Tuesday, December 31, 2013

roc-a-fella and the white house should be issuing apologies any minute now...,

lawsy, lawsy, gone be trubble now!!!

NYTimes | Outside a small corner of the world, it was a little-known gesture: extending one arm straight to the ground, while crossing the other across the chest toward the opposite shoulder.
But its profile has risen rapidly in recent days, once the hand signal — known in France as the quenelle — crossed into the world of professional sports when Nicolas Anelka, a French soccer player, used it to celebrate a goal during an English league game on Saturday. 

The gesture has stirred controversy in France as its popularity has grown. Dieudonné, a divisive comedian who created it at least a decade ago, has claimed that it is simply a symbol of “anti-system” protest. But critics say that because of Dieudonné’s routines, which they call offensive, and because of his politics, the salute has racist and anti-Semitic connotations. 

The Football Association, English soccer’s governing body, began an investigation into Anelka’s use of the gesture. He could be disciplined. The public response was just as swift, as photographs and video of other French athletes holding the pose surfaced. 

There was one of Samir Nasri, a star midfielder for Manchester City, making the gesture outside the team’s training site and one of Mamadou Sakho, a Liverpool defender, posing the same way with the comedian himself. Photographs emerged of Tony Parker and Boris Diaw — two Frenchmen who play in the N.B.A. for the San Antonio Spurs — doing the gesture with Dieudonné. 

Parker released a statement Monday apologizing, noting that the photograph was three years old and saying that he believed at the time that the gesture was solely comedic in nature. (The Spurs, who have for years had a geographically diverse lineup, held practice on Monday afternoon, but Parker, Diaw and Coach Gregg Popovich did not speak to reporters.) 

“While this gesture has been part of French culture for many years, it was not until recently that I learned of the very negative concerns associated with it,” Parker said in the statement, adding, “Since I have been made aware of the seriousness of this gesture, I will certainly never repeat the gesture and sincerely apologize for any misunderstanding or harm relating to my actions.”


wikipedia | The quenelle (French pronunciation: ​[kə.nɛl]) is a gesture which is performed by pointing one arm diagonally downwards, while touching that arm's shoulder with the opposite hand.[1] French political activist and comedian Dieudonné M'bala M'bala is credited with creating and popularizing the gesture, which he first used publicly in 2009 while campaigning as a candidate for the 2009 European Parliament elections at the head of an anti-Zionist list.[2] While Dieudonné says the quenelle is "an anti-establishment gesture," it takes the appearance of a Nazi salute in reverse, and critics describe it as an expression of antisemitism. The negative intent of the gesture, they say, is further underlined by Dieudonné's history of anti-Semitic remarks and racial hatred convictions..[3] In France, displaying Nazi symbols is illegal if done to cause offense, and the quenelle is viewed by critics as an underhanded manner of expressing hatred for Jews without inviting legal prosecution.[4]

The location of a number of photographed quenelle salutes in front of prominent Holocaust landmarks and Jewish institutions further suggests the prejudicial nature of the gesture. Individuals have been photographed performing the gesture at the Auschwitz extermination camp in Poland, and French essayist and film-maker Alain Soral performed a quenelle in front of the Holocaust Memorial in Berlin. He justified itself in a video by declaring, "You the Zionists who using the Holocaust to terrorize us and to prevent us from criticizing a neo nazi state that is the state of current Israel, this manipulation does not work any more, that's what it means".[5] In September 2013, two French soldiers on duty had their picture taken in front of a Paris synagogue doing a quenelle.[1] A man wearing a shirt featuring a portrait of Yasser Arafat was photographed performing a quenelle in front of a Jewish school in Toulouse, where in March 2012 a rabbi and three children were gunned down.[6][7]

When French footballer Nicolas Anelka performed the quenelle to celebrate scoring a goal on 28 December 2013, the gesture, which was already considered "something of a viral trend" in France, became an international news story. While Anelka said he did a quenelle as a "special dedication" to his friend Dieudonné, French minister for sport Valérie Fourneyron called his actions 'shocking' and 'disgusting', adding: “There’s no place for anti-Semitism on the football field.”[3] In November, a photograph of French footballer Mamadou Sakho performing the quenelle with Dieudonné was discovered. Sakho said he had been tricked into making a quenelle without knowing its meaning, and that the photo had been taken six months earlier.[8]

On 23 December 2013, French President Francois Hollande said, "We will act, with the government led by [Prime Minister] Jean-Marc Ayrault, to shake the tranquility which, under the cover of anonymity, facilitates shameful actions online. But also we will fight against the sarcasm of those who purport to be humorists but are actually professional anti-Semites."[4] In a statement on 27 December 2013, France's Interior Minister Manuel Valls said he would consider "all legal means" to ban Dieudonné's "public meetings," given that he "addresses in an obvious and insufferable manner the memory of victims of the Shoah."[9]

While Dieudonné said in August 2013 that "the quenelle had taken on a life of its own and had become something he could no longer claim as his exclusively," he has been working on launching a range of quenelle-related merchandise and in October 2013 his wife registered the quenelle as a trademark with the French National Industrial Property Institute.[1]

Monday, December 30, 2013

Paglia been taking sledgehammers to the Cathedral - MUCH more impressed with this woman than I am with myself....,

wsj |  What you're seeing is how a civilization commits suicide," says Camille Paglia. This self-described "notorious Amazon feminist" isn't telling anyone to Lean In or asking Why Women Still Can't Have It All. No, her indictment may be as surprising as it is wide-ranging: The military is out of fashion, Americans undervalue manual labor, schools neuter male students, opinion makers deny the biological differences between men and women, and sexiness is dead. And that's just 20 minutes of our three-hour conversation.

When Ms. Paglia, now 66, burst onto the national stage in 1990 with the publishing of "Sexual Personae," she immediately established herself as a feminist who was the scourge of the movement's establishment, a heretic to its orthodoxy. Pick up the 700-page tome, subtitled "Art and Decadence From Nefertiti to Emily Dickinson, " and it's easy to see why. "If civilization had been left in female hands," she wrote, "we would still be living in grass huts."

The fact that the acclaimed book—the first of six; her latest, "Glittering Images," is a survey of Western art—was rejected by seven publishers and five agents before being printed by Yale University Press only added to Ms. Paglia's sense of herself as a provocateur in a class with Rush Limbaugh and Howard Stern. But unlike those radio jocks, Ms. Paglia has scholarly chops: Her dissertation adviser at Yale was Harold Bloom, and she is as likely to discuss Freud, Oscar Wilde or early Native American art as to talk about Miley Cyrus.

