Saturday, December 31, 2011

loss of faith in politicians and democracy evokes the spectre of 1932

DailyMail | The dawn of a new year is usually a time of hope and ambition, of dreams for the future and thoughts of a better life. But it is a long time since many of us looked forward to the new year with such anxiety, even dread.

Here in Britain, many economists believe that by the end of 2012 we could well have slipped into a second devastating recession. The Coalition remains delicately poised; it would take only one or two resignations to provoke a wider schism and a general election.

But the real dangers lie overseas. In the Middle East, the excitement of the Arab Spring has long since curdled into sectarian tension and fears of Islamic fundamentalism. And with so many of the world’s oil supplies concentrated in the Persian Gulf, British families will be keeping an anxious eye on events in the Arab world.

Meanwhile, as the eurozone slides towards disaster, the prospects for Europe have rarely been bleaker. Already the European elite have installed compliant technocratic governments in Greece and Italy, and with the markets now putting pressure on France, few observers can be optimistic that the Continent can avoid a total meltdown.

As commentators often remark, the world picture has not been grimmer since the dark days of the mid-Seventies, when the OPEC oil shock, the rise of stagflation and the surge of nationalist terrorism cast a heavy shadow over the Western world.

For the most chilling parallel, though, we should look back exactly 80 years, to the cold wintry days when 1931 gave way to 1932.

Then as now, few people saw much to mourn in the passing of the old year. It was in 1931 that the Great Depression really took hold in Europe, bringing governments to their knees and plunging tens of millions of people out of work.

Then as now, the crisis had taken years to gather momentum. After the Wall Street Crash in 1929 — just as after the banking crisis of 2008 — some observers even thought that the worst was over.

croneyism - the best government money can buy...,

Michael Scheuer endorses Ron Paul

RonPaul | Michael Scheuer is the former head of the Bin Laden unit for the CIA. He was with the CIA for 22 years. He quit in disgust after the 9-11 commission report was released. He is the best-selling author of four books on the subject of foreign policy and the Middle East, and he is a painful thorn in the side of the establishment.

Iowa’s Choice: Ron Paul or U.S. Bankruptcy, More Wars, and Many More Dead Soldiers and Marines

Two recent experiences underlined for me what Iowans will vote for next week in the field of foreign policy if they do not vote for Dr. Ron Paul. On Christmas day, I heard Chris Wallace’s program on FOX. He had a guest — Mr. Charles Lane — who made the false and scurrilous claim that Dr. Paul’s foreign policy was the same as that of the Rev. Jeremiah Wright’s America-hating policy, a doctrine that appealed to Barack Obama for more than twenty years and which the President and his party are now implementing. Following this imbecilic assertion of Mr. Lane to its logical conclusion, U.S. soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines also must be ardent devotees of Rev Wright’s anti-Americanism as they donate many times more money to Dr. Paul than to all the other Republican candidates combined.

Then on 26 December, I visited Mount Vernon’s new and extraordinary multi-media museum documenting the life of George Washington. At the end of the exhibition there is video of U.S. Senators reading Washington’s Farewell Address into the record, something they appear to do every year. When I arrived in front of the video Senator John McCain was reading Washington’s clear warnings about the dangers of foreign intervention and the fatal impact of mindlessly favoring one country over another. To hear this from McCain’s interventionist, war-mongering, and Israel-is-always-right mouth was sound evidence of his hypocrisy and deceitfulness, as well as his and his senatorial colleagues’ ignorance of Washington’s ideas, and U.S. history in general.

Based on these two experiences, let us examine what Iowans voting for someone other than Ron Paul will do to an America already terribly wounded by the Republican and Democratic interventionism in the Muslim world.

Friday, December 30, 2011

what is the CFR up to with this - and - why the CFR?

CFR | Kahlil Byrd has dedicated his career to international media development and U.S. domestic politics. Currently, he is the chief executive officer of Americans Elect, an effort to organize an Internet-based convention to select a presidential ticket for 2012 that will bridge the vital center of American public opinion. By fulfilling its mission, Americans Elect will nominate candidates for president and vice president who will be a competitive alternative to the candidates put forth by the Democratic and Republican parties.

Just out of graduate school, Kahlil co-founded and was named executive director of the African Public Broadcasting Foundation (APBF), an NGO that encourages the privatization and strengthening of public service television throughout sub-Sahara Africa. Since its founding in 2004, and under Kahlil's guidance, the Harvard University-based APBF has managed a 2008 communications/donor conference at the Gates Foundation in Seattle; advised a $100 million development communications initiative led by the BBC World Service Trust and media professionals from the African continent; sent a series of U.S. students and media practitioners to spend significant time working in African television stations; organized the entire terrestrial broadcast television community into a viable and sustainable industry organization called the African Union of Broadcasters (AUB); and worked with the AUB to win rights to broadcast the 2010 World Cup throughout the African continent.

Kahlil has also worked extensively in politics, running communications and strategy for statewide governor and Senate races. Kahlil got his start in politics as one of the earliest staffers to join Deval Patrick's historic 2006 governor's race in Massachusetts. During the primary, Kahlil was named communications director and a senior strategist – working with the senior team to develop and execute the overall campaign plan; lead the communications group; and act as primary campaign spokesman. Kahlil became Governor Patrick's director of gubernatorial appointments on Inauguration Day 2007, helping to shape the Governor's team throughout the new administration. He has since run or advised both Democratic, Independent, and Republican campaigns all over the country.

Kahlil was a term member of the Council on Foreign Relations and in 2006-2007 served as an international affairs fellow. On his fellowship, he acted as strategic advisor to the Center for the Study of the Presidency and Congress (, a Washington-based think tank. Kahlil is currently a senior associate with the center.

He earned his B.A. in political science from Morehouse College and his master's degree in public administration from the Harvard Kennedy School.

marginalizing ron paul...,

truthdig | It is official now. The Ron Paul campaign, despite surging in the Iowa polls, is not worthy of serious consideration, according to a New York Times editorial; “Ron Paul long ago disqualified himself for the presidency by peddling claptrap proposals like abolishing the Federal Reserve, returning to the gold standard, cutting a third of the federal budget and all foreign aid and opposing the Civil Rights Act of 1964.”

That last item, along with the decade-old racist comments in the newsletters Paul published, is certainly worthy of criticism. But not as an alternative to seriously engaging the substance of Paul’s current campaign—his devastating critique of crony capitalism and his equally trenchant challenge to imperial wars and the assault on our civil liberties that they engender.

Paul is being denigrated as a presidential contender even though on the vital issues of the economy, war and peace, and civil liberties, he has made the most sense of the Republican candidates. And by what standard of logic is it “claptrap” for Paul to attempt to hold the Fed accountable for its destructive policies? That’s the giveaway reference to the raw nerve that his favorable prospects in the Iowa caucuses have exposed. Too much anti-Wall Street populism in the heartland can be a truly scary thing to the intellectual parasites residing in the belly of the beast that controls American capitalism.

It is hypocritical that Paul is now depicted as the archenemy of non-white minorities when it was his nemesis, the Federal Reserve, that enabled the banking swindle that wiped out 53 percent of the median wealth of African-Americans and 66 percent for Latinos, according to the Pew Research Center.

The Fed sits at the center of the rot and bears the major responsibility for tolerating the runaway mortgage-backed securities scam that is at the core of our economic crisis. After the meltdown it was the Fed that led ultra-secret machinations to bail out the banks while ignoring the plight of their exploited customers.

To his credit, Paul marshaled bipartisan support to pass a bill requiring the first-ever public audit of the Federal Reserve. That audit is how readers of the Times first learned of the Fed’s trillions of dollars in secret loans and aid given to the banks as a reward for screwing over the public.

As for the Times’ complaint that Paul seeks to unreasonably cut the federal budget by one-third, it should be noted that his is a rare voice in challenging irrationally high military spending. At a time when the president has signed off on a Cold War-level defense budget and his potential opponents in the Republican field want to waste even more on high-tech weapons to fight a sophisticated enemy that doesn’t exist, Paul has emerged as the only serious peace candidate. As The Wall Street Journal reported, Paul last week warned an Iowa audience, “Watch out for the military-industrial complex—they always have an enemy. Nobody is going to invade us. We don’t need any more [weapons systems].”

Occupy our food

TheNation | On this past December 4, food activists from across the country joined the Occupy Wall Street Farmers March for "a celebration of community power to regain control over the most basic element to human well-being: food."

