How have these corporations colonised our public life?

From The Guardian UK:  http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/apr/08/corporations-public-life-unilever

Our politicians have delegated power to global giants engineering a world of conformity and consumerism


The Guardian, Monday 7 April 2014

How do you engineer a bland, depoliticised world, a consensus built around consumption and endless growth, a dream world of materialism and debt and atomisation, in which all relations can be prefixed with a dollar sign, in which we cease to fight for change? You delegate your powers to companies whose profits depend on this model.

Power is shifting: to places in which we have no voice or vote. Domestic policies are forged by special advisers and spin doctors, by panels and advisory committees stuffed with lobbyists. The self-hating state withdraws its own authority to regulate and direct. Simultaneously, the democratic vacuum at the heart of global governance is being filled, without anything resembling consent, by international bureaucrats and corporate executives. The NGOs permitted – often as an afterthought – to join them intelligibly represent neither civil society nor electorates. (And please spare me that guff about consumer democracy or shareholder democracy: in both cases some people have more votes than others, and those with the most votes are the least inclined to press for change.)

To me, the giant consumer goods company Unilever, with which I clashed over the issue of palm oil a few days ago, symbolises these shifting relationships. I can think of no entity that has done more to blur the lines between the role of the private sector and the role of the public sector. If you blotted out its name while reading its web pages, you could mistake it for an agency of the United Nations.

It seems to have representation almost everywhere. Its people inhabit (to name a few) the British government’s Ecosystem Markets Task Force and Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition, the International Fund for Agricultural Development, the G8′s New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition, the World Food Programme, the Global Green Growth Forum, the UN’s Scaling Up Nutrition programme, its Sustainable Development Solutions Network, Global Compact and the UN High Level Panel on global development.

Sometimes Unilever uses this power well. Its efforts to reduce its own use of energy and water and its production of waste, and to project these changes beyond its own walls, look credible and impressive. Sometimes its initiatives look to me like self-serving bullshit.

Its “Dove self-esteem project”, for instance, claims to be “helping millions of young people to improve their self-esteem through educational programmes”. One of its educational videos maintains that beauty “couldn’t be more critical to your happiness“, which is surely the belief that trashes young people’s self-esteem in the first place. But of course you can recover it by plastering yourself with Dove-branded gloop: Unilever reports that 82% of women in Canada who are aware of its project “would be more likely to purchase Dove“.

Continue reading at:  http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/apr/08/corporations-public-life-unilever

Florida City About To Make It Illegal For Homeless People To Have Possessions In Public

From Think Progress:  http://thinkprogress.org/economy/2014/04/21/3428899/fort-lauderdale-criminalize-homelessness/

By Scott Keyes
April 21, 2014

A backpack. Spare clothes. A notebook. Some keepsake photos. Crackers.

Though they may not have a home in which to secure their stuff, homeless people still have possessions like everyone else.

Yet the city of Ft. Lauderdale, Florida is on the cusp of passing a new regulation that would make it illegal for anyone to store their personal things on public property. Specifically, it would empower police to confiscate any personal possessions stored on public property, provided they have given the homeless person 24-hours notice. If the homeless people wish to retrieve their items, they must pay the city “reasonable charges for storage and removal of the items,” though that fee is waived if the person is able to demonstrate he or she cannot afford to pay. The city may dispose of any possessions not retrieved within 30 days. One of the driving factors behind the measure, according to the legislation, is the city’s “interest in aesthetics.”

Last week, the City Commission gave unanimous preliminary approval to the measure, despite overwhelming opposition from local residents who testified.

One woman, Gazol Tajalli, told Commissioners that is “insanity that we are even here discussing whether an individual can put on the ground the few objects that they own.” Another citizen, Rev. Gail Tapscott of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Ft. Lauderdale, criticized some of the Commissioners for “demoniz[ing]” the homeless.

Maria Foscarinis, Executive Director of the National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty, chastised Ft. Lauderdale’s approach. “Maintaining city streets is a legitimate concern, but simply punishing homeless people for leaving their possessions in public places is not an effective or humane way to address it,” she told ThinkProgress. “Instead, city and business leaders should work with advocates and homeless people to develop alternative short and long term solutions, such as public storage options for homeless people and affordable housing.”

According to the Sun Sentinel, “The commission’s actions were backed by business leaders who said they were looking for some controls on a situation that scares away customers and makes visitors uncomfortable.” The commission is also considering other initiatives targeting the homeless, including stiffer penalties for urinating or defecating in public, prohibitions on panhandling at intersections or sleeping in public, and restrictions on charity groups that hand out food to the homeless.

Continue reading at:  http://thinkprogress.org/economy/2014/04/21/3428899/fort-lauderdale-criminalize-homelessness/

I Just love the David Barton Like Approach to Transgender History That Operates on Virginia Prince Myth Rather Than the Lives of Actual Transsexual Women and Men

Recently Calpernia Addams and Andrea James have discovered what it feels like when the myth lovers of the Transgender Borg declare you obsolete.

