Overcoming the Bush legacy: a people bled, betrayed and frightened

The Power of Propaganda

Just before election day I understood what they had meant to accomplish when, only one month after Obama’s inauguration, Republicans began reciting the litany I would hear many times over the next 20 months, “Just look at the mess Obama’s gotten us into.”

I was so astonished the first time I heard a friend say this, I was literally struck dumb. After a moment, I recovered the power of speech enough to ask, “How can you say that, Barry? Obama hasn’t been in office long enough to know his way around his desktop yet, let alone take any action which could affect the country in any radical sense. What we’re dealing with is directly due to the policies Bush enacted over eight years of bleeding the country dry.” read more

Roza Jaffe: Forced Journeys, a holocaust survivor remembers

Family friend Roza Jaffe recounts,

“My grandfather was a big merchant, my mother helped in the store. They were 9 children, 6 survived by coming to America in their twenties.

One sister died of hunger during the holocaust . . Khotyn, my hometown, was set on on fire and my house along with everything in it was destroyed. My family members and I were forced to travel by foot from Khotyn to the Ukraine. I was the only survivor, an orphan, begging in the streets, until I was taken on a transport to Romainia with a group of other survivors. The Russians came into Romania and I was taken to an orphanage in Odesa . . .” read more

Iceland poised to provide true freedom to journalists

Edited to add: Julian Assange, one of the engineers of Iceland’s new freedom of speech protection laws, was arrested for rape today but released after police decided the report against him lacked merit.

After Iceland’s near-economic collapse laid bare deep-seated corruption, the country aims to become a safe haven for journalists and whistleblowers from around the globe by creating the world’s most far-reaching freedom of information legislation.

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange and parliamentary representative Birgitta Jonsdottir are helping to create, “the world’s most far-reaching freedom of information legislation,” in Iceland. Reformers estimate it will take 1 1/2 years to change 13 laws to make it possible for Iceland to offer the most extreme level journalists have anywhere in the globe, plus similar protection for whistleblowers who report on abuse by governments and major corporations and afterwards may become targets for persecution, harassment, slander and even assassination. read more

Facts need wider acceptance

Have you ever introduced a group of people to information new to them and found your audience going to sleep on you? I’ve noticed that when introducing people to facts which challenge their assumptions about “how things work”, or simply an overabundance of data which is completely outside of what they’ve been accustomed to experience or think about, they my audience may nod right off to sleep on me.

Important scientific studies are apparently identifying some of the reasons that our minds reject facts that are incompatible with our beliefs and experiences, or are so new we haven’t yet figured out what to do with them. read more

The Crime of Reason

Robert B. Laughlin, Department of Physics at Stanford University gave this talk at the Xerox PARC Forum on October 23, 2008.

There is increasing concern about the disappearance of technical knowledge from the public domain, both on grounds that is presents a security danger and because it is economically valuable “Intellectual Property”. I argue that this development is not anomalous at all but a great historic trend tied to our transition to the information age. We are in the process of losing a human right that all of us thought we had but actually didn’t–the right to learn things we can and better ourselves economically from what we learn. Increasingly, figuring things our for yourself will become theft and terrorism. Increasingly, reason itself will become a crime. read more

Microsoft v. Brazilian official – for moving to drop Windows

People ask me why I won’t let my kids buy an XBox. I explain our family policy: “Our family doesn’t support Microsoft. In any way.” Many hearing this think my view is seriously radical (not to mentioned extremely flawed). After all, XBox graphics are great and the games are cheap. “But, buying a kids’ gaming system? That’s not supporting a company!”

“To you it isn’t, which is completely fine. But to me, it is,” I reply. “Microsoft manufactures XBox, so my boys can’t have one.” read more

Internet “Driver’s Licenses” – a very, very bad idea

An ‘incredibly dangerous concept’

In several articles written in his typically clear style, internet user advocate Lauren Weinstein explains why he opposes the idea of ‘Internet Driver’s Licenses’, which he refers to as an, “incredibly dangerous concept. . . . I’m disappointed, though not terribly surprised,” Lauren comments, “especially in light of Microsoft’s explicit continuing support of Chinese censorship against human rights — to hear a top Microsoft executive pushing a concept that is basic to making the Internet Police State a reality.” He frames his opposition in an earlier article(January 2010). read more

Intellectual property rights hold back scientific advances

Sir John Sulston, Nobel Laureate, explains a phenomenon which merits thoughtful consideration.

Ownership rights pose a real danger to scientific progress for the public good

The idea of ownership is ubiquitous. Title deeds establish and protect ownership of our houses, while security of property is as important to the proprietors of Tesco and Sainsbury’s as it is to their customers. However, there is a profound problem when it comes to so-called intellectual property (IP) – which requires a strong lead from government, and for which independent advice has never been more urgently required. The David Nutt affair has illustrated very well the importance of objective analysis of complex social issues. read more

1 million dollars for a junk car!

I admit that my title is misleading. I wasn’t offered a million dollars for junking my car today, but relative to its cash value what one company did offer me seemed like almost that much.

I want to junk my Chrysler LeBaron 1992 auto, or sell it. Several junkyards including reputable places I’ve dealt with in the past offered me modest amounts of money – GI Salvage in Pine Brook, NJ will pay nothing if they come to tow it, Deb & Dot in North Bergen will pay $75 if they tow it or $125 if I drive it over there. A nice guy in Newark offered me $100 guaranteed and up to $150 if original catlytic converter and other features are present. read more

Disney: The Plasticizing of America

America has been transformed by marketing magic and a steady trend away from traditional values (a connection with the land, communities where people know and take an interest in their neighbors, respect for wildlife). We’ve assassinated deer populations and replaced their woodland homes with grass-lawned housing developments named Deer Run and Deerfield.

Many of us think of such wordly trends as being inevitable moves due to some nameless, shapeless “progress”. Doesn’t it bear pondering, though, that many of the most formative progressions of modern times have been merely a result of artificially engineered marketing strategies designed to give us the experiences that will make it easiest for corporations to separate the American people from our money and give up our senses of independence, creation and adventure? read more

White people like school and superiority

From the book Stuff White People Like by a guy who became famous by mistake and says in his Authors@Google interview, “I’m a bigger jerk now than I ever was.” Christian Lander says lots more in his wickedly funny book and blog.

Being in graduate school satisfies many white requirements for happiness. They can believe they are helping the world, complain that the government/university doesn’t support them enough, claim they are poor, feel as though are getting smarter, act superior to other people, enjoy perpetual three day weekends, and sleep in every day of the week! read more

Nothing left to chance in Disney World. People can’t get enough of pre-planned living.

I was just speaking with a new friend, Harold C, about the plastic quality of middle American living. “Kimi, Disney’s like a religious experience for a lot of my friends,” he said. And so it is. A completely guided experience where people can live in simulations of the illusions they are accustomed to watch in the comfort of their living rooms on TV screens all across America. Disney World makes it possible for an American parent to take his/her spouse and children to a place which is actually a ‘sovereign country’ not ruled by American law and still not need to deal with foreign accents or foreign languages, driving on the wrong side of the street, calculating currency exchanges or having to decide whether to drink plain or mineral water. I told Harold about this National Geographic article which describes in detail the Disney World phenomenon, how it was achieved and in what ways it’s meant to affect American society. Here is a teaser of the contents . . . read more