Ms. Paglia relishes her outsider persona, having previously described herself as an egomaniac and "abrasive, strident and obnoxious." Talking to her is like a mental CrossFit workout. One moment she's praising pop star Rihanna ("a true artist"), then blasting ObamaCare ("a monstrosity," though she voted for the president), global warming ("a religious dogma"), and the idea that all gay people are born gay ("the biggest canard," yet she herself is a lesbian).

But no subject gets her going more than when I ask if she really sees a connection between society's attempts to paper over the biological distinction between men and women and the collapse of Western civilization.

She starts by pointing to the diminished status of military service. "The entire elite class now, in finance, in politics and so on, none of them have military service—hardly anyone, there are a few. But there is no prestige attached to it anymore. That is a recipe for disaster," she says. "These people don't think in military ways, so there's this illusion out there that people are basically nice, people are basically kind, if we're just nice and benevolent to everyone they'll be nice too. They literally don't have any sense of evil or criminality."

The results, she says, can be seen in everything from the dysfunction in Washington (where politicians "lack practical skills of analysis and construction") to what women wear. "So many women don't realize how vulnerable they are by what they're doing on the street," she says, referring to women who wear sexy clothes. 

When she has made this point in the past, Ms. Paglia—who dresses in androgynous jackets and slacks—has been told that she believes "women are at fault for their own victimization." Nonsense, she says. "I believe that every person, male and female, needs to be in a protective mode at all times of alertness to potential danger. The world is full of potential attacks, potential disasters." She calls it "street-smart feminism."
Ms. Paglia argues that the softening of modern American society begins as early as kindergarten. "Primary-school education is a crock, basically. It's oppressive to anyone with physical energy, especially guys," she says, pointing to the most obvious example: the way many schools have cut recess. "They're making a toxic environment for boys. Primary education does everything in its power to turn boys into neuters."
She is not the first to make this argument, as Ms. Paglia readily notes. Fellow feminist Christina Hoff Sommers has written about the "war against boys" for more than a decade. The notion was once met with derision, but now data back it up: Almost one in five high-school-age boys has been diagnosed with ADHD, boys get worse grades than girls and are less likely to go to college.

Ms. Paglia observes this phenomenon up close with her 11-year-old son, Lucien, whom she is raising with her ex-partner, Alison Maddex, an artist and public-school teacher who lives 2 miles away. She sees the tacit elevation of "female values"—such as sensitivity, socialization and cooperation—as the main aim of teachers, rather than fostering creative energy and teaching hard geographical and historical facts.

By her lights, things only get worse in higher education. "This PC gender politics thing—the way gender is being taught in the universities—in a very anti-male way, it's all about neutralization of maleness." The result: Upper-middle-class men who are "intimidated" and "can't say anything. . . . They understand the agenda." In other words: They avoid goring certain sacred cows by "never telling the truth to women" about sex, and by keeping "raunchy" thoughts and sexual fantasies to themselves and their laptops.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

actual: cutting edge police technology in post-collapse camden...,

rollingstone | Camden is just across the Delaware River from the brick and polished cobblestone streets of downtown Philadelphia, where oblivious tourists pour in every year, gobbling cheese steaks and gazing at the Liberty Bell, having no idea that they're a short walk over the Ben Franklin Bridge from a full-blown sovereignty crisis – an un-Fantasy Island of extreme poverty and violence where the police just a few years ago essentially surrendered a city of 77,000.

All over America, communities are failing. Once-mighty Rust Belt capitals that made steel or cars are now wastelands. Elsewhere, struggling white rural America is stocking up on canned goods and embracing the politics of chaos, sending pols to Washington ready to hit the default button and start the whole national experiment all over again.

But in Camden, chaos is already here. In September, its last supermarket closed, and the city has been declared a "food desert" by the USDA. The place is literally dying, its population having plummeted from above 120,000 in the Fifties to less than 80,000 today. Thirty percent of the remaining population is under 18, an astonishing number that's 10 to 15 percent higher than any other "very challenged" city, to use the police euphemism. Their home is a city with thousands of abandoned houses but no money to demolish them, leaving whole blocks full of Ninth Ward-style wreckage to gather waste and rats.

It's a major metropolitan area run by armed teenagers with no access to jobs or healthy food, and not long ago, while the rest of America was ranting about debt ceilings and Obamacares, Camden quietly got pushed off the map. That was three years ago, when new governor and presumptive future presidential candidate Chris Christie abruptly cut back on the state subsidies that kept Camden on life support. The move left the city almost completely ungoverned – a graphic preview of what might lie ahead for communities that don't generate enough of their own tax revenue to keep their lights on. Over three years, fires raged, violent crime spiked and the murder rate soared so high that on a per-capita basis, it "put us somewhere between Honduras and Somalia," says Police Chief J. Scott Thomson.

"They let us run amok," says a tat-covered ex-con and addict named Gigi. "It was like fires, and rain, and babies crying, and dogs barking. It was like Armageddon."

The interesting video would be Matt Taibbi on Imus in the Morning but it's behind the Fox Business pay wall. 

hypothetical: what america would look like if libertarian/conservatives got their way

alternet |  These four libertarian/conservative dystopias are offered, as Rod Serling used to say in "The Twilight Zone," "for your consideration."

The “Libertarian/Conservative”
I’ve qualified my previous writings on libertarianism with disclaimers explaining that I’m addressing a specific, popular subset of libertarian thought. But I’ve still run afoul of dozens of people who say, “I’m a libertarian and I don’t think those things.” I’ve still received comments like those from David Brin, who correctly notes that I’m not addressing libertarians like Friedrich Hayek in my criticism.

True. But Hayek ain’t in the saddle these days. Ayn Rand is leading the posse, to the extent any intellectual figure is. But I'll put my disclaimer upfront this time: I acknowledge that, as libertarian-friendly writer John Danaher puts it, “’libertarianism’ has come to denote a broad, often fractious, group of political theories.”

I suppose it’s only fitting that a philosophy celebrating competing markets would, to a certain extent, be a set of competing markets itself.  

But it seems even clearer that a “libertarian” in today’s political environment is almost always someone who ascribes to certain core philosophies: He abhors government, hates taxation, and is hostile to collective action on behalf of the less fortunate. Name any prominent modern libertarian—Ayn Rand, Paul Ryan, Ron Paul, Peter Thiel, Rand Paul—and they are likely to fit this description.

