Hat tip to kottke.org.
I think this video speaks for itself.
Hat tip to kottke.org.
I think this video speaks for itself.
What is democracy? Does democracy consist of free elections? Is democracy based on inalienable human rights? Is a democracy a government of laws and not of men? Does democracy require political parties, checks and balances and separation of church and state?
The classicist Paul Cartledge pointed out in his new book, DEMOCRACY: A Life (2016), that ancient Athens and the other Greek city-states lacked all these things. Yet, he argued, it was they who best represented the ideal of democracy and we Americans and British who have fallen away from it.
Democracy in ancient Greece had a complicated history. Cartledge derived from the fragmentary historical record how the common people over time wrested power from kings, aristocrats and the rich.
At the high tide of democracy, the main governing bodies were Assemblies were chosen at random, by lot, as juries are today.
The Athenian Assembly had a membership of up to 5,000 to 6,000, chosen from a citizenry of about 30,000, and they all met for important decisions.
The Assembly met almost continuously; it passed laws, set policy, tried important legal cases and decided on whether to exile (ostracize) troublesome citizens and politicians.
The Assembly did elect an administrative Council of 500 as well as generals and treasurers. Other governmental positions, including juries for minor cases, were chosen by lot.
There was no bright line dividing the legislative, executive and judicial function. An Athenian citizen might propose a military action in the Assembly one day and be named to command the troops to carry out that action.
There was virtually no limit to the power of the Assembly. You could call it a tyranny of the majority. You could even call it a dictatorship of the proletariat.
But you couldn’t deny that the people of Athens and the other democratic Greek cities ruled themselves in a way that contemporary Americans and Britishers don’t come close to doing.
Aristotle defined democracy as the rule of the poor (meaning workers) and oligarchy as the rule of the rich (meaning property-owners who don’t do manual labor). Any Athenian in the time of Pericles would call the modern USA and UK oligarchies, based on the influence of the rich on public policy and the lack of participation by the mass of the citizenry.
Rolling Stone had a good article on how Donald Trump’s policies are go against not only the wishes of a majority of the American public, but also many (not all) of the wishes of a majority of Republican voters.
I think this is interesting, but the fact is that leaders of both political parties have gone against the wishes of the American public for a long time without suffering fatal consequences.
The American public didn’t want the government to bail out Wall Street, but it happened just the same.
Many Americans are so disillusioned with American politics that they no longer are indignant about politicians who break their promises. In the 2016 election, more voters stayed home than voted either Democratic or Republican.
Clara Ooyama, once a corporate lawyer for Eastman Kodak Co., suffered serious impairment of brain function as a side effect of chemotherapy for pancreatic cancer in 2006.
Over a two-year period, she lost basic mental capacities, including the ability to read and to multi-task. Her doctor sent her to a brain rehabilitation clinic, but she was dismissed because she was too-high functioning.
With heroic determination, she worked to rebuild her neural pathways. She at first worked six to eight hours a day on the controversial Lumosity brain training exercises, carefully keeping note of mental speed, memory, flexibility and ability to pay attention.
In 2013, her husband Steve Searles reached out to the Expressive Arts program of the Hochstein School of Music and Dance here in Rochester, N.Y. Instructors helped her use dance and music as a way to do multiple tasks and hold multiple thoughts at the same time, and to integrate mind and body function.
I never thought of fog as beautiful. Or that it could come in waves.
These photographs were taken by Nick Steinberg over an eight-year period in the San Francisco Bay area, using high peaks such as Mount Tamalpais as his vantage point. What a labor of love that must have been!
It’s good to remember that there are other things in the world besides politics and economics.
Scott Alexander, a physician in the Midwest, points out on his blog that during the past 50 years—
All of this is adjusted for inflation.
The wages and salaries of public school teachers, college professors, nurses and physicians has meanwhile remained relatively flat.
As Alexander points out, this is strange.
There is a playbook from the 1930s that some people in the presidential administration are following. This includes picking a minority in your country, associate it with a global threat and use the notion of a global struggle as a way to create national solidarity while neglecting the nation’s actual problems.
National Security Adviser Michael Flynn resigned after the FBI or NSA revealed that he talked to the Russian ambassador about economic sanctions prior to President Trump being sworn in.
He reportedly asked the Russian ambassador to ask his government hold back on retaliating against President Obama’s economic sanctions because the Trump administration would have a new policy.
President Obama’s actions, taken during his lame-duck period, could have put Russia and the USA on a path of tit-for-tat retaliation that would have made it harder from the Trump administration to improve U.S.-Russian relations later on.
De-escalating was a good thing, not a bad thing.
I agree that General Flynn was not a good choice for the post of national security adviser. He was evidently a brave and honorable commander in the field, but he did not function well at headquarters, for which reason he was fired by President Barack Obama as head of the Defense Intelligence Agency.
He thinks the West is in a war with the whole Islamic world, not just the Islamic State (ISIS), Al Qaeda and their sympathizers. He is a war hawk regarding Iran. He would have been likely to get the United States into pointless wars—just not a pointless war with Russia.
I would consider his departure, in and of itself, a good thing, but for the fact that he will almost certainly be replaced by someone else just as bad or maybe worse.
The problem is that he was forced out for (1) trying to stop the slide toward military confrontation with Russia, and that the forcing out was done (2) by intelligence agencies with policy agendas different from the White House.
Twenty years ago, the U.S. government intervened in Russia’s election to put Boris Yeltsin in power.
He told how the Clinton administration managed his election campaign, and the International Monetary Fund pumped money into Russia to keep the Russian government going.
With the guidance of economists from Harvard University, Yeltsin sold off Russia’s national assets to foreign corporations and Russian individuals who became the oligarchs who dominate Russia today. With U.S. approval, he shut down the Russian parliament and concentrated power in his own hands. Independent journalists were murdered. Oligarchs took over the independent press.
The Russian people were reduced to a state of misery not seen since Stalin’s rule in the 1930s. The death rate soared and the birth rate fell. Eventually even the Russian stock market crashed.
Vladimir Putin was Yeltsin’s right-hand man. The U.S. government accepted him as a reliable successor to Yeltsin. But when Putin refused to support the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003, the U.S. turned against him.
I wrote in a previous post that Vladimir Putin is a killer. But every abuse of power by Putin was made possible by Yeltsin.
Boris Yeltsin in fact was more of a killer than Putin, but the American government didn’t care because he was willing to subordinate Russia’s national interests to the interests of American and other foreign corporations.
Steve Bannon is President Trump’s most trusted adviser. He is the second most powerful person in the Trump administration.
He is guided by a dangerously wrong philosophy.
He thinks that Judeo-Christian civilization is at war with the Moslem world abroad, and with secularists and Muslims at home.
He expects a shooting war with China and as well as a shooting war in the Middle East.
He sees himself as part of a global nationalist movement that includes the United Kingdom Independence Party, the National Front in France and similar movements across Europe.
Trump owes him. He and Jared Kushner, through their skilled use of data mining and social media, are responsible for Trump’s victory in the 2016 Election.
His idea that Americans are engaged in both a civil war and a global war could become a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Steve Bannon, born in 1953, has had a varied career as U.S. Naval officer, mergers and acquisitions specialist for Goldman Sachs, and executive producer in Hollywood. He has degrees from Virginia Tech, Georgetown University and Harvard University.
He was a little-known but influential figure even before he joined the Trump campaign. Among his films are documentaries on Ronald Reagan, Michelle Bachman and Sarah Palin and an expose of Occupy Wall Street. He was on the board of directors of Breitbart News and became executive chair when founder Andrew Breitbart died in 2012. Another Bannon organization sponsored opposition research on Hillary Clinton which resulted in the book, Clinton Cash, and many articles in mainstream newspapers about the Clintons’ conflicts of interest.
Steve Bannon, the chief adviser to President Donald Trump, is probably the most influential person in the Trump administration besides Trump himself.
But I find it hard to get a handle on Bannon’s thinking, since he shuns the limelight, and hasn’t written any books or magazine articles I could get hold of,
His 2010 documentary film, Generation Zero, is probably as good a guide to his thinking as anything else.
It is well done and, despite being 90 minutes long, held my interest—at least until the last 10 minutes of so, which consists of restatements of the main points.
Generation Zero is an analysis of the roots and consequences of the 2008 financial crisis, which Bannon rightly blames on crony capitalism, the unholy alliance of Wall Street and Washington that began in the 1990s.
But if you look at the film’s action items, what he really does—knowingly or unknowingly—is to protect Wall Street by diverting the public’s attention from what’s really needed, which is criminal prosecution of financial fraud and the break-up of “too big to fail” institutions.
Bannon presents himself as an enemy of corrupt politicians and financiers. But there is nothing he advocates in the film or otherwise that threatens the power of either.
Generation Zero draws on a book, The Fourth Turning by William Strauss and Neil Howe, who claim there is a cycle in American politics based on the succession of generations. Each cycle consists of four turnings—(1) a heroic response to a crisis, (2) a new cultural or religious awakening, (3) an unraveling and (4) a crisis.
Blogger Ian Welsh says the first step to being happy is to stop making yourself unhappy.
I live in a single room, in a downscale neighborhood. I sleep on some pads on the floor. I am in debt, and I have a couple of serious health problems.
I am also happy most of the time.
I’ll be sitting in my garret and thinking, “God, life is amazing. This is wonderful.”
And I’ll laugh and mock myself, “What’s good about this? You’re poor, sick, overweight, and broke.” All that is true, but I’m happy (and my health is improving, no worries, I don’t expect to die soon, though who knows).
So I’m going to give some unsolicited advice on how to be happy even though your life sucks, because, well, I’m pretty good at it.
The first step is to not be unhappy.
(Insert head smacking motion from readers.)
Seriously, though, start there. Or, as I like to say: “The whole of the path is not giving a fuck.”
Run out of fucks. Do not restock. Life will seem a lot better.
Please don’t mistake Welsh’s philosophy for indifference to the world or other people. He is engaged with the world through his excellent political blog. He is concerned about world events. He just doesn’t let world events make him miserable.
This Danish television program takes people who fit in different boxes ethnicity, belief and social and economic class, and shows the commonalities that exist across these divisions. Who among you was the class clown? they were asked. Who are step-parents? Who is madly in love?
It’s easy to put people in boxes. There’s us and there’s them. The high-earners and those just getting by. Those we trust and those we try to avoid. There’s the new Danes and those who’ve always been here. The people from the countryside and those who’ve never seen a cow. The religious and the self-confident. There are those we share something with and those we don’t share anything with.
And then suddenly, there’s us. We who believe in life after death, we who’ve seen UFOs, and all of us who love to dance. We who’ve been bullied and we who’ve bullied others.
Maybe we all really can get along. Hat tip to kottke.org.
Hillary Clinton was not defeated by a white working class uprising in favor of Donald Trump.
And she was not defeated by the defection of liberals and progressives to Jill Stein.
It is important to remember this because merely attacking President Trump (as justified as these attacks may be) will not, in and of itself, bring back the Democratic vote.
You can’t beat something with nothing. Unless Democrats offer a path to prosperity and peace, they will very likely lose and, even if they win, their victories won’t matter.
In a word, yes.
Vladimir Putin is clearly implicated in killings of Russian citizens.
It is true that Barack Obama also initiated a policy of killing individuals he deemed a threat to the United States, and a couple of those were American citizens. It is true that the U.S. supports dictatorships that use death squads. But changing the subject to the U.S. doesn’t change the facts about Putin.
Is the fact that Vladimir Putin is a killer a reason not to have diplomatic relations with Russia? It certainly is a reason not to be naive in dealing with Putin. It is a reason not to regard him as a friend.
But President Franklin Roosevelt formed an alliance with Joseph Stalin, one of the greatest mass killers of the 20th century, in order to defeat Nazi Germany. President Richard Nixon flew to China to open U.S. relations with Mao Zedong, another mass killer, in order to checkmate Soviet Russia.
