"Face-book." Winner of ad design for Dutch Book Week's theme, autobiography.
Open Thread below....
President Obama is the only world leader who has attempted a Keynesian stimulus programme. Why has it been only minimally effective? Why do most other western leaders still insist the only way out is to tighten our belts and pay off our debts, when that clearly isn't working either? And how come the bankers, credit agencies and bond traders are still treated with cowed reverence?don't frighten the markets?when they got us into this mess?
These mysteries were beginning to make me feel as if I must be going mad?but since reading Paul Krugman's new book, I fear I'm in danger instead of becoming a bore. It's the sort of book you wish were compulsory reading, and want to quote to anyone who'll listen, because End This Depression Now! provides a comprehensive narrative of how we have ended up doing the opposite of what logic and history tell us we must do to get out of this crisis. [...]In the years following the Great Depression, governments imposed regulatory rules upon the banking system to ensure that we could never again become indebted enough to make us vulnerable to a crisis. "But if it's been a long time since the last major economic crisis, people get careless about debt; they forget the risks. Bankers go to politicians and say: 'We don't need these pesky regulations,' and the politicians say: 'You're right?nothing bad has happened for a while.'"
That process began in earnest in 1980, under President Reagan. One by one the regulations on banking were lifted, until "we lost the safeguards, and it meant there was an increasingly wild and woolly financial system willing to lend lots of money". Politicians were in part persuaded to deregulate by the argument that it would make us all richer. And to this day, "there's this very widespread belief that there was, in fact, a great acceleration in growth. But this really isn't hard. You sit down for a minute with the national account statistics, and you see it ain't so."
If we divide the period between the second world war and 2008 into two halves, "the first half is a really dramatic improvement to living standards, and the second half is not." It was certainly dramatic for the top 0.01%, who saw a seven-fold increase in income; in 2006, for example, the 25 highest-paid hedge fund managers in America earned $14bn, three times the combined salaries of New York City's 80,000 school teachers. But between 1980 and the crash, the median US household income went up by only roughly 20%. "So it's a total disconnect."
Why would economists claim ordinary people were getting much richer if they weren't? "The answer, I think, has to be that you need to ask: 'Well who are the people who say these things hanging out with? What is their social circle?' And if you're a finance professor at the University of Chicago, the people that you're likely to meet from the alleged real world are going to be people from Wall Street ? for whom the past 30 years have, in fact, been wonderful. If you're a mover and shaker in the UK, you're probably hanging out with people from the City. I think that is the story of the disconnect." [...]
Since the crash Krugman has become the undisputed Cassandra of academia, but he jokes: "I'm kind of sick of being Cassandra. I'd like to actually win for once, instead of being vindicated by the disaster coming ? as predicted. I'd like to see my arguments about preventing the disaster taken into account instead."
The likelihood of that is a fascinating question. Krugman is not the most clubbable of fellows. In person he's quite offhand, an odd mixture of shy and intensely self-assured, and with his stocky build and salt-and-pepper beard he conveys the impression of a very clever badger, burrowing away in the undergrowth of economic detail, ready to give quite a sharp bite if you get in his way. His public criticisms of the Obama administration have upset many Democrats in the US, while his more vociferous criticisms of George Bush used to earn him death threats from angry rightwingers.
Blast from the Past. At Daily Kos on this date in 2010:
If they spoke English, "What the hell [did we do to deserve this]?" might well be what the 'gators in the Louisiana wetlands would be asking the herons these days as the oil creeps in from the Gulf gusher. But, of course, those are actually the boneheaded words of BP CEO Tony Hayward, whose string of pronouncements over the past five weeks appears increasingly reptilian. The 'gators and herons have nothing to answer for. BP has had nearly 800 recorded safety violations since 2007.
Given BP's arrogant recklessness 800 fathoms beneath the sea and the whacks Hayward's shoot-from-the-lip style have gotten from the media, one would expect that the giant company's PR department would have by now stapled Mr. Hayward's tongue to the roof of his mouth for the duration. But apparently it is as helpless to stanch the flow of toxicity passing through his lips as engineers are to stop the oil gushing from the sea floor.
A politician's staff calls what Hayward is doing "misspeaking" when their boss is caught out. As when he said just a few days ago: "We're sorry for the massive disruption it's caused to their lives. There's no one who wants this thing over more than I do, I'd like my life back." If the 11 dead oil workers could speak, they might have something to say about that. But, of course, Hayward had forgotten all about them in his bellyaching over what he has to put up with to collect his $4.5 million annual compensation package.
Violence. Against women. Who are Senators.[...]
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by Andrew Freedman, via Climate Central
The largest wildfire in New Mexico?s history continues to burn, having already charred an area larger than New York City. Known as the Whitewater-Baldy Fire Complex, the wildfire has become another in a series of ?megafires? to torch the American West due to an unprecedented combination of drought conditions, climate change, and alterations in land-management practices. To make matters worse, according to The Guardian newspaper, congressional budget cuts may restrict the federal government?s firefighting efforts during what is widely expected to be a busy wildfire season.
The Whitewater-Baldy Complex is burning in New Mexico?s rugged and mountainous Gila Wilderness, an area with steep terrain that has rendered much of the fire off limits to firefighters. Instead of attacking it from within, firefighters are trying to dig in around it, hoping to slow its spread.
The megafire is the result of a merger of two separate, relatively modest-sized fires. When the two merged in late May, the fire dramatically expanded, burning 70,000 acres in just one day. As of Friday, the fire had burned 216,000 acres, and was only 10 percent contained. More than 1,200 personnel were battling the fire. There have been no fatalities or major injuries.
The fire has surpassed New Mexico?s record fire, which occurred just last year. The Las Conchas fire burned more than 156,000 acres and came perilously close to Los Alamos National Laboratory, the birthplace of the atomic bomb.
New Mexico Gov. Susanna Martinez took a helicopter tour of the fire on May 31. ?She described the terrain as “impossible,” saying there was no way for firefighters to directly attack the flames in the rugged areas of wilderness,? the Associated Press reported. She warned that it would continue to burn more acres as firefighters struggle to contain the blaze.
Much of New Mexico is experiencing drought conditions. Credit: U.S. Drought Monitor.
As Climate Central reported on May 23, the 2012 fire season is likely to continue the trend of severe wildfire seasons in the Southwest, due largely to the prevalence of long-term drought conditions in the region. Long-burning, massive wildfires have become more common in the U.S. recent years.
In fact, the recent Southwestern megafires stand out as unusual in the context of the past 1,500 years in that region, according to a recent study. The study found that land-management changes, such as years of fire suppression activities that stifled small fires, thereby priming forests for larger blazes, have combined with climate change to create forests that are altogether different ? and which burn differently ? from what existed in this area for generations.
“The U.S. would not be experiencing massive large-canopy-killing crown fires today if human activities had not begun to suppress the low-severity surface fires that were so common more than a century ago,” said Christopher I. Roos, an assistant professor in the SMU Department of Anthropology, according to Science Daily.
– Andrew Freedman is a senior science writer for Climate Central, focusing on coverage of extreme weather and climate change. Prior to working with Climate Central, Freedman was a reporter for Congressional Quarterly and Greenwire/E&E Daily.
This piece was originally published at Climate Central and was reprinted with permission.
JR: Here’s more from the Guardian story, “Wildfire budget cuts in Congress put communites in danger, experts warn“:
Fire experts are warning that $512m in congressional budget cuts could leave communities dangerously exposed in an early and active fire season.
Such warnings have sharpened with the early onset of this year’s fire season, and the record-setting outbreak in New Mexico.
Experts fear the shortfall will leave fire crews scrambling for resources, and force government agencies to dip into other non-fire budgets to cover the gap….
But the economic downturn and a Congress dominated by Republicans who want to shrink the role of government make it extremely complicated to divert more funds to forest fighting.
Instead, funding for preventing and putting out wildfires has fallen by $512m, or about 15%, since 2010.
Campaigners say that leaves the federal government agencies responsible for preventing and putting out wildfires under-funded ? especially given projections suggesting a rise in wildfires over the next 20 years.
Related Climate Progress posts:
Title: Ode To Billie JoeArtist: Bobbie Gentry
It was the 3rd of June when Billie Joe jumped off of that bridge. How many songs can you think of with dates in them?
Real generational theft has real and tangible effects, not imaginary ones that will affect straw boys and straw girls. Those of the tangible variety have been identified by a new report put out by UNICEF Measuring Child Poverty. To the extent that we[...]
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While discussing Florida's history of voter suppression on this Sunday's Up w/Chris Hayes, former RNC chair did his best to try to pretend that one, Republicans really don't want to keep people from voting and two, that there's no racism involved with what they're doing across the country with purging these voting rolls.
Thankfully we had Chris Hayes, Ari Berman and Bob Herbert there to counter Steele's arguments with some of those pesky things called "facts." Steele also did his best to try to downplay whether what's going on in Florida would make any difference in swinging an election or not. As Berman reminded him, since he's apparently chosen to ignore our very recent history, the number of people purged from the voting rolls when Bush had the state handed to him back in 2000 was twenty two times Bush's margin of victory there.
I turned this show on this morning and saw Steele on there and was really hoping he didn't remain as a guest for the entire show. So naturally he was the only one on there that didn't leave the set for the entire two hours. And this is the sort of nonsense we were treated to the entire time he was on.
