Instead of trying to “save the earth,” Kingsnorth says, people should start talking about what is actually possible. Kingsnorth has admitted to an ex-activist’s cynicism about politics as well as to a worrying ambivalence about whether he even wants civilization, as it now operates, to prevail. But he insists that he isn’t opposed to political action, mass or otherwise, and that his indignations about environmental decline and industrial capitalism are, if anything, stronger than ever. Still, much of his recent writing has been devoted to fulminating against how environmentalism, in its crisis phase, draws adherents. Movements like Bill McKibben’s 350.org, for instance, might engage people, Kingsnorth told me, but they have no chance of stopping climate change. “I just wish there was a way to be more honest about that,” he went on, “because actually what McKibben’s doing, and what all these movements are doing, is selling people a false premise. They’re saying, ‘If we take these actions, we will be able to achieve this goal.’ And if you can’t, and you know that, then you’re lying to people. And those people … they’re going to feel despair.”

-Daniel Smith, “It’s the End of the World as We Know It … and He Feels Fine,” The New York Times

A very interesting article about Paul Kingsnorth, a former environmental activist who advocates “uncivilization” and coming to terms with the nearing collapse, rather than the futility of fighting it

US Is an Oligarchy, Not a Democracy, says Scientific Studyby Eric Zuesse for Common Dreams
A study, to appear in the Fall 2014 issue of the academic journal Perspectives on Politics, finds that the U.S. is no democracy, but instead an oligarchy, meaning profoundly corrupt, so that the answer to the study’s opening question, “Who governs? Who really rules?” in this country, is: 
"Despite the seemingly strong empirical support in previous studies for theories of majoritarian democracy, our analyses suggest that majorities of the American public actually have little influence over the policies our government adopts. Americans do enjoy many features central to democratic governance, such as regular elections, freedom of speech and association, and a widespread (if still contested) franchise. But, …" and then they go on to say, it’s not true, and that, "America’s claims to being a democratic society are seriously threatened" by the findings in this, the first-ever comprehensive scientific study of the subject, which shows that there is instead "the nearly total failure of ‘median voter’ and other Majoritarian Electoral Democracy theories [of America]. When the preferences of economic elites and the stands of organized interest groups are controlled for, the preferences of the average American appear to have only a minuscule, near-zero, statistically non-significant impact upon public policy."
To put it short: The United States is no democracy, but actually an oligarchy.
The authors of this historically important study are Martin Gilens and Benjamin I. Page, and their article is titled "Testing Theories of American Politics." The authors clarify that the data available are probably under-representing the actual extent of control of the U.S. by the super-rich:

Economic Elite Domination theories do rather well in our analysis, even though our findings probably understate the political influence of elites. Our measure of the preferences of wealthy or elite Americans – though useful, and the best we could generate for a large set of policy cases – is probably less consistent with the relevant preferences than are our measures of the views of ordinary citizens or the alignments of engaged interest groups. Yet we found substantial estimated effects even when using this imperfect measure. The real-world impact of elites upon public policy may be still greater.

Nonetheless, this is the first-ever scientific study of the question of whether the U.S. is a democracy. “Until recently it has not been possible to test these contrasting theoretical predictions [that U.S. policymaking operates as a democracy, versus as an oligarchy, versus as some mixture of the two] against each other within a single statistical model. This paper reports on an effort to do so, using a unique data set that includes measures of the key variables for 1,779 policy issues.” That’s an enormous number of policy-issues studied.
What the authors are able to find, despite the deficiencies of the data, is important: the first-ever scientific analysis of whether the U.S. is a democracy, or is instead an oligarchy, or some combination of the two. The clear finding is that the U.S. is an oligarchy, no democratic country, at all. American democracy is a sham, no matter how much it’s pumped by the oligarchs who run the country (and who control the nation’s “news” media). The U.S., in other words, is basically similar to Russia or most other dubious “electoral” “democratic” countries. We weren’t formerly, but we clearly are now. Today, after this exhaustive analysis of the data, “the preferences of the average American appear to have only a minuscule, near-zero, statistically non-significant impact upon public policy.” That’s it, in a nutshell.

