December 21, 2014

Fox News pulled from Dish Network

Slashdot  - Fox News and Fox Business were pulled by Dish Network over the weekend, as both continue to argue over a fee agreement. From the article: "Dish said in a statement early Sunday morning that 21st Century Fox had blocked access to the two networks after Dish balked when rates for other networks owned by the media conglomerate were made a part of the negotiations. Tim Carry, executive vice president of distribution at Fox News Channel, countered in a statement that "Dish prematurely ceased distribution of Fox News in an attempt to intimidate and sway our negotiations. It is unfortunate that the millions of Fox News viewers on Dish were used as pawns by their provider. Hopefully they will vote with their hard earned money and seek another one of our other valued distributors immediately."

NYC police declare war on mayor

Melissa Melton, Activist Post The New York Police Department has declared “war” after two officers were killed Saturday in their squad car while taking part in an anti-terrorism drill by a gunmen said to be taking revenge for the death of Eric Garner.

In the wake of the shootings, the NYPD’s union New York Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association issued this bulletin showing that the NYPD are most certainly not taking things lightly:
    Starting IMMEDIATELY: At least two units are to respond to EVERY call, no matter the condition or severity, no matter what type of job is pending, or what the opinion of the patrol supervisor happens to be.

     IN ADDITION: Absolutely NO enforcement action in the form of arrests and or summonses is to be taken unless absolutely necessary and an individual MUST be placed under arrest.

    These are precautions that were taken in the 1970?s when police officers were ambushed and executed on a regular basis.

    The mayor’s hands are literally dripping with our blood because of his words actions and policies and we have, for the first time in a number of years, become a ‘wartime’ police department. We will act accordingly.
Well, Michael Bloomberg did say the NYPD was his own “army” back when he was mayor.

On a side note (which really shouldn’t be the side note here), what exactly do they mean by “Absolutely NO enforcement action in the form of arrests and or summonses is to be taken unless absolutely necessary and an individual MUST be placed under arrest.”

Are they admitting openly what we already know? That not all enforcement actions and arrests are “absolutely necessary” to begin with?

It’s too bad we live in a country where that isn’t the rule all the time.

Some memories

PD James

Lauren Bacall

Maya Angelou

Philip Seymour Hoffman

Great moments with Jeb Bush

Newsweek - The collapse of InnoVida Holdings LLC in 2011 didn’t get much traction in the media. Except in South Florida, where a small group of investors lost more than $40 million on a scheme to market hurricane- and earthquake-resistant homes assembled from prefabricated plastic panels. The company CEO had promised a highly publicized roll-out in Haiti followed by expansion into more lucrative markets. Neither ever occurred.

Even in South Florida, the story had receded into endless litigation (with more than 1,000 pleadings filed in bankruptcy and civil proceedings). It resurfaced in The New York Times in April, because it involved former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, who is emerging as the preferred 2016 presidential candidate among establishment Republicans who consider New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie unelectable.

Bush was both a director on the corporate board and a marketing consultant for InnoVida Holdings LLC while it was the subject of a criminal investigation that sent its two top executives to jail.


Work like you don't need the money. Love like you've never been hurt. Dance like nobody's watching. -- Satchel Paige

What's happening

Back in May 2009, the Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion & Public Life conducted surveys and found that the more religious an American is, the more likely he or she is to support torture.

There are fewer Americans in prison, jail, probation, or parole than any time since 2003

How well is your state doing?

Jazz break

Chet Baker, "Autumn Leaves"

Pocket paradigm

War is doing things overseas that we would go to prison for at home.- Sam Smith

Study: Red light cameras don't work

Ars Technica - The Chicago Tribune released the results of a study it commissioned on injury crashes and red light cameras, revealing that while right angle crash incidents have been reduced, rear-end crashes that resulted in injuries went up 22 percent. The results of the study throw cold water on the booster efforts of Mayor Rahm Emanuel's administration and raise questions about the use of red light cameras as a whole.

Chicago is the home of the nation's largest red light camera program and encompasses 350 cameras at a variety of the city's intersections. The red light camera program has been accused of mismanagement and embroiled the mayor's office in a $2 million bribery scandal. But recently, administrators trotted out a seemingly redeeming statistic: that the introduction of the cameras had created a 47 percent reduction in the rate of right angle, or “T-bone,” injury crashes.

The Chicago Tribune in response commissioned a scientific study by two well-regarded transportation researchers, who found that the statistics promoted by the mayor's office were misleading. According to the Tribune, the authors of the study found a statistically significant, but still smaller, reduction in angle and turning injury crashes by 15 percent, as well as “a statistically significant increase of 22 percent in rear-end injury collisions.” Overall, there was “a non-significant increase of 5 percent in the total number of injury crashes” that happened at intersections with red light cameras when comparing the injury crashes that occurred there before and after the cameras were present.

On a more granular level, the researchers found that there were no safety benefits from cameras that are installed at intersections where there have already been few crashes with injuries, and occasionally, there was evidence that red light cameras actually increased injury crashes at such intersections. "When intersections experiencing fewer than 4 injury crashes per year are considered, there is a significant increase in all crashes by 19 percent after the installation of RLCs," the Tribune study found.

The Tribune noted that the red light camera program has raised more than $500 million off of the $100 tickets since 2002. "That program needs to be stopped. It needs to be frozen to give us time to re-evaluate everything," Chicago Alderman Anthony Beale, 9th, chairman of the council Transportation Committee, told the Tribune. "This is just more proof that this entire program is strictly to generate revenue and always has been."

