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Property of a commercial oligarchy (October 27 2012) Property of a commercial oligarchy (October 27 2012)

Lewis H. Lapham the 77 year old American writer and editor describes how American democracy became the property of a commercial oligarchy in an article published on Aljazeera titled ‘Feast of fools’. Lapham states “ Forbidden the use of words apt to depress a Q Score or disturb a Gallup poll, the candidates stand as product placements meant to be seen instead of heard, their quality to be inferred from the cost of their manufacture. The sponsors of the event, generous to a fault but careful to remain anonymous, dress it up with the bursting in air of star-spangled photo ops, abundant assortments of multiflavoured sound bites, and the candidates so well-contrived that they can be played for jokes, presented as game-show contestants, or posed as noble knights-at-arms setting forth on vision quests, enduring the trials by klieg light, until on election night they come to judgment before the throne of cameras by whom and for whom they were produced. Best of all, at least from the point of view of the commercial oligarchy paying for both the politicians and the press coverage, the issue is never about the why of who owes what to whom, only about the how much and when, or if, the check is in the mail. No loose talk about what is meant by the word democracy or in what ways it refers to the cherished hope of liberty embodied in the history of a courageous people. The campaigns don’t favour the voters with the gratitude and respect owed to their standing as valuable citizens participant in the making of such a thing as a common good. They stay on message with their parsing of democracy as the ancient Greek name for the American Express card…”


Inspired by Aljazeera image source 3quarksdaily

Make people LAUGH, and then THINK (September 9 2012) Make people LAUGH, and then THINK (September 9 2012)

Marc Abrahams the American editor and co-founder of Annals of Improbable Research, and originator and emcee of the annual Ig Nobel Prize celebration, has published an article in The Guardian titled ‘Strange but true: science’s most improbable research’ in which he highlights that ‘Science isn’t always about the big questions, spending his time studying research that seeks the answers to more unlikely problems – little conundrums that others dare not tackle’. Abrahams on his web site states “…is the father and master of ceremonies of the Ig Nobel Prize Ceremony, honoring achievements that make people LAUGH, and then THINK. The Prizes are handed out by genuine Nobel Laureates at a gala ceremony held each autumn at Harvard University and broadcast on National Public Radio and on the Internet. The Washington Post called Marc “the nation’s guru of academic grunge.” The Journal of the American Medical Association called him “the Puck of Science.” …Marc and several Ig Nobel Prize winners are the heroes in a manga in Young Jump Magazine, Japan’s most popular manga magazine. The Improbable Research editorial board of more than 50 distinguished scientists includes nine Nobel Laureates, IQ record holder Marilyn Vos Savant, and a convicted felon. …Marc has a degree in applied mathematics from Harvard College, spent several years developing optical character recognition computer systems (including a reading machine for the blind) at Kurzweil Computer Products, and later founded Wisdom Simulators, a creator of educational software. Marc is the subject of a Harvard Business School case study called “Marc Abrahams: Annals of an Improbable Entrepreneur.”


Inspired by The Guardian image source Twitter

Arctic summer sea ice loss is 50% higher (September 1 2012) Arctic summer sea ice loss is 50% higher (September 1 2012)

Robin McKie the British Science and Technology editor for the Observer has published an article in The Guardian titled ‘Rate of Arctic summer sea ice loss is 50% higher than predicted’ discussing the new satellite images that show polar ice coverage dwindling in extent and thickness. In the article McKie states “Sea ice in the Arctic is disappearing at a far greater rate than previously expected, according to data from the first purpose-built satellite launched to study the thickness of the Earth’s polar caps. Preliminary results from the European Space Agency’s CryoSat-2 probe indicate that 900 cubic kilometres of summer sea ice has disappeared from the Arctic ocean over the past year. This rate of loss is 50% higher than most scenarios outlined by polar scientists and suggests that global warming, triggered by rising greenhouse gas emissions, is beginning to have a major impact on the region. In a few years the Arctic ocean could be free of ice in summer, triggering a rush to exploit its fish stocks, oil, minerals and sea routes. Using instruments on earlier satellites, scientists could see that the area covered by summer sea ice in the Arctic has been dwindling rapidly. But the new measurements indicate that this ice has been thinning dramatically at the same time. For example, in regions north of Canada and Greenland, where ice thickness regularly stayed at around five to six metres in summer a decade ago, levels have dropped to one to three metres.”


