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  • robspierre commented on the blog post Accidentally Like A Martyr

    2013-05-17 20:24:37View | Delete

    Yes I do. But you need to learn to spell or you won’t.

  • robspierre commented on the blog post Accidentally Like A Martyr

    2013-05-17 20:23:14View | Delete

    “Manning is NOT a national hero.”

    Well, if you don’t think so, then I that we have many if any political intersts in common. So what will you expect me to say when someone stands up at my party caucus and denounces, say, a marriage-equality for muddying the platform discussion with “completely-unrelated orientation to make the … [Party]… All About Him (And Them).”? I have heard exactly that more than once in poltiical events.

    And thanks for this by the way:

    “full-blown stupid waddled in through the saloon doors and started breaking wind”

    A person’s level of discourse is always a good indication of the quality of their ideas.

  • robspierre commented on the blog post Accidentally Like A Martyr

    2013-05-17 20:15:25View | Delete

    I suppose not. But if it is a private party, rather than a public demonstration, why is it taking place in public? If it is a private use of public space, can’t the public–the majority–simply do away with it at will? Shouldn’t it do so, in order to avoid inconveniencing the many by catering to a special interest?

    And if these sorts of demonstrations are indeed in some sense private, why shouldn’t all such events be free to exclude “gate crashers”? Why shouldn’t St. Patrick’s Day and New Year’s Day parade committees be able to ban LGBT demonstrators? Their organizers have, in fact, been known to make the argument. Perhaps those of us that do not fall within the particular minority celebrated by Pride should feel free–even duty to bound–to exclude all LGBT partisans from “our” events and organizations? Perhaps the non-LGBT majorities in organizations like the Democratic and Green parties should even take steps to make sure that party platforms are not hijacked or diluted by the “Gay Agenda”? I’ve heard such arguments made.

    So be careful what you shout for. Identity politics–whether racial, sexual, or national–is essentially divisive and self-defeating. It insures that those in the minority stay there. And it insures that the majority ends up diminished and less than true to its principles.

    To give one example, marriage equality is not happening because LGBT persons are voting for it. It is happening because people can’t imagine not being allowed to marry their chosen spouses and thus can’t see why anyone else shouldn’t marry theirs.

    The politics of our time demands solidarity, not seperatism.

  • robspierre commented on the blog post Accidentally Like A Martyr

    2013-05-17 19:30:15View | Delete

    “If you want to support Bradley Manning, get your own damn parade.”

    Quite revealing. I suppose then that I should say, “get your own damn political support”? And perhaps, “the fact that you LGBT types are oppressed does not make it a working person’s, peace activist’s, progressive’s, etc’s issue”? You folks are a minority–and a small one. So maybe the Left should just ask you to get the hell out of OUR venues, events, political parties”? For that mattr, maybe you’d be happier if we should all had our own neighborhoods? Countries even?

    You’ve really shamed yourself. Peevish self-centerness and self-adulation take pride of place over justice. Dump the national hero because recognition would threaten what REALLY matters to Pride: the corporate sponsorhips and the endorsements of the big-name politicos. Corporatist divide-and-conquer has another success.

    Thankfully, it’s a small success. Your San Franciso celebration just turned petty and became a lot less important to everyone else. Go wallow in your “pride”. But the rest of us will contine to consider the rights of one and the rights of all to be the only thing worth defending.

  • The lesson in all of this has long been clear. We can no longer assume that ANY Constitutional or statutory restraints on executive power have any real-world effect. So we have to live as if we are already under totalitarian rule.

    Any person or organization that handles the confidences of others should now adopt what John le Carré’s novels call “Moscow Rules”: assume that hostile surveillance is omnipresent and that all persons and agencies are under hostile control. Encrypt your communications. Use cutouts and dead drops. Don’t gather details you don’t need and don’t keep them unless you can get rid of them easily.

    It may be that such measures are overkill. But you can no longer count on that. So casually assuming that we still live in a democracy while accepting responsibility for a whistleblower’s–or any confidant’s–secrets is criminally irresponsible.

    Welcome to “1984″.

  • robspierre commented on the blog post Politicians and Oligarchs Love the Banks and Despise People

    2013-05-05 11:19:56View | Delete

    Other than no tradeschools, probably not. But the grants would go to the college directly.

    That said, I haven’t really worked it out in detail–nor am I really competent to do so. My main point was that the priority has to be leveling the power disparity between borrower and lender and thus eliminating profiterring while keeping credit available for real economic purposes. At present, we have a de facto credit monopoly in this country that is bleeding the economy dry. It’s time for a nationalized, single-payer consumer credit system that meets basic credit needs. If we leave the banks with anything, leave them with the corporate market.

  • robspierre commented on the blog post Politicians and Oligarchs Love the Banks and Despise People

    2013-05-05 11:10:15View | Delete

    Thanks for being the Jeremiah to the Baals of our time, Massaccio.

    I agree that higher capitalization would help, if only by reducing the cas available for bonuses based on phantom, pseudo profits. But, ultimately, I am incresingly of the opinion that banks–at least as we know them–should be banned from the consumer sector altogether. There is too big a power disparity between consumer and megalender and thus banksers have disproportionate leverage over legislators and regulators. So I would take consumer credit our of the large banks’ hands entirely. They have proven they can’t be trusted with it.

    For starters, I favor a Postal Bank, as some here have suggested in the past. The postal bank would pay interest on savings and make small consumer loans at Fed rates via Post Office credit card. Everyone’s pay check would have to be automatically posted to their Postal account before going anywhere–to discourage tax cheats at least a little. Yet the Post Office could offer full account secrecy in the absence of a warrant, much as it has traditionally done for mail.

    Then I’d reserve the mortgage business for tightly regulated small, local banks and for credit unions. I’d require that they hold their mortgages themselves until maturity. Without the big banks udercutting them, I think local banks should be able to meet most of this need.

    I’d do away with student loans altogether, in favor of outright grants. In a consumer-driven economy, new graduates starting families are the last people we want running up crippling debt. So grants are a good investment in the economic future of everyone. Grants, much like universal Medicare, would, I suspect, have a major throttling effect on runaway college costs.

    Then the big banks (even if made smaller and more tightly regulated) would be left with more equal counterparties to their deals–corporations and the uberrich with all their lawyers. Of course, were I to get anywhere with a plan like the above, I have some ideas for creating a significant shortage of either group.

    Which is the real problem. How do we break the current corporate/financial stranglehold on our governmental institutions? There almost has to a vulnerability somewhere, given the startling speed of the takeover–in just a couple of decades. But I confess that I can’t see it.

  • robspierre commented on the diary post Factory Collapse in Bangladesh Shows Cracks in the System by Michelle Chen.

    2013-04-27 11:47:28View | Delete

    There’s a common thread to this with Kurt Sperry’s essay “Throw Open the Borders…” We are allowing selective globalization with corporations doing the selecting. Yes, unionization rights and labor protections are one thing that is excluded from global free trade. But so are building codes. Buildings do not just pancake. I can’t recall hearing of [...]

  • robspierre commented on the diary post Throw Open the Borders–All of Them. I’m Serious. by Kurt Sperry.

    2013-04-27 11:25:12View | Delete

    I agree. I have long said that I favor free trade–but only 100% free, including free-trade for labor. Workers need to be able to go where the skills are in demand and the wages sufficient. Once you have that, I doubt very many would even have to move if they didn’t want to–I strongly suspect [...]

  • It sometimes seems as if everyone on this issue has forgotten that the marriage defined by civil law–the one that has to be equal–and the marriage defined by churches, mosques, and synagogues are simply not the same thing. And never were in America. The AoG lawyer is just reminding his clients of that.

    It wasn’t always so. When I got married to Madame in the Roman Church long ago, our priest was very clear during rehearsal about what was what. Real marriage–in the eyes of God–was up to Madame and me. Church marriage was merely the solemnization of the real event before the Christian community. In that part, he’d preside in his capacity as an ordained priest under the authority of his bishop. Finally, after Mass, we’d have the civil ceremony–signing the marriage license before witnesses (the best man and maid of honor). He’d again preside, but this time in his capacity as a limited-duty magistrate under the authority of the State of Maine. As an obedient subject of the Pope, he probably thought that the law of the Church and the law of the State SHOULD be the same. But, as an American, he knew they weren’t, and as a Church historian, he knew that they shouldn’t and couldn’t be.

    In every state that I have lived in to date, religious leaders marry people in the faith and, merely as a one-stop-shopping convenience, serve as minor civil judges for registering marriages legally. It seems that this last function has confused some religious people and many more of their leaders, lay and religious.

    So I think the time has come to give up the convenience. Let churches marry anyone they want under their own rules. But anyone that wants to make it legal should have to go down to the courthouse, county registrar, or J.P. That way, our egalitarian legal tradition and religious freedom are not entangled and thereby compromised.

  • robspierre commented on the blog post Technological Unemployment To Hit Service Sector

    2013-03-27 21:07:35View | Delete

    Perhaps this is a Turing Test ( Is he or isn’t he? Only his programmer knows for sure (or does he?).

  • robspierre commented on the blog post Technological Unemployment To Hit Service Sector

    2013-03-27 20:33:42View | Delete

    I was thinking more along the lines of Blade Runner or Kubrick’s AI.

  • robspierre commented on the blog post Technological Unemployment To Hit Service Sector

    2013-03-27 20:19:47View | Delete

    What? You don’t think that the johns (except perhaps the sadists) won’t PREFER robotic “women”? Looks like a chick? Walks like a chick? Doesn’t think? You have a better, more charitable opinion of the one-percenter than I do.

    This thought experiment illustrates my point perfectly. The promise of robotics and computer technology is to free humans from drudgery so that they can be better, more productive, more efficient humans. But, given our current economic priorities, making inferior, perverse substitutes for humans that do human things less well is the priority. We know how to build a better file clerk and turn the erstwhile file clerk into a business analyst, programmer, or strategist. But do we do it? No. We try to invent an inferior metal substitute for girls.

  • robspierre commented on the blog post Technological Unemployment To Hit Service Sector

    2013-03-27 20:12:04View | Delete

    As an accidental technologist, I have a slightly different view. Not necessarily more comforting. But different. As I see it, any job that can be automated should be. Its not that I want to see humans thrown out of work (that’s the parasitic one-percenter view of it). My view is that any job that can be easily automated is not worth direct human effort that could be more rewardingly deployed elsewhere.

    The problem with our current economic masters is that they cannot imagine and do not want a world where work is simultaneously more productive, more personally rewarding, and more profitable. They want to find ways to squeeze nickels out of the status quo rather than risk changes that could generate new fortunes and, in all likelihood, make the world less sympathetic to parasites with inherited money.

    There has been much talk of a “tech” or “internet bubble” in the ’80s and ’90s. And it is true that there was some bubbling going on–a lot of established companies and their managers could not see what was happening, and small minds sold IPOs in idiocies like to each other. But the bubble has tended to obscure the revolution that was happening in the background.

    One example. I’m old enough to remember when there were purchasing departments–giant rooms full of desks and clerks and secretaries who spent their days opening inter-office mail envelopes, scanning the printed catalogs of a few “approved” vendors, typing up orders at prices set by the companies who had kicked back enough lucre to get on the approved vendor list, and then submitting same to a manager for a signature. That was not a job worthy of a thinking being, and the process enriched a few insiders while damaging the prospects of the company, the shareholders, and the workers.

    To many, the Internet revolution was a matter of online entertainment, news, webzines, and blogs. But to me, it was B2B auctions. Suddenly, when you needed an office chair, you could bypass the catalog, the approved vendor list, and all those poor souls in the cubicles. Purchasing automatically issued a request for bids, an online competition among the world’s chair suppliers followed, and the winning bidder drop-shipped your chair from his factory (I know what you are thinking, but in this case, with real, fair, and open competition, the winner was actually in Iowa). What happened to the poor cubicle dwellers? Did they lose their jobs? In the company where I was at the time, not at all. Suddenly, the secretary who used to peruse the catalog and fill out the form for the manager’s signature now had the skills to assess all the bids and the authority to place the order. Workers became self-managing. The managers jobs looked to be in danger. At the same time, talented folks started companies in their garages by writing software. We had an explosion of productivity and a likely economic boom not seen since the Industrial Revolution, but evenly distributed this time.

    It was not to be. Monopoly economics, so-called “intellectual property law”, and the fetish for cost-cutting rather than investing killed the expansion in the cradle. The Internet became no more than television with surveillance, and productivity growth was traded for fewer and smaller payrolls. Product quality fell as markets were cornered. Now service quality will follow.

    My main hope these days is kids who write viruses.

  • robspierre commented on the blog post Groupthink, Greed, Cynicism and Crime

    2013-03-24 15:41:20View | Delete

    “Someone can be greedy, and delusional, AND A CRIMINAL, all at the same time.”

    Absolutely. In fact, I suspect that it may be a requirement to work on Wall Street.

    Almost every fraud believes his own material. That’s what makes the con convincing. The classic case was Ponzi himself, who apparently never understood was wrong with what he was doing. For that matter, every drug dealer with whom I was ever acquainted (I lived in some rough neighborhoods in my younger, poorer days) believed he was just a clever businessman meeting demand with supply–at least until consuming his own product made thinking altogether too difficult.

    So my impression has always been that the more crimes criminals commit, the more innocent they believe themselves to be and the more ill-used by the system they feel when caught and punished. Continued crime requires continued belief in ever less believable nonsense. Crime makes you stupid.

    So, if anything, saying that you didn’t understand the crime and were just being greedy and delusional should be an aggravating offence, not a mitigation. Call it Criminal Stupidity” and double the sentence. Otherwise, they are not going to get smarter and more honest any time soon.

  • The Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA) is an ANTI-security measure that is intended to protect companies from the perceived expense of even minimally securing their networks and securing the third-party data for which they are minimally responsible. CFAA is arguably a major reason why we, allegedly, face a major threat from Chinese Army “cyber soldiers”.

    More than a decade ago now, I worked for a major supplier of telco equipment. Some kid breached security on one of our telephone-network products and caused a major local service outage. 911 service went down, among other things. There was considerable alarm in the responsible engineering circles at our company–until it emerged that a senior telco manager had overruled his underlings and forced them to attach a modem to the equipment that we supplied. He wanted to monitor it from home. Attaching a modem was the single biggest security breach you could have and was expressly forbidden in all of our documentation.

    When the clueless boy that randomly dialed the modem and played with the computer was hunted down and prosecuted, the engineers that I knew were outraged. All of us felt that the boy should have been commended. The telco manager should have been the one prosecuted. HE was the one that endangered the public by reckless conduct. The kid merely revealed the danger to the public.

    Unfortunately, managers and their mercenaries–the lawyers, politicians, and paid “experts”–got to write the laws, not the technical professionals. As a result, CFAA focuses on protecting the corporatists who expose our data and communications to the world by prosecuting those who expose their ineptitude and negligence.

    Security costs money, and due diligence requires some corporate inconvenience. But thanks to laws like CFAA, corporations no longer have to waste money on things that do not directly contribute to the executive lifestyle. They have been able to dismiss their expert, security-conscious professionals and replace them with lower-paid, less outspoken staff–staff that, coincidentally enough, is available at low, low prices in China. Corporations have greatly reduced their investments in newer, more secure hardware and software, and accepted any implementation that is cheap, regardless of security or suitability for the task (note the use of RFID and the implementation of ATM and online banking arrangements).

    So who pays the costs of laxity? We do, of course, as always. Our taxes pay to prosecute the valiant few who tell us that the Emperor is Not Wearing Pants and thereby shield the guilty from lawsuits. The prices we pay cover the managerial bonuses and the bottomline losses that managerial policies make inevitable. To add insult to injury, we are even ramping up to pay for “cyber warfare” against the off-shored employees of those that created our vulnerability to “cyber warfare.”

  • robspierre commented on the blog post A Nuanced Opening Look at Pope Francis

    2013-03-16 15:31:44View | Delete

    As a Catholic since birth, I’d like to think that any new Pope marks a turnaround. But I doubt it.

    I agree that the most hysterical collaboration stories are probably false. I also disagree with those who condemn the new Pope for not doing more more to aid the victims of the Dirty War. He probably couldn’t have–Catholic dictators seldom give the representations of their churchmen any more weight than non-Catholic ones when power is at stake.

    But, nonetheless, I see no need for nuances–it seems pretty clear cut to me: the new Pope’s conduct during that time was reprehensible, and he rejects any responsibility or guilt. Bergoglio may have been concerned for the poor and he may have intervened on behalf of prisoners. But, at such a time, the poor and the victims should not have been the chief pastoral concern of a Catholic priest: he needed to minister to the junta and its soldiers, by speaking truth to power.

    Catholics do not believe that the suffering and injustices of this world are final and irreversible–for the victims. What we humans fail to put right, God will put right eventually. So the poor inherit the kingdom of Heaven, and the nuns who were tortured and thrown alive from planes in Argentina entered Heaven wearing the crown of martyrdom.

    The consequences of injustice and cruelty are, however, irreversible for the perpetrators, barring true repentance. When professed, devout Catholic officers started their Dirty War, they took an irreversible step towards eternal damnation. They not only committed abominable crimes–rape, kidnapping, torture, murder–but justified their actions to themselves. They convinced themselves that they were doing the right thing. There was no chance that they would repent of their actions and refrain from crimes in the future.

    Given the basic Catholic understanding of the nature of crime and the need for penitence, there seems little doubt that Bergoglio was derelict in his duty. Any priest, but especially a priest who was as close to conservative and military circles as the Pope seems to have been, had a duty to do what he could to stop the Dirty War and call its perpetrators to public account. There is a powerful precedent.

    When, in 390 AD, St. Ambrose, Bishop of Milan, heard that Rome’s military dictator, the Emperor Theodosius, had ordered the massacre of thousands of people in Thessalonica, Ambrose put his role as the Emperor’s pastor first. He refused to look the other way and spoke out, even though he took considerable personal risk by doing so. “What, then, could I do?” Ambrose writes:

    “Should I not hear? … Should I keep silence? But then my conscience would be bound, my utterance taken away, which would be the most wretched condition of all. And where would be that text? If the priest speak not to him that erreth, he who errs shall die in his sin, and the priest shall be liable to the penalty because he warned not the erring.” []

    Ambrose excommunicated Theodosius and forced the Emperor to confess and do a politically humiliating public penance.

    Ambrose did what he did not for the dead of Thessalonica–they were beyond any aid he could give them–but for the Emperor, army, and nation that killed them. As a priest, he had a duty to fulfill that no one else could. And Ambrose knew that, if he did not carry out that priestly duty, then he, Ambrose, would be condemned along with Theodosius. The shepherd is accountable, the Gospels say, if the sheep are lost.

    Ambrose’s stance became the defining moment for the priestly vocation in the Western Church and for the Church’s moral relationship with civil authority. The new Pope’s failure to grasp the lesson of the Thessalonica as it applied to the Dirty War and the petty justifications given for his conduct suggest that Francis is not the humble, moral, spiritual Pope that is being proclaimed. Instead, he looks much like the long line of bureaucrats, functionaries, and casuists that preceded him, each intent on justifying the ever more unjustifiable in the name of protecting that most worldly of worldly institutions, the Roman Church.

  • robspierre commented on the blog post Us Versus the Volcano

    2013-01-20 14:14:02View | Delete

    I hope you are right about “magical thinking” being the core of a doomed-to-fail solution to economic crisis. Unfortunately, I fear that there is another way to look at it. What if the austerity push is actually a rousing success? What if works perfectly and just doesn’t address the issue we have been told it will address?

    I think that the austerity is not intended to solve economic problems. After all, those pushing this agenda the hardest aren’t having an economic crisis. Their way of lif depends on wealth already amassed–usually by parents and grandparents–not on wealth made through work. They aren’t suffering. In the contrary, the crisis presents them with the greatest opportunity they have had since they lost control during the last Depression.

    Austerity isn’t about economics. It is about power, power for the few who see themselves as America’s new–or, in Europe’s case, not-so-new–aristocracy. Power is not served by a rising tide that raises all boats. It is served by inequality. A Haitian rich man is probably not as rich as his American counterpart. He couldn’t be. Vastly greater, longer standing income inequality has long since wrecked the Haitian economy and depressed the aggregate wealth that Haitian society can produce. But a Haitian rich man buys him much greater control over his neighbors. He can actually enslave them, rape them, murder them with complete impunity. This, I fear, is what our one-percenters crave.

    If I am right, then austerity appeals not as a cure for the economic crisis but as a solution to the “problem” of democracy itself. After all, in our country, what has followed on the fall in wages produced by three decades of austerity-driven “right-to-work” laws, union breaking, out-sourcing, “free” trade, defunding of public education, the end of pensions, and ever more onerous “intellectual property” grabs? Citizens United. More easily rigged electronic voting. A revolving door between Wall Street and Washington that immunizes even the most obvious fraudsters from prosecution. Increase the inequality enough, even at the cost of falling total wealth, and one-percenters achieve what their grandfathers’ 1930s coup attempts never could: the disenfrachisement of the citizenry and the end of the Republic.

  • Please don’t malign the 14th century by blaming it for the Pope. The current Papal mindset is a product of modern times and modern authoritarianism. It defined itself in 1870 at Vatican I, which was called so that the Pope could definitively declare that Liberalism (in General) and Italy (in Particular) Do Not Exist! The West in general and Italy in particular disagreed, and the Church hierarchy has still not gotten over it.

    So you do not have to feel too sorry for this Catholic at least. We have a long history of problematic and disappointing clergy and, more importantly, a theology that addresses it. Much though the current Pope and his minions try to deny it, the Church is the worldly image of the City of God, not the actual City itself. So it is hardly surprising if it frequently fulfills its magisterium (teaching mission) by demonstrating the folly of hypocritical and un-Christian behavior rather than by setting an example to be followed.

  • As long as my church’s leadership continues to insist on controling civil marriage, I think it only fair that civil society have equal control over Church leadership. Anyone one want to join me in a push for state and national laws banning same-sex CLERGY?

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