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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Senate Gives Approval for Defense Secretary, if Not His Boss’s Policies

Ashton B. Carter Is Confirmed as Defense Chief, Replacing Chuck Hagel

New York Times, By Emmarie Huetteman, February 12

Washington — The Senate on Thursday confirmed Ashton B. Carter [wikipedia] to be the next defense secretary, installing a new Pentagon chief as the United States increases military action against the Islamic State.

Mr. Carter, a former deputy defense secretary who is President Obama’s choice to replace Chuck Hagel, was approved by a vote of 93 to 5, a striking scene of accord as tensions mount over the wait to confirm Loretta E. Lynch as the next attorney general. Five Republicans opposed Mr. Carter’s confirmation.

[…]

But as one confirmation moved forward, another stalled. Republican members of the Senate Judiciary Committee decided on Thursday to delay a committee vote to confirm Ms. Lynch, the president’s nominee to replace Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. Though several Republicans praised Ms. Lynch as her confirmation hearings ended last month, the hearings featured a heavy dose of harsh criticism of Mr. Holder’s Justice Department.

Sweden cuts rates below zero as global currency wars spread

Morgan Stanley warns that the world is revisiting the “ghosts of the 1930s” as one country after another tries to steal a march on others by devaluing first

The Telegraph, By Ambrose Evans-Pritchard, February 12

Sweden has cut interest rates below zero and launched quantitative easing to fight deflation, becoming the latest Scandinavian state to join Europe’s escalating currency wars.

The Riksbank caught markets by surprise, reducing the benchmark lending rate to minus 0.10pc and unveiled its first asset purchases, vowing to take further action at any time to stop the country falling into a deflationary trap. The bank presented the move as precautionary step due to rising risks of a “poorer outcome abroad” and the crisis in Greece. Janet Henry from HSBC said the measures are clearly a “beggar-thy neighbour” manoeuvre to weaken the krone, the latest such action in a global currency war that does little to tackle the deeper problem of deficient world demand.

The move comes as neighbouring Denmark takes ever more drastic steps to stop a flood of money overwhelming its exchange rate peg to the euro and tightening the deflationary noose.

Ukraine’s warring parties agree to February 15 ceasefire

France24, February 12

The warring parties in Ukraine agreed Thursday to a February 15 ceasefire and the withdrawal of heavy weapons from the front lines in a deal French President François Hollande called a “comprehensive political solution” after marathon talks in Minsk.

Speaking to reporters after almost 16 hours of talks between the leaders of Ukraine, Russia, France and Germany in the Belarusian capital Minsk, Putin said: “We have managed to agree on the main issues,” adding that a ceasefire would come into effect at midnight on February 15.

“The second point, which I believe to be extremely important, is the withdrawal of heavy weapons from today’s line of contact for Ukrainian troops and from the line stipulated in the September 19 Minsk agreements for Donbass rebels,” he said.

French President François Hollande called the deal a “comprehensive political solution” and said it provides “serious hope, even if all is not done”.

Ukraine War: Get in Before it’s Gone

Ukraine: Who Wants War? And Who Doesn’t?

By William Boardman – Reader Supported News [2.9.15]

“Russian aggression” – the bad faith mantra of dishonest brokers

Just as NATO allies Germany and France were undertaking a peace initiative with Russia and Ukraine, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry turned up in Kiev at the same time, seeking to poison the talks before they started by spouting yet again the ritual U.S. accusation of “Russian aggression.” The incantation is meaningless without context. Its purpose is mesmerize a false consciousness. “Russian aggression” may or may not exist in the events of the past year, just like “Russian self-defense.” Reporting on the ground has been too unreliable to support any firm analysis, never mind the provocative “Russian aggression” the U.S. brandishes as a virtual call for war.

Western aggression, political and diplomatic more than military, is a cold reality and has been for two decades. The West, and especially the U.S. has yet to accept responsibility for 20 years of anti-Russian aggression, much less pull back from such perennial hostility. The Obama administration (parts of it at least, given the incoherence of the “administration”) has acted as if its pulling off an only-slightly-violent coup in Kiev in 2014 was a grand triumph. Worse, having grabbed a government on Russia’s borders, the Obama hawks carry on as if the only reasonable choice for Russia is to accept the success of this Western aggression.