It is sort of like a right of passage into post-transsexual status.

The Community of all knowing Newbies have pronounced, “That was then, this is Now.”

Then they proceed to whip out Virginia Prince generated stereotypes of what transsexuals were supposed to be like if they were actually women.

Thing is from Christine Jorgensen and Roberta Cowell forward damned few transsexual women and men fit the stereotypes that Virginia Prince and followers tried to foist upon us.

Further if you look in the early medical books regarding transsexualism you will find how big a role the Prince of many names played in the creation of this mythology.

When I read something like the piece in Huffington Post: Parker Molloy Does Not Hate RuPaul I am forced to speak out against the perpetuation of mythology worthy of the David Barton medal of historical lies and distortion.

Recently a public dispute erupted between the transgender old guard and the new wave of trans* advocates and journalists. This kind of thing is not new. When I was a young transgender woman coming to terms with my own gender identity, I recall vividly how many transsexuals found it offensive to be lumped in with crossdressers and gender queer individuals. I don’t think I quite understood the concept yet of “transsexual separatists,” but I often heard women speak about the differences between transsexuals and transgender people. Most of the transsexual women I knew had gone to Trinidad, Colo., in the 1970s and had received what was then called a “sex change operation.” These women were students of Dr. Harry Benjamin and had been convinced that once they had physically transitioned they must join “straight” society and then marry and live obscure lives in the suburbs.

I must be clear here when I tell you that Benjamin was a pioneer in recognizing that trans* people deserved the best medical care known to him at that time. From all accounts he was a doctor who understood that people presenting as gender-variant required a doctor to oversee their transition. On the other hand, Dr. Benjamin still did not understand that gender is not binary and in many instances, he pushed patients to learn to be attracted to members of the opposite sex. These were the very early days of gender confirmation in the United States.

Over the course of the following 50 to 60 years, much has been learned about the spectrum in which gender lies. The purpose of mentioning the early days of the transgender moment is that it directly connects to what our community is presently experiencing.

First bit of mythology and total bullshit (These women were students of Dr. Harry Benjamin)

I first came out to my parents in 1962, they had discovered a bunch of clippings from a tabloid featuring April Ashley’s life story including transition and sex change operation.  They asked me if that was what I wanted to be.  I said, “That’s what I am.”

When I came out in 1969 I was in the Bay Area and a number of sisters had laid the ground work, there were doctors at a public health clinic they had educated as to our needs.

There were a number of places we could get our sex change operations.

I was a left wing hippie radical in Berkeley at the time, aiding deserters and draft evaders.  I was afraid of the Tenderloin and never went there.  My friends were other left wing hippies.

Later I became involved with the National Transsexual Counseling Unit.  I taught doctors and others about transsexualism.  Oh Dr. Benjamin wrote my surgery recommendation.

I went through the Stanford Program, including the group sessions which were as diverse if not more so than similar sessions I visited in the 1990s.

It was 1972 and I met damn few sisters with stereotypical white picket fence dreams.  Indeed feminism was as popular with us as it was with non-trans women.  Maybe more so as most states wouldn’t change birth certificates and marriage legality was sketchy at best.  After all we knew what April Ashley had gone through.

Those of us who got our SRS in those early days included folks like Lynn Conway and others who helped make the tech industry a career of choice for so many of us.

A lot of us were dykes.  I came out after SRS and after breaking up with a boyfriend of three years.  Became a photographer, worked for the Lesbian Tide.

A few, a minority got married.

Then in 1980 Jon Meyers and Paul McHugh of Johns Hopkins came out with a study that pronounced Sex Reassignment Surgery a failure because so few of us conformed to the white picket fence stereotypes.

You see those stereotypes were more in the 1950s era imagination of Dr. Benjamin.  Contrary to popular thought his book wasn’t written in 1966 but was a compilation of articles written between 1950 and 1966.  It reflects the Feminine Mystique and little more.

I never called myself a Benjamin girl or Stanford girl, I was my own woman.  Most of us were.

Wrong statement. 2.:  (required a doctor to oversee their transition) Doctors were prescription writers, nothing more.  I saw more psychiatrists as a model client in an attempt to get the government to pay for SRS than I saw at Stanford as part of their pre-surgery screening process.  On doctor I went to when evaluating surgeons required only Dr. B’s letter and a letter from my prescribing physician.

All the requirements for psych professionals and doctors overseeing ones transition is a post 1980s era invention.

Fuck you and the “Transsexual Separatist” slur.  It is a tired piece of shit used to beat people up and keep them part of something long after they should have gotten on with their lives.

I had SRS over 40 years ago there are far more important things in my life than a bunch of whiny oh so sensitive trannie newbees demanding long time sisters and brothers hang around and wipe their noses.

Many of us lived lives on the edge and  face old age in poverty.  We aren’t all professional transgender care givers, paid to wipe noses.

