Posts By ds

Unmasked — The justifications for extreme inequality have collapsed…

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From George Monbiot

When inequality reaches extreme and destructive levels, most governments seek not to confront it but to accommodate it. Wherever wealth is absurdly concentrated, new laws arise to protect it.

In Britain, for example, successive governments have privatised any public asset which excites corporate greed. They have cut taxes on capital and high incomes. They have legalised new forms of tax avoidance(1). They have delivered exotic gifts like subsidised shotgun licences and the doubling of state support for grouse moors(2). And they have dug a legal moat around the charmed circle, criminalising, for example, the squatting of empty buildings(3) and most forms of peaceful protest(4). However grotesque inequality becomes, however closely the accumulation of inordinate wealth resembles legalised theft, political norms shift to defend it.

None of this should surprise you. The richer the elite becomes, and the more it has to lose, the greater the effort it makes to capture public discourse and the political system. It scarcely bothers to disguise its wholesale purchase of political parties, by means of an utterly corrupt and corrupting funding system(5,6). You can feel its grip not only on policy but also on the choice of parliamentary candidates and appointments to the cabinet. The very rich want people like themselves in power, which is why we have a government of millionaires(7).

New Report Shows Edward Snowden’s Revelations Are Seriously Damaging U.S. Tech Firms Losing Billions…

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From Business Insider

The nonprofit New America Foundation released a new report this week that summarizes the impact of Edward Snowden’s NSA revelation on U.S. tech firms.

Within weeks of the first NSA revelation last year, companies like Dropbox and Amazon Web Services reported immediate drops in their sales, the report said. Citing a previous report, it said the NSA’s PRISM program could cost cloud-computing companies from $22 billion to $180 billion over the next there years.

“This erosion in trust threatens to do the most immediate damage to the cloud computing industry, which would lose billions of dollars in the next three to five years as a result,” it said.

Introduction to AtheistTV featuring Dr. Madalyn Murray O’Hair…

This video was the first-ever broadcast on Atheist TV, the world’s first TV channel dedicated to atheism-friendly content. Atheist TV is available free via Roku or free online at http://www.atheists.tv Click the settings “gear” wheel to view in HD 720p Subscribe to this YouTube channel | Support Atheist TV at http://www.atheists.org/donate
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Thumbs Up for AtheistTV…

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From FreeThoughtBlogs
AtheistTV on Roku

Ken Ham hates it! He’s actually pretty clueless.

The new channel brags of having “superstition-free programming,” which implies that religion is just silly superstition but atheism is rational and logical. However, laws of logic and rationality only makes sense if God, who is logical, created them and made us in His image so that we can understand them! Laws of logic shouldn’t exist in a completely random materialistic universe that the atheists believe in —and yet they do!

But god is illogical. There is no reason to believe in any deity, let alone the bizarre one Ken Ham worships, who is little more than a tribal warlord writ large, promoting archaic ideas like blood sacrifice.

10 reasons to be hopeful that we will overcome climate change…

Indian workers walk past solar panels at the 200 megawatts Gujarat Solar Park at Charanka in Patan district, India, Saturday, April 14, 2012.
Indian workers walk past solar panels at the 200 megawatts Gujarat Solar Park at Charanka in Patan district, India, Saturday, April 14, 2012. Photograph: Ajit Solanki/AP
From The Guardian

From action in China and the US to falling solar costs and rising electric car sales, there is cause to be hopeful

For the last few months, carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere have been at record levels unseen in over 800,000 years. The chairman of the IPCC, an international panel of the world’s top climate scientists, warned earlier this year that “nobody on this planet is going to be untouched by the impacts of climate change”.

Future generations will no doubt wonder at our response, given the scale of the threat. It’s known that death, poverty and suffering await millions, and yet governments still vacillate.

But solutions are available. Here are ten reasons to be hopeful that humans will rise to the challenge of climate change.

