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LIVE STREAM: Thomas Piketty — Is Inequality Inevitable?

By: Elliott Thursday March 1, 2012 9:30 am

Thomas Piketty’s new book Capital in the Twenty-First Century will be the Sunday May 11 Book Salon here at FDL, but tonight he’s with economists Paul Krugman, Steven Durlauf and Joseph Stiglitz.

Watch live streaming video from cunytv2 at livestream.com

In a review, Krugman, who will appear on Moyers & Company this week, calls the book “magnificent” in part because it will “change both the way we think about society and the way we do economics,” adding that the French economist’s influence “runs deep.”

“The big idea of Capital in the Twenty-First Century is that we haven’t just gone back to nineteenth-century levels of income inequality, we’re also on a path back to ‘patrimonial capitalism,’ in which the commanding heights of the economy are controlled not by talented individuals but by family dynasties.”

Picketty’s book’s been quite the topic around the blogosphere of late and here is a chance to hear from the man directly – that is if you can get past the horror that he’s French.

Thanks to Bill Moyers for the live stream. (As noted, Moyers interviews Krugman for his show this week, so look for that).

NY Times vs RT at Kramatorsk: Mob of militants or local citizens?

By: fairleft Saturday April 23, 2011 7:27 am
Three soldiers guard a cement roadblock.

What’s happening in Ukraine? Depends on which reporters you ask.

New York Times: ”Ukraine Military Clashes With Pro-Russia Militants in East

RT: “Those who don’t lay arms, will be destroyed – Ukrainian military op commander

The Ukraine military finally swung into action and took over a military airbase in eastern Ukraine near Kramatorsk. RT chose to emphasize a statement by the general leading the operation:

A Ukrainian general leading the operation against protesters in the east of the country has warned that activists who refuse to lay down their arms will be ‘destroyed.’

‘They must be warned that if they do not lay down their arms, they will be destroyed,’ General Vasily Krutov, first deputy head of the Ukrainian Security Service (SBU) told reporters, as cited by AFP.

While NYT preferred a more traditional gung ho “storming” lead:

The Ukrainian military stormed an airport 25 miles north of this city on Tuesday, beginning what the president called a military operation to confront pro-Russian militants in the eastern part of the country.

RT: “protesters,” “activists”
NYT: “pro-Russian militants”

Both publications also reported on a confrontation between Krutov and a crowd at the base:

NYT:

At length the commander of the Ukranian operation, Gen. Vasily Krutov, approached the crowd of about 500 gathered behind a barbed wire fence to urge the militants to disperse, to little or no effect. As he was walking away he was roughed up, people in the crowd said, shoved hard enough that his hat fell off.

The situation, described by local reporters as a ‘mob scene,’ persisted throughout the afternoon …

RT:

On Tuesday evening, Krutov, who personally supervised the operation in Kramatorsk, appeared before local residents gathered on the airfield. According to RIA Novosti, the SBU [Ukrainian Security Service] official attempted to explain to them that the military had arrived at the site to protect them from ‘terrorists.’ However, the crowd responded shouting they were ‘peaceful citizens.’ The activists then pushed Krutov several times, but were stopped by special forces troops who fired warning shots into the air.

NYT: It’s a “mob scene,” and Krutov simply wants “militants” to disperse, but is “roughed up” and victimized, shoved so hard “his hat fell off.” The reporter reports all of this second-hand, he apparently wasn’t there.
RT: Tells what the crowd said, that they are “peaceful citizens” and not “terrorists.” Apparently a first-hand account.

RT:

According to activists, four people were killed and two others injured on Tuesday as troops seized an airfield in the city of Kramatorsk, which had earlier been controlled by protesters.

NYT:

Russian news media, citing members of the armed opposition to Kiev, reported that several members of a pro-Russian militia had been injured at the airfield in firefights with the Ukrainian military. Later, Russian news media reported four fatalities in the vicinity of the airport.

RT: Straightforward: says four people were killed and two injured, “according to activists.”

NYT: Buries the lead (four people allegedly killed), and apparently the reporter decided not to ask at the scene about deaths and injuries. Instead he chose to watch or read the Russian news media (that most NYT readers, he knows, will consider unreliable), which cited “members of the armed opposition to Kiev.”

