Thursday, September 4, 2014

(Final Round of Chicken Occurring?) Beware the Coming for US Gig!  (Millennials Not Coming to the Rescue - Not Even Riding Hard)

According to Bloomberg News, the Treasury Department has informed the nation’s major banks that they would trigger an obscure law to pay back any bank that suffers major losses from a hacking assault on their computer networks. They would accomplish this with taxpayer money, though you could certainly argue that the bank’s information security defenses, not taxpayers, would ultimately be responsible for any hacking success.

Having just seen Senator Elizabeth Warren (wasn't she just terrific?) on David Letterman last evening, I can't help but highlight David Dayen's latest expose on what would happen during the next Wall Street run to the public's bank accounts (we would pay even more to bail them out again due to the success of the Wall Streeters in stopping re-regulation and failing to enact banking consumer-protection legislation). (Which is exactly what Senator Warren addressed on Dave.)

Not to be an alarmist, but for those (like myself) who are at least a little bit alarmed at the milquetoast MSM (not the mock-shocked-screamy tabloids, however) coverage of the breaking news in the Middle East, Asia (including the Ukraine/Crimea/Russia) and pretend-milquetoast response being readied by the U.S. government, here is a head's up.

Let's hope it's not up enough to get damaged when the drones start landing bigtime.

And it's a very good sign that no "murdering babies" news has yet erupted currently from those corridors of sure coming death.

Vanishing Airliners, “ISIS”, and 9/11 - “Timing is Crucial in Politics”

By Jason Kissner

Global Research,
September 04, 2014

Timing is crucial in politics.

Therefore, when events transpire, they can often be as important as what transpires. This article discusses reasons as to why the timing of certain very recent events pertaining to vanishing aircraft and ISIS is highly suspicious.

The very trustworthy MSM has just informed us that 11 commercial jet airliners vanished two weeks ago from an airport in Tripoli, Libya. Evidently, U.S. intelligence has just gotten around to informing citizens of the event. A couple of observations should be made before we get to the discussion of timing. It is a fact that nanosatellite technology with “night vision” capability has been available, and even publicly discussed, since as early as 1997. Furthermore, the National Reconnaissance Office, which spawns these devices, recently assigned a mission patch proclaiming that “Nothing is Beyond Our Reach” to a 2013 payload containing “Government Experimental Multi-Satellite” objects.

In addition, it is almost certainly the case that the skies of Libya, in particular Tripoli, are almost certainly blanketed with drones. In view of the preceding, it is reasonable to suppose that the United States Government almost certainly knows where the aircraft are, but chooses to act as though it doesn’t.


Now to matters of timing.

After sitting on the supposed vanishings for two weeks, information seeped into the mainstream media only after the release of a second ISIS beheading video (if that is in fact what it was). Are we supposed to believe USG (us government) lost the planes for two weeks, looked for them and couldn’t find them, and only now decided it’s time to sound the alarm to the general public?

That’s possible, but consider also that the news of the vanishings arrived in tandem with news of the second “beheading.” And, we’re also told that the second beheading video may have been released early by accident?

A second “beheading” has more effect if followed by more news of vanishing aircraft a bit later – so why would USG, after two weeks, have come out with news of the vanishing aircraft only immediately subsequent to an “accidental” release of the second beheading video – unless it was trying to maximize propaganda value regarding potential events it must have at least some degree of control over since it almost certainly knows where those aircraft are?

Of course, the 11 vanishings could just be illusory and unadulterated propaganda; the game move could be pretty much the same regardless.

So where does this leave us?

On August 1, this author wrote with respect to MH 17, MH 370, Air France 447, and, in particular, AH 5017 (all aircraft that vanished from contact), that:

Matters are so compromised with respect to the status of bodily evidence [regarding AH 5017] that France now thinks it could take from three to five months for forensic processes to produce the first identifications.
And then we have the facts that it took hours for airline and government officials to make AH 5017’s disappearance public, there were 51 French passengers, and France, declaring victory, had very recently terminated Operation Serval (a counterterrorism adventure in Mali).

Finally, we have the pending performance on a France/Russia deal whereby Russia is to received delivery of two Mistral warships. Maybe certain elitist elements would rather see France breach the contract?