Besides which there is more to life than just being trans*.

Most of us have lives and interests other than something we had an operation for many years ago.

Besides which the new generation knows everything there is to know and have rewritten history just like David Barton did to bolster their unwavering belief in a way of thinking that is pretty damned alien to those of us who went before.

I have my friends who are trans* but I am not part of “the Teans-Community.”  If I am a part of any communities they are defined by things like hippie or old, or swap meet folks.

 

Let This Earth Day Be The Last

It’s Game Over Time.  We are now in The End of the World As We Know It mode.  Think those weird winters and extra hot summers, the drought in California are an aberration…  Think again.  People should have listened to Paul Ehrlich when “The Population Bomb” was published in the late 1960s.  Or read “The Limits of Growth” when it was published in 1972.

It is officially too late now.  We are over the 400ppm and will soon hit unthinkable levels.  We will see ocean rise and the deaths of millions of people.

As well as the end of capitalism as we know it.

We will live far simpler lives with out the plenty of the past.

Earth Day was so nice and so feel good.  The marketing people loved it

OTOH the media labeled people actually trying to do something, people like Earth First, Sea Shepherd, and ELF as eco-terrorists.  All the while ignoring the real eco-terrorists, the people who rape mother earth for the profit of the already obscenely rich.

From The Nation:  http://www.thenation.com/blog/179375/let-earth-day-be-last#

Wen Stephenson
on April 22, 2014

“If there is no struggle there is no progress. Those who profess to favor freedom and yet deprecate agitation are men who want crops without plowing up the ground; they want rain without thunder and lightning. They want the ocean without the awful roar of its many waters. This struggle may be a moral one, or it may be a physical one, and it may be both moral and physical, but it must be a struggle.”
—Frederick Douglass, 1857

Fuck Earth Day.

No, really. Fuck Earth Day. Not the first one, forty-four years ago, the one of sepia-hued nostalgia, but everything the day has since come to be: the darkest, cruelest, most brutally self-satirizing spectacle of the year.

Fuck it. Let it end here.

End the dishonesty, the deception. Stop lying to yourselves, and to your children. Stop pretending that the crisis can be “solved,” that the planet can be “saved,” that business more-or-less as usual—what progressives and environmentalists have been doing for forty-odd years and more—is morally or intellectually tenable. Let go of the pretense that “environmentalism” as we know it—virtuous green consumerism, affluent low-carbon localism, head-in-the-sand conservationism, feel-good greenwashed capitalism—comes anywhere near the radical response our situation requires.

So, yeah, I’ve had it with Earth Day—and the culture of progressive green denial it represents.

* * *

But why Frederick Douglass? Why bring him into this? And who am I to invoke him—a man who was born a slave and who freed himself from slavery, who knew something about struggle, whose words were among the most radical ever spoken on American soil? Who the hell am I? I’ve never suffered racial or any other kind of oppression. I’ve never had to fight for any fundamental rights. I’m not even a radical, really. (Nor am I an “environmentalist”—and never have been.) All I want is a livable world, and the possibility of social justice. So who am I to quote Frederick Douglass?

Let me tell you who I am: I’m a human being. I’m the father of two young children, a 14-year-old son and a 10-year-old daughter, who face a deeply uncertain future on this planet. I’m a husband, a son, a brother—and a citizen. And, yes, I’m a journalist, and I’m an activist. And like more and more of us who are fighting for climate justice, I am engaged in a struggle—a struggle—for the fate of humanity and of life on Earth. Not a polite debate around the dinner table, or in a classroom, or an editorial meeting—or an Earth Day picnic. I’m talking about a struggle. A struggle for justice on a global scale. A struggle for human dignity and human rights for my fellow human beings, beginning with the poorest and most vulnerable, far and near. A struggle for my own children’s future—but not only my children, all of our children, everywhere. A life-and-death struggle for the survival of all that I love. Because that is what the climate fight and the fight for climate justice is. That’s what it is.

Because, I’m sorry, this is not a test. This is really happening. The Arctic and the glaciers are melting. The great forests are dying and burning. The oceans are rising and acidifying. The storms, the floods—the droughts and heat waves—are intensifying. The breadbaskets are parched and drying. And all of it faster and sooner than scientists predicted. The window in which to act is closing before our eyes.

Read the rest of this article at:  http://www.thenation.com/blog/179375/let-earth-day-be-last#

Chelsea Manning: A Statement on My Legal Name Change

From Huffington Post:  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/chelsea-manning/a-statement-on-my-legal-name-change_b_5199874.html

Chelsea Manning
04/23/2014

Today is an exciting day. A judge in the state of Kansas has officially ordered my name to be changed from “Bradley Edward Manning” to “Chelsea Elizabeth Manning.” I’ve been working for months for this change, and waiting for years.

It’s worth noting that both in mail and in person, I’ve often been asked, “Why are you changing your name?” The answer couldn’t be simpler: because it’s a far better, richer, and more honest reflection of who I am and always have been: a woman named Chelsea.