Gene Logsdon: The Democratization of Agriculture


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From GENE LOGSDON
The Contrary Farmer

During the years I worked as a farm journalist, I moaned and groaned over the attitude of agricultural communicators toward the public. We were supposed to write exclusively for farmers, which was understandable, but the definition of “farmer” was limited to those who were good customers of big advertisers. Sheep ranchers, for example, could no longer get a subscription to Farm Journal because they didn’t buy enough farm equipment, something even the Wall Street Journal found amusing enough to editorialize about. If the magazine wanted to charge adverstising rates on the basis of a million subscribers, it had to show that those readers were buyers too, not just people interested in farming. So, perhaps for the first and last time in journalistic history, the magazine deleted thousands of subscribers. The readers who remained became a kind of exclusive club. One suggestion, to charge the “non-buying” group of subscribers more, was not deemed feasible.

This policy could and did backfire on farmers. Farm news written by knowledgeable farm journalists rarely made the evening news, so consumers rarely heard the farmer’s side of the story and so might be inclined to accept the half-truths perpetrated by hostile consumer groups as full truths.

Gross Inequality All Too “Normal” Under Capitalism…

nWealth inequality in the US: Source: Edward N. Wolff, “Recent Trends in Household Wealth in the United States: Rising Debt and the Middle-Class Squeeze—an Update to 2007,” Levy Economics Institute of Bard College Working Paper No. 589, March 2010, Tables 10 and 11

From Paul Street
telesur

What’s ‘not normal’ about inequality of wealth and income under the amoral system of capitalism?

I recently read a call for increased economic equality from an interesting source. The author of the appeal was Bill Gross, Chief Investment Officer and co-founder of the Pacific Investment Management Company (PIMCO), a $14 billion global capital investment firm headquartered in California.  Forbes lists Gross as the world’s 778th richest billionaire. His net worth is $2.4 billion and he “earns” $200 million a year.  “You could hire 2,000 schoolteachers for that money,” says William  Popejoy, a former financial executive who has been a Pacific Investment Management Co. trustee for more than two decades.

“Not Normal”

In a July 15, 2014 USA TODAY Op Ed titled “Invest in Normalcy for All,” Bill Gross claimed to be bothered by the fact the United States is currently as unequal as it has been any time since the 1920s. He noted with disappointment that the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) ranks the US 31st among 34 nations examined for income equality.  The US is “surpassed only by the likes of Chile and Turkey,” Gross complained.  Gross is disturbed (or claims to be) that US corporations are enjoying record after-tax profits equaling 10% of US gross domestic product (GDP) – “exceeding the levels of the Roaring [19]20s” – while US wages have fallen from 57% of GDP in 1970 to 43% of GDP today.

A struggle to save Europe’s soul from privatization…

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From Roarmag

As the EU sells its soul by pushing Greece to privatize its natural and cultural heritage, ordinary citizens are mobilizing to save their common wealth.

When news of the Greek debt crisis first broke in 2010, a number of German tabloids called on the country to pawn its cultural and natural heritage to pay off its debts. “Sell your islands, you bankrupt Greeks!” ran a headline of the ever tasteless Bild. “And sell the Acropolis too!” With the bailout of May 2010 in the making, the populist editors of the right-wing magazine, apparently oblivious to the historical sensitivities around the German annexation of foreign territories, stubbornly insisted: “We give you cash, you give us Corfu.”

Today, more than four years since the signing of the first memorandum of understanding, it seems that Germany’s nationalist media — along with the European investor class and the oligarchic Greek elite — are finally getting their way. Greece’s subservient government is now pushing hard to open up new frontiers for privatization, with some 77.000 state assets slated for sale, including a host of historic marinas and idyllic islands, a number of ancient palaces, and large stretches of the country’s spectacular and unspoilt coastline.

Sam Harris: Why Don’t I Criticize Israel?

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From Sam Harris

AUDIO TRANSCRIPT [Note: This is a verbatim transcript of a spoken podcast. However, I have added notes like this one to clarify controversial points.—SH]

The question I’ve now received in many forms goes something like this: Why is it that you never criticize Israel? Why is it that you never criticize Judaism? Why is it that you always take the side of the Israelis over that of the Palestinians?