As implicitly predicted, we now have news that France has, at least temporarily, cancelled the contract with Russia. So here’s what may well happen next:  Obama’s response so far has been tepid; a couple hundred troops to Iraq and the declaration that “ISIS” is “manageable” by the “international community.” That is not going to be enough for people who want much more aggressive action against Russia and in the Middle East.

Therefore, in coming days, we’ll have another, more intense round of chicken; France has seen the writing on the wall and chickened out already in view of even more vanished aircraft. It’s now 9/3, giving us 8 days to 9/11. The next scene probably happens tomorrow; it could be something like a group of “beheadings.” Whatever it is, it will be noticeably scaled up.

For news cycle type reasons, I doubt much will happen over the weekend other than noises here and there. If something does happen over the weekend, it will have to be pretty big in order to garner attention. ,u>Once we get to next week, we’re on a collision course. If Obama still hasn’t acted aggressively, on either Monday or Tuesday a pretty big event is likely to happen, but probably not in the U.S. A U.S. event is reserved for next Thursday and will only be engaged if Obama has still not acted in ways deemed sufficient.

(Dr. Jason Kissner is associate professor of criminology at California State University, Fresno.)

Back to today's planned essay . . . seems like almost only a mildly (secondarily) important topic now, doesn't it?

And yet . . .

They don’t really care that union power has evaporated and that Wall Street got itself de-supervised and that oligopolies now dominate the economy. But they do care — ever so much! — about deficits and being fiscally responsible.

As you know by now I'm a huge Thomas Frank fan and although the following essay was published a few weeks ago, it is not old.

It will never be old.

He addresses here the groupthink that has and will destroy our future possibilities when we as a group agree to forget the inconvenient past and support the "centrist" Democrats who want us to please, please forget what they've voted with the Republicans to bring us to economically.

And we have to promise to forget completely or we will never vote for these same pretenders again (which is a must, of course).

Thanks for reading (and throw a contribution this way (if you have a few spare pennies) for the continuation of this blog).

Jon Stewart Is Not Enough: The Curse of Centrism, and Why the Tea Party Keeps Rolling “Daily Show” Democrats

It's easy to take shots and laugh at the know-nothing right. But our smirks let complicit Democrats off the hook

I have spent many years deriding the right, and I have to admit, it has been a hoot. The conservative world is an endless shooting gallery of hypocrites, con men, narcissists, and walking examples of this or that species of cognitive malfunction. In fact, whacking the wingers is such a fun pastime that it is ballooning in popularity these days:  The crazy right now furnishes reliable material for our generation’s best comedians, and laughing at the benighted japes of the GOPers is, for many of us, the closest we come to real political involvement.
Today let’s try a little introspection instead. What does it mean when being “on the left” is defined as being a fan of extremely partisan entertainment? What does it do to our larger political vision when we confine our political thinking to the crafting of hilarious put-downs of Tea Partiers and right-wing reality-doubters?

The answer is simple:  We miss a substantial chunk of political reality ourselves.
Let me explain what I mean by reminding you of one of the most disturbing news stories to come across the wires in the last month.

In a much-reported study, the Russell Sage Foundation discovered that median household wealth in this country fell by 36 percent in the 10-year period ending last year. Wealth for people at the top, as other news stories remind us, has continued to soar.

These things are a consequence of the Great Recession, of course, but they are also a reminder of the grand narrative of our time:  The lot of average Americans constantly seems to be growing worse. The Great Depression of the 1930s was awful, but it set America on the path toward a period of shared prosperity. Our bout of hard times has had the opposite effect. It has accelerated the unraveling of the middle class itself.

Now, you can blame the risible, Ayn Rand-reading Tea Party types for this if you like, and you can also blame the George W. Bush Administration. They both deserve it. But sooner or later you will also have to acknowledge that there are two parties in this country, not just one; that the Democrats held significant power during the period in question, including (for much of it) the presidency itself; and that even when they are not in the White House, these Democrats nevertheless retain the capacity to persuade and to organize.
For a party of the left, dreadful news like this should be rocket fuel. For the Dems, however, it hasn’t been. Why is that? Well, for one thing, because a good number of those Democrats have not really objected to the economic policies that have worked these awful changes over the years. They may believe in the theory of evolution — hell, they may savor the same Jon Stewart jokes that you do — but a lot of them also believe in the conventional economic wisdom of the day.
They don’t really care that union power has evaporated and that Wall Street got itself de-supervised and that oligopolies now dominate the economy. But they do care — ever so much! — about deficits and being fiscally responsible.
Bring up this obvious point, however, and you will quickly discover what a dose of chloroform the partisan style can be. There’s a political war on, you will be told; one side is markedly better than the other; and no criticism of the leadership can be tolerated. Instead, let’s get back to laughing along with our favorite politicized comedians, and to smacking that Rick Santorum punching bag.
Do I exaggerate? Not really.