The rally began at La Plaza Cultural Community Gardens where urban and rural farmers talked about the growing problems with the industrial food system and the solutions based in organic, sustainable and community based agricultural production. This was followed by a three-mile march from the East Village of Manhattan to Zuccotti Park, the birthplace of the Occupy Wall Street movement.

This video by Anthony Lappe offers an inspiring glimpse into this new movement. Check it out and then go to Food Democracy Now, a grassroots community dedicated to building a sustainable food system, to find out how you can help.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

a rotting fish stinks from the head...,

It is a well-known fact that our society is structured like a pyramid. The very few people at the top create conditions for the majority below. Who are these people? Can we blame them for the problems our society faces today? Guided by the saying "A fish rots from the head." we set out to follow that fishy odor. What we found out is that people at the top are more likely to be psychopaths than the rest of us.

Who, or what, is a psychopath? Unlike Hollywood's stereotypical image, they are not always blood-thirsty monsters from slasher movies. Actually, that nice lady who chatted you up on the subway this morning could be one. So could your elementary school teacher, your grinning boss, or even your loving boyfriend. The medical definition is simple: A psychopath is a person who lacks empathy and conscience, the quality which guides us when we choose between good and evil, moral or not. Most of us are conditioned to do good things. Psychopaths are not. Their impact on society is staggering, yet altogether psychopaths barely make up one percent of the population.

Broken into three parts, our search for the fishead starts in New York City, on Wall Street, where a big chunk of the world power is concentrated. This small plot of city land is where the economic crisis erupted and what we found there has far-reaching consequences, both for the psychopaths and us normal folk.

The second part of the film touches on how, for a small number of people, overuse of antidepressants can result in behaviors that appear to mimic some psychopathic features. Although overuse of these medications will not produce psychopathy, they may stifle emotion and decrease the user's ability to feel empathy. They also may have the opposite effects, "normalizing" emotional experience and empathy. More than one-third of the Western population uses and, in some cases, abuses these drugs. But why? So why do we want to take a pill that flattens or normalizes our normal feelings? We think something sure smells fishy again.

It is not too far fetched to say that for the first time in history we not only praise psychopaths in the highest positions of power, but in many cases, they became our role models. On top of that, we don't seem to think it's a problem. In the third part, we come back to the idea of us, the normal people in our day-to-day life. How much different are we from the average psychopath? By embracing a superficial culture, each of us maybe unwillingly supports the fishead. Albert Einstein said, "The world is a dangerous place to live; not because of the people who are evil, but because of the people who don't do anything about it."

Through interviews with renowned psychologist Professor Philip Zimbardo, leading expert on psychopathy Professor Robert Hare, former President of Czech Republic and playwright Vaclav Havel, authors Gary Greenberg and Christopher Lane, professor Nicholas Christakis, among numerous other thinkers, we have delved into the world of psychopaths and heroes and revealed shocking implications for us and our society.

there WILL be violence, mark my words...,

rsn | Imagine a vast field on which a terrible battle has recently been fought, the bare ground cratered by fusillade after fusillade of heavy artillery, trees reduced to blackened stumps, wisps of toxic gas hanging in the gray, and corpses everywhere.

A terrible scene, made worse by the sound of distant laughter, because somehow, on the heights commanding the dead zone, the officers' club has made it through intact. From its balconies flutter bunting, and across the blasted landscape there comes a chorus of hearty male voices in counterpoint to the wheedling of cadres of wheel-greasers, the click of betting chips, the orotund declamations of a visiting congressional delegation: in sum, the celebratory hullabaloo of a class of people that has sent entire nations off to perish but whose only concern right now is whether the '11 is ready to drink and who'll see to tipping the servants. The notion that there might be someone or some force out there getting ready to slouch toward the buttonwood tree to exact retribution scarcely ruffles the celebrants' joy.

Ah, Wall Street. As it was in the beginning, is now, and hopes to God it ever will be, world without end. Amen.

Or so it seems to me. It was in May 1961 that a series of circumstances took me from the hushed precincts of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, where I was working as a curatorial assistant in the European Paintings Department, to Lehman Brothers, to begin what for the next 30 years would be an involvement - I hesitate to call it "a career" - in investment banking. I would promote and execute deals, sit on boards, kiss ass, and lie through my teeth: the whole megillah. In consequence of which, I would wear Savile Row and carry a Hermès briefcase. I had Mme. Claude's home number in Paris and I frequented the best clubs in a half-dozen cities. But I had a problem: I was unable to develop the anticommunitarian moral opacity that is the key to real success on Wall Street.

I had my doubts from the beginning. A few months after I started to work downtown, I ran into an old friend from college and before, a man later to become one of New York's most esteemed writers and editors.

"So," he asked, "how do you like what you're doing now?"

"I like it quite a lot," I said. And this was true: these were new frontiers for me, the pace was lively, the money was good enough ($6,500 a year), and there was so much to learn. But there was one aspect of Wall Street that I found morally confusing if not distasteful: "There's one thing that bothers me, though. It's this: on the one hand the New York Stock Exchange has sent its president, the estimable G. Keith Funston, out into the countryside, supported by an expensive, extensive advertising campaign, to exhort the proletariat to Own your share of America! As if buying 50 shares of IBM or GM in 1961 is as much of a civic duty as buying a $100 war bond in 1943."

I then added, "But here's the thing. At the same time as Funston's out there doing his thing, if you ask any veteran Wall Street pro how the Street works, the first thing he'll tell you is: The public is always wrong. Always." I paused to let that sink in, then confessed, "I have to tell you, I have trouble squaring that circle."

And that was back when Wall Street was basically honest, brought into line thanks in part to Ferdinand Pecora's 1933 humiliation of the great bankers of the Jazz Age and even more so because of the communitarian exigencies forced on the nation by war. From Pearl Harbor to V-J Day, greed was definitely not good, and that proscriptive spirit lingered on right up to 1970, when everything started to change, and the traders began their long march through our great houses of finance, with the inevitable consequence that the Street's moral bookkeeping grew more and more contorted, its corruptions more elaborate, its self-interest less and less governable. What someone has called the "Greed Wars" began.

2011 financial report of the u.s. government: either taxes have to rise, or Medicare benefit levels have to fall

Aleph | There is little to no fanfare for the release of this report, (why do they release at such a distracted time of year, where people will ignore it?) which strips away a lot of the malarkey that the US Government delivers by providing data on an accrual basis, rather than on a cash basis, which is what the politicians argue about. As a result, the politicians take actions that hurt the future in order to benefit the present. If we viewed the national budget the way this report does, we would have had very different policies over the last 25 years.

As it is the report gives credit to Obamacare for lowering the costs of Medicare, as if a stroke of the law could reduce the medical needs of the elderly. If it does decrease actual demands on Medicare, unlikely but good. If not, we need to revise estimates up, as the alternative scenario on page 134 does. (PDF pg 156) And perhaps more than that.

Here are the figures for the last three years:
The big shift was the passage of Obamacare, which was funded by a large cut to Medicare Parts A & B. It’s not as if that law repealed the health care needs of the elderly, but only the rates at which doctors would be paid. If the ultimate amounts to be paid by the government don’t shift, because we adjust the law & payments to meet undiminished need later, the 2011 Adjusted figures would be low by around $5 trillion.

The 2010 Adjusted figures attempt to strip out the distortions created by Obamacare. The 2011 figures leave in the adjments from Obamacare, but reflect the Illustrative Alternative Scenario on page 133:

The Medicare Board of Trustees, in their annual report to Congress, references an alternative scenario to illustrate the potential understatement of costs under current law. This alternative scenario assumes that the productivity adjustments are gradually phased out over the 16 years starting in 2020 and that the physician fee reductions are overridden. These examples were developed by management for illustrative purposes only; the calculations have not been audited; and the examples do not attempt to portray likely or recommended future outcomes. Thus, the illustrations are useful only as general indicators of the substantial impacts that could result from future legislation affecting the productivity adjustments and physician payments under Medicare and of the broad range of uncertainty associated with such impacts. The table below contains a comparison of the Medicare 75-year present values of income and expenditures under current law with those under the alternative scenario illustration.
Another factor in holding down the 2011 deficit was that measured inflation was low, there were no cost of living adjustments [COLAs], when assumptions expected 2.5% or so. To the extent that COLAs remain low in future years, there will be further positive adjustments.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

an extremist minority destroying national solidarity, sounds familiar...

aljazeera | Thousands of Israelis have rallied in a town near Jerusalem against ultra-Orthodox Jews whose campaign for gender segregation has erupted into verbal and physical abuse against women.