Same As It Ever Was: War, Peace, Wall Street, and the Smothers Brothers

By: Kit OConnell Wednesday April 16, 2014 1:45 pm

 

The Smothers Brothers dressed in Roman outfits as centurion and statesman

The Smothers Brothers. The work of the best jesters is timeless.

Firedoglake’s Elliott recently reminded me of the immortal humor of the Smothers Brothers. Though this duo are before my time, their humor resonates today in political satirists and jesters like Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert. From a lengthy discussion between David Bianculli, well known media critic and author of Dangerously Funny: The Uncensored Story of the Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour, and Fresh Air’s Terry Gross:

I think that it’s most visible right now in places like Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert and Saturday Night Live and Bill Maher. All of them are outside of prime time, but they’re all sort of doing elements of what the Smothers Brothers did.

Stephen Colbert tried very briefly to throw himself into the presidential race, just as Pat Paulsen had. A lot of Jon Stewart’s humor is very much what the Smothers was, and he admits that they were a very strong influence. Bill Maher says the Smothers were a very strong influence. And Saturday Night Live I sort of see as what the Smothers Brothers almost had the chance to become.

Their appeal was cross-generational:

GROSS: And that’s one of the things that makes the story so interesting. You know, it’s the second half of the ’60s. The youth culture has become the counter-culture. Youth culture has also become, a lot of it, the anti-war movement. The country is, like, divided, people are going wild, and television is reflecting somewhere between very little and none of that.

Mr. BIANCULLI: Yeah, it’s almost – there are so many parallels to today that it amazes me, in that now you think of red state, blue state, and we have this giant divide, and the parties are divided, and the whole country seems, you know, ideologically divided.

[...]

And the Smothers Brothers came on, and at a time when there was one television in the house, and everybody watched it; for the first couple of seasons, they pulled this amazing magic act and straddled the chasm of the generation gap. They had Kate Smith and Simon and Garfunkel on the same show. They had Mickey Rooney and The Who on the same show and appealed to both, you know, generations.

As Elliott said, “even my businessman dad liked the Smothers Brothers!”

Censored for years, they kept on satirizing. In the end their uncompromising political message drove them off the air, with CBS firing the duo and the rest of their comedy ensemble under pressure from the White House. Though the Brothers and the ACLU fought a successful legal battle in response, their careers were effectively over. A documentary, Smothered, tells the whole story — but only clips seem to be available online.

Who Goes to Jail?

Compare the lyrics of “Big Time Crime,” the video above, with this story from yesterday’s Democracy Now! In “Who Goes to Jail?“Amy Goodman interviews Matt Taibbi about his new book, The Divide.

The Climate Is Invading the Earth

By: David Swanson Wednesday May 11, 2011 1:38 pm

If an alien invader with a face were attacking the earth, the difficulties that governments have getting populations to support wars on other humans would be multiplied a thousand fold. The most common response to officials calling some petty foreign despot “a new Hitler” would shift from “yeah, right” to “who cares?” The people of the world would unite in common defense against the hostile alien.

If only it had a face. And what’s a face anyway?  Doctors can create faces now. You’d still love your loved ones if they lost their faces. And I hear there’s a movie in which a guy falls in love with his faceless computer.

The point is that there is an alien invader attacking the earth. Its name is climate change. And Uncle Sam wants YOU to fight it, as does Uncle Boris and Aunt Hannah and Cousin Juan and Brother Feng. The whole family is in agreement on this one, and we are a family now all of a sudden.

Climate change breathes fire on our land and roasts it, killing crops, drying up water supplies, breeding dangerous diseases and infestations. Climate change circles over the oceans and blows tidal waves toward our coasts. It melts the icebergs in its evil claws and sinks our beach resorts beneath the sea.

How do we fight back?  We organize quickly, as only humans can. We grab the $2 trillion that we spend on wars among ourselves each year, plus a few trillion more from some multi-billionaires who suddenly realize they don’t have another planet to spend it on. We start coating the rooftops with solar panels, aimed right at the face of the monster. We put up windmills that will turn his nasty breath against himself.

And we hit him where it really hurts, we cut off his supplies with crippling sanctions: we stop buying and making and consuming and discarding such incredible piles of crap every day. Consumerism becomes rapidly understood as planetary treason, support for the Evil One. We put a stop to its worst excesses and begin reining it in systematically — working together as we never have before.

Ah, but the dark lord of the heat is subtle. He has cells of loyalists among us. They push fossil fuels on us and tell us comforting lies. No longer! We will drag them before the House UnEarthly Activities Committee. “Are you now or have you ever been a promoter of oil, gas, or coal consumption?” They’ll crumble under the pressure.

Imagine how we could unite for this battle, what wits and courage and self-sacrifice we could put into it, what inspiring acts of bravery, what stunning creations of intellect!

Ah, but climate change is not a person, so forget the whole thing. Did you ever notice what a funny grin Vladimir Putin has? It’s beginning to get on my nerves.

The Importance of Polks and Pulitzers

By: Barry Eisler

These Polks and Pulitzers matter, and we should be glad when they’re awarded to people who deserve them.

Glenn Greenwald and Laura Poitras, two of the journalists whose reporting just won their organizations Pulitzers based on the Snowden revelations, have been reluctant to return to America because of various official calls for their arrest; the refusal of the Justice Department to provide any assurances that it would not arrest them; and the detention of Greenwald’s spouse David Miranda at Heathrow last August (nor are Greenwald and Poitras alone in being at risk of being arrested by their own governments for acts of journalism). But on Friday, they decided to come home to accept the prestigious George Polk Award they had won for National Security Reporting (and to dedicate the award to their source, Edward Snowden).

I was visiting my native New Jersey for a family event the day of the Polk ceremony, and managed to get a press pass so I could attend (thank you, Polk and Pulitzer winner and Rain fan Bart Gellman!). Greenwald and Poitras arrived together at JFK while the awards assembly was already in progress.  There was a phalanx of reporters and photographers waiting for them in the lobby of Roosevelt Hotel, where the awards were being presented, and outside customs at JFK. The presenters changed the order of award presentation to accommodate their schedule, saving the National Security Reporting awards for last. The whole thing was thrilling and hugely satisfying to see.

More importantly, it was exceptionally widely watched. And this is what I want to talk about here.

Of course I’m just speculating, but I imagine Greenwald and Poitras decided that if they timed their return to coincide with their acceptance of their award, they could make it maximally difficult for the government to do anything excessively vindictive and heavy-handed. It’s not just the sound bite the government would bee up against — “Two Polk Award Winners Arrested En Route to Receiving Journalism Award.” It was the massive attention focused on their return. All those photographers, at JFK and at the Roosevelt.  All those intrepid fellow award-winning journalists, and dozens more covering the event in the gallery and at the press conference afterward.  If the government had tried to move against Greenwald and Poitras just then, it would have faced a remarkable amount of real-time scrutiny. Or, to put it another way, there was never going to be a worse time for the government to act than during the half-day window of exceptional focus and watchfulness the Polk ceremony created.

Why does this matter? Because it suggests that whatever you might think of the substantive value of this or that award (and it’s true that with Tom Friedman using three Pulitzers to mangle his metaphors and Obama launching drone attacks from atop a Nobel Peace Prize, one might reasonably conclude that such awards can be handed out somewhat haphazardly), there’s no doubt the awards still garner great attention, attention that can act as a check on unconstitutional governmental vindictiveness.

For this reason, I was hugely disappointed that Time Magazine made the safe pick of Pope Francis for its Person of the Year, relegating Edward Snowden to #2. Pope Francis isn’t at risk of arrest, disappearance, torture, and murder. Snowden most certainly is.

For this reason, too, I’m pleased that Snowden has been nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize. When I tweeted about this back in January, I was surprised at how many people, citing Nobel Laureate Obama among others, responded along the lines of “The Nobel Prize doesn’t mean anything.” Look, maybe you yourself are not impressed by prizes like the Nobel, but if you care about Edward Snowden (along with journalists and other whistleblowers) and appreciate the sacrifices he’s made for freedom and democracy all over the world, wouldn’t you want to make it more difficult for the government to arrest or mistreat him or worse? And if you do want to make such things more difficult, don’t you see that “US Government Arrests Nobel Peace Prize Winner Snowden” would at least to some extent serve that objective?