US Is an Oligarchy, Not a Democracy, says Scientific Study
by Eric Zuesse for Common Dreams

study, to appear in the Fall 2014 issue of the academic journal Perspectives on Politics, finds that the U.S. is no democracy, but instead an oligarchy, meaning profoundly corrupt, so that the answer to the study’s opening question, “Who governs? Who really rules?” in this country, is: 

"Despite the seemingly strong empirical support in previous studies for theories of majoritarian democracy, our analyses suggest that majorities of the American public actually have little influence over the policies our government adopts. Americans do enjoy many features central to democratic governance, such as regular elections, freedom of speech and association, and a widespread (if still contested) franchise. But, …" and then they go on to say, it’s not true, and that, "America’s claims to being a democratic society are seriously threatened" by the findings in this, the first-ever comprehensive scientific study of the subject, which shows that there is instead "the nearly total failure of ‘median voter’ and other Majoritarian Electoral Democracy theories [of America]. When the preferences of economic elites and the stands of organized interest groups are controlled for, the preferences of the average American appear to have only a minuscule, near-zero, statistically non-significant impact upon public policy."

To put it short: The United States is no democracy, but actually an oligarchy.

The authors of this historically important study are Martin Gilens and Benjamin I. Page, and their article is titled "Testing Theories of American Politics." The authors clarify that the data available are probably under-representing the actual extent of control of the U.S. by the super-rich:

Economic Elite Domination theories do rather well in our analysis, even though our findings probably understate the political influence of elites. Our measure of the preferences of wealthy or elite Americans – though useful, and the best we could generate for a large set of policy cases – is probably less consistent with the relevant preferences than are our measures of the views of ordinary citizens or the alignments of engaged interest groups. Yet we found substantial estimated effects even when using this imperfect measure. The real-world impact of elites upon public policy may be still greater.

Nonetheless, this is the first-ever scientific study of the question of whether the U.S. is a democracy. “Until recently it has not been possible to test these contrasting theoretical predictions [that U.S. policymaking operates as a democracy, versus as an oligarchy, versus as some mixture of the two] against each other within a single statistical model. This paper reports on an effort to do so, using a unique data set that includes measures of the key variables for 1,779 policy issues.” That’s an enormous number of policy-issues studied.

What the authors are able to find, despite the deficiencies of the data, is important: the first-ever scientific analysis of whether the U.S. is a democracy, or is instead an oligarchy, or some combination of the two. The clear finding is that the U.S. is an oligarchy, no democratic country, at all. American democracy is a sham, no matter how much it’s pumped by the oligarchs who run the country (and who control the nation’s “news” media). The U.S., in other words, is basically similar to Russia or most other dubious “electoral” “democratic” countries. We weren’t formerly, but we clearly are now. Today, after this exhaustive analysis of the data, “the preferences of the average American appear to have only a minuscule, near-zero, statistically non-significant impact upon public policy.” That’s it, in a nutshell.

Are there higher levels of Aminomethylphosponic acid or vitamins in your vegetables? It depends on if you eat genetically modified, conventional, or organic food, according to a new study by independent scientists in Norway. Read about their findings here.

One of the problems with traditional anti-capitalist thought is that it defines capitalism as a totality, which encourages us to imagine another totality, socialism, which we can try to replace it with. This totalizing perspective has colonized the imagination of anti-capitalism and left us waiting for a revolution we can never have.

In the book I argue that we see ourselves as inhabiting a complex social world that has some capitalist things going on in it as well as some socialist ones, some communist ones, and many where economics are not separated out of the broader fabric of life (such as sharing and gift giving, and mutual  support). The way we get past capitalism is by building on the healthy non-capitalist aspects of our world while we also do pitched battle with the capitalist ones that we have a fair chance of winning against. In that way we build a better world and shrink the destructive capitalist practices that are part of the social fabric. “

-Cynthia Kaufman in a very interesting interview about her book, “Getting Past Capitalism: History, Vision, Hope

descentintotyranny:

REVEALED: When Race Bias Starts Influencing How We See Others’ Pain
Mar. 4 2014
Ever wince when someone else stubs their toe? It turns out that the empathy we feel actually can be influenced by racial bias, and it begins at a young age.
Previous research on racial disparities has revealed that when white people see someone experiencing physical pain, they sweat more if the person is white than if the person is black.
In fact, one alarming study found that some doctors prescribe better pain medication for their white patients than black patients.
But when does this bias start? Psychologists at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville surveyed a sample of mostly white children at age five, seven, and 10. The children rated how much pain they expected two other children — one black and one white — would feel in certain situations, like biting their tongue, or hitting their head.
The five-year-olds reported that the two children would feel about the same amount of pain. But a weak racial bias emerged in the seven-year-olds, and by age 10, the children showed a “strong and reliable racial bias" in that the white child would feel more pain than the black child.
Read More

descentintotyranny:

REVEALED: When Race Bias Starts Influencing How We See Others’ Pain

Mar. 4 2014

Ever wince when someone else stubs their toe? It turns out that the empathy we feel actually can be influenced by racial bias, and it begins at a young age.

