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    • The Simple Fix for Intellectual Property Laws
        Let’s say that someone has genuinely created something new–and we’ll skip the fact that most drug research actually uses massive government subsidies. Let’s say we want them to make money for doing so, in order to encourage people to keep innovating. Again, there’s a simple fix: Mandatory licensing. If a company has beneficial control […]
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#Brexit, appliances, eucatastrophes and GoT crackpot theories

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What has the EU ever done for us?

Hi everybody, I have to go mow the lawn. It’s a nice day out today and I want to get it over with so I can do more fun things. But first, some thots about Brexit.

David Cameron is a ditz. He called his voters’ bluff one too many times. Unfortunately, the people who voted for exiting the EU are dragging all of the young and well educated with them. It’s funny how this turned out to be a referendum on immigration and all those furiners taking jobs. Why is it that the well connected who are making out like bandits in the globalization deal escape scrutiny time after time?

I blame Rupert Murdoch. Wherever his “news” channels are strongest so is the redirection of righteous indignation onto the backs of the people who are least able to defend themselves.

Anyway, I wanted to point out that this globalization meme is truly stupid and well-meaning politicians should stop cuddling up to the propagators of this nonsense. Instinctively, we know that globalization is the excuse that is being used to tear down social safety nets. The reasoning is that goods for Americans, for example, are cheaper when they are made elsewhere. But is that really true?

Here’s a challenge: next time you’re in Lowes or Home Depot, go visit the appliance department. Try to figure out which refrigerators and ranges are made here in the US and which are made in Korea by price. There are brands that are made here in the US but they do not carry a premium price. In fact, the most expensive appliances, the ones that everyone wants and needs, are made in Korea. Not only that but sales reps will tell you confidentially that the current generation of those $3200 refrigerators are not supposed to last more than 7-10 years.

That’s globalization for you. And people buying new appliances know this in their bones. They know they’re being conned. What can you do? You can’t let your food spoil. But you gotta wonder where all the cost savings went. If the appliances are no longer cheaper but the labor is, then the difference is pure profit and it’s going into someone’s pocket. Not ours, obviously.

Globalization as we know it is really about a global casino, shareholder value, 401K’s. Did you notice that on Friday when the market dropped, we were all told not to look at our 401Ks? That’s what the gamblers would prefer. They don’t want you to look at how the value of your hard earned money, your retirement plan, is taking a plunge and will continue to do so. “Leave it alone, don’t think about it” is the message we get. Otherwise, you might get angry and they don’t want you to get angry and pull YOUR money out of THEIR market. Don’t look until we have to retire and find that all these monumental shocks left us with a lot less than the financial consultants said. They won’t promise you a guaranteed rate of return or even that you’ll have any principal left.And it’s all up to you. If you don’t plan, if you’re not playing the game correctly, well, it’s you’re fault for not being them.

I don’t buy the idea that nothing can be done about this kind of globalization. As Larry Elliott writes in his post in The Guardian:

The risk is that if the mainstream parties don’t respond to the demands of their traditional supporters, they will be replaced by populist parties who will. The French Socialist party has effectively lost most of its old blue-collar working class base to the hard left and the hard right, and in the UK there is a danger that the same thing will happen to the Labour party, where Jeremy Corbyn’s laissez-faire approach to immigration is at odds with the views of many voters in the north that supported Ed Miliband in the 2015 general election, but who plumped for Brexit last week.

There are those who argue that globalisation is now like the weather, something we can moan about but not alter. This is a false comparison. The global market economy was created by a set of political decisions in the past and it can be shaped by political decisions taken in the future.

