Thursday, June 30, 2011

Poll: 39% of Americans see the nation in permanent decline

A CBS News/New York Times Poll shows the American public in a gloomy mood about the nation's future and, in general, buying the argument that increased austerity and system-wrecking are the nation's best hope.  "Assessments of the economy remain poor, and 39% now think the U.S. economy may never full recover, an increase of 11 points since last fall.  Only 20% think the economy is improving, the lowest percentage since last summer.

Despite economic concerns, less than half the public thinks the government should spend money to create jobs, even if it has to borrow to do so. Just over half think the government should focus on lowering the national debt instead."
 *  *  *  *  *  * *  * 
Tearing down crucial institutions, shedding the cost of caring for society's most endangered citizens, distributing wealth only to the top layers of the populace, and abandoning the key principles of "liberty and justice for all" -- all these are symptoms of what Chalmers Johnson called "the sorrows of empire."  (Are we there yet?)

[The painting is Thomas Cole's "The Course of Empire: Destruction," 1836.]

While America sleeps: global warming picks up speed


"The Arctic air, land and water continue to change as the  world's climate changes, says the 2010 State of the Arctic report, released this week by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Organization.
Worldwide, 2010 was one of the two warmest years on record, says the 2010 State of the Climate report, released June 27 by the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
On the Arctic, the State of the Climate shows how 2010 marked the end of the warmest decade since instrument records began in 1900.
The summer of 2010 in Greenland reveals the speed and breadth of the environmental change occurring in the Arctic, the report says.
In Greenland, warm air from the south was responsible for the longest period and largest area of ice sheet melt since at least 1978, and the highest melt rate since at least 1958, it says."

 * * * * * * * * * * * *
Of course, this is not noteworthy to the corporate news outlets more interested in the risible horse race for the Republican presidential nomination. 

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Cost of U.S. wars? Maybe $4.4 trillion

In 2003 I carried a sign at a local protest demonstration against the impending war and occupation in Iraq: "How much will the war cost? $1 Trillion!"  The lady waving a large American flag on the other side of the street shouted, "You're crazy!  The war will pay for itself!" 
At the time I was using the estimates of economist Joseph Stiglitz in an article in The New York Review of Books.  An article in Politico makes earlier projections seem far too modest.

"The final bill for U.S. military involvement in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan could be as high as $4.4 trillion, according to a comprehensive new report Tuesday.
In the 10 years since American troops were sent into Afghanistan, the federal government has already spent between $2.3 trillion and $2.7 trillion, say the authors of the study by Brown University’s Watson Institute for International Studies."

Stiglitz's own estimates, summarized on a Democracy Now! radio broadcast last fall, run $4 to $5 trillion, counting all of the war's costs to American society.

Today the patriotic lady who waved the flag so intensely is nowhere to be seen.  Perhaps she a Tea Party activist demanding that the poor, sick, elderly, and students make "sacrifices" to pay for the nation's spiraling debt.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Did Bachmann followers scrub Wikipedia to produce a new "founding father"?

Add a founding father, subtract a founding father.  Who cares?!!!

In an exchange with George Stephanopoli recently, Michele Bachmann argued that John Quincy Adams was one of the "founding fathers."  Challenged on the point, Bachmann persisted in in the claim,using Adams as support for her belief that the founding fathers worked tirelessly to end slavery.  (See an excerpt from the interview below.)

It appears that the supporters of Bachmann have gone full Stalin -- or is it full Orwell? -- doctoring the Wikipedia to assert, for the  historical (or is that hysterical?) record, that John Quincy Adams was one of the founders:

'''John Quincy Adams''' ({{IPAc-en|John_Quincy_Adams_pron.ogg|ˈ|k|w|ɪ|n|z|i}}; July 11, 1767{{ndash}} February 23, 1848), a founding father, was the [[List of Presidents of the United States|sixth]] [[President of the United States]] (1825–1829).

 *  *  *  *  *  *  *
(from the interview)
Bachmann: Well you know what’s marvelous is that in this country and under our constitution, we have the ability when we recognize that something is wrong to change it. And that’s what we did in our country. We changed it. We no longer have slavery. That’s a good thing. And what our Constitution has done for our nation is to give us the basis of freedom unparalleled in the rest of the world.
Stephanopoulos: I agree with that…
Bachmann: That’s what people want...they realize our government is taking away our freedom.
Stephanopoulos: But that’s not what you said. You said that the Founding Fathers worked tirelessly to end slavery.
Bachmann: Well if you look at one of our Founding Fathers, John Quincy Adams, that’s absolutely true. He was a very young boy when he was with his father serving essentially as his father’s secretary. He tirelessly worked throughout his life to make sure that we did in fact one day eradicate slavery….
Stephanopoulos: He wasn’t one of the Founding Fathers – he was a president, he was a Secretary of State, he was a member of Congress, you’re right he did work to end slavery decades later. But so you are standing by this comment that the Founding Fathers worked tirelessly to end slavery?
Bachmann: Well, John Quincy Adams most certainly was a part of the Revolutionary War era. He was a young boy but he was actively involved

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As is true for many of today's so-called "conservatives," Bachmann is eager to sanitize and mythologize America's founding generation.  Actually, it was the slaves who were "working tirelessly," serving slave owners that included George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and others. 

