Category - Ruminations

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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Yves Smith: Something That Changed My Perspective: Karl Polanyi’s The Great Transformation

Naked Capitalism, By Yves Smith, January 2

The first Christmas-New Years period for this site, in 2007, we featured a series “Something That Changed My Perspective,” which presented some things that affected how I viewed the world. The offerings included John Kay on obliquity and Michael Prowse on how income inequality was bad for the health even of the wealthy.

Perhaps the clearest and most important illustration was the the must-see four-part Adam Curtis BBC series “The Century of the Self.” If you haven’t seen it, I urge you to make it a priority for this weekend. Even though you may think you know about propaganda, this program is likely to be an eye-opener. As Curtis says:

This series is about how those in power have used Freud’s theories to try and control the dangerous crowd in an age of mass democracy.” It focuses on how Sigmund Freud’s ideas were used by business and government, far more deliberately and extensively than one might imagine, during the 20th century to achieve what Freud’s nephew and creator of the public relations industry Eddie Bernays called “the engineering of consent.

The Curtis documentary and the works I highlighted weren’t simply informative. They actually covered a fair bit of ground I thought I knew. But by filling in key gaps and providing a new context, they allowed me to observe phenomena that I thought I understood differently, and I’ve found I’ve incorporated that new vantage going forward.
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A Year Gone to Pot

This past year has been one of so many developments in American culture that it would be hard to pick any one thing as a signal event in the course of our nation.

From the full implementation of the surprisingly effective Obamacare to the grand jury decisions in New York and Ferguson, MO, with stopovers at the broad expansion of marriage equality and Ebola outbreaks both in Africa and here, there’s a lot to mull over, a lot that will move forward with us into the new year and beyond.

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US Senate Torture Report publication countdown

12/8/2014 (originally posted Dec 8th, 10:37 pm)

House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence Chair Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Mich., said that the release of a Senate report examining the use of torture by the CIA a decade ago will cause violence and deaths abroad.


12/9/2014 (originally posted Dec 9th,13:37 pm)

Senator Dianne Feinstein, the Chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, defended her push to release the report on the interrogation program, saying that though she was concerned that the new information could draw violent reactions around the world, it was a necessary step for the United States to move beyond a dark period in its past.

Update: (via EmptyWheel). Reports released include:

The SSCI Torture Report
The Minority Response to SSCI Torture Report
Dianne Feinstein’s Statement

Cops and Protests and People, Oh My.

   When I was growing up, we didn’t necessarily expect law enforcement to be happy with all the hell we raised. Technically, TPing someone’s house or tipping over their outhouse was vandalism but no one would have expected or condoned an officer pulling his gun under such circumstances. Putting a condom on the tailpipe of the cop’s car or plugging it with a potato were frowned upon by the victims, laughed at by the kids and smiled tolerantly at by most grownups, including the cops (once their blood pressure got back to normal).

   It was common for us kids to stay out well after dark, often ‘camping out’ on someone’s lawn for all-night bull-sessions. We sometimes raided a garden – our own or others’ – for spuds and veggies to roast in a campfire. One gent in the neighborhood tried to grow corn: at 7700+ elevation & a 3-month growing season it got about 31/2 feet tall and the cob about 3 inches. Nevertheless, he was extremely proud and possessive of it. When a couple of us grabbed a few of the mini-cobs, he discovered us and let loose with a shotgun. Fortunately, we were too far away for buckshot to be very effective. But we were justifiably offended at his over-reaction.

   Word got out (it’s hard to explain away gunshots in a small town) and the sheriff rounded us up next day and scolded us. We both realized he was obligated to do so, but neither he nor we took it too seriously. However, he also paid the gardener a visit and told him that if he ever shot at kids again, he’d be locked up.

   Today the gardener would have an AR15 and someone might be dead – and he would be applauded for ‘standing his ground’. Today’s cop would deal with us heavy-handedly – maybe tasers for white kids and 9mm for the hispanics.
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NYC Dec 4- We Can’t Breathe

#Eric Garner protesters blocking police vans on 14th Street
(one of Jeff Rae’s excellent series of twitter photos of the Thursday night NYC demonstration
 
Reuters was one of the MSM sources liveblogging-led by Robert MacMillan
The NYT live coverage(or lack thereof) was a disgrace.


Last tweet read before logging off:
  Luke Rudkowski ‏@Lukewearechange
More arrests on 51st and 8th ave as police kettle protestors then move in with riot police #ErciGarner #ICantBreathe