I recently happened across a paper published by a prominent Democratic strategy outfit that announced there are no longer any important disagreements among Democrats, repeating a popular journalistic meme of the past few weeks. Virtually every Democrat is a populist now, from Elizabeth Warren to the former Clintonites, the paper argues, and so it’s time for people on the left to halt their “struggle for the soul of the party.”
Specifically, they must stop accusing “non-progressive candidates” of “loyalties to groups like Wall Street.” To continue an “unabated struggle against all former adversaries,” apparently meaning Clinton-era centrists, is “quite literally to ‘fight the last war.’ ”

Actually, it’s worse than that:  to criticize centrist Democrats who have something to do with Wall Street is to contradict categorically the come-together approach that is mandated by our present historical situation:

“The two approaches are inherently and inescapably antithetical. The purpose of placing a clear and broad progressive agenda at the center of one’s political strategy is to create something around which to try and unite a political party. The purpose of a ‘battle for the soul of a party’ is to prioritize purifying the party by defining some groups or sectors as unacceptable.”
I remember hearing some version of this thinking back in the Clinton days, only with the cast-iron logic pointing the other way.

Back then we were instructed to stop criticizing centrist Democrats because Americans despised populists. Now we are advised to shut up because populists have won, and criticizing our fellow D’s will only endanger our own triumph.
I suppose I should also report that, in the course of its relentless dialectical reasoning, the author of this strategy proposal singles out me and Adolph Reed as prime offenders. I have been warned, I guess.
When someone tries to shoo me away from a subject, however, my instinct is to sail into it directly. So let me state my own controversial and highly novel theory:
I think journalists have a responsibility to hold our leaders accountable when their leading is lousy, regardless of who elected them.
What’s more, I think every critically minded individual has a responsibility to understand not only the ridiculous Republicans’ role in the grand disaster of our times but that of the Democrats as well. After all, the unraveling of the American middle class has been going on for decades.
No national politician of the last thirty years can claim ignorance about it. The great American turn to the right, which made it all possible, is also a decades-old phenomenon that has been much-discussed over the years.
No responsible person can any longer regard the right’s familiar inverted-populist trick as a postmodern mystery or a counterintuitive shocker.

We understand now how conservatism has warred against “elites” in order to win over a big chunk of the working class; we have seen how the movement constantly moves the goalposts; we know about its worship of markets and its excursions into racial anxiety.
But somehow, given all this knowledge, the party of professionals and experts can’t figure out how to beat these guys once and for all and turn the economic narrative around.

Instead, they gawk and laugh and fuel the right’s well-known persecution complex. And even though conservative economic ideas are the obvious culprits for what has happened to average Americans — even though conservatives have burned their bridges to the fastest-growing segments of the population — the right is still able to mount wave after wave of fake uprisings, successfully persuading a big part of the country that they are the only ones who will really do something to rein in what they like to call “crony capitalism.”
For chrissake, the cover of today’s New York Times Magazine presents the market-minded Rand Paul as some kind of heir to the punk rock movement.
It is crazy-making to acknowledge that, after all the disasters that these people have rained down on us, they might still control the House of Representatives, but they do and they have a pretty good shot at winning control of the Senate this fall.
Think about this panorama of political dysfunction for long enough and an unpleasant thought begins to form:  That maybe our boon companions in the Democratic Party are just as comfortable and as blind, in their own way, to what is going on in the country as are the GOPers.
Maybe they are satisfied to leave well enough alone, to let demographic destiny do the hard work of delivering their majorities, and to avoid straining themselves too much. After all, it is so much easier to laugh.

Thomas Frank
(Thomas Frank is a Salon politics and culture columnist. His many books include "What's The Matter With Kansas," "Pity the Billionaire" and "One Market Under God." He is the founding editor of The Baffler magazine.)