These figures represent a singular and increasingly dominant libertarian vision. To avoid future confusion, I'll give their brand of thought an admittedly imperfect name: “libertarian/conservative.” It is that vision, and their future, which I address here—and it's a frightening future.

ayn rand and william hickman

michaelprescott | Recently I was rereading Scott Ryan's fascinating, albeit highly technical, critique of Ayn Rand's philosophy, Objectivism and the Corruption of Rationality, and getting a lot more out of it the second time, when I came across a fact culled from a posthumous collection of Rand's journal entries.

In her journal circa 1928 Rand quoted the statement, "What is good for me is right," a credo attributed to a prominent figure of the day, William Edward Hickman. Her response was enthusiastic. "The best and strongest expression of a real man's psychology I have heard," she exulted. (Quoted in Ryan, citing Journals of Ayn Rand, pp. 21-22.)

At the time, she was planning a novel that was to be titled The Little Street, the projected hero of which was named Danny Renahan.According to Rand scholar Chris Matthew Sciabarra, she deliberately modeled Renahan - intended to be her first sketch of her ideal man - after this same William Edward Hickman. Renahan, she enthuses in another journal entry, "is born with a wonderful, free, light consciousness -- [resulting from] the absolute lack of social instinct or herd feeling. He does not understand, because he has no organ for understanding, the necessity, meaning, or importance of other people ... Other people do not exist for him and he does not understand why they should." (Journals, pp. 27, 21-22; emphasis hers.)

"A wonderful, free, light consciousness" born of the utter absence of any understanding of "the necessity, meaning, or importance of other people." Obviously, Ayn Rand was most favorably impressed with Mr. Hickman. He was, at least at that stage of Rand's life, her kind of man.So the question is, who exactly was he?

William Edward Hickman was one of the most famous men in America in 1928. But he came by his fame in a way that perhaps should have given pause to Ayn Rand before she decided that he was a "real man" worthy of enshrinement in her pantheon of fictional heroes.

You see, Hickman was a forger, an armed robber, a child kidnapper, and a multiple murderer.Other than that, he was probably a swell guy. Fist tap Dale.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

cathedral's speech and thought extortionists catch a richly deserved foot in the ass...,

WaPo | “Duck Dynasty” patriarch Phil Robertson will return to work on A&E’s reality show despite his comments about gay immorality, the channel said Friday, reversing its decision to suspend him after facing a backlash and threatened boycott.

In a statement Friday, A&E said it was bringing Robertson back after discussions with his Louisiana family featured in the reality series and “numerous advocacy groups.”

Last week, the channel had put Robertson on what it called an indefinite “hiatus” because of his comments in a GQ magazine article that the Bible views gays as sinners akin to adulterers, prostitutes and swindlers.

A&E said it decided to drop Robertson from the show about a wealthy family that makes duck calls because it is part of a company whose core values are “centered around creativity, inclusion and mutual respect.”

Robertson’s remarks were quickly slammed by groups including GLAAD, the gay rights watchdog organization. But A&E’s move against Robertson provoked a flood of support from those who share his views and others who defended his freedom of speech.

A petition calling for A&E to bring him back reached 250,000 signatures and counting in about a week.

Robertson’s well-known supporters included former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, who complained that his free-speech rights were being trampled. Bobby Jindal, governor of the state of Louisiana, complained that Miley Cyrus got a pass for twerking on TV while Phil got shown the door.

While reiterating that Robertson’s views are not those of the channel, A&E noted Friday that he has publicly said he would “never incite or encourage hate.” The show itself is more than one man’s views, it added.

“It resonates with a large audience because it is a show about family, a family that America has come to love. As you might have seen in many episodes, they come together to reflect and pray for unity, tolerance and forgiveness,” A&E said.

it boils down to the connected and the not connected

popehat |  Just as in pre-Revolutionary France, there is a very strict class hierarchy, and the very idea that we are equal before the law is a laughable nonsequitr.

Jamal the $5 weed slinger, Shaneekwa the hair braider, and Loudmouth Bob in the 7-11 parking lot are at the bottom of the hierarchy. They can, literally, be killed with impunity … as long as the dash cam isn't running. And, hell, half the time they can be killed even if the dash cam is running. This isn't hyperbole, mother-fucker. This is literal. Question me and I'll throw 400 cites and 20 youtube clips at you.

Next up from Shaneekwa and Loudmouth Bob are us regular peons. We can have our balls squeezed at the airport, our rectums explored at the roadside, our cars searched because the cops got permission from a dog (I owe some Reason intern a drink for that one), our telephones tapped (because terrorism!), our bank accounts investigated (because FinCEN! and no expectation of privacy!). We don't own the house we live in, not if someone of a higher social class wants it. We don't own our own financial lives, because the education accreditation / student loan industry / legal triumvirate have declared that we can never escape – even through bankruptcy – our $200,000 debt that a bunch of adults convinced a can't-tell-his-ass-from-a-hole-in-the-ground 18 year old that (a) he was smart enough to make his own decisions, and (b) college is a time to explore your interests and broaden yourself). And if there's a "national security emergency" (defined as two idiots with a pressure cooker), then the constitution is suspended, martial law is declared, and people are hauled out of their homes.

Next up from the regular peons are the unionized, disciplined-voting-blocks. Not-much-brighter-than-a-box-of-crayolas teachers who work 180 days a year and get automatic raises. Firefighters who disproportionately retire on disability the very day they sub in for their bosses and get a paper cut.
A step up from the teachers and firefighters are the cops: all the same advantages of nobility of the previous group, but a few more in addition: the de facto power to murder someone as long as not too many cameras are rolling. The de facto power to confiscate cameras in case the murder wasn't well planned. A right to keep and bear arms that far exceeds that of the serf class: 50 state concealed carry for life, not just just for actual cops, but even for retired cops.

At the same level of privilege as cops, but slightly off to one side is different class of nobility: the judiciary and the prosecutors. Judges and prosecutors can't execute citizens in an alley, a parking lot, or their own homes ("he had a knife! …and I don't care what the lying video says."), but they can sentence people to decades in jail for things that any clear-minded reading of the Constitution and the 9th and 10th amendments make clear are not with in the purview of the government. They have effectively infinite resources. They orchestrate perp walks. They selectively leak information to shame defendants. They buy testimony from other defendants by promising them immunity. By exercising their discretion they make sure that the bad people are prosecuted while the good people (i.e. members of their own clan) are not.