Inspired by The Guardian image source Twitter

Hoard hidden from taxman by global elite (August 21 2012) Hoard hidden from taxman by global elite (August 21 2012)

Heather Stewart the British business and economics editor for the Observer has published an article in The Guardian titled ‘£13tn hoard hidden from taxman by global elite’ discussing how private banks help the wealthiest to move cash into havens. Stewart states “A global super-rich elite has exploited gaps in cross-border tax rules to hide an extraordinary £13 trillion ($21tn) of wealth offshore – as much as the American and Japanese GDPs put together – according to research commissioned by the campaign group Tax Justice Network. …[wealth] leaked out of scores of countries into secretive jurisdictions such as Switzerland and the Cayman Islands with the help of private banks, which vie to attract the assets of so-called high net-worth individuals. …The detailed analysis in the report, compiled using data from a range of sources, including the Bank of International Settlements and the International Monetary Fund, suggests that for many developing countries the cumulative value of the capital that has flowed out of their economies since the 1970s would be more than enough to pay off their debts to the rest of the world. Oil-rich states with an internationally mobile elite have been especially prone to watching their wealth disappear into offshore bank accounts instead of being invested at home, the research suggests. Once the returns on investing the hidden assets is included, almost £500bn has left Russia since the early 1990s when its economy was opened up. Saudi Arabia has seen £197bn flood out since the mid-1970s, and Nigeria £196bn.”


Inspired by The Guardian image source Twitter

Pussy Riot is world famous as is its stunt (August 14 2012) Pussy Riot is world famous as is its stunt (August 14 2012)

Katrina vanden Heuvel the 52 year old editor and publisher has published an article in The Nation magazine following the commencement of the ‘hooliganism’ charges brought against three imprisoned members of the punk rock/protest group over a fifty-one-second stunt. In an anti-Putin protest the group had seized the stage of the Christ the Savior Cathedral just before the March elections and performing a musical plea to the Virgin Mary. Heuvel states “[in] a truly authoritarian response from the Russian government. Three alleged [female] participants were arrested, threatened with seven years of imprisonment, and placed in a pre-trial detention that’s been extended for months. Now, Pussy Riot is world famous—as is its stunt. The longer they’re in prison, the more attention they get. … More than 400,000 Russians have signed an online petition protesting their arrest and detention. …The righteousness of the Pussy Riot cause is clear-cut: courageous activists up against punitive suppression. As someone who’s worked with the women’s movement in Moscow, and as a longtime student of Russia, it’s horrific to watch the mistreatment of these women, and heartening to see them draw the support they deserve, both outside the country and within it. … It is heartening to see the broad attention being paid to the three women of the Pussy Riot group. But perhaps it’s time for some reporting on the millions of working or unemployed Russians who will bear the brunt of economic policies hatched by the Putin government and supported by many of its opposition critics. Putin’s repression has sparked vibrant pro–Pussy Riot activism.”


Inspired by The Nation image source Twitter

Citizens aren't parasites or background noise (August 13 2012) Citizens aren’t parasites or background noise (August 13 2012)

