover him.

And he profanely taunted a reporter with a French surname, saying he would not pronounce it correctly — not because it was difficult, but because he could not be bothered.

The annual New Jersey Legislative Correspondents Club Show is always a mischievous affair, full of off-color skits and envelope-pushing humor. But even by the standards of veteran attendees, Mr. Christie’s curse-filled speech Wednesday night was unexpectedly unplugged, unfiltered and uncensored.

Democracy is rowdy

 From our overstocked archives

Sam Smith, 2009 

So Rep. Joe Wilson is a jerk. That's no excuse for his critics to get all prissy about his calling Obama a liar during his congressional speech. After all, now you know Joe Wilson is a jerk.

That's the way it's meant to work, but does less and less, in part because America has become so sanctimonious about proper political behavior and so indifferent to good political policy. One reason is that it's a hell of a lot easier to discuss what Wilson said than what is in the health care legislation. Politicians, the media and the public love these diversions. They're so easy to talk about and make it so easy for others to keep doing the real stuff behind the scenes.

I blame C-SPAN for some of this. I suspect the network is one of the main reasons we now have covert filibusters without the need for anyone to make a fool of themselves for 12 hours on national TV.

But it is also a larger part of our society, a growing emphasis on propriety even as our culture deteriorates. That's not uncommon. Think how stuffy the Brits got before their empire fell apart. The politesse of collapse.

If politics was as pompous and priggish as it is today, I never would have gotten interested in it. It's one of the reason I prefer watching the British parliament to the U.S. Congress; its members haven't given up their humanity just to look better on TV.

And it's not just Britain. Here are some news quotes culled from a number of countries:

The Legislative Assembly in Tonga has accepted apologies from two members before its two week adjournment. The apologies came from Akilisi Pohiva and Etuate Lavulavu for contempt of the house stemming from deliberations over a proposed bill on the rights to protect a person's name for commercial purposes. Mr Lavulavu said the bill followed false accusations that King Taufa'ahau Tupou had 350-million US dollars in his personal possession and the bill was drafted to protect him. Member Uliti Uata responded by saying the king was already protected by Clause 7 of the constitution. Mr Pohiva then picked up a law book and threatened to throw it at Mr Lavulavu over his reasoning for the bill. Mr Lavulavu then challenged him to throw the book so he could then hit Mr Pohiva. The Assembly is now adjourned for two weeks for the annual visits of members to their constituencies."

Parliament descended into high farce today after the word lying was banned in the Lower House. Acting speaker Brenton Best ruled that no member of the Tasmanian Parliament could use the words liar, lie or lying anywhere within the House of Assembly. Twice the parliament went to the vote to test Mr Best's unusual ruling, with the Government using its numbers to defeat the Greens and Liberals who disagreed with the ban. Past practice in parliaments around the world is that while no MP can call another a liar or accuse them of lying, the words are able to be used in general debate. But this afternoon Mr Best ruled that none of the words relating to the act of lying could ever be used in Tasmania's Lower House, in any context of any debate. . . Both the Greens and Liberals objected violently and loudly to Mr Best's interpretation of the standing orders that disallowed the L-word ever to be used in the House. "This is extraordinary; we can't use the L-word ever?," Mr Booth asked incredulously. . . "You lot are bringing this House into disrepute; this chamber should be a bastion of free speech - [how can] you suggest the word lying cannot be used at all?" Mr Gutwein said."

Catcalls and charges echoed through the West German Parliament today as it gave a rowdy and heated foretaste of the domestic political struggle shaping over German unity. Among many exchanges of insults, opposition Social Democrats called Chancellor Helmut Kohl a rabble-rouser and accused him of handling reunification as his private business. Members of the Chancellor's party, the Christian Democratic Union."

A scuffle broke out in Taiwan's rowdy parliament over an opposition bill on Tuesday, with lawmakers exchanging punches and a flying mobile phone leaving one with a bloodied eye. The fight erupted as lawmakers from the ruling Democratic Progressive Party and its ally, the Taiwan Solidarity Union, tried to stop a vote on an opposition bill to create an independent media watchdog. Chang Sho-wen, a lawmaker from the main opposition Nationalist Party, or Kuomintang, was hit in his left eye by a mobile phone, witnesses said. Blood gushed from his face and the lawmaker was rushed to hospital."

In what appears to be a continuing trend from the Australian House of Representatives Question Time session November 2, a further six Federal Opposition members and one Government member were ejected during and just after Question Time. Anthony Albanese, having been warned earlier to Question Time was the first removed, and after Opposition members had interjected "Boring, boring!" to an answer from the Australian Treasurer Peter Costello describing the Opposition stance on the industrial relations reform as a "scare campaign", the Speaker Neil Andrew issued a "general warning". . . Edwards said "You're a fraud, Abbott!" and he was also removed.

India's Parliament on Wednesday elected its first-ever female speaker, the daughter of a former deputy prime minister and an untouchable - a member of India's lowest caste. Meira Kumar, 64, was elected unopposed and immediately assumed her post. . . Lawmakers thumped their desks to cheer Kumar as she was congratulated by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and L.K. Advani, the leader of the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party. . . The speaker's job is a difficult one in India's often rowdy Parliament. Previous speakers were often forced to issue sharp reprimands or walk out when members shouted slogans and bickered, especially over contentious legislation.

The telecast of the question hour in Malaysia's Dewan Rakyat (parliament) is to continue despite rowdy scenes being caught 'live' during a 30-minute coverage. Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi said he was "ashamed" after the first television coverage of parliament proceedings last week, when the new session began on a chaotic note following the March elections. . . However, Indian origin lawmaker Karpal Singh said the public outcry at the parliament's proceedings was "unwarranted" and that it should be "seen in a perspective". "We need a parliament which is robust," he said. According to him, lively exchanges and repartee enliven what would otherwise be mundane and dull proceedings. "I have been a member of parliament for 26 years. One of the dullest places on earth is the parliament," he said.

Months of political crisis for South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun reached a climax Friday, when lawmakers headed by the country's conservative opposition party voted to impeach him for violating election law and for incompetence. . . The vote Thursday followed two days of high drama, involving the reported suicide of a businessman Roh accused of corruption, the attempted suicide of a Roh supporter, the setting alight of a car on the Assembly steps, and brawling inside the chamber. Overnight, rival groups of lawmakers tussled for physical control of the speaker's podium in the Assembly - the only location from which the speaker can call for a vote, according to national law.[]
Philip Rucker and Ann Gerhart of the Washington Post added some poignant moments from our own past in a story about Wilson: "Wilson's surprising moment drew renewed attention to the Palmetto State's history of colorful politics. Historians recall the state's then-Democratic Sen. Strom Thurmond wrestling Sen. Ralph Yarborough (D-Tex.) in 1964 over a civil rights nomination, and Rep. John W. Jenrette (D-S.C.) and his then-wife Rita having sex on the Capitol steps in the 1970s. . ."

Today every politician learns first and foremost how to be appropriately insincere. And when they screw up, they say they "misspoke" or used a "wrong choice of words."

One of the problems with this is that it makes it harder to tell the fools from the wise ones. When everyone uses the same spin, when everyone - if you will - lies, then how do you tell them apart?

Which is why, for all their other faults, I still bless the British for their parliament. In Britain at least, the prime minister doesn't just pay only occasional visits totally spun and rehearsed and with no questions allowed. And it was in Britain where the speaker of the House once issued one of the finest parliamentary pleas ever: "Order. Order. Order! . . . Your behavior disfigures our proceedings."