I think there are two general reasons people reflexively display their cynicism in the face of awards. One is what NYU journalism professor Jay Rosen calls “The Church of the Savvy,” which consumers of establishment media pick up by osmosis and then begin to ape. The other is an odd form of narcissism, because after all, if an award doesn’t matter to me, then it shouldn’t matter at all.

All of which is weird, when you stop to think about it.  Maybe you don’t care about the Academy Awards, but that doesn’t mean winning one doesn’t enhance an actor’s star power, increase her earning potential, and broaden the scope of roles she’ll be offered. Similarly, whatever else you might think of journalism awards, they can make it harder for the government to interfere with journalists exercising their First Amendment rights, or to throw whistleblowers in prison for espionage.

So those Polks and Pulitzers matter, and we should be glad when they’re awarded to people who deserve them. And here’s hoping the Nobel committee does the right thing in October, and gives Snowden some more of the recognition he deserves and some more of the the protection he needs.

P.S.  Thomas Friedman is so ridiculous and pernicious that I couldn’t possibly link to all the wonderful articles hilariously deconstructing and parodying his unique brand of destructive navel gazing. But here are a few.

No Kidding: The Most Incoherent Tom Friedman Column Ever
Flat N All That: Matt Taibbi Eviscerates Thomas Friedman’s “Hot, Flat, and Crowded”
Come Up With the Ultimate Thomas Friedman Porn Title
Surprise Winner in Thomas Friedman Porn-Title Contest
The Definitive Collection of Thomas Friedman Takedowns

Most especially, see the Friedman chapter in Barrett Brown’s marvelous book Keep Rootin’ for Putin — and contribute to Barrett’s defense fund, too.

Over Easy: Conflict Minerals

By: Crane-Station Wednesday April 16, 2014 3:47 am

On Monday, the US Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia issued a ruling in National Association Of Manufacturers, Et Al.,v. Securities And Exchange Commission(SEC). Citing freedom of speech, the court ruled that companies cannot be compelled to disclose whether the minerals they use to manufacture their products came from “conflict mineral” areas.

Conflict minerals involve tin, tantalum, tungsten and gold, and are often associated with electronics devices, or the Information Technology (IT) industry. The term refers to minerals that are mined in the remote eastern Congo region of Africa, in unregulated mines under conditions of armed conflict and human rights abuses. Warlords obtain and profit from the minerals utilizing rape, child labor, child soldiers, extortion and other business methods that are legendary for human exploitation, including slavery, torture and murder by starvation. In addition, the real profiteers of the literal gold mine do not live in the Congo. Rather, many of them live here.

Congress responded in 2010 to the human rights catastrophe with the Dodd-Frank Consumer Protection Act, requiring the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to initiate regulations compelling companies to disclose whether or not the minerals originated from a conflict-free area. The SEC Conflict Minerals Rule was set to require manufacturers to disclose conflict mineral information on their websites and file a report with the SEC with full compliance this year.

The manufacturers responded by suing the SEC in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia claiming that their first amendment right to freedom of expression is violated by a rule that compels them to disclose unfavorable information that might hurt their bottom line. The district court rejected their argument and granted summary judgment for the SEC and the ACLU. The Manufacturer’s Association appealed to the US Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia.

The Court writes (at page 20):

Products and minerals do not fight conflicts. The label ‘conflict free’ is a metaphor that conveys moral responsibility for the Congo war. It requires an issuer to tell consumers that its products are ethically tainted, even if they only indirectly finance armed groups. An issuer, including an issuer who condemns the atrocities of the Congo war in the strongest terms, may disagree with that assessment of its moral responsibility. And it may convey that ‘message’ through ‘silence.’ See Hurley, 515 U.S. at 573. By compelling an issuer to confess blood on its hands, the statute interferes with that exercise of the freedom of speech under the First Amendment.
See id.

Hogwash! Silence is not disclosure. Up is not down. The First Amendment protects our freedom to express our opinions and it protects the freedom of the press so that we have the necessary information to form evidence based opinions and vote intelligently. In other words, the First Amendment protects the public’s right to know. It was never intended to protect silence.

The Fifth Amendment protects silence. A person cannot be compelled to testify against himself in a criminal case. It does not protect a corporation like a tobacco company from disclosing that cigarettes are harmful to health and may cause cancer. Likewise, since a company’s decisions about sourcing in its supply chain can impact the funding of conflict, it must be able to make informed choices about conflict minerals in its supply. Furthermore, “conflict free” is not a metaphor. It is a yes or a no to a question.

