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Sun Jul 07, 2013 at 07:39 PM PDT

PRISM: What It's Really All About

by Joieau

Reposted from Joieau by Pluto

Last night we had lots of company - as we usually do this time of year on the ol' homestead - and of course the late night conversation out on the back deck veered into NSA/Spy-State and what in the world the government would be so concerned about in our mundane daily lives that they'd try to justify an overwhelming (of OUR rights) 'need' to monitor and record our entire analog / digital existence. On its face it should outrage EVERY citizen of this nation, after years of enforced economic recession, massive unemployment, millions of families losing their homes and lands, retirements looted, etc., etc., etc., to find out the government's spending God Only Knows how much on this sort of pointless crap.

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Thu Jul 04, 2013 at 08:32 PM PDT

Snowden has everything. Everything.

by antifa

Reposted from antifa by Pluto

(Edits: Snowden's actual salary has been corrected to $120K, the title of the diary has changed, and it is here specifically stated by the author that any and all of this essay may be quoted and freely distributed as desired. It is a public document.)

Pardon, but we need to clear up something in everyone's discussions of Edward Snowden.

Snowden's actual job title was "infrastructure analyst." Booz Allen was openly recruiting for the position, which Snowden took a pay cut to accept. Most likely everyone figured it was because he and his girlfriend wanted to live in Hawaii. It was actually because Edward wanted to be in a role where he could freely access top security clearance data proving the NSA's nasty habit of data vacuuming on every living soul within reach, everywhere in the world.

What does an infrastructure analyst do? Well, at an ordinary company that manufactures widgets or can openers, an infrastructure analyst is one of a team of guys who have their hands on the very heart of the company network 24/7. Between them they keep it up and running, back it up, fix problems and disasters as they happen, and implement upgrades and new rollouts of software.

They see to the implementation of network policies across the board, flag violations or intrusions from within or without, set up new systems when the need arises, and if they're any good they test the system for flaws and weak points.

They often do a bit of coding to improve server performance or to trace leaks, or to test network security. Some are better at this kind of testing than others. Snowden was not just good on the keyboard, he was amazing and gifted, by all reports. Which is where and how all the trouble started.

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Reposted from Yosef 52 by Pluto

This is taken from my book The Emergence and Nature of Human History, Volume One. The section of the book from which this is taken is a chronology of the emergence of consciousness. The chronology employs Carl Sagan's device of condensing the Universe's age down to one year, with the Big Bang occurring on 1 January. The section also measures time through the use of an imaginary timeline one million meters in length. In this scale of time, all of the events here began about 2 and one-half minutes ago and within 4 meters of the end of the line.

The chapter is very lengthy, so I will publish Part Two in the middle of tomorrow night.

I had always wondered how modern humans came to populate the surface of the Earth. This is what I found out

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Reposted from Yosef 52 by Pluto

This is taken from my book The Emergence and Nature of Human History, Volume One. The section of the book from which this is taken is a chronology of the emergence of consciousness. The chronology employs Carl Sagan's device of condensing the Universe's age down to one year, with the Big Bang occurring on 1 January. The section also measures time through the use of an imaginary timeline one million meters in length. In this scale of time, all of the events here began about 2 and one-half minutes ago and within 4 meters of the end of the line.

The chapter is very lengthy, so I published Part One in the middle of last night. You can find it here.

I had always wondered how modern humans came to populate the surface of the Earth. This is what I found out.

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Reposted from Don't Panic by Pluto

I'm a idealist. No apologies.

Right is right. Wrong is wrong.

I opposed the PATRIOT Act under Bush. I still oppose it.

I opposed the invasions and occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan under Bush. I opposed those occupations under President Obama.

I opposed FISA, MCA and violations of the Bill of Rights under Bush. I still oppose them now.

I opposed the use of drones under Bush. I oppose them now.

I opposed violations of the Fourth Amendment under Bush. I continue to oppose them now.

I opposed NCLB under Bush. I oppose the equally odious RttT now.

I opposed neo-liberal economic policies under Bush. I continue to oppose them now.

I opposed DOMA under Clinton and Bush. I still oppose DOMA.

