Recent Articles

About those bad guys . . .

| June 26, 2014 | Reply

You can look the other way once, and it’s no big deal, except it makes it easier for you to compromise the next time, and pretty soon that’s all you’re doing; compromising, because that’s the way you think things are done. You know those guys I busted? You think they were the bad guys? Because they weren’t, they weren’t bad guys, they were just like you and me. Except they compromised… Once.

Jack Bauer, from the opening episode of “24,” Season One.

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Strangers slapping each other

| June 24, 2014 | Reply

From the film-maker who asked strangers to kiss each other, we now have stingers slapping each other.

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George Carlin on religion and sun worship

| June 23, 2014 | Reply

I’ve seen this analysis of religion by George Carlin before, and find it well worth periodic re-watching:

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On recording the police

| June 21, 2014 | Reply

If you choose to record the police you can reduce the risk of terrible legal consequences and video loss by understanding your state’s laws and carefully adhering to the following rules. This advice is published by The Free Thought Project.

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Anti-Anti-Vaxxers

| June 19, 2014 | Reply

Vincent Iannelli, M.D., offers this thrashing of the anti-vaccine mentality:

This guide to the 50 most common anti-vaccine myths and misinformation will help you understand that vaccines are safe, are necessary, and that getting your kids vaccinated and fully protected against each and every vaccine-preventable disease is the right decision to make.

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Banking Crisis: No lesson learned

| June 14, 2014 | Reply

Economist Anat Admati discusses the banking crisis with Bill Moyers, pointing out that real reform has not yet occurred.

BILL MOYERS: But as you surely know, the bankers tell us, not only do we have a safer system, but it’s getting even better as reforms are put into place. You look skeptical.

ANAT ADMATI: Well, they are truly trying to confuse people with their narratives. They just– either speaking a language that nobody can understand, or they say things, sometimes, that are completely wrong. And sometimes they’re just misleading.

But if you step back and look at the system, it’s very fragile. It’s one of those systems that’s like a big house of cards. You touch it, stuff can happen fast. And it’s far from any system that we would think of as reasonably stable, able to support the economy, all of that.

BILL MOYERS: You made that point in your TEDx talk. That the average US corporation relies on 70 percent equity and earnings. A company like Google, however, maintains 94 percent equity and borrows little. Banks, on the other hand, live on borrowed money and maintain very little equity— five percent. So when banks are over leveraged, and interconnected, and loans go bad, everything can topple, and there is poor old Uncle Sam trying to keep whole system from collapsing. And are they still taking these risks?

ANAT ADMATI: Oh, enormous. And by any measure of exposures to derivatives and the amount of debt versus their own money that they have, by most of these measures, it’s incredibly distorted and dangerous.

BILL MOYERS: I learned from you that two years before the financial crisis, the average size of the top 28 banks was $1.35 trillion five years ago. The average size last year, $1.7 trillion. And you say these too big to fail banks are particularly reckless and dangerous.

ANAT ADMATI: Look at them. They’ve basically become above the law. The people in them are able to do things that most other corporations would worry more about them doing because they can benefit from upsides all through the chain. And their creditors don’t worry enough, as much as other creditors would worry. And the downside eventually is everybody. So, by just taking the risk, they’re able to pass on some of their costs to other people. That’s kind of how it works for them.

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Immune corporate persons

| June 10, 2014 | 9 Replies

Excellent discussion of corporate immunity, including mandatory pre-dispute arbitration clauses:

Following the 2011 and 2013 Supreme Court rulings, dozens of other giant corporations—from Comcast and Wells Fargo to Ticketmaster and Dropbox—have secured the same legal immunity. So have companies ranging from airlines, gyms, payday lenders, and nursing homes, which have quietly rewritten the fine print of their contracts with consumers to include a shield from lawsuits and class actions. Meanwhile, businesses including Goldman Sachs, Northrop Grumman, P. F. Chang’s, and Uber have tucked similar clauses into their contracts with workers.

Hastily clicking through terms of service is now all it can take to surrender your rights to these companies. Once you do, your only path for recourse if you’re harmed by any one of them is “mandatory arbitration,” where the arbitrator is often chosen by the corporation you’re challenging, and any revelations about the company’s wrongdoing tend to be kept secret. Rather than band together under the light of the public courtroom, each individual has to work through the darkness of a private tribunal, alone, where arbitrators can interpret laws however they wish. Certain inalienable rights, the Court has ruled, are actually kind of alienable.

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Stroll down the highway . . .

| June 5, 2014 | 5 Replies

Almost a nightmare tonight. I flew into St. Louis at 11:30 pm, and I was tired. I found my car at the airport and was driving about 60 mpg in the center lane of Hwy 70 toward downtown. Coming around a curve in the highway I though I saw something, and a split second later I DID see that it a man slowly walking across my lane. He was wearing a dark red top and black pants. I gave the wheel a slight nudge to the left, but not a hard tug for fear of rolling the car over. I ended up on the left side of my center lane, and missed hitting the man by less than a foot. There was no time to hit the brakes. He was not looking toward me when I almost hit him. I don’t know whether he was drunk or mentally ill. I found myself shaken up, and thanking my stars for both him and me. A couple minutes later, I thought of calling the police, but the man would have made it across the highway, or not, by then. You just don’t expect to see a person walking on a dark superhighway at night, so when I first thought I saw him, I couldn’t immediately process that it could be a person. looking back, I now see that I made an almost unconscious decision that I would not flip my car (probably a suicidal maneuver) in order to save this man. It’s a disturbing thought, made only a bit less disturbing by the fact that the entire episode lasted 2 seconds, making it impossible for me to think things through in real time.

And now, back home, I once again remind myself that an avoided tragedy is a great gift. What happened is the equivalent of me striking and killing a man on the highway, and then a magic genie coming along and using magic to undo the damage. I came so close to striking the man that it almost seems like I DID strike him . . .

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Chris Hedges on Useless Liberals

| June 4, 2014 | Reply

Chris Hedges has no use for modern liberals:

I save my anger for our bankrupt liberal intelligentsia of which, sadly, I guess I am a member. Liberals are the defeated, self-absorbed Mouse Man in Dostoevsky’s “Notes From Underground.” They embrace cynicism, a cloak for their cowardice and impotence. They, like Dostoevsky’s depraved character, have come to believe that the “conscious inertia” of the underground surpasses all other forms of existence. They too use inaction and empty moral posturing, not to affect change but to engage in an orgy of self-adulation and self-pity. They too refuse to act or engage with anyone not cowering in the underground. This choice does not satisfy the Mouse Man, as it does not satisfy our liberal class, but neither has the strength to change. The gravest danger we face as a nation is not from the far right, although it may well inherit power, but from a bankrupt liberal class that has lost the will to fight and the moral courage to stand up for what it espouses.

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