6. Followups

Sep-28-2012 | Comments Off

Bird’s Eye: The followup to last week’s Rosh Hashanah sermon, is of course a Yom Kippur sermon, even more moving and universal. Following France’s lead, Russia bans Monsanto’s corn, and yet another study (the most comprehensive and supported I’ve seen) that Iran is NOT edging towards nuclear weapons.

* Why Be Jewish?: A Sermon for Yom Kippur 5773 Rabbi Brandt Shalom Rav

Let me leave you with this vision: the vision of a people who have over the centuries learned to build a nation without borders, a multi-ethnic nation suffused with the beauty of a myriad of cultures, a nation inspired by a religious tradition it constructs and reconstructs in every age and in every generation. At its heart, it a nation committed to the struggle for meaning in our lives and justice in our world. And in the end, a nation that has nothing to fear and every opportunity to gain from the remarkable changes underway in the 21st century.

 * Russia Bans Use and Import of Monsanto’s GMO Corn Following Study  NationofChange

Following the groundbreaking French study that graphically linked the lifetime consumption of Monsanto’s GMO corn in rats to massive tumours and direct organ failure, Russia’s premiere consumers rights organization has suspended both the importation and use of Monsanto’s GMO corn within the nation’s borders.

The move may soon be echoed by other nations, who may soon be urged by France to ban Monsanto’s GMOs due to serious health concerns. France, who also recently upheld a key ban on growing GMOs, has been instrumental in alerting the world to the dangers of GMOs and Monsanto’s overall corruption.

* The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Iran and the Bomb

Given how easily the American public and media were manipulated into believing that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction, this moment should give us some pause. The disastrous effects of that $3 Trillion Dollar War are still being felt across the world. For those not interested in seeing a much-bloodier, costlier sequel, I offer this introductory course in intellectual self-defence. The only way to rebuff and dismantle propaganda is to be aware of the truth on which it claims to comment.

Lesson #1: Iran is not building nuclear weapons

National Intelligence Estimate: “We judge with high confidence that in fall 2003, Tehran halted its nuclear weapons program.” (2007 National Intelligence Estimate Iran: Nuclear Intentions and Capabilities; November 2007)

“Several senior Israeli officials who spoke in recent days to The Associated Press said Israel has come around to the U.S. view that no final decision to build a bomb has been made by Iran.” (Associated Press, “Israel shifts views on Iran”; March 18, 2012)

The 2011 National Intelligence Estimate (NIE), a synthesized compilation of data evaluated by America’s 17 intelligence agencies, declared that there were no serious revisions to the controversial (for war hawks) 2007 NIE—which stated Iran stopped its nuclear weapons program in 2003. While the 2011 estimate did include updated progress on Iran’s civilian nuclear program, such as an increased number of operative centrifuges, it still could not muster any evidence to indicate the program was being weaponized.

These findings echo reports from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), which has also concluded that Iran is not building nuclear weapons. The IAEA accounts are typically pored over for the slightest hint of ambiguity or malevolence, which are then promulgated as the most important takeaways in Western news summaries.



Aug 31st, 2012 :: Year 9, Issue 29

Aug-31-2012 | Comments Off

1. Followups

Bird’s Eye: Two interesting pieces expand on last week’s Julan Assange: Tariq Ali looks at the wider conflict between South America and the 1st world, and Glen Greenwald looks at the visceral hatred many journalists have towards Assange. Canada plans to spend a billion on their own drones (Thank goodness! I was worried our gov’t would fritter away our money hiring nurses and teachers.) And we have two more pieces on the politics and music of Pussy Riot.

* Why Latin America backs WikiLeaks Tariq Ali Green Left Weekly (Thanks Linda)

And that Venezuelan model, in different ways, spread. It spread to Bolivia, it spread to Ecuador, it spread for a while to Paraguay [where elected president Fernando Lugo was overthrown in a parliamentary coup in June by forces aligned with large landowning interests], to Honduras [where left-wing president Manuel Zelaya was overthrown in a 2009 military coup]. It had a huge impact in Brazil.

And so we don’t have the world of the West now in many South American countries. What do they do? They have oil wealth, they have other sources of wealth. They don’t allow this wealth to go to the fat cats. They don’t allow it to go to bankers. They spend it on free education. They spend it on hospitals. They have created new universities free of charge for poor kids.