Free trade agreements such as NAFTA were wrong under Clinton and Bush. They are still wrong.

I think you get the point.

I will not allow someone's political affiliation to determine my moral compass. My ethics are not for sale to any political party.

If that makes me a purist, so be it.

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Reposted from gjohnsit by Pluto

 Two years in the Peace Corps gave me a greater understanding of how foreign nationals see our country.
   For instance, I once had a Dominican friend tell me that if you broke your leg in "Nueva York" (aka Estados Unidos) that "they" would give you a million dollars. When I tried to explain to him that he had it backwards, that "they" would make you pay a million dollars, he didn't understand. The United States was a place where they had too much money.
   My Dominican friend was not unique. All the Peace Corps Volunteers in the D.R. had similar stories.

  While the Dominicans have this idea that America is a land of boundless riches, other nations have a very, very different impression of America.

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Reposted from David Gee by Pluto

JERUSALEM — According to the Washington Post "Israel’s defense chief said Tuesday a Russian plan to supply sophisticated anti-aircraft missiles to Syria was a “threat” and signaled that Israel is prepared to use force to stop the delivery.

The warning by Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon ratcheted up tensions with Moscow over the planned sale of S-300 air-defense missiles to Syria. Earlier in the day, a top Russian official said his government remained committed to the deal."

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Reposted from Eric Stetson by Pluto

In A bridge falling into the water and a vision for the future gone missing, Laura Clawson points out that the collapse of the Skagit River Bridge on Interstate 5 is symptomatic of a deeper, systematic problem in America today. Public construction spending as a share of GDP is the lowest it's been in decades. And as The Huffington Post reports, more than 700 bridges in Washington State alone are in worse shape than the one that collapsed.

This is a symptom of the slow-motion collapse of American civilization. What is happening to our society is much like watching a rotting log gradually crumbling into dust.

In his epic Middle Eastern history novel The Source, James Michener had a chapter near the end called "Twilight of an Empire," about the decline of the Ottoman Empire because of corrupt and ineffectual government. Political officials had given up hope for positive change, and an elaborate system of bribery prevented most legislation or public works from moving forward. As one government leader said to his protege:

"What we must do is permit no change and hope that things work out for the best." At that moment his desk was heavy with petitions covering matters of health, schools... and an ingenious plan for clearing the harbor of silt, but during his remaining tenure none would be moved forward.
Could there be a more accurate description of our political situation today?

History moves in cycles, and I think most early 21st century Americans can feel in their gut that this country is on the downslope of its historical trajectory. The question is, can we turn it around, or is it too late? Will American civilization as we know it cease to exist, much like the collapse of the Ottoman Empire a century ago?

One thing is for sure: Our government is fundamentally broken. An honest description of the current normative functioning (or lack thereof) of the U.S. Congress would go something like this:

Every year, one party demands and succeeds in cutting government spending and preventing spending on new projects through two mechanisms:

1. Threats to refuse to raise the "debt ceiling," which would cause America to default on its debt and crash the world economy.

2. The "silent filibuster" in the Senate, in which a 60% supermajority is always required to pass any bill or even to debate it.

The filibuster also prevents many appointees to courts and government agencies from being confirmed, leading to an ongoing, increasing vacancy rate and inability for executive and judicial institutions to function.

Legislation that does pass the Congress is usually drafted by lobbyists for corporations and the wealthy, ensuring that their private interests rather than the public interest is protected. Lobbyists have this power because they provide most of the funds for the reelection campaigns of elected officials. In return for their cooperation in this system, politicians are typically hired by lobbying firms and given generous compensation packages upon leaving elected office.

Under this system of government in which we are now living -- a system of institutionalized inaction and bribery in all but name -- spending the necessary funds to repair America's crumbling roads and bridges is considered an extravagant luxury that our country cannot afford. Bridges, plural. Remember this from a few years ago:
I-35W Mississippi River bridge collapse in Minneapolis, Minnesota, 2007
I-35W Mississippi River bridge collapse in Minneapolis, Minnesota, 2007
Iconic of the state of American civilization in general? "Too expensive... let it rot." "Too difficult to have a functioning government... let it do nothing." Infrastructure and institutions of a once proud nation, dwindling away into embarrassment and farce. Our leaders no longer care about providing the American people with even basic public goods that can be relied upon. So we -- supposedly the greatest country in the world -- let roads and bridges in major American cities collapse.

