Category - Ruminations

Jon Stewart Should Retire More Often

The chains of restraint have been loosed just a bit since his announcement that he’ll be leaving the show soon, and the quality of the show has increased. Last night’s take-down of the former VP was both entertaining and vitriolic – but perhaps I repeat myself.

Have a look:


Bonus: The ‘Murican Awards

Speaking Truth to the Supreme Court

Linda Greenhouse- NYT Op-Ed
Next Monday, retired Justice John Paul Stevens turns 95. still speaking truth to the powerful institution on which his tenure was the third longest in history…In his final term on the court, Justice Stevens was a vigorous dissenter from the Citizens United decision, which opened the door to unlimited corporate campaign spending

Justice Stevens offered this single sentence: “Neither the First Amendment nor any provision of this Constitution shall be construed to prohibit the Congress or any state from imposing reasonable limits on the amount of money that candidates for public office, or their supporters, may spend in election campaigns.”

The proposed campaign finance amendment is one of the “Six Amendments” in the book by that name that Justice Stevens published last year. Another would ban capital punishment by adding to the Eighth Amendment the five words highlighted here:

“Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments such as the death penalty inflicted.”
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Everybody knows

Originally published April 9

We are told that the economy is in recovery. Things are getting better. Facts and figures bolster the argument: Lower unemployment figures. Higher GDP numbers. Affordable health care for all.

I look at my personal world and it doesn’t reconcile with the narrative.

Is it just me?

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Iran. Iraq. Somebody Remind Me….

President Obama and his Administration are announcing a breakthrough in dealing with Iran on the matter of nuclear proliferation. The media is reporting the obvious condemnation from the Republicans, the Republican wanna-be presidential candidates, and the incessant one-note whining of Israel’s PM.  In contrast, Secretary of State Kerry and others in the Administration are floating hyperbolic self-congratulations over their own hard work and stellar performance.

Most of what I heard yesterday by 7:00 PM indicated the “details” of any agreement would not be worked out for 6 months or more but the “framework” was pretty good as frameworks go.  Then again, the Kyoto Protocols and the SALT II talks were frameworks of international agreement too and whether they did good or ill remains unresolved in minds of many. I suspect most frameworks are built on compromise and whatever they yield is just about as satisfying.

For the liberal world, you have to start somewhere and if a framework gets you started in the correct direction, it is better than creeping toward greater conflict.  To the conservative world, this agreement is worse than Chamberlain’s “appeasement” of the National Socialist Party and the first step along the slippery slope toward mutually assured bloodshed.

So have we staved off disaster, or have we hastened it?
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Passphrases That You Can Memorize — But That Even the NSA Can’t Guess

The Intercept, By Micah Lee, March 26

It’s getting easier to secure your digital privacy. iPhones now encrypt a great deal of personal information; hard drives on Mac and Windows 8.1 computers are now automatically locked down; even Facebook, which made a fortune on open sharing, is providing end-to-end encryption in the chat tool WhatsApp. But none of this technology offers as much protection as you may think if you don’t know how to come up with a good passphrase.

A passphrase is like a password, but longer and more secure. In essence, it’s an encryption key that you memorize. Once you start caring more deeply about your privacy and improving your computer security habits, one of the first roadblocks you’ll run into is having to create a passphrase. You can’t secure much without one.

For example, when you encrypt your hard drive, a USB stick, or a document on your computer, the disk encryption is often only as strong as your passphrase. If you use a password database, or the password-saving feature in your web browser, you’ll want to set a strong master passphrase to protect them. If you want to encrypt your email with PGP, you protect your private key with a passphrase. In his first email to Laura Poitras, Edward Snowden wrote, “Please confirm that no one has ever had a copy of your private key and that it uses a strong passphrase. Assume your adversary is capable of one trillion guesses per second.”

In this post, I outline a simple way to come up with easy-to-memorize but very secure passphrases. It’s the latest entry in an ongoing series of stories offering solutions — partial and imperfect but useful solutions — to the many surveillance-related problems we aggressively report about here at The Intercept.

The Ultimate Cocklebur

   When I was a teenager, I came into possession of a large amount of booze. (It’s a long story). I kept a bottle in my school locker and used to take a nip between classes – more to cock a snook at Authority than because I really wanted a drink. I used to lie in bed at night with an 8oz tumbler full of whiskey and read, listen to country radio until about 4am as I sipped my booze.
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Detroiter Philip Levine, working-class poet laureate, dies at 87

Detroit Free Press – Not all of Philip Levine’s poetry was about his hometown of Detroit, but a lot of it was. And as this son of Russian immigrants rose from the streets to win the Pulitzer Prize and even become poet laureate of the U.S., his literary voice never stopped pulsating with the sweat and soul of the blue-collar city where he was born. Levine, whose poetry sang of the triumphs and tragedies of the working class, died Saturday at his home in Fresno, Calif, less than a month after being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. He was 87.

Levine spoke about the influence of Detroit on his work in a 2011 interview with the Free Press. “You grow up in a place and it becomes the arena of your discovery,” he said. “It also became the arena of my discovery of the nature of American capitalism and the sense of how ordinary people have no choice at all in how they’re going to be formed by the society. My politics were formed by the city.”
more at the link

Preventing dissent

How Britain’s new police state will radicalise us all

Medium, By Nafeez Ahmed, February 13

In the UK, an insidious secret network of violent extremists is plotting to subvert democracy. The members of this network detest our way of life, and hate our freedoms. Walking amongst us, this dangerous fifth column is exploiting the very laws we hold dear to campaign for the establishment of an extremist, totalitarian state that would police every aspect of our lives based on a fanatical ideology that is devoid of reason.