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US Senate Demands Peace and Disengagement for US as World Policeman

Think of this report as if seen through a fractal lens which takes you back to an earlier day, when these quotations were originally spoken, by other actors. Then, bring your mind back to the present day, recalling what US senators actually said, and notice the contrast. The US once had a VERY DIFFERENT viewpoint regarding Europe, which we think would be refreshing to see again, in the current crisis.

Recently in the News:

Poroshenko (Ukraine):

We will not use the defensive equipment to the attack,” he said. “The stronger our defense, the more convincing is our diplomatic voice.

Merkel (Germany):

I believe that more weapons will not lead to the progress Ukraine needs,

I can’t envision any situation in which a better-equipped Ukraine military would convince President Putin that he could lose militarily.

Lindsey Graham (US):

At the end of the day, to our European friends, this is not working. You can go to Moscow until you turn blue in the face. Stand up to what is clearly a lie and a danger,

Hollande (France)

If we don’t manage to find not just a compromise but a lasting peace agreement, we know perfectly well what the scenario will be. It has a name; it’s called war,

NATO’s commander in chief General Philip Breedlove (US, NATO):

I don’t think we should preclude out of hand the possibility of the military option.

It is almost inconceivable the US Government would advocate a position in Europe, a European War, based on threatening Russia, and build this fabric on top of overthrowing the Government of Ukraine, a Russian Buffer state, as a consequence of the multi-year Eastward push of NATO.

It is one thing to wrap the EU around the ex-Soviet Bloc states. It is another to wrap a US-dominated military wrapper, NATO, around the same states. Ostensibly NATO is a defense pact, “attack one of us and you attack us all;” however, this US-led expansion has all the appearance of targeted offense, asking for War.
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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?

Agonist 2015

   As you have undoubtedly observed, The Agonist’s new look has arrived.

   One of the features of this theme is that an author’s profile is displayed on a post. If you have no content in your profile (as is the usual case), nothing displays. I added to my profile as an experiment. If you have info you want to display with your ‘byline’, just edit your profile ‘Biographical Info’ section.

   You will also notice Social Media buttons to the left of posts. This will make it easier for me to post Status on our Agonist Facebook Page and allow anyone to notify any of several Social Media sites. If you see a post you like, be sociable.

Supreme Court rules Canadians have right to doctor-assisted suicide

The Globe and Mail, By Sean Fine, February 6/7

Canadian adults in grievous, unending pain have a right to end their life with a doctor’s help, the Supreme Court ruled on Friday.

The unanimous ruling, by establishing that the “sanctity of life” also includes the “passage into death,” extends constitutional rights into a new realm. The courts have used the 1982 Charter of Rights to establish gay marriage and to strike down a federal abortion law. The new ruling will change the way some Canadians are permitted to die.

In a brief, powerful opening paragraph, the court explained why it was creating a new constitutional right to autonomy over one’s death in some circumstances: Those who are severely and irremediably suffering, whether physically or psychologically, “may be condemned to a life of severe and intolerable suffering” by the government’s absolute ban on assisted dying. “A person facing this prospect has two options: she can take her own life prematurely, often by violent or dangerous means, or she can suffer until she dies from natural causes. The choice is cruel.”
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The More Things Change…

   Just to keep everyone in the loop, I wanted to let you all know that Agonist.org has a new owner.

   There will be some technical improvements coming soon, primarily to make the site more responsive and mobile-friendly, since web access is increasingly being done via mobile devices.

   The editorial policy will not change. We will still be free to post & comment as we always have.

   In preparation, I will soon be simplifying the existing site, removing unnecessary clutter.

   We would like to solicit feedback from bloggers and readers and a feedback form will be made available for that purpose.

   Once the site is repackaged for better service and functionality, we will explore ways to attract more bloggers and blogging.

      Stay tuned.