But there is another question I’ve been asked nearly as much: “Why are you making this request of the Leavenworth district court?” This is a more complicated question, but the short answer is simple: because I have to.

Unfortunately, the trans* community faces three major obstacles to living a normal life in America: identity documentation, gender-segregated institutions, and access to health care. And I’ve only just jumped through the first one of these hurdles.

In our current society it’s the most banal things, such as showing an ID card, going to the bathroom, and receiving trans-related health care, that keep us from having the means to live better, more productive, and safer lives. Unfortunately, there are many laws and procedures that often don’t consider trans* people, or even outright prevent them from doing the sort of simple, day-to-day things that others take for granted.

Now I am waiting on the military to assist me in accessing health care. In August I requested that the military provide me with a treatment plan consistent with the recognized professional standards of care for trans health. They quickly evaluated me and informed me that they had come up with a proposed treatment plan. However, I have not yet seen their treatment plan, and in over eight months I have not received any response as to whether the plan will be approved or disapproved, or whether it follows the guidelines of qualified health professionals.

I’m optimistic that things can — and certainly will — change for the better. There are so many people in America today who are open and willing to discuss trans-related issues. Hopefully today’s name change, while so meaningful to me personally, can also raise awareness of the fact that we trans* people exist everywhere in America today, and that we must jump through hurdles every day just for being who we are. If I’m successful in obtaining access to trans health care, not only will it be something I have wanted for a long time myself, but it will open the door for many people, both inside and outside the military, to request the right to live more open, fulfilled lives.

Thank you,
Chelsea Manning

Rand Paul criticizing Ronald Reagan

The Change Within: The Obstacles We Face Are Not Just External

From The Nation:  http://www.thenation.com/article/179460/change-within-obstacles-we-face-are-not-just-external#

The climate crisis has such bad timing, confronting it not only requires a new economy but a new way of thinking.

Naomi Klein
April 21, 2014

This is a story about bad timing.

One of the most disturbing ways that climate change is already playing out is through what ecologists call “mismatch” or “mistiming.” This is the process whereby warming causes animals to fall out of step with a critical food source, particularly at breeding times, when a failure to find enough food can lead to rapid population losses.

The migration patterns of many songbird species, for instance, have evolved over millennia so that eggs hatch precisely when food sources such as caterpillars are at their most abundant, providing parents with ample nourishment for their hungry young. But because spring now often arrives early, the caterpillars are hatching earlier too, which means that in some areas they are less plentiful when the chicks hatch, threatening a number of health and fertility impacts. Similarly, in West Greenland, caribou are arriving at their calving grounds only to find themselves out of sync with the forage plants they have relied on for thousands of years, now growing earlier thanks to rising temperatures. That is leaving female caribou with less energy for lactation, reproduction and feeding their young, a mismatch that has been linked to sharp decreases in calf births and survival rates.

Scientists are studying cases of climate-related mistiming among dozens of species, from Arctic terns to pied flycatchers. But there is one important species they are missing—us. Homo sapiens. We too are suffering from a terrible case of climate-related mistiming, albeit in a cultural-historical, rather than a biological, sense. Our problem is that the climate crisis hatched in our laps at a moment in history when political and social conditions were uniquely hostile to a problem of this nature and magnitude—that moment being the tail end of the go-go ’80s, the blastoff point for the crusade to spread deregulated capitalism around the world. Climate change is a collective problem demanding collective action the likes of which humanity has never actually accomplished. Yet it entered mainstream consciousness in the midst of an ideological war being waged on the very idea of the collective sphere.

This deeply unfortunate mistiming has created all sorts of barriers to our ability to respond effectively to this crisis. It has meant that corporate power was ascendant at the very moment when we needed to exert unprecedented controls over corporate behavior in order to protect life on earth. It has meant that regulation was a dirty word just when we needed those powers most. It has meant that we are ruled by a class of politicians who know only how to dismantle and starve public institutions, just when they most need to be fortified and reimagined. And it has meant that we are saddled with an apparatus of “free trade” deals that tie the hands of policy-makers just when they need maximum flexibility to achieve a massive energy transition.

Confronting these various structural barriers to the next economy is the critical work of any serious climate movement. But it’s not the only task at hand. We also have to confront how the mismatch between climate change and market domination has created barriers within our very selves, making it harder to look at this most pressing of humanitarian crises with anything more than furtive, terrified glances. Because of the way our daily lives have been altered by both market and technological triumphalism, we lack many of the observational tools necessary to convince ourselves that climate change is real—let alone the confidence to believe that a different way of living is possible.