No, the ‘Islamic State’ is not about to conquer Great Britain. But the neocons in government and industry who profit from fear might well be.

In the name of fighting terror, the UK government, hand-in-hand with the US, is leading the way to turn freedom of speech and dissent into mere formalities that, in practice, have no place in societies that will function, effectively, as full-fledged police-states.
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Invasive Internet

While I am very glad that some people in government are finally coming around to the idea of the internet as a public utility instead of private property belonging to ISP’s, I am increasingly upset by invasive monitoring. I don’t mean the NSA’s either.

Not ten minutes ago, my wife took her tablet and went to the FTD site to look at flower arrangements. I am guessing she did not know the site address and googled it first. I was in the next room on my son’s computer (a Mac) on the internet, also on wireless, and up pops the very arrangements of flowers she was looking at in the adjacent room in the ad space of Huffington Post and Raw Story. On sale. Coupons and offer codes. I have no doubt other sites will reflect this invasive scrutiny of in my family’s passing interest in flowers for sale. A week ago it was my passing interest in a music dvd—the same one whose ads now infest about six of my favorite sites.

Is there a public radio equivalent to the internet I wonder?

Peek-a-nomics: Looking Forward, Not Backward

I have said more than once that I enjoy the work and the insights of Ian Welsh even if I almost never feel uplifted by any of his forecasts. He often says he doesn’t write to make anyone feel good, just calls’m as he sees’m. Recently he posted an essay about inflation, or at least the way inflation is presented to us on the nightly news or by well-known politicians and pundits.

The article is here ( http://www.ianwelsh.net/yes-virginia-all-that-money-printing-did-show-up-as-inflation/ ).

The main premise seems to be: inflation is something the Masters of the Economic Order are busy fighting in word and deed, but the inflation they are keen to fight has to do with luxuries (like rare art, yachts, or currency exchange bets they made). When it comes to inflation on the stuff common folk need to get along—food, medical services—well, that can be overlooked. It’s marginal. Insignificant. About the only thing the little people have going for them now is a temporary dip in gasolene prices, and we owe that all to American frackers ( that is, if you swallowed your regular dose of media Pablum).

Then there is Part Two of this premise: from the rich’s point of view, the economy looks pretty good because it has some stability (predictability), enough so that they can live off their fat. And they get a bonus: low interest money to play games with. Their credit is impeccable (unlike yours or mine) and their ability to pay loans back goes unquestioned.

Book-ending this essay was Numerian’s here at The Agonist ( http://agonist.org/deflation-swamps-switzerland/ ) concerning deflation and its pernicious effects. The net effect of these two gloomy reality checks makes me want to retreat, except of course there is no place to retreat to.

If there is a common thread, it is that the world measures the “economy” incorrectly for most of us. The value of labor to society is not properly or fairly accounted for. Simultaneously, the value of wealth is over-stated and over-weighted. Nevermind how incorrect it is. It remains the official way to measure, record and report.
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Charles Townes, Who Won Nobel for Lasers, Dies at 99


Charles Townes with wife, Frances after his sculpture was unveiled in his hometown, Greenville, SC
(The Greenville News/Heidi Heilbrunn, via AP)

NYT – Charles H. Townes, a visionary physicist whose research led to the development of the laser, making it possible to play CDs, scan prices at the supermarket, measure time precisely, survey planets and galaxies, and even witness the birth of stars, died on Tuesday in Oakland, Calif. He was 99.

In 1964, Dr. Townes and two Russians shared the Nobel Prize in Physics for their work on microwave-emitting devices, called masers, and their light-emitting successors, lasers, which have transformed modern communications, medicine, astronomy, weapons systems and daily life in homes and workplaces.
more at the link

Amazon Prime only $72 tomorrow only, new subscribers only

OK, I wouldn’t post this, but nymole wanted anything, so here goes…
Usually Amazon Prime is $99/year, but tomorrow they are having a special sale for new members only.  If you don’t already have it, now’s the time.
Even $72 for a year sounds expensive, but it works out to $6/month, $3/mo less than Netflix.  I think it is well worth it.  Not only do you get free instant video of commercial-free movies and tv shows, just like Netflix, but you also get free 2-day shipping on any Prime items you buy from Amazon, and Amazon usually sells stuff cheaper than just about anywhere else.
When you sign up, order a Roku streaming media player in order to watch those shows (and many others).  Once you start using it, you’ll wonder if you really need to pay that big cable bill every month.

Breathtakingly Cynical – Obama’s New Proposal

In a breathtaking display of Cynicism, the Obama administration has announced a program to provide tax cuts for the “middle class,” and to increase taxes on the rich.

This is just a cynical political ploy to polish his appalling legacy, characterized by “Look forward, not backward” in prosecuting torture, kidnapping and illegal imprisonment, coupled with his outstanding lack of effort to remove the US “middle class” from under the health insurance industry’s boot.

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Massive Paris Unity Rally, Jan 11, 2015


–CNN
 
Coverage and many pictures of the rally in Paris at the usual news links.

Two million marched across France.
Update: At least 3.7 million marched in Paris alone.

Netanyahu, recognizing an opportunity, was in the line at the head of the march with Hollande,
Cameron, Merkel, and Mahmoud Abbas for the photo op.

Obama, not recognizing one, sent retiring Attorney General Eric Holder and Ambassador to France Jane Hartley.
Update- Holder was in Paris but did not attend the rally. So where was Joe Biden?
 
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