Monday, July 30, 2012

Chris Hedges: The Perversion of Scholarship

Some quotes from Chris Hedges' column The Perversion of Scholarship:

Hedges on fraternities and sororities:
Hazing weeds out those with enough self-esteem and independence to stand up to the hierarchy. It ensures conformity and obedience. These groups are, in essence, self-selected. Those who have the fortitude and courage to oppose their own public humiliation and the public humiliation perpetuated with each new cycle of recruits or pledges leave. Those who remain conform.
And where they end up:
The corporate world sees football players, fraternity brothers and sorority sisters as prime recruits. They have been conditioned to join the team, to surrender moral autonomy, to accept and carry out acts of personal humiliation, to treat with contempt those who oppose them or who are different, to define their life by an infantile narcissism centered on greed and self-promotion and to remain silent about crimes they witness or take part in. It is the very ethic of corporations. 
The ruling elite sees in Greek organizations and football programs the training ground for the amoral class of speculators, bankers and corporatists who pillage the country.
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Audio of Glenn Greenwald interview on, "Media Matters with Bob McChesney"

The Toppling: How the Media Created the Iconic Fall of Saddam's Statue

Friday, July 27, 2012

Jon Stewart: hypocrite, stooge or progressive crusader?

Jon Stewart was ridiculed on Fox & Friends for making fun of Romney's income when, in fact, Stewart rakes in $15M/year:


Warren Buffet was ridiculed in the same manner for calling for higher taxes on the super-wealthy. It is suggested that wealthy liberals like Stewart and Buffet voluntarily give their money to their staff or to the government if they are so concerned with income inequality or not paying enough taxes. It's a ridiculous argument.

As citizens of the United States, we are each entitled to maximize our income and minimize our taxes within the legal boundaries of the country. It's called maximizing our self-interests. That's how free enterprise works. We rely on our government to set out the rules and regulations that create safe products and food, protect the air and water from pollution, protect workers' safety, pay workers a fair living wage and, in general, look after the well being of the country.

It works the same way as a consumer. We are entitled to purchase the product that is the best value and, all else being equal, the cheapest product. We rely on our government to make sure that the company treats and pays its employees fairly, that it complies with environmental regulations, pays its fair share of taxes and, in general, behaves as a good corporate citizen. It is too much for an average consumer to research the manufacturer every time we buy a product. Even if find out that the company has shoddy business practices but sells its product at a significantly lower price, as a consumer, we are still entitled to purchase the product that provides us the best value.

The analogy should be clear. How we act as an income earner, taxpayer or consumer is entirely different from what we ask of our government to do. There is no conflict and no hypocrisy.

Nobel Prize winner Joseph Stiglitz was on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart on Wednesday, July 25, 2012 to discuss his new book, "The Price of Inequality: How Today's Divided Society Endangers Our Future." Stiglitz notes that:
Inequality has really become one of the major problems facing our country. I don't know if most Americans realize that we've become the most unequal of all the advanced industrial countries and we've become the country, of among the advanced industrial countries, with the least equality of opportunity; so different of the myth of the "American Dream."
In sum, income inequality rivals that of any banana republic and the "American Dream" is now a lie. Stewart adds to the equal outcome vs. equal opportunity debate: equal fairness. i.e. The game is rigged by those who wish to flex their muscle that wealth brings:

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Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert have been accused of lulling activists to sleep in this interesting article:
And the take down:
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George Carlin on what is:

The on what can be:

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Why liberals and conservatives view climate change differently

This post examines, through the context of global warming, why liberals and conservatives often have different opinions on issues where there is a considerable amount of scientific evidence. Global warming, which, if true, may be the most critical issue of our time.

The media

The conservative media (Fox News, conservative talk radio) has generally refuted climate change and global warming and ridicules those who claim otherwise. However, they are starting to come around. Here's a sample:
The mainstream and progressive media (CNN, CBS, ABC, NBC, MSNBC, CurrentTV) present a mixed view:

Confirmation bias

Whatever your opinion is on climate change, you can find concurrent opinions in the media. Furthermore, you will tend to gravitate to news media that confirms your opinion which then further reinforces it. That, in a nutshell, is confirmation bias. If you have a more extreme view, you can certainly find concurrent views on the Internet. Facts become theories, theories become opinions and opinions become fluid. One concludes his or her gut feeling as fact. See:
The smart idiot effect

Conservatives tend to be more confident in their opinions. Liberals tend to be more open to changing their opinion. Both views have merit. The smart idiot effect occurs after one has formed an opinion and then presented with scientific "facts" that contradict their opinion. Studies show that smarter and more educated people will dismiss the facts more often than the general population because they are more confident in their opinions. Those that refute the facts even though they are intelligent and knowledgeable are the "smart idiots." Even more interesting, the more "smart idiots" are presented with facts, the more confident the "smart idiots" become in their original opinion.
The facts

The earth is getting warmer. The air temperatures are getting warmer. The oceans are getting warmer. The polar caps are melting and sea levels are rising. Glaciers are retreating. 2011 was the 9th hottest year on record. The 10 hottest years on record were from 1998 to the present. From July 1, 2011 to June 30th, 2012 was the hottest year in the United States.
See NASA's website on global climate change. Every single graph shows that the earth is warming.

It is almost certainly due to increased "greenhouse" gases in the atmosphere. It is almost certainly man made. Curious things, these things known as "facts".


Once one accepts global warming as fact, then one has to contemplate this:


Saturday, July 14, 2012

Confronting the vampire squids

Feedback from the previous post, Neoliberalism, was mostly about the claim which is paraphrased as follows, "The world is run by psychopaths." Then along comes a post which I came across from a well respected alternative media blog, "Washington's Blog":
Why Don’t the Corrupt Players On Wall Street and In D.C. Show Remorse for Their Destructive Actions … And Why Don’t We Stop Them?
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If you see something, say something! And I don't mean New York City's hideous, fear instilling, "If you see something, say something." campaign for unattended packages. I mean that if you know of someone who is doing or has done a heinous crime, for God's sake, do something about it. I'm sure that you were appalled to hear that people around Jerry Sandusky covered up his criminal activities. The linked post above also delves into why people don't speak up. More can found in the following article, "Penn State Deconstructed: The Psychology Behind the Silence."

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So, what can be done to remove the vampire squids of the world? To create a system that can't be "gamed" by a few psychopaths hell bent on world domination?  Protesting isn't enough. Activism isn't enough. Changing public opinion isn't enough - unpopular wars and lack of universal health care in the US are two prime examples. Political action groups seem ineffectual. The race is on folks: regime change versus a totalitarian state. Certainly:
They got the guns but we got the numbers. — lyrics from "Five To One", The Doors.
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On the latest, "Moyers & Company" are Shelia Bair and Vandana Sheva. Both have ideas how to take on the vampire squids of the world:

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Additional material about narcissists, sociopaths and psychopaths:

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

One way mirror

Glenn Greenwald first coined the phrase, "The government’s one-way mirror" in 2010. More recently, he wrote:
[T]he essential expression of the American Surveillance State: we can and will know everything about what you do, and you will know virtually nothing about what we do. In a healthy society, that formula would be reversed: the citizenry (with rare exceptions) would know most everything about what their government does, while the government would know nothing about what citizens do in the absence of well-grounded suspicion that they have done something wrong. (Please read the entire article.)
 Greenwald talked about the Surveillance State on The Alyona Show July 3rd,2012: