Monday, November 29, 2010

Interview with Matt Taibbi

An interview with Matt Taibbi is here

An excerpt:

"MA: So we have systemic problems and the public is not getting the information to understand them. Politicians are not really educating the public about these things, and they are bailing out the companies that have acted badly. The media, too, are not really informing people, so it seems that many in the public are left with a simplistic understanding, rather than seeing the systemic issues and solutions. What do you see as the big solutions?"

Matt Taibbi:"...Because the financial services industry is the number one source of money for politicians, I think [campaign finance reform] would be a great place to start, if you were going to talk about what we can do. I mean there isn’t a whole lot we can do, but that’s one thing that would actually have at least a little bit of a concrete effect. It wouldn’t solve everything because even if you fixed the campaign contribution rules, a lot of these guys are going to go and work as consultants to Citi Group or Goldman Sachs after they leave office and that’s always going to be a temptation, but at least it’s someplace to start."

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Ready to Learn?

A really interesting piece from Alfie Kohn -

'Ready to Learn' Equals Easier to Educate

"Thus, "readiness to learn" may have more to do with a schedule that's convenient for others -- or, worse, with preparation for standardized testing -- than with what is necessary or even desirable for a given child."

""Why, he asked, do we spend time trying to figure out which criteria best predict success in higher education? Why are colleges looking for the most qualified students? "One would think that the purpose of education is precisely to improve the performance of those who are not doing very well," he mused."

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

The "Obama Phone" and blatant lies...

Have you got the "Obama Phone" email yet? A friend sent it to me, his uncle sent it to him, the uncle's boss sent it to him, and a friend at church sent it to the boss... that's as far as I could get. Each time it was forwarded, the person sending it wrote a note that said something like "WE'VE GOT TO STOP THIS SOCIALIST!"

Nobody took the time to look here, here, here, here, or even the company's own fact sheet here to find out that it was completely false. No free phones paid for by tax payers dollars and it has nothing to do with Obama. In fact, the funny part of this one is that the origins go back to a deal between Wilson and AT&T in 1913, and that basic agreement between communications companies and the Feds has been enhanced since, including the Lifeline program that was set up by the FCC under Reagan, the Universal Service Fund created by the Republican Congress in the '96 Telecommunications Act, and the Safelink Wireless program under Bush in '08.

I've written about this basic idea before regarding the fake Acorn and Sherrod video's, the fake study about Federal VS Private Sector wages, and once you begin to recognize the pattern it was easy to recognize that the fake Obama's $20M a day trip to India was in the same vain. But, most of those found daylight in the national media, and although those responsible for spreading the falsehoods never came out and said, "oops, I missed that one", responsible outlets pointed out the facts.

Forwarded emails strike me as a little different, nobody just missed this one, this was originally written by someone for the purpose of propaganda, to pull the strings of people who don't have the time or know how to learn different. On second thought there's not that much difference, if Fox doesn't clarify the facts, Republicans won't hear the truth, and this is exactly what those who spread this crap know. As the quote and video link at the top of this blog point out, that's the purpose of marketing and propaganda, and that's why for years they made this false claim about the "liberal" media. They convinced them to only trust their resources for information, no need to research, read, or think... just absorb.

A quick, non political example. That Jeep being blown out of a volcano commercial is silly, but don't be shocked if you hear somebody say "that Jeeps pretty tough I hear"... they don't know where they picked up that knowledge, but they're pretty sure it's true. The puppeteers in politics play the same game, thus we hear, "Obama's a socialist"... when in point of fact, he's nothing more than a middle of the road, corporate politician, who, as this piece points out, real socialist wouldn't claim as one of their own for anything.

To quote Hitchen's (again), "It's not unfair to say that such grievances are purely and simply imaginary, which in turn leads one to ask what the real ones can be."

Sunday, November 14, 2010

"Who Will Stand Up to the Superrich?"

According to everyone we've got to get this deficit under control and curb government spending. Leaving aside how this apparently wasn't an issue when Shrub was the President, it's interesting to see that there is almost universal agreement where these cuts need to happen - Social Security, Medicaid, and perhaps with grudging admission among conservatives, the military.

