Fiscal Cliff


Posted: 2012-12-31 13:15   |  More posts about america politics

It's almost the new year, which means that we're at the precipice of the so-called "Fiscal Cliff". A cliff that somehow manages to loom while simultaneously threatening to drag us under.

The first time I heard the phrase fiscal cliff was the morning after the 2012 American election, when it was already clear that Obama would win. All of a sudden, it was everywhere. However, according to Wikipedia:

In late February 2012, Ben Bernanke, chairman of the U.S. Federal Reserve, popularized the term "fiscal cliff" for the impending 2012 fiscal crisis.

Some analysts have argued that fiscal slope or fiscal hill would be more appropriate terminology because while the cumulative economic effect over all of 2013 would be substantial, it would not be felt immediately but rather gradually as the weeks and months went by.

With this in mind, here is a google trends graph of searches for "fiscal cliff" from February to today:

Doesn't look like there's much movement until after October. Analysing just October to the present day, we get the following graph:

Just as I'd thought - the first spike occurs on November 7th: the morning of Obama's re-election.

I am not suggesting anything conspiratorial, but I do find it curious that talk of such an apocalyptic term as the fiscal cliff would only emerge directly after the election. Why not in February? Why not during the painfully long election campaign when journalists would have been happy to have had something new to write about?

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Cowboys and Anthrax


Posted: 2011-12-12 21:56   |  More posts about film funny politics

Great stuff here from the Bad Lip Reading Youtube channel. Check it out for plenty more.

Thanks to Hugh for bringing this to my attention.

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There is a Policeman Inside All Our Heads. He must be Destroyed.


Posted: 2011-11-06 18:08   |  More posts about art politics

I spent most of today reading this blog post by Adam Curtis. His posts are always a bit of a battle to get through, since they're peppered with video which sometimes makes the whole experience a bit laborious, but this one -- despite some of the videos being as long as 45 minutes -- is just perfect. Each of the videos compliments the text exactly as it should, leaving you with the feeling that you've just watched an entire Curtis documentary series.

The blog post charts the decline of the revolutionary leftist student movements in Europe, England especially, focusing on the influences of Pauline Boty and Clive Goodwin, two prominent figures in the British Pop Art movement, and Herbert Marcuse, a political philosopher whose ideas had a large effect on the student movements. It all culminates in the absolutely fascinating story of Michael de Freitas ("Michael X") whose name I'd not heard before today. It is this story to which Curtis devotes 45 minutes of your time in the form of an old BBC documentary which he's edited down a little.

I won't spoil any of that story, instead leaving you to read and watch for yourself.

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s/gay/jew


Posted: 2011-10-31 00:48   |  More posts about gay rights ireland politics

I'm reposting this from the Dublin University Pirate Party blog. A pretty vicious and bone-headed article in the Irish Independent is doing the rounds at the moment, and someone had this great idea:

“I search-replaced “gay” and “homosexual” with “Jewish”, “gays” with “Jews”, “straight” and “heterosexual” with “Christian”, and “bisexual” with “agnostic”. The result is amazing”

Here it is:

AS the cliche goes, some of my best friends are Jewish. I used to live in a very Jewish area, the West Village in New York. Indeed, enjoying their nightlife and cultural atmosphere, I was even accused of ‘trading’ off the fun, with my copycat denim jacket and tartan shirt, while not actually joining them.

However, like many, I’ve recently begun to get impatient with the endless trumpeting of Jewish ‘identity’, and the growing appetite for more and more rights and privileges.

I’m not being reactionary and I’m all for Jewish rights and an end to prejudice and discrimination, and always have, but at this stage it seems as if the tables have turned and a minority community — the Jews — want to increasingly change mainstream culture to suit them.

For example, why is civil partnership not enough, and why do Jews also want marriage, a surely traditional Christian facility, which Jews used to see as patriarchal, and ‘Christian’?