In spirit of right wing historical revisionism, I'm rewriting my own Wikipedia page to indicate that I played with Babe Ruth on the 1927 Yankees.

Google prof urges increased pain and suffering for average Americans

This video clip from the BBC has to be the best example of the sick mentality of U.S. millionaires & billionaires currently available.  "Google professor David Cheriton warns over US economy" shows the smug, self-satisfied, even whimsical Stanford computer scientist and mentor to the founders of the Google corporation musing about the tragic fate of the American people.  He describes them as benighted passengers on an airplane that is about to crash.  The only solution for the poor devils is to slash government spending on services that sustain their way of life.  Along the way he heartily endorses the need to move private investment massively offshore as way to further his self-fulfilling prophecy. 

The video is the spitting reality of global plutocracy now vividly on display in the corridors of power in Washington, D.C.  I suppose Prof. Cheriton's views reflect the current version of Google's fabled philosophy: "Don't be evil." 

Monday, June 27, 2011

Nuclear power plant flooded -- officials optimistic

One of the year's most astonishing developments in news about technology is that of tsunami and floods around nuclear power plants. The Fort Calhoun plant near Omaha joins Fukushima Daiichi as a site of inundation. A story in the Wall Street Jounal notes, "A protective berm holding back floodwaters from a Nebraska nuclear power plant collapsed early Sunday after it was accidentally torn, surrounding containment buildings and key electrical equipment with Missouri River overflow....The berm's collapse allowed floodwaters to wash around the main electrical transformers. As a result, emergency diesel power generators were started."

Back-up generators? Where have we heard that before?

Predictably, officials of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission have been quick to reassure the public that " there is little cause for immediate concern." Still clean, safe and too cheap to meter.

No doubt this means, as in Japan, that swimming lessons will now be required for tritium and cesium atoms. Fish will be advised to avoid areas contaminated by high levels of radiation and to take their potassium iodide pills each day.

Update:  Surf's up at the Cooper Nuclear Station near Brownville too.  Waxing up my board!

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Marriage equality law in New York: how far we've come

The fact that one of the deciding votes on marriage equality came from a Columbia County’s Republican state senator brought to mind the following true story.

Several years ago a north county friend, a well-known architect, hired a high school boy to do some lawn mowing for her. After several weeks he approached her and asked: “If you think I’ve done a good job, would you be willing to recommend me to do yard work for your friends?”

“Certainly, I’d be glad to,” she replied.

“There’s just one thing,” the boy continued. “I won’t work for gay people.”

“Oh, I understand exactly how you feel,” she said. “You know, I refuse work with Republicans.”

A worried look came across his face. “But I’m a Republican.”

She smiled and said, “Life’s full of surprises, isn’t it?”

- Langdon

Friday, June 24, 2011

Top Ten Secrets of Innovation Revealed

After years of reading the literature on “innovation” and listening to discussions among academics, business people and politicians about how to make it happen, I’m pleased to share the basic insights with you.

1. Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, innovation, blah, blah, blah, blah.

2. Blah blah blah, innovation, blah blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, global, blah, blah, blah, blah.

3. Blah blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, entrepreneur, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, innovation, blah, blah, blah.

4. Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, tech park, blah, blah, blah, blah, innovation.

5. Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, military, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, innovation, blah, blah.

6. Innovation blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, research, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, partnership, blah, blah, blah, blah.

7. Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, education, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, skills, blah, blah, blah, blah, tomorrow.

8. Blah, blah, blah, iPad, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, innovative, blah, blah, blah, blah.

9. Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, White House, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, investment, blah, blah, blah, blah, jobs, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, future.

10. Blah blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, Chinese, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, innovation, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, China.

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Comparing the flow of news: Middle East vs. U.S.A.

Juan Cole's piece, "Our News and the News," compares recent headlines from two parts of the world. It points to noble political struggles in the Middle East in contrast to the tawdry spectacles that fill U.S. news channels and, for that matter, what passes for politics here.

"Americans live in a late capitalist society where the rich have gotten many times richer and the middle class has gotten poorer, where Wall Street bankers have stolen us blind and blamed us for living above our means, where persistent unemployment is worse than in the Great Depression, where most politicians and some judges have been bought by corporations or special interests, where authorities actively conspire to keep people from voting, where the government spies on citizens assiduously without warrant or probable cause, and where the minds of the sheep are kept off their fleecing by substituting celebrity gossip, sex scandals, and half-disguised bigotry for genuine news.

In the Arab world, masses of 20-year-olds have challenged their corrupt politicians and manipulative billionaires in the streets, demanding transparency, an end to arbitrary secret police, and free and fair elections untainted by influence-peddling and plutocracy. I have Arabic satellite t.v. on in the background most of the day, with its dramatic stories of personal risk and human tragedy and bold challenge to a rotten status quo. And I channel surf over to the American cable news and mostly find fluff or de-contextualized reports or, frankly, propaganda. So here is my life, the day’s news given synoptically, our news and their news."