Recent Articles

Chris Hedges describes our Mafia State

| December 5, 2016 | Reply

I wish I didn’t agree with Chris Hedges:

Systems of governance that are seized by a tiny cabal become mafia states. The early years—Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton in the United States—are marked by promises that the pillage will benefit everyone. The later years—George W. Bush and Barack Obama—are marked by declarations that things are getting better even though they are getting worse. The final years—Donald Trump—see the lunatic trolls, hedge fund parasites, con artists, conspiracy theorists and criminals drop all pretense and carry out an orgy of looting and corruption.
The rich never have enough. The more they get, the more they want. It is a disease. CEOs demand and receive pay that is 200 times what their workers earn. And even when corporate executives commit massive fraud, such as the billing of hundreds of thousands of Wells Fargo customers for accounts they never opened, they elude punishment and personally profit. Disgraced CEO John Stumpf left Wells Fargo with a pay package that averages nearly $15 million a year. Richard Fuld received nearly half a billion dollars from 1993 to 2007, a time in which he was bankrupting Lehman Brothers.
The list of financial titans, including Trump, who have profited from a rigged financial system and fraud is endless. Many in the 1 percent make money by using lobbyists and bought politicians to write self-serving laws and rules and by forming unassailable monopolies. They push up prices on products or services these monopolies provide. Or they lend money to the 99 percent and charge exorbitant interest. Or they use their control of government and the courts to ship jobs to Mexico or China, where wages can be as low as 22 cents an hour, and leave American workers destitute.

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Carl Sagan Warns of the Dangers of the Lack of Education.

| December 1, 2016 | 1 Reply

Carl Sagan, last interview with Charlie Rose before his death in 1996. He warns of the dangers of lack of education and the potential for tyranny.

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Ideas on how to move forward

| November 10, 2016 | Reply

This article by Jon Schwarz of The Intercept has an ominous beginning, but in the end, it offers some positive suggestions for dealing with the current nightmare. Here’s an excerpt:

The people who run America have constructed a political system that’s like a glitchy killer robot, one even they can’t control anymore. Working as designed it murders African Americans and pregnant women and opioid addicts. The Iraq War was a minor hiccup that caused it to obliterate a country, several thousand Americans, and hundreds of thousands of people all around the world. The housing bubble was a more serious bug that liquidated hundreds of thousands more from the poorer half of the rich world. But with Donald Trump, for perhaps the first time, the robot totally ignored the commands of its creators and now has everyone in its crosshairs. If there’s anything to learn from history, it’s that elites don’t dismantle their beloved killer robots on their own. Either regular people — including you reading this right now — will deactivate this one, or it will never happen at all. Not a single person knows exactly how to pull this off. But one thing’s for sure: Trump’s rise proves that whatever it is we’ve been doing isn’t working.

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Glenn Greenwald asks whether Democrats will seriously deal with their inner corruption?

| November 10, 2016 | Reply

At the Intercept, Glenn Greenwald refers to the election of Donald Trump as turbo-charged version of Brexit.

THE PARALLELS BETWEEN the U.K.’s shocking approval of the Brexit referendum in June and the U.S.’ even more shocking election of Donald Trump as president last night are overwhelming. Elites (outside of populist right-wing circles) aggressively unified across ideological lines in opposition to both. Supporters of Brexit and Trump were continually maligned by the dominant media narrative (validly or otherwise) as primitive, stupid, racist, xenophobic, and irrational. In each case, journalists who spend all day chatting with one another on Twitter and congregating in exclusive social circles in national capitals — constantly re-affirming their own wisdom in an endless feedback loop — were certain of victory. Afterward, the elites whose entitlement to prevail was crushed devoted their energies to blaming everyone they could find except for themselves, while doubling down on their unbridled contempt for those who defied them, steadfastly refusing to examine what drove their insubordination.

The indisputable fact is that prevailing institutions of authority in the West, for decades, have relentlessly and with complete indifference stomped on the economic welfare and social security of hundreds of millions of people. While elite circles gorged themselves on globalism, free trade, Wall Street casino gambling, and endless wars (wars that enriched the perpetrators and sent the poorest and most marginalized to bear all their burdens), they completely ignored the victims of their gluttony, except when those victims piped up a bit too much — when they caused a ruckus — and were then scornfully condemned as troglodytes who were the deserved losers in the glorious, global game of meritocracy.

