PND Commentary

Credit bureaus were the NSA of the 19th century

April 21, 2016
posted by

The Atlantic The Atlantic
by Sarah Jeong  

"Tappan's Mercantile Agency had over 300 correspondents in 1844, and grew to more than 10,000 by the 1870s. By the end of the 19th century, the agency would have created over 2,000 volumes of credit reports, gradually shifting from excruciatingly tiny calligraphy to typewritten pages. R.G. Dun -- eventual successor to Lewis Tappan -- was one of the first business owners to embrace typewriters. The scope of the agencies exploded where new technologies let it grow. Today, the possibilities of bureaucratic surveillance -- particularly in the hands of the government -- appear limitless." (04/21/16)

http://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2016/04/mass-surveillance-was-invented-by-credit-bureaus/479226/  

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Can social media seize control of our elections?

April 21, 2016
posted by

OpEdNews
by Thom Hartmann  

"[I]f Americans don't trust the traditional media, where are they getting their news? Well, many of them, especially younger Americans, are getting it from the internet and social media. This is having a big, game-changing effect on our democracy. Because of social media, politicians and activists now don't have to worry as much about getting their message across through corporate-controlled media. They can now actually work around traditional corporate media altogether by using sites like Twitter, Facebook and Instagram to reach out to supporters and rally the public to their cause. This dynamic has played a huge role in the rise of Bernie Sanders." (04/20/16)

http://www.opednews.com/articles/Can-Social-Media-Seize-Con-by-Thom-Hartmann-Controlled-Media_Facebook_Media-Bias_Media-Hypocrisy-160420-614.html  

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Freed market anarchists: Meet Wendell Berry

April 21, 2016
posted by

C4SS Center for a Stateless Society
by Robert Kirchner  

"For many years, I have encountered repeated references to Wendell Berry, the venerable farmer-sage of Kentucky: novelist, poet, essayist, philosopher and environmental activist. And I lazily assumed his writings to be in the category of things that are Good For You, but probably dull, like stodgy health food. But then I came across The Art of the Commonplace, a collection of Berry's essays on what he calls 'agrarianism,' and I found his writing electrifying. Berry has a well-thought-out, far-reaching, passionately articulated analysis of what is wrong with the prevailing political/economic/social system in America, which extends with minimal adjustments to much of the rest of the world."

https://c4ss.org/content/44663  

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Repetitive encryption tirades could be giving way to debate over “lawful hacking”

April 21, 2016
posted by

Jenna McLaughlin The Intercept
by Jenna McLaughlin  

"Attempts to regulate math are nonsensical. Encryption is here to stay. Arguing about it is a waste of time. At a House Energy and Commerce subcommittee hearing on Tuesday, a few Members of Congress pivoted away from that tired and ultimately fruitless policy argument to discuss instead what could be considered the next phase of the Crypto Wars. In that phase, the questions are about how law enforcement can get around encryption rather than break through it." (04/20/16)

https://theintercept.com/2016/04/20/repetitive-encryption-tirades-could-be-giving-way-to-debate-over-lawful-hacking/  

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Bernie can still be future of the Democratic Party

April 21, 2016
posted by

The New Republic The New Republic
by Jeet Heer  

"For Bernie Sanders, his loss in New York’s Democratic primary must be sobering. Hillary Clinton beat him by 16 percent, worse than expected. Moreover, while Sanders can reasonably complain that the rules set up by the party, requiring voters to be registered as Democrats months in advance, were onerous and disenfranchising, he has to contend with the fact that voter turnout was high. This cuts against Sanders’s claim that he’s attracting the most enthusiastic followers." (04/20/16)

https://newrepublic.com/article/132836/bernie-can-still-future-democratic-partyif-plays-cards-right  

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Saudi US selloff threat not to be trifled with

April 21, 2016
posted by

Reuters Reuters
by Andy Critchlow  

"Saudi Arabia rarely jokes about money. So investors can’t easily dismiss a threat that the kingdom will dump its American assets if the U.S. Congress passes a bill allowing victims of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks to sue it for damages. Though a fire-sale would be devastating, it suggests the alternative (an Iran-style freezing of assets) would be an even worse outcome. The warning to Washington lawmakers that the kingdom would sell its U.S. securities portfolio to prevent it from being seized was delivered by Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir, according to The New York Times. The report claimed Saudi would be forced to offload up to $750 billion of dollar assets if a bill became law that would strip immunity from foreign governments in cases 'arising from a terrorist attack that kills an American on American soil.' The holdings, mainly in Treasury securities, represent Saudi Arabia’s last line of economic defense to lower oil prices, which have weakened its finances." (04/20/16)

http://blogs.reuters.com/breakingviews/2016/04/20/saudi-u-s-selloff-threat-not-to-be-trifled-with  