Above the cops, the prosecutors, and the judiciary we have the true ruling class: the cabal of (most) politicians and (some) CEOs, conspiring both against their own competitors and the public at large. If the public is burdened with a $100 million debt to pay off a money losing stadium, that's a small price to pay if a politician gets reelected (and gets to hobnob with entertainers and sports heroes via free tickets and backstage passes). If new entrants into a market are hindered and the populace ends up overpaying for coffins, or Tesla cars, or wine that can't be mail ordered, then that's a small price to pay if a connected CEO can keep his firm profitable without doing any work to help the customer. If the Google founders want to agitate for Green laws that make Joe Sixpack's daily commute more expensive at the same time that they buy discount avgas for their private flying fuck palaces, then isn't that their right? They donated to Obama's campaign after all!

what does india have that's important to the broad hump of the american bell-curve again?

NYTimes |  Outrage in India’s tiny diplomatic corps is particularly acute because those who deal with the United States often feel overwhelmed by the sheer volume of communications. India has just three senior diplomats on its North America desk, who deal with scores of counterparts from the United States and Canada. And the issue of the treatment of domestic help does not resonate in India as it does in the United States; nearly all officials in New Delhi have maids working dawn to dusk six or seven days a week, and generally earning even less than Ms. Richard did. 

India has undertaken punitive measures that it believes puts American diplomats in India on par with Indian diplomats in the United States. It withdrew passes that allow American diplomats to meet important guests, like members of Congress, at airport gates, and canceled the diplomatic identity cards given to consular officials and their families, reissuing cards only to officials. The cards instruct police officers that the holder may be arrested for serious offenses. 

In addition, India is investigating whether spouses and employees of American officials are paying taxes on earnings made in India, particularly at the American schools in New Delhi, Mumbai and Chennai. India has canceled the United States Embassy’s import privileges for food and alcohol. And security barriers that surrounded the embassy in New Delhi have been permanently removed. Indian officials say the barriers were unnecessary and in some cases impeded traffic. 

“We would not do anything to adversely affect the security of the U.S. Embassy,” Mr. Akbaruddin said. “To suggest otherwise is unfair.” 

There are 14 other Indian maids working for Indian diplomats in the United States, and India is negotiating over their status with the State Department. To India, these maids should be considered Indian government employees whose employment does not fall under American wage and hour laws.

Friday, December 27, 2013

in the first two minutes and the last two minutes - mishima shatters the fiction of the cathedral...,

NYTimes | The three major national newspapers — Yomiuri, Asahi and Mainichi — have been editorializing against a prime ministerial visit to Yasukuni, especially in the year since Mr. Abe took office. And more important for Mr. Abe and his nationalist supporters, Emperor Akihito has refused to visit Yasukuni, as did Emperor Hirohito before him. 

Mr. Abe’s ultimate goal is to rewrite Japan’s pacifist Constitution, written by Americans during the postwar occupation, which restricts the right to go to war. Here, too, Emperor Akihito disapproves, though he has no political power under the Constitution. A few days before Mr. Abe visited Yasukuni, the emperor, in comments marking his 80th birthday, expressed his “deep appreciation” toward those who wrote the post-1945 constitution in order to preserve the “precious values of peace and democracy.” 

So, if history is the problem, Chinese and South Korean leaders will find allies in Tokyo, and they should meet Mr. Abe to confront, to negotiate and to resolve these issues. Their refusal to meet will only give Mr. Abe license to do what he wants. Japan’s military adventures are only possible with American support; the United States needs to make it clear that Mr. Abe’s agenda is not in the region’s interest. Surely what is needed in Asia is trust among states, and his actions undermine that trust.

phil musta sent abe a duck commander gift set for christmas...,

xinhua | No matter what pretexts Japanese politicians employ to justify it, the Yasukuni Shrine in the heart of Tokyo is a highly symbolic reminder of Japan's militarist past, because it enshrines 14 convicted Class-A war criminals such as Hideki Tojo and other war criminals among Japan's war dead.

Whether a Japanese prime minister visits the shrine is a tested-and-true political weather vane for judging its political direction, as well as proof that he respects or disregards the sensitivities of other countries and the postwar international order.

On Thursday Shinzo Abe signed the entry book to the shrine as Japan's prime minister, revealing the claims by his subordinates, that he visited it in a "private capacity" and it was a matter of "personal belief", to be poor disguises and outright lies.

Resorting to their same old gangster logic in the dispute over the Diaoyu Islands, they want us to swallow Abe's offensive pilgrimage to Yasukuni as a non-issue.

Responding to the ensuing angry diplomatic ripples, the unapologetic Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida highlighted his government's "hope" to "avoid letting an affair as such develop into a political or diplomatic issue". This "hope" is sheer hypocrisy. Because Abe knows full well "it is a reality that the visit to Yasukuni Shrine has become a political and diplomatic issue".

Contrary to his claim that Abe had "no intention at all of hurting the feelings of Chinese or South Korean people", Abe made the visit anticipating opposition from both countries, as Japanese New Komeito Party chief Natsuo Yamaguchi confirmed.

Abe knew it would be an insult. But he does not care. What he wants to do is use the opposition of neighboring countries to fuel domestic nationalism and garner more support.

Abe's shrine visit is a signal that nothing at home is holding him back from his ultra-rightist political agenda to rewrite Japan's pacifist Constitution and revive his war-cabinet grandfather's dream of making Japan a military power.

that door turned with the quickness...,

nydailynews | CBS News correspondent John Miller — who has volleyed between careers in journalism and law enforcement for decades — is coming back to the NYPD.
But it’s not entirely clear in what capacity.

Miller announced Thursday that he has been tapped by Bill Bratton, who will become the city’s next police commissioner Jan. 1. But he didn’t disclose what role he would serve.

Miller could be the NYPD’s new head spokesman or lead its counter-terrorism unit. During Bratton’s first go-around as the city’s top cop, Miller served as the department’s mouthpiece from 1994-1995.

He also worked under Bratton at the Los Angeles Police Department, running counter-intelligence operations. 
Speaking Thursday on CBS 2, Miller, who has also worked at the FBI, discussed the need to focus on softer terror attacks.

“The trend is leaning towards low-cost, low-tech, high-impact,” Miller said.

the revolving door presstitution of john miller

firedoglake | More than six months after stories on documents from former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden began to appear, the NSA finally determined all the statements denying what had revealed or intended to clarify what the agency believed to be true and not true had not had the effect desired. Journalists continue to publish stories on the NSA, its capabilities, what information from Americans is being collected and how unchecked the agency’s powers happen to be. What has been revealed has had an impact on the public that has changed the way many Americans view the NSA. The agency may, as a result, have some of its surveillance powers curtailed.

It was time to call up John Miller of CBS’s “60 Minutes” program. As was stated in the two-part segment on the NSA, “Gen. Alexander agreed to talk to us because he believes the NSA has not told its story well.” So, the agency called up Miller to help “set the record straight” i.e. assist the NSA with its public relations issues.