Now, this is an incredibly boring and depressing question for a variety of reasons. The first, is that I have criticized both Israel and Judaism. What seems to have upset many people is that I’ve kept some sense of proportion. There are something like 15 million Jews on earth at this moment; there are a hundred times as many Muslims.  I’ve debated rabbis who, when I have assumed that they believe in a God that can hear our prayers, they stop me mid-sentence and say, “Why would you think that I believe in a God who can hear prayers?” So there are rabbis—conservative rabbis—who believe in a God so elastic as to exclude every concrete claim about Him—and therefore, nearly every concrete demand upon human behavior. And there are millions of Jews, literally millions among the few million who exist, for whom Judaism is very important, and yet they are atheists. They don’t believe in God at all. This is actually a position you can hold in Judaism, but it’s a total non sequitur in Islam or Christianity.

William Edelen: Reflections at Age 92

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From WILLIAM EDELEN
The Contrary Minister

The poet STANLEY KUNITZ (pictured above) has been my hero and role model from the time I first came into his magical orbit and was exposed to his brilliant thinking. It is no accident that he graduated from Harvard “summa cum laude”. Or that he was TWICE chosen the Poet Laureate of the United States… or Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets, or winner of the Pulitzer and Bollingen Prizes, and his Honors would take two more full pages to list. His passion was Horticulture, and from his garden came his inspiration, he said.

My own Bachelor of Science degree is in Horticulture from Oklahoma State University. I think you can understand why this man became my kindred spirit and “role model” over the years.

One of his most famous poems, and one that speaks to my own life, is “THE LAYERS”. When I first read this to my weekly Sunday Symposium, the entire group wanted a copy, so we made over a hundred copies. It is almost mystical to me how the words of this poem are an accurate reflection of my own life.

We Only Get This One Chance… How Will You Make Your Life Extraordinary?…

From Brandon Fibbs
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Christian Crock of the Week: What in god’s name are these fundamentalist idiots doing to these poor children?

From Live Leak

Fundamental Christians around the globe are increasingly holding large children’s revivals where they practice a disturbing ritual called “anointing by the holy spirit,” “being slain by the holy spirit,” “catching the holy ghost,” or “falling out.”

It is intimidating, physically coercive, deeply stressful, and emotionally manipulative. Children are under tremendous pressure to cooperate, to mimic the adults’ bizarre behaviors, and to avoid being judged unworthy, disappointing, or worse, under satan’s spell.

The older children and teens are under great peer pressure to fit in. The youngest simply don’t understand they’re supposed to fall over. Their purity and honesty shines through.

Dear Believer: Why do you believe?…

From Brandon Fibbs

“Dear Believer, have you ever stopped to consider why you believe what you believe? Have you ever thought about why you chose the religion you chose?…”
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Will Parrish: Willits Bypass Timeline

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From WILL PARRISH
Ukiah
TheAVA

“Each solitary story belongs to a larger story.” — Susan Griffin, A Chorus of Stones

In Willits, many people have not taken kindly to the California Department of Transportation’s asphalt imperialism, which entails spreading more than 140,000 dump truck loads of fill in Little Lake Valley, building bridges, disturbing creeks, killing fish, covering up wetlands, cutting down riparian forests, removing roughly 2,000 oak trees, taking away farm land. It is likely that even more overall harm will be done by a politically stilted mitigation plan that centers on excavating wetlands soils in the name of creating wetlands.

Opposition continues to the present. Some of the more persistent protectors of Little Lake Valley continue to attempt to downsize the project’s northern interchange — arguably its most destructive feature. Now that the US Army Corps of Engineers has lifted its suspension of the project, thanks to pressure from Willits Bypass supporters such as Jared Huffman and Mike Thompson, though, it appears highly unlikely that any aspect of the project’s design will be changed.

