Thursday, October 31, 2013

the origins of halloween

stellarhouse | Halloween, Samhain, All Hallows, All Saints or Hallow-Eve is the season of the Crone.  In ancient paganism, the word Crone denoted an elder priestess or tribal matriarch; a cognate word is "crown," the symbol of a leader. The word was made pejorative when the Christian Church redefined all elder priestesses of the old religion as malevolent witches. Similarly, the word "hag" was once derived from Greek hagia—a holy woman—and also became a Christianized term for a witch.

The divine Crone was originally a part of the trinitarian Goddess, who appeared in Maiden, Mother and Crone forms, associated with the three phases of woman's life, the three phases of the moon and the annual cycles of nature. Viewed as an underworld deity who cared for the dead, the Goddess as Crone ruled autumnal harvest festivals, when the spirits of dead ancestors could visit their descendants and share in the harvest feast. Among the Celts, the well-known "death's head at the feast" used to be an actual skull of an ancestor, set at the table to receive offerings, often with a candle set within it, to simulate the warmth of life and the light of vision. Such was the origin of the jack-o-lantern.

the zombie apocalypse starts when they all run out of space...,

NYTimes | The world’s cities are running out of space to bury their dead. After all, apartment dwellers can’t bury relatives in the front yard

While traditions like All Souls’ Day, All Saints’ Day, the Day of the Dead and Samhain honor the dead this week, we ask a question for the living: Where will our bodies go?

(actually a rather widespread concern judging from this assortment of youtube videos )

the psychological power of satan

scientificamerican | Justice Antonin Scalia and Keyser Soze agree: the greatest trick the devil could ever pull is convincing the world he didn’t exist. Fortunately for them, the devil does not seem to be effectively executing this plan. Some 70 percent of Americans, according to a 2007 Gallup Poll, believe in his existence. This personification of evil has implications beyond the supernatural, influencing how we think about what it means for people to be “pure evil.” And as we prepare to playfully celebrate the wicked and depraved on Halloween night, it’s worth pausing to reflect on some of the psychological and behavioral consequences of these beliefs.

Evil has been defined as taking pleasure in the intentional inflicting of harm on innocent others, and ever since World War II social psychologists have been fascinated by the topic. Many of the formative thinkers in the field — Kurt Lewin, Stanley Milgram , Solomon Asch — were inspired by their experiences with, and observations of, what appeared to most people at the time to be the indisputable incarnation of pure evil. But what many saw as a clear demonstration of unredeemable and deep-seated malice, these researchers interpreted as more, in the words of Hannah Arendt, banal. From Milgram’s famous studies of obedience to Zimbardo’s prison study, psychologists have argued for the roots of evil actions in quite ordinary psychological causes. This grounding of evil in ordinary, as opposed to extraordinary, phenomena have led some to describe the notion of “pure evil” as a myth. A misguided understanding of human nature deriving both from specific socio-cultural traditions as well as a general tendency to understand others’ behavior as a product solely of their essence, their soul, as opposed to a more complicated combination of environmental and individual forces.

The issue of whether “pure evil” exists, however, is separate from what happens to our judgments and our behavior when we believe in its existence. It is this question to which several researchers have recently begun to turn. How can we measure people’s belief in pure evil (BPE) and what consequences does such a belief have on our responses to wrong-doers?

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

steroids, nuclear reactor operations and the thug life...,

enenews | NRC Press Release, Oct. 28, 2013: NRC Issues Orders to Dresden Nuclear Plant and Former Plant Employees [...] NRC investigated the incident in which senior reactor operator Michael J. Buhrman, planned to rob an armored car and recruited the assistance of another senior reactor operator, Landon E. Brittain [...] Buhrman was apprehended for aggravated vehicular carjacking and fled the country after being released on bail [...] NRC concluded that Buhrman’s and Brittain’s actions while offsite demonstrated they could not be relied upon to adhere to NRC requirements to protect plant and public safety. In addition, Dresden personnel who knew about Buhrman’s plan to commit an offsite crime failed to report the situation to plant management, which is an NRC requirement [...] The company agreed to abide by the conditions of the order [including] developing a presentation of the facts and lessons learned from this incident to be presented at industry forums. [...] The orders to Buhrman and Brittain prohibit them from participating in NRC-licensed activities due to the NRC’s lack of confidence that they can meet the agency’s safety requirements [...]

Now for the rest of the story…

Enformable, Oct. 25, 2013: [...] SEBIN is an elite taskforce [in Venezuela] that only works special cases of organized crime, major fraud, etc [...] SEBIN was already investigating [Buhrman and Brittain] for illegal arms trade and trafficking of illegal substances including steroids. After arriving in Venezuela, Buhrman and Brittain rented a luxury property, frequented a local gym, and were associated with a Venezuelan gang [...] Once Buhrman began catching on to [a Venezuelan racketeer's plan to tell police of Brittain and Buhrman], he began planning his murder. While attempting to capture Buhrman, several officers were wounded by the fugitive. One left with a fractured arm and another with a fractured foot. [...] Landon Brittain was captured on May 23rd [...] Buhrman’s last lover in Venezuela was the 19-year-old daughter of a prominent businessman [...] the fugitive criminal was planning an offensive move involving kidnapping the businessman and holding him ransom. SEBIN arrested five other Venezuelans in relation to Buhrman and Brittain, who all face charges [that include] terrorism. The terrorism charge was added because Buhrman was interested in acquiring C-4 explosives and a Kalashnikov AK-47 for criminal purposes. Michael Buhrman was on a 5:00 pm flight today [Oct. 25, 2013] in the custody of U.S. Marshalls en route to the United States from Venezuela. [...]

remember, just 6 missed meals between politically correct twit and incompetent killer-ape

WaPo | On Sunday the National Geographic Channel aired a film purporting to show what might happen if the U.S. suffered a 10-day blackout due to a devastating cyberattack. Shot Cloverfield-style from the perspective of characters in the action, "American Blackout" told the story of a bunch of college kids stuck in an elevator for days, a "prepper" family with a secret bunker in Colorado, and a pair of privileged city-slickers on the 46th floor of an apartment building. Switch writers Brian Fung and Andrea Peterson watched the film at a recent screening -- here's what they thought.

Andrea: I was disappointed by the lack of any sort of information about what sort of cyberattack may have caused it. I didn't really expect them to go into any sort of technical details, but it would've been nice if it was more than just newscasters exclaiming, "we have been struck by a devastating cyberattack!"

Brian: Well, once the attack had happened it kind of stopped mattering, I thought. Like, maybe they'll do a sequel where they show the engineers trying to figure it out, but for the moment it was just interesting to see how the filmmakers thought everything would unfold — and importantly, in what order. I was kind of surprised that water didn't start becoming an issue until the 6th or 7th day (I could be remembering this wrong).

Andrea: I think you're remembering it right -- except for the people trapped in the elevator. It became a problem for them quickly. ... I just didn't buy their story as much as the other narrative arcs, honestly. It was maybe compelling, but also completely unrealistic. More realistic? Them giving up and jumping off the roof of the building out of desperation, if they had even gotten that far. Maybe a little too dark there.

Brian: Let's talk about the kid who wandered around on the streets at night with his camera. I forget his name. The one whose mom was a nurse?

Andrea: Yeah, that kid was annoying, too. But it was interesting how they used him to paint a really dark picture of a powerless America.

Brian: I think the part where he just goes home because he isn't sure where else to go is probably how a lot of people would react.

Andrea: I agree. They went to where they would feel safest, which is often the place they know best. We saw that happen a bit with Katrina to some negative affect — stories of people unwilling to abandon their safe havens.

Brian: But as we saw with a lot of different vignettes, that was probably the worst decision any of them could have made. There wasn't enough food or water in those places to sustain them long enough for the power to come on. Though I suppose in terms of safety, some of those places — like the apartment on the 46th floor — would have been good places to hide out.

Andrea: In their defense, I don't think it was ever clear just how long the outage was going to go on. Early on, many were just assuming it would be a day or so.

Brian: Right. I think that would be the scariest part — not knowing how long you'd have to plan for.
Andrea: And I do think that was fairly realistic.

Brian: Like, do you grab the birdseed from the supermarket because you don't know if the outage will last for longer than human food supplies will? I was actually thinking about this yesterday at Safeway. What would happen if the outage happened right then and there?

Andrea: Did you grab the birdseed?

Brian: …No?

Andrea: Because if you didn't, clearly the movie didn't scare you enough.

Brian: You're right. I should've just left without paying. Because who knows? A cyberattack could knock out our credit card network!

Andrea: I personally keep probably enough food to get me through roughly a 10-day period if I was careful with rationing. But that's just because I tend to buy in bulk for budgetary reasons, and that's really a luxury many Americans cannot afford.

Brian: When the blackout hits, I'm heading to your house first.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

methodical media drip, drip, drip lays bare ruling hypocrisy

Guardian | The most under-discussed aspect of the NSA story has long been its international scope. That all changed this week as both Germany and France exploded with anger over new revelations about pervasive NSA surveillance on their population and democratically elected leaders.

As was true for Brazil previously, reports about surveillance aimed at leaders are receiving most of the media attention, but what really originally drove the story there were revelations that the NSA is bulk-spying on millions and millions of innocent citizens in all of those nations. The favorite cry of US government apologists -–everyone spies! – falls impotent in the face of this sort of ubiquitous, suspicionless spying that is the sole province of the US and its four English-speaking surveillance allies (the UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand).

There are three points worth making about these latest developments.

First, note how leaders such as Chancellor Angela Merkel reacted with basic indifference when it was revealed months ago that the NSA was bulk-spying on all German citizens, but suddenly found her indignation only when it turned out that she personally was also targeted. That reaction gives potent insight into the true mindset of many western leaders.

Second, all of these governments keep saying how newsworthy these revelations are, how profound are the violations they expose, how happy they are to learn of all this, how devoted they are to reform. If that's true, why are they allowing the person who enabled all these disclosures – Edward Snowden – to be targeted for persecution by the US government for the "crime" of blowing the whistle on all of this?

If the German and French governments – and the German and French people – are so pleased to learn of how their privacy is being systematically assaulted by a foreign power over which they exert no influence, shouldn't they be offering asylum to the person who exposed it all, rather than ignoring or rejecting his pleas to have his basic political rights protected, and thus leaving him vulnerable to being imprisoned for decades by the US government? 

Aside from the treaty obligations these nations have to protect the basic political rights of human beings from persecution, how can they simultaneously express outrage over these exposed invasions while turning their back on the person who risked his liberty and even life to bring them to light?

Third, is there any doubt at all that the US government repeatedly tried to mislead the world when insisting that this system of suspicionless surveillance was motivated by an attempt to protect Americans from The Terrorists™? Our reporting has revealed spying on conferences designed to negotiate economic agreements, the Organization of American States, oil companies, ministries that oversee mines and energy resources, the democratically elected leaders of allied states, and entire populations in those states.

Can even President Obama and his most devoted loyalists continue to maintain, with a straight face, that this is all about Terrorism? That is what this superb new Foreign Affairs essay by Henry Farrell and Martha Finnemore means when it argues that the Manning and Snowden leaks are putting an end to the ability of the US to use hypocrisy as a key weapon in its soft power.

surveillance of the fittest...,

aljazeera | Since Edward Snowden took flight after leaking a trove of secret National Security Agency (NSA) documents, the story of US surveillance around the world has grown wings of its own, currently darkening skies in Europe after stopovers in Latin America.

The latest wave of releases were to the German weekly news magazine Der Spiegel and the French left-leaning daily Le Monde, detailing a metadata sweep across millions of phone calls in France and accusations that a tap was placed on German Chancellor Angela Merkel's Blackberry.

Neither was the controversy limited to Europe, with spying revelations causing a bump in US ties with Mexico and Brazil. The UK's Guardian newspaper capped off the week with a report that 35 world leaders had been spied on by the US.

The diplomatic tremors are the result of a purposeful media strategy. Rather than dumping the mass of data on the internet, the custodians of Snowden's leaks - chief among them Brazil-based investigative reporter Glenn Greenwald - have used journalistic collaborations and a methodical drip-feed of high-impact information.

The tactic has helped sustain the momentum of the broad debate on surveillance and the overreach of security practices into our private lives.

To discuss continuing global impact of the Snowden files, we speak to Le Monde editor Alain Franchon; Julian Borger, the diplomatic editor for the Guardian; national security journalist and author Shane Harris; and roving correspondent for Time Magazine, Vivienne Walt.

Our Newsbytes this week: The Chinese government begins mandatory training for all journalists; the editor at one of India's top newspapers departs amid acrimony; and a White House insider is fired for "bringing the snark" to the Beltway via an anonymous Twitter account.

Our feature this week looks at a controversial trend in photojournalism. With the power that photographers have to digitally develop their work, what are the ethical implications of enhancing the impact of images? The issue was one that gripped this year's World Press Photo awards whose top prize went to a photo that was accused of being a composite. The Listening Post's Nicholas Muirhead looks between the pixels.

For our video of the week we return to 2004 when the American Civil Liberties Union looked into their crystal ball to imagine what a world of mass surveillance and Big Brother-like monitoring might look when ordering a pizza in 2015. Given what we know now courtesy of Edward Snowden we will forgive them for being a few months out on the date.

did the nsa give the Hon.Bro.Preznit the mushroom treatment?

slate | Glenn Greenwald's latest Snowden-fueled revelation dropped Monday in Spanish newspaper El Mundo, but the day's most interesting revelation about American spying—at least for those of us not living in Spain—comes courtesy of the Wall Street Journal, which cites unnamed U.S officials to report that the White House ordered an end to the monitoring of German Chancellor Angela Merkel and "a number of other world leaders" only after learning of the existence of the operation this past summer.