The protest in Beit Shemesh, 30km west of Jerusalem, on Tuesday was organised after an outburst of public anger over an eight-year-old girl's charges on television that ultra-Orthodox men had spat at her on her way to school, accusing her of immodest dress.

Police said that "several hundreds" of their forces were deployed to supervise the protest following attacks on media and police over the past two days by members of the ultra-Orthodox community.

Protesters held signs protest saying, "Free Israel from religious coercion" and "Stop Israel from becoming Iran", but members of the ultra-Orthodox community were nowhere in sight during the rally.

Activists' calls for a protest came after the broadcast of a documentary on national TV, in which young girl Naama Margolese said she was afraid to walk to school in the town because ultra-Orthodox men shouted at her.

In the run-up to the gathering, Shimon Peres, the Israeli president, urged the public to attend. "The demonstration today is a test for the people and not just the police," he told a gathering of Israeli ambassadors.

"All of us ... must defend the image of the state of Israel from a minority that is destroying national solidarity and expressing itself in an infuriating way."

8 year old israeli girl at center of tension over religious extremism

NYTimes | The latest battleground in Israel’s struggle over religious extremism covers little more than a square mile of this Jewish city situated between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, and it has the unexpected public face of a blond, bespectacled second-grade girl.

She is Naama Margolese, 8, the daughter of American immigrants who are observant modern Orthodox Jews. An Israeli weekend television program told the story of how Naama had become terrified of walking to her elementary school here after ultra-Orthodox men spit on her, insulted her and called her a prostitute because her modest dress did not adhere exactly to their more rigorous dress code.

The country was outraged. Naama’s picture has appeared on the front pages of all the major Israeli newspapers. While Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu insisted Sunday that “Israel is a democratic, Western, liberal state” and pledged that “the public sphere in Israel will be open and safe for all,” there have been days of confrontation at focal points of friction here.

Ultra-Orthodox men and boys from the most stringent sects have hurled rocks and eggs at the police and journalists, shouting “Nazis” at the security forces and assailing female reporters with epithets like “shikse,” a derogatory Yiddish term for a non-Jewish woman or girl, and “whore.” Jews of varying degrees of orthodoxy and secularity headed to Beit Shemesh on Tuesday evening to join local residents in a protest numbering in the thousands against religious violence and fanaticism.

For many Israelis, this is not a fight over one little girl’s walk to school. It is a struggle that could shape the future character and soul of the country, against ultra-Orthodox zealots who have been increasingly encroaching on the public sphere with their strict interpretation of modesty rules, enforcing gender segregation and the exclusion of women.

The battle has broadened and grown increasingly visible in recent weeks and months. Orthodox male soldiers walked out of a ceremony where female soldiers were singing, adhering to what they consider to be a religious prohibition against hearing a woman’s voice; women have been challenging the seating arrangements on strictly “kosher” buses serving ultra-Orthodox neighborhoods and some inter-city routes, where female passengers are expected to sit at the back.

The virulent coercion in Beit Shemesh has been attributed mainly to a group of several hundred ultra-Orthodox extremists who came here from Jerusalem, known as the Sicarii, or daggermen, after a violent and stealthy faction of Jews who tried to expel the Romans in the decades before the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70.

Religious extremism is hardly new to Israel, but the Sicarii and their bullying ilk push with a bold vigor that has yet to be fully explained. Certainly, Israel’s coalition politics have allowed the ultra-Orthodox parties to wield disproportionate power beyond the roughly 10 percent of the population they currently represent.

The ultra-Orthodox community’s rapidly increasing numbers — thanks to extraordinarily high birthrates — may also have emboldened the hard core, as may have their insular neighborhoods. And their leadership appears to lack moderating brakes.

In any case, the extremists have provoked an outpouring of opposition from all those who are more flexible, be they ultra-Orthodox, modern Orthodox, mainstream or secular. In fact, it was an ultra-Orthodox-led group that claimed at least part of the credit for making Naama’s story public.

siccari haredim clowning...,

Jerusalem Post | Interior Minister Eli Yishai on Monday lashed out at a haredi man who spat on an eight-year-old schoolgirl in Beit Shemesh last week, calling the action “nauseating and disgusting.

The man claimed the girl, Na’ama Margolis, had been dressed immodestly. Yishai told a Shas faction meeting that such behavior goes against the values of the Torah, and the law must be enforced “with all its severity.”

The Shas leader related a Talmudic story in which the sage, Rabbi Yohanan Ben-Zakkai, opposed an extremist group called Sikrikim, after whom the modern-day haredi group is named, saying that the phenomenon in which a minority is more extreme than leading rabbis is at least 2,000 years old.

“I call on everyone, especially the media, to recognize that this is an extremist group,” Yishai said. “There have been attempts at incitement against haredim, and I hope they end soon.”

Earlier in the meeting, MK Yitzhak Vaknin (Shas) grumbled: “There is no discrimination against women – it’s a lie. There’s only hatred of haredim.”

Meanwhile, Culture and Sport Minister Limor Livnat, Labor leader Shelly Yacimovich, MKs Zahava Gal-On (Meretz), Faina Kirschenbaum (Israel Beiteinu), Orly Levy-Abecasis (Israel Beiteinu), Tzipi Hotovely (Likud), Marina Solodkin (Kadima) and others held a meeting in the Knesset to speak out against discrimination.

“This is a struggle for all of society, not just women,” Livnat said, lamenting that not all female MKs were present.

The minister explained that her office is working on battling four phenomena: segregated bus lines; discrimination in cemeteries, in which women are forbidden from eulogizing their loved ones; excluding women from public ceremonies; and segregated sidewalks.

Yacimovich said that the escalation of discrimination against women is terrible, but can also be seen as an opportunity to bring awareness of the fight for equality for women.

“Women still have a lower status in society, despite all of the feminist revolution’s achievements,” she said. “Discrimination is everywhere, not just on buses, and not just among haredim.”

Yacimovich said the struggle against discrimination is a fight for democracy, human rights, the rule of law and sanity in Israel, which women from all sides of the political spectrum should support even if they do not agree on all issues.

Livni slammed the government, saying in the female MKs’ meeting that political agreements allowed the current discrimination to take place, and Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu is not willing to pay the political price of standing up for women’s rights.

Referring to haredim, Livni said Israel cannot turn into a divided country where one group studies in a different language, decides whether or not it wants to serve in the army and spits on the other group.

haredim: broke, belligerent, blatant...,

Wikipedia | Haredi or Charedi/Chareidi Judaism is the most conservative form of Orthodox Judaism, often referred to as ultra-Orthodox. A follower of Haredi Judaism is called a Haredi (Haredim in the plural).

Haredi Jews, like other Orthodox Jews, consider their belief system and religious practices to extend in an unbroken chain back to Moses and the giving of the Torah on Mount Sinai. As a result, they regard non-Orthodox, and to an extent Modern Orthodox, streams of Judaism to be deviations from authentic Judaism. Haredi Judaism comprises a diversity of spiritual and cultural orientations, generally divided into Hasidic and Lithuanian-Yeshiva streams from Eastern Europe, and Oriental Sephardic Haredim. Its historical rejection of Jewish secularism distinguishes it from Western European-derived Modern Orthodox Judaism.

The word Ḥaredi (חֲרֵדִי), which originally was simply the Hebrew translation of Orthodox, is derived from charada, which in this context (Orthodoxy) is interpreted as "one who trembles in awe of God"; the word itself means fear or anxiety.

As of 2011, there are approximately 1.3 million Haredi Jews. The Haredi Jewish population is growing very rapidly, doubling every 12 to 20 years.

The Haredi community has gained growing media interest recently, in particular on the issue of sex segregation in Israel and New York.

YNet | Only 37% of haredi men work - Salary gap between secular, ultra-Orthodox population significant with haredi men earning 30%, and haredi women earning 35% less than secular women. Earning power between sexes puts women at significant disadvantage in both haredi and secular populations.

Only 37% of haredi men work, as opposed to some 80% of their secular counterparts, according to statistics presented to Industry, Trade and Labor Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer while touring centers for women's employment in the ultra-Orthodox town of Modiin Ilit.

Among working women, there is also a significant gap. Some 49% of haredi women are gainfully employed, while 70% of secular women work.

The average gross monthly salary of haredi women is NIS 3,690 (about $980), about 40% lower than haredi men's gross monthly salary, which stands at an average NIS 6,123 (about $1,625).

The gap in earning power between the sexes is lower in the secular population, in which women earn 36% less than men. The average gross monthly salary for secular women is NIS 5,698 (about $1,512). The average gross monthly salary for secular men is NIS 8,955 (about $2,375).