Schools, libraries, parks, advanced weather forecasting, and other features of great modern civilizations? Forget about it! All being cut to the bone.

So few jobs being created that labor force participation is the lowest since 1979 and food stamp eligibility is the highest ever? Who cares! It sure isn't the government's responsibility to do anything about unemployment, right? -- the reaction from America's politicians on this score is as deafening as John Cage's infamous symphony of silence.

Even spending money on disaster relief for American cities destroyed by a hurricane or a tornado is no longer an automatic thing, but instead a political football. Our politicians are so tight, the unreformed Ebenezer Scrooge would be proud.

It used to be that America put men on the moon.

We have become a society deeply in decline. And for anyone who is proud to be an American, it is sickening to watch it unfold.

The only question that remains is this: Will the American people rise up, with renewed pride in what their country once was and could be again, and demand better of its leaders?

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Thu May 23, 2013 at 04:43 PM PDT

$h*tting Denial

by John Crapper

Reposted from Holy $h*tters by Pluto

Shit and the act of shitting have struggled over time to receive the attention and respect they deserve.  Even though everybody does it, societal norms dictate that we not talk about it in public.  The outhouse was named such because society has long placed the act of shitting in society’s outhouse.  

The emergence of the Church of the Holy Shitters has changed all that. Now, all of a sudden, there is a religion focused on it. Shit is the focal point of our existence. It is the compass of our lives. It is the substance that directs our attention. It is the stuff that really matters. Its contemplation assists us in achieving the Shitty Way of Life aspired to by members of our Church.

The first thing I want to mention as Poop John the First of the Church of the Holy Shitters is that people think shit is disgusting and they think the act of shitting is disgusting.  They try to hide  taking a dump every day, try not to talk about it, try to stay away from it, try not to admit they do it every day and flush it away as quickly as possible when they're finished.

Anthropologists think disgust is learned.  They point to small children who show no disgust at dirt or feces until they are educated otherwise.  The anthropologist  Mary Douglas concluded that something is dirty because it is out of place.  Soil in the garden is fine; soil on a plate is not.  Disgust becomes a way of ordering a society, of creating a hierarchy of what is safe and what is acceptable.  It also becomes a way of distancing intellectual humans from their embarrassingly animal origins.

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Thu May 23, 2013 at 02:34 AM PDT

What Happened To America?

by regibaby67

Reposted from regibaby67 by Pluto

There are people who grow up believing the world to be a fair and just place.  Bad guys will eventually get what’s coming to them.  Good guys win in the end.  If someone is doing wrong in your neighborhood, the good guys can be called, and the bad guys will be taken care of accordingly.  We are a democracy, we are told.  Justice will always win in the end.

For some people, this kind of life exists for them.  They grew up in the right neighborhoods, went to the right schools, came from the right families.  They got into the college of their choice, or maybe their second choice, but that wasn’t so bad.  They got that job they were counting on, maybe their father called in a favor to an old colleague.  Maybe that summer internship paid of in the end.  Perhaps that letter from their professor helped open the door.

For many of us, we know that life isn’t always fair, in fact, it seems that rarely is it ever.  We grow up in poor neighborhoods.  Our clothes always seem to be a bit small, no matter how we try to hide it.  We are picked on in school, and no one ever seems to come to our defense.  There is violence in our school, our neighborhood, sometimes even in our homes.  Sometimes we hide beneath dusty beds or in musty closets to get away from it.  We have parents who both need to work to make ends meet.  We sometimes go to school hungry, and sit in the corner, trying to not show our hunger as the other kids go on eating their lunches.  Our schools lack funds for enrichment classes, art classes, music classes.  P.E. classes, once a daily staple, have become a one day a week event.  Kids aren’t allowed to play tag, for fear that someone might fall and get hurt, and in our sue happy society, their parents might sue the school for damages.  Instead of being urged to develop our critical thinking, and use our imaginations, we are fed a constant barrage of information that we must retain, so that we can pass The Test.  Because if we don’t do well on The Test, the school loses money, and another teacher might lose her job.  If we fall behind, there is no reviewing information, for we must stick to the carefully laid out plans for the testing, always forward to the next subject.  Sometimes our teacher has to spend a lot of time with the kid with the learning disability who has trouble keeping up, because the school budget doesn’t allow for a teacher’s aide any longer.  We managed to make it home somehow avoiding the bully who stalks us after school.  College?  Just to make it through to high school graduation is an accomplishment where we come from.