A smart politician is one who will see Brexit as the eucatastrophe it is, no pun intended. It might be too late for a do-over in Britain, but the American election is months away. It is not too late to turn this ship around. Even if Hillary is ahead of The Donald, she should take a good look at how the landscape has changed and take advantage of it to craft new policies, policies that will ensure lasting political change. Obama failed to take advantage of his opportunities from 2008-2010. Hillary should sieze on hers now even at the risk of offending some of her donors in Silicon Valley.  The pressure on regular non-rich Americans has been building for years now. It got significantly worse in the last 8 years as the finance industry and big business benefitted from lax oversight to push more and more people into a Gig Economy. That’s where you’re valuable when you’re young and single and willing to job hop. But as soon as you grow up and want a steady job and a family and a house, the jobs mysteriously dry up.

Brexit shows us what can happen when voters have a chance to express themselves. Voters are angry and they are motivated and they want to make a point. David Cameron thought throwing them a bone of a referendum would be just another Scotland independence vote where the whiners and complainers would get trounced and shut up about it already. But he seriously misread the electorate. They’re sick of being taken advantage of and if they’re going down, they’re going to take everyone else with them. And just like the UK, we have a bunch of angry white guys with big erections that they are going to parade all the way to the voting booth. The economy is not booming, we aren’t doing well and unlike the angry Bernie supporters, who at least know who to blame, the Trump supporters will lash out at anyone who isn’t a white male American.

Better to give them policies that will curb the malefactors of great wealth and stop expecting the working class to foot the bill all time than to see us all wake up after the conventions feeling like we’ve been thoroughly f^&*ed.

********************************************************************

Tonight is the season finale of Game of Thrones. Here are my crackpot theories about how what’s going to happen:

  1. We will find out tonight just who was the recipient of Sansa Stark’s letter and plea for help. Everyone assumes it was Petyr Baelish, aka Littlefinger. But I think Sansa has grown a clue in the last six years. She made a deal with someone in the Vale. Was it Lord Royce or SweetRobin? In any case, Littlefinger may be losing his edge. If you’re planning to come to someone’s rescue, make sure you get the specific reciprocal rewards on paper, preferably signed in blood.
  2. Whatever Sansa does, there will be a faction of fans who will be critical. They’ve been complaining for years now that she’s been too much of a passive pushover. But since she started taking control of her life this season and making some controversial decisions, they’ve become even more hostile and critical that “She’s doin’ it wrong”. Also, there are some fans who are very negative that she might be losing her girlish innocence to be replaced by a calculating survival mode. Thus Game of Thrones continues to reflect current political realities. Even in the fantasy realm, Cenk Uygar is tiresome, sexist asshole. The pattern is obvious, Cenk. Your slip is showing. Calm your tits already.
  3. What is in the crypts of Winterfell? I mean, seriously, there’s some secret lurking down there that we don’t know about. And why is it that “there must always be a Stark at Winterfell”? The first book opened in the crypts when Ned took Robert down there to check out Lyanna’s grave. But various characters are always finding some excuse to go down there and light some candles. Maybe this is what Littlefinger is truly interested in. Sansa’s just the cheesecake dessert.** Whatever is down there is what he’s really after.
  4. Tonight, we will probably get confirmation that R+L=J. Was Jon reborn last week under a bleeding star of the circular pattern of dead and dying bodies? Was the “salt and smoke” from the Ramsay’s burning victims and the sweat of battle? Will Melisandre be the ultimate sacrifice? Will she finally understand the signs she sees in the fire?

Add your own crackpot theories in the comments.

* *  Here’s another crackpot theory. We all know how Ramsay Bolton had a thing for cutting off various body parts from his victims. What if Ramsay did a bit of FGM on Sansa? I’ve been watching too much Game of Thrones to even be imagining this but I could see him doing it, considering what he cut off of Theon Greyjoy. In that case, Sansa may decide to become a born-again virgin and get her kicks from wielding power instead. Oooo, Cenk isn’t going to like that.

Dracarys.

Convergence(?): something Paul Krugman said

The other day, Paul Krugman speculated that Barack Obama was adopting the values and the rhetoric of the serious people, who for some reason always want to impose austerity on the little guy, because he identifies with that class:

OK, here’s an unprofessional speculation: maybe it’s personal. Maybe the president just doesn’t like the kind of people who tell him counterintuitive things, who say that the government is not like a family, that it’s not right for the government to tighten its belt when Americans are tightening theirs, that unemployment is not caused by lack of the right skills. Certainly just about all the people who might have tried to make that argument have left the administration or are leaving soon.
And what’s left, I’m afraid, are the Very Serious People. It looks as if those are the people the president feels comfortable with. And that, of course, is a tragedy.

Today, the front page of the NYTimes reports on the phone hacking scandal by News Corp editors and higher ups in Britain. For those of you not up to date on this scandal, News Corp, owned by Rupert Murdoch, has been accused of tapping the phones of terrorist victims, soldiers from Afghanistan and paying substantial bribes to police officials for juicy tidbits of confidential information on people it doesn’t like. David Cameron’s former aide, Andy Coulson, left the Cameron administration to work for Murdoch’s org. Murdoch is poised to buy the remaining shares in British Sky Broadcasting and the deal is to be finalized today. Coulson has been arrested in connection with this probe. It looks like the political arena was not spared from Murdoch’s tentacles. It isn’t clear to me whether Coulson is being offered up as a sacrificial lamb in order to let the deal proceed. If it does, Murdoch’s lock on the British media would be almost insurmountable.

Kudos to Atrios for keeping on top of this.

As you can imagine, the Britain’s Labor Party is throwing Cameron an anchor. But here’s the paragraph that got my attention:

Fourteen months later, with Mr. Murdoch’s media empire in Britain reeling, Mr. Cameron may feel that his close relationship with Mr. Murdoch, which included a range of social contacts with members of the Murdoch family and the tycoon’s senior executives, has been a costly overreach.

It sounds to me like David Cameron also wanted to schmooze with the Serious People. Is this a characteristic of our national leaders? What about that Canadian dude who just rewon? What the heck is his name?

There is a pattern here with Rupert Murdoch and his media empire. He gets into a country, buys up their media, then his outlets start belching forth child murders and abductions of young white women. Enter the Sean Hannity types and the lies that go uncontested. Gin up the war machine, turn on the gasbags screaming that anyone collecting a government check is a parasite and voile! Austerity for thee but not for me.

Can we get an investigation of Murdoch going here in the US? And who does Steny Hoyer know at Fox News? How did we know about Weiner and Massa? Who else is toeing the conservative line because of some personal secret or minor ethical violation that threatens to become a s#%^storm? And how did Andrew Breitbart jump into the ranks of the serious people?

Of course this is just speculative on my part. Maybe Fox News and Rupert Murdoch arent setting the tone and cracking the whip and hobnobbing with the power in Washington and the other serious people. Neverthless, I’m interested in pursuing an investigation into Murdoch’s ties in Washington. How many times did we wonder what the Bushies had on the Democrats in Congress? And what has changed? And how is that Fox News and the other serious people have gone so easy on Obama? Call me crazy but I think it’s time to clean the Houses.

Friday Spaced-Out News and Views

Good Morning Conflucians!!!! TGIF!

I’m getting a slow start today. I’ve been surfing around, and there is quite a bit of news out there, but no overarching theme that I can see. I’m a little spacey though, as I always am at the end of a semester.

I usually get to the point where I’m running on adrenalin, and as I get close to the end, I can feel that my body and mind are just about ready to shut down for a couple of days. I still have a little work to do, so I’m trying to stay alert and keep that adrenalin flowing just a little bit longer.

The British election ended this morning in a “hung Parliament.” I don’t know too much about British politics, so I hope someone else may be able to explain what all this means.

Map of election results at the Independent

BBC: What next for each party in event of a hung Parliament?

The constitutional convention states that – in the event of no party winning a majority – the sitting prime minister remains in place until he decides he cannot form a government and chooses to resign.

After returning to 10 Downing Street, Gordon Brown has said it is his “duty to play his part” in securing a strong and stable government in the next few days.