Previous research on racial disparities has revealed that when white people see someone experiencing physical pain, they sweat more if the person is white than if the person is black.

In fact, one alarming study found that some doctors prescribe better pain medication for their white patients than black patients.

But when does this bias start? Psychologists at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville surveyed a sample of mostly white children at age five, seven, and 10. The children rated how much pain they expected two other children — one black and one white — would feel in certain situations, like biting their tongue, or hitting their head.

The five-year-olds reported that the two children would feel about the same amount of pain. But a weak racial bias emerged in the seven-year-olds, and by age 10, the children showed a “strong and reliable racial bias" in that the white child would feel more pain than the black child.

Read More

Sounds outlandish, I know, but if the NSA can listen to the cell phone of Angela Merkel in Germany, it can undoubtedly listen in on Barack Obama in Washington. I am not making an accusation but asking the question describes the true depth of distrust the government has brought upon itself.

Where is the president in all this? Mostly limp and unpersuasive so far in very restrained responses. He didn’t fire the CIA director nor the NSA director though both have lied to Congress and the public, and are obvious candidates for blame. The president did not launch a seriously independent inquiry nor does he seem to understand that, whether or not it’s fair, the blame falls at his feet. Why didn’t  he get angry?

Because he knows the secrets, he is therefore vulnerable to reprisal.

The spies may not have tapped the White House phones but they do know what he knows and can always make use of it. This is the very core of the card game played by the intelligence agencies and it didn’t start with Barack Obama. When any new president comes to town, he is told the secrets first thing and continuously. The briefings can be chilling but also thrilling.

Ultimately, it can also be slyly coopting to learn what the government knows only at the very highest level. As the agencies take the White House deeper and deeper into the black box, it becomes harder for a president to dissent. It also makes it riskier to do so. The CIA or NSA know what he heard and know what he said when he learned the secrets. If the president decides to condemn their dirty work, the spooks and spies can leak to the press how in the privacy of the Oval Office the commander-in-chief gave the green light.”

-William Greider, “Spy Agencies, Not Politicians, Hold the Cards in Washington,” The Nation

This map “charts the extent of the segregation of the poor across U.S. metros. Dark blue shows the places where poor households are the most segregated; light blue shows where they are very segregated; green depicts moderate levels of segregation; and yellow represents lower levels of segregation.
As the map shows, the metros where the poor are the most segregated are mostly found along the Eastern Seaboard from New England to the Mid-Atlantic states, across the Midwest and the Great Lakes region, and in parts of Texas, Arizona, Nevada, and Colorado.”
Source

This map “charts the extent of the segregation of the poor across U.S. metros. Dark blue shows the places where poor households are the most segregated; light blue shows where they are very segregated; green depicts moderate levels of segregation; and yellow represents lower levels of segregation.

As the map shows, the metros where the poor are the most segregated are mostly found along the Eastern Seaboard from New England to the Mid-Atlantic states, across the Midwest and the Great Lakes region, and in parts of Texas, Arizona, Nevada, and Colorado.”

Source

Which Is More Terrifying: Google or Facebook?by Sam Biddle for Gawker
Mark Zuckerberg’s $2 billion buyout of Oculus Rift is just the latest step in Big Tech’s creepy march from software to sci-fi: Google and Facebook have dumped billions into companies that have nothing to do with their original projects in search or social. Relentlessly, the two companies are pushing toward a dystopian future in which privacy is null and we wear social networks on our faces.
But what do their individual acquisitions add up to? Who’s winning? Here’s a look at each company’s expanded portfolio, to see which one’s nightmare vision is more likely to prevail.

Which Is More Terrifying: Google or Facebook?
by Sam Biddle for Gawker

Mark Zuckerberg’s $2 billion buyout of Oculus Rift is just the latest step in Big Tech’s creepy march from software to sci-fi: Google and Facebook have dumped billions into companies that have nothing to do with their original projects in search or social. Relentlessly, the two companies are pushing toward a dystopian future in which privacy is null and we wear social networks on our faces.

But what do their individual acquisitions add up to? Who’s winning? Here’s a look at each company’s expanded portfolio, to see which one’s nightmare vision is more likely to prevail.

Kids used as pawns in bid to up NY state lottery salesby Matthew Vaz for In These Times

Lottery sales in America are driven by a core group of devotees, with 70 percent of national sales coming from only 20 percent of players.
Who these players are is no mystery: According to Bloomberg News, households making between $30,000 and $40,000 a year spend twice as much on lottery tickets as households making upwards of $100,000, and high-school dropouts spend an average of $50 a month on lottery play, while people with graduate degrees spend $13. A lottery bill of $50 a month represents a real commitment, and in working-class households it undoubtedly pushes up against food expenses, rent, the electricity bill and other basic necessities.
Thus it is a genuine challenge for states to drive lottery expenses among the poor any higher, even with the most well-executed advertising campaigns. In response, the New York state lottery has taken a new approach to advertising in the hopes of broadening its customer base.
A previous New York Lottery campaign, titled “Yeah, That Kind of Rich,” featured lottery winners putting their newfound wealth to all sorts of absurd uses. [See the ad here]
But wealth fantasies will only go so far in appealing to potential consumers who are already reasonably confident in their own economic prospects, and these are the people the New York Lottery is trying to attract. So with new demographic groups in mind, the New York Lottery has shifted its $90 million annual advertising budget toward an effort to portray the lottery as a socially conscious civic enterprise. As a lottery executive explained to Marketing Daily, the new campaign, titled “Thank You for Being a Friend,” is pursuing “a demographic of younger adults that make discretionary purchase decisions based on the good-cause purpose of an entity.”
A new commercial, produced by advertising agency DDB New York, depicts a group of lottery players at a Brooklyn bodega who are pleasantly surprised when a group of black and brown elementary school students suddenly begin singing and dancing to Andrew Gold’s “Thank You for Being a Friend,” the theme song from the 1980s sitcom The Golden Girls. “Every time you play a New York Lottery game,” the commercial explains, “a portion of your sale goes to aid New York state schoolchildren.” [See the ad here]
But New Yorkers who are being enticed to gamble on the basis of their love for dancing children should understand that the notion that the lottery provides additional resources to schools is a “myth,” as the New York State Comptroller wrote in 1998. Indeed, according to a 2013 City Limits investigation, there have been years when New York lottery revenues have gone up while state education spending per pupil has gone down. This is because lottery funds earmarked for education can simply displace other sources of school funding, such as property taxes, which can then be diverted to other uses, such as the maintenance of state prisons or the salary of state legislators who continue to be paid while they are under federal indictment. The “Thank You for Being a Friend” commercial could just as appropriately have featured prison guards and crooked state legislators dancing and singing.
If the state lottery had really wanted to make a commercial about the impact of the lottery on children’s lives, they could have tried gathering together all of the New York public school children who have a parent who is a core lottery player and who have also had the electricity cut off in their homes during the past year. Undoubtedly, that commercial would have required a bigger bodega.
The trajectory of lottery advertising has been one of remarkable growth. In 1967, the newly created New York Lottery spent $1.5 million on advertising (which would be some $10 million today), focusing its campaign on the theme of … supporting education. But that strategy failed to boost sales, and that’s when the lottery changed its advertising strategy to appeal to people’s desire to get rich quick. Now, after more than 40 years and more than $1 billion worth of advertising aimed at tempting customers with the prospect of yacht ownership and private helicopters, the lottery has returned to the theme of civic virtue with a $90 million budget to explain to cause-driven consumers that if they want to see black kids dancing, then they had better start buying some scratch tickets.
And even if the new campaign fails to connect with young professionals, there is another group that is likely to perk up and pay attention to commercials that feature New York public school children singing and dancing. That group, of course, is New York public school children. Or, as the lottery sees them, future core players.

Kids used as pawns in bid to up NY state lottery sales
by Matthew Vaz for In These Times

Lottery sales in America are driven by a core group of devotees, with 70 percent of national sales coming from only 20 percent of players.