Many Jews also feel this way and resist the increasing politicisation and institutionalising of Jewish life. Last week, in the Guardian, a newspaper almost obsessed with things Jewish and ‘progressive’, columnist Suzanne Moore objected to Jewish marriage on the basis that it was a conservative ‘selling-out’. Being Jewish should be edgy and experimental, she said.

But isn’t this part of the problem? Many Jews want to have it both ways. Thus Jewish magazines are full of ads endorsing late-night gyms, sex lines and a freewheeling sexual activity which would be dismissed as sleazy in Christian culture. But we also have articles that suggest a yearning for bourgeois respectability.

Likewise, travel books, such as the trendy Rough Guides, scold the mainstream ‘meat-market’ discos of foreign capitals but provide plenty of details for Jewish pick-up spots. Many red-blooded Christian men might wish that society would endorse their own ambitions with such PC gusto.

Also, on the issue of Jews adopting, it makes many of us uneasy and impatient with the idea that raising a child with Jewish parents is totally equivalent to a child being raised by its natural Christian parents. It patently is not, and it is a crazy concession to PC culture to say that it is.

I watched a Frontline programme recently on the topic and I thought I was seeing things when I heard Ivana Bacik refusing to be happy with a societal acceptance of Jewish adoption but insisting on full equality with Christian parenting. David Quinn gave the other perspective, but he was almost falling over himself to be reasonable about it, just looking for that concession that the natural, or Christian, parents were not just the same as Jewish parents.

Those expressing opposition or even concerns were shouted down in the television studio. However, from where I was watching, in a local bar, the viewers were all of the contrary opinion, and were amazed by this departure in opinions but also blankly accepting of it as part of the growing gulf which now exists between mainstream society and the liberal elites and quango-led experts who want to change and improve our lives.

For example, the Guardian now has a feature called The Three of Us in its family section, a weekly diary by one of two Jewish men raising a child with their female friend, the natural mother. Two dads, one mum — one family is the sub headline.

I don’t know about you but this strikes me as strange.

And the counter-argument that divorced kids often have three parents knocking around is fatuous and nonsense. A child has two parents, whether separated or not. However, it is one thing to have such a diary, but it also seems almost designed to offend and irritate those who do not agree with this new radical departure in parenting. Thus, last week, the writer Charlie Condou questioned the whole convention of women being seen as naturally connected to their children. (Not for nothing is the Irish Independent’s weekly supplement called Mothers and Babies.)

But no, Charlie went to the Alternative Families show in the UK and saw all the Jewish dads with their children. It’s just the same for him, it seems, and, he “stood around and chatted about the absurdity and irrelevance of the ‘biological question’”. Oh, please. What about breastfeeding?

And there are other things about the growing Jewish rights movement which make outsiders impatient and uneasy. Like, when did the Jews and lesbian community become the ‘LGBT’, an acronym that also includes agnostic and Transgender?

Sorry, but this is broadening the boundaries in a way that makes many of us understandably sceptical.

agnostic? Isn’t that reminiscent of the loose Seventies sexual experimentation? How many agnostics are there? And will the plain people of Ireland be happy with legalising rights for, and spending money on, all of this?

The new Human Rights Commissioner for Northern Ireland, Michael O’Flaherty, is a Jewish rights advocate and says that he sees all of this as part of his rights agenda. Again, I raise all these things, not out of reactionary resistance but just to question the direction and motivation of the whole sexual rights agenda.

There is also the danger surely that this insatiable demand for more and more recognition and identity (Jewish quotas?), will eventually alienate mainstream opinion and undo some of the valuable gains made in this country by, for example, David Norris and others, in eliminating prejudice and discrimination.

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Is Libertarianism compatible with democracy?


Posted: 2011-10-20 13:41   |  More posts about politics

Michael Lind seeks to answer this question in an excellent article in which he quotes giants of the political philosophy, such as von Mises, von Hayek and Friedman, in order to show that not only is libertarianism incompatible with democracy, it is completely at odds with it, and that those championing the cause hold democracy in utter contempt.

It would be a fool's errand to try to coherently post quotations from the article: it's only effective in its entirety, so go and read it.

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The Death Of Yugoslavia


Posted: 2011-05-14 15:32   |  More posts about documentary film history politics

The BBC's Death of Yugoslavia is a documentary that aired originally in 1995. It had a huge impact on me when I watched it at the end of last year, and I was happy to find it in its entirety on Youtube again recently. As far as I'm concerned, it's absolutely necessary viewing. It is 300 minutes in total, split into 6 episodes. Wikipedia states:

The series was awarded with a BAFTA award in 1996 for Best Factual Series.[1] Because of the series large amount of interviews with prominent leaders and commanders of the conflict, it has been frequently used by ICTY in war crimes prosecutions.[2]

All the papers relating to the documentary series, including full transcripts of the many valuable interviews conducted with participants, are lodged at the Liddell Hart Centre for Military Archives at King's College, University of London. The catalogue can be examined here

During the trial of Milošević before the ICTY, Judge Bonomy called the nature of much of the commentary "tendentious".[3] This was because there were instances in which an interview in the Serbian language was subtitled incorrectly and often in a misleading manner (for example, the subtitling translated an interviewee saying that "Milosevic always won the elections on a nationalistic platform and nothing else", rather than "... on a national platform... ").[4]

Here are all 6 episodes for your convenience:

Read more...

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Judge, jury and executioner


Posted: 2011-01-22 03:51   |  More posts about america guns politics

A friend brought this blogpost from the New York Times to my attention. It deals with the recent shooting in Tucson, Arizona, in which nineteen people were shot, six of them fatally; and the resulting reinvigoration of the gun-control debate in America.

An excerpt:

On the day of the shooting, a young man named Joseph Zamudio was leaving a drugstore when he saw the chaos at the Safeway parking lot. Zamudio was armed, carrying his 9-millimeter semiautomatic pistol. Heroically, he rushed to the scene, fingering his weapon, ready to fire.

Now, in the view of the more-guns proponents, Zamudio might have been able to prevent any carnage, or maybe even gotten off a shot before someone was killed.

“When everyone is carrying a firearm, nobody is going to be a victim,” said Arizona state representative Jack Harper, after a gunman had claimed 19 victims.

“I wish there had been one more gun in Tucson,” said an Arizona Congressman, Rep. Trent Franks, implying like Harper that if only someone had been armed at the scene, Jared Lee Loughner would not have been able to unload his rapid-fire Glock on innocent people.

In fact, several people were armed. So, what actually happened? As Zamudio said in numerous interviews, he never got a shot off at the gunman, but he nearly harmed the wrong person — one of those trying to control Loughner.

He saw people wrestling, including one man with the gun. “I kind of assumed he was the shooter,” said Zamudio in an interview with MSNBC. Then, “everyone said, ‘no, no — it’s this guy,’” said Zamudio.

To his credit, he ultimately helped subdue Loughner. But suppose, in those few seconds of confusion, he had fired at the wrong man and killed a hero?

Earlier, I had also happened upon another article, this time from the L.A. Times.

An excerpt:

The bizarre chain of events unfolded about 9:30 p.m. Wednesday on a busy stretch of Crenshaw Boulevard near the 105 Freeway when a southbound driver struck a pedestrian walking across the street outside the crosswalk. Hawthorne Police Lt. Gary Tomatoni said the driver of a white or gray minivan fled the scene and as the injured pedestrian lay in the street, a second vehicle ran over the man. That driver also failed to stop and provide aid. Several pedestrians who saw the two cars hit the man ran to him to try to help. One of the good Samaritans was running across Crenshaw Boulevard toward the victim when she was hit by another motorist traveling southbound. That motorist stopped to check on the woman, but as he did so, he was attacked by a mob of bystanders.

Remind me, what is it they say about the road to hell?

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Welcome to Reykjavík


Posted: 2010-08-16 22:25   |  More posts about art funny oddities politics words

An eccentric little piece from Reykjavík's Mayor. Click to enlarge.

Thanks to Hugh for bringing this to my attention.