Continue reading at:  http://www.thenation.com/article/179460/change-within-obstacles-we-face-are-not-just-external#

It’s the End of the World as We Know It . . . and He Feels Fine

From The New York Times:  http://www.nytimes.com/2014/04/20/magazine/its-the-end-of-the-world-as-we-know-it-and-he-feels-fine.html?ref=magazine&_r=1

Late one night last August, on the chalk downlands of southern England, Paul Kingsnorth stood in a field beside an old-growth forest, two yurts and a composting toilet. Kingsnorth is 41, tall, slim and energetic, with sweeping brown hair and a sparse beard. He wears rimless glasses and a silver stud in his ear, and he talks with great ardor, often apologizing for having said too much or for having said it too strongly.

On this occasion, Kingsnorth was silent. It was the final night of Uncivilization, an outdoor festival run by the Dark Mountain Project, a loose network of ecologically minded artists and writers, and he was standing with several dozen others waiting for the festival’s midnight ritual to begin. Kingsnorth, a founder of the group, had already taken part in several sessions that day, including one on contemporary nature writing; a panel about the iniquities of mainstream psychiatric care; and a reading from his most recent book, “The Wake,” a novel set in the 11th century and written in a “shadow language” — a mash-up of Old and modern English. He had also helped his two young children assemble a train set while trying to encapsulate his views on climate change and environmental degradation in what Kingsnorth describes as an era of global disruption. The “human machine,” as he sometimes puts it, has grown to such a size that breakdown is inevitable. What, then, do we do?

In the clearing, above a pyre, someone had erected a tall wicker sculpture in the shape of a tree, with dense gnarls and hanging hoops. Four men in masks knelt at the sculpture’s base, at cardinal compass points. When midnight struck, a fifth man, his head shaved smooth and wearing a kimono, began to walk slowly around them. As he passed the masked figures, each ignited a yellow flare, until finally, his circuit complete, the bald man set the sculpture on fire. For a couple of minutes, it was quiet. Then as the wicker blazed, a soft chant passed through the crowd, the words only gradually becoming clear: “We are gathered. We are gathered. We are gathered.”

After that came disorder. A man wearing a stag mask bounded into the clearing and shouted: “Come! Let’s play!” The crowd broke up. Some headed for bed. A majority headed for the woods, to a makeshift stage that had been blocked off with hay bales and covered by an enormous nylon parachute. There they danced, sang, laughed, barked, growled, hooted, mooed, bleated and meowed, forming a kind of atavistic, improvisatory choir. Deep into the night, you could hear them from your tent, shifting every few minutes from sound to sound, animal to animal and mood to mood.

The next morning over breakfast, Dougie Strang, a Scottish artist and performer who is on Dark Mountain’s steering committee, asked if I’d been there. When he left, at 3 a.m., he said, people were writhing in the mud and singing, in harmony, the children’s song “Teddy Bears’ Picnic.” (“If you go down in the woods today, you’re sure of a big surprise.”) “Wasn’t it amazing?” he said, grinning. “It really went mental. I think we actually achieved uncivilization.”

Continue reading at:  http://www.nytimes.com/2014/04/20/magazine/its-the-end-of-the-world-as-we-know-it-and-he-feels-fine.html?ref=magazine&_r=1

No More Petitions, They are a Waste of Time

There are things we are conditioned to do that give us the illusion of actually having done something.

Signing petitions is one of those things.

Has signing an on line petition from Care2 or Change.org ever actually changed anything? Ever?

Signing petitions is an act of masturbation.  It feels good but accomplishes nothing else.

Last week a bunch of people who should know better formed a mob to attack Andrea James and Calpernia Addams.

What the fuck was that all about?

Who cares other than the marketing firms that buy copies of these petitions to send begging letters or sell products?

We face an extremely grim near future between the rise of the oligarchs, end stage capitalism and eco collapse.

The time for meaningless gestures is long past.  The time for thinking those meaningless gestures create change is over, dead, no longer relevant.

Now is the time of existential moral crisis. To be or not to be? To slip into total nihilism or to take up arms and continue to struggle in the face of hopelessness.

I’m glad I am old.  Age is the great leveler.  Knowing I have lived many more years than the number I have yet to live is liberating.

 

 

Happy Earth Day. We Just Reached Another Scary Climate Change Milestone

From Huffington Post:  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/04/22/carbon-dioxide-climate-change_n_5187844.html

Princeton Study: U.S. No Longer An Actual Democracy

Tell me again why we should let assholes like Bloomberg convince us to confiscate people’s guns.  I love the totalitarian state the oligarchs have created.  One where they dangle puppets and divisive issues to distract us from our ever increasing enslavement.

All the talking heads, who are paid shills out to convince us to be at each others throats over bullshit “issues” while they transfer all the wealth and property to their control.

From Talking Points Memo:  http://talkingpointsmemo.com/livewire/princeton-experts-say-us-no-longer-democracy

Brendan James
April 18, 2014

Asking “[w]ho really rules?” researchers Martin Gilens and Benjamin I. Page argue that over the past few decades America’s political system has slowly transformed from a democracy into an oligarchy, where wealthy elites wield most power.