So people who actually work for a living will need to work until their 70 to get social security... all the while, as Frank Rich pointed out today, "“How can hedge-fund managers who are pulling down billions sometimes pay a lower tax rate than do their secretaries?” ask the political scientists Jacob S. Hacker (of Yale) and Paul Pierson (University of California, Berkeley) in their deservedly lauded new book, “Winner-Take-All Politics.”

Great column by Frank Rich, and some really smart comments associated with the piece...

Ultimately, there are really smart economist who think this focus on the deficit is absolutely silly, but assume that we have to tackle it, there are ways to balance this budget and erase this deficit with out pissing on working people... like growing an economy that pays living wages and making life better for working folks. The alternative is nothing more than economics laced with social darwinism epitomized by trickle down economics, the very idea of which is absurd on every level.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Measuring Success

"Societies such as Italy, Greece and many others are viewed by global capitalism as inferior economies. Especially agrarian societies: different rates of exchange and economies of scale, are set for them because capitalism benefits from the bonuses of synergies in scale and the virtual economy. Never do global capitalists want to see regional food security, energy security, or any other kind of security for that matter." - Joe Bageant in Flatworm Economics

How we measure our country's success is based on economics - unemployment rates and GDP, the stock market, etc. Our communities the same but you can include another dimension I think, which is sadly what you can buy there - a local community celebrates with the announcement that Olive Garden is coming to town, a franchise that serves warmed up TV dinners in big bowls. With our public institutions we've incorporated business language - All of the talk around school reform is about how well it trains people to work. What's the return on investment? Nothing about teaching people to love learning, helping them come happy, well-informed , well rounded, no the question is only - will they be productive? And in our personal lives more of the same. What do you do? Is the first question we ask when meeting someone new.

Corporations are soulless devices created for no other purpose than to maximize profit. Why is this the model that we've chosen to follow? Why have we adopted their language and their measures for success?

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Griftopia: Bubble Machines, Vampire Squids, and the Long Con that is breaking America

Rolling Stone has an article adapted from Matt Taibbi’s new bookhere

An excerpt:
“As it turns out, the Pennsylvania Turnpike deal almost went through, only to be killed by the state legislature, but there were others just like it that did go through, most notably the sale of all the parking meters in Chicago to a consortium that included the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority, from the United Arab Emirates.

There were others: A toll highway in Indiana. The Chicago Skyway. A stretch of highway in Florida. Parking meters in Nashville, Pittsburgh, Los Angeles, and other cities. A port in Virginia. And a whole bevy of Californian public infrastructure projects, all either already leased or set to be leased for fifty or seventy-five years or more in exchange for one-off lump sum payments of a few billion bucks at best, usually just to help patch a hole or two in a single budget year.

America is quite literally for sale, at rock-bottom prices, and the buyers increasingly are the very people who scored big in the oil bubble. Thanks to Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley and the other investment banks that artificially jacked up the price of gasoline over the course of the last decade, Americans delivered a lot of their excess cash into the coffers of sovereign wealth funds like the Qatar Investment Authority, the Libyan Investment Authority, Saudi Arabia's SAMA Foreign Holdings, and the UAE's Abu Dhabi Investment Authority.”


Bill Moyers gave an amazing speech as part of the Howard Zinn Lecture Series -

You can read it here,or watch it here

An excerpt:
"Everyone knows millions of Americans are in trouble. As Robert Reich recently summed it the state of working people: They’ve lost their jobs, their homes, and their savings. Their grown children have moved back in with them. Their state and local taxes are rising. Teachers and firefighters are being laid off. The roads and bridges they count on are crumbling, pipelines are leaking, schools are dilapidated, and public libraries are being shut.

Why isn’t government working for them? Because it’s been bought off. It’s as simple as that. And until we get clean money we’re not going to get clean elections, and until we get clean elections, you can kiss goodbye government of, by, and for the people. Welcome to the plutocracy."

After the election -

A number of good post about the election:

1. Paul Krugman on his blog at the NYTimes

2. Cenk Uygur of the Young Turks in this 4 minute video -

3. Not a direct comment on this election, but this great movie - showed the way to all the politicians who got beat this time. Doing this would have kept them in office for another term, seriously. But then they wouldn't be able to become lobbyist, which the vast majority of them will do now, and they'll make millions doing so, thus I don't really expect them to take the advice.