We are then thrown into real life, where supporting one’s self is a challenge that’s even more dire.  There was a time when high schools offered shop classes and hands on skills, where you could learn a skill that could be utilized in the labor market.  You could go and become a mechanic, and make a decent living at the local garage, forever having a dull dirt beneath your fingernails from the endless hours beneath a car hood.  You could work in a fabrication shop, working with tools.  Now, jobs are hard to find, even with a college degree.  In fact, many kids coming out of college are not only horribly in debt, but the job market seems to offer them jobs they could have gotten right out of high school.  Many jobs they are deemed overqualified.

We look around, and see our neighborhoods suffering.  Shops closed down for business.  Houses that were foreclosed on, standing empty, landscaping that was once plush and proud, left overgrown, grass dead and brown.  Roads need repairing, but there’s no money for fixing them, not in this economy, we are told.  A giant superstore comes into town, with prices fixed so low, all the other shops in town, small businesses owned by locals in the community for years, are forced to close down, unable to keep up with the competition.  The large supermarket union job, that guaranteed a living wage and a valuable benefits package, becomes a thing of the past as all the residents in the community choose instead to stretch their dollars at the giant superstore.  The once living wage, 40 hour workweek is reduced to minimum wage, minimum hours, and the only benefits package is in the employee area, where the managers at the giant superstore advise you on how to apply for food stamps, because you don’t make enough money to feed your family.  Factories closed down, because the corporation realized it’s better for their bottom line to run a slave labor factory in Bangladesh and pay a 10 year old girl twelve cents an hour instead of what the labor market demands of them in the U.S.  So what if that child dies in a fire, or a building collapse, or a vicious gang rape.  There’s another bus load of little brown kids ready to take her place in no time.

We sit and watch our wages become smaller and smaller while the cost of our basic needs goes higher and higher.  The big bosses decide it’s in their best interest to make the job of two or three people into one job, so you are stretched to your limit to do the work of two or sometimes three people, but you are never paid more for your work.  You pray you don’t get sick, or your child does not become sick, for a sick day could mean not being able to have enough money for your rent and basic bills.  You have to work 2 jobs to meet the demands of having a roof over your head.  You live one paycheck away from sleeping on the street.

You are told by the big energy company, here you go, here’s tens of thousands of dollars, we’re gonna do a bit of drilling over here in the corner of your property, don’t mind us.  You are safe from any harm.  Oh, they would never let anything bad happen to us, your neighbor says, as he shows you his contract.  Who can resist, you think, as you sign your name on the dotted line.  I can put some money away now.  I can have some breathing room.

The next thing you know, here comes the trucks, in an endless parade, with the drills, and chemicals, and God knows what else they’ve got.  Smelly clouds surround your home, so awful that you keep your kids inside on what used to be a nice sunny day.  You go to get water one day, and realize, it’s a brown, smelly mess that runs out of your faucet.  You go to your local government agency, and demand some answers.  You show them your water.  You notice that your cat is losing his hair.  The neighbor down the street says her cows are sick.  You are told by the state officials, there’s nothing wrong with your water, go ahead and drink it.  You cannot believe they are telling this to you with a straight look on their face.  You demand that the friendly guy from the big energy company do something about it.  They say, with that same straight face, it’s not our faults.  Your sick child and your sick animals and your wife’s miscarriage has nothing to do with the drilling taking place 200 feet from your home.  By the way, remember that paperwork you signed?  That means you can’t tell anyone about any of this.