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Labor’s cautious endorsements

April 21, 2016
posted by

The American Prospect The American Prospect
by Jake Blumgart  

"When Braddock, Pennsylvania, Mayor John Fetterman announced his entrance into the state’s Democratic primary for U.S. Senate, there was a surge of enthusiasm from progressive activists. The biker-bearded Fetterman looked and sounded like an alternative to the candidates who had already announced (retired Admiral Joe Sestak and ex-state official Katie McGinty) both of whom look straight out of central casting for a senator from the Northeast, with the picture-perfect records to match. Soon after Fetterman’s announcement, at a hip bar in an up-and-coming corner of Philadelphia, the candidate gave his stump speech (focused on inequality and poverty in the small former steel town he represents) to a small crowd of voters, many of whom were sporting Bernie Sanders paraphernalia and visible tattoos." (04/20/16)

http://prospect.org/article/labor's-cautious-endorsements  

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Corporate-backed Democratic Party needs a political revolution

April 21, 2016
posted by

In These Times In These Times
by Joel Bleifuss  

"In July, win or lose, Bernie Sanders will be bringing his political revolution to Philadelphia. It promises to be quite the party. On the floor of the Democratic National Convention, the delegates will choose a nominee. They will debate the platform that defines what the Democratic Party stands for. And they will set the rules that govern how the party operates going forward -- or at least, until the Democratic National Committee (DNC) deems it expedient to change those rules. At the 2008 convention in Denver, under Barack Obama’s leadership, Democrats banned their party and its fundraising outfits from taking money from PACs and lobbyists. That prohibition was overturned in July, when the DNC announced that pay-to-play is a-okay. The message to lobbyists and their PACs: Come on in. That’s no surprise. Today’s DNC is under the sway of Hillary Clinton and under the thumb of Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, two politicians who, when it comes to PACs and lobbyists, have never been able to say no." (04/20/16)

http://inthesetimes.com/article/19047/the-corporate-backed-democratic-national-convention-needs-a-political-revol  

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America can’t do much about ISIS

April 20, 2016
posted by

The Atlantic The Atlantic
by Stephen Biddle and Jacob Shapiro  

"In 2003, David Petraeus, then a division commander in Iraq, famously asked 'tell me how this ends?' in reference to the conflict just starting there. It was a good question then, and it's a good question now. The war against the Islamic State gets a lot of attention, much of it focused on the immediate: Is the war going better or worse this month than last month? Is the Islamic State gaining ground or losing it? Are U.S. air strikes killing more Islamic State leaders or fewer? But these things only matter if they contribute to an ultimate end to the conflict on terms the United States can live with. Will they? In fact, we have a lot of evidence on wars like this and how they typically end. But it's not a very encouraging story." (04/20/16)

http://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2016/04/isis-containment-civil-war/478725/  

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Cheer up GOP, maybe Trump is the next Truman

April 20, 2016
posted by

USA Today USA Today
by Kenneth Weisbrode  

"A prominent American threatens to tear up a major international alliance, to use a nuclear weapon and to upend the political status quo as he rallies an electorate frustrated by a 'do-nothing Congress,' a stalled economy and ominous events overseas. In doing this, he divides his party and is denounced frequently by opponents who depict him as a borderline crackpot well out of his league. Yet he proceeds to humiliate nearly every pundit in the country who predicted he'd fail, and fail badly. To some people, this sounds like Donald Trump in 2016. But it describes Harry Truman about 70 years before." (04/20/16)

http://www.usatoday.com/story/opinion/2016/04/19/donald-trump-harry-truman-1948-column/83240156  

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Why isn’t everyone in favor of taxing financial speculation?