Imagine if David Duke were U.S. Attorney General, or the head of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Imagine if ICE head Duke proclaimed loudly, at a rally produced by Sheriff Joe Arpaio: "Mexicans, Asians and Negroes that arrive here do not[...]
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Oh mah stars! Gather mah smelling salts, I feel the vapuhs a-comin'!
According to Wikipedia, Bob Schieffer is 75 years old. He was born during FDR's first term and has lived through twelve presidencies since. If he had the least bit of intellectual honesty, he'd know that presidential campaigns rarely follow Marquess of Queensbury rules of fair play. Is he so forgetful that McCain's illegitimate black baby whisper campaign, Michael Dukakis' Willie Horton smear, or Donald Segretti himself has slipped his mind? I hope that this doesn't shock Mr. Schieffer's precious sensibilities, but politics are a full-contact sport and bruising comes with the territory.
But perhaps Mitt Romney's fee-fees are just a might bit over-sensitive, and the enablers in the traditional media need to stick up for him. It's not nice to hold up his record as governor of a state that was 47th in job creation during his tenure. Apparently, it's a cheap shot to point out that his entire business experience was in maximizing profits for his company without concern for layoffs or debts incurred by the companies he arbitraged. And Bob Schieffer was going to make damn sure campaign adviser David Axelrod knew it.
Schieffer brought up some of the more negative campaign tactics being used by Obama in contrast to saying in 2008 he wanted to run on ideas, not negative campaigns. Schieffer asked Axelrod why, now, the campaign has gotten rather negative on their side, with ads going after Romney instead of touting his accomplishments.
Schieffer was specifically referring to the Bain Capital ads being lobbed at Romney by the Obama campaign. Axelrod told Schieffer that most of the ads the campaign has run have been positive ones that have not gone after Romney. Schieffer almost bewilderedly asked Axelrod if he thought they?ve been running a positive campaign.
Why is it that President Obama has to be positive and we see no pearl clutching over Romney outright lying about Obama's record, grading his presidency an "F" and doing cheap stunts like the Solyndra presser?
The truth, though Schieffer will not see it, is that the media has been far more negative in its coverage of Obama than it has been towards Romney. It is incumbent (pun intended) upon Obama to make Romney as unattractive an alternative as possible, given how difficult the economy still is.
Reports Gallup Politics: "Gallup has asked Americans to choose among these three explanations for the origin and development of human beings 11 times since 1982. Although the percentages choosing each view have varied from survey to survey, the 46% who today choose the creationist explanation is virtually the same as the 45% average over that period -- and very similar to the 44% who chose that explanation in 1982. The 32% who choose the "theistic evolution" view that humans evolved under God's guidance is slightly below the 30-year average of 37%, while the 15% choosing the secular evolution view is slightly higher (12%)."
"Camera in hand, I watched as the man I'd photographed and gotten to know over the past year writhed, turned pale and slipped away, a victim of his unwavering faith, but also a testament to it. A family member called paramedics when Mack finally allowed it, but it was too late. Mack Wolford drew his final, labored breaths late Sunday night. He was 44."
-- Washington Post photographer Lauren Pond, in "Why I watched a snake-handling pastor die for his faith"
So, according to the Gallup folks, "In U.S., 46% Hold Creationist View of Human Origins.
OK, it's kind of a creepy, crappy pool, with respondents being offered only three options. As paraphrased by the Gallupies: humans evolved, with God guiding (32%); humans evolved, but God had no part in process (15%); God created humans in present form (46%).
I suspect that many people hearing these possible responses don't even understand how they're related, or how each choice may or may not reflect their beliefs. Still, the 46% winner does indeed state: "God created human beings pretty much in their present form at one time within the last 10,000 years or so."
So that's what the 46% are giving their nod to, and it's small comfort that the report notes that the "ooh that God, he's such a creator" camp has averaged 45% over the two decades that Gallup has been running this loopy poll.
I know we Americans pride ourselves on not "judging" other people's religions, though of course we do it all the time. (Anyone for Islam?) Still, I don't have much hesitation in saying that the respondents who chose "God created human beings pretty much in their present form at one time within the last 10,000 years or so" are all dunces -- either imbeciles or loons.
Of course it's very likely that many respondents picked that option because it's closer to what they believe than either of the others. They may not, for instance, really and truly believe in the "last 10,000 years or so" hokum. Still, they didn't tell the pollster that they couldn't pick any of his/her cockamamie choices, so I say bring on the dunce caps! This way people who aren't imbeciles or loons will know better than to pay attention to anything said by any of these clowns.