And if you are hanging your hopes on the Millennials waking up and smelling the lack of coffee (and saving the planet):

“They are intellectually underpowered and full of themselves, because they’ve been told their whole life how wonderful they are”

Tuesday, Sep 2, 2014

. . . actually this does impact everybody, if only because this is the leadership class. Our leaders are also excellent sheep: They’re timid; they’re risk-averse. They’re self-serving. They are intellectually underpowered and very full of themselves, because they’ve been told their whole life how wonderful they are, and therefore, that they deserve everything they’re getting.
How do you think our society …

Entitlement. That’s called “entitlement,” by the way.

OK, so you would say we have this entitled meritocracy, which is a direct product, in some ways, of students’ experiences in high school and in elite colleges.


Do you think that we still need elite institutions, though? I mean, is it valuable to have schools that gather top students together, but we should be choosing those students differently? Or would you say that, just by having an educational elite, our system will always produce entitled people who go on to wreck the world?

I would say both. I think reforming Ivy League admissions standards is tough but relatively realistic, and it’s happened in the past. One thing schools could do would be to have fewer hoops. You can only list certain extracurriculars on your application. You can’t take more than a certain number of APs.

Ultimately, to me, the real problem is that we have a handful of institutions that, through some historical accident, have ended up being the training ground for our leadership class. Other countries don’t do it like this; it doesn’t work this way in Canada. It doesn’t work this way in France. It doesn’t work this way in Germany, and it’s part of the reason that those societies have lower levels of inequality. So what we really need to do is the other huge thing that we did in the decades after World War II, which is a massive investment in public higher education.

When an excerpt from your book was published in the New Republic last month, a lot of the blowback was from Ivy League alumni who come from working-class backgrounds.They cited the gigantic financial aid packages that schools like Princeton and Harvard offer. Can’t Ivy League schools fulfill this dream of social mobility? Or are we over-attached to that vision of elite schools as social mobility engines?

We’re over-attached in two respects. First of all, because we’ve evolved in the direction of this winner-take-all society. Public universities were an enormous engine of social mobility; they were the great engines of social mobility in the decades after the war. Part of the problem is the idea that you have to go to one of 10 schools if you’re going to enjoy social mobility, or if you’re going to be able to make it into the elite echelons of society.

Yes, there are people who can tell that story about themselves:  “I came from a working-class background,”

“I came from a middle-class background. We could never have afforded these schools.” But the other problem with this notion: There aren’t a lot of kids like that anymore, and the numbers don’t lie. These places are very class-segregated. Those stories of the kid who really was able to rise up from poverty, they become an alibi for the way the system mainly works.

What’s the appeal, then, of that homeless-to-Harvard kind of narrative?

Well, because it’s the embodiment of the American Dream, which we’d like to believe is still in good shape. But it’s not.

It’s the same reason people play the lottery. People have a wildly unrealistic idea of their chances of winning. This notion that a kid can go to Harvard: The chances that it’s going to be your kid are infinitesimal. It’s easier to set up a lottery that gives people the illusion that they have a chance, and that doesn’t cost me or you any money, than to make the kinds of commitments in terms of taxation that are actually going to hurt, that are going to take money out of affluent people’s pockets, to create a system where people really do have a decent chance.

Reading your book, I got the sense that your target wasn’t just elite education, but this larger class system that we have. At times, I felt like I was reading a critique of the bourgeoisie, or maybe what David Brooks calls “Bobos” — I don’t know if you’re familiar with his idea of Bobos, the bourgeois bohemians.

Yes, of course, absolutely.

So, what is your target here?

Well, let me step back. My book is addressing a number of different issues and a number of different audiences, and the reason I talk about all these things is that I think they’re related, and that they need to be talked about together, and we always talk about them in isolation from one another. But there is a larger message, and the larger message is directed at this very unequal society that we’ve developed, where you have an upper middle class that David Brooks very aptly calls “bourgeois bohemian.”

Does that class create these schools? Or do the schools create the class?

Both. Historically, the schools obviously existed already, and, through their changes in admissions policies, from the ’30s through the ’60s, they created a new class. They created the modern meritocracy.

But what’s happened in the last 50 years is that the meritocracy has in turn re-created the schools in their own image. They have created a system that took the meritocracy from what it was supposed to be, and made it what I refer to as a “hereditary meritocracy.” If your kid is going to get into one of these schools, with some exceptions, they have to be stuffed full of education resources almost from the moment they’re born, almost from the moment they start school.