April 20, 2016
posted by

Robert Reich Our Future
by Robert Reich  

"Buying and selling stocks and bonds in order to beat others who are buying and selling stocks and bonds is a giant zero-sum game that wastes countless resources, uses up the talents of some of the nation’s best and brightest, and subjects financial market to unnecessary risk. High-speed traders who employ advanced technologies in order to get information a millisecond before other traders get it don’t make financial markets more efficient. They make them more vulnerable to debacles like the 'Flash Crash' of May 2010. Wall Street Insiders who trade on confidential information unavailable to small investors don’t improve the productivity of financial markets. They just rig the game for themselves." [editor's note: I await feedback to this from libertarian purists; I prefer to call this a "transaction fee" rather than a tax, and note that such shenanigans as these (in addition to being mostly fraud) do NOTHING to produce anything of substance! - SAT] [editor's note: Prefer to call it anything you like. The word "fee" is usually followed by something like "for service." If the followup is "because we said so, cough up or die," it's a tax. And if you don't regard the transactions in question as producing anything of substance, well, feel free to refrain from participating in them - TLK] (04/20/16)

https://ourfuture.org/20160420/why-isnt-everyone-in-favor-of-taxing-financial-speculation  

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Did the Vatican just throw out its Just War Doctrine?

April 20, 2016
posted by

CounterPunch CounterPunch
by Eric Chenoweth  

"Last week, the Vatican hosted a conference on the theme of 'Nonviolence and Just Peace: Contributing to the Catholic Understanding of and Commitment to Nonviolence,' organized by the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace along with the global Catholic peace network Pax Christi International. In their concluding appeal to Pope Francis, the 80 conference participants recommended that he reject Just War Doctrine as a viable or productive Catholic tradition. They also recommended that he write a new encyclical laying out the Catholic Church's commitment to nonviolence in all of its manifestations -- including nonviolent action as a means of engaging in conflict, nonviolent conflict resolution as a way of resolving conflict, and nonviolence as the principle doctrine of the Catholic Church. If such an encyclical follows, this is a big deal." (04/20/16)

http://www.counterpunch.org/2016/04/20/did-the-vatican-just-throw-out-its-just-war-doctrine/  

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Forcing the innocent to plead guilty, an American disgrace

April 20, 2016
posted by

OpEdNews
by John Kiriakou  

"Why would an innocent person take a plea? Really, there is no alternative. First, the government uses a technique called 'charge stacking.' Have you committed an actual crime? Be prepared for multiple charges, including a lot of 'throw-away charges,' like obstruction of justice or making a false statement. In addition, the government will likely levy multiple charges against you for the same crime. The point is not necessarily to convict you on everything, although prosecutors are perfectly happy to do that. The point is that prosecutors will eventually offer you a deal. Take a plea to one count and the others will be dismissed. It's a negotiating ploy. But for the accused, the question is this: Even if you are innocent, should you take a plea and do a couple of years in prison or should you try your luck at trial, knowing that almost no defendant wins in court? Almost everybody takes the deal." (04/20/16)

http://www.opednews.com/articles/Forcing-the-Innocent-to-Pl-by-John-Kiriakou-American-Hypocrisy_Criminal-Convictions_Innocent-160420-906.html  

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“Confirmation” — HBO’s high-tech lynching

April 20, 2016
posted by

Debra J. Saunders Town Hall
by Debra J Saunders  

"The left is masterful at rewriting history. Witness HBO's TV movie Confirmation, which aired Saturday, about Anita Hill's accusations of sexual harassment 25 years ago, which almost derailed Clarence Thomas from becoming a Supreme Court justice. The drama's makers claim that they didn't take sides in depicting Thomas' Senate confirmation hearings, even as a trailer punctuates close-ups of actress Kerry Washington, who played Hill, with stentorian capital letters: 'It only takes one voice ... to change history.' Another trailer proclaims, 'One woman made a choice ... to take a stand.' Apparently, because HBO didn't expressly label Thomas as guilty, producers feel they can get away with saying they were evenhanded." [editor's note: I watched this program the other night; to my eyes, it did more to remind us what a weasel Biden was/is, than to point any real fingers beyond the "he said, she said" level - SAT] (04/19/16)

http://townhall.com/columnists/debrajsaunders/2016/04/19/confirmation--hbos-hightech-lynching-n2150572  

1 Comment »

Panama trade agreement: Was tax evasion the point all along?

April 20, 2016
posted by

Dave Johnson Our Future
by Dave Johnson  

"The Panama–United States Trade Promotion Agreement, negotiated by the Bush administration, was finalized by the Obama administration and went into effect in 2012. The U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) website promotes the agreement as removing 'barriers to U.S. services, including financial services.' It removed some duties and tariffs on U.S. exports and phased out others, like agricultural goods and technology products. It provided “protections” for U.S. 'investors.' Panama gave up revenue collected on imports. So what did Panama get in exchange? And why did the U.S. really put all that effort into negotiating a special 'trade' agreement with one small country?" (04/19/16)

https://ourfuture.org/20160419/panama-trade-agreement-was-tax-evasion-the-point-all-along  

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The return of the women scorned

April 20, 2016
posted by

The New Republic The New Republic
by Jeet Heer  

"The year may be 2016, but we’re still trying trying to grapple with the sexism of two decades ago. Anita Hill, Marcia Clark, and Monica Lewinksy were all subjected to horrifyingly misogynist attacks in the 1990s, and by a quirk of the zeitgeist, all are in the news again. The fact that our culture is still coming to terms with this unfinished business is surely tied to the fact that Hillary Clinton is on track to become the first female presidential nominee of a major political party. Since Clinton is herself no stranger to woman-bashing barrages, she might welcome attempts to rectify the sexism of the 1990s as part of a larger feminist wave. But the Lewinsky episode, in particular, is also fraught with peril for Clinton’s presidential prospects." (04/19/16)

https://newrepublic.com/article/132781/return-women-scorned  

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Springtime for democracy

April 19, 2016
posted by

The American Prospect The American Prospect
by Justin Miller  

"Over the past week, activists have demonstrated outside the U.S. Capitol, demanding that Congress get big money out of the political system. More than 1,000 demonstrators have been arrested during acts of civil disobedience. The protests began as about 100 people marched from Philadelphia to Washington, D.C., to raise awareness for Democracy Spring, the series of sit-ins that took place last week outside the Capitol. This past weekend was the second act of the demonstrations, Democracy Awakening, which featured several organizations coming together to highlight the myriad problems that big money poses for progressive policies. As public outrage at the specter of big money in the presidential elections reaches a boiling point, organizers see an opportunity." [editor's note: Once again, focusing on the far-from-perfect methodology instead of the goal of peace and human liberty - SAT] (04/19/16)

http://prospect.org/article/springtime-democracy  

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Hillary Clinton & the soft bigotry of low expectations

April 19, 2016
posted by

In These Times In These Times
by Theo Anderson  

"Young people, many of whom have no memory of Hillary Clinton as First Lady, have voted for Bernie Sanders by almost comically wide margins. They favor him 54 percent to 37 percent in a USA Today poll taken in March. In the Iowa caucus, Sanders beat Clinton by a nearly 6-to-1 margin—84 to 14 percent—among voters under 30. Clinton won voters 65 and older by similarly impressive numbers, 69 percent to 26 percent. Is it really the case, as some have implied, that young people prefer a 74-year-old democratic socialist to Clinton because they’re the most sexist generation? It’s not that Hillary Clinton is, as she said recently, 'not a natural politician.' It’s not that she’s a powerful and self-assured woman. Sexism surely explains some of the hostility toward her, but it doesn’t begin to account for the fact that Clinton is among the most disliked and distrusted candidates in modern American politics." (04/19/16)

http://inthesetimes.com/article/19068/hillary-clinton-and-the-soft-bigotry-of-low-expectations  

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Obama went from condemning Saudis for abuses to arming them to the teeth

April 19, 2016
posted by

The Intercept The Intercept
by Zaid Jilani and Alex Emmons  

"In the 2002 speech against the Iraq War that helped propel him to the presidency, then-State Senator Barack Obama denounced not just the looming invasion of Iraq, but also human rights abuses by our 'so-called allies' in Saudi Arabia .... Thirteen years later, Obama is making his fourth trip to Riyadh, having presided over record-breaking U.S. arms sales Saudi Arabia while offering only muted criticism of the kingdom’s human rights violations." (04/19/16)

https://theintercept.com/2016/04/19/obama-went-from-condemning-saudis-for-abuses-to-arming-them-to-the-teeth/  

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How Americans became so sensitive to harm

April 19, 2016
posted by

Conor Friedersdorf The Atlantic
by Conor Friedersdorf  

"During the 1950s, third graders could walk to school, play alone at the park, or bike 10 minutes to a friend's house without anyone worrying or objecting, so long as they came home for supper or before the street lights came on. Today, though kidnapping is just as rare, a parent who allows that same behavior is at risk of arrest or even losing custody of their children to their state's child protective services bureaucracy. Society's concept of what constituted an unacceptable risk, harm, or trauma expanded for ill. In Hanna Rosin’s words, it 'stripped childhood of independence, risk taking, and discovery -- without making it safer.' Expanding notions of harm have transformed many parts of society for good and ill." (04/19/16)

http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2016/04/concept-creep/477939/  