They refuse to follow the Western model where everything is privatised — including the armies and including the police force here. Everything is being privatised. The train services here are privatised, in South America they are trying to construct a new one. And so, these social — radical social democratic governments in South America are today — in my opinion — offering more social and human rights to their citizens than the countries of Europe, leave alone the United States.

* The Bizarre, Unhealthy, Blinding Media Contempt For Julian Assange  Glenn Greenwald  The Guardian

Is it not remarkable that one of the very few individuals over the past decade to risk his welfare, liberty and even life to meaningfully challenge the secrecy regime on which the American national security state (and those of its obedient allies) depends just so happens to have become – long before he sought asylum from Ecuador – the most intensely and personally despised figure among the American and British media class and the British “liberal” intelligentsia?

…When it comes to the American media, I’ve long noted this revealing paradox. The person who (along with whomever is the heroic leaker) enabled “more scoops in a year than most journalists could imagine in a lifetime” – and who was quickly branded an enemy by the Pentagon and a terrorist by high U.S. officials – is the most hated figure among establishment journalists, even though they are ostensibly devoted to precisely these values of transparency and exposing serious government wrongdoing. (This transparency was imposed not only on the US and its allies, but also some of the most oppressive regimes in the Arab world).

But the contempt is far more intense, and bizarrely personal, from the British press, much of which behaves with staggering levels of mutually-reinforcing vindictiveness and groupthink when it’s time to scorn an outsider like Assange. On Tuesday, Guardian columnist Seumas Milne wrote a superb analysis of British media coverage of Assange, and observed that “the virulence of British media hostility towards the WikiLeaks founder is now unrelenting.” Milne noted that to the British press, Assange “is nothing but a ‘monstrous narcissist’, a bail-jumping ‘sex pest’ and an exhibitionist maniac” – venom spewed at someone “who has yet to be charged, let alone convicted, of anything.

* Canadian Military Intends To Spend $1 Billion On Armed Drones Ottawa Citizen

Senior Canadian defence leaders pitched the idea of spending up to $600 million for armed drones to take part in the Libyan war shortly before the conflict ended, according to documents obtained by the Citizen.

And while the death of Libyan leader Col. Moammar Gadhafi effectively ended the war and scuttled the Defence Department’s plans, the military has now relaunched its program to purchase unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) that can be outfitted with missiles and other bombs. According to DND documents the military intends to spend around $1 billion on the project.

* Pussy Riot Prove The Only Professionals In Sight  Michael Idov  The Guardian

The entire case was a triumph of amateurism on every conceivable level, as one participant after another forewent logic, law, and common sense in favour of personal grievances, knee-jerk responses and anger.

The Russian authorities took a marginal act of arty protest and, through sheer cruelty, made it into an international cause. (In covering the trial live, CNN and the BBC have broadcast what essentially amount to long infomercials against investing in, visiting and generally dealing with Russia.)

… The only professionals anywhere in sight are Pussy Riot themselves. From their name, perfectly pitched to both shock and attract the western media, to their instantly recognisable look; from their message (concise bursts of feminist agitprop with just enough of a tune to pass as a song), to their method of distributing this message via social networks; from their initial punk posturing in interviews, to their pointedly academic statements to the court, which no less than David Remnick called “a kind of instant classic in the anthology of dissidence”; these women, and they alone in this mess, know exactly what they are doing.

* Have Pussy Riot sparked a new wave of grrl power?  The Guardian

 For Distras, the Pussy Riot influence echoes the “riot grrrl” scene of the early 1990s, an underground feminist punk movement that originated in the US. Riot grrrl’s central message has been much debated, but can perhaps best be summed up as a mission to engender communities of supportive, creative women. Certainly, Pussy Riot’s abrasive, energetic sound has much in common with that of the original riot grrrls Huggy Bear and Bikini Kill.



5. Followups

Jul-20-2012 | Comments Off

Bird’s Eye: Is the TSA tragedy or farce? Tough call, that one. The opening infographic underlines the amount of money spent without any increase in safety. But we salute John Brennen, “naked American hero” for his stark act of resistance to the TSA. Juan Cole updates us on Syria, the Guardian brings some good news from Libya, and a fascinating look at a whole new way of news reporting: twitter aggregating. Do look at that: I guarantee you’ve never seen any news story quite like it before.

* Infographic: TSA – Grope & Pillage   The FloorGem Blog

* “Naked American Hero” on Trial—Not Guilty! Blogtown, PDX

Not guilty! The judge ruled this afternoon that protester John Brennan is not guilty of incident exposure charges for stripping down at the PDX security station. The issue basically came down to whether Brennan’s striptease was meant to be a protest or whether, as the state’s prosecuting attorney argued, he retroactively claimed it was a protest to get off the hook for whipping off his clothes. Since “symbolic” nudity is protected as free speech under state law, the judge determined that Brennan’s derobing was a legitimate protest.

* Top Ten Implications of the Damascus Bombing Juan Cole Informed Comment

What does this bombing mean for Syria and the Middle East?

1. It demonstrates that the rebels have sympathizers in high positions within the regime. The bomb had to have been planted by an insider. This situation reminds me of the American dilemma in Vietnam, where we now know that many high-ranking Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN) officers were in fact sympathizers with the Communists and basically double agents.

2. It follows upon this conclusion that the al-Assad regime is unlikely to be able to emulate the Algerian military, which crushed the Islamic Salvation Front in a brutal civil war from 1992 through the early zeroes of the present century. Some 150,000 Algerians are said to have died in the dirty war, with atrocities on both sides. But when the smoke cleared, the junta was still in control, and its favored secular civilians were in office. In all that time, the Muslim fundamentalist opposition never laid a glove on any of the high officials or officers. But the Algerian elite closed ranks against the Islamic Salvation Front, having a cultural set of affinities and a common source of patronage in the state-owned oil and gas sector.

If the rebels in Syria can reach into the Security HQ this way, and assassinate the highest security officials of the regime, that ability does not augur well for Bashar al-Assad’s ability to win the long game, as his counterparts did in Algeria.

* User in r/Toronto uses social media to give in depth analysis of a major shooting via reddit

Analysis: It’s interesting to look at the Reddit report, and then compare that to a traditional news report from the CBC (the publicly-funded broadcaster in Canada). The one on Reddit doesn’t look or read anything like a normal news story — instead of names, it has links to tweets and individual Twitter accounts, and there isn’t much of a story at all, just a recitation of facts or alleged facts. The CBC story has the names and ages of the victims, as well as some quotes from the police about gang violence, a quote from a friend of one of the deceased, and some eyewitness reports from the scene.

That said, however, the Reddit version also has a lot of things the CBC version doesn’t: for example, it has some tweets from people attending the party about the potential for violence — before the shooting even occurs. It also uses messages posted by those involved to talk about the shooting being part of a possible gang war, including links to individual tweets from people threatening more violence, as well as tweets and YouTube videos posted by members of a gang that one of the victims was apparently associated with.

While the format of the Reddit story may be more difficult to read, it also makes the story a lot easier to fact-check while you are reading, since any reader can simply click on a link and see the message or user profile that the author is basing their statement on (in one case, the Reddit post has a link to a screen-capture of a tweet that has since been removed). The CBC story has no links whatsoever. And while the traditional news story simply makes statements without providing any evidence other than an interview with police, the Redditor uses words like “apparently” and “I can’t be sure.”

* Mahmoud Jibril, A Force For Moderation In Libya  The Guardian

Sitting in a cafe across from the square’s imposing Ottoman palace, Saad Kamur explained that he had voted for Mahmoud Jibril in Libya’s historic election. Jibril, a 60-year-old US-educated political scientist, appears to have won a landslide victory in the poll on Saturday, defying predictions that Islamists would sweep to power in Libya, as they have done elsewhere.

“He’s moderate. And experienced,” Kamur said. “I don’t think the others were capable of running a government.” Kamur, a Tripoli businessman, said observers who predicted that Libya would go the way of Egypt and Tunisia – now run by religious parties – had misinterpreted the national mood, and Libya’s prevailing centrism.

“Libyans are open to the outside world. Many have studied abroad. They haven’t seen anything positive yet from Islamist governments,” he suggested. As for the election, in which he cast his first ever vote at the rather belated age of 52, he said: “Nobody imagined it would go this smoothly.”



July 6th, 2012 :: Year 9, Issue 25

Jul-06-2012 | Comments Off

1. Followups

Bird’s Eye: Many thanks to all who responded to last week’s question on Tikkunista’s future. My response is below. We have a classic experiment that looks at just how early self-control shows itself (or not) in children, and how predictive it is. A fascinating piece from the Times looks at the link between the “Do your own thing” of the 60’s, and the selfishness of the .1%. Maybe we should have been more careful what we asked for? And in a followup to Rio, Will Hutton points out that the Right needs to deny global warming, because the only solutions involve collective government action, which is bad. So climate change can’t be real. Just start with the conclusion, and make the data lead to it.

* Thanks for the responses!

(And to those who preferred email, phone, etc). With occasional breaks Tikkunista will continue for the immediate future. It will not change its format to good news only. As it says in “The Two Towers”:

Frodo: I can’t do this, Sam.

Sam: I know. It’s all wrong. By rights we shouldn’t even be here. But we are. It’s like in the great stories, Mr. Frodo. The ones that really mattered. Full of darkness and danger, they were. And sometimes you didn’t want to know the end. Because how could the end be happy? How could the world go back to the way it was when so much bad had happened? But in the end, it’s only a passing thing, this shadow. Even darkness must pass. A new day will come. And when the sun shines it will shine out the clearer. Those were the stories that stayed with you. That meant something, even if you were too small to understand why. But I think, Mr. Frodo, I do understand. I know now. Folk in those stories had lots of chances of turning back, only they didn’t. They kept going. Because they were holding on to something.

Frodo: What are we holding onto, Sam?

Sam: That there’s some good in this world, Mr. Frodo… and it’s worth fighting for.

* Stanford Marshmallow Experiment   Wikipedia (Thanks, Linda)

The Stanford marshmallow experiment was a study on deferred gratification conducted in 1972 by psychologist Walter Mischel of Stanford University.  Amarshmallow was offered to each child. If the child could resist eating the marshmallow, he was promised two instead of one. The scientists analyzed how long each child resisted the temptation of eating the marshmallow, and whether or not doing so was correlated with future success.

…In over 600 children who took part in the experiment, a minority ate the marshmallow immediately. Of those who attempted to delay, one third deferred gratification long enough to get the second marshmallow. Age was a major determinant of deferred gratification.

It was the results of the follow-up study that would take place many years later that surprised Mischel. Since Mischel’s daughters knew and grew up with many of the original test subjects, through casual conversation, Mischel discovered there existed an unexpected correlation between the results of the marshmallow test, and the success of the children many years later. The first follow-up study, in 1988, showed that “preschool children who delayed gratification longer in the self-imposed delay paradigm, were described more than 10 years later by their parents as adolescents who were significantly more competent”. A second follow-up study, in 1990, showed that the ability to delay gratification also correlated with higher SAT scores. 

* Selfishness Won Kurt Andersen New York Times

THIS spring I was on a panel at the Woodstock Writers Festival. An audience member asked a question: Why had the revolution dreamed up in the late 1960s mostly been won on the social and cultural fronts — women’s rights, gay rights, black president, ecology, sex, drugs, rock ’n’ roll — but lost in the economic realm, with old-school free-market ideas gaining traction all the time?

There was a long pause. People shrugged and sighed. I had an epiphany, which I offered, bumming out everybody in the room.

What has happened politically, economically, culturally and socially since the sea change of the late ’60s isn’t contradictory or incongruous. It’s all of a piece. For hippies and bohemians as for businesspeople and investors, extreme individualism has been triumphant. Selfishness won.

* A Catastrophe If Global Warming Falls Off The International Agenda  Will Hutton The Observer

A month’s rain fell in a day last week in parts of Britain. There were 140 flood warnings in the north of England, rain forcing the evacuation of Croston and Darwen in Lancashire; elsewhere, it washed out the Isle of Wight festival. Indeed, rainfall over the last three months has broken new records – following two years in which less rain had fallen than at any time since the 1920s.

This is part of a wider pattern. It is not just that world temperatures are on average steadily rising, the weather everywhere is becoming more extreme. Eleven of the last 12 years have been the hottest on record, and the growing volatility in our weather is linked to global warming. As the earth warms, the relationships between ocean currents, the ice caps, atmospheric pressure and the jet stream become more turbulent, and the weather turns more unpredictable.

…. Climate change sceptics, most vividly in the US where it has become a basic credo of the modern Republican party, are sceptics because to accept the case is to accept the need to do something collectively and internationally that must involve government. But government is bad. It is inefficient, obstructs enterprise, inhibits freedom, regulates and taxes. Climate change activists want carbon taxes and to set targets for efficient resource use; they also want regulations to encourage environmentally friendly behaviour. This is the back door through which socialism will be reinvented – and scientists have been unwittingly captured by wild leftwing environmental ginger groups.



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