Wednesday, February 29, 2012
Tuesday, February 28, 2012
Monday, February 27, 2012
"Researchers at Polytechnic Institute of New York University tracked the privacy settings of 1.4 million Facebook profiles belonging to New Yorkers over a 15-month period between March 2010 and June 2011. They found a 'dramatic decrease in the amount of information Facebook users reveal about themselves to the general public' and the authors concluded that the users became 'dramatically more private' during the period, according to their report."Over the same period, users stepped up the frequency with which they hid personal details in their public profiles, which are visible to anyone on Facebook, a friend or otherwise. To measure this, the researchers tracked nine characteristics often included on public profiles -- 'friend lists, age, high-school name and graduation year, network, relationship, gender, interested in, hometown and current city' -- and monitored whether members shared fewer details over time."
Saturday, February 25, 2012
"This is where the Republican Party is now. They've run out of foreign enemies to point fingers at. They've already maxed out the rhetoric against us orgiastic, anarchy-loving pansexual liberal terrorists. The only possible remaining explanation for their troubles is that their own leaders have failed them. There is a stranger in the house!"This current race for the presidential nomination has therefore devolved into a kind of Freudian Agatha Christie story, in which the disturbed and highly paranoid voter base by turns tests the orthodoxy of each candidate, trying to figure out which one is the spy, which one is really Barack Obama bin Laden-Marx under the candidate mask![...]"These people have run out of others to blame, run out of bystanders to suspect, run out of decent family people to dismiss as Godless, sex-crazed perverts. They're turning the gun on themselves now. It might be justice, or it might just be sad. Whatever it is, it's remarkable to watch."
Wednesday, February 22, 2012
Tuesday, February 21, 2012
In the case of drug testing for welfare recipients, it's a case of spending way more money on testing than can be saved by excluding drug abusers from welfare.
For example, since Florida mandated testing of welfare recipients last year, only 2 percent have failed the tests. Florida has had to eat the costs of tests for the 96 percent who passed.
But don't hold your breath waiting for Florida to cancel expensive drug testing. This is a case where conservatives want government to spend a lot of money to promote their values.
UPDATE (02.25.2012): GOP primary candidate Mitt Romney said that drug testing for welfare recipients was an "excellent idea," damn the costs. So there you go.
Commentary: Drug testing welfare recipients is a waste of taxpayers' money
By Mary Sanchez
February 20, 2012 | Kansas City Star
His title looks like a typo.
Indeed, Iran is a threat to the U.S., because it can hardly spit in any direction without hitting a U.S. military base.
By Juan Cole
February 18, 2012 | juancole.com
I had grabbed an earlier version of this graphic off a Democratic Underground bulletin board from 2005. It made the point that the United States, which professes itself menaced by Iran, rather has Iran encircled by military bases. I have tried to update the map a bit, though this area is a moving target and the map no doubt isn't perfect. It is expressive enough, however, of the reality. Iraq and Uzbekistan no longer have American bases, but the US military now has a refueling station in Turkmenistan.
Some critics complained that forward operating bases are not much of a base. But actually, this map vastly understates the case. It shows only a few of the estimated 450 US military bases and outposts in Afghanistan, e.g. And it does not show drone bases, of which the US has 60 around the world.
Iran has 150 billion barrels in petroleum reserves, among the largest reserves in the world, but they cannot be exploited by US corporations because of Israel lobby-inspired US congressional sanctions on Iran. US elites, especially Big Oil, dream of doing regime change in Iran so as to get access to those vast reserves. Likely the most important US objection to the Iranian civilian nuclear enrichment program is that it could give Iran "nuclear latency," the ability to construct a bomb quickly if it seemed to Tehran that the US planned to attack. That is, the real objection in Washington to Iranian nuclear know-how is that it makes Iraq-style regime change impossible and so puts Iranian petroleum out of reach of Houston for the foreseeable future. This consideration is likely the real reason that Washington does not, so to speak, go ballistic about North Korea and Pakistan having actual nuclear warheads, but like to has a fainting spell at the very idea of Iran enriching uranium to 3.5 percent (a bomb takes 95%). North Korea and Pakistan don't have oil.
Monday, February 20, 2012
"The EU's terms do not begin to match the altruism the United States showed to the defeated Germans after 1945.... Greece has invaded no one and committed no crimes against humanity. Yet the EU, which boasts that solidarity is its founding principle, is forcing it into destitution and chaos."
Sunday, February 19, 2012
Friday, February 17, 2012
Thursday, February 16, 2012
Congressional Republicans just blow my mind. How can they Obama's call to reduce our nuclear stockpile to "only" a few hundred nuclear warheads "unilateral disarmament" when Russia is poised to follow suit, and when the the country they say we should be arming ourselves against, Iran, doesn't have even one nuclear weapon yet??
This is old, Cold-War thinking ingrained so deep it can't be excised. It is like a tumor causing dementia in their rotting brains. These old dinosaurs just need to crawl away from Washington and die in a bog somewhere.
By Donna Cassatta and Robert Burns
February 15, 2012 | Huffington Post
Tuesday, February 14, 2012
"More than half of all black men without a high-school diploma go to prison at some time in their lives. Mass incarceration on a scale almost unexampled in human history is a fundamental fact of our country today—perhaps the fundamental fact, as slavery was the fundamental fact of 1850. In truth, there are more black men in the grip of the criminal-justice system—in prison, on probation, or on parole—than were in slavery then. Over all, there are now more people under 'correctional supervision' in America—more than six million—than were in the Gulag Archipelago under Stalin at its height. That city of the confined and the controlled, Lockuptown, is now the second largest in the United States."The accelerating rate of incarceration over the past few decades is just as startling as the number of people jailed: in 1980, there were about two hundred and twenty people incarcerated for every hundred thousand Americans; by 2010, the number had more than tripled, to seven hundred and thirty-one. No other country even approaches that. In the past two decades, the money that states spend on prisons has risen at six times the rate of spending on higher education."
"Prison rape is so endemic—more than seventy thousand prisoners are raped each year—that it is routinely held out as a threat, part of the punishment to be expected. The subject is standard fodder for comedy, and an uncoöperative suspect being threatened with rape in prison is now represented, every night on television, as an ordinary and rather lovable bit of policing. The normalization of prison rape—like eighteenth-century japery about watching men struggle as they die on the gallows—will surely strike our descendants as chillingly sadistic, incomprehensible on the part of people who thought themselves civilized."
"'American prisons trace their lineage not only back to Pennsylvania penitentiaries but to Texas slave plantations.' White supremacy is the real principle, this thesis holds, and racial domination the real end. In response to the apparent triumphs of the sixties, mass imprisonment became a way of reimposing Jim Crow. Blacks are now incarcerated seven times as often as whites. 'The system of mass incarceration works to trap African Americans in a virtual (and literal) cage,' the legal scholar Michelle Alexander writes. Young black men pass quickly from a period of police harassment into a period of 'formal control' (i.e., actual imprisonment) and then are doomed for life to a system of 'invisible control.' Prevented from voting, legally discriminated against for the rest of their lives, most will cycle back through the prison system. The system, in this view, is not really broken; it is doing what it was designed to do. Alexander's grim conclusion: 'If mass incarceration is considered as a system of social control—specifically, racial control—then the system is a fantastic success.'"
"It's hard to imagine any greater disconnect between public good and private profit: the interest of private prisons lies not in the obvious social good of having the minimum necessary number of inmates but in having as many as possible, housed as cheaply as possible. No more chilling document exists in recent American life than the 2005 annual report of the biggest of these firms, the Corrections Corporation of America. Here the company (which spends millions lobbying legislators) is obliged to caution its investors about the risk that somehow, somewhere, someone might turn off the spigot of convicted men:
"'Our growth is generally dependent upon our ability to obtain new contracts to develop and manage new correctional and detention facilities. . . . The demand for our facilities and services could be adversely affected by the relaxation of enforcement efforts, leniency in conviction and sentencing practices or through the decriminalization of certain activities that are currently proscribed by our criminal laws. For instance, any changes with respect to drugs and controlled substances or illegal immigration could affect the number of persons arrested, convicted, and sentenced, thereby potentially reducing demand for correctional facilities to house them.'"
"In the nineties, the N.Y.P.D. began to control crime not by fighting minor crimes in safe places but by putting lots of cops in places where lots of crimes happened— 'hot-spot policing.' The cops also began an aggressive, controversial program of 'stop and frisk'— 'designed to catch the sharks, not the dolphins,' as Jack Maple, one of its originators, described it—that involved what's called pejoratively 'profiling.' This was not so much racial, since in any given neighborhood all the suspects were likely to be of the same race or color, as social, involving the thousand small clues that policemen recognized already. Minority communities, [researcher Franklin E.] Zimring emphasizes, paid a disproportionate price in kids stopped and frisked, and detained, but they also earned a disproportionate gain in crime reduced. 'The poor pay more and get more' is Zimring's way of putting it."
"Zimring said, in a recent interview, 'Remember, nobody ever made a living mugging. There's no minimum wage in violent crime.' In a sense, he argues, it's recreational, part of a life style: 'Crime is a routine behavior; it's a thing people do when they get used to doing it.' And therein lies its essential fragility. Crime ends as a result of 'cyclical forces operating on situational and contingent things rather than from finding deeply motivated essential linkages.' Conservatives don't like this view because it shows that being tough doesn't help; liberals don't like it because apparently being nice doesn't help, either. Curbing crime does not depend on reversing social pathologies or alleviating social grievances; it depends on erecting small, annoying barriers to entry."
"'New York City, in the midst of a dramatic reduction in crime, is locking up a much smaller number of people, and particularly of young people, than it was at the height of the crime wave,' Zimring observes. Whatever happened to make street crime fall, it had nothing to do with putting more men in prison."
"...since prison plays at best a small role in stopping even violent crime, very few people, rich or poor, should be in prison for a nonviolent crime. Neither the streets nor the society is made safer by having marijuana users or peddlers locked up, let alone with the horrific sentences now dispensed so easily. For that matter, no social good is served by having the embezzler or the Ponzi schemer locked in a cage for the rest of his life, rather than having him bankrupt and doing community service in the South Bronx for the next decade or two."
"To read the literature on crime before it dropped is to see the same kind of dystopian despair we find in the new literature of punishment: we'd have to end poverty, or eradicate the ghettos, or declare war on the broken family, or the like, in order to end the crime wave. The truth is, a series of small actions and events ended up eliminating a problem that seemed to hang over everything. There was no miracle cure, just the intercession of a thousand smaller sanities. Ending sentencing for drug misdemeanors, decriminalizing marijuana, leaving judges free to use common sense (and, where possible, getting judges who are judges rather than politicians)—many small acts are possible that will help end the epidemic of imprisonment as they helped end the plague of crime."