Nobody quite represents the “revolving door” between journalism and government like Miller. “Full disclosure, I once worked in the Office of the Director of National Intelligence [ODNI] where I saw firsthand how secretly the NSA operates,” he said before the segment began.

More disclosure: Miller served as spokesperson for the New York Police Department in 1994. The “journalism bug bit him again,” according to Men’s Journal, so he left the NYPD and worked a network job for ABC News. He interviewed Osama bin Laden for ABC News in 1998 before going to work for the Los Angeles Police Department in 2003. He helped “establish the department’s counter-terrorism and criminal-intelligence bureau.” He also worked on the development of a “threat assessment system” called “Archangel” to protect “critical assets” in Los Angeles from terrorism.
He moved on to work as a public affairs officer for the FBI in 2005. Then, he worked for ODNI. When he grew tired of the bureaucracy at ODNI, he was hired by CBS as a senior correspondent in 2011.

Miller has engaged in some of the same kind of work as Alexander. He is unlikely to challenge those he interviews because they are the exact people he may want to work with after he gets tired of journalism again. This makes him someone with a huge glaring conflict of interest, but, for CBS News, that conflict of interest is a plus, and, when he produces segments for news programs like “60 Minutes,” the show does not see what he produces as propaganda because they value access more than investigative reporting that might actually hold officials accountable.

“It is often said NSA stands for ‘never say anything,’ but tonight the agency breaks with that tradition to address serious questions about whether the NSA delves too far into the lives of Americans,” Miller declared before the beginning of the two-part segment.

Alexander has been coming before Senate and House committees for months now to “break with tradition.” Some congressmen and senators have chosen to ask serious questions. Some have chosen to ask “serious questions.” Programs like “This Week” with George Stephanopoulos have had Alexander on to ask “serious questions.” He spread fear that terrorists were changing tactics because of stories on documents from Snowden in an interview with NBC News’ Pete Williams at the Aspen Institute. “60 Minutes” wasn’t blazing new ground by asking him questions that he would be allowed to unequivocally deny without challenge.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

who exactly did erdogan piss off such that the elite establishment media can't keep his name out of their mouth?

reuters |  Turkey's opposition accused scandal-hit Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan on Thursday of trying to rule via a secretive "deep state", after a cabinet reshuffle that would tighten controls on police already beleaguered by government-ordered purges.

Among 10 new loyalist ministers Erdogan named late on Wednesday was Efkan Ala, a former governor of the restive Diyarbakir province who will wield the powerful Interior portfolio and oversee Turkish domestic security.

Ala replaces Muammer Guler, one of three cabinet members who resigned after their sons were detained in a graft probe that erupted on December 17. Guler, who like Erdogan had called the case baseless and a plot, sacked or reassigned dozens of police officers involved including the chief of the force in Istanbul.

"He (Erdogan) is trying to put together a cabinet that will not show any opposition to him. In this context, Efkan Ala has a key role," Kemal Kilicdaroglu, the head of the biggest opposition party CHP, said in remarks carried by Turkish media.

"Erdogan has a deep state, (his) AK Party has a deep state and Efkan Ala is one of the elements of that deep state," added Kilicdaroglu, using a term that for Turks denotes a shadowy power structure unhindered by democratic checks and balances.

During his three terms in office, the Islamist-rooted Erdogan has transformed Turkey, cutting back its once-dominant secularist military and overseeing rapid economic expansion. He weathered unprecedented anti-government protests that swept major cities in mid-2013.

But the corruption scandal has drawn an EU call for the independence of Turkey's judiciary to be safeguarded and has rattled stocks and the lira, with the currency falling to a historical low of 2.1025 against the dollar on Monday.

the pentagon's failed "terrorism futures market" is now a ukrainian bookstore...,

vice |  In 2003, scandal erupted when two US senators went public with word that the Pentagon was planning to launch a public marketplace that would encourage investors to bet, anonymously, on the likelihood of acts of terror occurring in the Middle East. A brainchild of DARPA, the effort was called Future Markets Applied to Prediction, or FutureMAP. It was quickly dubbed the "terrorism futures market." 

The betting was to be done on a sophisticated website: PolicyAnalysisMarket.org. Users would peruse the detailed geopolitical information there—loads of data, graphs, and maps of the region—and enter bets on, say, if and when the King of Jordan would be assassinated and the monarchy overthrown. The Pentagon's rationale, it insisted, was to create a kind of Intrade for the intelligence community; something that would harness market forces to predict—and, ostensibly, to prevent—terrorist acts and other calamities.

Today, PolicyAnalysisMarket.org is a Russian language website for downloading children's books. In our own moment of failing government websites and new assassination marketplaces, the story of FutureMAP's rapid decline and subsequent transformation is especially striking.

The New York Times broke the news that DARPA was ready to start taking bets on assassinations and bombings in July 2003. The paper reported that the "Pentagon office that proposed spying electronically on Americans to monitor potential terrorists has a new experiment."

DARPA was already embattled at the time, due to its advocacy for pre-NSA-revelation electronic spying operations. This "new experiment," a collaboration between the then-web company Net Exchange, DARPA, and The Economist magazine's Intelligence Unit, seemed designed to stir controversy. "It is an online futures trading market, disclosed today by critics, in which anonymous speculators would bet on forecasting terrorist attacks, assassinations and coups," wrote the Times. It was slated to go live October 1st, 2003.

''Research indicates that markets are extremely efficient, effective and timely aggregators of dispersed and even hidden information. Futures markets have proven themselves to be good at predicting such things as elections results; they are often better than expert opinions," the Defense Department wrote in a statement at the time, in an attempt to explain the project.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

virgin births on the rise all across the u.s.

care2 | A new population analysis says that a significant number of women from all over the United States are claiming that they have fallen pregnant without having sex. What does this study tell us about these women, and why so many are claiming virgin births?

Researchers at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill found that a small but significant number of young women (o.5%) are claiming to have fallen pregnant without having sex or IVF fertility treatment.

The analysis, published recently in the British Medical Journal, involved data collected from 7,870 women and girls aged between 15 to 28, as part of the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health (1995-2009). The study is specifically designed to span the time between adolescence into adulthood. Due to its large scale sampling methods, it gives us representative data of the entire U.S. population.

The study involved young women self-reporting on a variety of things, including their history of vaginal intercourse and pregnancy, as well as their knowledge of birth control methods, and their religious affiliation. The data was gathered through regular questionnaires that the young women would fill out on a laptop rather than in a face to face interview (though an assistant was on hand in the room should the women need it).