He has asked Cabinet Secretary Sir Gus O’Donnell to arrange for the Civil Service to provide support on request to parties engaged in discussions on the formation of government.

It is likely he will approach the Liberal Democrats to try and agree some form of coalition deal – a stance backed by senior Labour figures.

But it sounds like the Libdems have already sided with the Tories:

Cameron has ‘first right’ to form government, says Nick Clegg

David Cameron was today offered the keys to 10 Downing Street, after Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg said that the Conservatives had the “first right” to seek to form a government in Britain’s first hung Parliament since 1974.

The Conservative leader will give his initial public response in a statement at 2.30 this afternoon, but it was thought far from certain that he would accept any deal with the Lib Dems which included reform of Westminster’s first-past-the-post voting system.

I’m clueless–someone please help me understand this.

Some creepy news related to the health care deform bill: Documents reveal AT&T, Verizon, others, thought about dropping employer-sponsored benefits

Internal documents recently reviewed by Fortune, originally requested by Congress, show what the bill’s critics predicted, and what its champions dreaded: many large companies are examining a course that was heretofore unthinkable, dumping the health care coverage they provide to their workers in exchange for paying penalty fees to the government.

That would dismantle the employer-based system that has reigned since World War II. It would also seem to contradict President Obama’s statements that Americans who like their current plans could keep them. And as we’ll see, it would hugely magnify the projected costs for the bill, which controls deficits only by assuming that America’s employers would remain the backbone of the nation’s health care system.

Hence, health-care reform risks becoming a victim of unintended consequences. Amazingly, the corporate documents that prove this point became public because of a different set of unintended consequences: they told a story far different than the one the politicians who demanded them expected.

The chairman of the Democratic Party in PA has issues a “stern warning” to party members, and says a win for Sestak in the primary would be “cataclysmic.”

As polls show Sestak, a second-term House member from the Philadelphia suburbs, cutting Specter’s advantage to single digits, Chairman T.J. Rooney told POLITICO in an interview that “if we want to keep this seat in Democratic hands, the only person capable of delivering that victory is Arlen Specter.” [….]

A Quinnipiac University poll released earlier this week showed Specter’s once formidable double-digit lead narrowing to only 8 percentage points, 47 percent to 39 percent. By midweek, the tracking poll sponsored by Muhlenberg College and the Allentown Morning Call showed Specter ahead by only 5 percentage points.

“Momentum is clearly on Sestak’s side at this point,” said Peter Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute.

Well, I’m rooting for Sestak anyway. I just don’t see Arlen Specter as much of a Democrat.

Some interesting commentary on The New York Times’ biased coverage of the BP oil spill: A Gusher From the Newspaper of Record by Richard Ward at Counterpunch.

A couple of days ago I sent a comment in response to an article written by John M. Broder and Tom Zeller Jr. (“Gulf Oil Spill is Bad, but How Bad?” 5/3/10) that sounded like it could have come from the BP public relations department, downplaying the effects of the blowout in The Gulf of Mexico. Arguably the worst part of the article was a gross factual error stating that the Iraqis fleeing Kuwait in 1991 released 36 billion gallons of crude into the Persian Gulf. My comment: “Whoa! The Iraqis released nowhere near 36 billion gallons of crude in the Persian Gulf. The highest estimates are 500 million gallons. Somebody needs to activate the NYT’s fact checker. This is a real gusher. What’s going on here?”

The Times did not print this. A few hours later I tried again. Same comment, same result. Either they chose not to publish it or it wasn’t getting through. The next day I tried again, a sort of experiment, commenting on another article about the blowout, this time adopting a decidedly different tone: “Let’s all calm down and get a grip. In three weeks all this will be a memory. The best minds in the business are dealing with this. Relax people. Kudos to the Times for presenting us with a balanced point of view.” Not only did they print the comment, they put it in their highlight section, “a selection of the most interesting and thoughtful comments that represent a range of views.”