This puts the average gross monthly salary of haredi women at about 35% lower than that of the average gross monthly salary of secular women. The gap between secular and haredi men is narrower, with haredi men earning on average 30% less than their secular counterparts.

Some 52% of haredi men reported that being unable to cover their monthly household expenses in contrast with 42.4% of secular men.

Following these findings, Minister Ben-Eliezer said that his ministry would take measures to integrate the haredi community into the workforce, through initiatives such as professional training courses and additional benefits. Despite the dim statistics, some 63% of haredim said they were highly satisfied with their lives, in comparison with only 28% of seculars.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

principle of systems biology

RoyalSociety | Must higher level biological processes always be derivable from lower level data and mechanisms, as assumed by the idea that an organism is completely defined by its genome? Or are higher level properties necessarily also causes of lower level behaviour, involving actions and interactions both ways? This article uses modelling of the heart, and its experimental basis, to show that downward causation is necessary and that this form of causation can be represented as the influences of initial and boundary conditions on the solutions of the differential equations used to represent the lower level processes. These insights are then generalized. A priori, there is no privileged level of causation. The relations between this form of ‘biological relativity’ and forms of relativity in physics are discussed. Biological relativity can be seen as an extension of the relativity principle by avoiding the assumption that there is a privileged scale at which biological functions are determined.

the epigenome and top-down causation

RoyalSociety | Genes store heritable information, but actual gene expression often depends on many so-called epigenetic factors, both physical and chemical, external to DNA. Epigenetic changes can be both reversible and heritable. The genome is associated with a physical object (DNA) with a specific location, whereas the epigenome is a global, systemic, entity. Furthermore, genomic information is tied to specific coded molecular sequences stored in DNA. Although epigenomic information can be associated with certain non-DNA molecular sequences, it is mostly not. Therefore, there does not seem to be a stored ‘epigenetic programme’ in the information-theoretic sense. Instead, epigenomic control is—to a large extent—an emergent self-organizing phenomenon, and the real-time operation of the epigenetic ‘project’ lies in the realm of nonlinear bifurcations, interlocking feedback loops, distributed networks, top-down causation and other concepts familiar from the complex systems theory. Lying at the heart of vital eukaryotic processes are chromatin structure, organization and dynamics. Epigenetics provides striking examples of how bottom-up genetic and top-down epigenetic causation intermingle. The fundamental question then arises of how causal efficacy should be attributed to biological information. A proposal is made to implement explicit downward causation by coupling information directly to the dynamics of chromatin, thus permitting the coevolution of dynamical laws and states, and opening up a new sector of dynamical systems theory that promises to display rich self-organizing and self-complexifying behaviour. Full Article.

Neo-Darwinism and Selfish Genes: are they of use in physiology?

JournalofPhysiology | This article argues that the gene-centric interpretations of evolution, and more particularly the selfish gene expression of those interpretations, form barriers to the integration of physiological science with evolutionary theory. A gene-centred approach analyses the relationships between genotypes and phenotypes in terms of differences (change the genotype and observe changes in phenotype). We now know that, most frequently, this does not correctly reveal the relationships because of extensive buffering by robust networks of interactions. By contrast, understanding biological function through physiological analysis requires an integrative approach in which the activity of the proteins and RNAs formed from each DNA template is analysed in networks of interactions. These networks also include components that are not specified by nuclear DNA. Inheritance is not through DNA sequences alone. The selfish gene idea is not useful in the physiological sciences, since selfishness cannot be defined as an intrinsic property of nucleotide sequences independently of gene frequency, i.e. the 'success' in the gene pool that is supposed to be attributable to the 'selfish' property. It is not a physiologically testable hypothesis.

Monday, December 26, 2011

how germany builds twice as many autos and pays its workers twice as much - profitably...,

Forbes | In 2010, Germany produced more than 5.5 million automobiles; the U.S produced 2.7 million. At the same time, the average auto worker in Germany made $67.14 per hour in salary in benefits; the average one in the U.S. made $33.77 per hour. Yet Germany’s big three car companies—BMW, Daimler (Mercedes-Benz), and Volkswagen—are very profitable.

How can that be? The question is explored in a new article from Remapping Debate, a public policy e-journal. Its author, Kevin C. Brown, writes that “the salient difference is that, in Germany, the automakers operate within an environment that precludes a race to the bottom; in the U.S., they operate within an environment that encourages such a race.”

There are “two overlapping sets of institutions” in Germany that guarantee high wages and good working conditions for autoworkers. The first is IG Metall, the country’s equivalent of the United Automobile Workers. Virtually all Germany’s car workers are members, and though they have the right to strike, they “hardly use it, because there is an elaborate system of conflict resolution that regularly is used to come to some sort of compromise that is acceptable to all parties,” according to Horst Mund, an IG Metall executive. The second institution is the German constitution, which allows for “works councils” in every factory, where management and employees work together on matters like shop floor conditions and work life. Mund says this guarantees cooperation, “where you don’t always wear your management pin or your union pin.

Mund points out that this goes against all mainstream wisdom of the neo-liberals. We have strong unions, we have strong social security systems, we have high wages. So, if I believed what the neo-liberals are arguing, we would have to be bankrupt, but apparently this is not the case. Despite high wages . . . despite our possibility to influence companies, the economy is working well in Germany.

As Michael Maibach, president and chief executive of the European American Business Council, puts it, union-management relations in the U.S. are “adversarial,” whereas in Germany they’re “collaborative.”

Does such a happy relationship survive when German automakers set up shop in the U.S.? No. As a historian observes in the article, “BMW is a German company and it has a very German hierarchy and management system in Germany,” yet “when they are operating in Spartanburg [in South Carolina] they have become very, very easily adaptable to Spartanburg business culture.” At Volkswagen’s Chattanooga plant, the nonunionized new employees get $14.50 an hour, which rises to $19.50 after three years.

The article’s author, Kevin C. Brown, asked Claude Barfield, a scholar with the American Enterprise Institute, why the German car companies behave so differently in the U.S. He answered, “Because they can get away with it so far.”

occucopter: watching the watchers

Alternet | The police may soon be watching you in your garden picking your vegetables or your bottom. As police plans for increasing unmanned aerial surveillance take shape, there is a new twist. Private citizens can now buy their own surveillance drones to watch the police.

This week in New York, Occupy Wall Street protesters have a new toy to help them expose potentially dubious actions of the New York police department. In response to constant police surveillance, police violence and thousands of arrests, Occupy Wall Street protesters and legal observers have been turning their cameras back on the police. But police have sometimes made filming difficult through physical obstruction and "frozen zones". This occurred most notably during the eviction of protesters from Zuccotti Park in lower Manhattan, where police prevented even credentialed journalists from entering.

Now the protesters are fighting back with their own surveillance drone.Tim Pool, an Occupy Wall Street protester, has acquired a Parrot AR drone he amusingly calls the "occucopter". It is a lightweight four-rotor helicopter that you can buy cheaply on Amazon and control with your iPhone. It has an onboard camera so that you can view everything on your phone that it points at. Pool has modified the software to stream live video to the internet so that we can watch the action as it unfolds. You can see video clips of his first experiments here. He told us that the reason he is doing this "comes back to giving ordinary people the same tools that these multimillion-dollar news corporations have. It provides a clever loophole around certain restrictions such as when the police block press from taking shots of an incident."

Pool is attempting to police-proof the device: "We are trying to get a stable live feed so you can have 50 people controlling it in series. If the cops see you controlling it from a computer they can shut you down, but then control could automatically switch to someone else."

This is clever stuff and it doesn't stop there. He is also working on a 3G controller so that "you could even control the occucopter in New York from Sheffield in England". We asked him if he was concerned about police shooting it down. "No," he said firmly. "They can't just fire a weapon in the air because it could seriously hurt someone. They would have no excuse because the occucopter is strictly not illegal. Their only recourse would be to make it illegal, but it is only a toy and so they might as well make the press illegal – they have already arrested 30 journalists here."

Ordinary people having the technology to watch the watcher is not something George Orwell predicted in his futuristic vision of 1984.

Occupy doesn't have a platform, Occupy IS a platform!

RCReader | The Occupy movement comes under frequent attack from the institutional Left (and, it goes without saying, from the liberal establishment) for not offering a clear list of official demands – for, in other words, not offering a platform.