Suddenly, you’re not in your country any longer.  Your land, your family, your children, your pets, your community, all you hold dear, are suffering, and there seems to be nothing you can do about it.  You go to the place that’s supposed to protect you, supposed to care about the well being and safety of the community, and they seem to laugh in your face and say, sorry, buddy, can’t help you here.  If you don’t like it, move.

Move where, you think, as you look around at the ravaged wasteland that was once your community, was once rolling green hills, dotted with ponds and lakes and rivers bursting with fish and frogs and kids, now some mysterious, unnatural color, filled with fumes so toxic you have to wear a mask to go anywhere near it.  I grew up here, you think, as you survey the destruction with a tear in your eye and a lump in your throat.  I swam in that lake.  I fished in that pond.  I grew up in this house.  Where am I supposed to go?

Meanwhile, we are told, we need to fix the budget.  We need to pay off the deficit.  We need to take your Social Security to do it.  We need to close your local health clinic.  We need to close your child’s Head Start program.  We need to stop the Meals on Wheels that feeds your invalid uncle in the next county over, because the government just can’t afford it.  We must all make a sacrifice.

We are told, those big bankers on Wall Street have saved us from the big collapse that could have wrecked the economy.  We are told, we’re just not bright enough to understand it all, even though, common sense would tell anyone that it makes no sense to pay the very ones who almost broke the economy in the first place millions of dollars in bonuses as reward money for what they’ve done.  No one is putting money back into your pension, though.  I didn’t do a damned thing, you think with bitterness, and they took half of my pension, and yet those guys get bonuses?  

You watch in horror at the devastation of Hurricane Sandy, you say a silent prayer to those poor people who must be suffering.  You are surprised to see, within days, the lights of the large Goldman Sachs building lit up like a Christmas tree, surrounded by the dark buildings all around it, dark and cold, and full of frightened, hungry people, and no FEMA to help them out.

You watch the horror stories of the families of small children, gunned down by another crazed maniac.  Even though you are a gun owner, you feel it’s the duty of the country to restrict gun sales.  Who wants some crazy guy getting out of jail, or a mental institution, to be able to show up at a gun show and buy an AK-47 without a back round check?  You keep your gun under lock and key, in a safe place, and are careful any time you take it out and go down to the local shooting range.  You watch stunned as, even though you know 90% of your fellow citizens agree to the simple idea that a dangerous weapon should not be sold to just anyone on the street, that any law abiding citizen should care about a gun being sold to the proper law abiding citizen, you cannot fathom how the legislation just got voted down.  Shame on them, you mutter to yourself.  Those poor little kids.  Every day, another child is dead, at the hands of some irresponsible gun owner who looks upon these weapons as toys for kids to play with.  Might as well give those kids keys to the car and let them drive on down to the local Toys R Us.

You hear on the news, another big company that didn’t pay one dime in taxes.  How ‘bout them Apples?  You start to see, the system is rigged, and it’s not in your favor.  The country is one big Vegas scam, and they’ve got you betting the whole house, while they’re the ones that tweeked the slot machines, they’ve been counting cards, they’ve been hiding the secret switch beneath the felt covered tables.  They’re not gonna stop until they’ve taken the last of your security, drilled and sucked every drop of fluid and gas from the land, poisoned every body of water, and leveled every mountaintop.  The once majestic land of your youth has been sold off to the highest bidder, and you wonder who it is that gave them the right to do so.  The big Wall Street banksters continue their fraud with no repercussions, no regulations, no retributions, and no shame.  Large corporations continue oppressing third worlds for their big profits, while stashing their trillions in foreign banks in perfectly legal loopholes that they bought and paid for with their well funded ALEC legislation.

We read the recent news, another terrorist attack.  More dead.  More fear spills through the airwaves.  We learn, somehow, that the freedoms we once held dear are a thing of the past.  How is it that for reasons we are given, of safety and security, our homes can be searched without warrants?  We can be arrested without being charged of a crime?  We can be locked up indefinitely, we can be tortured, we can even be killed by our leaders, if we are suspected of a crime?  What happened to our Bill of Rights?  What happened to Habeas Corpus?  What happened to freedom and democracy?