Many people have criticized Bypass opponents for failing to speak up prior to construction. But the opposition to the Willits Bypass has persisted for more than 20 years. What follows is a timeline that emphasizes opposition to the project prior to January 2013, when direct action against the project kicked off.

Todd Walton: Heaven and Hell

Little Sparrow Nolan WinklerLittle Sparrow Nolan Winkler

From TODD WALTON
Under The Table Books
Mendocino

(This short story from Buddha In A Teacup appeared in the Anderson Valley Advertiser July 2014)

On their way to a matinee of the San Francisco Ballet, Roger and Susan must stand for the entire journey in a crowded subway car. They are wearing heavy coats on this chilly November day, though inside the slow moving train it is a veritable sauna—the air conditioning having failed.

Susan is twenty-six, a fetching brunette, and Roger is forty-nine, a strikingly beautiful former ballet dancer turned fashion designer. They have known each other for exactly one year, Susan and her two young children having moved from homelessness into the collective household where Roger and his lover Paul have been mainstays for more than a decade.

Paul and Roger were friendly and cordial with Susan for the first few months after she moved in, but they did not become close friends with her until they undertook their annual production of the community musical and Susan became their indefatigable assistant—Paul directing, Roger the choreographer and costume designer.

The Inventor of the High Five…

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From Priceonomics

The high five is ubiquitous. It’s a gesture that permeates every social environment — the workplace, the bar, the middle school kickball field — and it seems to be appropriate in almost any situation. Your friend got married? High five. You chugged an entire liter of IPA? High five. You just re-enacted, word-for-word, the opening sequence of A Clockwork Orange? High five! Since its inception, the hand-slapping maneuver has taken on multiple iterations and has never fallen out of style.

But tracing the origins of the high five reveals a riveting, heroic, dark story that seems to be everything the joyous gesture is not.

Death On All Sides…

sA member of the Free Syrian Army sits on a sofa in Deir al-Zor, Syria (Reuters/Khalil Ashawi)

From Adbusters

Forgotten and encircled in Syria, Brandon Gray reports from a refugee camp in Northern Syria.

The refugee camp of 20,000, mostly children, on the Syrian side of the Turkish border north of Aleppo faces death on all sides. There is a grinding lack of humanitarian aid, a ruthless Assad regime offensive led by elite troops from Iran pushing a wave of new refugees toward the camp, and fundamentalist Islamic State fighters advancing towards them from the East with Russian T-72 tanks and American humvees captured from defeated Iraqi military units.

If the Islamic State captures the area, “they will cut my head [off]” says Yusuf, a young rebel fighter and media activist fresh from fighting them 40 km to the east of the camp. He had already lost eight friends and fellow fighters in Aleppo when their unit became encircled seven months ago by the Islamic State, then known as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). He escaped death only by a “miracle.” Now they have tanks, humvees, artillery, heavy machine guns — “they have everything” — and have captured Yusuf’s home town of al Bab, right next to Aleppo city. “They have come to conquer our country. To make an Islamic State, a Caliphate.” Since speaking with Yusuf, the Islamic State has launched attacks within Aleppo itself, killing several rebels.

Drone Warfare: Who is dying in Afghanistan’s 1,000-plus drone strikes?

dCrewmen from 39 Squadron, Royal Air Force, pilot a Reaper over Afghanistan (Photo: Ministry of Defence)

From Bureau of Investigative Journalism

On the afternoon of September 7 last year, a truck made its way along a remote road in Watapur, a region in Afghanistan’s Kunar province. A local farmer, Miya Jan, heard a buzzing overhead, and looked up to see a drone above him, he told the Los Angeles Times. Minutes later, he heard an explosion.

Reaching the site, he realised the mangled vehicle belonged to his cousin. Among the bodies, he recognised his brother and his brother’s family. “There were pieces of my family all over the road,” he told the newspaper. “I picked up those pieces from the road and from the truck and wrapped them in a sheet to bury them.”

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