But that criticism misses the point. Occupy doesn’t have a single platform, in the sense of a list of demands. But it is a platform – a collaborative platform, like a wiki. Occupy isn’t a unified movement with a single list of demands and an official leadership to state them. Rather, Occupy offers a toolkit and a brand name to a thousand different movements with their own agendas, their own goals, and their own demands – with only their hatred of Wall Street and the corporate state in common, and the Occupy brand as a source of strength and identity.

Although the ends are quite different, the model of organization is much like that of al-Qaeda: an essentially leaderless organization, a loose network of cells, each of which adopts the al-Qaeda brand or franchise for its own purposes. It’s a much more effective use of resources to provide a common platform and then let a thousand flowers bloom.

A conventional, hierarchical activist institution wastes enormous resources on administrative apparatus and endless negotiations just to get everyone on the same page before anyone can do anything.

A common platform allows any number of movements, made up of voluntary aggregations of individuals with shared goals, to build on it on a modular basis, and to act without waiting for permission from the headquarters of the One Big Movement. And whenever they do anything that seems to work well, any other node in the network can adopt that tactic as its own without asking anyone’s leave.

That’s why the glocal Occupy movement is throwing off innovations like a fission reaction throws off neutrons. If anything, it’s done so even more since the wave of shutdowns in the U.S. divorced it from occupation as a primary tactic and scattered its seeds to the wind.

But let’s go back a ways. The Pentagon Papers weren’t published pursuant to an official decision by a nationwide anti-war movement, and Woodward and Bernstein didn’t try to found a national political movement to impeach Nixon. In both cases, the immediate actors simply published the information, and allowed anyone who would to leverage that information. They thereby created a free platform that could be developed by any number of antiwar and anti-Nixon activists for their own ends.

Fast forward to Summer 2010. Julian Assange simply published the cable dump at Wikileaks. Every single activist movement that piggybacked on that platform, starting with the uprising in Tunisia, did so on its own initiative, making – its own judgment – the best use of the free, common platform offered by Assange. So it’s gone from Tunisia to Egypt, to the Arab Spring, to Madison, to the demonstrations in Britain and Spain and Greece, to Occupy Wall Street, and back out to the global Occupy movement in hundreds of cities around the world.

Now, with the Occupy movement (thanks to Bloomberg et. al) no longer wedded to occupying public squares, the wave of innovations seems to roll in on a weekly basis. First Occupy Our Homes, and now Occupy the Ports.

a christmas message from america's rich

RollingStone | It seems America’s bankers are tired of all the abuse. They’ve decided to speak out.

True, they’re doing it from behind the ropeline, in front of friendly crowds at industry conferences and country clubs, meaning they don’t have to look the rest of America in the eye when they call us all imbeciles and complain that they shouldn’t have to apologize for being so successful.

But while they haven’t yet deigned to talk to protesting America face to face, they are willing to scribble out some complaints on notes and send them downstairs on silver trays. Courtesy of a remarkable story by Max Abelson at Bloomberg, we now get to hear some of those choice comments.

Home Depot co-founder Bernard Marcus, for instance, is not worried about OWS:

“Who gives a crap about some imbecile?” Marcus said. “Are you kidding me?”

Former New York gurbernatorial candidate Tom Golisano, the billionaire owner of the billing firm Paychex, offered his wisdom while his half-his-age tennis champion girlfriend hung on his arm:

“If I hear a politician use the term ‘paying your fair share’ one more time, I’m going to vomit,” said Golisano, who turned 70 last month, celebrating the birthday with girlfriend Monica Seles, the former tennis star who won nine Grand Slam singles titles.

Then there’s Leon Cooperman, the former chief of Goldman Sachs’s money-management unit, who said he was urged to speak out by his fellow golfers. His message was a version of Wall Street’s increasingly popular If-you-people-want-a-job, then-you’ll-shut-the-fuck-up rhetorical line:

Cooperman, 68, said in an interview that he can’t walk through the dining room of St. Andrews Country Club in Boca Raton, Florida, without being thanked for speaking up. At least four people expressed their gratitude on Dec. 5 while he was eating an egg-white omelet, he said.

“You’ll get more out of me,” the billionaire said, “if you treat me with respect.”

Finally, there is this from Blackstone CEO Steven Schwartzman:

Asked if he were willing to pay more taxes in a Nov. 30 interview with Bloomberg Television, Blackstone Group LP CEO Stephen Schwarzman spoke about lower-income U.S. families who pay no income tax.

“You have to have skin in the game,” said Schwarzman, 64. “I’m not saying how much people should do. But we should all be part of the system.”

There are obviously a great many things that one could say about this remarkable collection of quotes. One could even, if one wanted, simply savor them alone, without commentary, like lumps of fresh caviar, or raw oysters.

But out of Abelson’s collection of doleful woe-is-us complaints from the offended rich, the one that deserves the most attention is Schwarzman’s line about lower-income folks lacking “skin in the game.” This incredible statement gets right to the heart of why these people suck.

Why? It's not because Schwarzman is factually wrong about lower-income people having no “skin in the game,” ignoring the fact that everyone pays sales taxes, and most everyone pays payroll taxes, and of course there are property taxes for even the lowliest subprime mortgage holders, and so on.

It’s not even because Schwarzman probably himself pays close to zero in income tax – as a private equity chief, he doesn’t pay income tax but tax on carried interest, which carries a maximum 15% tax rate, half the rate of a New York City firefighter.

The real issue has to do with the context of Schwarzman’s quote. The Blackstone billionaire, remember, is one of the more uniquely abhorrent, self-congratulating jerks in the entire world – a man who famously symbolized the excesses of the crisis era when, just as the rest of America was heading into a recession, he threw himself a $5 million birthday party, featuring private performances by Rod Stewart and Patti Labelle, to celebrate an IPO that made him $677 million in a matter of days (within a year, incidentally, the investors who bought that stock would lose three-fourths of their investments).

So that IPO birthday boy is now standing up and insisting, with a straight face, that America’s problem is that compared to taxpaying billionaires like himself, poor people are not invested enough in our society’s future. Apparently, we’d all be in much better shape if the poor were as motivated as Steven Schwarzman is to make America a better place.

But it seems to me that if you’re broke enough that you’re not paying any income tax, you’ve got nothing but skin in the game. You've got it all riding on how well America works.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

merry christmas!

PsychologyToday | In Holland, children are taught that Santa Claus-and his African slave-come from Madrid on a ship that docks in Rotterdam. In this respect (and perhaps only in this respect), I'm glad I wasn't raised in Holland. As a kid, I loved to lie awake the night before Christmas, imagining Santa and his reindeer flying to Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania from the North Pole, with something special just for me. To imagine him coming up to Holland on a slow ship from Spain just doesn't have the same magical quality.

When I discovered that the whole Santa story was a hoax, I remember feeling proud that the adults had let me in on their conspiracy (which I now had to keep from my little sister), but disappointed as well. Years later, when I began to study the differences in the way people in different cultures construct and perceive what they consider to be reality, I was reminded of this embittered pride I'd felt as a child. The entire trajectory of emotional and intellectual growth in the Western mind seems to be a movement away from mystery, while indigenous people tend to see themselves moving ever closer to realms of mystery as they age.

A typical American Indian adolescent, for example, would be introduced to adulthood in a ceremony involving solitude, introspection, attention to dreams and visions, altered states of consciousness, and perhaps the use of sacred plants. We tend to educate our children in precisely the opposite direction, toward being "well-adjusted" and focused on the practical realities and responsibilities of adulthood. "Stop dreaming," we tell them, "Prepare to work." While our lives seem to be flowing ever further away from the magical realities that Santa Claus represents, our ancestors' lives likely flowed in the opposite direction. In indigenous societies, it is the old who have the most intimate knowledge of the mysteries of life, not the children. Since it is the old who most immediately face death, there must be a not-insignificant measure of comfort in having gained a sense of intimacy with other, soon to be occupied realms.

In any case, who is this Santa character, and where did he really come from? In most traditions, Santa has the following characteristics:
- He comes from the North Pole;
- He dresses in red and white;
- He has a long, white beard;
- He somehow knows if you've been good or bad;
- He enters the house through the chimney;
- He puts the gifts under the Christmas tree (a pine) and/or in stockings hung by the fireplace;
- And, perhaps most spectacularly, he rides a sleigh pulled by flying reindeer.

This all seems rather innocent and arbitrary - unless you know something about people like the Sami, Koryak and other reindeer-herding people who live in the far north of Europe and Siberia. Clearly, the Christmas tradition has roots in many different places and times: Christianity, pagan winter solstice celebrations, old Germanic mythologies, etc. But these aspects of Santa mythology seem to come directly from these reindeer-based cultures.

The key to understanding Santa is Amanita muscaria - the well-known red and white mushroom with a long history of shamanic use from Western Europe to Siberia. I am convinced that Santa is essentially a shaman that has quietly yet forcefully entered into the consciousness of Western culture, like a mushroom nudging up through parking lot asphalt. Fist tap Dale.

smoke'em if you get'em!

it's alive!

messed up the man's whole hustle...,

Guardian | What was Timothy Leary really up to? We may soon know more now that the New York public library is buying 335 boxes of his papers, videotapes, letters and photographs for $900,000. Once it has spent 18 months to two years sorting them out, the collection will be available to the public.

These papers are not just the rants of this decidedly peculiar man – the 1960s drugs guru whom Richard Nixon called "the most dangerous man in America". There is correspondence with the likes of Allen Ginsberg, Cary Grant, Aldous Huxley, William Burroughs, Jack Kerouac and Arthur Koestler.

Perhaps these papers will give a glimpse of great genius arising from the clash of creative minds with powerful drugs – of insights gained and mystical peaks reached. Or perhaps they will show the horrors and mental decline of drug abuse and excess.

Possibly the most interesting will be the numerous "session records", that is, descriptions of taking LSD, psilocybin, mescaline and other psychedelic drugs. These will presumably give a more realistic picture of what these poets, writers, professors and actors actually experienced at the time.

Leary's is a sad story. A professor at Harvard, he took his first mushroom trip in 1960 and declared that he learned more in the following five hours than he had done in 15 years of study and research in psychology. This experience led to the Harvard Psilocybin Project, which Leary ran along with Ralph Metzner and fellow professor Richard Alpert. It was Alpert who subsequently swapped drugs for Eastern religion and became Baba Ram Dass.

In 1962 Leary took LSD and reportedly had "the most shattering experience of his life". This new, purely synthetic drug seemed to reveal previously hidden realities and he wanted to share his discoveries with the world. Yet his own world began falling apart. Having claimed he had given LSD (which was then legal) to hundreds of Harvard students he was eventually sacked for not turning up to teach classes.

He was later convicted of possessing marijuana and sentenced to 10 years in prison. He escaped from a high security jail and fled with his wife to Algeria and then Switzerland but was finally arrested in Afghanistan and returned to prison for three more years. Once free, he devoted his undoubtedly extraordinary mind and the last 20 years of his life to virtual reality, programming and cyberculture. When dying from prostate cancer he worked with friends to document the whole messy process. He died in 1996 and a portion of his ashes was launched into space.

Leary believed that psychedelic drugs, used at the right dosage, in the right company and setting and with appropriate psychological support, could provide better therapy than any conventional method, and even provoke magically rapid transformations. He explored the use of psychedelics to treat alcoholism and other addictions, and worked in prisons to use them as a means of reforming prisoners' lives. Many of his research participants reported mystical or spiritual experiences, and claimed that their drug experiences permanently changed their lives for the better.

We now know that these claims are far from crazy, and that psychedelics have tremendous potential for good as well as harm. The tragedy is that Leary's own actions contributed to the disaster of drug prohibition. On 6 October 1966, LSD was made illegal in the US and was so tightly controlled that not only were supply and possession made crimes but all of the legitimate research programmes were closed down. Not only was this extraordinary drug demonised and access denied to everyone who might have benefited from it, but also even researchers were prevented from learning anything more about it.

Arguably Leary himself was responsible for wrecking any chance that psilocybin or LSD could become respected and well-used drugs. Possibly if he hadn't got so carried away, so drunk with celebrity, and so successful at spreading the catchy meme "Turn on, tune in, drop out" we might now be living in a better world. Nothing can now wipe away those disastrous decades of prohibition, even though they may now be nearing their end, but perhaps these papers will help us better understand how it all came about.

now I know why I married you...,

what women want...,


bewitched by chevrolet

erosion's foreshadowing...,

Video - Pesky immigrants making mischief for the man on Route 66.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

all-american misstep...,

Video - Commercial that Lowe's pulled from All-American Muslim

NYTimes | It is incredibly sad that one person with his own one-man hate group can tap into anti-Muslim sentiment and lead reputable companies to make foolish judgment calls.

At least two advertisers — Lowe’s, the home-improvement retailer, and, the online travel firm — have pulled commercials from “All-American Muslim,” a new reality series on the TLC cable channel, since the show was condemned by David Caton, an anti-Muslim and anti-gay activist, and the shell organization he founded and runs, the Florida Family Association.

Businesses have a perfect right to decide how to spend their advertising dollars. But, in pulling out as they did, Lowe’s and Kayak sent a distasteful message to their customers, their employees, and to the larger public.

“All-American Muslim” tracks the lives of five Muslim-American families in Dearborn, Mich., a suburb of Detroit. Mr. Caton has called on companies to end their sponsorships, arguing that the show is dangerous and misleading “propaganda” because it portrays Muslims as “ordinary folks” just like other law-abiding Americans, not as extremists and terrorists.

Both Lowes and Kayak deny that they were moved to act by Mr. Caton’s campaign, citing instead the show’s controversial nature and, in Kayak’s case, reservations about its quality. “All-American Muslim” may not be the best TV show, but the controversy was manufactured by one man. By appearing to bow to bigotry, the companies earned a self-inflicted black eye.

looking up, detroit faces new crisis

NYTimes | For a city that some have declared dead again and again, the talk of late here was of renaissance — of auto industry jobs growing, new companies moving into empty buildings downtown, urban gardens blooming in vacant lots.

Then came the revelation that Detroit is poised to run out of money by April and fall deep into debt by June. Now a place that had seemed to be finding its balance is reeling once more.

A formal state review of Detroit’s books — a step that could lead to the appointment of an outside emergency manager to take over the city’s finances — was announced this week. City leaders are conducting urgent meetings with labor union leaders and financial consultants in a race to cut costs and head off further intervention.

The possibility that an outside manager could come in — one who would have broader than ever powers under a rewritten state law — has stirred new concerns among financial ratings agencies and business leaders who have fresh investments in the city. City government, meanwhile, is finding itself forced to re-examine services it provides — including buses, health care and street lighting — and shed what it can no longer afford.

The crisis could not have come at a worse time.

“This state is starting to come back, the economy is starting to come back, and as long as you are out there promoting all this negativity, it’s no good for any of us,” Mayor Dave Bing said in an interview. “You don’t need Detroit against the state.”

Still, Mr. Bing, a former basketball star who built an auto-parts manufacturing company, says he also knows the risks — symbolically, financially and politically — if a city of this size reaches a point where it cannot pay debts.

“If Detroit would ever go into default, it would kill the state,” he said, quickly adding that he did not think the situation would come to that.

Already, though, Detroit is the only major American city with credit that sits beneath investment grade, experts say. With 11,000 city employees and 139 square miles of increasingly vacant land to tend to, it has struggled, year by year, deficit by deficit, to pay its bills. Once the nation’s fourth-largest city, it has seen its population drop since a high of 1.8 million in 1950 to a low last year of 714,000.

In the eyes of some leaders, this financial crisis, despite the recent positive signs from the private sector, was decades in the making: the city never shrank its operations enough to match a shrinking tax base, and it delayed its woes with borrowing, exaggerated revenue estimates and accounting shifts.

This fall, Mr. Bing warned that Detroit would run out of cash without major cuts, particularly layoffs and deep salary reductions.

how immigration and multiculturalism destroyed detroit

BritishFreedom | For 15 years, from the mid 1970's to 1990, I worked in Detroit, Michigan. I watched it descend into the abyss of crime, debauchery, gun play, drugs, school t ruancy, car-jacking, gangs, and human depravity. I watched entire city blocks burned out. I watched graffiti explode on buildings, cars, trucks, buses, and school yards. Trash everywhere!

Detroiters walked through it, tossed more into it, and ignored it. Tens of thousands, and then hundreds of thousands today exist on federal welfare, free housing, and food stamps!

With Aid to Dependent Children, minority women birthed eight to 10, and in one case, one woman birthed 24 children as reported by the Detroit Free Press, all on American taxpayer dollars.

A new child meant a new car payment, new TV, and whatever mom wanted. I saw Lyndon Baines Johnson's 'Great Society' flourish in Detroit . If you give money for doing no thing, you will get more hands out taking money for doing nothing.

Mayor Coleman Young, perhaps the most corrupt mayor in America , outside of Richard Daley in Chicago , rode Detroit down to its knees... He set the benchmark for cronyism, incompetence, and arrogance. As a black man, he said, "I am the MFIC." The IC meant "in charge".

You can figure out the rest. Detroit became a majority black city with 67 percent African-Americans.

As a United Van Lines truck driver for my summer job from teaching math and science, I loaded hundreds of American families into my van for a new life in another city or state.

Detroit plummeted from 1.8 million citizens to 912,000 today. At the same time, legal and illegal immigrants converged on the city, so much so, that Muslims number over 300,000. Mexicans number 400,000 throughout Michigan , but most work in Detroit . As the whites moved out, the Muslims moved in.

As the crimes became more violent, the whites fled. Finally, unlawful Mexicans moved in at a torrid pace. Detroit suffers so much shoplifting that grocery stores no longer operate in many inner city locations. You could cut the racial tension in the air with a knife!

Detroit may be one of our best examples of multiculturalism: pure dislike, and total separation from America .

Today, you hear Muslim calls to worship over the city like a new American Baghdad with hundreds of Islamic mosques in Michigan , paid for by Saudi Arabia oil money. High school flunk out rates reached 76 percent last June, according to NBC's Brian Williams. Classrooms resemble more foreign countries than America . English? Few speak it! The city features a 50 percent illiteracy rate and growing.

Unemployment hit 28.9 percent in 2009 as the auto industry vacated the city. In Time Magazine's October 4, 2009, "The Tragedy of Detroit: How a great city fell, and how it can rise again," I choked on the writer's description of what happened. "If Detroit had been ravaged by a hurricane, and submerged by a ravenous flood, we'd know a lot more about it," said Daniel Okrent. "If drought, and carelessness had spread brush fires across the city, we'd see it on the evening news every night."

Earthquake, tornadoes, you name it, if natural disaster had devastated the city that was once the living proof of American prosperity, the rest of the country might take notice.

But Detroit, once our fourth largest city, now 11th, and slipping rapidly, has had no such luck. Its disaster has long been a slow unwinding that seemed to remove it from the rest of the country.

Even the death rattle that in the past year emanated from its signature industry brought more attention to the auto executives than to the people of the city, who had for so long been victimized by their dreadful decision making."

As Coleman Young's corruption brought the city to its knees, no amount of federal dollars could save the incredible payoffs, kick backs, and illegality permeating his administration. I witnessed the city's death from the seat of my 18-wheeler tractor trailer because I moved people out of every sector of decaying Detroit .

"By any quantifiable standard, the city is on life support. Detroit 's treasury is $300 million short of the funds needed to provide the barest municipal services," Okrent said. "The school system, which six years ago was compel led by the teachers' union to reject a philanthropist's offer of $200 million to build 15 small, independent charter high schools, is in receivership. The murder rate is soaring, and 7 out of 10 remain unsolved. Three years after Katrina devastated New Orleans , unemployment in that city hit a peak of 11%. In Detroit , the unemployment rate is 28.9%.

That's worth spelling out: twenty-eight point nine percent." At the end of Okrent's report, and he will write a dozen more about Detroit, he said, "That's because the story of Detroit is not simply one of a great city's collapse, it's also about the erosion of the industries that helped build the country we know today. The ultimate fate of Detroit will reveal much about the character of America in the 21st century. If what was once the most prosperous manufacturing city in the nation has been brought to its knees, what does that say about our recent past? And if it can't find a way to get up, what does that say about our future?"

As you read in my book review of Chris Steiner's book, "$20 Per Gallon", the auto industry won't come back. Immigration will keep pouring more, and more uneducated third world immigrants from the Middle East into Detroit , thus creating a beachhead for Islamic hegemony in America . If 50 percent illiteracy continues, we will see more homegrown terrorists spawned out of the Muslim ghettos of Detroit . Illiteracy plus Islam equals walking human bombs.

You have already seen it in Madrid, Spain; London, England; and Paris, France with train bombings, subway bombings and riots. As their numbers grow, so will their power to enact their barbaric Sharia Law that negates republican forms of government, first amendment rights, and subjugates women to the lowest rungs on the human ladder. We will see more honor killings by upset husbands, fathers, and brothers that demand subjugation by their daughters, sisters and wives. Muslims prefer beheadings of women to scare the hell out of any other members of their sect from straying. Multiculturalism: what a perfect method to kill our language, culture, country, and way of life.

the big lie

Video - Newt Gingrich's strange relationship with Fannie and Freddie

NYTimes | You begin with a hypothesis that has a certain surface plausibility. You find an ally whose background suggests that he’s an “expert”; out of thin air, he devises “data.” You write articles in sympathetic publications, repeating the data endlessly; in time, some of these publications make your cause their own. Like-minded congressmen pick up your mantra and invite you to testify at hearings.

You’re chosen for an investigative panel related to your topic. When other panel members, after inspecting your evidence, reject your thesis, you claim that they did so for ideological reasons. This, too, is repeated by your allies. Soon, the echo chamber you created drowns out dissenting views; even presidential candidates begin repeating the Big Lie.

Thus has Peter Wallison, a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, and a former member of the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission, almost single-handedly created the myth that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac caused the financial crisis. His partner in crime is another A.E.I. scholar, Edward Pinto, who a very long time ago was Fannie’s chief credit officer. Pinto claims that as of June 2008, 27 million “risky” mortgages had been issued — “and a lion’s share was on Fannie and Freddie’s books,” as Wallison wrote recently. Never mind that his definition of “risky” is so all-encompassing that it includes mortgages with extremely low default rates as well as those with default rates nearing 30 percent. These latter mortgages were the ones created by the unholy alliance between subprime lenders and Wall Street. Pinto’s numbers are the Big Lie’s primary data point.

Allies? Start with Congressional Republicans, who have vowed to eliminate Fannie and Freddie — because, after all, they caused the crisis! Throw in The Wall Street Journal’s editorial page, which, on Wednesday, published one of Wallison’s many articles repeating the Big Lie. It was followed on Thursday by an editorial in The Journal making essentially the same point. Repetition is all-important to spreading a Big Lie.

In Wallison’s article, he claimed that the charges brought by the Securities and Exchange Commission against six former Fannie and Freddie executives last week prove him right. This is another favorite tactic: He takes a victory lap whenever events cast Fannie and Freddie in a bad light. Rarely, however, has his intellectual dishonesty been on such vivid display. In fact, what the S.E.C.’s allegations show is that the Big Lie is, well, a lie.

Central to Wallison’s argument is that the government’s effort to encourage homeownership among low- and moderate-income Americans is what led to the crisis. Fannie and Freddie, which were required by law to meet certain “affordable housing mandates,” were the primary instruments of that government policy; their need to meet those mandates, says Wallison, is what caused them to dive so heavily into those “risky” mortgages. And because they were powerful forces in the housing market, their entry into subprime dragged along the rest of the mortgage industry.

But the S.E.C. complaint makes almost no mention of affordable housing mandates. Instead, it charges that the executives were motivated to begin buying subprime mortgages — belatedly, contrary to the Big Lie — because they were trying to reclaim lost market share, and thus maximize their bonuses.

As Karen Petrou, a well-regarded bank analyst, puts it: “The S.E.C.’s facts paint a picture in which it wasn’t high-minded government mandates that did [Fannie and Freddie] wrong, but rather the monomaniacal focus of top management on market share.” As I wrote on Tuesday, Fannie and Freddie, rather than leading the housing industry astray, got into riskier mortgages only after the horse was out of the barn. They were becoming irrelevant in the most profitable segment of the market — subprime. And that they couldn’t abide.

(The S.E.C., I should note, had its own criticism of my column, saying that I conflated its allegations regarding the lack of disclosure of subprime mortgages, with an entirely different set of charges it has brought regarding disclosure of so-called Alt-A loans. I still maintain that the S.E.C.’s charges are weak, and that the agency brought the case in part for political reasons: how better to curry favor with House Republicans than to go after former Fannie and Freddie executives?)

Three years after the financial crisis, the country would be well served by a real debate about the role of government in housing. Should the government be helping low- and moderate-income Americans own their own homes? If so, is there an acceptable level of risk? If not, how do we recast the American dream?

To have that debate, though, we need a clear understanding of what role the government’s affordable-housing goals did — and did not — play in the crisis. And that is impossible as long as the Big Lie holds sway.

Which, now that I think of it, may be the whole point of the exercise.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Occupy our homes

Occupyourhomes | Everyone deserves to have a roof over their head and a place to call home. Millions of Americans have worked hard for years for the opportunity to own their own home; for others, it remains a distant goal. For all of us, having a decent place to live for ourselves and our families is the most fundamental part of the American dream, a source of security and pride.

