Thursday, May 31, 2012

Capitalism Has Failed: 5 Bold Ways to Build a New World

Some new ideas and big questions are defining our economic future.
from AlterNet:

As our political system sputters, a wave of innovative thinking and bold experimentation is quietly sweeping away outmoded economic models. In New Economic Visions, a special five-part AlterNet series edited by economics editor Lynn Parramore in partnership with political economist Gar Alperovitz of the Democracy Collaborative, creative thinkers come together to explore the exciting ideas and projects that are shaping the philosophical and political vision of the movement that could take our economy back.

The problem, in a nutshell, is this: The old economic model has utterly failed us. It has destroyed our communities, our democracy, our economic security, and the planet we live on. The old industrial-age systems -- state communism, fascism, free-market capitalism -- have all let us down hard, and growing numbers of us understand that going back there isn't an option.

But we also know that transitioning to some kind of a new economy -- and, probably, a new governing model to match -- will be a civilization-wrenching process. We're having to reverse deep and ancient assumptions about how we allocate goods, labor, money, and power on a rapidly shrinking, endangered, complex, and ever more populated planet. We are bolding taking the global economy -- and all 7 billion souls who depend on it -- where no economy has ever gone before.

Right now, all we have to guide us forward are an emerging set of new values and imperatives. The new system can't incentivize economic growth for its own sake, or let monopolies form and flourish. It should be as democratic as possible, but with strong mechanisms in place that protect the common wealth and the common good. It needs to put true costs to things, and hold people accountable for their actions. Above all, it needs to be rooted in the deep satisfactions -- community, nature, family, health, creativity -- that have been the source of real human happiness for most of our species' history.

As we peer out into this future, we can catch glimmers and shadows -- the first dim outlines of things that might become part of the emerging picture over the next few decades. Within this far-ranging conversation, a few dominant themes crop up over and over again. For the final chapter in this series, we'll discuss five robust visions that are forming the conceptual bridge on which our next steps toward the future are being taken.

Small Is Beautiful

Many people imagining our next economy are swept up in the romance of a return to a localized or regionalized economy, where wealth is built by local people creatively deploying local resources to meet local needs.

Relocalization is a way to restore the autonomy, security and control that have been lost now that almost every aspect of our lives has been co-opted by big, centralized, corporate-controlled systems. By bringing everything back to a more human scale, this story argues, we'll enable people to connect with their own creativity, their communities and each other. Alienation and isolation will dissipate. We'll have more time for family and friends, really free enterprise and more satisfying work. Our money will be our own, accumulated by us and re-invested in things we value. And it'll be a serious corrective to our delusional ideas about what constitutes real wealth, too.

This vision is deeply beloved. It's front and center in both the resilience and Transition Towns movement. You hear it from foodies who extol the virtues of local food, Slow Money investors who back local banks and businesses instead of Wall Street, community gardeners, and 10 million Makers. David Korten argues that capitalism is actually the enemy of truly free markets -- the kind where anybody with ideas and initiative can make a tidy living working for herself, doing something she loves. And that kind of freedom is, very naturally, small in scale.

This vision is also seductive. It holds out the promise that if people dare to let go of what they have and reach out to the future, there's a better life waiting within their grasp -- a core piece of any effective change story.  However, this model also has a few problems that haven't yet been engaged by most of its proponents, but which compromise its ability to serve as a global framework.

First: the infrastructure that will enable us to relocalize isn't thick on the ground right now. City and regional governments across the country are broke, devastated by the devaluation of their tax bases. Ironically, relocalizing may require significant federal investment -- but do we really think that the corporations that control our federal government will actually back a model that will ultimately undercut the economic and political chokehold they have on us? It seems unlikely.

Also, localization often involves trade-offs between making things efficiently -- which, in the industrial age, has meant making them in large, centralized factories -- and resilience. Making stuff locally in small batches increases resilience, and decentralizing the process means that many more people will have jobs. For example: A single factory farmer can manage thousands of acres. An organic farm might have half a dozen workers on just 20 acres.

But the fact remains that our world depends on at least a few large, complex systems (the Internet, for example) that require national or even international coordination to manage properly. Where does that coordination come from when all the power is pushed down to the regional level? Also, many of our biggest problems -- climate change, damage to the oceans, loss of species, the threat of epidemics and extreme weather events -- also require a larger and more coordinated response than any one city or region can mount. In a relocalized world, who has the authority to manage these problems?

Furthermore, what becomes of our currently high national and global standards on things like civil rights, infrastructure codes and the environment when all the power is devolved to local governments? Some places will no doubt forge ahead and raise the bar even further, but it's not hard to imagine that quite a few others will be all too glad to get back to oppressing their minorities and raping the land.

These are questions that few theorists, so far, have addressed, but it's possible they may be answered in time. A lot of the people doing the best work on relocalization right now are young, and the new enterprises they're building are untried and new. As they grow in skill and experience, and their trust in these structures grows, they may find ways to start scaling up.

Marx 2.0

Another group of theorists are updating Marx for the 21st century, proffering models that put both control and profit of enterprises into the workers' hands. In some of these, workers are also owners, with a full stake in the success or failure of the business. In others (such as the one proposed by philosopher David Schwiekart, which was based on Yugoslavia's industrial policy), the state is the owner and primary investor in the business. The workers lease the means of production, run the business, return some of the proceeds to the government, and distribute the rest of the profit between themselves.

Ironically, most of these schemes share capitalism's biggest flaw, which is its inherent reliance on growth. As a business owner, it's very hard to say, "We're big enough now. Let's stop here." (Though some, like Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard, have done just that.) Most businesses have competitors who, if they're allowed to get bigger than you, will swallow you whole. If you don't stay big enough to compete, you don't survive -- and since the competitors are facing the same imperative, the race can never really end.

As noted, this kind of constant growth simply isn't sustainable on a finite planet. People will always trade -- it's an essential human activity -- but going forward, we need small-scale businesses that can stay happy and healthy without being pushed to grow. Worker ownership doesn't really address this problem, though relocalization, which roots businesses deeply in their own local markets, limiting their reach beyond those boundaries, may provide one natural brake on growth.

For many large and necessary enterprises (utilities; essential centralized manufacturing; big, capital-intensive tech industries; and so on) public ownership may be the only way to ensure that they grow no bigger than they need to be to fulfill their mission. If there are other solutions that will allow us to have complex enterprises minus the growth imperative, they're still lurking out beyond the horizon.

Systems Theory

One of the great breakthroughs in human understanding over the past 40 years has been the realization that all complex systems -- economic, political, biological, mechanical, environmental, or social -- behave according to a simple set of common principles. The rules that govern the behavior of one set of systems usually apply to other kinds of systems as well.

For example, much of what we've learned about how ecosystems work is now informing new thinking about the economy. Successful enterprises don't exist in a vacuum. They only thrive in interdependent communities of customers, suppliers, investors, employees, and related businesses. The most economically productive places -- for example, Silicon Valley -- are as dense in these interrelationships as old-growth forests are. This complex landscape allows for endless combinations of new interactions, which in turn leads to constant, easy, productive innovation. At the same time: these ecosystems are every bit as susceptible to thoughtless disruption when some critical element is disturbed.

This new awareness of the intense interdependence within healthy economies undercuts the "rugged individualist/self-made man" story that undergirds conservative economics. Seeing the world in systems makes it abundantly clear that no individual or enterprise ever succeeds on its own, or that one business alone can bring about the kind of change we need. Fostering healthy economies is the work of generations, and thanks to systems theory, we understand more about how to build them than we ever did before.

A World Like the Web

A related framework, which is being driven by technologists rather than economists, posits that economic systems like capitalism, fascism and communism all belong to an industrial age that's now passing. In the old era, we saw the world through the metaphor of the machine. Our systems were static piles of unchanging parts that you designed, defined, tinkered with, and deployed toward a desired result.

This framework argues that our transition to the Information Age (which includes not just the Internet revolution, but other technologies like nanotech, biotech, 3D printing, and so on; and which will be playing out through the rest of this century, at minimum) will require us to rearrange our economic and political orders to more closely fit the Internet metaphor. Closely related to this are emerging human-centered economic models, like behavioral economics, which jettison the mechanistic "rational actor" assumption for a more nuanced and organic understanding of how human decision-making actually works.

In these models, the economy is seen as a series of simultaneously interrelated and self-sufficient nodes, each embedded in a complex matrix of relationships that are redundant and self-healing. These could easily be strong regional economies based on natural bioregional boundaries, which are then bound together in a tight global network that fosters robust trade in goods and ideas. The foundation of capital is ideas and information -- resources that don't deplete the physical wealth of the planet. Membership in the network increases scalability and adds extra layers of resilience.

This model also implies big changes in governance. It demands new constitutions that push control down to the local level, while also integrating these regional governments into the global network. If political power can move like the Internet, we might get the best of both worlds: the small-is-beautiful dream embedded in so many of the current alternative models, plus a genuine global governance structure that's capable of getting its arms around our biggest and most universal problems (like, say, managing the global commons, creating needed accountability, or intervening collectively when one regional node has a crisis of some kind). These new governments would also establish a raft of new rights and privileges, updated for this age.

It's implicitly understood that this leap will facilitate global investment in new infrastructure that will, in turn, enable the next advance in the complexity of human systems. Technology has introduced a deep-level paradigm shift that is rapidly destroying the current order, while also providing the ontological map that shows how the distribution of power, money, organization, governance, and control should play out in the next one.

Reform, Revolution, and Evolution

All of the above discussions are also being informed by an evolving understanding of how transformative social change happens.

As long as most people assume that market capitalism is sustainable,  they'll focus on reforming it -- cleaning it up around the edges, rewriting regulations, making it work in the public interest, and so on. Many Americans, in fact, still hope that this is all it will take-- that technology, political reform and market forces, working in some magic combination, will be enough to save us from ourselves.

Others among us are holding out for a full-on revolution that overthrows the whole system in one massive push, clearing the way for something entirely new. Revolutions are tricky, though: historically, a lot of them have gone sideways when the revolutionaries couldn't hang on through the chaotic aftermath of what they'd wrought. They often get swept away by some other force that's better organized, and thus better equipped to step in and take over. Anything can happen in the wake of a revolution, and all too often, it's not the thing you hoped for.

Gar Alperovitz offers "evolutionary reconstruction" as a better alternative to either reform or revolution. Visionaries from Gandhi to Buckminster Fuller have agreed with him. This model focuses our change energy on building new parallel institutions that will, in time, supplant the old ones. Don't fight the existing system, this strategy argues. Instead, just sidestep it entirely and create a new one. As the old system collapses under its own decay, yours will gradually fill in the gaps until it becomes the new dominant paradigm.

America's right wing has used this model very successfully to take control of our culture over the past 40 years. Starting in the 1970s, they invested in a wide range of parallel education systems, media outlets, professional organizations, government watchdog groups, and so on. These groups groomed a new generation of leaders, while also developing the intellectual, policy and cultural basis for the change they wanted to create. As time passed, they took advantage of opportunities to insert people and ideas from these alternative institutions into the mainstream ones. The result was that 90 percent of the conservative revolution took place almost entirely under the radar of most Americans. One day, we simply looked up to find them in charge of everything that mattered.

We lost the country this way. And we are well on our way to getting it back this way, too. As we steadily, carefully build a new set of enterprises, the new reality will inevitably and naturally take shape around us. There's nothing stopping us from starting co-ops or worker-owned businesses or triple-bottom-line corporations; we can do all of that today, in full faith that these businesses will be far better adapted to the future than the old capitalist forms we're seeking to supplant. In time, these structures will become the new normal, and people will barely remember that we ever did it any other way.

Sara Robinson, MS, APF is a social futurist and the editor of AlterNet's Vision page. Follow her on Twitter, or subscribe to AlterNet's Vision newsletter for weekly updates.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Photos of people living off-the-grid in the United States

from BoingBoing:

Eric Valli spent 3 years taking photos of people in the United States who have "decided to live light on the earth." The photographs are terrific. It looks like Valli spent time with two clans: a frontier/settler type group, and another group that look almost like cave people. I wish he had included more information about them!
Eric Valli: Off the Grid

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Congress's vocabulary falls a full grade level in seven years

from BoingBoing:
Nicko from the Sunlight Foundation sez,

The U.S. Congress speaks at nearly a full grade level lower than it did seven years ago, according to a new Sunlight Foundation analysis. Using the website -- which features the most popular words and phrases in the Congressional Record since 1996 -- Sunlight reviewed the vocabulary and sentence structure of what members of Congress are saying.

Today's Congress speaks at about a 10.6 grade level, down from a high of 11.5 in 2005. By comparison, the U.S. Constitution is written at a 17.8 grade level, the Federalist Papers at a 17.1 grade level and the Declaration of Independence at a 15.1 grade level. The Flesch-Kincaid test was used to conduct the analysis, which equates higher-grade levels with longer words and longer sentences.

A complete database of how each member in the current Congress ranks in the analysis is available.

The analysis, written by Senior Fellow Lee Drutman in collaboration with Software Developer Dan Drinkard, is broken into three parts on the Sunlight blog:

* Summary and 'report card' infographic

* Full analysis and complete methodology

* Congressional use of top SAT vocabulary words

Taking into account the complete Congressional Record since 1996, we rank the lawmakers with the highest- and lowest-record grade levels.

Top Five
Rep. Daniel Lungren (R-CA) -- 16.01
Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA) -- 14.94
Rep. Jim Gerlach (R-PA) -- 14.19
Rep. Thomas Petri (R-WI) -- 14.19
Sen. Daniel Akaka (D-HI) -- 14.18

Bottom Five
Rep. John Mulvaney (R-SC) -- 7.95
Rep. Rob Woodall (R-GA) -- 8.02
Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) -- 8.04
Rep. Sean Duffy (R-WI) -- 8.09
Rep. Tim Griffin (R-AR) -- 8.13

Is Congress getting dumber, or just more plainspoken?

(Thanks, Nicko!)


Sunday, May 27, 2012

Bertrand Russell Explains
‘Why I Am Not A Christian’
- Sunday Sermon

from our friend Richard Metzger over at DangerousMinds

"I am as firmly convinced that religions do harm as I am that they are untrue."
Lord Bertrand Russell’s famous (or infamous if you prefer) 1927 essay “Why I Am Not A Christian” is one of the “classics” of “atheist literature” and one that is still likely to be read to this very day by budding unbelievers trying to inch themselves out of the church pew (It was just such a rite of passage for me, a religious skeptic by the age of twelve).

Russell felt that religion itself was “principal enemy of moral progress.” Saying something like that took a lot of guts back them!

In part, due to his reputation as a “freethinker” and for his controversial positions on matters of sexual morality, Lord Russell, who is today regarded as one of the 20th century’s greatest minds and humanitarian activists, was judicially declared “unfit” to teach philosophy at the College of the City of New York in 1940. The great philosopher was defended by a host of intellectuals, including John Dewey and Albert Einstein (Einstein’s famous line that “Great spirits have always encountered violent opposition from mediocre minds ... ” came from his open letter in support of Lord Russell).

In the clip below, taken from the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation’s archives, Bertrand Russell gives a short but sweet answer to the question he posed himself over 80 years ago, in what is probably today his best-known popular work.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

The Californians (SNL)

I found this pretty fucking funny

Friday, May 25, 2012

Reunion this weekend!

One of my favorite bands THE MAKE-UP from Washington DC will be playing this weekend at the All Tomorrow's Parties festival in the UK. I wish I could be there in London to see them, should be great, catch them if you can in this rare appearance. (probably won't happen again)
Long-dormant gospel yeh-yeh specialists the Make-Up return after 12 years of inactivity at the festival's "I'll Be Your Mirror" weekend in London, May 25 to 27.

According to a press release, the reunion, which takes place May 27, comes at the request of festival organizers. It's unclear at this point whether or not this is a one-off appearance.

Formed in 1995, the Washington, DC outfit specialized in politically minded bursts that blended elements of soul, punk, funk, garage and more. The group, which often wore matching uniforms, featured former members of Nation of Ulysses and Cupid Car Club, and following their disbandment in 2000, singer Ian Svenonius and bassist Michelle Mae re-teamed for Scene Creamers/Weird War.

Svenonius currently leads Chain & the Gang, while guitarist James Canty is a longtime member of Ted Leo & the Pharmacists.
Quoted text from

Thursday, May 24, 2012

How "Jaywalking" Was Invented

from BoingBoing:
Sarah Goodyear relates the events that gave rise to the concept of "jaywalking," and describes what American life was like before the assumption that roads were primarily for cars became the norm, and when the streets were "vibrant places with a multitude of users and uses."

It wasn’t always like this. Browse through New York Times accounts of pedestrians dying after being struck by automobiles prior to 1930, and you’ll see that in nearly every case, the driver is charged with something like “technical manslaughter.” And it wasn’t just New York. Across the country, drivers were held criminally responsible when they killed or injured people with their vehicles...

“If you ask people today what a street is for, they will say cars,” says Norton. “That’s practically the opposite of what they would have said 100 years ago.”

Streets back then were vibrant places with a multitude of users and uses. When the automobile first showed up, Norton says, it was seen as an intruder and a menace. Editorial cartoons regularly depicted the Grim Reaper behind the wheel. That image persisted well into the 1920s...

The industry lobbied to change the law, promoting the adoption of traffic statutes to supplant common law. The statutes were designed to restrict pedestrian use of the street and give primacy to cars. The idea of "jaywalking” – a concept that had not really existed prior to 1920 – was enshrined in law.

The current configuration of the American street, and the rules that govern it, are not the result of some inevitable organic process. "It’s more like a brawl," says Norton. "Where the strongest brawler wins."

The Invention of Jaywalking

(via Making Light)

(Image: Jaywalking, a Creative Commons Attribution (2.0) image from acidxedz's photostream)

I'm a bigtime JayWalker to this day, always making the b-line..
Who's streets? Our streets!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Can a kid be a psychopath?

from BoingBoing:
The New York Times has a fascinating (and, FYI, kind of disturbing) story about young kids who exhibit psychological symptoms similar to what you see in adult psychopaths. It's a complex subject because, while everybody involved agrees these kids could use some kind of intervention, nobody knows exactly what that intervention should be and definitely don't want to stick the kids with a terrifying label that will follow them for their whole lives. More importantly, what we do know is that half of these kids will grow into normal adults—though we don't know exactly why.

It's an awkward situation where the science hasn't yet caught up to the personal need. In a perfect world, you might not want to mess around too much with this until we can learn more. But on the other hand, you're left with families that clearly need help now—like the family profiled in the story that must navigate how to deal with a nine-year-old who oscillates between violent tantrums and creepy, logical chill.
When I first met Michael, he seemed shy but remarkably well behaved. While his brother Allan ran through the house with a plastic bag held overhead like a parachute, Michael entered the room aloofly, then curled up on the living room sofa, hiding his face in the cushions. “Can you come say hello?” Anne asked him. He glanced at me, then sprang cheerfully to his feet. “Sure!” he said, running to hug her. Reprimanded for bouncing a ball in the kitchen, he rolled his eyes like any 9-year-old, then docilely went outside. A few minutes later, he was back in the house, capering antically in front of Jake, who was bobbing up and down on his sit-and-ride scooter. When the scooter tipped over, Michael gasped theatrically and ran to his brother’s side. “Jake, are you O.K.?” he asked, wide-eyed with concern. Earnestly ruffling his youngest brother’s hair, he flashed me a winning smile.

If the display of brotherly affection felt forced, it was difficult to see it as fundamentally disturbed. Gradually, though, Michael’s behavior began to morph. While queuing up a Pokémon video on the family’s computer upstairs, Michael turned to me and remarked crisply, “As you can see, I don’t really like Allan.” When I asked if that was really true, he said: “Yes. It’s true,” then added tonelessly, “I hate him.”

Glancing down a second later, he noticed my digital tape recorder on the table. “Did you record that?” he asked. I said that I had. He stared at me briefly before turning back to the video. When a sudden noise from the other room caused me to glance away, Michael seized the opportunity to grab the recorder and press the erase button. (Waschbusch later noted that such a calculated reprisal was unusual in a 9-year-old, who would normally go for the recorder immediately or simply whine and sulk.)
Read the full story at the New York Times

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Still a Malcontent

from the LA Weekly
A midlife crisis spawns Keith Morris' new band Off!
By Paul Rogers

Three decades as a punk-rock icon has dulled Keith Morris' classic revenge-of-the-nerds wrath, but not much.
"I have a little Napoleonic complex," admits the aptly compact singer, his unfaltering gaze framed by run-amok dreadlocks as we chat over chicken kebab in a Hollywood strip mall, "having been bullied all my life ... getting my head shoved in the toilet by the football players."

At 56, Morris has a youthful gait that is at odds with his wry, sage air. He calls himself a "horrible singer" — which is perhaps technically true, though he's a great vocalist and frontman — but he found a rabid audience for his pent-up proclamations after co-founding pioneering Hermosa Beach hardcore punk bands Black Flag in 1976 and the Circle Jerks three years later.

Morris might have been content to live off his legend, the Circle Jerks' sporadic reunion tours and the sometimes menial jobs (including deejaying weddings) he has taken over the years to make ends meet.

At one point he was an alcoholic and cocaine addict: "You could have lifted me up by my legs and I would've vacuumed your carpets with my nose," he says.

He got sober in 1988 and was diagnosed with diabetes a decade later. In recent years he'd gotten lazy, he says.

But in 2009 a curious turn of events reinvigorated Morris' signature fury, spawning his new band, Off!, who mark the release of their self-titled debut with a show at Whisky A Go Go on May 8.

According to Morris, it happened like this: Circle Jerks were writing songs for a long-awaited seventh studio album, set to be produced by ex–Burning Brides singer-guitarist Dimitri Coats. Coats felt that Morris' bandmates' new songs weren't up to par, preferring the tunes he and Morris had been simultaneously penning. When the other three Jerks — guitarist Greg Hetson, bassist Zander Schloss and drummer Kevin Fitzgerald — announced they wanted to fire Coats, Morris opted to jump ship and form a new band with the prospective producer. It was the rock & roll equivalent of running off with your marriage counselor.

"For about 30 years I was in a love-hate relationship, and we got to a point where we didn't really want to hang out with each other," says Morris of the Circle Jerks. "I didn't buy into them killing the momentum, killing the progress."

"We didn't hire Dimitri to be a ghostwriter, we hired him to produce and guide and encourage," Hetson says. "[Morris] was frustrated with, I think understandably, the part-time-ness of the Circle Jerks."

Completed by Redd Kross bassist Steven McDonald and ex–Rocket From the Crypt drummer Mario Rubalcaba, Off! were powered by the visceral, lo-fi venom of, well, early Black Flag and classic Circle Jerks. A flurry of last-minute shows at South by Southwest in 2010 paraded four middle-aged blokes delivering frantic, minute-long sound bombs with the restless irreverence of testosterone-loaded teens. Their sets at FYF Fest the past two years were similarly well received.

Off!'s hastily recorded demos morphed into a vinyl 7-inch, which was subsequently rereleased with three additional discs as the First Four EPs boxed set at the end of 2010. It's 16 tracks of deliberately raw West Coast hardcore with appropriately paranoid song titles like "I Don't Belong" and "Fuck People," which together clock in at less than 20 minutes total. True to Off!'s professed do-it-yourself ethic, First Four was mixed by McDonald and produced by Coats; the latter also booked Off!'s early live shows.

But Off don’t do everything themselves; they are signed to Vice Records, which was an independent label when the act came aboard in 2010, before the imprint established a global partnership with major label Warner Bros. Records a year later. This partnership was reportedly spearheaded by the band's bassist McDonald during his tenure as a Warner A&R Executive, though it wasn’t finalized until after McDonald had departed his position there.

McDonald is the son-in-law of former Warner Bros. president Lenny Waronker and has been an A&R consultant for numerous other labels. "There's nothing I'm ashamed of, that's for sure," McDonald says. "It didn't mean that, like, in a sneaky or backdoor way we were putting Warner's millions into [Off!'s] campaign. That's not the case ... not at all."

McDonald maintains that Off! is unaffected by the Vice/Warner deal, other than Vice's now having access to a better distribution network for its product. Like Morris, himself a former A&R executive for V2 Records, McDonald is unapologetic about working with big corporations and insists that his band has "controlled the conversation" throughout.

"It's not like we're pretending to live in a squat. ... We are grown guys trying to support our families and doing it in a way that makes people feel good."

What exactly constitutes a punk ethos — and even punk music itself — seems widely up for debate these days. But with the genre having largely devolved into post–Blink-182 peppy pop, most critics greeted First Four's uncluttered anger and back-to-basics arrangements warmly; Pitchfork gave it an 8.5 out of 10.

It seems possible that the grown-up commitments of Off! may have fueled the band's sense of sonic urgency. After all, Coats, McDonald and Rubalcaba are all fathers, and the latter lives removed from his L.A.-based bandmates in San Diego. Thus, they can't get together very often, perhaps only a half-dozen times for the new album, Morris says.

Coats is nearly 15 years Morris' junior and calls him his "best friend." Though he comes from an East Coast alt-rock background, it was Coats' zeal and clarity of vision that put Morris into a "time machine that took me back to the basement of the Church," Black Flag's original rehearsal space in Hermosa Beach.

"[Coats] was in my living room jamming away, and I said, 'What you're playing right there, this is what we're supposed to be doing,' " Morris recalls. Though they reject the label, they're clearly inspired by classic American punk; their debut album delivers deftly executed hardcore while hinting at a nuanced collective personality taking shape. Opener "Wiped Out" could be heyday Dickies, with Morris' adolescent speak-shout punctuating studiously garage-y guitar progressions, but then "King Kong Brigade" lets things (relatively) decelerate, with its undulating dynamics and atmospheric outro.

"I come more from a metal background, so I try to pull in some of the dark stuff," Coats explains. "And [Morris] wants it to be more of a party."

They're hitting the road with a reunited Refused in July, and between Off!'s short tours and occasional rehearsal and recording sessions, Morris' bandmates return to their families. He wanders back to his rented, memorabilia-stuffed Los Feliz apartment; he speaks of selling his collection of albums and autographs and moving abroad, perhaps to Berlin.

Having been called a legend by any number of publications and websites, he's not sure what to make of it all.

"I don't shine that kind of light on myself," he mulls. "Being a legend, with a pocketful of change, might not get you a bus ride or a cup of coffee."

All the above photos from my own archive, not included in the LA Weekly article. Middle photo was taken of OFF! playing here at a record store in New York City. The two others, classic Circle Jerks photos, i took circa 1981.

Monday, May 21, 2012

OCCUPY Los Angeles on MAY DAY 2012
Inspirational video "If I Could Change The World"



Sunday, May 20, 2012

Karl Marx is Still Correct
Sunday Sermon


Nobel economist Michael Spence, working at the behest of the Council on Foreign Relations, has co-authored a startling new paper with NYU’s Sandile Hlatshwayo. The two did an enormous amount of number crunching and analyzing of how the US economy has been structured for the past 20 years, and in particular, they examined employment trends. It was not a pretty picture that emerged from all of those details.

Well, I guess that would all depend upon which side of the fork you’re on, wouldn’t it?

As the output and productivity of the American worker increased—a LOT, I should add—during the past two decades, jobs still continued to be outsourced to other countries with cheaper labor pools, and fewer opportunities for economic advancement presented themselves for many Americans. All the while, the $$$ for all of that increased productivity didn’t go to the worker bees themselves, it went to the top, to the capitalists and investors class. To parasites like Mitt Romney and his buddies at Bain Capital.

The CFR report’s conclusions are particularly grim for people who have found themselves slipping out of the middle class towards precarious lives and who feel hopeless to do anything about it, but it’s Marxism 101 for the economic literate.

It’s a race to the bottom and “tag” you’re it!

From Reuters:

The take-away is this: Globalization is making U.S. companies more productive, but the benefits are mostly being enjoyed by the C-suite. The middle class is struggling to find work, and many of the jobs available are poorly paid.

Here’s how Mr. Spence and Ms. Hlatshwayo put it: “The most educated, who work in the highly compensated jobs of the tradeable and nontradeable sectors, have high and rising incomes and interesting and challenging employment opportunities, domestically and abroad. Many of the middle-income group, however, are seeing employment options narrow and incomes stagnate.”

Mr. Spence notes the benefit to consumers of globalization: “Many goods and services are less expensive than they would be if the economy were walled off from the global economy, and the benefits of lower prices are widespread.” He also points to the positive impact of globalization, particularly in China and India: “Poverty reduction has been tremendous, and more is yet to come.”

I’m sure Americans living in “right to work” states are just jumping for joy to be competing with wage-earners in China and India.


Free trade and the free flow of capital means lower prices for the consumer, true, but when someone in China or India is doing that very same computer programming job that used to be your job in the midwest—information workers will have the most precarious jobs of all moving forward—it’s not like you’ll be able to afford much more than rice and beans at the Wal-Mart anyway.

Yes, there’s a high cost to low price. The two are pretty well interconnected, as we’ve seen, but this is what the “free market” is supposed to do, silly. And don’t forget, it was Wal-Mart that put the local shops out of business to begin with.

Karl Marx predicted all of this. ALL of it.

He’s the most accurate prophet in history, with a record a helluva lot better than Nostradamus!

And to all of the naysayers who claim that a “command economy” doesn’t work, I present to you Wal-Mart itself, the most successful example of a command economy the world has ever seen!

Mr. Spence’s paper should be read alongside the work that David Autor, an economist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, has been doing on the impact of the technology revolution on U.S. jobs. Mr. Autor finds that technology has had a “polarizing” impact on the U.S. work force — it has made people at the top more productive and better paid and hasn’t had much effect on the “hands-on” jobs at the bottom. But opportunities and salaries in the middle have been hollowed out.

Taken together, here’s the big story Mr. Spence and Mr. Autor tell: Globalization and the technology revolution are increasing productivity and prosperity. But those rewards are unevenly shared — they are going to the people at the top in the United States, and enriching emerging economies over all. But the American middle class is losing out.

It may seem surprising that it takes a Nobel laureate and sheaves of economic data to reach this conclusion. But the analysis and its provenance matter, because this basic truth about how the world economy is working today is being ignored by most of the politicians in the United States and denied by many of its leading business people.

Here’s where it gets much grimmer, as the article’s author, Chrystia Freeland (who has been the Global Editor-at-Large of Reuters since 2010) tells of a recent breakfast at the CFR that she moderated. The speaker that morning was Randall Stephenson, chief executive of AT&T.

If this is the mindset of the leaders of corporate America today, we’re doomed:
One of the Council of Foreign Relations members in the audience was Farooq Kathwari, the chief executive of Ethan Allen, the furniture manufacturer and retailer. Mr. Kathwari is a storybook American entrepreneur. He arrived in New York from Kashmir with $37 in his pocket and got his start in the retail trade selling goods sent to him from home by his grandfather.

He asked Mr. Stephenson: “Over the last 10 years, with the help of technology and other things, we today are doing about the same business with 50 percent less people. We’re talking of jobs. I would just like to get your perspectives on this great technology. How is it going to overall affect the job markets in the next five years?”

Mr. Stephenson said not to worry. “While technology allows companies like yours to do more with less, I don’t think that necessarily means that there is less employment opportunities available. It’s just a redeployment of those employment opportunities. And those employees you have, my expectation was, with your productivity, their standard of living has actually gotten better.”
HUH? Redeployment of employment opportunities? What the fuck IS this guy talking about?

I recently heard a radio report that indicated that there is ONE factory employing around 15 people in Japan that’s responsible for nearly 80% of the world’s output of a certain sized HD screen. Consider how many people would have worked at a Magnavox television plant in the mid-fifties. Where were those employment opportunities ultimately “redeployed?”


Bob Evans?



With advanced automation, robotics and so forth, the American worker always was going to become obsolete in the long run, but the speed with which it is happening has gone from a trot to full gallop since the early 90s. Stephenson’s contention that standards of living have improved is ludicrous. Perhaps for him and for all the Cuban cigar-smoking fatcats at the country club in Westchester, but what about the rest of us?

Maybe the all-powerful, wise and benevolent free market will help us?!?!

(Sorry all of that cigar smoke is making me *cough*)
Mr. Spence’s work tells us that simply isn’t happening. “One possible response to these trends would be to assert that market outcomes, especially efficient ones, always make everyone better off in the long run,” he wrote. “That seems clearly incorrect and is supported by neither theory nor experience.”
Not to take anything away from Mr. Spence and Ms. Hlatshwayo, but there was this famous book written by a Mr. Marx and a Mr. Engels—two of the most dangerous minds in history—a hundred and fifty-some years ago that predicted all of this shit with amazing, laser-like accuracy.
Mr. Spence says that as he was doing his research, he was often asked what “market failure” was responsible for these outcomes: Where were the skewed incentives, flawed regulations or missing information that led to this poor result? That question, Mr. Spence says, misses the point. “Multinational companies,” he said, “are doing exactly what one would expect them to do. The resulting efficiency of the global system is high and rising. So there is no market failure.”
Okay, stop for a second. Read that last paragraph again, won’t you? Now read it a third time.
Mr. Spence is telling us that global capitalism is working, but that the American middle class is losing out anyway.
Yep, exactly like a certain Mr. Marx predicted would happen. What remains to be seen is how long it takes for the average American to wake up to what’s going on, when the elites are so hellbent on trying to keep them as confused as possible. Less sophisticated people can be forgiven for falling for conspiracy theories, when the REAL action is right out in the open: No one ever thinks to look there!
Mr. Spence admits he has no easy answers. American politicians are focused on a budget debate that is superficial, premature and ultimately about something pretty easy to figure out. Instead, we should all be working on the much bigger problem of how to make capitalism work for the American middle class.
Karl Marx had the answer to that, too: It’s called Socialism!


Saturday, May 19, 2012

Documentary trailer about the 86-year-old man who lives alone on an island

Judging from the trailer here, A Grain of Sand looks like a good documentary. You can watch it here for $3.
On a whim in 1962, British newspaper editor Brendon Grimshaw bought the tiny deserted Moyenne Island in the Seychelles for £8,000. In 1972 he moved to the island and has remained its caretaker ever since. Now 86 years old (and yet remarkably spry and fit), Grimshaw has planted 16,000 trees and reintroduced giant tortoises to the island (see this BBC clip on Grimshaw). Developers have reportedly offered him $50 million dollars or more for the island, but he has always refused to sell. The island is now a national park.
(from Laughing Squid via BoingBoing) Previously: 86-year-old lives alone on island he bought in 1962

Friday, May 18, 2012

THE GONZ in Paris

and as he'd like it to be seen and heard:

Thursday, May 17, 2012

'Vegansexuals' Do It With Each Other

from ABC News
Vegans, a new study has found, are grossed out by sex with meat eaters, and some so-called "vegansexuals" only want to roll in the alfalfa with other super strict vegetarians.

A recent study conducted in New Zealand found that vegans — notoriously finicky eaters who don't eat meat or animal byproducts, like eggs and dairy — don't like the idea of swapping spit (or anything else) with those who have been dining on flesh.

Annie Potts, a researcher at the University of Canterbury's Centre for Human-Animal Studies, noted that vegans, particularly women, found sex with meat eaters disgusting.

Vegans, she told ABC from New Zealand, don't like sex with carnivores, for personal reasons: "They're attracted to people with similar interests;" ideological reasons: "they see meat eaters' bodies as being composed of the lives of others;" and sexual reasons: "they didn't want to engage in intimate sex ... because of the smells and tastes of their body fluids."

Potts sampled 157 vegans, 120 of whom were female.

All of the women, according to Potts, fell along a continuum. Some expressed discontent with being with meat-eating men, while others would sleep only with other vegans.

"It is totally, totally true," said Janna Cunnigham, a 46-year-old Brooklyn, N.Y., native, about the smells and tastes of carnivores.

"Their body odor is pungent. Their sweat is extremely smelly. Their spit, and all their body fluids, are strong and stinky. Vegetarian people are not so smelly," Cunningham, who has been a vegetarian for 32 years, and a vegan for 10, told ABC

Cunningham added that she has dated both meat eaters and vegetarians, but would stick to seeing only vegetarians in the future.

While PETA, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, has long advocated people give up meat and go vegetarian, the animal rights group has its misgivings about vegans only sleeping with other vegans.

"Sex is a very effective form of outreach and activism," said Dan Shannon, a PETA spokesman, and 10-year veteran vegan, who thought meat eaters could be converted by their partners.

Shannon said he knew vegans who dated vegans exclusively, but suggested that acting repulsed by the scent of your date probably wasn't the best way to change his or her mind about veganism.

Potts said PETA's attitude differed from what was a very personal sentiment on the part of vegans who participated in the survey.

"PETA is taking a political position by using the bedroom to recruit vegans — this is about intimate relationships."

Potts added that more women responded to her survey than men, but those men who did respond were less likely to be disgusted about having sex with meat eaters.

"As far as I'm concerned, it doesn't matter too much to me," said Mike Hartikka, a 20-year-old vegan from San Diego, who has been in relationships with meat eaters and vegetarians.

But, he says, when it comes to long-term relationships, he would rather be with vegetarians or vegans.

That sentiment is borne out by Potts' research.

"It is really not that unusual that people want to be in relationships with those who they have things in common," she said.

I mean, why wouldn't we, or at least anyone with integrity? Being Vegan says a lot about who you are and how you perceive and think about the world around you, and the planet, so hell yeah it makes sense that we'd rather be with people of like minds.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

"All Hail The Beat"
A Short History of the Roland Tr-808

friend Nelson George put together this mini Doc. ...

from DangerousMinds
Don’t you love it when those murky, endless swamps of internet spam throw up something that you really enjoy? I’m sure it’s all a co-incidence, as it’s unlikely that Google knows from the number of times I have typed the numbers “808” that I’m a bit obsessed with that machine, is it?

All Hail The Beat is a three minute film by author and journalist Nelson George that’s a great introduction to (and summary of) the history of the Roland TR-808 drum machine...

Roland’s Tr-808 Rhythm Composer was first produced in 1980, and has gone on to become one of the most influential machines in modern music. Its sonorous booms and claps are heard everywhere from Afrika Bambaataa and Egyptian Lover to Beck, Lil Wayne, Aphex Twin, Missy Elliot, Talking Heads, Marvin Gaye, Rihanna and far beyond. It’s all over hip-hop, electro, R&B, house and techno, and is the basis of underground dance genres like crunk, booty bass and New Orleans bounce. Kanye West named an album after it and even Madonna can be heard warbling about the wildness of its drum sounds on her latest single (whose production, funnilly enough, featured no actual 808s.)

Nelson George, whose face you’ll recognise from many other music documentaries, here speaks to veterans like Arthur Baker and Juan Atkins about the machine. He sums All Hail The Beat, and the 808, up thusly:
The Roland TR-808 drum machine inspires musicians around the world, even though the device hasn’t been made since 1984 — and most of its avid users have never actually seen one.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Thinking in a different language affects how you make decisions

from BoingBoing:
Back in 2002, psychologist Daniel Kahneman won the economics Nobel Prize for showing that human beings don't have a really good intuitive grasp of risk. Basically, the decisions we make when faced with a risky proposition depend more on how the question is framed than on what the actual outcome might be.

The classic example is to tell a subject that there's going to be a disaster. Out of 600 people, she has a chance of saving 200 if she takes x risk. If she doesn't take the risk, everybody dies. Most people will take the risk in that scenario, but if you present the same situation and frame it differently—"If you take this risk, 400 people will die"—the decisions suddenly flip in the other direction. Nothing has changed about the outcome. But everything has changed in terms of how people feel about the decision they have to make. This is the kind of thing that matters a lot to economics because it helps to explain why economic behavior in the real world isn't always as rational and self-interested as it is in theory.

There's a new study out in the journal Psychological Science that might add another layer of complexity to Kahneman's research. If you're thinking and talking in your native language, you're likely to respond to a risky situation pretty much exactly as in the classic example. But, these researchers found that if you're thinking and talking about the situation in a second language, things change. At Wired, Brandon Keim explains:
The first experiment involved 121 American students who learned Japanese as a second language. Some were presented in English with a hypothetical choice: To fight a disease that would kill 600,000 people, doctors could either develop a medicine that saved 200,000 lives, or a medicine with a 33.3 percent chance of saving 600,000 lives and a 66.6 percent chance of saving no lives at all.

Nearly 80 percent of the students chose the safe option. When the problem was framed in terms of losing rather than saving lives, the safe-option number dropped to 47 percent. When considering the same situation in Japanese, however, the safe-option number hovered around 40 percent, regardless of how choices were framed. The role of instinct appeared reduced.
That's interesting. The researchers tried this basic thing with several different groups of people—mostly native English speakers—and used several different risk scenarios, some involving loss of life, others involving loss of a job, and others involving decisions about betting money on a coin toss. They saw the same results in all the tests: People thinking in their second language weren't as swayed by the emotional impact of framing devices.

One study doesn't prove this is universally true. Even if it is true, nobody knows yet exactly why. But Keim says that the researchers think the difference lies in emotional distance. If you have to pause and really put some brain power into thinking about grammar and vocabulary, you can't just jump straight into the knee-jerk reaction.

Read the rest of Keim's write-up on the study at

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Henry Rollins on "Big Think"
for this weeks Sunday Sermon

Hank, Killin' it!

And here's a bonus from KCRW:

Henry Rollins spins some of Iggy Pop’s classic tracks and a few lesser known songs in a nicely done career overview of America’s patron saint of punk rock.

Henry runs it down thusly:
We are going to go at it somewhat chronologically, although I may have a couple of songs out of order on that front but by and large, it’s a trip through the man’s catalog. Two hours isn’t enough time to be completely release-by-release, so I went for what I thought sounded good.”
01. The Stooges - 1969 / The Stooges
02. The Stooges - I Wanna Be Your Dog / The Stooges
03. The Stooges - Down On The Street / Fun House
04. The Stooges - T.V. Eye / Fun House
05. The Stooges - Search And Destroy / Raw Power
06. The Stooges - Raw Power / Raw Power
07. The Stooges - Open Up & Bleed / Heavy Liquid
08. The Stooges - Scene Of The Crime / Anthology Box - The Stooges & Beyond
09. The Stooges - Gimme Some Skin / Anthology Box - The Stooges & Beyond
10. The Stooges – Johanna / Heavy Liquid
11. The Stooges - Tight Pants / Anthology Box - The Stooges & Beyond
12. Iggy Pop & James Williamson - Consolation Prizes / Kill City
13. Iggy Pop – Funtime / The Idiot
14. Iggy Pop - The Passenger / Lust For Life
15. Iggy Pop - New Values / New Values
16. Iggy Pop - Get Up And Get Out / Soldier
17. Iggy Pop - Run Like A Villain / Zombie Birdhouse
18. Iggy Pop - Repo Man / Repo Man Soundtrack
19. Iggy Pop - Fire Engine / Anthology Box - The Stooges & Beyond
20. Iggy w/ Debbie Harry - Well Did You Evah! / Red Hot + Blue: Tribute To Cole Porter
21. Iggy Pop - Bang Bang / Party
22. Iggy Pop - He’s Frank / Heroes Soundtrack
23. Iggy Pop - This Is A Film / Arizona Dream
25. Iggy w/ Teddybears – Punkrocker / Soft Machine
26. Iggy Pop - Fix Me / Rise Above 24 Black Flag Songs to Benefit the WM3
Of all the records I own, some of the most frequently played, decade after decade, are ones that Iggy has had something to do with. One of the great hot-night listens of all time, perhaps the purest rock & roll recording I have ever heard, is the self-titled first album by the Stooges. So minimal and perfect. Every note, beat and lyric are essential to the whole. The older I get, the more I learn about music, the more amazing this album is to me.”
-H. Rollins.

Thanks, Doug and DangerousMinds

Saturday, May 12, 2012

DJ Red Alert's Final Mix
on New York City's Suddenly Defunct KISS F.M.

WOW, this is just hard to believe, "Red" has been rockin' the airwaves longer than most of you have been alive! I can't tell you how many weekend nights in the Golden Age of Hip-Hop we had "COOL DJ RED ALERT" on the box. Here's the story I picked up over at DangerousMinds:

Living in New York City in the 1980s one could not help but be suffused with the sounds emitting from beat boxes tuned to the dance party grooves of Kiss F.M. - it was the sound of the city. Sadly, KISS is no more. The powers that be pulled the plug on the station and 98.7 on the dial is now a sports channel.

Birthplace Magazine reports:

DJ Red Alert, a pioneering radio icon responsible for helping launch the careers of dozens of hip hop artists, broadcast for the last time from New York’s KISS-FM, his radio home during the early days of hip hop and throughout the years. The station, WRKS (98.7), announced a change in format on April, 26, 2012, shocking KISS-FM listeners who had been tuning in for decades.

ESPN has now taken over the frequency while former station rival WBLS (107.5) will “absorb” the KISS-FM branding. It is unclear how much of 98.7′s KISS staff will also move down the dial.

“Kool” DJ Red Alert, along with his WBLS counterparts Mr. Magic and Marley Marl, helped usher in what is often considered hip hop’s “Golden Era,” bringing rap music to New York’s airwaves in a groundbreaking way. Besides being a DJ for artists and groups such as Afrika Bambaata and KRS-One, Red Alert was also personally responsible for managing and breaking artists like the Jungle Brothers, A Tribe Called Quest and Queen Latifah.

The Bronx Hall of Fame member became emotional during his final 49 minute-long mix, thanking staff at Kiss-FM. “Lord gave me the best. I respect y’all. I thank y’all. Y’all don’t understand how I feel. I love y’all.” Red Alert said, his voice breaking down. He then ended his long broadcasting career at 98.7, speaking to his listening audience, many who have grown up listening to Red’s familiar voice, distinctive style and custom catchphrases, telling them, “Once again, I’m signing off. 98.7, Kiss-FM. God bless each and every one of y’all. I’m outta here.”

A little bit of New York City died over the weekend. Reminisce on this: Red Alert’s goodbye KISS - a mix in two parts.

Myself, I'm much more partial to part two of this final mix.  


Thursday, May 10, 2012

Skater Dater & The Devil's Toy
60's Classics!

In Honor of The Skateboarding Hall Of Fame Induction Ceremony This Evening:
Skaterdater is a short film that was released in 1965. It was Produced by Marshal Backlar, and written and directed by Noel Black and was the winner of the Palme d’Or for Best Short Film at the 1966 Cannes Film Festival. It was also nominated for an Academy Award in the Best Short Subject category. First prizes in international film festivals including Moscow and Venice.

The film tells a story with no dialogue. The surf rock-esque soundtrack was composed by Mike Curb and Nick Venet with Davie Allan and the Arrows playing “Skaterdater Rock” .
It was the first film on skateboarding. It was distributed theatrically, both domestically and internationally, by United Artists. It was reviewed extensively, including “Time Magazine”.

The skateboarders were members of the neighborhood Imperial Skateboard Club from Torrance, California. Their names are Gary Hill, Gregg Carrol, Mike Mel, Bill McKaig, Gary Jennings, Bruce McKaig and Rick Anderson. Most of the action shots were taken in Torrance, Redondo Beach, Palos Verdes Estates. The final shot was Averill Park in San Pedro.” Wikipedia.

and the Canadian classic,
The Devil's Toy
"dedicated to all victims of intolerance"

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Skateboarding Hall of Fame

Well folks, the time has come.
Induction ceremony tomorrow night.
With some good friends, should be fun.
The Skateboarding Hall of Fame was created to honor the passion, dedication and contributions to skateboarding history and culture by skateboarders and cultural icons throughout the decades.

(click to enlarge)

Thanks for all the kind words and well wishes.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Why does France’s new Socialist President strike fear into the hearts of the elites?

from Richard Metzger at DangerousMinds:


Hearty congratulations to the entire country of France for having the good sense to elect a Socialist president, François Hollande, and for kicking that pompous dickhead Sarkozy to the curb.

It’s not like the “Socialist” part—or even President-Elect François Hollande himself for that matter—got much play in the initial reports in the American media, although “Farewell Monsieur President!” and “Goodbye Sarkozy!” headlines were in abundance (I’d have gone with something like “France tells ‘President of the rich’ to piss off, elects Socialist”). Hollande will be the country’s first Socialist leader since François Mitterrand (the Republic’s longest-serving president) left office in 1995. It was Hollande’s ex-wife, Socialist politician Ségolène Royal, who was defeated by Nicolas Sarkozy in 2007.

MSNBC, not mentioning Hollande in the headline, and under a picture of a dejected looking Sarkozy, natch, called the President-Elect “unassumming.” When reporters did get around to mentioning Hollande by name, it was normally to mention that he was a “socialist lite” or a “moderate.”

By American political standards? That’s a pretty meaningless and worthless comparison, if you ask me.

To take the President-Elect at his own word, his win represents “a new departure for Europe and hope for the world” because “Europe is watching us, austerity can no longer be the only option.” I personally like the way that sounds, but Lynn Parramore, writing at AlterNet fears that Hollande will end up being a “marshmallow” who talks big and then lets monied interests walk all over him (where have we seen that happen before?). She also describes him as “more like an American centrist Democrat than a Bush-style right-winger,” but I’d take that with a grain of salt (see below).

Nabila Ramdani bucked the trend writing in The Independent, calling Hollande a “fiercely left-wing leader” who would “strike fear into the hearts of France’s rich” and who should not be written-off before he even takes office on May 17th.

The 57-year-old Socialist has openly admitted that he “does not like the rich” and declared that “my real enemy is the world of finance”. This means taxing the wealthy by up to 75 per cent, curtailing the activities of Paris as a centre for financial dealing, and ploughing millions into creating more civil service jobs.

Add an explicit threat to renegotiate the euro pact to replace austerity with “growth-creating” spending, and you have one of the most vehemently left-wing programmes in recent history.
BUT… There’s always a “but” isn’t there? France is broke and mired deeply in debt. Servicing the country’s outstanding debt is the second item of the government’s yearly budget, right below healthcare:

Caution is justified, though one thing Mr Hollande will not repeat is the disastrous tax-and-spend policies introduced by France’s last Socialist President, François Mitterrand, in 1981. He was soon forced into a humiliating U-turn, and into sharing power with the right as the Communists quit his cabinet in protest.

In contrast, Mr Hollande will focus on solving the euro crisis and reversing a Gallic economic decline widely blamed on a failed capitalist system, and particularly a rotten banking sector.

A summary of Holland’s policies and proposals, according to Wikipedia, demonstrates just how very little a President Hollande would have in common with “an American centrist Democrat” (no matter what Sean Hannity might think!)
Foreign policy: supports the withdrawal of French troops present in Afghanistan by the end of 2012.

European politics: aims to conclude a new contract of Franco-German partnership and he advocates the adoption of a Directive on the protection of public services. Proposes closer Franco-German partnership: “an acceleration of the establishment of a Franco-German civic service, the creation of a Franco-German research office, the creation of a Franco-German industrial fund to finance common competitiveness clusters (transport, energy or environment) and the establishment of a common military headquarters.”

Financial system: backs the creation of a European rating agency and the separation of lending and investment in banks.

Energy: endorses reducing the share of nuclear power in electricity generation from 75 to 50% in favor of renewable energy sources.

Taxation: supports the merger of income tax and the General Social Contribution (CSG), the creation of an additional 45% for additional income of 150,000 euros, capping tax loopholes at a maximum of €10,000 per year, and questioning the relief solidarity tax on wealth (ISF, Impôt de Solidarité sur la Fortune) measure that should bring €29 billion in additional revenue.

Education: supports the recruitment of 60,000 new teachers, the creation of a study allowance and means-tested training, setting up a mutually beneficial contract that would allow a generation of experienced employees and craftsmen to be the guardians and teachers of younger newly-hired employees, thereby creating a total of 150,000 subsidized jobs.

Aid to SME’s, with the creation of a public bank investment-oriented SME’s and reducing the corporate tax rate to 30% for medium corporations and 15% for small.

Recruitment of 5,000 judges, police officers and gendarmes.

Construction of 500,000 homes per year, including 150,000 social, funded by a doubling of the ceiling of the A passbook, the State making available its local government land within five years.

Restoration of retirement at age 60 for those who have contributed more than 41 years.

Hollande supported same-sex marriage and adoption for LGBT couples, and has plans to pursue the issue in early 2013.

The provision of development funds for deprived suburbs.

Return to a deficit of 0% of GDP in 2017.
This is “moderate”? Sounds pretty “sane” to moi.

Appropriately, Hollande’s jubilant left-wing supporters took their joyous celebrations to la Place de la Bastille where the Socialist President Elect spoke:
“I don’t know if you can hear me but I have heard you. I have heard your will for change. I have heard your strength, your hope and I want to express to you all of my gratitude. Thank you, thank you, thank you people of France, gathered here, to have allowed me to be your president of the republic.”

“I am the president of the youth of France! I am the president of all the collective pride of France! I am the president of Justice in France!

“Carry this message far! Remember for the rest of your life this great gathering at the Bastille because it must give a taste to other peoples, to the whole of Europe, of the change that is coming. In all the capitals, beyond government leaders and state leaders, there are people who, thanks to us, are hoping, are looking to us and want to put an end to austerity.”
Liberté, égalité, fraternité!

Monday, May 7, 2012

Beautiful photos from the Hubble Space Telescope

from Maggie Koerth-Baker at BoingBoing:

At the Brain Pickings blog, Maria Popova has some amazing images, taken by the Hubble Space Telescope during its 22 years of operation. I love this one. It's such a great reminder of the time scales of space—the remnants of things that happened 1000 years ago are still moving through the cosmos, even while humans have died and been born and moved on to other obsessions.

One other thing to keep in mind as you're looking at these photos—what you see does not always represent exactly what outer space looks like. An astronaut wouldn't see a red ribbon undulating among the stars. One of these Hubble photographs are put together from multiple images taken by different parts of the telescope. Humans colorize the images to make details stand out. In this case, making the stream of gas red allows us to see it and understand its meaning. In that way, a colorized Hubble image is actually more useful and more educational than a 100% accurate photo would have been.

See the rest of the photos at Brain Pickings

Learn more about how Hubble images are made.

Learn about the process of colorizing Hubble images, including why specific colors are chosen.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Kevin Powell: How My 8th-Grade Educated Mother Got Me to College -- And How It Changed My Life

A college education allowed Powell to escape the poverty of his childhood. Now he's striving to keep the college dream alive for kids in similar circumstances.

My mother raised me to go to college. From the time I could walk and talk, she constantly told me how important an education was, and how it could greatly improve my life as compared to hers. That is because my mother is the product of the old American South, growing up in the era of “For Coloreds Only” and “For Whites Only” signs. Blatant racism and oppression worked together to limit her possibilities to an eighth grade education, and to picking South Carolina cotton. When my mother migrated North, to Jersey City, New Jersey, where I was born and raised, she found more employment opportunities, but because of the woeful neglect and absence of my father, and generations of poverty my family had known since slavery, my mother knew that she had to do something to break the vicious cycle of little to no possibilities beyond our meager earnings that awaited me.

So my mother taught me to read and write as early as age three. She also told me I could be something important in life, like a lawyer or a doctor, if I just did well in school. When I think back on it, I realize that my mother was a young woman in her 20s, at the height of the Civil Rights Movement. Even though she herself was never a participant, she caught the remarkable spirit of that historic period. Educational opportunities were often discussed during the movement. I believe that my mother heard those whispers and transferred them, along with the aspirations that had been snatched from her own impoverished life, to me.

By the time I was in the fifth grade, my mother could no longer help me with my schoolwork. I, an only child, became so angry with her. I think it was the first time I was ever ashamed of my mother. I regret feeling as such; because the hardcore truth is that my mother is one of the smartest human beings I’ve ever met; that rare person who could make something from nothing, in spite of the poverty, on any given day. That rare person who in spite of her own educational limitations, and the fact that she, herself, had never set foot on a college campus, knew that college would inevitably transform her son’s life.

So literally from the beginning of high school I started to send away for college brochures. I read with amazement about far-off schools like Pepperdine University in California, and I often dreamed of what college would be like for me. By the time I was a senior in high school I was very skilled at the college application and SAT preparation process, and I simply brought home the admission and financial aid forms to my mother. I told her I had read through everything, and that she could simply sign by the X. She did each and every one of them, as a willing participant in her son’s path to higher education.

I settled on Rutgers University, the state university of New Jersey, and my life was changed forever. It was there, in my first year, where I stumbled into the anti-apartheid movement, Reverend Jesse Jackson’s first presidential campaign, and a kind of intellectual and cultural stimulation I had never experienced. I found myself thinking new thoughts, reading new kinds of books and, for the first time in my eighteen years, studying the great contributions of Black people to the world, in America, in the West Indies, and in Africa. My mind was expanding. My soul was churning. I was awakened and I am quite sure that college exposure is what made me the person I am today.

For it was at Rutgers that I evolved from a profoundly insecure young man who loved books, into the writer I had wanted to be since I was 11-years-old. First it was writing for the school’s newspapers; eventually I broadened into poetry to express my thoughts about my life, about our planet. It was there at Rutgers that I went from a teenager utterly terrified of speaking in public to a most recognizable student leader and speaker on campus.

That is why when I encounter young people today I always ask how many are going to college. Depending on the school and area the number ranges from most, to barely any.

I come from a background of poverty, food stamps, government cheese, and tenement buildings where we were not really encouraged to pursue a college education. If not for my mother’s vision, I doubt I would have known a college education could even be a reality for me.

That is why I feel so strongly about exposing our young people to higher education via college tours, interactive websites and, most importantly, by interacting with those of us who’ve attended college and can therefore share how important a college education has been in our lives.

I would share that a college education is one of the great equalizers in America. It is the single most important factor in my being able to move up from the class background of my mother and family to the professional I now am. I was the first person in my immediate family to attend college, and I took with me the very serious weight of what that meant. I was not only going to Rutgers University for myself, but for every single person in my family and community who would never have such an opportunity.

I would share with other first-generation college students, especially, that a college education represents a magical key in our hands, there to unlock any door that may be blocked by circumstance. All we have to do, with hard work, dedication and a dream of what we desire in life, is know that the only ceiling that will ever stop us from going up and forward with that college education is ourselves.

© Copyright Kevin Powell 2012

Kevin Powell is an activist, writer, public speaker, and entrepreneur and, in 2008 and 2010, was a Democratic candidate for Congress in Brooklyn, New York. He is the author of eleven books, including his newest collection of political and pop culture writings, Barack Obama, Ronald Reagan, and The Ghost of Dr. King: Blogs and Essays ( Visit his website:

© 2012 Independent Media Institute. All rights reserved.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

why A you see H

It's been surreal since this morning.

I have no real words to share with the general public, it's personal.

But I will share these rare, favorite, silly, early images that remind me of Adam and some of the incredible fun I've had with him and the boys, and creative moments the day after they played me "Check Your Head" we shared back then, a few that have never been seen before.


Friday, May 4, 2012

Cool artwork made from 3,600 tiles of LCD glass

from BoingBoing:
Patterned by Nature was commissioned by the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences for the newly built Nature Research Center in Raleigh, North Carolina.
The artwork, a collaboration between Hypersonic Engineering & Design, Plebian Design, and Sosolimited, celebrates our abstraction of nature's infinite complexity into patterns through the scientific process, and through our perceptions. It brings to light the similarity of patterns in our universe, across all scales of space and time.
10 feet wide and 90 feet in length, this sculptural ribbon winds through the five story atrium of the museum and is made of 3,600 tiles of LCD glass. It runs on roughly 75 watts, less power than a laptop computer. Animations are created by independently varying the transparency of each piece of glass.
The content cycles through twenty programs, ranging from clouds to rain drops to colonies of bacteria to flocking birds to geese to cuttlefish skin to pulsating black holes. The animations were created through a combination of algorithmic software modeling of natural phenomena and compositing of actual footage.
An eight channel soundtrack accompanies the animations on the ribbon, giving visitors clues to the identity of the pixelated movements. In addition, two screens show high resolution imagery and text revealing the content on the ribbon at any moment.
Patterned by Nature