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Torture and the media


Posted: 2010-07-01 13:29   |  More posts about america media news politics war

Abstract from Desai, Pineda, Runquist, Fusunyan et al. (2010), emphasis mine:

The current debate over waterboarding has spawned hundreds of newspaper articles in the last two years alone. However, waterboarding has been

the subject of press attention for over a century. Examining the four newspapers

with the highest daily circulation in the country, we found a significant and

sudden shift in how newspapers characterized waterboarding. From the early

1930s until the modern story broke in 2004, the newspapers that covered

waterboarding almost uniformly called the practice torture or implied it was

torture: The New York Times characterized it thus in 81.5% (44 of 54) of articles on

the subject and The Los Angeles Times did so in 96.3% of articles (26 of 27). By

contrast, from 2002‐2008, the studied newspapers almost never referred to

waterboarding as torture. The New York Times called waterboarding torture or

implied it was torture in just 2 of 143 articles (1.4%). The Los Angeles Times did so

in 4.8% of articles (3 of 63). The Wall Street Journal characterized the practice as

torture in just 1 of 63 articles (1.6%). USA Today never called waterboarding

torture or implied it was torture. In addition, the newspapers are much more

likely to call waterboarding torture if a country other than the United States is

the perpetrator. In The New York Times, 85.8% of articles (28 of 33) that dealt with

a country other than the United States using waterboarding called it torture or

implied it was torture while only 7.69% (16 of 208) did so when the United States

was responsible. The Los Angeles Times characterized the practice as torture in

91.3% of articles (21 of 23) when another country was the violator, but in only

11.4% of articles (9 of 79) when the United States was the perpetrator.

Read the entire paper here.

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True terror is to wake up one morning and discover that your high school class is running the country


Posted: 2010-06-18 13:50   |  More posts about far-right germany idiots india oddities politics

Photo: Reuters

A select few quotations from a BBC article on Hitler's bizarre popularity in India:

Latest reports say Bollywood is now planning to cash in. A film - Dear Friend Hitler - is due to be released by the end of the year, focusing on the dictator's relationship with his mistress Eva Braun.

...

It's hard to narrow down what makes the dictator popular in India, but some young people say they are attracted by his "discipline and patriotism".

Most of them are, however, quick to add that they do not approve of his racial prejudices and the Holocaust in which millions of Jews were killed.

...

Nearly all the booksellers and publishers contacted in India say it is mainly young people who read Mein Kampf. It's not just the autobiography - books on the Nazi leader, T-shirts, bags, bandanas and key-rings are also in demand. A shop in Pune, called Teens, says it sells nearly 100 T-shirts a month with Hitler's image on them.

Dimple Kumari, a research associate in Pune, has not read Mein Kampf but she would wear the Hitler T-shirt out of admiration for him. She calls him "a legend" and tries to put her admiration for him in perspective: "The killing of Jews was not good, but everybody has a positive and negative side."

I have to say, I find this peculiar naivety fascinating. I also can't imagine what it must be like for a Western traveller to be walking down a street in, say, Bangalore, spotting a few people coming towards him clad in Hitler Apparel. Indeed, staying with Bangalore, since it's such a huge IT hub... Should we expect to see originally well-meaning and innocuous (to Indians, that is) photographs of young IT workers on their IBM or Microsoft campus, posing happily with their corporate swipe-cards dangling from from their neck, the strap perfectly framing a portrait of their "Dear Friend Hitler"? Indeed, do such places, renowned for their lack of dress-code in the West, already have a strict dress-code in places like India, in order to prevent such embarrassments? I wonder.

And, before I go, here's another great article from Der Spiegel on the same phenomenon, only this time in Pakistan. Yep, they're at it too. Who knows - perhaps this new-found love for the 20th century's most hated, genocidal dictator will only serve to foster a new friendship of shared values between India and Pakistan, leading to a stable peace! Surely no harm could come of future generations of two of the world's most antagonistic and unstable nuclear-countries worshipping a genocidal, maniacal, militaristic dictator!

Brings a whole new sense to that Vonnegut quote...

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