In 2008, we discovered bankers and speculators had been gambling with our most valuable asset, our homes--betting against us and destroying trillions of dollars of our wealth. Now, because of the foreclosure crisis Wall Street banks created with their lies and greed, millions of Americans have lost their homes, and one in four homeowners are currently underwater on their mortgage.

Not only do we have thousands of people without homes, we have thousands of homes without people. Boarded-up houses are sitting empty--increasing crime, lowering the value of other homes in the neighborhood, erasing the wealth that lifts families into the middle class.

The Occupy Wall Street movement and brave homeowners around the country are coming together to say, "Enough is enough." We, the 99%, are standing up to Wall Street banks and demanding they negotiate with homeowners instead of foreclosing on them.

Occupy Our Homes is a movement that supports Americans who stand up to their banks and fight for their homes. We believe everyone has a right to decent, affordable housing. We stand in solidarity with the Occupy Wall Street movement and with community organizations who help the 99% fight for a place to call home.

remember the season and go contribute to your local occupation

Video - Occupy Albany march on governor's mansion.

FDL | Yesterday we published a list of 61 active occupation encampments across the country that are planning to be there through the winter. People were helpful in the comments in identifying and documenting 5 more:

We need a photo or video taken within the last week of an occupation showing the tents, or a link to a recent media report on the tent encampment in order to include them on the list.

On that list we did not include encampments with their status in flux, that are currently fighting the city’s attempt to evict them:

  1. Albany, NY
  2. Ashville, NC
  3. Eugene, OR
  4. Louisville, KY
  5. Portland ME
  6. San Antonio TX
  7. Santa Fe NM
  8. Tulsa OK
  9. Missoula MT

Eugene just got their eviction notice, so they move from yesterday’s list to this list. That brings the total number of encampments we’ve been able to document in the past week that are planning to be there through the winter to 65.

We hope that people in the communities where the occupations are threatened with eviction will make an extra effort to be supportive. A few people can make a difference if they’re willing to make their voices heard, and many have stepped in and been helpful in finding the occupiers other places to encamp. These encampments are doing some really great work (see Occupy Albany video above).

We keep this list up to date by staying in regular contact with FDL members who act as liaisons to over 70 occupations across the country, bringing them food and cold weather supplies. What we find is that many occupations decide to break up in the face of a city crackdown, and make the calculation that it will give them more time to engage in activism if they don’t have an encampment. This almost never happens.

As RF Shunt noted in his perceptive diary, the encampments serve as giant billboards and inspire everyone. They move local progressive groups to action and galvanize a community’s spirit, making them believe that change is possible. When the tent cities go away, many occupy groups still engage in really valuable and smart activism. But over time it’s a lot harder to keep people engaged, and as general assemblies move from location to location, many people drift away because they just don’t know where to go any more.

If you’ve got a local occupation with an encampment, please consider stopping by and lending your support. What the campers are doing out there gives hope to everyone. Often times I don’t think people realize how hard it is for them to do what they’re doing, or how important it is for all of us that they stay there. Which is why so much money is being spent to crush them.

List of Active Occupy Encampments Across the Country – Now at 61

Video - the Occupy Movement celebrates 3 months and going.

FDL | Although the media has grown bored with the Occupy movement and are declaring it over, OccupySupply has verified the existence of 61 encampments across the country. We are listing them below, along with links to photos and videos that demonstrate what they look like today.

The FDL Membership Program now has 110 liaisons at over 70 occupations across the country who report back to us on the status of their occupations twice each week. That’s how we determine which occupations OccupySupply will send cold weather gear to every day.

OccupySuply shipped more stuff out last week alone than we did in the entire first month, and the demand is only increasing.

So we thought we’d try to drive a stake through the heart of the “Occupy is Dead” narrative by publishing our working list, which is consistently more up-to-date than any I’ve seen. These are occupations with encampments only — there are many, many more vibrant occupations that are doing tremendous community activism despite the lack of an encampment.

» Please consider donating $10 or more to help us continue to meet the demands of the now 70+ occupations we serve with the Occupy Supply fund. As always, 100% of your donations to the fund will go to purchase and distribute the supplies they need to make it through the winter and beyond.

1 Occupy Anchorage Igloos!
2 Occupy Atlanta Re-occupied Woodruff Park after the raid, stopped foreclosure this week.
3 Occupy Austin Nice story in Daily Texan about OccupySupply helping them prepare for winter
4 Occupy Berkeley 90 tents
5 Occupy Birmingham Marched with Alabama civic & religious leaders to protest state immigration law
6 Occupy Bloomington Longest running occupation?
7 Occupy Boise Highs in the 30s, lows in the teens, but hanging in there
8 Occupy Boulder Working with city on permit
9 Occupy Buffalo Just opened 2nd encampment
10 Occupy Cedar Rapids Says they have a stable location through the winter
11 Occupy Chapel Hill Expanding, building bridges with local congregations
12 Occupy Charlotte Growing, now 30 tents
13 Occupy Claremont City council may intervene, but police say they’re not breaking any laws
14 Occupy Cleveland Recently worked with Youngstown & Ashtabula to encamp vs. foreclosure
15 Occupy Columbia SC Won their court battle; judge says they can stay
16 Occupy Dover DE Just celebrated their 1 month anniversary
17 Occupy Kstreet Expanding to local black churches
18 Occupy Lancaster PA Renewing the permit that expires January 1
19 Occupy Delaware Won a ruling from a judge that recognized the tent city as a form of protected speech.
20 Occupy DesMoines Launching Occupy the Caucus, urging people to vote “uncommitted”
21 Occupy Erie Re-occupied the gazebo yesterday, looking good in OccupySupply
22 Occupy Eugene City installed lights at request of campers, increasing budget to help homeless
23 Occupy Fairbanks Yes, there’s an Occupy Fairbanks. No shit.
24 Occupy Freedom Plaza Feed 140 people each day
25 Occupy FtWayne Flash mob at the Glenbrook Mall last weekend reminding people to shop local
26 Occupy Gainesville Organizing Florida occupations for upcoming FL legislative session
27 Occupy Harrisburg Organizing around state redistricting
28 Occupy Houston Celebrated International Migrants Day by protesting prison industrial complex
29 Occupy Huntsville AL City gave them a spot
30 Occupy IowaCity Mic checked Newt Gingrich last week
31 Occupy Lancaster PA Holding toy and book drive for children of the community
32 Occupy Las Vegas Protesting at auctions of foreclosed homes seized without paperwork
33 Occupy Lincoln Tent town in Centennial Mall going strong
34 Occupy Little Rock Built a geodesic dome
35 Occupy Madison Recently had its first marriage proposal
36 Occupy Memphis Held Saturday march to mark 1 year since Mohamed Bouazizi lit himself on fire in Tunisia
37 Occupy Miami Just celebrated 2 month anniversary
38 Occupy Milwaukee Immigration groups recently loaned them office space
39 Occupy Monterey Holding a series of public community educational talks
40 Occupy Nashville Getting tremendous community support
41 Occupy New Haven On private property by agreement with managers
42 Occupy Newark City recently lifted ban on overnight encampments
43 Occupy Norman OK Just started this week
44 Occupy Orange County Held a mock funeral for the Bill of Rights
45 Occupy Palm Beach Protesting wealth inequality in rich neighborhoods
46 Occupy Phoenix Demonstrating against Joe Arpaio’s tasering of Latino Marine vet that left him brain dead
47 Occupy Pittsburgh Protesting the bilking of millions of dollars from schools & local govt at US Steel Tower
48 Occupy Providence Approx. 60 overnight sleepers in Burnside Park
49 Occupy Raleigh Property owner & city say they can stay
50 Occupy Sacramento Recently occupied Clear Channel
51 Occupy Rochester Just received AFL-CIO Rochester Labor Council’s Community Solidarity Award
52 Occupy San Jose Just re-occupied this week
53 Occupy San Luis Obispo Denied the use of tents but still staying each night
54 Occupy Syracuse Recently erected a triple-walled Army surplus tent and plan to stay for the winter
55 Occupy Tacoma Mic check to OccupySupply on Dec 15!
56 Occupy Talahassee Will present objectives of Florida occupations to state legislature on January 10
57 Occupy Tampa Set up last Saturday in Voice of Freedom Park
58 Occupy Trenton Protesting Chris Christie’s charter school plan in Dept. of Ed offices
59 Occupy Tucson One of the largest occupations still going
60 Occupy Walton OR Small Oregon town trying to save their post office
61 Occupy Winnepeg Say they are “not going anywhere”