That's noteworthy for two reasons: 1) it largely confirms that the NSA was indeed monitoring its allies abroad as has been suggested by Snowden's leaks/Greenwald's reporting; and 2) it also suggests that President Obama may have gone his entire first term without being briefed on what appears to have been a rather wide-ranging and aggressive surveillance effort. Here's the Journal:

The account suggests President Barack Obama went nearly five years without knowing his own spies were bugging the phones of world leaders. Officials said the NSA has so many eavesdropping operations under way that it wouldn't have been practical to brief him on all of them. They added that the president was briefed on and approved of broader intelligence-collection "priorities," but that those below him make decisions about specific intelligence targets.
The senior U.S. official said that the current practice has been for these types of surveillance decisions to be made at the agency level. "These decisions are made at NSA," the official said. "The president doesn't sign off on this stuff." That protocol now is under review, the official added. ...
The administration didn't end all operations involving world leaders following this summer's revelations because some of the programs are producing intelligence of use to the U.S. It could not be learned Sunday how many of the eavesdropping operations were stopped, or who is on the list of leaders still under surveillance.
The report may give Obama at least some diplomatic cover abroad as he attempts to smooth things over with those European allies who have been vocal about their displeasure with the apparent ally-on-ally spying. It will likely be greeted quite differently at home, however, both by the president's conservative critics who have sought to paint him as an ineffective executive, and by those less-partisan critics who have taken specific aim at the NSA and what they say is its unchecked power. It also raises plenty of other questions about how much, exactly, the president knew about the NSA's surveillance efforts before the agency sprung a Snowden-sized leak.

Monday, October 28, 2013

can a monetary system failure be disguised by an intentional systems failure?

politicians lack the will and integrity to tell the truth about the writing on the sea wall...,

Coastal Cities Fail to Prepare for the Rising Tide

npr | According to new research, 3.7 million Americans who live at elevations close to high tide could face more frequent flooding because of the sea rise caused by global warming.
"If the pace of the rise accelerates as much as expected, researchers found, coastal flooding at levels that were once exceedingly rare could become an every-few-years occurrence by the middle of this century.
"By far the most vulnerable state is Florida, the new analysis found, with roughly half of the nation's at-risk population living near the coast on the porous, low-lying limestone shelf that constitutes much of that state. But Louisiana, California, New York and New Jersey are also particularly vulnerable, researchers found, and virtually the entire American coastline is at some degree of risk."
The report issued by Climate Central and titled "Surging Seas" says that since 1880 the sea has risen about 8 inches, but that rate is accelerating.
"Scientists expect 20 to 80 more inches this century, a lot depending upon how much more heat-trapping pollution humanity puts into the sky," the reports executive summary explains.
Essentially what the report found was that for two-thirds of the places it analyzed, the odds of a "century" or worse flood during the next 18 years will double and for half the locations analyzed, the odds triple.
The AP spoke to scientists who were not part of the study:
"Sea level rise experts at the U.S. Geological Survey and the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration who weren't part of the studies said the results make sense and were done by experts in the field.
"'All low elevation places in the many urban areas along the coast will become more vulnerable, like Boston, New York City, Norfolk (Va.), New Orleans, Charleston (S.C.), Miami, Washington, D.C./Alexandria (Va.),' said S. Jeffress Williams, scientist emeritus for the USGS, who wasn't part of the studies. 'More people and infrastructure will be at increasing risk of flooding.'"
Cimate Central has put together an interactive map that shows you the areas at risk.

failure to address the underlying monetary system reduces all good intentions to conversation...,

Sunday, October 27, 2013

back to stuff that matters - 4-D printing...,

foreignaffairs | In May 2010, the richest, most powerful man in biotechnology made a new creature. J. Craig Venter and his private-company team started with DNA and constructed a novel genetic sequence of more than one million coded bits of information known as nucleotides. Seven years earlier, Venter had been the first person in history to make a functioning creature from information. Looking at the strings of letters representing the DNA sequence for a virus called phi X174, which infects bacteria, he thought to himself, “I can assemble real DNA based on that computer information.” And so he did, creating a virus based on the phi X174 genomic code. He followed the same recipe later on to generate the DNA for his larger and more sophisticated creature. Venter and his team figured out how to make an artificial bacterial cell, inserted their man-made DNA genome inside, and watched as the organic life form they had synthesized moved, ate, breathed, and replicated itself.

As he was doing this, Venter tried to warn a largely oblivious humanity about what was coming. He cautioned in a 2009 interview, for example, that “we think once we do activate a genome that yes, it probably will impact people’s thinking about life.” Venter defined his new technology as “synthetic genomics,” which would “start in the computer in the digital world from digitized biology and make new DNA constructs for very specific purposes. . . . It can mean that as we learn the rules of life we will be able to develop robotics and computational systems that are self-learning systems.” “It’s the beginning of the new era of very rapid learning,” he continued. “There’s not a single aspect of human life that doesn’t have the potential to be totally transformed by these technologies in the future.”

Today, some call work such as Venter’s novel bacterial creation an example of “4-D printing.” 2-D printing is what we do everyday by hitting “print” on our keyboards, causing a hard copy of an article or the like to spew from our old-fashioned ink-printing devices. Manufacturers, architects, artists, and others are now doing 3-D printing, using computer-generated designs to command devices loaded with plastics, carbon, graphite, and even food materials to construct three-dimensional products. With 4-D printing, manufacturers take the next crucial step: self-assembly or self-replication. What begins as a human idea, hammered out intellectually on a computer, is then sent to a 3-D printer, resulting in a creation capable of making copies of and transforming itself. In solid materials, Skylar Tibbits of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology creates complex physical substances that he calls “programmable materials that build themselves.” Venter and hundreds of synthetic biologists argue that 4-D printing is best accomplished by making life using life’s own building blocks, DNA.

When Venter’s team first created the phi X174 viral genome, Venter commissioned a large analysis of the implications of synthetic genomics for national security and public health. The resulting report warned that two issues were impeding appropriate governance of the new science. The first problem was that work on synthetic biology, or synbio, had become so cheap and easy that its practitioners were no longer classically trained biologists. This meant that there were no shared assumptions regarding the new field’s ethics, professional standards, or safety. The second problem was that existing standards, in some cases regulated by government agencies in the United States and other developed countries, were a generation old, therefore outdated, and also largely unknown to many younger practitioners.

Venter’s team predicted that as the cost of synthetic biology continued to drop, interest in the field would increase, and the ethical and practical concerns it raised would come increasingly to the fore. They were even more prescient than they guessed. Combined with breakthroughs in another area of biology, “gain-of-function” (GOF) research, the synthetic genomics field has spawned a dizzying array of new possibilities, challenges, and national security threats. As the scientific community has started debating “human-directed evolution” and the merits of experiments that give relatively benign germs dangerous capacities for disease, the global bioterrorism and biosecurity establishment remains well behind the curve, mired in antiquated notions about what threats are important and how best to counter them. 

In the United States, Congress and the executive branch have tried to prepare by creating finite lists of known pathogens and toxins and developing measures to surveil, police, and counter them; foreign governments and multilateral institutions, such as the UN and the Biological Weapons Convention, have been even less ambitious. Governance, in short, is focused on the old world of biology, in which scientists observed life from the outside, puzzling over its details and behavior by tinkering with its environment and then watching what happened. But in the new biology world, scientists can now create life themselves and learn about it from the inside. As Venter put it back in 2009, “What we have done so far is going to blow your freakin’ mind.”

why have young people in japan stopped having sex?

Guardian | Ai Aoyama is a sex and relationship counsellor who works out of her narrow three-storey home on a Tokyo back street. Her first name means "love" in Japanese, and is a keepsake from her earlier days as a professional dominatrix. Back then, about 15 years ago, she was Queen Ai, or Queen Love, and she did "all the usual things" like tying people up and dripping hot wax on their nipples. Her work today, she says, is far more challenging. Aoyama, 52, is trying to cure what Japan's media calls sekkusu shinai shokogun, or "celibacy syndrome".

Japan's under-40s appear to be losing interest in conventional relationships. Millions aren't even dating, and increasing numbers can't be bothered with sex. For their government, "celibacy syndrome" is part of a looming national catastrophe. Japan already has one of the world's lowest birth rates. Its population of 126 million, which has been shrinking for the past decade, is projected to plunge a further one-third by 2060. Aoyama believes the country is experiencing "a flight from human intimacy" – and it's partly the government's fault.

The sign outside her building says "Clinic". She greets me in yoga pants and fluffy animal slippers, cradling a Pekingese dog whom she introduces as Marilyn Monroe. In her business pamphlet, she offers up the gloriously random confidence that she visited North Korea in the 1990s and squeezed the testicles of a top army general. It doesn't say whether she was invited there specifically for that purpose, but the message to her clients is clear: she doesn't judge.

Inside, she takes me upstairs to her "relaxation room" – a bedroom with no furniture except a double futon. "It will be quiet in here," she says. Aoyama's first task with most of her clients is encouraging them "to stop apologising for their own physical existence".

The number of single people has reached a record high. A survey in 2011 found that 61% of unmarried men and 49% of women aged 18-34 were not in any kind of romantic relationship, a rise of almost 10% from five years earlier. Another study found that a third of people under 30 had never dated at all. (There are no figures for same-sex relationships.) Although there has long been a pragmatic separation of love and sex in Japan – a country mostly free of religious morals – sex fares no better. A survey earlier this year by the Japan Family Planning Association (JFPA) found that 45% of women aged 16-24 "were not interested in or despised sexual contact". More than a quarter of men felt the same way.

Many people who seek her out, says Aoyama, are deeply confused. "Some want a partner, some prefer being single, but few relate to normal love and marriage." However, the pressure to conform to Japan's anachronistic family model of salaryman husband and stay-at-home wife remains. "People don't know where to turn. They're coming to me because they think that, by wanting something different, there's something wrong with them."

Official alarmism doesn't help. Fewer babies were born here in 2012 than any year on record. (This was also the year, as the number of elderly people shoots up, that adult incontinence pants outsold baby nappies in Japan for the first time.) Kunio Kitamura, head of the JFPA, claims the demographic crisis is so serious that Japan "might eventually perish into extinction".

Japan's under-40s won't go forth and multiply out of duty, as postwar generations did. The country is undergoing major social transition after 20 years of economic stagnation. It is also battling against the effects on its already nuclear-destruction-scarred psyche of 2011's earthquake, tsunami and radioactive meltdown. There is no going back. "Both men and women say to me they don't see the point of love. They don't believe it can lead anywhere," says Aoyama. "Relationships have become too hard." Fist tap Dale.

lack of will in a time of discontent and woe...,

NYTimes | ON my first night back in Italy, at a dinner party in Milan, I watched and listened to a successful couple in their late 40s plot their escape from a country that they love but have lost faith in. They cleared the plates, opened a laptop, and began checking out real estate in London, where one of them had been offered a transfer. The prices horrified but didn’t deter them. They have a 10-year-old son, and they fear that Italy, with 40 percent unemployment among young adults and an economy whose listlessness has come to seem the new normal, doesn’t promise a particularly bright future for him. 

Two days later and about 200 miles southeast of Milan, it was an older Italian woman — early 70s, I’d wager — who sang her country’s blues. I was having lunch on a mountaintop in the Marche region, and with wild boar sausage in front of me and a castle overhead, I could have convinced myself that I was in heaven. “A museum,” she corrected me. “You’re in a museum and an organic garden.” That’s what Italy had come to, she said. Each year the country lost more of its oomph, more of its relevance. 

Because I was lucky enough to live here once and am always circling back, I’m well accustomed to Italians’ theatrical pessimism, to their talent for complaint. It’s something of a sport, something of an opera, performed with sweeping gesticulations and musical intonations and, in the past, with an understanding that there was really nowhere else they’d rather be. 

But the arias have been different this time around. The whole mood has. Ask Italian students what awaits them on the far side of their degrees and they shrug. Ask their parents when or how Italy will turn the corner and you get the same expression of bafflement. You hear more than you did 10 or even five years ago about migrations to Britain, to the United States. You hear less faith in tomorrow. 

I’ve been startled by it. Also spooked, because I arrived here straight from our government shutdown, and I’ve observed Italy’s discontent through a filter of America’s woes, processing it as a cautionary tale. Italy is what happens when a country knows full well what its problems are but can’t summon the discipline and will to fix them. It’s what happens when political dysfunction grinds on and on and good governance becomes a mirage, a myth, a joke. Italy coasts on its phenomenal blessings rather than building on them and loses traction in a global economy with more driven competitors. Sound familiar? There’s so much beauty and promise here, and so much waste. Italy breaks your heart.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

word is bond...,

pbs | Paul Solman: If you've been reading from question one, here now we get to the agency of the government that actually creates our money, and thereby tries to control inflation: the Federal Reserve. It creates U.S. dollars not by printing them, but by generating them electronically as deposits in our banks, deposits known as "Federal reserves." 

The Fed doesn't just give the reserves to the banks, however. It uses them to buy some of what the banks have in abundance: bonds.

And what are bonds? Legal debt contracts, as in "my word is my bond, but just in case you don't take my word as Gospel, here's a written promise that I'll pay you back." 

Banks are in the business of taking money from depositors and lending it out. Often they lend to individuals and small businesses. Other times, they lend to large institutions or governments. Those loans are usually made in return for bonds -- IOUs. So banks have lots of them.

The world's biggest issuer of bonds is the U.S. government, which has run up a cumulative $16 trillion national debt. As a result, the U.S. has $16 trillion worth of bonds outstanding. U.S. banks hold a significant portion of them.

