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Understanding the Financial Doomsday Machine

Do yourself a favor. Watch a short video.

Once you've done that, watch a not-as-short video. Or not. Your choice.Collapse )

The Powell Memorandum At Work

Behold, a simple political cartoon (this one got to me by agoodcartoon. Ha, ha, we all laugh. Look at the pretty conservatives and the ugly liberals. Ha, and ha again.

But, a serious question: could there be a deeper reason for this beyond the simple tropes trotted out as explanation? Perhaps. Bear with me here. Let's consider the advice given to conservatives—and here I specifically mean business conservative, or political leanings that elevate the needs of private interests above those of folks that believe words like "society" and "community" are spelled with more than four letters. The advice comes from a man who in just a few months after this advice was given was himself elevated to the Supreme Court by President Nixon.

His name is Lewis Powell.Collapse )
I'll be the first to admit that most primary and even secondary educations are inadequate. No, scratch that: they are adequate for most things; for some things, they completely miss the point, because to come to the point they would have to address uncomfortable facts and what school wants to deal with uncomfortable stuff? That's just unnecessary.

So in school I learned almost nothing about Vietnam—how it started, reasons the country was even involved—even though many of my classmates had fathers and uncles still deployed there. We learned of old wars, and of course of the big one, WWII; but teachers shied away from even mentioning 'Nam, lest some student go home and mention the mention, leading to a shitstorm from one side of the kerfuffle or the other.

It turns out one of the biggest taboos of our history went back a bit farther to the Civil War. And these taboos, according to a fascinating article, regard the Dark Period after the Confederate Surrender, specifically how this period leads to, of all things, the Tea Party.To the Dark Age!Collapse )


Reasons to Revive Actual Liberalism

Ever since the "New Democrats" have installed themselves in the political scene, many of the standard rallying calls of the Progressive Movement have been sidelined into being mere tropes and tall tales. The problem, as I see it, is that these New Dems are, rather than the raging bull liberals of our past, merely steers who mewl rather than snort with rage and charge into the breeches. They have adopted meek standards, weak tea compared with the heady strong stuff of former years, and have in pursuing these standards continued to survive the increasingly competitive political environment forced upon all potential candidates.

What might these weak standards be?Collapse )

An agreement has been reached in Lausanne, Switzerland between Iranian and American officials on Iran's nuclear program.

The officials spoke outside weeklong talks that have been twice extended past the March 31 deadline in an effort to formulate both a general statement of what has been accomplished and documents describing what needs to be done to meet a June 30 deadline for a final accord. A news conference was set for later in the day, when the results of the talks were expected to be announced.

President Obama's talks with Iran are something unique in presidency, in that for most of the time, world events foisted the agenda upon him. According to a great piece in the Washington Post, Iran is a different matter for the President. He chose it from the very first days of his presidency and made it a priority. He has consistently stated U.S. leadership can "bend the arc of human history." Nuclear proliferation has been a foreign policy concern, in fact, President Obama's first foreign speech as President was on that topic.

Obama and senior aides have bemoaned what they see as a tendency in Washington to look first to the military to solve America’s most vexing foreign policy problems. “The debates around the Middle East don’t seem to recognize that the Iraq war took place,” said Ben Rhodes, a deputy national security adviser to the president. There continues to be “an instinctive reach for military solutions as the only sign of America’s seriousness,” he said.

Whatever Happened to Henry George?

I very recently finished a pretty darned good book, Henry George's Progress and Poverty from 1879. In it, he asks some serious questions of the class of scholars then known as "political economists," specifically why more people starve where civilization is most developed, and not less.

This association of poverty with progress is the great enigma of our times. It is the central fact from which spring industrial, social, and political difficulties that perplex the world, and with which statesmanship and philanthropy and education grapple in vain. . . . So long as all the increased wealth which modern progress brings goes to build up great fortunes, to increase luxury and make sharper the contrast between the House of Have and the House of Want, progress is not real and cannot be permanent. The reaction must come. The tower leans from its foundations, and every new story but hastens the final catastrophe. To educate men who must be condemned to poverty, is but to make them restive; to base on a state of most glaring social inequality political institutions under which men are theoretically equal, is to stand a pyramid on its apex.

(Henry George, Progress and Poverty, 1879, Book I, Chapter I, Paragraph 5.)

NB: Since Mr. George's book is available online in its entirety, I have decided to reference not the page numbers, but the Book, Chapter and Paragraph to make cross-referencing that much easier.

This might be the first any of you have heard of this connection between progress, also known as the development of civilization, and poverty. But throughout his book George points out example after example supporting his initial observation. Where civilization goes, poverty and want follow.

The reason? The fact that property is allowed to be held in private hands. Take this section from Book X, Chapter V, Paragraph 19: "In the very centers of our civilization to-day are want and suffering enough to make sick at heart whoever does not close his eyes and steel his nerves." Is there something we could do? How about a full-blown miracle?

Dare we turn to the Creator and ask Him to relieve it? Supposing the prayer were heard, and at the behest with which the universe sprang into being there should glow in the sun a greater power; new virtue fill the air; fresh vigor the soil; that for every blade of grass that now grows two should spring up, and the seed that now increases fifty-fold should increase a hundred-fold! Would poverty be abated or want relieved?

Any bets out there how a sudden increase in the harvests would be met by us, we mere civilized people? I doubt the answer will surprise.Collapse )


Germanwings crash

This story is getting weirder and weirder. An aviation expert on the Airbus, said the plane is so technologically advanced, it's almost impossible to make it crash. And once the cockpit door is closed, unless someone inside allows you in, there is no way to get inside (that's a result of the 9/11 aircraft modifications to prevent hijacking). There have previous attempts to get cameras inside airliner cockpits, with either recording on hard drives on the airplane, or uplinked in real time to satellite for remote storage.

More at the New York Times.

General Discussion on Cannabis Reform

Been a while since we touched based on this issue. Oh yeah, I can link to the latest reports (which seem to pop up several times a day now) on how the issue is becoming damn near mainstream.

Even my redass state of Georgia is passing a cream CBD oil (the one "for the children". The irony writes itself on this issue). Suddenly 'regulation/legalization/ bills are popping up all over the states. Medical MJ is about to top the 26 state mark, a psychological tipping point for national politics.

The few agencies with vested interest (DEA, NIDA, FDA) have circled their meager wagons, and can only foot drag mounting requests for government weed for research.

But we know this. This all sounds good. But something is afoot.

The Free Market™

Reformers who have worked decades on chipping away at this issue are finding themselves (mostly politely) pushed to the side while the Big Business guys come in. Of course, they pony up the dough for the political machines, in return for some sweet exclusives on growing rights in the state.

Ohio reformers are freaking out that another group came out of nowhere, started their own petition, won't even return the activists calls, and work back room deals for exclusive distributorships.  This happed at the end of alcohol prohibition and we who have to use the regulatory system set up 'way back when' suffer with the brand exclusive oligarchies of "one guy carries Jack, another carries Bud".

Me, my motivation has not been commercial. It has been about civil liberty. Stop criminalizing those who consume cannabis and let the details work themselves out.

It should be pointed out it is relatively easy to grow a couple of outdoor plants and have enough for your personal use, and to swap with neighbors growing other strains, or creating edibles, shatter, etc. Yes you can make you own beer and spirits, but you can buy all your food too. Yet many people garden, containers to fields. It is a lot cheaper to drop a seed or buy a cutting, than it is to brew some beer or ferment wine.

When prohibition apologist Kevin Sabin lamented last week about "Big Business" taking over, a response from another panel member was "You can have a legal regulated market or a legal unregulated market. Take your pick. But make no mistake about it, prohibition is over."

Is it over? What do you think?

You guys ready to call it for the good guys or do we still have 4-5 more years until the Feds act?

John Oliver's opening credits

John Oliver program on HBO is go good, and even the title sequence is fantastic from a graphic design point of view. The sequence is adaptable for what could be considered a main news item from that week. Case in point has included photographs of Joan Rivers, when she died, Pope Francis, all with cute subtitles. This week was no exception with a photo of Bobby Durst (serial killer that was arrested last week and the subject of a HBO series about his murders) with the title "Durstus Worstus." Unfortunately, I can't find screen grabs that are small enough to fit on the page, yet allow you read all the text, but here is a sample.

Here is Robert Durst (the tagline is a play on the label for John Oliver, Hostus Mostus):

And here is the opening title sequence itself