Who these players are is no mystery: According to Bloomberg News, households making between $30,000 and $40,000 a year spend twice as much on lottery tickets as households making upwards of $100,000, and high-school dropouts spend an average of $50 a month on lottery play, while people with graduate degrees spend $13. A lottery bill of $50 a month represents a real commitment, and in working-class households it undoubtedly pushes up against food expenses, rent, the electricity bill and other basic necessities.

Thus it is a genuine challenge for states to drive lottery expenses among the poor any higher, even with the most well-executed advertising campaigns. In response, the New York state lottery has taken a new approach to advertising in the hopes of broadening its customer base.

A previous New York Lottery campaign, titled “Yeah, That Kind of Rich,” featured lottery winners putting their newfound wealth to all sorts of absurd uses. [See the ad here]

But wealth fantasies will only go so far in appealing to potential consumers who are already reasonably confident in their own economic prospects, and these are the people the New York Lottery is trying to attract. So with new demographic groups in mind, the New York Lottery has shifted its $90 million annual advertising budget toward an effort to portray the lottery as a socially conscious civic enterprise. As a lottery executive explained to Marketing Daily, the new campaign, titled “Thank You for Being a Friend,” is pursuing “a demographic of younger adults that make discretionary purchase decisions based on the good-cause purpose of an entity.”

A new commercial, produced by advertising agency DDB New York, depicts a group of lottery players at a Brooklyn bodega who are pleasantly surprised when a group of black and brown elementary school students suddenly begin singing and dancing to Andrew Gold’s “Thank You for Being a Friend,” the theme song from the 1980s sitcom The Golden Girls. “Every time you play a New York Lottery game,” the commercial explains, “a portion of your sale goes to aid New York state schoolchildren.” [See the ad here]

But New Yorkers who are being enticed to gamble on the basis of their love for dancing children should understand that the notion that the lottery provides additional resources to schools is a “myth,” as the New York State Comptroller wrote in 1998. Indeed, according to a 2013 City Limits investigation, there have been years when New York lottery revenues have gone up while state education spending per pupil has gone down. This is because lottery funds earmarked for education can simply displace other sources of school funding, such as property taxes, which can then be diverted to other uses, such as the maintenance of state prisons or the salary of state legislators who continue to be paid while they are under federal indictment. The “Thank You for Being a Friend” commercial could just as appropriately have featured prison guards and crooked state legislators dancing and singing.

If the state lottery had really wanted to make a commercial about the impact of the lottery on children’s lives, they could have tried gathering together all of the New York public school children who have a parent who is a core lottery player and who have also had the electricity cut off in their homes during the past year. Undoubtedly, that commercial would have required a bigger bodega.

The trajectory of lottery advertising has been one of remarkable growth. In 1967, the newly created New York Lottery spent $1.5 million on advertising (which would be some $10 million today), focusing its campaign on the theme of … supporting education. But that strategy failed to boost sales, and that’s when the lottery changed its advertising strategy to appeal to people’s desire to get rich quick. Now, after more than 40 years and more than $1 billion worth of advertising aimed at tempting customers with the prospect of yacht ownership and private helicopters, the lottery has returned to the theme of civic virtue with a $90 million budget to explain to cause-driven consumers that if they want to see black kids dancing, then they had better start buying some scratch tickets.

And even if the new campaign fails to connect with young professionals, there is another group that is likely to perk up and pay attention to commercials that feature New York public school children singing and dancing. That group, of course, is New York public school children. Or, as the lottery sees them, future core players.

It is no coincidence that the intensification of long-standing patterns of state repression appears to be particularly acute in the countries that experienced large-scale street protest in the past three years. Ruling classes around the world have clearly been shaken to their very core by the sudden re-emergence of the multitude in the streets. The United States is no exception in this respect. This week, news emerged that, despite a recent ruling, the FBI continues to withhold information on an assassination plot — possibly involving a “law enforcement agency” — targeted at organizers in the Occupy movement. Ryan Shapiro, a transparency activist and PhD student at MIT who is investigating the plot, has been warned by the NSA that his research constitutes a threat to “national security”. (That’s the same national security in whose name the agency’s computer geeks have apparently been peeking through your webcam lately.)”

This depressing animated map shows Walmart taking over America. 
(via Grist)

This depressing animated map shows Walmart taking over America.

(via Grist)

Did you know that hundreds of thousands of Spaniards protested austerity in the streets of Madrid a week ago today? If not, why not?