5 Comments »

The inhumane economy

April 19, 2016
posted by

C4SS Center for a Stateless Society
by Chad Nelson  

"Unlike racism, sexism, and many other historical forms of discrimination which have now become more structural than overt -- speciesism endures as a bold and proud American tradition. Americans shamelessly consume animal flesh and byproduct three meals a day, watch animals in 'performances' which require tortuous training, and gun down (often incapacitated) animals for sport, all without a second thought. Not one iota of consideration goes into the deplorable conditions in which animals suffer so that consumer tastes may be satisfied. Capitalism enables this depravity. The consumer's product is conveniently divorced from its complex production process, essentially giving the finished commodity a fictitious life of its own." (04/19/16)

https://c4ss.org/content/44617  

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Lifting the burden of an expansive regulatory state

April 19, 2016
posted by

Town Hall
by US Rep. Bob Gibbs (R-OH)  

"Once again, the Obama Administration finds itself in court defending unilateral actions that are unconstitutional. Last month, the Supreme Court of the United States heard oral arguments in a case over the Clean Water Act, the Army Corps of Engineers, and what legal weight a 'jurisdictional determination' has. The Hawkes Company, which harvests peat in Minnesota for golf courses, wanted to sue when the Army Corps used jurisdictional determination to declare an area of land 120 miles away from any navigable water subject to a costly permitting process for development or changes to said land. ... The real issue at the heart of the matter is the expansion of the regulatory state and the transfer of power from the people and their representatives to a phalanx of unelected bureaucrats. The federal government we have now is too large, it costs too much and, most importantly, it is working for its own benefit rather than for the people." [editor's note: Anyone from Congress trying to preach this to us at this point ... is too little, too late - SAT] (04/18/16)

http://townhall.com/columnists/congressmanbobgibbs/2016/04/18/lifting-the-burden-of-an-expansive-regulatory-state-n2150354  

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The simple secret to making a difference — no matter what your cause is

April 19, 2016
posted by

Jim Hightower OpEdNews
by Jim Hightower  

"In my travels and conversations this year, I've been encouraged that grass-roots people of all progressive stripes (populist, labor, liberal, environmental, women, civil libertarian, et al.) are well aware of the slipperiness of 'victory' and want Washington to get it right this time. So over and over, Question No. 1 that I encounter is some variation of this: What should we do!?! How do we make Washington govern for all the people? What specific things can my group or I do now? Thanks for asking. The first thing you can do to bring about change is show up." (04/18/16)

http://www.opednews.com/articles/The-Simple-Secret-to-Makin-by-Jim-Hightower-Activism_GrassRoots_Making-A-Difference_Protest-160418-815.html  

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America’s secret weapon

April 19, 2016
posted by

Reuters Reuters
by Bill Gates  

"America’s capacity for innovation is nothing new. We have been inventing for more than two centuries: think of Benjamin Franklin, Margaret Knight, Thomas Edison. By the end of World War Two, the United States led the world in automobiles, aerospace, electronics, medicine, and other areas. Nor is the formula for success complicated: Government funding for our world-class research institutions produces the new technologies that American entrepreneurs take to market. What is new is that more countries than ever are competing for global leadership, and they know the value of innovation. Since 2000, South Korea’s research and development spending (measured as a percentage of GDP) has gone up 90 percent. China’s has doubled. The United States’ has essentially flatlined. It’s great that the rest of the world is committing more, but if the United States is going to maintain its leading role, it needs to up its game." (04/18/16)

http://blogs.reuters.com/great-debate/2016/04/18/bill-gates-americas-secret-weapon  

1 Comment »

Another Clinton-era law that needs to be repealed

April 19, 2016
posted by

The New Republic The New Republic
by Ian Head  

"Thirteen years ago, I received a letter at work. 'Greetings from Hell,' it began. 'For those who’ve never been there, that would be a prison in East Texas.' The letter was neatly hand-written with black ink in straight, evenly spaced lines across the blank white paper, a feat which those of us trained to write in college-ruled notebooks could hardly imagine doing. Its 43-year-old author was serving a life sentence -- for what, he did not say. Instead he wrote of various legal challenges he had made on behalf of other prisoners (including veterans and the disabled), his educational accomplishments while incarcerated, and asked for information on where to find funding to complete a course in paralegal law. ... Much of this has to do with a piece of legislation titled the Prison Litigation Reform Act, which turns 20 this April." (04/18/16)

https://newrepublic.com/article/132678/another-clinton-era-law-needs-repealed  

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