Wednesday, February 1, 2012

End of This Blog

I have just discovered that Google has quietly enabled "per country" censorship of blog posts on this Blogger service. Therefore, I have stopped all blogging. I will not be part of Google's compliance with dictatorships and the suppression of human rights.

From Wired magazine:
Google to Censor Blogger Blogs on a ‘Per Country Basis’

By David Kravets January 31, 2012

Google has quietly announced changes to its Blogger free-blogging platform that will enable the blocking of content only in countries where censorship is required.

Twitter announced technology last week addressing the same topic. It said it had acquired the ability to censor tweets in the countries only where it was ordered removed, instead of on an internet-wide basis.

Twitter’s announcement via its blog sparked a huge online backlash. The microblogging service was accused of becoming a censoring agent.

Yet Google’s announcement three weeks ago — buried in a Blogger help page — went unnoticed until it was highlighted by TechDows on Tuesday.
This censorship by Google puts the lie to its supposed corporate code of conduct of "Don't be evil".

In fact Google is just another greedy corporation that blows smoke about social concerns and "putting the customer first" when in reality their only bottom line is corporate greed.

I'm disillusioned. I foolishly believed that ethical corporations can be run with a mandate to service three critical stakeholders: their shareholders, their workers, and the broader community that provides the matrix (the legal infrastructure, the transportation infrastructure, the educational infrastructure, the energy infrastructure, etc.) which makes capitalism possible.

But Google has proved that my idealism is poorly supported by facts on the ground. Instead, greed and evil is endemic in capitalism and Google has shown itself to be just another greedy corrupt and evil corporation.


Selling Social Darwinism

Robert Reich has a blog that is well worth following. He is a knowledgeable person with the facts and the social empathy to present an honest account of the situation that the 99% find themselves in.

Here is his latest post:
The Republican Myth of Obama's "Entitlement Society"

One of the few things Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich agree on is that President Obama is turning America into “European-style welfare culture.”

In his standard stump speech Romney charges Obama with creating a nation of dependents. “Over the past three years Barack Obama has been replacing our merit-based society with an entitlement society.”

Gingrich calls Obama “the best food-stamp president in American history.”

What’s their evidence? Both rely on federal budget data showing direct payments to individuals shot up by almost $600 billion, a 32 percent increase, since the start of 2009.

They also point to Census data showing that 49 percent of Americans now live in homes where at least one person is collecting a federal benefit – Social Security, food stamps, unemployment insurance, worker’s compensation, or subsidized housing. That’s up from 44 percent in 2008.

Finally, they trumpet Social Security Administration figures showing that the number of people on Social Security disability jumped 10 percent in Obama’s first two years in office.

They argue our economic problems stem from this sharp rise in “dependency.” Get rid of these benefits and people will work harder.

They have cause and effect backwards. The reason for the rise in food stamps, unemployment insurance, and other safety-net programs is Americans got clobbered in 2008 with the worst economic catastrophe since the Great Depression. They and their families have needed whatever helping hands they could get.

If anything, America’s safety nets have been too small and shot through with holes. That’s why the number and percentage of Americans in poverty has increased dramatically over the past three years, including over a third of families with young children.

One scandal, for example, is that only 40 percent of the unemployed qualify for unemployment benefits because they weren’t working full time or long enough on a single job before they were canned. The unemployment system doesn’t take account of the fact that a large portion of the workforce typically works part time on several jobs, and moves from job to job.

Republicans also object to Obama’s health care law, which covers 30 million more Americans than were covered before. But it still leaves over 20 million without health insurance. They’ll get emergency care when they’re in dire straights — hospitals won’t refuse them — but we all end up paying indirectly.

Regressive Republicans pretend they’re about opportunity. In reality they’re back at what they’ve been doing for years — promoting Social Darwinism.
Go read his blog.

The manipulation of statistics to sell their Social Darwinism is utterly cynical. The political right knows that it is lying. It isn't naive. But it trusts in the big lie technique. They know that if they repeat their right wing lies long enough and through enough media, most people will assume it is true because the message is so prevalent.

I remember being incredulous when I matured and discovered that my father believed that if something was printed it had to be true. In his mind, nobody would go to the expense of printing something unless it was true. I could never change his mind. He proved to me just how effective a propaganda campaign could be. He lived a life believing falsehoods simply because "they were printed" and I could never change his mind because my arguments were "just words" and he refused to look at the printed material I presented to him. Propaganda can be very, very effective.

Quote of the Day

Here is a snippet from the book Debt: The First 5,000 Years by David Graeber, a book with an endlessly fascinating take on money, debt, and markets over the long history of civilization:
Another way to look at this might be to say that the new age [1450-1971, the Age of Great Capitalist Empires] came to be increasingly uncomfortable with the political nature of money. Politics, after all, is the art of persuasion; the political is that dimension of social life in which things really do become true if enough people believe them. The problem is that in order to play the game effectively, one can never acknowledge this: it may be true that, if I could convince everyone in the world that I was the King of France, I would in fact become the King of France; but it would never work if I were to admit that this was the only basis of my claim. In this sense, politics is very similar to magic -- one reason both politics and magic tend, just ab out everywhere, to be surrounded by a certain halo of fraud
I highly recommend Graeber's book for an alternative analysis of money, debt, and markets. You may not agree with his analysis, but he will help you broaden your understanding through his deep understanding of anthropology/history deeply rooted in 5,000 years of human civilization.

Painting a False Reality

Here is an excellent example of how the right wing media in the US (especially Fox "News") uses its power to rant and lie to plant false ideas to manipulate the population into holding views that allow right wing politicians to mobilize the public to control elections:

If you watch the video you can see Bill O'Reilly frustrated by being caught in his lies and says in exasperation that he doesn't care what the facts are, he just "knows" that it is bad there and that this evil is coming to get America. In short, despite the facts, he continues to sell his right wing scare story. He isn't a "news" reporter. He is a propagandist selling a story to prop up a political viewpoint.