The subjects’ parents were also quizzed about how much they discussed sex and birth control, and their school’s administration was also asked about what role sex education played in the curriculum.
What the researchers found was that the women who claimed to have fallen pregnant without having sex shared some similarities.

About 31% of the women claiming to have had a virgin pregnancy had signed a chastity pledge, compared to only 15% of the women who admitted to having sex.

What’s more, the 45 self-described virgins who got pregnant and the 36 who later gave birth also said that their parents had rarely talked to them about sex or birth control, if at all.

The study found that the women claiming to be virgin mothers were on average two years younger than their non virgin counterparts (19.3 years as opposed to 21.7 years). Also, around 28% of the virgin mothers had parents who claimed they couldn’t discuss sex and contraception with their daughters because they themselves didn’t have enough knowledge. That’s compared to just 5% among the women who became pregnant and admitted to having sex.

particularly gratifying to see a puffed-up peasant-driver fall from grace...,

NYTimes | The world’s highest-paid athlete began his spectacular downfall by crashing a Cadillac S.U.V. into a fire hydrant and a tree. Initial accounts of Tiger Woods’s 2009 accident reported that his wife had broken the vehicle’s window with a golf club to free him, but when word spread that the couple had been fighting over allegations of his infidelity, the smashed window became a metaphor for his shattered reputation. 

As the scandal unfolded, the sports celebrity who had built an empire on his image as an upstanding family man was revealed as a glutton for extramarital sex and an author of tawdry texts to mistresses and paid escorts. Almost overnight, Mr. Woods became a target of ridicule, not to mention a website and a Twitter account with the sole purpose of propagating jokes about him. 

The wicked delight over that turn of events has a German name so apt we’ve adopted it in English. Schadenfreude, or “harm-joy,” is the pleasure derived from another’s misfortune, and Richard H. Smith, a University of Kentucky psychology professor, has built a career around studying it and other social emotions. He previously edited an anthology about envy, a close sibling to schadenfreude. 

As perverse as the emotion may seem, it serves an adaptive function, Dr. Smith argues in this enjoyable book. It stems from social comparisons, which allow us to assess our talents and determine our status in the social order. The urge to make these comparisons appears hard-wired — studies show that even monkeys and dogs measure themselves against their peers. 

Schadenfreude provides a glimpse into what the psychologists Roy F. Baumeister and Brad J. Bushman have called “the most basic conflict in the human psyche” — the friction between our selfish impulses and self-control. “We are all savages inside,” the author Cheryl Strayed wrote in her Dear Sugar column at the website The Rumpus. “We all want to be the chosen, the beloved, the esteemed.” 

But life doesn’t always turn out that way, and when we encounter someone who is more chosen, beloved or esteemed than we are, our natural instinct is to tear them down to our level. If this illicit desire is fulfilled by happenstance, schadenfreude ensues. Clive James captured the feeling in a poem that takes its title from its first line: “The book of my enemy has been remaindered/ And I am pleased.” 

When envy invokes pain, schadenfreude provides a potent antidote. Mr. Woods’s success on the golf course and seemingly perfect life — beautiful wife, family and flawless reputation — “provided an acute contrast for most people, even if they were not interested in golf,” Dr. Smith writes. Though some people were surely inspired by him, perhaps more felt diminished. His downfall brought him closer to their level, and thus allowed his enviers to feel better about themselves. 

The 17th-century philosopher Thomas Hobbes proposed that humor often arose from a sudden sense of superiority, and Dr. Smith writes that our culture thrives on downward comparisons that provide this “sudden glory.” 

“Do we watch reality television for precious insights into the human condition?” he asks. “Please. We watch for those awkward scenes that make us feel a smidgen better about our own little unfilmed lives.”

failure of institutions, leaders, solutions...,

metrofocus | The story of inequality in the United States has been told, quantified and debated with increasing frequency in recent years. The issue has become one of the centerpieces of New York City’s mayoral campaign, as well as the subject of a new documentary spotlighting the advocacy efforts of former Secretary of Labor, Robert Reich.

Yet for the most part, the story has been one told in numbers and graphs and voiced by economists, journalists and politicians. By contrast, “The Unwinding: An Inner History of the New America” is an intimately woven portrait of America’s social and economic upheavals over the past decades, told through the eyes of individuals who lived them . George Packer, a staff writer for The New Yorker and award-winning author, said he chose to write the book in narrative form in order to “create a portrait of the past generation of America,” rather than add to the ongoing policy debate.

“It’s a political book, but it’s really a book about people and about how they have been undermined and have tried to react and remake themselves in the middle of all this upheaval,” Packer told MetroFocus’ Rafael Pi Roman in an interview. As such, “The Unwinding,” a finalist for the 2013 National Book Awards, weaves together hundreds of hours of interviews to paint a decades-long picture of  haves and have-nots across the country.

The “unwinding” of which Packer speaks is not simply an economic unraveling. The book widely documents the collapse of institutions and social structures which historically acted as “glue to hold us together.”

“I mean the end of a deal that used to exist among Americans that basically said if you hold down a job, if you educate your kids, there’s a place for you in society; there’s a secure economic place, there’s a better future for your children, and you’re sort of recognized as part of a fabric. And I think in the last generation, that deal has come undone,” said Packer.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

the rot has set in sooooo deep.....,

nydailynews | Chiara de Blasio, the daughter of Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio and incoming first lady Chirlane McCray, revealed Tuesday that she has battled depression and substance abuse.

In a five-minute video released the day before Christmas by the de Blasio transition team, the 19-year-old college sophomore detailed her struggles with depression, drugs and alcohol and how she ultimately conquered them.

The disclosure followed months of rumors surrounding the soon-to-be first daughter that the de Blasio camp repeatedly declined to address. By making and releasing the video, the de Blasio family was able to tell the sensitive story on its own terms.

The highly produced video simply features Chiara de Blasio talking as piano-and-string music is heard in the background.

why did the wasps lose their will to rule?

WSJ |  The U.S. once had an unofficial but nonetheless genuine ruling class, drawn from what came to be known as the WASP establishment. Members of this establishment dominated politics, economics and education, but they do so no longer. The WASPocracy, as I think of it, lost its confidence and, with it, the power and interest to lead. We are now without a ruling class, unless one includes the entity that has come to be known as the meritocracy—presumably an aristocracy of sheer intelligence, men and women trained in the nation's most prestigious schools.

