Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Battle over Austerity Collapses French Government

So much for the 'Hopey Changey' President of France. Voters in France are just as stupid as American voters. This is the clearest display yet that with austerity the political class is post democratic in its alliance with finance capital.

Common Dreams:
"The upheaval marks the second time in less than five months that Hollande has orchestrated a shake-up of the French cabinet and comes amid rising opposition to the austerity policies of the president, whose approval rating has plummeted to 17 percent."

Saturday, August 16, 2014

America as a Horror Show

"The horror show is we are going to be slaves to profit. Some of us are going to be higher on the pyramid and we’ll count ourselves lucky and many, many more will be marginalized and destroyed” - David Simon, journalist and creator of the TV series The Wire, in an interview with Bill Moyers

A Subject Whose Time Has Finally Come

After the events surrounding the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri this past week, read Mike Harwood in Tom Dispatch on the militarization of the police.

Art imitates life in Tom Tomorrow's Strip: Officer Friendly

Is the creative class ruining urban communities?

[In London:] "We've got lots of new bars ... but those who were born and bred here simply can't afford to live here anymore."
"those doing the gentrifying are fond of elaborate facial hair, artisanal food and retro kitsch."

For Dalston and Shoreditch in London, read Williamsburg in New York, Kreuzberg in Berlin, Mission District in San Francisco, Preston in Melbourne and many other formerly working class neighborhoods in cities around the world (with broad regional differences).
According to Loretta Lees, professor of human geography at the University of Leicester, what has happened follows a well worn pattern of urban development.
Creative, young, artistic types are enticed to move into an area by low rents or through encouragement from local councils. As time passes, more people move in attracted by what they see as the aspirational, cool vibe, hoping to become a part of this fabric themselves.
This influx brings in higher earning individuals and increases the local tax base which can lead to improved public services. But it also pushes up the cost of rent, goods and services in the area and eventually house prices too.
While this may be no bad thing for the new arrivals who can largely afford it, many of those who have lived in the area for generations can be priced out.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

New Drugs and the Inefficiency of the Patent System

BEAT THE PRESS: "Once an effective treatment for Hepatitis C has been developed, there is little medical benefit in having a second or third effective treatment. The resources to develop these alternatives to Sovaldi could have been much better utilized researching treatments for diseases which do not presently have a cure. However the incentives provided by the massive patent rents being earned by Gilead Sciences (the patent holder for Sovaldi) give a huge incentive to other companies to carry through duplicative research. If anyone cared about efficiency in the health care system this point would be widely publicized."

Dean Baker - Inflation Hawks: The Job Killers at the Fed

"...This is the situation we face today. Many in the financial industry couldn’t care less about unemployment. They don’t want to risk any inflation that could erode the value of their wealth. Their voices are being heard at the top levels of the Fed. It is essential that the broader public get involved in this debate as well." ~Dean Baker

In other news: "You're just numb."

'"You're just numb," said Roemer Saturday as she surveyed the scene of devastation in her once perfect closet, "How can this happen? I live in a gated community with all this protection?" she said.'

Monday, July 28, 2014

Kiev Destroys Evidence at MH-17 Crash Site

De Telegraaf (link in Dutch): Ukraine Army is to gain control of MH-17 crash scene and obliterate evidence of Kiev's involvement.

Was this part of the plan? To set up Russia as the Evil One, I'm sure, with USA approval. The tragedy is that those wonderful people who lost their lives on MH17 have become geopolitical pawns.

Even Jaap van Deurzen, RTL-reporter, has to acknowledge Kiev's efforts to destroy evidence now...(Link in Dutch),

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

A Story Poem

Here's story poem by Louie Clay, founder of Integrity, a writer and teacher from Alabama, who I've had the privilege to meet on several occasions.
Read the story. It's about youth, fathers and sons, mentoring, tolerance, and respect. But mostly it's about Respect. I still think America's best writers are from the South. Louie's story has a Southern Feel, in the vein of Eudora Welty's short stories and Truman Capote's stories of his youth. Please read it.

 Going Fishing

"Mister Crier wants to take you fishing,"
Dad said, but I knew better than to say I'd go.
"He's living with a woman and they're not married,
and he swears a lot," I pouted.
As a Baptist 8-year-old in Alabama in 1944
I guessed those facts would carry weight for deacon Dad.

Dad said only, "You've been listening to gossips, son."

Actually on my own I'd heard Mister Crier
laughing and swearing when he and other house painters
loaded the new paint cans, brushes, and turpentine
into their old rattle-traps parked
in the alley behind Dad's hardware store.