How Media Misleads

Even public media like NPR misleads the consumer of its "news". Here is an excellent example by Dean Baker in his Beat the Press blog:
NPR Editorializes Against Growth In Europe

A Morning Edition segment on the recent European Union summit was headlined, "Most EU Nations to Sign Pact to Stop Overspending." This is both flat-out wrong and misleading.

It is flat-out wrong because the pact restricts deficits, not spending. It is misleading because it implies that the current crisis was caused by overspending. It wasn't. Most of the crisis countries had declining debt to GDP ratios before the downturn and two, Spain and Ireland, were actually running budget surpluses. The problem was caused by housing bubbles and the inept management of the economy by the European Central Bank.
If the media lies, then a representative government is impossible. And that makes the constitutional requirement for a free press a waste of effort. At least a significant majority of the press must be honest enough to tell the truth. A free press can be honest or sold out. The hope of the writers of the US Constitution was that the media was so fragmented and numerous that it would be impossible to manipulate the press as a whole. But the writers of the US Constitution lived in a simpler time when the US press was more like the bloggers of today: numerous and cheap to set up. They didn't envision "big media" with wall-to-wall coverage and a practical monopoly on the public's attention.

The coming of radio made possible the horrible dictators of the 1930s. The monopolization of the media in the late 20th century made possible the overweening power of right wing politics today. It took WWII to break the power of the dictators and give back popular democracies. What will it take to break the present day monopoly of big media and the rampant right wing politics that have created?

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Looking Through Lovely Libertarian Glasses

When I was a kid the big complain was the bizarro world painted by "socialist realism". The hyped and deeply false world view sold by the commies.

Today the world is pervaded by its bizarro world version of reality, the kool-aid of Ayn Rand, that worships the individual and ignores any gummy social cohesion or social obligation. It is every man for himself in the wonder world of the political right. No mushy leftist "it takes a village to raise a child" in the libertarian worldview.

Here is a bit from a NY Times op-ed by Paul Krugman that shows the application of this libertarian "individualist realism" to politics in the US:
Mr. Daniels first berated the president for his “constant disparagement of people in business,” which happens to be a complete fabrication. Mr. Obama has never done anything of the sort. He went on: “The late Steve Jobs — what a fitting name he had — created more of them than all those stimulus dollars the president borrowed and blew.”


A big report in The Times last Sunday laid out the facts. Although Apple is now America’s biggest U.S. corporation as measured by market value, it employs only 43,000 people in the United States, a tenth as many as General Motors employed when it was the largest American firm.

Apple does, however, indirectly employ around 700,000 people in its various suppliers. Unfortunately, almost none of those people are in America.


Germany remains a highly successful exporter even with workers who cost, on average, $44 an hour — much more than the average cost of American workers. And this success has a lot to do with the support its small and medium-sized companies — the famed Mittelstand — provide to each other via shared suppliers and the maintenance of a skilled work force.

The point is that successful companies — or, at any rate, companies that make a large contribution to a nation’s economy — don’t exist in isolation. Prosperity depends on the synergy between companies, on the cluster, not the individual entrepreneur.

But the current Republican worldview has no room for such considerations. From the G.O.P.’s perspective, it’s all about the heroic entrepreneur, the John Galt, I mean Steve Jobs-type “job creator” who showers benefits on the rest of us and who must, of course, be rewarded with tax rates lower than those paid by many middle-class workers.


So we should be grateful to Mr. Daniels for his remarks Tuesday. He got his facts wrong, but he did, unintentionally, manage to highlight an important philosophical difference between the parties. One side believes that economies succeed solely thanks to heroic entrepreneurs; the other has nothing against entrepreneurs, but believes that entrepreneurs need a supportive environment, and that sometimes government has to help create or sustain that supportive environment.

And the view that it takes more than business heroes is the one that fits the facts.
For some reason most people want a cartoon cut-out version of reality. They want a simplified story that consoles them with a happy ending. The real world, just like Nature, is totally indifferent to humans, their aspirations, their needs, or their ideological fantasies. The real world is "red in tooth and claw" because it is so different from the normal human social world of cooperation and empathy. Humans have the ability to create a safe harbour from the cruelties of the world. Sadly, right wing nuts want to destroy the paradise and replace it with a fantasy of "the big man" who creates and destroys for his own pleasure with indifference to others. That is a cruel reality that is offered up by the libertarians as a "better future". Nuts!

Monday, January 30, 2012

Neville Chamberlain, the Hero

You would think in 70 years the world would "progress" and leaders would have incorporated the lessons of the past and we would have a better world.

But, as Brad DeLong points out, despite Chamberlain's horrible appeasement policy with Hitler, he did get one thing right which leaders today in the UK have got horribly wrong:
Neville Chamberlain is remembered today as the British prime minister who, as an avatar of appeasement of Nazi Germany in the late 1930’s, helped to usher Europe into World War II. But, earlier in that fateful decade, relatively soon after the start of the Great Depression, the British economy was rapidly returning to its previous level of output, thanks to Chancellor of the Exchequer Neville Chamberlain’s reliance on fiscal stimulus to restore the price level to its pre-depression trajectory.

Compare that approach to the expansion-through-austerity policy being pursued nowadays by British Prime Minister David Cameron’s government (with Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne leading the cheering squad). The country’s real GDP has flat-lined, and the odds are high that British real GDP is headed down again.

Indeed, in less than a year, if current forecasts are correct, Britain’s Cameron-Osborne Depression will not merely be the worst depression in Britain since the Great Depression, but probably the worst depression in Britain…ever.