Speaking of gushers: Actress Scarlett Johansson Gushes She’s Drunk the ‘Kool-Aid’ of ‘Amazing’ Obama. Johansson:

admitted on Wednesday night’s Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson that she was amongst those who “drank the Kool-aid” at the White House Correspondents’ Association dinner last Saturday where she found him “amazing” and “hilarious.”

Obama administration continues its fight against the first amendment: Pentagon Bans Four Journalists From Guantanamo Bay for revealing name of witness.

The four journalists are Michelle Shephard of the Toronto Star, Steven Edwards of Canwest, Paul Koring of the Globe & Mail and Carol Rosenberg of the Miami Herald. They are not being thrown off the base, but, as of now, they are barred from returning. [….]

While the judge in the case, Col. Patrick Parrish, issued an admonition yesterday for reporters to respect the anonymity of the classified witnesses, he did not rule that any reporter here had violated the protected order. The decision to block the four reporters from returning to Guantanamo Bay is a matter of policy from the Office of the Secretary of Defense. And those four are not the only ones within the press corps here to have reported Interrogator #1’s name.

Those four reporters comprise much of the institutional knowledge of Guantanamo Bay and the military commissions, as their colleagues widely acknowledge.

Huffpo: Senate Votes For Wall Street; Megabanks To Remain Behemoths

A move to break up major Wall Street banks failed Thursday night by a vote of 61 to 33.

Three Republicans, Richard Shelby of Alabama, Tom Coburn of Oklahoma and John Ensign of Nevada, voted with 30 Democrats, including Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada, in support of the provision. The author of the pending overall financial reform bill in the Senate, Banking Committee Chairman Christopher Dodd, voted against it. (See the full roll call.)

The amendment, sponsored by Sens. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) and Ted Kaufman (D-Del.), would have required megabanks to be broken down in size and capped so that their individual failure would not bring down the entire system.

I guess most Senators would rather bring down the system than give up their campaign contributions from Wall Street.

Newsweek: Why the Media Ignored the Nashville Flood

As you may have heard, torrential downpours in the southeast flooded the Tennessee capital of Nashville over the weekend, lifting the Cumberland River 13 feet above flood stage, causing an estimated $1 billion in damage, and killing more than 30 people. It could wind up being one of the most expensive natural disasters in U.S. history.

Or, on second thought, maybe you didn’t hear. With two other “disasters” dominating the headlines—the Times Square bombing attempt and the Gulf oil spill—the national media seems to largely to have ignored the plight of Music City since the flood waters began inundating its streets on Sunday. A cursory Google News search shows 8,390 hits for “Times Square bomb” and 13,800 for “BP oil spill.” “Nashville flood,” on the other hand, returns only 2,430 results—many of them local. As Betsy Phillips of the Nashville Scene writes, “it was mind-boggling to flip by CNN, MSNBC, and FOX on Sunday afternoon and see not one station even occasionally bringing their viewers footage of the flood, news of our people dying.”

Mike Allen at Politico says Obama will nominate Elena Kagan to SCOTUS next week, and he will also ask for a line-item veto (Dear God, no!)

NYT: Signs of Neanderthals Mating With Humans

Neanderthals mated with some modern humans after all and left their imprint in the human genome, a team of biologists has reported in the first detailed analysis of the Neanderthal genetic sequence. [….]

Scientists say they have recovered 60 percent of the genome so far and hope to complete it. By comparing that genome with those of various present day humans, the team concluded that about 1 percent to 4 percent of the genome of non-Africans today is derived from Neanderthals. But the Neanderthal DNA does not seem to have played a great role in human evolution, they said.

Experts believe that the Neanderthal genome sequence will be of extraordinary importance in understanding human evolutionary history since the two species split some 600,000 years ago.

The article also includes comments from a number of archaeologists and paleontologists who are skeptical of the conclusions of this study.

Here’s a new movie documentary that I’m really looking forward to seeing.

That’s all I’ve got this morning. What are you reading? Please share. And have a fabulous Friday!!!!

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