Dahlia Lithwick the 37 year old Canadian-American editor and legal correspondent has published an article on Slate titled ‘Don’t Even Consider Talking About the Olympics’ in which she discusses the suppression of free speech at U.S. political conventions and at the London Olympic Games. Lithwick states “Remember back when large public events were also the locus of large public protest? As we stare down the barrel of the Olympic Games and the two national political conventions this summer, it’s fair to say that free speech has been reduced to a mere wheeze, both in the United Kingdom and here in the USA. What are truly interesting are the differences between the two: The British are buying up free speech and the Americans are zoning it out. The mania for treating convention protesters like veal is not a new thing. Protesters have been herded into hilariously named “free speech zones” and penned behind fences since the 2004 DNC convention in Boston. …the London Olympics, where—aside from the usual clamping down on protest or even potential protest—we’re see[n] unprecedented restrictions on speech having anything to do with the Olympics. There are creepy new restrictions on journalists, with even nonsportswriters being told they should sign up with authorities. …But these events must be more than just clean staging areas for corporate fabulosity. Protesters, participants, and citizens aren’t parasites or background noise. Addressing threats of terror or real violence is one thing. Treating all speech and protest and media as inherently dangerous and violent is something entirely different.”


Inspired by Slate image source Facebook

John Stoehr the American journalist, editor and lecturer in political science has put forward an argument in an article published on Aljazeera titled ‘Face it, the US economy is socialist – The real debate is not whether the US economy has socialist attributes, but choosing which form of socialism to employ’. Stoehr states “They [Republicans] talk about socialists and communists with the intent of scaring people away from the debate, but the fact is that state and federal governments spend billions on corporate welfare. No matter what they say about closeted communists in Congress or in the White House, Republicans – even the libertarians – heartily approve of socialism. The question in their view is about which way the money is flowing, up or down. If it’s agribusiness or oil corporations getting bucks from federal subsidies, then money is going to the top. Hoorah for socialism. If it’s single working mothers getting food stamps and housing credits, then money is going to the bottom. That’s a damn government handout – we can’t have that. On the state level, corporate welfare is often wrapped in the rhetoric of job creation. Let’s make the state attractive to businesses, because businesses create jobs, workers spend money and the economy gets better. Voila. Except that taxpayers end up giving more to corporations than they end up receiving.


Inspired by Aljazeera image source Twitter

Sandra Gonzalez-Bailon the Spanish Sociologist editor of the OII-edited journal Policy and Internet. Gonzalez-Bailon specializes in how online networks influence exposure to ideas and political debates, and how the internet technologies shape the flow of information. Gonzalez-Bailon published an article on Aljazeera stating, “Under the slogan “Real Democracy Now”, the protests [Spain May 2011] mobilised tens of thousands of people of all ages and affiliations, demanding better forms of political representation. Many protesters proclaimed in their placards that the Spanish Revolution was coming, a prophecy soon turned into a trending hashtag in Twitter and reverberating fast across the galleries of social media. …In the rare context of mass mobilisations, online networks behave exceptionally well: they are fast and efficient in transmitting information and spreading awareness. But they cannot do much to help a mass movement articulate their aims: they give expression to a cacophony of voices but when the lights of the protest go out, all these opinions fall like confetti after a party. …Can social media transform bursts of political activism into stable forms of participation? …Otherwise, their revolutionary message will be written on wet sand.”


Inspired by Aljzeera image source

Sheldon Richman a USA political writer and academic, editor of The Freeman magazine and renowned for his advocacy of left-libertarianism or market anarchism, has published an article on the US presidential candidate’s limited variations on their ‘Corporatist Theme’. In the article Richmond states, “So the presidential campaign is shaping up as a contest between a Democrat who says we had a free market from 2001 through 2008 and a Republican who agrees—he says “[w]e are only inches away from ceasing to be a free market economy.” You can’t cease to be something you never were. Thus  Barack Obama claims and Mitt Romney implicitly concedes that the free market 1) has existed and 2) therefore presumably created the housing and financial debacle. This bodes ill for advocates of liberty and voluntary exchange. Notice what will happen if this framing is widely accepted: Genuinely freed markets won’t make the list of feasible options. That will leave us with mere variations on a statist theme, namely, corporatism. …and the winner will be: Corporatism. (That is, the use of government force primarily to benefit the well-connected business elite.) The loser? The people, who would benefit from freedom and freed markets—markets void of privileges and arbitrary decrees. That’s what maximizes consumer and worker bargaining power and enhances general living standards.”


Inspired by The Freeman image source facebook

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