Using data drawn from over 1,800 different policy initiatives from 1981 to 2002, the two conclude that rich, well-connected individuals on the political scene now steer the direction of the country, regardless of or even against the will of the majority of voters.

TPM Interview: Scholar Behind Viral ‘Oligarchy’ Study Tells You What It Means “The central point that emerges from our research is that economic elites and organized groups representing business interests have substantial independent impacts on U.S. government policy,” they write, “while mass-based interest groups and average citizens have little or no independent influence.”

As one illustration, Gilens and Page compare the political preferences of Americans at the 50th income percentile to preferences of Americans at the 90th percentile as well as major lobbying or business groups. They find that the government—whether Republican or Democratic—more often follows the preferences of the latter group rather than the first.

The researches note that this is not a new development caused by, say, recent Supreme Court decisions allowing more money in politics, such as Citizens United or this month’s ruling on McCutcheon v. FEC. As the data stretching back to the 1980s suggests, this has been a long term trend, and is therefore harder for most people to perceive, let alone reverse.

“Ordinary citizens,” they write, “might often be observed to ‘win’ (that is, to get their preferred policy outcomes) even if they had no independent effect whatsoever on policy making, if elites (with whom they often agree) actually prevail.”

Michael Lewis: ‘Wall Street has gone insane’

From The Guardian UK:  http://www.theguardian.com/business/2014/apr/16/michael-lewis-flash-boys-wall-street-insane
Flash Boys, an exposé of the murky world of ‘rigged’ high-frequency trading, has sold 130,000 copies in its first week and is already being turned into a film. Its author, Michael Lewis, explains why the story is so compelling – and why our brightest minds make the most dangerous bankers


The Guardian, Wednesday 16 April 2014

On a sliding scale of difficulty, writing a general-interest book about high-frequency trading is slightly harder than making baseball statistics interesting, but easier than animating the role played by quantitative analysis in the 2007 financial collapse. “Collateralised debt obligations,” says Michael Lewis, who has written about all three, “are impossible to describe. There’s nothing harder. However, trying to show a reader how a market moves? How stock prices move? You can already see them tuning out.”

That was the concern when he wrote Flash Boys, an investigation into what he calls the “rigged” underbelly of Wall Street trading. In the event, the book has sold a staggering 130,000 copies in the US in its first week of publication. (By comparison, The Big Short, his biggest seller to date, sold 60,000 in its first week.)

Lewis has been on every talk show and financial news panel in the land, arguing with, among others, Bill O’Brien, the president of the Bats Global Markets stock exchange, about whether or not he and his cohorts are ripping off their customers. If the 53-year-old started off angry, opposition to the book has sharpened his stance into a moral crusade. “I find this story really upsetting,” he says over lunch in LA, where his publicity tour just ended. “The idea that the smartest, richest elites of society find this an acceptable activity. This predatory activity.”

If it’s emotional for Lewis, then the responses have been emotional too, given how unequivocal his accusations are. The cornerstone of Flash Boys is a discovery made by an obscure Canadian banker, Brad Katsuyama, who noticed that whenever he tried to execute a trade, the stock price moved before the order went through. A long and tortured investigation revealed that the variable speeds at which trading information travels down fibre-optic cables to the exchanges was being exploited by brokers and high-frequency traders – so-called for the volume of trades they make – to jump the queue, buy the stocks in question and sell them back at a higher price to the person who expressed the original interest.

“Someone out there was using the fact that stock market orders arrived at different times at different exchanges to front-run [orders],” writes Lewis. It was a side-effect of automated trading and a tough thing for bankers to wrap their heads around, let alone laypeople. In plain English, as a colleague of Katsuyama’s put it: “My role was to walk around and say to clients, ‘Don’t you understand you’re being fucked?’”

Continue reading at:  http://www.theguardian.com/business/2014/apr/16/michael-lewis-flash-boys-wall-street-insane

Paul Krugman: We live in the most unequal society ever, and it’s only getting worse

From Raw Story:  http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2014/04/17/paul-krugman-we-live-in-the-most-unequal-society-ever-and-its-only-getting-worse/

By Travis Gettys
Thursday, April 17, 2014

Americans may be living in the most unequal society that has ever existed, said economist Paul Krugman.

The New York Times columnist and Princeton University professor said Thursday there is zero evidence to suggest extreme inequality is good for economic growth but plenty to suggest it’s not.

“Nobody wants us to become Cuba (but) the question is, do we have to have levels of inequality that are getting close to being the highest levels anywhere, ever,” Krugman told Bloomberg News. “We’re really starting to set new records here. Is that a good thing for anybody?”

The Nobel Prize winner said this troubling trend began around 1980, when President Ronald Reagan was elected and began implementing supply-side economic policies that promised more wealth for everyone if tax burdens were lifted for the rich.

“The fact of the matter is, since inequality began soaring, around 1980, the bottom half of America has pretty much been left behind,” Krugman said. “There has not been a rising tide that raised all boats.”