I just saw a cartoon in the New Yorker of two rich people, and one of them is saying, “The meritocracy worked for my grandfather, the meritocracy worked for my father, and now the meritocracy is working for me.” And this is exactly the point.

And this goes beyond legacy admissions?

Oh, no, no, this is not about legacy admissions. Legacy admissions are an issue, but this is not about legacy admissions, I really want to be clear about that.

One phrase that I quote in the book is that the college admission process is the way that we launder privilege in this country. Instead of saying, “You get to go because you’re born,” which is obviously unfair, we say, “You get to go because you have really great scores and grades and you’ve done a million extracurricular activities.” But the only way to get to that point is if you have rich parents. I mean, again, there are exceptions, but there are not a lot of exceptions.

In your book, you describe this leadership class as one that demonstrates “a Victorian engorgement with its own virtues.”

Right. They think that they got to where they got because they’re such great people. I didn’t say that line in reference to the kids, I said it in reference to the whole adult elite.

Listen, every elite has a way of justifying itself. I don’t think any elite ever said, just listen, we’re stronger, so we took what we wanted. There’s always some ideology that rationalizes it. And our ideology is meritocracy, and it says, you got all this because you deserved it.

Nobody wants to see that, no, actually, you got all this because your parents put you in a position to get all this. I quote another student in the book saying of her peers at Yale, that they’re aware of themselves as an academic elite, but not as a social or economic elite.

Won’t there always be elites, though? I feel like the education system will structure itself in such a way as to create an elite, no matter what steps are taken to democratize it.

That’s not clear. And I think that that’s an excuse.

Let me put this a different way: I think you’re right, but it certainly could be better, and I think it’s incumbent upon us, if we care about justice, if we care about democracy, to do everything we can to fight it. That’s what those postwar reforms were about, right? Not just reforming elite private college admissions to let in the working-class Jewish kids from Brooklyn, but also, and I think more significantly, this enormous expansion of public higher education.

The new rise in inequality coincides with — I’m not saying this is the only factor by any means — but it coincides with the withdrawal of investment in public higher education, which has been dropping for 35 years, and is now about half, on a per student basis, as it was then.

Really, it’s been that steep a decline?

It was already steep before 2008, and then after the financial collapse, it’s been like another 25 percent drop.



Last year Virginia Foxx, a member of Congress from North Carolina, said that she felt confused by high levels of student debt. She had worked her way through college in the 1960s, and she hadn’t fallen behind, so why were students today struggling? As a millennial, I remember that being an especially depressing comment to read.

Right, this is someone who doesn’t understand. Is she a Republican?

Yes, she’s a Republican.

I would love to know what tuition at UNC was in the ’70s. I know what it was at Berkeley in the ’70s, and throughout the University of California system. I can tell you to the exact dollar. It was zero.

What people, states, voters, politicians figured out is that instead of all of us paying taxes to support public higher education, we could just have the students take out loans.

So, I’m curious, if you were talking to a high school senior today, what would your advice be?

Think about where you’re going to college. Think carefully about where you’re going to college. Most kids go to the most prestigious school that’ll let them in. Why are you doing this?

I think these second-tier liberal arts colleges are great places. I mean, not all of them, but I think they have a great institutional model. And public universities have certain advantages, like a more diverse population. There are obviously a few drawbacks, but one way of splitting the difference, possibly, is an honors college or an honors program.

Kenneth Griffin, a hedge fund manager, recently gave $150 million to Harvard to improve its financial aid. I imagine that you don’t feel like that’s the best way for the money to be used. I’m curious, if we do reinvest in higher education elsewhere, what would the investment look like?

First of all, whatever:  It’s nice of him to do that. Also, in the larger scheme of what it takes to fund a higher education system, while $150 million is a huge amount for any individual, it’s not a lot of money in terms of what it costs to fund the whole system.

We did this before. We know how to do this. The problem is we don’t have the political will, or we don’t believe we have the political will. So we do what we did in California in the ’50s. They raised taxes, and they looked to create great public higher education systems.

Listen, I think I know what a great college education looks like. It looks like students learning in small classrooms face to face with instructors who are well paid and well treated.

So there!

Happy (and safe) week's end.

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