Taughannock Falls

Taughannock Falls
from: althouse.blogspot.com

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Henry Giroux tells us to wake up and take back our world from the parasites

Henry Giroux has been a strong advocate for defending high-quality public education from the profiteering privatizers here in the U.S. Here he argues that only a free and independent citizenry, educated outside of the corporate sphere of influence, will be able to reclaim our democracy. http://www.truthdig.com/report/page4/cultures_of_violence_in_the_age_of_casino_capitalism_20131219

As power becomes global, unrestrained by the politics of nation states, it has become more arrogant, less controllable and more vicious in its pursuit of resources, profits and wealth. This predatory ruling financial class are the new zombies - parasites sucking the blood out of everything they come in contact with while spreading misery, suffering, and death all over the globe. One consequence is that more and more individuals and groups are becoming imaginary others, defined by a free floating, largely unaccountable capitalist class that inscribes them as disposable, redundant and irrelevant…. This grim reality has produced a failure in the power of the civic imagination, political will, and open democracy. Casino capitalism destroys those institutions that generate the capacity for critique, dissent, thoughtfulness and collective struggles. In its place, it has erected a series of cultural apparatuses that revel in idiocy, celebrity culture, conformity and infantilization…. The struggle against casino capitalism must begin as not only a struggle over power, but as a concerted and widespread attempt to make education central to politics, to address what it means to change the way in which people see things, learn how to govern rather than be governed, and embrace a collective sense of agency in which history and the future is open.blockquote>

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Pathetic Spectacle

Charles Hugh Smith sums up neatly the dismay many of us feel when confronted by the antics of our national politicians:

All we have left in the U.S. is a deeply impoverishing Political Theater of the Absurd. Policy, theory and governance have all been reduced to competing stage performances in the Theater of the Absurd. The actors are transparently given to farcical overacting in exaggerated dramas drained of meaning; they proceed through the cliched motions as if the audience hadn't seen the same charades overplayed dozens of times before. "Government shutdown" and "debt ceiling" may have engaged audiences starved for entertainment in a bygone age, but now they exemplify a theater that is so impoverished it can only re-stage tired formulaic dramas with a savage appetite for incompetence and buffoonery.
So what should we do? I think the time for trying to elect better politicians within this corrupt system has passed. We need to recognize that our interests simply aren't represented in this corporate-friendly regime. Our attitude should be akin to those of colonized populations biding their time until they can reclaim their own land. Collaborate with the regime as little as possible and support our own independent attempts to build communities and institutions that promote sane, healthy living. Continue to resist oppression, but begin to construct a new, more humane society on the scorched earth of the ravaged world left to us by the greedheads.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

An establishment voice in support of Snowden

Here's Richard Falk, the Albert G Milbank Professor Emeritus of International Law at Princeton University and Visiting Distinguished Professor in Global and International Studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara:

"Instead of seeking to prosecute and punish Snowden, the healthy national response would be to reestablish limits on governmental surveillance and extraterritorial security claims. At least, it is time for citizens not to be fooled by the politics of deflection by which the government and a pliant media avoid the message and obsess about the messenger, and discuss the substantive issues that prompted the disclosures rather than seek to punish an individual of conscience who chose bravely to risk the fury of a state because some of its unseemly secrets were being made public."
http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2013/07/201371011618650821.html This, at a minimum, is the sort of reaction one would expect from any sane U.S. citizen, from across the political spectrum. Sadly, many folks have chosen to reveal themselves during this crisis as completely craven cowards, willing, even eager, to throw themselves on the mercies of the surveillance state. Why? This is a difficult question, but history offers many other examples of folks failing to stand up to bullies. Authoritarian regimes don't require enthusiastic support from subjects, frightened obedience will suit them just as well.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Thursday, July 4, 2013

This is the fourth we must restore

"The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized." The whole point of this amendment is to prohibit the kind of blanket spying on the general population that the NSA currently does. Have a great holiday everyone!

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

The disconnect on the surveillance state

This explanation, from Fred DeBoer, of why so many pundits are cravenly defending the overreach of our ever-growing surveillance state, seems right on the money. It's not just careerism, it's identification with the overclass:

Marshall sees nothing to fear from authority and the state, because he is one of the Chosen People of authority and the state. Meanwhile, those who are not among the elect fear and distrust authority, because it daily oppresses them. This fear and distrust is as rational as a thing can be, but Marshall cannot bring himself to believe in it. Marshall has that in common with Jeffrey Toobin, Richard Cohen, and David Brooks: no reason to fear the police state. Why should they? They are, all of them, American aristocrats: white, male, rich, and properly deferential to anyone with a title or a badge or authority or an office. Of course they don't know why anyone would worry about limitless surveillance. They themselves have nothing to fear because they are the overclass. They can't imagine what it might be like to be Muslim or black or poor or to have any other characteristic that removes them from the ranks of the assumed blameless. But the story of America is the story of people with reason to fear power. It's the story of how very dangerous it can be to find oneself outside of the overclass, how relentlessly the state and the moneyed work to crush difference. Marshall's notion that men like Manning and Snowden should simply have backed off and played by the rules is one of the most consistent and dishonest messages in American political history. It was the message delivered to the AIDS activists who are profiled in How to Stop a Plague. It was the message delivered to Martin Luther King and the rest of the Civil Rights movement. It was the message delivered to the suffragettes. It was the message delivered to the abolitionists. It was the message delivered to the American revolutionaries. In each case, self-serious men told those who perceived themselves to be oppressed and suffering to get on board and play by the rules, in deference to the community.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

A very important question

Chris Hedges has called attention to a looming crisis for what's left of our democracy. Namely, is the corporate-owned mainstream press willing to challenge the official narrative and provide citizens with the truth anymore?

The New York Times, The Guardian, El Pais, Le Monde and Der Spiegel giddily printed redacted copies of some of the WikiLeaks files and then promptly threw Assange and Manning to the sharks. It was not only morally repugnant, but also stunningly shortsighted. Do these news organizations believe that if the state shuts down organizations such as WikiLeaks and imprisons Manning and Assange, traditional news outlets will be left alone? Can’t they connect the dots between the prosecutions of government whistle-blowers under the Espionage Act, warrantless wiretapping, monitoring of communications and the persecution of Manning and Assange? Don’t they worry that when the state finishes with Manning, Assange and WikiLeaks, these atrophied news outlets will be next? Haven’t they realized that this is a war by a global corporate elite not against an organization or an individual but against the freedom of the press and democracy?
I believe many journalists still want to perform the vital function of a free and independent press, yet they are (rightly) very afraid of the corporate/state power to crush them if they reveal embarrasing truths. Many people I know say they now rely more on Colbert and Stewart for information than the traditional "hard news" outlets. This is a sad reflection on how far we have drifted away from democracy. In traditional monarchical societies "court jesters" were often used by the regime as a sort of safety valve. The jesters were allowed a surprising amount of freedom to indirectly criticize the regime through satirical humor. The most they could hope for, as a real result of their clever and subtle critiques, was to accomplish what Hamlet desired: to "catch the conscience of the king." (Hamlet II,2)

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Freedom isn't free-- the physical cost of exercising 1st amendment rights is sometimes steep

We touched a nerve with OWS... it's going to take real physical courage for us to continue speaking truth to power in the face of state violence.

A Brave New World that doesn't work for you or me

Yves Smith has one of the best summations I've ever read of what's broken in our hyper-financialized, global capitalist world system in today's NakedCapitalism:

There’s an opportunity in Spain, let’s say, to take advantage of cheap labor and prices. Money flows in, builds huge capacity, then flows out as soon as it finds better opportunity elsewhere. What’s left behind? The Spanish in a crashed economy, and in a world in which the holders of their debt (German bankers et al) are using the EU (remember, capture of government) to make sure that creditors are made whole at the expense of whole populations. Kind of like how Walmart comes into a town, builds a huge store, drives all the other retailers out of business, then leaves as soon as the low-wage-earners in that town can’t keep the store more profitable than other stores in the state. What’s left? The wreck of an economy. Where’s the money? In the pockets of the Walton family, ‘natch. Win-win for someone (but not for you). Your “economic crisis” is just their “cost of doing business” Keep in mind, the purpose of unrestricted “free trade” is to advantage the holders of capital over everyone else on the planet. Great wealth insulates these men and women from crises, so even global economic crisis is just the externalized price (that we pay) for their wealth extraction enterprise — just like a burdened health care system is the externalized price (that we pay) for wealth extraction by billionaire owners of tobacco companies from the constant stream of lung cancer patients. What’s “a world in constant crisis” to them? Just the cost of doing business. Nothing personal. It’s just business.
Read more at http://www.nakedcapitalism.com/2013/03/free-trade-and-unrestricted-capital-flow-how-billionaires-get-rich-and-destroy-the-rest-of-us.html#jcyaWAsbUh0igVfC.99 How can the 99.9% of us who don't benefit from this system push back? We have to take a lesson from our Corporate Overlords. Oppression, destruction, and exploitation isn't limited by national borders one whit. Our resistance to this oppression must also be without borders-- and every bit as relentless as the predations of the zombies who now think they have begun a thousand year Reich of global corporate fascism.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Monday, January 21, 2013

In case you weren't already pissed off...