But he said American political leadership had throughout history set corrective paths whenever wealth became too unbalanced.

“If we could have modern politicians speaking forthrightly about the danger of high concentration of wealth, as Teddy Roosevelt did in 1910, we would be a long toward a good solution for this,” Krugman said, “and I guess I believe that America has a tremendous redemptive capacity and ability to take a look and say, ‘OK, in the end, what are our ideals? What do we want our society to look like?’”

Continue reading at:  http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2014/04/17/paul-krugman-we-live-in-the-most-unequal-society-ever-and-its-only-getting-worse/

Why Economist Thomas Piketty Has Scared the Pants Off the American Right

From Alternet:  http://www.alternet.org/economy/why-economist-thomas-piketty-has-scared-pants-american-right

If you call rigorous economic research on inequality a Communist plot, will it go away?

By Lynn Stuart Parramore
April 21, 2014

Thomas Piketty is no radical. His 700-page book Capital in the 21st Century is certainly not some kind of screed filled with calls for class warfare. In fact, the wonky and mild-mannered French economist opens his tome with a description of his typical Gen X abhorrence of what he calls the “lazy rhetoric of anticapitalism.” He is in no way, shape, or form a Marxist. As fellow-economist James K. Galbraith has underscored in his review of the book, Piketty “explicitly (and rather caustically) rejects the Marxist view” of economics.

But he does do something that gives right-wingers in America the willies. He writes calmly and reasonably about economic inequality, and concludes, to the alarm of conservatives, that there is no magical force that drives capitalist societies toward shared prosperity. Quite the opposite. He warns that if we don’t do something about it, we may end up with a society that is more top-heavy than anything that has come before — something even worse than the Gilded Age.

For this, in America, you get branded a crazed Communist by the right. In this past weekend’s New York Times, Ross Douthat sounds the alarm in an op-ed ominously tited ” Marx Rises Again.” The columnist hints that he and his fellow pundits have only pretended to read the book but nevertheless feel comfortable making statements like “Yes, that’s right: Karl Marx is back from the dead” about Piketty. The National Review‘s James Pethokoukis joins in the games with a silly article called ” The New Marxism” in which he repeats the nonsense that Piketty is some sort of Marxist apologist.

For Douthat and his tribe, the proposition that unfettered capitalism marches toward gross inequality is not a conclusion based on carefully collected data, strenuous research and a sweeping view of history. It has to be a Communist plot.

The very heft of Piketty’s book is terrifying to the Douthats, and no wonder they don’t dare to read it, because if they did, they would find chart after chart, data set after data set, and hundreds of years worth of economic history scrutinized.

Income and wealth inequality have not been comprehensively studied to date, which has to do with the paucity of historical data and the difficulties of making comparisons between countries and populations when there are so many variables. Piketty’s contribution is to painstakingly comb over the available data and illuminate trends that would leave no reasonable person in doubt of the fact that capitalism’s inherent dynamics create inequality, and that only our express intervention, in the form of things like a global wealth tax, investment in skills and training, and the diffusion of knowledge can lead us to a different outcome.

Continue reading at:  http://www.alternet.org/economy/why-economist-thomas-piketty-has-scared-pants-american-right

The 1% wants to ban sleeping in cars – because it hurts their ‘quality of life’

From The Guardian UK:  http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/apr/15/ban-sleeping-in-cars-homeless-silicon-valley

Depriving the homeless of their last shelter is Silicon Valley at its worst – especially when rich cities aren’t doing anything to end homelessness


theguardian.com, Tuesday 15 April 2014

Across the United States, many local governments are responding to skyrocketing levels of inequality and the now decades-long crisis of homelessness among the very poor … by passing laws making it a crime to sleep in a parked car.

This happened most recently in Palo Alto, in California’s Silicon Valley, where new billionaires are seemingly minted every month – and where 92% of homeless people lack shelter of any kind. Dozens of cities have passed similar anti-homeless laws. The largest of them is Los Angeles, the longtime unofficial “homeless capital of America”, where lawyers are currently defending a similar vehicle-sleeping law before a skeptical federal appellate court. Laws against sleeping on sidewalks or in cars are called “quality of life” laws. But they certainly don’t protect the quality of life of the poor.

To be sure, people living in cars cannot be the best neighbors. Some people are able to acquire old and ugly – but still functioning – recreational vehicles with bathrooms; others do the best they can. These same cities have resisted efforts to provide more public toilet facilities, often on the grounds that this will make their city a “magnet” for homeless people from other cities. As a result, anti-homeless ordinances often spread to adjacent cities, leaving entire regions without public facilities of any kind.

Their hope, of course, is that homeless people will go elsewhere, despite the fact that the great majority of homeless people are trying to survive in the same communities in which they were last housed – and where they still maintain connections. Americans sleeping in their own cars literally have nowhere to go.