True, I learned about the woman,
--who was really no woman, but a 16-year-old girl--
when I eavesdropped on women playing Canasta with Mother.
"And Crier's at least 40!" they'd hissed.
"Jim Crier is a good man," Dad said,
"and he puts on no airs.
When a poor widow's roof needs fixing,
Jim Crier fixes it for free,
and when he's fixed all he can afford,
he goes to other house painters and carpenters
and tells them 'It's your turn.'

"Mister Crier is a good friend to me,
I can't be a good friend back
if I insist that he try to be like me.

"He wants to be nice to you, son, and
I hope you will go fishing with him.
You will enjoy it."

I wanted to complain some more,
"Mister Crier has a beat-up old Dodge!" or
"Mister Crier lives in the last house
on the good side of town!"
but I realized I'd used up my bigger thunder,
and it had gotten me nowhere.
As a proper little sissy boy in the making,
I wondered what to do.

And I went.

Not whole-heartedly, but I went.

I liked Mister Crier's beat-up old Dodge.
It had a radio in it and ours didn't.
Mister Crier brought a huge thermos of hot chocolate,
some deviled eggs, and several kinds of sandwiches.
Maybe his girlfriend made them. I didn't ask.
I didn't really want to know.

He took me to a lake I had never seen, in a state park.
I caught several bream, and he cheered me each time.

Mister Crier didn't say much about himself
but seemed interested in what I had to say.
I probably talked forever,
especially about school and the war.

I remember little else, except Dad.
He knew that he could show me a much bigger world
without having to leave the county.

— Louie Clay

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Did Police Attack a Man on a Hospital Stretcher?

Three police officers from Brussels are under investigation following a violent incident in the Sint-Pieters Hospital in the capital. The officers including a woman PC stand accused of maltreating a man who was manacled to a stretcher.
And no doubt they're being paid while on leave during the "investigation." I've seen first hand how police wrongdoing and abuse has lead to a breach of trust in other cities where I've lived. Will the "investigation" result in an exoneration, a white wash? Too often that is the case. If not, then the police officers should publicly apologise, pay restitution to the man (not from some police slush fund), and return the Euros they "earned" while on leave.


I don't understand this selfie obsession some people have. I think they have short memories or are too young to know what used to be before this fancy technology. It's as if they've invented something new. But they haven't. Years ago people would use a timer or remote button thingie on their camera to do the same thing. Also to include themselves in a group shot. The fun part was starting the timer and rushing to get in the picture. Now everything has to be picture techperfect, even if it's crappy selfie. A friend thinks it's an antidote to lonliness. Maybe. Ever since the creation of the Daguerreotype, people wanted to have a visual record of themselves, to commemorate a time and place (I am!). Last week when my sister-in-law, my visiting Dutch cousin, and I went into the city for the day, we saw a lot of folks taking selfies - group family shots, mostly - at each of the Ground Zero memorial waterfall holes. Now everything has to be picture techperfect, even if it's crappy selfie.

Vermont Gas Continues to Exploit Ratepayers to Finance Fossil Fuel Infrastructure Expansion

Are you a Vermont Gas customer and don't want to spend $122 million to expand fossil fuel infrastructure? This pipeline is being financed by the public - current Vermont Gas ratepayers - but does not benefit the people of Vermont. Vermont Gas continues to exploit ratepayers to finance fossil fuel infrastructure expansion in the face of ever-growing economic and ecological crisis. A $35.6 million cost increase is simply unacceptable. This project is not in the public good. Tell the Public Service Board that a 40% cost increase justifies a new evaluation of the permit: sign the petition here.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Maya Angelou, R.I.P.

Still I Rise
by Maya Angelou.

You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may trod me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I’ll rise.

Does my sassiness upset you?
Why are you beset with gloom?
‘Cause I walk like I’ve got oil wells
Pumping in my living room.

Just like moons and like suns,
With the certainty of tides,
Just like hopes springing high,
Still I’ll rise.

 Did you want to see me broken?
Bowed head and lowered eyes?
Shoulders falling down like teardrops,
Weakened by my soulful cries?

Does my haughtiness offend you?
Don’t you take it awful hard
‘Cause I laugh like I’ve got gold mines
Diggin’ in my own backyard.

You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I’ll rise.

Does my sexiness upset you?
Does it come as a surprise
That I dance like I’ve got diamonds
At the meeting of my thighs?

Out of the huts of history’s shame
I rise
Up from a past that’s rooted in pain
I rise

I’m a black ocean, leaping and wide,
Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.

Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
I rise
Into a daybreak that’s wondrously clear
I rise
Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.
I rise
I rise
I rise.

Here's her obituary in the Guardian.