Our right to know is what this case is about. We have a right to know if products we buy are available for purchase as a result of outlaws, thieves, murderers-for-hire, rapists and butchers specializing in human rights violations conducting their business.

That said, it is likely that the SEC will seek an en banc review in this case, as the ruling issued on Monday was not unanimous. One of the justices held back, pending the outcome of en banc review in a similar case that has to do with disclosure in meat labeling.

Amazingly enough, today is Emancipation Day, a holiday in Washington DC to mark the anniversary of the signing of the Compensated Emancipation Act, which president Abraham Lincoln signed on April 16, 1862.

Related:

Conflict-free smelters and refiners

Electronic Industry Citizenship Coalition -EICC – Extractives and Conflict Minerals Resources

Unrelated:

The Decorah Eagles Live Cam

Tuesday Watercooler

By: Kit OConnell Tuesday April 15, 2014 8:15 pm

 

A jar of medical grade Purple Diesel cannabis

Medical cannabis for prisoners … and cocaine addicts in Uruguay.

Tonight’s video is “Why is ketchup so hard to pour?” from TED-Ed.

Ever go to pour ketchup on your fries…and nothing comes out? Or the opposite happens, and your plate is suddenly swimming in a sea of red? George Zaidan describes the physics behind this frustrating phenomenon, explaining how ketchup and other non-Newtonian fluids can suddenly transition from solid to liquid and back again.

Being able to refer to ketchup as a non-Newtonian fluid sounds like it could be fun conversation at the right parties.

We’ve covered Uruguay’s efforts to legalize cannabis frequently here on Firedoglake. A recent tidbit via Mint Press News: prisoners in Uruguay will be able to get medical marijuana with a prescription. Not only that, they might use cannabis to treat cocaine addiction, rather than sending addicts to jail! Via Huffington Post:

‘Jail is not a very suitable place for someone to safely overcome drug addiction,’ Leonel Briozzo, the country’s undersecretary for public health, said in an event at the U.N. Briozzo called for ‘new strategies for drug addiction treatment, especially for harder drugs like “pasta base.” And in that sense, we harbor a possible hope that medical marijuana can play a role in this as well.’

‘Pasta base’ — also known as ‘paco’ — is cocaine base paste, a byproduct of the cocaine refining process. The cheap drug swept through Uruguay and neighboring Argentina during the 2000s, leaving public health officials struggling to control its fallout.

Research on medical marijuana’s efficacy in treating addiction to other, ‘hard’ drugs like pasta base appears limited. But other countries, such as Colombia, have begun considering projects seeking to use marijuana to treat addicts.

‘The idea isn’t that marijuana will substitute for what is obviously a much harder and more dangerous drug, but that marijuana can help reduce the anxieties when you go off that drug,’ said Coletta Youngers, an associate at the International Drug Policy Consortium.

Bonus: Our Rad Justice System,” a comic from Matt Bors.

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Den Plirono Delegation from Athens Visits Barcelona

By: GREYDOG
Den Plirono members holding a banner

Vassilis Papadopoulos, Linda Ross (aka greydogg) and Theodosis Temzelidis

Posted by greydogg, 99GetSmart

A delegation from the Den Plirono (“I Won’t Pay”) Movement in Greece met Friday, April 4, 2014, in Barcelona with Linda Ross and other activist comrades to deepen relations between the civil disobedience movements of the two countries.

Vassilis Papadopoulos, president of the Movement, and Theodossis Temzelidis, member of the political secretariat of the Movement, represented Den Plirono in Barcelona.

Linda Ross is a well-known activist who has supported the Den Plirono Movement in many ways and is now living in Barcelona.

During the meeting, they exchanged experiences between the movements of the two countries and laid the foundations for the further deepening of relations. 

The delegation of the Movement will meet with other political forces in the region.

Greece and Spain are in the midst of the storm of the capitalist crisis. Common problems include the closing of stores in Barcelona as in Athens and in other cities of the two countries.

The solution to the problems of 99% of the people can be found in the common struggle of the peoples of Europe and the overthrow of the system of exploitation through the assertion of human rights.

The people united will never be defeated.

Den Plirono movement: