Friday Night Music – Free

At the last minute, I got assigned the task to put up a “Music Night” post so here it goes.

As I was searching for songs from my favorite singer/songwriter, I happened upon these two which reference motorcycles.  There is a certain feeling of freedom one gets when riding on a motorcycle.

You choose your topic and go for it.  Tonight, it’s a “free for all”.

Watering Hole: Monday, April 2, 2012 – What’s That Phrase?

Lately, I’ve been hearing a phrase uttered by every Republican that has access to a microphone and the media.  It must be the phrase of the week or the month.  The teabaggers kept shouting this phrase as they protested in front of the Supreme Court this week.  They, along with Senator Pat “Wall Street” “Club for Growth” Toomey were protesting to “protect our freedoms”.  Others were there to support health care for all Americans.  There is no correlation between the two arguments and this is why there is no room for dialogue.

Some key Republican phrases:

  • “Protecting our freedoms” – this is one that is currently popular and is a catch all phrase.  The Republicans are pushing this one even though they wrote, championed, and signed the Patriot Act.
  • “I never supported [fill in the blank]”- this is known as the flip-flopper.  It doesn’t matter that the contradiction is recorded.  They will still deny, deny, and deny.
  • “I misspoke” – this one is used to cover up the lies.  Republicans NEVER accept responsibility.
  • “Job creators” – this one is used as an excuse to tax the 99% while giving tax breaks to the 1%.
  • “I don’t recall” – this one was used to cover up the crimes.

Sounds like all the Republicans are reading from the same notebook.  They are so very boring and predictable.  I don’t understand why the Democrats can’t beat their dupas.

This is our Open Thread.  Add more, if you please. 

Watering Hole – Monday, August 1, 2011 – Philadelphia Freedom

Today is our 30 year wedding anniversary and we will be spending the day in Philadelphia doing the “freedom tour”.

For most of my life, I have lived in the southeastern part of Pennsylvania.  During all these years, I have never seen the Liberty Bell.  With the looming shutdown of our government due to its inability to pay the bills or the closing of government buildings due to the cuts, cuts and more cuts, now could be my last chance to get to Independence square and see some of the artifacts that are part of our nation’s beginning.  It’s anybody’s guess as to what will happen if the US defaults on its debt.  One thing for sure is that government employees would be laid off, seniors would not receive their Social Security checks, veterans would not receive their benefits, and nursing homes could close which would create more job losses.  Basically, more people will be out of work and there will be less money to spend and BUSINESSES WILL SUFFER.  Default is NOT an option.  Our bills must be paid.

This is our open thread.  I won’t be around today as I will be searching for freedom. You will need to Speak Up and do all the chatting.

Continue reading

The Next Progressive Era

Gar Alperovitz claims that the bombing of Hiroshima was a matter of economics and that the underlying purpose was how to run a global economy that favored American goals while preventing another economic depression.
Alperovitz is Lionel R. Bauman Professor of Political Economy at the University of Maryland. He is one of the founding principals of The Democracy Collaborative. Previously, he was a fellow at King’s College at Cambridge University, a founding fellow of the Institute of Politics at Harvard University, a fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies, a guest scholar at the Brookings Institution and a guest professor at Notre Dame University. He has also served as a legislative director in the US House of Representatives and the US Senate, and as a special assistant at the Department of State.
In an interview with Keane Bhatt at Truthout, Alperovitz states that he believes in “planned trade” where restrictions are placed on imports  so that the US can rebuild its manufacturing base.  He also believes that local non-profit “land trusts” will be a model for achieving “meaningful democracy”.

A land trust is simply a nonprofit corporation or a government agency that owns land, so that when development occurs, the profits of that development accrue to the owner, which in this case is public or nonprofit. And that’s very important in the context of gentrification, because if there’s a housing boom and the prices go up, poor people are kicked out because the prices are too high. So, if the land trust owns the land under the housing, it can stabilize housing costs. They already do this in many parts of the country because they are nonprofit corporations committed to low- and moderate-income housing.

Another example: when a city builds a subway system, land prices go up and the land becomes very valuable around every exit, because it’s a high-traffic area and commercial development is possible. So, who should own that land? If the city gives it away or sells it, then profits are made by the real estate developers. Many, many cities don’t do that now. They own the land and lease it so that they can make the profits from that implicit form of land trust, and pour it back, usually, into support for the mass transit system. That’s conventional now. What’s interesting about these various forms of democratizing ownership is that they’ve spread around the country in the last decade and a half and their numbers have gone from just a handful to hundreds. They answer a problem nothing else can. So, land trust development is an interesting example of what happens when there’s great pain. Traditional answers don’t work, and democratizing ownership in one or another way very often becomes a pattern.

You can read the entire interview here.  It is well worth the time.

Gar Alperovitz’s views offers hope and in this time of uncertainty, we need positive ideas and not more negative, fear-provoking disinformation from both our government and the media.

The 12:50 at Kempton

We’ve lately been having a discussion in this country about freedom, and an old friend from “across the pond” had a few thoughts on the matter.

I exercised some freedom today.

At about midday, I took one of the PA’s from my office to the bookies as she wanted to lay a bet on the Football (yeah yeah, soccer) and had never been in a betting shop before.  Learning how to place a bet is almost a rite of passage

in the UK.  Bookies are very intimidating if you don’t have a clue how it all works and, apart from Grand National day, no-one is there to help.  You either know it or you don’t.  Hence I went along to explain the magic of accumulators and doubles from three.  Whilst in there, I had a little punt on a horse race and ended up losing a fiver – such is life.

I’m no expert on the US but friends who have spent time across the pond suggest that laying a bet in most states of the US is slightly more complex than popping across the road.  Conversely, I expect a visitor to the UK from the US would find it very odd that the only way to get a gun in the UK is either jump through hoops with the Government to (maybe) get a shotgun license or else head off to the black market.

Ah freedom and your different flavours.  As a result, it always worries me when you hear someone banging on about protecting your freedom as no-one can define what freedom means universally .  I’m glad I’ve got the freedom to waste my hard earned money on a broken down nag in the 12.50 at Kempton.  I don’t have the freedom to own a gun but, to be honest, I don’t want to.

I’m glad I’ve got the freedom to choose to get private healthcare if I want to pay for it.  Christ, I work for a company that provides private healthcare insurance.  But I’m also glad that, whenever I need it, I have whatever healthcare I need free at the point of delivery.  Yeah, no-one makes any money out of the NHS, which I suppose means the private sectors freedom to profit is reduced, but it gives the population of the UK the freedom not to worry about how much it will cost to fall ill.

Whenever you hear someone saying they are protecting freedom I feel it’s appropriate to put your hand up and politely ask whose freedom they are protecting.


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Internet Censorship Coming to Australia

Australia plans to join China in implementing mandatory internet censorship.  The Australian government will not allow internet users to opt out of the national filter, something originally provided in the initial proposal.

Originally outlined as a way to combat child pornography and adult content, this censorship proposal is reported to possibly include sites containing information on euthanasia and anorexia.

Mr Conroy said trials were yet to be carried out, but “we are talking about mandatory blocking, where possible, of illegal material.”

Many groups have come out against the proposal saying it would “unfairly restrict Australians’ access to the web, slow internet speeds and raise the price of internet access.”

EFA board member Colin Jacobs said it would have little effect on illegal internet content, including child pornography, as it would not cover file-sharing networks.

“If the Government would actually come out and say we’re only targeting child pornography it would be a different debate,” he said.

Not everyone is against this proposal.  The Australian Christian Lobby welcomed it saying, “The need to prevent access to illegal hard-core material and child pornography must be placed above the industry’s desire for unfettered access.”

I have read unsubstantiated stories about Rogers (AT&T) and Telus (both in Canada) looking into blocking the internet, but the original story I read is no longer available (and since it contained no links to any sources) and upon further reading, it appears that what Rogers is trying to do is charge extra for long streams of data which tie up the networks. Capitalism being what it is, I cannot complain about that.  Hopefully, there is enough competition in Canada to allow customers to shop elsewhere should they not want to pay for these extra services.

That said, it  is too reminiscent of rumblings here in the US that providers were going to allow their business customers to pay additional revenue so that their sites load faster, which could lead to limited competition if consumers get tired of one site taking forever to load (remember those “World Wide Wait” commercials?)  Each tiny step taken to place limitations on a free internet is a step in the wrong direction.

And should a western country implement any type of censorship, one must ask oneself, how long before it arrives here?

Read up on Net Neutrality and take action.  Do not allow this to ever come to pass, for what you are reading right now, may become nonexistent in the future.

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Just a crack

This is just a little tidbit, a “thinking out loud” open thread.

Today, I was looking at the picture of the Liberty Bell, a symbol of American freedom that is sheltered at Independence Hall in Philadelphia. The crack in the bell made me start to think about the crack in our current national government of laws. What happened to all those freedoms, the ones that the colonial militias risked their lives for? The Liberty Bell has a huge crack in it, not unlike the major crack that currently exists in our Constitution. Oh, the Founding Fathers must be rolling over in their graves. If they were alive today, they would be leading another revolt. Would you pick your musket and join them?

Just saying…

Hello from Europe – The Wednesday papers

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What have we got today? Obama and Berlin, “tough love” says Der Spiegel. Obama will probably win in a landslide, assumes the Financial Times. What is liberty to you? Positive or negative liberty? Johan Hari explains in The Independent. US exports to Iran at record high, The Guardian has the story. George W. Bush is the most underrated President ever! I couldn’t resist to post this article from The Telegraph – Opinion. Now, have a good read all!

Berlin is anxiously awaiting Barack Obama, Germans would vote for him without any second thoughts and there is no doubt, that some German politicians would love to bathe in the limelight along Barack Obama. Berlin’s mayor is one.

“Many Germans want to get to know him,” Ruprecht Polenz, chair of the foreign relations committee in the German parliament, told SPIEGEL ONLINE. “It’s not just politicians, but the broader public. When the best possibility for that to happen is at this place, then I have no problem with it,” he said, referring to the Brandenburg Gate site.

Polenz’s comments come a day after a number of other German politicians came out in favor of allowing the Obama event, reportedly scheduled for July 24. Berlin Mayor Klaus Wowereit said he would love to see the candidate hold a major trans-Atlantic speech in the heart of Berlin. “We will prepare a warm welcome for him and will undertake all measures necessary so that he can deliver his message in Berlin,” Wowereit said on German television.(read more)

But there is more to expect from the candidate than just pop star appeal:

It’s [therefore] unlikely that Obama will wax lyrical about Europe’s leadership on combating climate change or health insurance. And he won’t shy away from some “tough love” in his speech, said the advisor, noting that he would spell out clearly that Europe needs to assume more international responsibility, especially in Afghanistan, and perhaps in Iraq as well. (read more)

Some 74% of Germans would vote for Obama without any hesitation, but how many Americans will? The Financial Times hazards a guess. It is quite likely that he will win the general election in a landslide even.

When Democrats criticise John McCain, they first praise his honourable military record. When Republicans do the same to Barack Obama, many begin by conceding that he is an “attractive and talented candidate”.

Recent history says that Mr Obama will have to fight a bitter campaign if he is to scrape a narrow victory for the White House. But a number of independent operatives believe an Obama landslide is a growing possibility. (read more)

The sensation of freedom is ultimately an individual thing. When do you personally feel free? Johann Hari has some ideas about that and analyses the differences in positive and negative liberty. A controversy during a by election in the UK prompted this article.

Like opposing Robert Mugabe and cuddling puppies, everybody in Britain is theoretically in favour of freedom. But the battle in Haltemprice and Howden is a slap-in-the-face reminder that we fundamentally disagree about what freedom means – so we are increasingly shouting at each other across a chasm of miscomprehension. The philosopher Isaiah Berlin said there was an irreconcilable divide between those who believe in “negative liberty” and those who believe in “positive liberty.” He was right. The divide survives.(read more)

If I may add to what Johann Hari says. Negative liberty, the absence of restrictions has been a concept used widely by most neo-con small government proponents. The thing is, they are using it almost exclusively for economic matters. That theory is cut out for the rich and powerful, but cunningly targeted on the middle and working classes.  They are not so freedom oriented, when it comes to your civil liberties, aren’t they?

Change of topic. The Bush administration falls over itself in demanding sanctions agains Iran. During the Bush years the trade with Iran has grown dramatically.

Analysis of US government trade figures published yesterday by Associated Press revealed a near tenfold increase in US sales to Iran over the past seven years. Goods included cigarettes, aircraft spare parts, bras, musical instruments, films, sculpture, fur, golf carts and snowmobiles. Although the sums involved are small, the disclosure is a political embarrassment for the US, coming at a time when it has been putting pressure on European governments, banks and companies to cut ties with Tehran.

AP found data suggesting military equipment had been exported, even though there are sanctions to prevent this. The Treasury is still investigating but Rankin said initial findings indicated there had been no such sales and described the data as a “clerical error”.(read more)

In the light of this obvious cluelessness of his Administration, reading why President Bush is a great leader as opposed to a buffoon is all the more interesting. Sameh-El-Shahat seems to think so.

Whatever happened to leadership and honesty as presidential traits? I happen to believe that the only leader in the West to have these two admirable qualities in droves is the leader of the free world: George W Bush.

Yes, we’ve all heard the Bushisms and laughed at them but do you really think somebody supposedly that thick can make it to the top of the most sophisticated political system the world has ever seen?

No, and that is because Mr Bush is far cleverer than most of his predecessors. He may not have been a Rhodes Scholar, but he has the ability to reach out to his people and read them.(read  more)

This is satire, no?

Have a good day all of you. Hump Day and only two more to go until the weekend! Take care.

Sunday Morning in Europe – News

 (Swiss Steam Engine) 

Good Morning on a slow news morning in Europe. Slow? Depends on how we view it. Actual lack of breaking news of the “Britney-faces-jail” variety makes one concentrate on the real important stories.

And, as on most Sundays, “The Sunday Times” is a bonanza of information. Israel claims it has seized nuclear material from a Syrian site before the site was attacked in an air-raid. When reading this article, don’t omit reading the comments that come with it. And, surprisingly, there is no mention of Iran. The Israeli military mission was met with determined support from Washington, whereas an Israeli invitation to Syria to talk and lower tensions  met with a “studied lack of interest” from the US. (Honi soit qui mal y pense!)

At least no lack of interest here: The planning for airstrikes and a war with Iran, get their own article in “The Times” today. “Project Checkmate” has been resurrected. And intense planning is under way for military action against Iran. However, can the following be counted as a small flicker of hope?

The US president faces strong opposition to military action, however, within his own joint chiefs of staff. “None of them think it is a good idea, but they will do it if they are told to,” said a senior defence source.

Hardly. So the drumbeats keep accelerating.

“The Guardian” is doing well, too. Why is the UN trying to bring an effectual newcomer into the position of top prosecutor for the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia?

The mercenary armies in Iraq have been warned in May (!) about a deteriorating security situation, due to growing tensions between American security contractors and Iraqis. Blackwater didn’t heed the warning and fulfilled the prophecy.

In Myanmar, the Buddhist monks, and now the nuns, too, are busily trying to bring the military junta to their knees. All it takes is taking to the streets.

Italians are anxious to learn about the fate of two of their soldiers who disappeared in Herat province. They are feared to  have been abducted along with two Afghan interpreters.

In France M. Sarkozy and M.Fillon are losing voter confidence. Maybe war drums are not so popular in France, the social reforms planned by the duo will most certainly cause hackles to rise.

While German Chancellor Angela Merkel is meeting the Dalai Lama in Berlin, the Chinese are showing their discontent. They are giving their blogging community enough slack, so they can voice their fury. But honestly, being called a “witch” by Chinese bloggers won’t impress her that much.

And last:

Sadly, the French mime artist Marcel Marceau passed away yesterday. You can find more on this unusual man here.