The acronym WASP derives, of course, from White Anglo-Saxon Protestant, but as acronyms go, this one is more deficient than most. Lots of people, including powerful figures and some presidents, have been white, Anglo-Saxon and Protestant but were far from being WASPs. Neither Jimmy Carter nor Bill Clinton qualified.

WASPs were a caste, closed off to all not born within it, with the possible exception of those who crashed the barriers by marrying in. WASP credentials came with lineage, and lineage—that is, proper birth—automatically brought connections to the right institutions. Yale, Princeton and Harvard were the great WASP universities, backed up by Choate, Groton, Andover, Exeter and other prep schools. WASPs tended to live in exclusive neighborhoods: on upper Park and Fifth Avenues in New York, on the Main Line in Philadelphia, the Back Bay in Boston, Lake Forest and Winnetka in Chicago.

WASP life, though, was chiefly found on the eastern seaboard. WASPs had their own social clubs and did business with a small number of select investment and legal firms, such as Brown Brothers Harriman and Sullivan & Cromwell. Many lived on inherited money, soundly invested.

The State Department was once dominated by WASPs, and so, too, was the Supreme Court, with one seat traditionally left unoccupied for a Jewish jurist of proper mien. The House of Representatives was never preponderantly WASP, though a number of prominent senators— Henry Cabot Lodge and Leverett A. Saltonstall, both of Massachusetts, come to mind—have been WASPs. Looking down on the crudities of quotidian American politics, Henry Adams, a WASP to the highest power, called the dealings of Congress, the horse-trading and corruption and the rest of it, "the dance of democracy." In one of his short stories, Henry James has characters modeled on Adams and his wife Clover, planning a social evening, say, "Let us be vulgar and have some fun—let us invite the President."

So dominant was WASP culture that some wealthy families who didn't qualify by lineage attempted to imitate and live the WASP life. The Catholic Kennedys were the most notable example. The Kennedy compound at Hyannis Port—the sailing, the clothes, the touch football played on expansive green lawns—was pure WASP mimicry, all of it, except that true WASPs were too upstanding to go in for the unscrupulous business dealings of Joseph P. Kennedy Sr. or the feckless philanderings of him and some of his sons.

That the Kennedys did their best to imitate WASP life is perhaps not surprising, for in their exclusion, the Irish may have felt the sting of envy for WASPocracy more than any others. The main literary chroniclers of WASP culture— F. Scott Fitzgerald, say, or John O'Hara—were Irish. (Both Fitzgerald and O'Hara tried to live their lives on the WASP model.) But the pangs weren't limited to the Irish alone. To this day, the designer Ralph Lauren (né Lifshitz) turns out clothes inspired by his notion of the WASP high life, lived on the gracious margins of expensive leisure. Fist tap Vic.

shilling for the gubmint: do you really believe that gold is actually sitting there?

NYTimes | Keynes would, I think, have been sardonically amused to learn how little has changed in the past three generations. Public spending to fight unemployment is still anathema; miners are still spoiling the landscape to add to idle hoards of gold. (Keynes dubbed the gold standard a “barbarous relic.”) Bitcoin just adds to the joke. Gold, after all, has at least some real uses, e.g., to fill cavities; but now we’re burning up resources to create “virtual gold” that consists of nothing but strings of digits. 

I suspect, however, that Adam Smith would have been dismayed. 

Smith is often treated as a conservative patron saint, and he did indeed make the original case for free markets. It’s less often mentioned, however, that he also argued strongly for bank regulation — and that he offered a classic paean to the virtues of paper currency. Money, he understood, was a way to facilitate commerce, not a source of national prosperity — and paper money, he argued, allowed commerce to proceed without tying up much of a nation’s wealth in a “dead stock” of silver and gold. 

So why are we tearing up the highlands of Papua New Guinea to add to our dead stock of gold and, even more bizarrely, running powerful computers 24/7 to add to a dead stock of digits? 

Talk to gold bugs and they’ll tell you that paper money comes from governments, which can’t be trusted not to debase their currencies. The odd thing, however, is that for all the talk of currency debasement, such debasement is getting very hard to find. It’s not just that after years of dire warnings about runaway inflation, inflation in advanced countries is clearly too low, not too high. Even if you take a global perspective, episodes of really high inflation have become rare. Still, hyperinflation hype springs eternal. 

Bitcoin seems to derive its appeal from more or less the same sources, plus the added sense that it’s high-tech and algorithmic, so it must be the wave of the future. 

But don’t let the fancy trappings fool you: What’s really happening is a determined march to the days when money meant stuff you could jingle in your purse. In tropics and tundra alike, we are for some reason digging our way back to the 17th century.

middle-class don't like it when po folk in charge?

WaPo | We live in an era in which globalization is said to be benefiting elites in countries around the world while leaving behind the masses who lack the education or skills to compete. And yet, 2013 will be remembered as the year in which the streets of many a capital were filled with angry and dispossessed elites.

The crowds who called for revolution in Cairo, Istanbul, Bangkok and Kiev this year are not the impoverished losers of globalization. They are, for the most part, the economic winners: middle-class, educated, secular, English-speaking. They’ve had the backing of big businessmen who have been enriched by trade, and, as often as not, the sympathy of the Obama administration and other Western governments.

So why are they rebelling? Because globalization is not merely an economic story. It is accompanied by the spread of freer and more inclusive elections to dozens of countries where they were previously banned or rigged. That has enabled the rise of populists who cater to globalization’s losers and who promise to crush the old establishment and even out the rewards. In country after country, they’ve succeeded in monopolizing the political system. Hence, the elite revolt.

Hugo Chávez, elected in Venezuela in 1998, was a pioneer of this trend. He was followed not just by other Latin American caudillos, but also by Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Turkey, Thaksin Shinawatra in Thailand, Viktor Yanukovych in Ukraine and Mohamed Morsi in Egypt, among others. Yes, these rulers have many differences. But they have some big things in common: Their support comes disproportionately from poorer, less-educated and more rural voters, while their opponents are concentrated in cities, especially capitals. The populists are also good at winning elections, but bad at governing — except when it comes to delivering spoils to their followers.

Most troubling, democracy’s winners all too often turn out to have little respect for democratic institutions. Like Chávez, they are prone to rewriting the constitutions they inherit to concentrate their power. In the name of ousting the old order, they purge courts and the media and repopulate them with their own followers. They then subject peaceful opponents to political prosecutions, fill the airwaves with their propaganda and shut down civil society groups, especially those with connections to the West.

toward the end of the game...,

NYTimes | If you traffic in opinions, as a pro or an amateur, you’d better have opinions about inequality. And so I set off into the intramural battlefield to see what’s up. 