I discovered a radical blogger today who I would recommend highly to anyone interested in the intensely personal feelings of injury so many good folks are living with in the harsh world of post-New Deal America. Here's Loren Bliss at his blog, Outside Agitator's Notebook: [the] "One Percenters and their Democrat and Republican toadies want us all dead. They regard us as throw-away workers, useless junk, no different from worn-out machines, each of us a drain on their wealth, each of us an affront to their “fiscal responsibility.” Were this Nazi Germany, their all-time perfect state, they'd march us into death camps and be done with us. But death camps are an international embarrassment. (Look what happened to Hitler.) Worse, death camps reveal the core truths of capitalism: that capitalism is infinite greed elevated to maximum virtue; that capitalism is the forcible, often violent overthrow of every humanitarian principle our species ever articulated; that capitalism is (therefore) our species' closest-yet approximation of Absolute Evil. So instead of death camps, the always-diabolical One Percent conjured up a new strategy: to murder us by neglect and abandonment, to murder us also by the gut-wrenching terror evoked by the approach of our certain victimhood. How much money will be taken from us? How much health care will be denied us? How shall we survive? Verily, in the talk of a “grand bargain” to destroy the socioeconomic safety net, we see undeniable proof the Democrats and the Republicans are all the same – that Barack Obama and Mitt Romney and Nancy Pelosi and Eric Cantor and Harry Reid and Mitch McConnell are united in a solidarity of unrelenting murderousness, against us, against anyone who is unexploitable for profit. Their tactics are now obvious. First, with all the deliberate malice, methodical viciousness and gleeful sadism they can muster, these politicians and their One Percenter overlords threaten us with termination of the life-sustaining stipends and services provided by Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, unemployment compensation, food stamps, any number of other programs that keep us alive when we're old and/or disabled and/or jobless. The details of their threats sometimes differ – the Republicans want to shut down all social services immediately and use the ensuing riots to excuse far harsher measures; the Democrats want to kill us more gradually – but the long-term intent is identically homicidal. They know (and they rejoice in the fact) their threats alone are deadly: old hearts do not long tolerate the constant fear of murder by starvation and homelessness and denial of medication. Indeed no one dares say how many lives have already been ended by the climate of terror the One Percent and its Democrat and Republican henchmen have imposed on us all. Next – as the One Percent is already doing via the Democrat and Republican parties – they actually terminate those stipends and services." I don't know how I could persuade this outside agitator to moderate the harshness of his critique. There are surely some one-percenters, and those who serve their interests, who don't interpret their own behavior as murderous. "Why just last month I contributed over a thousand dollars to Oxfam... I know that I'm fortunate in material terms, but this allows me to help the less fortunate!" Yet helping a small fraction of those who desperately need help doesn't answer the charge. If I help to perpetuate a system that emiserates many, lessening the misery of a few doesn't get me off the hook. The fact is we are all morally obliged to do more than simply refrain from deliberate, violent acts of repression and injustice. We are also called to make our best efforts to learn about how people we don't see every day are doing. If they are being harmed, we can't just say "it wasn't us!" When the system we live in is unjust, it is our duty to change it. To oversimplify for a moment. Suppose you live in a prosperous little village dedicated to music and the arts. You and the other villagers live comfortable, interesting lives as writers, actors, dancers, composers and musicians. Every week you share some of your creative productions in an exhibition and performance complex in the heart of town. Each week an appreciative audience of well-dressed folks enjoys a stimulating afternoon of the village's offerings and leaves an abundance of goods behind in appreciation. All of the villagers' material and aesthetic needs are well taken care of, with the best of everything. One day, a bruised and bloody, emaciated waif is seen wandering near the village. She tells a horrifying tale of how she escaped from a salt-mine 200 miles distant. The owners of the mine, where enslaved, brutally mistreated workers die off at alarmingly high rates, are, she claims, the very same folks who come every week to patronize the cultural offerings of the village. Naturally, the kind villagers take in the waif, nurse her back to health, and worry about what to do next. She's obviously delusional, most of the villagers think, "how could her family be so irresponsible as to let a mentally ill person wander off like that?" A few argue that she might be telling the truth, and that the villagers should send an expedition to the mines to see the situation. In the end, they compromise, and agree to ask their patrons for an explanation on their next visit. The well-dressed patrons explain to you villagers that security concerns prevent them from allowing visitors in the actual mines, but fortunately they have a beautifully produced video that shows the charming conditions in which the salt-miners actually labor. You are all so relieved! The security guard on the patron's coach asks the villagers to not approach anyone else they see who may be suffering from PWS (Paranoid Worker's Syndrome.) They can sometimes be violent. All of you in the village thank the security guard for her help, put her number on their speed-dial and get back to your busy, interesting lives. This is what so many of our merly affluent (as opposed to insanely rich) fellow citizens have done. They've seen evidence of the horrific damage that global capitalism has wrought, and they don't want to see anymore. You can live for weeks at a time in Greenwich, CT., without seeing truly poor people in any other role but that of gardeners, maids, or store-clerks who seem happy to be there. Of course there's no need to see the broken neighborhoods in Bridgeport they return to at night... Recycling, composting, even bravely volunteering at the soup kitchen and confronting the reality of poverty head-on are admirable steps that many of our affluent citizens take, to, as they say, "give back." Yet in spite of their best efforts the 1% takes more and more of the planet's resources, leaving less and less for everybody else. Even here in the wealthist nation on earth, the majority of people don't enjoy anything close to the comforts and opportunities that well-off folks take for granted. A little bit of charity, and token reform won't fix what is broken. Dramatic changes, bolder than anything dreamed of in FDR's New Deal are urgently required. Our elites have lost credibility when they ask us to trust their "leadership." They aren't leading us to a land of milk and honey, they are asking us to sacrifice even more of our standard of living so that the billionaires who rule our planet can add a few more zeroes to their offshore bank balances. These plutocrats could literally stuff millions in cash into the fireplace, every day, and stil be able to buy dozens of mansions, yachts, jets and anything else they could want. Their insane greed is disgusting, yet they hold themselves up as role-models. All that it takes for the greed-heads to win is for decent people to stand apart from the class war. There is no middle-ground. Just like in fascist Germany, those who don't resist the criminals are at least partly complicit in their crimes.