And we sit, in our aging homes, our struggling communities, our battered cities, holding our fist full of broken dreams, and wonder, what the hell happened to America?

Discuss
Reposted from Words In Action by Pluto

Previously in this series:

Notice: The Growing Cooperatives Movement & How You Can Get Involved. YES! Magazine Conference Call - Includes some information on cooperatives and YES! Magazine, an important resource for understanding New Economy and other subjects of relevance to progressives, especially those inclined toward direct action.

YES! Magazine arranged the call with the following panel to expand upon it's spring 2013 issue, How Cooperatives Are Driving the New Economy.

Conference Call Participants

Moderator
Sarah van Gelder, Executive Editor, YES! Magazine

Panelists
Laura Flanders, GRITtv and the Laura Flanders Show
Omar Freilla, The Green Worker Cooperatives
Eric Bowman, The Northwest Cooperative Development Center (NWCDC)
Ted Howard, Democracy Collaborative, Evergreen Cooperatives
Mike Beall, The National Cooperative Business Association (NCBA)

Call Transcript, Pt 1 (Sarah van Gelder, Laura Flanders)

Call Transcript, Pt 2 (Omar Freilla)

Call Transcript, Pt 3 (Eric Bowman)

Call Transcript, Pt 4 (Ted Howard)

Call Transcript, Pt 5 (Mike Beall)

Call Transcript, Q&A

Notes on items appearing in the chat thread follow.

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Reposted from http://www.dailykos.com/user/bobswern by Pluto

(NOTE: Dr. Giroux has provided written authorization to the diarist to reproduce his work in its entirety for the benefit of the Daily Kos community. Giroux is a member of Truthout's Board of Directors. Here's the LINK to his website.)

LOCKDOWN, USA: LESSONS FROM THE BOSTON MARATHON MANHUNT
By Henry A. Giroux
May 4th, 2013
(Another version of this post is now available VIA THIS LINK at
Truth-Out.org as of May 6th, 2013   10:00 AM EDT)
A tragedy of errors: nobody knows any more who is who. The smoke of the explosions forms part of the much larger curtain of smoke that prevents all of us from seeing clearly. From revenge to revenge, terrorism obliges us to walk to our graves. I saw a photo, recently published, of graffiti on a wall in NYC: ‘An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind’.
––Eduardo Galeano1
The American public rightfully expressed a collective sigh of relief and a demonstration of prodigious gratitude towards law enforcement authorities when the unprecedented manhunt for the Boston marathon bombers came to an end. The trauma and anxiety felt by the people of Boston and to some degree by the larger society over the gratuitously bloody and morally degenerate attacks on civilians was no doubt heightened given the legacy of 9/11.  

Since the tragic events of that historical moment, the nation has been subjected to “a media spectacle of fear and unreason delivered via TV, news sites and other social media;”2  it has also been engulfed in a nationwide hysteria about Muslims. Moreover, the American public has been schizophrenically immersed within a culture of fear and cruelty punctuated by a law-and-order driven promise for personal safety, certainty, and collective protection that amounted to a Faustian bargain with the devil, one in which Americans traded constitutional rights and numerous civil liberties for the ever expanding presence of a militarized security and surveillance state run by a government that has little regard for human rights or the principles of justice and democracy.3  

The collective expressions of relief, compassion, and adulation were reasonable and appropriate once the threat from the Boston marathon bombers had ended. But such feelings are short-lived in a country that infamously is losing its capacity to question itself, embracing instead a mode of historical amnesia “in which forgetting has become more important than learning.”4  

What is needed in the aftermath of this tragedy is a critical and thoughtful analysis about what the significance of locking down an entire city meant not simply for the present or the future of urban living, but for democracy itself.  Locking down Boston was generally left unquestioned by the mainstream media, though a number of progressive and left intellectuals raised serious questions about the use and implications of the tactic, particularly the abridging civil liberties, squelching dissent, and legitimating the spectacle of the war machine.  

(Continued below the fold.)

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