For starters, economic inequality is manifestly real, growing and dangerous. The gulf between the penthouse and the projects is obscenely wide. Obama cited some of the startling numbers: The top 10 percent of Americans used to take in a third of the national income. Now they gobble up half. The typical corporate C.E.O. used to make 30 times as much as the average worker. Now the boss makes 270 times as much as the minion. Many factors have led to this trend, including the offshoring of work to low-paid foreign labor, the automation of everything from manufacturing to meter-reading, a tax code that allows the accumulation of riches at the top, the slow growth of educational attainment, the demise of strong unions, a collapse of the social contract. 

The alarming thing is not inequality per se, but immobility. It’s not just that we have too many poor people, but that they are stranded in poverty with long odds against getting out. The rich (and their children) stay rich, the poor (and their children) stay poor. President Obama’s speech on Dec. 4, widely characterized as his inequality speech, was actually billed by the White House as a speech on economic mobility. The equality he urged us to strive for was not equality of wealth but equality of opportunity. 

A stratified society in which the bottom and top are mostly locked in place is not just morally offensive; it is unstable. Recessions are more frequent in such countries. A widely praised 2012 book, “Why Nations Fail,” argues that historically when the ruling elites have pulled up the ladder and kept newcomers from getting a foothold, their economies have suffocated and died. “The most pernicious fact of inequality is when it translates into political inequality,” said Daron Acemoglu, a co-author of the book and a Massachusetts Institute of Technology economist. “That means our democracy ceases to function because some people have so much money they command greater power.” The rich spend heavily on lobbyists and campaign donations to secure tax breaks and tariff advantages and bailouts that perpetuate their status. Not only does a dynamic economy stagnate, but the left-out citizenry becomes disillusioned and cynical. Sound familiar?

Monday, December 23, 2013

simple mathematical law describes human struggles...,

eurekalert | Would you believe that a broad range of human struggles can be understood by using a mathematical formula? From child-parent struggles to cyber-attacks and civil unrest, they can all be explained with a simple mathematical expression called a "power-law."

In a sort of unified theory of human conflict, scientists have found a way to mathematically describe the severity and timing of human confrontations that affect us personally and as a society.
For example, the manner in which a baby's cries escalate against its parent is comparable to the way riots in Poland escalated in the lead-up to the collapse of the Soviet Union. It comes down to the fact that the perpetrator in both cases (e.g. baby, rioters) adapts quickly enough to escalate its attacks against the larger, but more sluggish entity (e.g. parent, government), who is unable, or unwilling, to respond quickly enough to satisfy the perpetrator, according to a new study published in Nature's Scientific Reports.

"By picking out a specific baby (and parent), and studying what actions of the parent make the child escalate or de-escalate its cries, we can understand better how to counteract cyber-attacks against a particular sector of U.S. cyber infrastructure, or how an outbreak of civil unrest in a given location (e.g. Syria) will play out, following particular government interventions," says Neil Johnson, professor of physics and the head of the interdisciplinary research group in Complexity, at the College of Arts and Sciences at the University of Miami (UM) and corresponding author of the study.
Respectively, the study finds some remarkable similarities between seemingly disconnected confrontations. For instance:
  • The escalation of violent attacks in Magdalena, Colombia -- though completely cut off from the rest of the world -- is actually representative of all modern wars. Meanwhile, the conflict in Sierra Leone, Africa, has exactly the same dynamics as the narco-guerilla war in Antioquia, Colombia.
  • The pattern of attacks by predatory traders against General Electric (GE) stock is equivalent to the pattern of cyber-attacks against the U.S. hi-tech electronics sector by foreign groups, which in turn mimics specific infants and parents.
  • New insight into the controversial 'Bloody Sunday' attack by the British security forces, against civilians, on January 30,1972, reveals that Bloody Sunday appears to be the culmination of escalating Provisional Irish Republican Army attacks, not their trigger, hence raising new questions about its strategic importance.
The findings show that this mathematical formula of the form AB-C is a valuable tool that can be applied to make quantitative predictions concerning future attacks in a given confrontation. It can also be used to create an intervention strategy against the perpetrators and, more broadly, as a quantitative starting point for cross-disciplinary theorizing about human aggression, at the individual and group level, in both real and online worlds.

having a servant is not a right...,

NYTimes |  At the heart of the fracas surrounding the arrest of an Indian diplomat in New York who promised to pay her housekeeper $9.75 per hour, in compliance with United States labor rules, but instead paid her $3.31 per hour, is India’s dirty secret: One segment of the Indian population routinely exploits another, and the country’s labor laws allow gross mistreatment of domestic workers. 

India is furious that the diplomat, Devyani Khobragade, was strip-searched and kept in a cell in New York with criminals. Retaliation from the newly assertive but otherwise bureaucracy-ridden nation was swift. American diplomats were stripped of identity cards granting them diplomatic benefits, and security barriers surrounding the American Embassy in New Delhi were hauled away. A former finance minister suggested that India respond by arresting same-sex partners of American diplomats, since the Indian Supreme Court recently upheld a section of a Colonial-era law that criminalizes homosexuality. 

Notwithstanding legitimate Indian concerns about whether American marshals used correct protocol in the way they treated a diplomat, the truth is that India is party to an exploitative system that needs to be scrutinized. 

I grew up in a middle-class household in India in the ’80s; my parents were schoolteachers, and our lifestyle was not lavish by any means. I received new clothes once a year; I don’t recall ever going to a restaurant; our family couldn’t afford a car, so we used a scooter. But we always had a live-in housekeeper who cooked and washed our clothes, while a man came by every other day to sweep and mop the floors. 

This sort of arrangement is typical of middle-class life in India. (The wealthy have multiple servants: drivers, security guards, babysitters for their kids, cooks, and household maids who wash dishes and sweep floors.) My parents were not unkind people, and my mother paid our housekeeper above the market rate, but our family, too, was part of the unfair system that pays servants a fraction of living wages. Even liberal Indians who voice concern about human rights in other contexts often don’t see this exploitation for what it really is. I have no doubt that if I hadn’t come to the United States in my 20s, I, too, would have hired a maid whom I would have paid standard Indian wages, which by any objective standards are ridiculously low. 

Perhaps it’s impossible for mind-sets to change without a long drawn-out series of events. In my case, moving to a country where labor laws exist and are enforced, combined with the perception that detachment facilitates, allowed me to recalibrate my attitude. 

In urban India, revolution of any kind in favor of the rights of the underclass has been largely absent. The feudal mind-set of otherwise educated people and their lack of qualms about underpaying the poor and disadvantaged are alive and well.