Indeed, nearly all homelessness in the US begins with a loss of income and an eviction for nonpayment of rent – a rent set entirely by market forces. The waiting lists are years long for the tiny fraction of housing with government subsidies. And rents have risen dramatically in the past two years, in part because long-time tenants must now compete with the millions of former homeowners who lost their homes in the Great Recession.

Continue reading at:  http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/apr/15/ban-sleeping-in-cars-homeless-silicon-valley

Transgender Icon Jayne County Banned From Facebook For “Transphobia”

The Koch brothers are going after solar panels

The King has spoken.  Is it time to over throw the oligarchs yet?

From Salon: http://www.salon.com/2014/04/21/the_koch_brothers_are_going_after_solar_panels/

The Oligarch solar blowback has arrived in full force

Homeowners and businesses that wish to generate their own cheap, renewable energy now have a force of conservative political might to contend with, and the Koch brothers are leading the charge. The L.A. Times, to its credit, found the positive spin to put on this: Little old solar “has now grown big enough to have enemies.”

The escalating battle centers over two ways traditional utilities have found to counter the rapidly growing solar market: demanding a share of the power generated by renewables and opposing net metering, which allows solar panel users to sell the extra electricity they generate back to the grid — and without which solar might no longer be affordable. The Times reports on the conservative heavyweights making a fossil fuel-powered effort to make those things happen:

The Koch brothers, anti-tax activist Grover Norquist and some of the nation’s largest power companies have backed efforts in recent months to roll back state policies that favor green energy. The conservative luminaries have pushed campaigns in Kansas, North Carolina and Arizona, with the battle rapidly spreading to other states.

…The American Legislative Exchange Council, or ALEC, a membership group for conservative state lawmakers, recently drafted model legislation that targeted net metering. The group also helped launch efforts by conservative lawmakers in more than half a dozen states to repeal green energy mandates.

“State governments are starting to wake up,” Christine Harbin Hanson, a spokeswoman for Americans for Prosperity, the advocacy group backed by billionaire industrialists Charles and David Koch, said in an email. The organization has led the effort to overturn the mandate in Kansas, which requires that 20% of the state’s electricity come from renewable sources.

“These green energy mandates are bad policy,” said Hanson, adding that the group was hopeful Kansas would be the first of many dominoes to fall.

The group’s campaign in that state compared the green energy mandate to Obamacare, featuring ominous images of Kathleen Sebelius, the outgoing secretary of Health and Human Services, who was Kansas’ governor when the state adopted the requirement.

Continue reading at:  http://www.salon.com/2014/04/21/the_koch_brothers_are_going_after_solar_panels/

Rubin Hurricane Carter 05/06/1937 – 04/20/2014

Friday Night Fun and Culture: Gogol Bordello

Eviscerate a trans woman if you are a trans woman

By Radha Smith
April 18, 2014

Reposted with permission

I’ve been reading the latest “eviscerate a trans woman if you are a trans woman” battles. Mostly at advocate . com, but also through boing boing and Huffpo and a person called Zinnia’s petition.

It’s so hilarious in a rather sad and demented way. It puts me in mind of the battles in the 90s at Usenet and the bulletin boards of the early Aughts where a couple of the participants ran one, or contributed regularly to one.

Seems like about every ten years the same ole, same ole breaks out and through magazines, alternative newspapers or on the webz folks rise up and condemn and make fun of the views and experiences of the generation before them.

Trans female generations seem to be about ten years as those who come on appear to have almost no relation to those who went before. A lot of that prolly has to do with the historical fact that once you did your bidniz and sucked all the knowledge, sympathy and advice you could and saved up and had surgery/ies you moved on, thanking the universe that you no longer needed to deal with that anymore. I understand that.

But, along about the mid 90s that started to change. A few women wanted to maintain connection with something they started calling “the Community.” By the early Aughts there were lots of women who saw no need to be in stealth, or hidden as ever having been trans at all, anymore. They would have fights on those bulletin boards with those who were hidden about how “all transwomen” should act on that matter.

Now an even younger group has started pushing their elders. Thus, we have this developing battle that appears to demand to some degree that once more we all divide into a side, pull out huge machetes and begin hacking at one another in a rather gruesome and bloody fashion.

What fun! But, no thanks. I haven’t any desire to demean other people, question their way of making a living, or demand that people say nice things about me and not use words I say are slurs, while I am writing tone-deaf libels and generally nasty slurs about others. Seems like a free-for-all that I’d rather not enter.

Ya know, I think there may be a reason, Monica Roberts, why trans women of color are beginning to be the most visible and admirable trans women on the block. Ain’t seen a one of them carrying and using a machete on anyone. Least of all on one another.

This bs don’t win no one nuthin. But, in Murica it seems to take a lot of time to make history. Goddess knows, we like to slog through the same crap time and time again. Maybe we should honor Cristan Williams, by studying what she has to write rather than just naming her to a hundred person list. Especially if I’ve been named on that list at some point myself.

Or, I suppose we could just eviscerate each other while we wait for the haters to come and eviscerate us all, with real steel.

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