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Three attitudes that define many of the 1%

| November 7, 2016 | Reply

The article is titled, “The psychology of greed: 3 attitudes that explain the worst behaviors of the 1 percent.” The thesis is that the upper class tend toward narcissism — and their sense of entitlement appears to be growing. The three telltale signs: 1) It’s all about me, me, me. 2) It’s all about lazy-ass people who refuse to work. 3) It’s all about waiting for the free market to work its fairy magic.

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How to Deal With Social Anxiety

| October 23, 2016 | Reply

Eric Barker offer a well researched post on how to deal with social anxiety. Here’s an excerpt:

  1. Mindfulness recommends “noting” troublesome thoughts like fear. Recognize and accept them to let them go.
  2. Neuroscience advocates “labeling.” (Frankly, this is a lot like noting but backed by some PhDs and an fMRI.)
  3. Stoicism has “premeditation.” That’s when you ask, “What’s the worst that could happen?” and realize it’s not that bad.
  4. Neuroscience also recommends “reappraisal.” This is reinterpreting your feelings with a new story that makes them less scary.

A random bunch of tips? Nope. So what do they all have in common? You gotta use your brain. You gotta think. Some might reply, “I am thinking, I’m thinking about all the awful stuff that could happen if I embarrass myself. In fact, I can’t STOP thinking about it!” But you’re not thinking. You’re reacting. Fight or flight. Like an animal would.

Here’s something Barker’s article that I didn’t appreciate.  Intense mental focus “smothers” anxiety.

When your thinking brain — the prefrontal cortex — is highly engaged, it slams the brakes on feelings. And you can use this trick deliberately. Anything that gets you thinking actively can smother anxiety.

This makes perfect sense, given the limited scope of attention. If you fill your head with challenging problem solving, there simply isn’t room for anxiety.  Barker suggests that one thing to focus your mind on is your fears–face your fears, and it will keep anxiety at bay.  Barker reminds that we are not our thoughts.   Therefore, instead of saying, “I’m feeling anxious,” say say, “There is anxiety.”  Instead, note the existence of scary thoughts.

I’ll keep this advice in mind.

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Julian Assange has been unfairly criticized for failing to curate his disclosures.

| October 23, 2016 | Reply

Julian Assange has been unfairly criticized for failing to curate his disclosures. Truthdig responds:

“Here’s a question few are asking: Would Assange, who set out to perform the honorable service of exposing government corruption, behave as he does today if he, a single individual with limited resources, had not been relentlessly pursued into the corner of a single room for 5½ years by people atop the most powerful state in civilized history? And can he, under burden of stress and loss of staff, associations and resources, be expected to fulfill the ethical obligations he once honored and still perform the service of making essential, willfully concealed information public?

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Glenn Greenwald on publishing hacks: The more powerful a person is, the less privacy they have.

| October 23, 2016 | Reply

Glenn Greenwald set forth 5 principles in this article on The Intercept. The article includes a video discussion with Chris Hayes. One of the principles is this:

Last night, I was on Chris Hayes’s show (video below) discussing the Podesta email leak and made this point, and some people reacted as though this were some bizarre, exotic claim — rather than what it is: the fundamental principle of journalism as well the basis of numerous laws. Of course it’s the case that the more power someone has, the less privacy they have, and every media outlet, literally every day, operates on that principle, as do multiple sectors of law.

That there are different standards of privacy for different people based on their power and position is axiomatic. That’s why laws like FOIA requiring disclosure (including of emails) apply only to public officials but not to private citizens: It embraces the proposition that those who wield public power submit to greater transparency than private citizens do. This same principle is why people cheered when the NYT published Trump’s tax return even though they’d be horrified if the NYT published the tax return of ordinary citizens — because people like Trump who wield or seek great political power sacrifice some degree of privacy.

Here are the five principles Greenwald sets forth:
1. A source’s motives are irrelevant in deciding whether to publish
2. Journalists constantly publish material that is stolen or illegally obtained.
3. The more public power someone has, the less privacy they are entitled to claim
4. Whether something is “shocking” or “earth-shattering” is an irrelevant standard
5. All journalists are arbiters of privacy and gatekeepers of information

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What you can make out of wet newspaper …

| October 21, 2016 | Reply

This is some rather amazing sculpture. Take a look.

rolled-newspaper-animal-sculptures-paper-trails-chie-hitotsuyama-11

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