It's no knock on the ancients who wrote the Bible (and again, I'm sorry, but if people want to say that the writing of the Bible was inspired by God, fine, but if they want to pretend that any of it was written by God, then again, they're either imbeciles or loons) had a limited understanding of the world around them. Heck, we still do, but we understand a lot more than they did, because we have all those shoulders to stand on. Nevertheless, the Bible was written with the extremely limited understanding of that time, and therefore is filled with all manner of guesses, a few of which turned out to be in the ballpark, but most of which were just plain wrong. Like the notions that: (a) humans came into existence all at once in their present form, and (b) this happened 10,000 or so years ago. It would be just about impossible to claim anything wronger than either of these claims -- the wrongness quotient is 100%. And people who not only don't know that but use their wrongness as a weapon to bully people who are not either imbeciles or loons are thugs and monsters.
Talk of religion-based crackpottery brings me to the strangely fascinating piece by Washington Post photographer Lauren Pond, agonizing over the ethics of her standing by watching a snake-handling pastor wom she had befriended die without doing anything except taking pictures.
I admit, the headline rubbed me the wrong way: "Why I watched a snake-handling pastor die for his faith." Of course I recognized the story of the nutjob pastor down in Crackerland whose "faith" called on him to play with poisonous snakes, one of which did what its species is designed to do: bit the stupid sumbitch. And since the nutjob's "faith" forbids seeking medical care, which presumably would demonstrate a lack of perfect "faith," he suffered for a number of hours and then died. As, incidentally, his father had done before him.
I'm sorry, boys and girls, but this isn't a story about "faith." This is a story about imbeciles and loons.
Lauren Pond, who explains her connection to the deceased:
He wasn?t just a source and a subject in my year-long documentary project about Pentecostal serpent-handling; he was also a friend: We shared a meal at the cafe where members of his family work; he screened videos about himself for me at his house; I once stayed the night on his couch.
I decided to attend the worship service Mack was holding at Panther Wildlife Management Area, in the southwestern part of the state, on a whim, thinking that it would be good to see him again, and that I?d make the seven-hour drive back to Washington the following morning. But I haven?t returned. I have been staying at a friend?s house close to Bluefield, speaking with Mack?s family members, and gradually allowing myself to feel some of the raw emotion that has been percolating for days.
The practices of the Signs Following faith remain an enigma to many. How can people be foolish enough to interpret Mark 16: 17-18 so literally: to ingest poison, such as strychnine, which Mack also allegedly did at Sunday?s ceremony; to handle venomous snakes; and, most incomprehensible of all, not to seek medical treatment if bitten? Because of this reaction, many members of this religious community are hesitant to speak to the media, let alone be photographed.
But Mack was different. He allowed me to see what life was like for a serpent-handler outside church, which helped me better understand the controversial religious practice, and, I think, helped me add nuance to my photographs. His passing, my first vivid encounter with death, was both a personal and professional loss for me.
I couldn?t give up when his dad died, and now that [Mack]?s given his life, I just can?t give up. It?s still the Word, and I want to go on doing what the Word says.
Some of the people who attended last Sunday?s service have struggled with Mack's death, as I have. "Sometimes, I feel like we're all guilty of negligent homicide," one man wrote to me in a Facebook message following Mack's death. "I went down there a 'believer.' That faith has seriously been called into question. I was face-to-face with him and watched him die a gruesome death. .?.?. Is this really what God wants?"
That's a good question.
Pulitzer Prize winner Kevin Carter photographed an emaciated Sudanese child struggling to reach a food center during a famine -- as a vulture waited nearby. He was roundly criticized for not helping the child, which, along with the disturbing memories of the events he had covered and other factors, may have contributed to his suicide. As photojournalists, we have a unique responsibility to record history and share stories in as unbiased and unobtrusive a way as possible. But when someone is hurt and suffering, we have to balance our instincts as professionals with basic human decency and care.
In my mind, Mack's situation was different from that of a starving child or a civilian wounded in war. He was a competent adult who decided to stand by what he understood to be the word of God, no matter the consequences. And so I've started to come to peace with the fact that everyone in the crowded trailer, including myself, let Mack die as a man true to his faith.
Once the media learned that I was a witness to this tragedy, I was inundated with phone calls and e-mails asking for details of that day, and some seeking permission to use my images. I faced an internal tug of war. What was most important: revealing what had happened, or protecting the privacy of the family and the integrity of my photographic project?
Ultimately, in the face of the criticism and degrading commentary that has followed Mack's death, I've decided that I owe it to his loved ones to communicate what they knew about him and his faith -- as well as what I've learned and observed -- and to publish select images with this essay.
Though I was asked to use discretion in Mack's final hours, not once did anyone force me away or prevent me from photographing the events that unfolded before me on May 27. Perhaps Mack wanted me to be at that oppressively hot and humid park site to document the bite and its lethal aftermath. Perhaps he wanted me to witness his incredible display of conviction, so that I could share with the world a side of his faith that few have gotten to see.