If working with Putin can eliminate the danger of nuclear war over Ukraine or defeat the Islamic State, that would be a good thing, not a bad thing.
An eagle with a Sony video camera flew off the top of Burj Khalifa, currently the world’s tallest building, in Dubai, enabling us to (sort of) see what an eagle in flight sees. It’s too bad there is no footage of the eagle’s last few feet of flight before landing, but the footage is still something to see.
An interesting behind-the-scenes look at the Donald Trump election campaign, which I just now got around to watching. Click on this for a transcript.
During the election campaign, Donald Trump rightly denounced Hillary Clinton for her ties to Goldman Sachs, the predatory Wall Street banking firm, and especially the three $225,000 speaking fees she took for giving one-hour talks to that company.
Now Trump has put two former Goldman Sachs executives in charge of economic policy—Steve Mnuchin, former Goldman partner, as Secretary of the Treasury, and Gary Cohn, former president of Goldman, as his top economic adviser.
President Trump has put a portrait of Andrew Jackson, the great enemy of concentrated financial power, in his office. But his appointments show that he will be a champion of the moneyed establishment. Those who voted for him in hope he would be a friend to working people are going to be disappointed.
The Goldman Sachs effect: How a bank conquered Washington by Nomi Prins for TomDispatch.
The Vampire Squid Occupies Trump’s White House by Matt Taibbi for Rolling Stone.
The noteworthy things about President Trump’s decree on Muslim immigration were how unnecessarily cruel it was, how incompetently it was drawn and how it caught everyone by surprise.
The other noteworthy thing was how mass protests against his decree pressured him to back down from one of the worst parts of it—the forbidding of Green card holders and other legal foreign residents from returning to the country if they are out of it.
I think these things will be hallmarks of his administration—that is, cruelty, stupidity and unpredictability, but also vulnerability to public opinion and public pressure. Trump does not have the power of a dictator, although he would like to have it.
Even conservatives who strongly believe in keeping out unauthorized immigrants and immigrants from the Muslim world thought Trump handled this wrongly.
But the most dangerous trait that Trump revealed was unpredictability.
Being unpredictable is a strength when you’re fighting against adversaries, whether on the battlefield, the marketplace or an election campaign. It also is a strength of a showman, which Trump most definitely is.
It is, however, a dangerous trait in the head of government of a great nation. The most important defining characteristic of a free country is the rule of law. People who live in a free country need to be able to know what the laws are, and to know that they are safe so long as they obey the law.
President Donald Trump has banned Syrian refugees from coming to the USA.
But there wouldn’t be any refugees from Syria if the U.S. government hadn’t intentionally destabilized their country.
It is shameful to treat the refugees as if they themselves were to blame for being persecuted and homeless.
Ten years ago, Syria was a country where Middle East refugees fled to, not away from. What changed it was the rebellion, instigated by the U.S. government and spearheaded by the Islamic State (aka ISIS) and the al-Nusra Front, the heirs to Al Qaeda, to overthrow Bashir al-Assad.
People who once led normal lives have been made homeless and exiles by warlords and armed religious fanatics.
The saving grace of President Trump’s order is to make exceptions for religious minorities and Syrians in danger because they worked for Americans.
Christians comprise 10 percent of the population of Syria. The Christian community there goes back to the time of St. Paul. Although Christians are targeted by ISIS and other jihadists, they comprise fewer than 10 percent of refugees—possibly because they’re in danger from Muslim fanatics in the refugee camps. It would be shameful for a nation that is more than 70 percent Christian to turn its back on them.
North of the Arctic Circle in Finland, there is a period of about 50 days when the sun never rises above the horizon, known as the Polar Night.
Artist and photographer Hannu Huhtamo uses this period of darkness to paint with light. He makes his strange and haunting works of art by making a long-exposure photograph of a moving bright light source against a dim background.
Hannu Huhtamo Photography. His website.
This Photographer Paints With Light in the Finnish Polar Night by Lisa Lanot for Konbini.