When the Fed wants to spur the economy, as I explained in my answer to the first question, above, it buys bonds from the Treasury, thus injecting its "Federal reserves" into the banking system, which can then lend out most of the new money as loans and spur economic activity. That's what the Fed has been doing ever since the Crash of '08.

Look at the Fed's situation six years ago, in October of 2007. It held about $800 billion worth of U.S. Treasury IOUs, meaning it was financing less than a trillion dollars worth of U.S. debt. As of this week, that number had swelled to $2.2 trillion, with the Fed having bought another $1.5 trillion worth of mortgage-backed securities (housing loans) as well. So yes, Yan, the Fed is now the proud owner of nearly $4 trillion dollars worth of loans.

All told, the Fed has newly taken on about $3 trillion worth of loans since the Crash of '08, which it paid for with newly created electronic "Federal reserves." That's the policy known as "quantitative easing," so-called because the Fed increased the quantity of money in the banking system in order to ease ( as opposed to "tighten") economic activity. And to be clear: this is what the Fed has always done when it tried to stimulate the economy. The Fed was blasted by conservative economists Milton Friedman and Anna Schwartz for not having done so in the early 1930s and thus having contributed mightily to the Great Depression by failing to ease.

The talk now is that the Fed will slow and eventually stop its bond buying and money creation -- gradually. It will, in short, taper off its easing, as it typically has done in the past. 

Yan asks a question beyond tapering, however: If the Fed were to start selling its bonds instead of continuing to buy them, wouldn't that flood the bond market with U.S. Treasuries, making it more difficult for the Treasury to borrow money by selling new bonds of its own and indeed forcing the Treasury to offer a higher interest rate to get anyone to lend to it?

Well, yes, which is why the Fed will only start selling bonds when it wants to tighten the economy -- should it show signs of overheating and bubble-like activity. Those signs would presumably show up first in lots of buying and price and wage rises and thus, a sudden spurt in the inflation rate. To "taper," in short, does not mean "to suddenly reverse course."

Yan also asks: "Could [the Fed] give [the Treasury bonds] to the main part of the government? What would the bonds be if that happened? Mad money?"

I'm no finance lawyer, but the answer is almost surely "no." I can't imagine that the Fed has authority to simply give away its assets. And why would the Treasury need the bonds? It has nothing to fear from the Fed. If the Fed holds Treasury bonds, it's not likely to dump them, is it? Not unless the economy needs dramatic tightening, that is, in which case the Treasury should be happy to see the Fed start unloading.

But let me ask a question you didn't pose, Yan: what happened to the nearly $3 trillion dollars the Fed has created between 2008 and today? 

Well, look again at the Fed balance sheet. In the second section, entitled "1. Factors Affecting Reserve Balances of Depository Institutions (continued)," the seventh row is labeled "Reserve balances with Federal Reserve Banks." Up until the Crash of '08, that number was in the low billions. Today, as you can see if you look, it's $2.3 trillion.

In other words, most of the money the Fed has created -- "out of thin air," as Fedophobes like to declaim -- is right back at the Fed in the form of deposits by banks. 

"But why would that be?" you might well ask.

And the answer is this: at the time of the Crash, the Fed instituted a policy of paying the banks to redeposit money at the Fed. That payment is known as "Interest on Excess Reserves" (IOER). It appears to have been a way of discouraging banks from making risky loans, a way of keeping the newly created Fed money from circulating throughout the economy and thus creating inflation. In fact, some observers would say its main purpose was simply to shore up the wobbly banking system with Fed money. I wouldn't disagree.

Janice Bienn -- Dallas, Texas: What are your thoughts on the video "Money as Debt" by Paul Grignon? I sent someone your article, and he fired back with this video, stating that you were either ill informed, or part of the "conspiracy." I don't believe either conclusion is true. But I would appreciate some clarification. Thanks in advance for your time.

Paul Solman: I don't mean to sound defensive, Janice, but if even I am ill informed, after all these decades of time and effort, we might as well go fishing and leave the economy to -- well, whom, exactly? Paul Grignon? His great insight, as near as I can tell, is that money is debt -- true -- and debt is bad. Really? Debt is bad? Money is bad?

Look, debt can be abused. Who would doubt it? The ability to create money can be abused. Again, who would argue otherwise? But for goodness sake, everything of value can be abused, from land to love to food to friendship! 

The easiest form of communication, I discovered early in my career, is to denounce, to deride, to find flaws. That's because pretty much nothing in this all-too-human world of ours works quite as intended. 

People and larger groups of people (institutions) and even larger groups (governments) take on financial commitments they can't meet. What else is new? This has been happening throughout the entire course of financial transactions. Here's the translation of a message on a clay tablet, in cuneiform, from A. Leo Oppenheim's book, "Letters from Mesopotamia":
From Silla-Labbum and Elani

Tell Puzur-Assur, Amua, and Assur-samsi:

Thirty years ago you left the city of Assur [one of the capitals of ancient Assyria, 250 or so miles north of Baghdad]. You have never made a deposit since, and we have not recovered one shekel of silver from you, but we have never made you feel bad about this. Our tablets have been going to you with caravan after caravan, but no report from you has ever come here. We have addressed claims to your father but we have not been claiming one shekel of your private silver. Please, do come back right away; should you be too busy with your business, deposit the silver for us. (Remember) we have never made you feel bad about this matter but we are now forced to appear, in your eyes, acting as gentlemen should not. Please, do come back right away or deposit the silver for us.
If not, we will send you a notice from the local ruler and the police, and thus put you to shame in the assembly of the merchants. You will also cease to be one of us.
I suppose it's possible to attribute the fall of Assyrian hegemony to widespread debt abuse. But personally, I'd be more inclined to believe that cross-desert commerce was good for the Mesopotamian economy -- the world's very first economy, some say -- and that such commerce was facilitated by debt and money, as all commerce has been ever since. If that makes me part of a conspiracy, so be it.

awesome corruption at the gates of hell...,

reuters | "Working conditions in the nuclear industry have always been bad," said Saburo Murata, deputy director of Osaka's Hannan Chuo Hospital. "Problems with money, outsourced recruitment, lack of proper health insurance - these have existed for decades."

The Fukushima project has magnified those problems. When Japan's parliament approved a bill to fund decontamination work in August 2011, the law did not apply existing rules regulating the construction industry. As a result, contractors working on decontamination have not been required to disclose information on management or undergo any screening.

That meant anyone could become a nuclear contractor overnight. Many small companies without experience rushed to bid for contracts and then often turned to brokers to round up the manpower, according to employers and workers.

The resulting influx of workers has turned the town of Iwaki, some 50 kilometers (30 miles) from the plant, into a bustling labor hub at the front line of the massive public works project.

In extreme cases, brokers have been known to "buy" workers by paying off their debts. The workers are then forced to work until they pay off their new bosses for sharply reduced wages and under conditions that make it hard for them to speak out against abuses, labor activists and workers in Fukushima said.

Lake Barrett, a former U.S. nuclear regulator and an advisor to Tepco, says the system is so ingrained it will take time to change.

"There's been a century of tradition of big Japanese companies using contractors, and that's just the way it is in Japan," he told Reuters. "You're not going to change that overnight just because you have a new job here, so I think you have to adapt."

A Tepco survey from 2012 showed nearly half of the workers at Fukushima were employed by one contractor but managed by another. Japanese law prohibits such arrangements, in order to prevent brokers from skimming workers' wages.

Tepco said the survey represents one of the steps it has taken to crack down on abuses. "We take issues related to inappropriate subcontractors very seriously," the utility said in a statement to Reuters.

Tepco said it warns its contractors to respect labor regulations. The company said it has established a hotline for workers, and has organized lectures for subcontractors to raise awareness on labor regulations. In June, it introduced compulsory training for new workers on what constitutes illegal employment practices.

Tepco does not publish average hourly wages in the plant. Workers interviewed by Reuters said wages could be as low as around $6 an hour, but usually average around $12 an hour - about a third lower than the average in Japan's construction industry.

Workers for subcontractors in the most-contaminated area outside the plant are supposed to be paid an additional government-funded hazard allowance of about $100 per day, although many report it has not been paid.

The work in the plant can also be dangerous. Six workers in October were exposed to radioactive water when one of them detached a pipe connected to a treatment system. In August, 12 workers were irradiated when removing rubble from around one of the reactors. The accidents prompted Japan's nuclear regulator to question whether Tepco has been delegating too much.

"Proper oversight is important in preventing careless mistakes. Right now Tepco may be leaving it all up to the subcontractors," said the head of Japan's Nuclear Regulation Authority, Shunichi Tanaka in response to the recent accidents.

Tepco said it will take measures to ensure that such accidents are not repeated. The utility said it monitors safety with spot inspections and checks on safeguards for workers when projects are divided between subcontractors.

The NRA, which is primarily charged with reactor safety, is only one of several agencies dealing with the Fukushima project: the ministries of labor, environment, trade and economy are also responsible for managing the clean-up and enforcing regulations, along with local authorities and police.

Yousuke Minaguchi, a lawyer who has represented Fukushima workers, says Japan's government has turned a blind eye to the problem of worker exploitation. "On the surface, they say it is illegal. But in reality they don't want to do anything. By not punishing anyone, they can keep using a lot of workers cheaply."

Economy Minister Motegi, who is responsible for Japan's energy policy and decommissioning of the plant, instructed Tepco to improve housing for workers. He has said more needs to be done to ensure workers are being treated well.

"To get work done, it's necessary to cooperate with a large number of companies," he told Reuters. "Making sure that those relations are proper, and that work is moving forward is something we need to keep working on daily." Fist tap Dale.

Friday, October 25, 2013

impact of the snowden snowball dwarfs the wikileaks that started it all...,

Slate | The diplomatic cables leaked by Chelsea Manning have had a major political impact in several countries around the world. They may have helped tip an election in Peru, exposed official corruption in India, and while WikiLeaks’ role in fomenting the Arab Spring uprisings has been somewhat exaggerated—including by the organization itself—cables detailing the corruption and lavish lifestyles of the Ben Ali family in Tunisia certainly played a role in the early days of that country’s protests.

But as you might expect from documents written by U.S. diplomats themselves, the cables didn’t actually portray U.S. foreign policy in the worst light. While often catty and more blunt than U.S. officials would ever been in public, the cables didn’t tell us all that much about U.S. foreign policy that we didn’t already know. With the benefit of hindsight, even some State Department officials have conceded that the release of the cables was “embarrassing but not damaging."

I doubt we’ll be saying the same thing about the NSA leaks in a few months. The latest reports that the U.S. may have tapped the mobile phone of German Chancellor Angela Merkel have prompted an unusually blunt response from the German government.

As Reuters reported yesterday, the Merkel accusation, along with another recent report of U.S. mass surveillance on French telephone communications, is likely to dominate an upcoming summit of EU leaders in Brussels.  (The Merkel surveillance itself may not have been contained in the Snowden files but it seems likely that the investigation by German intelligence and Der Spiegel that uncovered it was prompted by the recent reports of similar U.S. operations.)

the snowden snowball just keeps on rolling and growing...,

Guardian | The National Security Agency monitored the phone conversations of 35 world leaders after being given the numbers by an official in another US government department, according to a classified document provided by whistleblower Edward Snowden.

The confidential memo reveals that the NSA encourages senior officials in its "customer" departments, such the White House, State and the Pentagon, to share their "Rolodexes" so the agency can add the phone numbers of leading foreign politicians to their surveillance systems.

The document notes that one unnamed US official handed over 200 numbers, including those of the 35 world leaders, none of whom is named. These were immediately "tasked" for monitoring by the NSA.

The revelation is set to add to mounting diplomatic tensions between the US and its allies, after the German chancellor Angela Merkel on Wednesday accused the US of tapping her mobile phone.

After Merkel's allegations became public, White House press secretary Jay Carney issued a statement that said the US "is not monitoring and will not monitor" the German chancellor's communications. But that failed to quell the row, as officials in Berlin quickly pointed out that the US did not deny monitoring the phone in the past.

The NSA memo obtained by the Guardian suggests that such surveillance was not isolated, as the agency routinely monitors the phone numbers of world leaders – and even asks for the assistance of other US officials to do so.

The memo, dated October 2006 and which was issued to staff in the agency's Signals Intelligence Directorate (SID), was titled "Customers Can Help SID Obtain Targetable Phone Numbers".
It begins by setting out an example of how US officials who mixed with world leaders and politicians could help agency surveillance.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

can capitalists afford recovery: economic policy when capital is power

bnarchives.yorku | Economic, financial and social commentators from all directions and persuasion are obsessed with the prospect of recovery. The world remains mired in a deep, prolonged crisis, and the key question seems to be how to get out of it. The purpose of our paper is to ask a very different question that few if any seem concerned with: can capitalists afford recovery in the first place?

This question does not come out of the blue. Over the past several years, we have published a series of papers on the crisis (Bichler and Nitzan 2008, 2009; Nitzan and Bichler 2009b; Bichler and Nitzan 2010; Kliman, Bichler, and Nitzan 2011). Our basic argument in these papers is that this is a systemic crisis and that capitalists have been struck by systemic fear: fear for the very survival of the system.
"From now on, depressions will be scientifically created."
Congressman Charles A. Lindbergh Sr. , 1913
This fear, we have further argued, is objectively grounded. Our reasons, though, are very different from those given by heterodox political economists, particularly Marxists. Whereas for the Marxists, the crisis is the symptom and culmination of weakening accumulation, for us it is the consequence of its unprecedented strength.

The two views are anchored in very different cosmologies (Bichler and Nitzan 2012b). Liberals and Marxists see capital as an economic entity and capitalism as a mode of production and consumption, so for them the accumulation crisis is anchored in the economics of production and consumption. By contrast, we see capital as a symbolic representation of power and capitalism as a mode of power, so for us, the crisis of accumulation is a crisis of capitalized power.

According to our research, the accumulation of capital-read-power might be approaching its asymptotes, or limits (Bichler and Nitzan 2012a). The closer capitalized power is to its asymptotes, the more difficult it is to augment it further. Capitalists, though, have no choice. They are conditioned and compelled to increase their capitalized power without end, and that relentless drive breeds conflict. It forces capitalists to increase their threats, escalate their sabotage and intensify their use of force – and this intensification is in turn bound to trigger stronger resistance, contestations, uprisings and more.

By the early 2000s, capitalists began to realize the unfolding of this asymptotic scenario. They started to sense that their power is nearing its limits and that accumulation is becoming ever more difficult to achieve and might be reversed. And given that capitalization is forward-looking, the result has been a major bear market.

The present paper contextualizes and examines this process from the viewpoint of economic policy. The analysis is divided into three parts. The first part deals with the mainstream macroeconomic perspective. This approach claims to have already solved all the theoretical riddles, so the main emphasis here is on the practical question of how to engineer a recovery. The second part deals with the Marxist view. Marxists stress the inherent contradictions of accumulation, so the question for them is the very possibility of sustained growth. The third and final part takes the view of capital as power. Capitalized power hinges not on growth, but on strategic sabotage. So from this viewpoint, the key question is not how capitalists can achieve and sustain a recovery, but whether they can afford it in the first place.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

the presidency and the press..., | Mr. Chairman, ladies and gentlemen:

I appreciate very much your generous invitation to be here tonight.

You bear heavy responsibilities these days and an article I read some time ago reminded me of how particularly heavily the burdens of present day events bear upon your profession.

You may remember that in 1851 t. he New York Herald Tribune, under the sponsorship and publishing of Horace Greeley, employed as its London correspondent an obscure journalist by the name of Karl Marx.

We are told that foreign correspondent Marx, stone broke, and with a family ill and undernourished, constantly appealed to Greeley and Managing Editor Charles Dana for an increase in his munificent salary of $5 per installment, a salary which he and Engels ungratefully labeled as the "lousiest petty bourgeois cheating."

But when all his financial appeals were refused, Marx looked around for other means of livelihood and fame, eventually terminating his relationship with the Tribune and devoting his talents full time to the cause that would bequeath to the world the seeds of Leninism, Stalinism, revolution and the cold war.

If only this capitalistic New York newspaper had treated him more kindly; if only Marx had remained a foreign correspondent, history might have been different. And I hope all publishers will bear this lesson in mind the next time they receive a poverty-stricken appeal for a small increase in the expense account from an obscure newspaper

I have selected as the title of my remarks tonight "The President and the Press." Some may suggest that this would be more naturally worded "The President Versus the Press." But those are not my sentiments tonight.

It is true, however, that when a well-known diplomat from another country demanded recently that our State Department repudiate certain newspaper attacks on his colleague it was unnecessary for us to reply that this Administration was not responsible for the press, for the press had already made it clear that it was not responsible for this Administration.

Nevertheless, my purpose here tonight is not to deliver the usual assault on the so-called one-party press. On the contrary, in recent months I have rarely heard any complaints about political bias in the press except from a few Republicans. Nor is it my purpose tonight to discuss or defend the televising of Presidential press conferences. I think it is highly beneficial to have some 20,000,000 Americans regularly sit in on these conferences to observe, if I may say so, the incisive, the intelligent and the courteous qualities displayed by your Washington correspondents.

Nor, finally, are these remarks intended to examine the proper degree of privacy which the press should allow to any President and his family.

If in the last few months your White House reporters and photographers have been attending church services with regularity, that has surely done them no harm.

On the other hand, I realize that your staff and wire service photographers may be complaining that they do not enjoy the same green privileges at the local golf courses which they once did.

It is true that my predecessor did not object as I do to pictures of one's golfing skill in action. But neither on the other hand did he ever bean a Secret Service man. My topic tonight is a more sober one of concern to publishers as well as editors.

I want to talk about our common responsibilities in the face of a common danger. The events of recent weeks may have helped to illuminate that challenge for some; but the dimensions of its threat have loomed large on the horizon for many years. Whatever our hopes may be for the future--for reducing this threat or living with it--there is no escaping either the gravity or the totality of its challenge to our survival and to our security--a challenge that confronts us in unaccustomed ways in every sphere of human activity.

This deadly challenge imposes upon our society two requirements of direct concern both to the press and to the President--two requirements that may seem almost contradictory in tone, but which must be reconciled and fulfilled if we are to meet this national peril. I refer, first, to the need for far greater public information; and, second, to the need for far greater official secrecy.

The very word "secrecy" is repugnant in a free and open society; and we are as a people inherently and historically opposed to secret societies, to secret oaths and to secret proceedings. We decided long ago that the dangers of excessive and unwarranted concealment of pertinent facts far outweighed the dangers which are cited to justify it. Even today, there is little value in opposing the threat of a closed society by imitating its arbitrary restrictions. Even today, there is little value in insuring the survival of our nation if our traditions do not survive with it. And there is very grave danger that an announced need for increased security will be seized upon by those anxious to expand its meaning to the very limits of official censorship and concealment. That I do not intend to permit to the extent that it is in my control. And no official of my Administration, whether his rank is high or low, civilian or military, should interpret my words here tonight as an excuse to censor the news, to stifle dissent, to cover up our mistakes or to withhold from the press and the public the facts they deserve to know.

But I do ask every publisher, every editor, and every newsman in the nation to reexamine his own standards, and to recognize the nature of our country's peril. In time of war, the government and the press have customarily joined in an effort, based largely on self-discipline, to prevent unauthorized disclosures to the enemy. In time of "clear and present danger," the courts have held that even the privileged rights of the First Amendment must yield to the public's need for national security.

Today no war has been declared--and however fierce the struggle may be, it may never be declared in the traditional fashion. Our way of life is under attack. Those who make themselves our enemy are advancing around the globe. The survival of our friends is in danger. And yet no war has been declared, no borders have been crossed by marching troops, no missiles have been fired.

If the press is awaiting a declaration of war before it imposes the self-discipline of combat conditions, then I can only say that no war ever posed a greater threat to our security. If you are awaiting a finding of "clear and present danger," then I can only say that the danger has never been more clear and its presence has never been more imminent.

It requires a change in outlook, a change in tactics, a change in missions--by the government, by the people, by every businessman or labor leader, and by every newspaper. For we are opposed around the world by a monolithic and ruthless conspiracy that relies primarily on covert means for expanding its sphere of influence--on infiltration instead of invasion, on subversion instead of elections, on intimidation instead of free choice, on guerrillas by night instead of armies by day. It is a system which has conscripted vast human and material resources into the building of a tightly knit, highly efficient machine that combines military, diplomatic, intelligence, economic, scientific and political operations.

its preparations are concealed, not published. Its mistakes are buried, not headlined. Its dissenters are silenced, not praised. No expenditure is questioned, no rumor is printed, no secret is revealed. It conducts the Cold War, in short, with a war-time discipline no democracy would ever hope or wish to match.