Five years of failure

From 50 years of our overstocked achives

Sam Smith, 1986 - I was asked to give a toast at the fifth anniversary celebration of the DC Community Humanities Council. Here is what I said:

Five years ago the DC Community Humanities Council was formed, charged with the diffusion of ideas, the encouragement of thought and the inspiration of rational discourse within this our nation's capital. This was a little like trying to sell Bibles in a brothel, and I think that any fair assessment of what has occurred around us since we began would indicate that we have failed miserably. The best efforts of the council and its sainted staff have failed to halt a national and local stampede towards what is perhaps the most anti-humanistic era of our lifetimes.

It is an era, to be sure, not without ideas and a sense of history but what ideas and what history. It's as if the worst of the past had been resyndicated and put on Channel 20, with none of the other stations working. We draw from the economics of Morgan, Mellon and the British East India Company, the morality of Comstock, the civil liberties of Palmer and McCarthy, the civil rights of Tara, the lifestyle of Babbitt and Gatsby, the religion of Gantry, the political ethics of Teapot Dome, the business ethics of Ponzi, the gentleness of Nietzsche, the altruism of Ayn Rand, the ecological sensitivity of General Sherman, the spiritualism of Warren Gameliel Harding, the imagination of Rutherford Hayes the brilliance of Franklin Pierce, the expressiveness of Calvin Coolidge and the evolutionary theories of William Jennings Bryan.

It is an era when we propose to devise the most complex weapons system ever created, but when we go to explain it to people, our government feels compelled to use comic book stick figures on television. We have become the first society to know more about the external world than we do about ourselves. And now we even seem to be losing the ability to talk or write about the problem.

It is an era in which, like the fifties, the man in the gray flannel suit is in the ascendancy, but unlike the fifties, when he was viewed with the ambivalence that economics forces upon us, he or she is now a cultural role model, and, unbelievably, even considered hip, charismatic and sexy.

And it is an era in which we know how to promote, facilitate merge, network, manage, integrate, finalize and bottom line, but are losing the ability to make or to create. I have a nightmare that one day the country will awake and discover that there is nothing to manage, finalize and facilitate. There will be no one left to build anything.

So we have failed -- here in the jaws of the lion -- but I would argue that given the powers arrayed against the humanistic ideal, failure has been the only sane and honorable course. And the failure, one hopes, is only temporary. Long ago, John Locke warned of the constant decay of ideas, and how they must be "renewed by repeated exercises of the senses." If not, "the print wears out, and at last there remains nothing to be seen."

The print is fading, but, thanks in part to this band of happy humanistic warriors, it could have been a lot worse. It has engaged in repeated exercise of the senses with an integrity, decency, fairness, sensitivity and good humor rarely seen in this town anymore. In a city that is obsessed with style, it is one of the few real class acts. So a toast to the Council for all it has done and will do and to the humanistic spirit. May we live to see it once more

December 20, 2014

What's happening

Science journals screw up hundreds of times each year. This guy keeps track of every mistake.

Communities are celebrating three victories against fracking this week. Quebec, New York and New Brunswick all rejected fracking after years of opposition from communities calling for the protection of community health and the environment.

In a move cheered by environmental groups, Chevron has put its plans to drill for oil in the Arctic “on hold indefinitely,” the energy company said

How Wall Street slashes its settlements with the government

De Blasio pushing for mass arrests without fair warning 

Over 100 public defenders walked out of the Brooklyn Criminal Court last week This comes after five months of no justice following the choking by a New York Police Department officer that led to the death of Eric Garner

A public health approach to gun violence


Word: Palestine

 Carolina Landsmann, Haaretz, Israel - In his address from the White House, Obama said, “Let us leave behind the legacy of both colonization and communism, for the sake of the Cuban people, the American people and the world.”

There is another hot-button issue in which Americans must leave behind the legacy of colonialism and communism, and that is the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. There is no more suitable time or person for this than Obama today, a leader liberated from electoral considerations. He is free at last to allow the world to judge him by the content of his character.

Like the embargo on Cuba, the American veto is a remnant of the Cold War world. Because the world order has changed and the world is no longer divided into two blocs, the American veto of anti-occupation resolutions in the UN Security Council has a different significance than it once had. America must now provide actual justification for its veto of the initiative to recognize a Palestinian state. It is not for nothing that the chief Palestinian negotiator, Saeb Erekat, was angry with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry when the latter threatened sanctions on the Palestinians if they go to the International Criminal Court in The Hague. “We have nothing to lose, and if you and Israel want the [Palestinian] Authority, take it, because we can’t go on like this,” Erekat said, addressing the plural “you” because from his perspective, as from that of most of the world, the American veto is perceived as collaborating with the Israeli occupation.

It seems that the U.S. government has adopted the most common Israeli narrative, by which Israel seeks peace and the Palestinians are not a partner. According to this narrative, the Oslo process was halted because of Palestinian terror (which reflects the authentic will of the Palestinians), and not because of Israeli terror, whose height was the assassination of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and that reflected, if anything, only the lunatic fringe of Israeli society. The United States must realize what Israel itself has begun to understand: The lunatic fringe of 1995 is the political center of the 2015 elections. For an important part of the Israeli political map, which could take control in democratic elections, “apartheid” is not a curse but a plan.

Since Israel is divided, the United States cannot go on simply being “Israel’s friend,” because who is that “Israel?" The political confusion in Israel is so great that it is not clear whose political interest the American veto serves, and whose is served by lifting it. Thus, in concert with the dramatic internal political struggle over the identity of the State of Israel, the United States must stop asking what Israel wants, and instead ask what the United States wants. Does America welcome the birth of a Palestinian state? If so, let it lift its veto and break the last chain that binds the world to the past.