The Watering Hole January 31 Luney tunes

Seeming as there is no end to the ridiculous song and dance routines of the dopey GOPoliticians and the shrieking teapartiers, I’m certain the coming week will provide more of the same.

Here’s a link to a story I have been following lately about Vivian Maier, a street photographer whose recently discovered work brings an honest view of what life in these United States was really like in the last half century.
Vivian Maier

This is our daily Open Thread, your comments on these or any other topics are welcome!

Across the Pond – Europe’s News

What’s in the news? Egypt again, of course. The situation has not dramatically changed. Mubarak still tries to smother the unrest the only way he knows, by banning the TV and the internet.

Mr. Mubarak, I have news for you: Your people is out in the streets protesting you and not sitting in front of the TV set or computer. There is no way back. There is a plane waiting for you somewhere. Your cronies have already seen the light, many rich families have fled the country and are sipping their tea in Dubai now.

What violence occurs now, is mostly looting and criminally motivated. Prison breaks are rampant and add to the confusion.

Here’s what we find on the news sites  in Europe:

The Independent:

In the pantomime world of Mubarak himself – and of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton in Washington – the man who still claims to be president of Egypt swore in the most preposterous choice of vice-president in an attempt to soften the fury of the protesters – Omar Suleiman, Egypt’s chief negotiator with Israel and his senior intelligence officer, a 75-year-old with years of visits to Tel Aviv and Jerusalem and four heart attacks to his credit. How this elderly apparatchik might be expected to deal with the anger and joy of liberation of 80 million Egyptians is beyond imagination. When I told the demonstrators on the tank around me the news of Suleiman’s appointment, they burst into laughter. (read more)

The Guardian:

And Arabs from the Mashreq to the Maghreb are watching, egging on those protesters to topple Hosni Mubarak who has ruled Egypt for 30 years, because they know if he goes, all the other old men will follow, those who have smothered their countries with one hand and robbed them blind with the other. Mubarak is the Berlin Wall. “Down, down with Hosni Mubarak,” resonates through the whole region. (read more)

Der Tagesanzeiger

Die Aufstände in Tunesien und Ägypten beseelen den Westen mit neuer Hoffnung auf eine demokratischere Welt. Doch das Beispiel der ehemaligen Sowjetunion zeigt deutlich: Demokratie ist nicht ansteckend. Und selbst wenn es zum Aufstand kommt: Dass dabei ein demokratischer Staat entsteht, ist die Ausnahme und keinesfalls die Regel.

The uprising in Tunisia and Egypt instill new hopes in the west for a more democratic world order. But the developments in the former Soviet Union show clearly: Democracy is not contagious. And even if there is a general uprising: The creation of a democratic state is the exception not the rule.  (full story)

Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung:

Würde Ägypten in einem revolutionären Strudel versinken, fiele ein wesentlicher Akteur des nahöstlichen Friedensprozesses für geraume Zeit aus. Überdies gibt es in Ägypten im Unterschied zu Tunesien eine starke islamistische Bewegung, die von Mubaraks Regime unterdrückten Muslimbrüder.

If Egypt went down in revolutionary turmoil, an important actor in the Middle East peace process would drop out for a considerable time. Moreover, there is a strong islamist movement in Egypt, the oppressed Muslim Brotherhood. (full story)

Der Spiegel:

In the wake of the Jasmine Revolution in Tunisia, the Egyptians are now revolting against the regime of President Hosni Mubarak. The country feels as if it were waking up from a bad dream, but the West stands to lose a reliable partner — and Israel one of its few Arab friends. (read all)

The Jerusalem Post:

The fear and trembling is that what happened in France in 1789, in Russia in 1917 and in Iran in 1979 will repeat itself in Egypt and the Arab world in 2011. After the old was thumped out by the new in those countries, there was a brief moment when democratic forces arose – be it the National Constituent Assembly and the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen in France, Alexander Kerensky in Russia, or Shapour Bakhtiar in Iran – only to be swept away by the radicals: Robespierre in Paris, the Bolsheviks in Moscow, Ayatollah Khomeini in Teheran.

In Egypt, too, democratic forces are on the march, but the radical extremists are lurking in the shadows, ready to pounce. (read more)

Enjoy your reading. The situation will further unfold today and, if necessary I’ll update this post accordingly.

Sunday Roast: Rebooting the American Dream, Chapter 9

Chapter Nine of Thom Hartmann’s book, Rebooting the American Dream: 11 Ways to Rebuild Our Country, is called “Put Lou Dobbs Out to Pasture.”

This week’s topic covers the outsourcing of our jobs, controlling the size of the workforce by controlling immigration, and lowering the retirement age.  Here are some excerpts…

On outsourcing:

Under the guise of satisfying a consumer demand for low prices, multinationals have accelerated outsourcing ever since the Reagan years and pushed the “free

trade” and “globalization” ideology that has given us the NAFTA and GATT/WTO processes initiated under President George H. W. Bush and finished by President Bill Clinton. As a direct result, American blue-collar workers saw their jobs vanish as factories making things from jeans to precision tools moved to Mexico and other countries. Not to worry, the Bush and Clinton administrations assured workers, just learn new skills so you can join the “service economy,” which included millions of new “Do you want fries with that?” and “Welcome to Wal-Mart” jobs…

On controlling the size of the workforce, by controlling immigration:

The history of the labor struggle in America has always been about securing wages and benefits that provide a decent living for workers and their families. And the best way to guarantee that is by making sure the labor market is not flooded. Working Americans have always known this simple equation: more workers, lower wages; fewer workers, higher wages.

On lowering the Social Security retirement age:

Here’s another way to tighten up our labor market and thus raise wages and our standard of living: lower the Social Security retirement age from the current 65–67 to 55 and increase the benefits to where they were in inflation-adjusted 1960s dollars by raising them between 10 to 20 percent (so people could actually live, albeit modestly, on Social Security).

All those Boomers retiring would make room in the labor market for all the recent high school and college graduates, who are now finding it so hard to get a job.

Thus a tightened labor market would increase wages. And as wages go up, tax revenues—which are paying for Social Security (among other things)—would increase.

The Ayn Randian policies of Ronald Reagan, Alan Greenspan, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, and George W. Bush over the last thirty years have just about killed off the middle class, and have put a huge economic hurt on the rest of us by causing wages to go stagnant, forcing millions of us out of the working world (possibly forever), and by crashing the economy with impunity.

We’re pretty much doing the same things we’ve been doing since the 80s, and I doubt we can expect much of substance to get done in the Republican-controlled House, or in a broken Senate that could only manage the smallest rules reform that didn’t come close to touching the filibuster.  We’ve put a tiny bandaid on a ruptured artery, and it’s just not going to hold.

This is our daily open thread — Discuss!!

Unrest in the Middle East

Picture Source: harleyk.com

We are led, by events and common sense, to one conclusion: The survival of liberty in our land increasingly depends on the success of liberty in other lands. The best hope for peace in our world is the expansion of freedom in all the world.

[...]

The leaders of governments with long habits of control need to know: To serve your people you must learn to trust them.

George W. Bush: Second Inaugural Address 2005

Nice.

Now the people in the Maghreb and the Middle East are demanding their liberty. Is George W. Bush’s professed agenda for bringing democracy to the region working out after all?

Tunisia:

For decades, Tunisia has promoted itself as an Arab world success story, a place where the economy is stronger than in neighboring countries, women’s rights are respected, unrest is rare and European tourists can take stress-free vacations at beach resorts.

But the recent protests have exposed a side of Tunisia that the country has long tried to hide: the poverty of the countryside, poor job prospects for youths and seething resentment at the government of President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, who has ruled Tunisia with an iron fist since 1987. (read more)

Egypt:

Weeks of unrest in Tunisia eventually toppled President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali earlier this month.

Egypt has many of the same social and political problems that brought about the unrest in Tunisia – rising food prices, high unemployment and anger at official corruption. (read more)

Yemen:

“We will not accept anything less than the president leaving,” said independent parliamentarian Ahmed Hashid. “We’ll only be happy when we hear the words ‘I understand you’ from the president,” invoking a statement issued by Tunisian President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali before he fled the country.

Nearly half of Yemen’s population lives below the poverty line of $2 a day and doesn’t have access to proper sanitation. Less than a tenth of the roads are paved. Tens of thousands have been displaced from their homes by conflict, flooding the cities. (read more)

Algeria:

The riots are widely seen as drawing on deep frustrations with the ruling elite and a lack of political freedom, as well as more immediate concerns about the cost of living, housing, and jobs.

The prices of flour, cooking oil and sugar have doubled in the past few months.
(read more)

Jordan:

Demonstrators in Jordan say they are preparing for more protests. Massive demonstrations inspired by unrest in Tunisia have shaken what historically has been one of the most stable nations in the Middle East and raised questions about the future role of the country’s popular monarch.

Some protesters in last Friday’s demonstration waved pieces of bread. (read more)

Oman, has had some bouts of protestestation, really unusual for the country. The Saudi King has issued a statement today about the situation in Egypt:

“No Arab or Muslim can tolerate any meddling in the security and stability of Arab and Muslim Egypt by those who infiltrated the people in the name of freedom of expression, exploiting it to inject their destructive hatred.”[...]
“As they condemn this, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and its people and government declares it stands with all its resources with the government of Egypt and its people,”

The Saudis and most of our other “friends” in the region are none too happy, of course, to see what was basically widespread food revolts turn into a movement for democracy across the region.  The words of G.W. Bush may have inadvertently come true. Not as a result of  his  “Freedom Agenda”, but because his administration’s disastrous economic policies, which have triggered the latest economic crisis, which has triggered the social unrest and which may well trigger the fall of the former President’s Middle East pet despots.

But will they really be replaced by democratic  governments? I have my doubts. The Middle East is not a monolithic cultural area. Yemen and Tunisia are worlds apart. There  are marked differences in the societies of Egypt and Algeria. Just look at the pictures in the news. While in Tunisia you could see many young women joining in the protests, you see mostly men in Egypt and a still more marked difference in Yemen. In the end there may be just more bloodshed and instability in the region and no marked improvement for the people of the countries involved.

Want to read more on this? See:

Rupert Cornwell

Robert Fisk

Soumaya Ghanousshi

The Guardian: Live Updates on Egypt

 

The Watering Hole: January 28 – Stereo

Long before all you whippersnappers came into this world, there was a precursor to 3D TV or even the View Master. It was called the Stereoscope. In the late 19th and early 20th century, families would “tour” the world and view 3D images in living color or black and white. The color images were achieved by three takes using filters to compose the image or by the work of serfs who filled in colors from black and white photographic plates. Stereo-optic vision was achieved by using two camera positions for the left and right eye perspective. To see the device that made the viewing possible and a sample image, read on.

Update: I have added a link to one technique used to produced color images.

This is our Open Thread. Please feel free to air your thoughts on any topic that comes to mind.
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wild hare

Coyote and Rabbit tales are a part of the the Meso-American storytelling cycle. I remembered one upon seeing this set of coyote tracks in the dried mud of the Rio Grande, with an added commentary from the rabbit.

The Rabbit and The Coyote

Mayan Folktale translated from Q’anjob’al Maya language of Guatemala by Fernando Peñalosa.

This is a story of Uncle Rabbit and the coyote. The rabbit came to a big rock, and there he deceived the coyote. He was leaning on the rock when the coyote came by.

“What are you doing, brother?” the coyote asked the rabbit.

“Come here quickly, brother, the sky is falling down on top of us. Lean against the rock and hold it up while I go for a stick. We’ll prop it up with that,” said the rabbit to the coyote.
“All right,” said the coyote and began holding it up with all his might. Since the coyote was so stupid, he did exactly what the rabbit told him to. The rabbit had said that he was going to get a stick, but he went and left the coyote holding up the rock. When the rabbit didn’t return the coyote shouted:

“Come back, brother! The weight of the rock has made me tired.”

The rabbit still didn’t come back.

“No matter, I’m going to leave even though the sky may fall down on top of us,” said the coyote. But when he ran away he fell into a ravine. The rabbit never came back to the rock and the coyote was lost.

Later the rabbit came to a pond and saw the reflection of the moon in there. As the rabbit was very tricky, he was always deceiving the coyote. The dumb coyote always followed him and didn’t know that the rabbit was deceiving him. The coyote came to the pond where the rabbit was. When he saw the coyote coming he began to drink the water from the pond.

“What are you doing, brother? The coyote asked the rabbit:

“Look, brother, there’s a lot of food down there,” answered the rabbit.

“What kind of food?”

“Look,” the rabbit told the coyote.

The coyote looked in the water and said: “I see it. What is it?”

“There’s a cheese in the water,” the rabbit said to the coyote.

“If we drink all the water we can get the cheese. Drink it, you’re big and you can finish all the water.”

“All right, brother,” he said, and began to drink the water.

“I’m going for a walk,” said the rabbit, and left. The coyote continued to drink the water, but the rabbit was gone. The coyote’s stomach began to hurt him, and he got the runs. He wasn’t able to finish the water, so the coyote abandoned the effort and left.

The Watering Hole: January 27 – “Don’t Call Me Shirley”

Leslie Nielson began his career as a serious actor, but with Airplane! became one of the best deadpan comics in cinematic history.

I did weekend stand-up in the Borscht Belt during the mid to late 60′s, but could never have come close to meeting his delivery! That job paid in two nights, twice what my 9-5 did in a week. The under lying problem was benefits – I knocked up my wife after we got married and my employer did not appreciate Improv.

A comic is ultimately responsible for his family’s medical expenses and future. My spouse could not feature living out of a hotel room for three nights per week with a new-born. The choice was correct, the Belt dimmed by 1982.

If you desire, you can pick through all the YouTube references and reconstruct “Airplane!” in its entirety.

This is our Open Thread. Please feel free to add your thoughts on any topic that comes to mind.

The Watering Hole: Wednesday, January 26, 2011 : Hump Day


Republicans and Democrats sit together for the State of the Union Address.

By now, Obama’s State of the Union Address is yesterday’s gnews. Political Pundits and Opposition Speakers were given advance copies, so they they were poised to pounce and denounce even before Obama took the podium. And that they did.

But, allow this writer to indulge in a quick review, and posit, were these the words of a Progressive, Moderate or Conservative?

This is our Open Thread. Feel free to write on this or any other topic that comes to mind.

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State of the Union open thread

 

 

Tonight is the night President Obama will give the annual State of the Union speech to Congress at 9:00 p.m. ET.  He’s too polite to get up there and say, “We’re up shit creek without a paddle,” so he’ll probably say a lot of nice things about investing in America, education, and jobs.

If you’re watching the SOTU, feel free to live-blog with us, chiming in with your pearls of wisdom in the comments section.  FSM knows, if you go there, you’ll be putting up with our “wisdom.”  Heh.

Let’s have some fun!

The Watering Hole: January 25th – Random Thinking

Picture source: The Contemporary Condition

 

Two totally unrelated thoughts keep cropping up in my mind. You know the kind that sticks to you like Wham’s “Last Christmas”.  To me these two pieces of news represent the things that annoy me most and are yet so typical for our political culture.

Some time ago the UK announced as a huge step to individual liberty the abolition of mandatory retirement age.

Well, well. Years ago I was a HR Rep.  As far as I recall our employment contracts didn’t provide for any retirement age. So we were told, we’d maybe not get rid of the old geezers. There were but a few, with us being a computer giant with a mainly young workforce. We were told to change the wording in the contracts in no time. Heaven forbid we’d be forced to keep one of them. Heaven forbid people were allowed to make their own choices. But then, that was before the low wages and the slave peddlers took over and the temporary workforce companies brought the worker’s incomes down. Lower pay means less money goes into public pension schemes or to save up for your pension and  means a higher ratio of poor retirees. We are now faced with the problem and lo and behold, here comes a push for individual liberty and solves the problem. Hey, it’s not bad to be able to work longer if you want to. But they are just glossing over the fact that more and more people have to, even if they don’t want to.

Switzerland is facing a referendum about gun control and the anti-gun crowd is likely to win:

Listen to the Right’s howling: The threat of weapons is being blown out of proportion, they say, only a very small number of incidents have happened, they say. Gun owners were criminalized as a whole, just because of a few bad apples, they say. Well they can just rely on their fellow citizens’ sense of proportion and tolerance, I’d say. But wait! The Swiss people banned the building of minarets and utterly disregarded, Muslims’ freedom of religion. They voted for strict and mandatory expulsion of non-citizens, even for minimal law violations, violating civil rights and international law in the process. Guess, who instigated those two referendums? The wizard’s apprentices of the Swiss Right are now faced with voters, they themselves have groomed into disregarding tolerance and other people’s legitimate interests.  I’m smirking. No, I’m really cracking up.

But generally it’s not a laugh. We are told taking away the working class’ rights our fathers have fought for is the new liberty. We are facing increasing intolerance and fear and smear tactics. We have come a long way from the times of men like Jimmy Carter and Willy Brandt and that’s sad.

This is our open thread and I really love some lively discussion. Go ahead!