Nevertheless, every democracy recognizes the necessary restraints of national security-and the question remains whether those restraints need to be more strictly observed if we are to oppose this kind of attack as well as outright invasion.

For the facts of the matter are that this nation's foes have openly boasted of acquiring through our newspapers information they would otherwise hire agents to acquire through theft, bribery or espionage; that details of this nation's covert preparations to counter the enemy's covert operations have been available to every newspaper reader, friend and foe alike; that the size, the strength, the location and the nature of our forces and weapons, and our plans and strategy for their use, have all been pinpointed in the press and other news media to a degree sufficient to satisfy any foreign power; and that, in at least one case, the publication of details concerning a secret mechanism whereby satellites were followed required its alteration at the expense of considerable time and money.

The newspapers which printed these stories were loyal, patriotic, responsible and well-meaning. Had we been engaged in open warfare, they undoubtedly would not have published such items. But in the absence of open warfare, they recognized only the tests of journalism and not the tests of national security. And my question tonight is whether additional tests should not now be adopted.

That question is for you alone to answer. No public official should answer it for you. No governmental plan should impose its restraints against your will. But I would be failing in my duty to the Nation, in considering all of the responsibilities that we now bear and all of the means at hand to meet those responsibilities, if I did not commend this problem to your attention, and urge its thoughtful consideration.

On many earlier occasions, I have said-and your newspapers have constantly said-that these are times that appeal to every citizen's sense of sacrifice and self-discipline. They call out to every citizen to weigh his rights and comforts against his obligations to the common good. I cannot now believe that those citizens who serve in the newspaper business consider themselves exempt from that appeal.

I have no intention of establishing a new Office of War Information to govern the flow of news. I am not suggesting any new forms of censorship or new types of security classifications. I have no easy answer to the dilemma that I have posed, and would not seek to impose it if I had one. But I am asking the members of the newspaper profession and the industry in this country to reexamine their own responsibilities, to consider the degree and the nature of the present danger, and to heed the duty of self-restraint which that danger imposes upon us all.

Every newspaper now asks itself, with respect to every story: "Is it news?" All I suggest is that you add the question: "Is it in the interest of the national security?" And I hope that every group in America-unions and businessmen and public officials at every level--will ask the same question of their endeavors, and subject their actions to this same exacting test.

And should the press of America consider and recommend the voluntary assumption of specific new steps or machinery, I can assure you that we will cooperate whole-heartedly with those recommendations.

Perhaps there will be no recommendations. Perhaps there is no answer to the dilemma faced by a free and open society in a cold and secret war. In times of peace, any discussion of this subject, and any action that results, are both painful and without precedent. But this is a time of peace and peril which knows no precedent in history.

It is the unprecedented nature of this challenge that also gives rise to your second obligation--an obligation which I share. And that is our obligation to inform and alert the American people--to make certain that they possess all the facts that they need, and understand them as well--the perils, the prospects, the purposes of our program and the choices that we face.

No President should fear public scrutiny of his program. For from that scrutiny comes understanding; and from that understanding comes support or opposition. And both are necessary. I am not asking your newspapers to support the Administration, but I .am asking your help in the tremendous task of informing and alerting the American people. For I have complete confidence in the response and dedication of our citizens whenever they are fully informed.

I not only could not stifle controversy among your readers--I welcome it. This Administration intends to be candid about its errors; for, as a wise man once said: "An error doesn't become a mistake until you refuse to correct it." We intend to accept full responsibility for our errors; and we expect you to point them out when we miss them.

Without debate, without criticism, no Administration and no country can succeed-and no republic can survive. That is why the Athenian law-maker Solon decreed it a crime for any citizen to shrink from controversy. And that is why our press was protected by the First Amendment--the only business in America specifically protected by the Constitution--not primarily to amuse and entertain, not to emphasize the trivial and the sentimental, not to simply "give the public what it wants"--but to inform, to arouse, to reflect, to state our dangers and our opportunities, to indicate our crises and our choices, to lead, mold, educate and sometimes even anger public opinion.

This means greater coverage and analysis of international news--for it is no longer far away and foreign but close at hand and local. It means greater attention to improved understanding of the news as well as improved transmission. And it means, finally, that government at all levels, must meet its obligation to provide you with the fullest possible information outside the narrowest limits of national security--and we intend to do it.

It was early in the Seventeenth Century that Francis Bacon remarked on three recent inventions already transforming the world: the compass, gunpowder and the printing press. Now the links between the nations first forged by the compass have made us all citizens of the world, the hopes and threats of one becoming the hopes and threats of us all. In that one world's efforts to live together, the evolution of gunpowder to its ultimate limit has warned mankind of the terrible consequences of failure.

And so it is to the printing press--to the recorder of man's deeds, the keeper of his conscience, the courier of his news--that we look for strength and assistance, confident that with your help man will be what he was born to be: free and independent.

fixing your mouth to say "tech surge" is an admission of total ignorance and incompetence...,

hotair | Does the White House know that the “tech surge” is largely a waste of time, a contrivance they’re using to placate Americans and stall while they figure out what to do next? Or is the depth of technological ignorance here such that they really do think Jeff Bezos and Mark Zuckerberg could whip this thing into shape in a few weeks?
There’s an irony to the tech surge too, says Andreessen:
“The government has accreted over the last 30 years contracting rules and regulations that make it impossible” for Silicon Valley companies to compete in Washington, he said. “So you’ve wired the system basically to prohibit the people who really know what’s going on.”
That’s one degree of self-imposed difficulty. The second degree was the extraordinary secrecy about the building of the site maintained by the White House and HHS because they were terrified of political embarrassment if their opponents found out how badly things were going. Had they shared more info with private insurers sooner, they might have had useful feedback on how to correct the site’s problems before they reached this point. The third degree of self-imposed difficulty was the fateful decision to force people to create an account on the site in order to comparison shop among plans, a choice that was made possibly because the administration was afraid of “rate shock” scaring away consumers if they weren’t informed upfront about their subsidies. Who made that decision? According to Issa’s House Oversight Committee, sure sounds like it was the White House (“CMS” is the department of HHS that’s overseeing the website):
CGI officials told Committee staff that CMS officials and employees constantly mentioned “The White House” when discussing matters with CGI. For example, CMS officials would routinely state: “this is what the White House wants.” Moreover, CGI officials told Committee staff the ability to shop for health insurance without registering for an account – a central design feature of the health insurance exchange – was removed “in late August or early September.”
They spent years building a site that would let you comparison shop without creating an account, just like every other commercial website does, and then at the very last minute they were told to tear that up by the roots and stick all the plan information behind a reg wall. Why? And who’s the dummy who thought a fix like that would be simple? Fist tap Big Don.