Monday, January 14, 2013

An Open Access Hero

I'm still far too upset to share all of my feelings regarding the tragic death of young Aaron Swartz. Yet I feel it's important that folks understand his positive vision, not just his martyrdom at the hands of an insanely cruel DOJ. So here's something Aaron shared with the world in happier times, what he chose to call a "Manifesto." Guerilla Open Access Manifesto

"Information is power. But like all power, there are those who want to keep it for themselves. The world’s entire scientific and cultural heritage, published over centuries in books and journals, is increasingly being digitized and locked up by a handful of private corporations. Want to read the papers featuring the most famous results of the sciences? You’ll need to send enormous amounts to publishers like Reed Elsevier. There are those struggling to change this. The Open Access Movement has fought valiantly to ensure that scientists do not sign their copyrights away but instead ensure their work is published on the Internet, under terms that allow anyone to access it. But even under the best scenarios, their work will only apply to things published in the future. Everything up until now will have been lost. That is too high a price to pay. Forcing academics to pay money to read the work of their colleagues? Scanning entire libraries but only allowing the folks at Google to read them? Providing scientific articles to those at elite universities in the First World, but not to children in the Global South? It’s outrageous and unacceptable. “I agree,” many say, “but what can we do? The companies hold the copyrights, they make enormous amounts of money by charging for access, and it’s perfectly legal — there’s nothing we can do to stop them.” But there is something we can, something that’s already being done: we can fight back. Those with access to these resources — students, librarians, scientists — you have been given a privilege. You get to feed at this banquet of knowledge while the rest of the world is locked out. But you need not — indeed, morally, you cannot — keep this privilege for yourselves. You have a duty to share it with the world. And you have: trading passwords with colleagues, filling download requests for friends. Meanwhile, those who have been locked out are not standing idly by. You have been sneaking through holes and climbing over fences, liberating the information locked up by the publishers and sharing them with your friends. But all of this action goes on in the dark, hidden underground. It’s called stealing or piracy, as if sharing a wealth of knowledge were the moral equivalent of plundering a ship and murdering its crew. But sharing isn’t immoral — it’s a moral imperative. Only those blinded by greed would refuse to let a friend make a copy. Large corporations, of course, are blinded by greed. The laws under which they operate require it — their shareholders would revolt at anything less. And the politicians they have bought off back them, passing laws giving them the exclusive power to decide who can make copies. There is no justice in following unjust laws. It’s time to come into the light and, in the grand tradition of civil disobedience, declare our opposition to this private theft of public culture. We need to take information, wherever it is stored, make our copies and share them with the world. We need to take stuff that’s out of copyright and add it to the archive. We need to buy secret databases and put them on the Web. We need to download scientific journals and upload them to file sharing networks. We need to fight for Guerilla Open Access. With enough of us, around the world, we’ll not just send a strong message opposing the privatization of knowledge — we’ll make it a thing of the past. Will you join us?"
Aaron Swartz July 2008, Eremo, Italy