Tuesday, September 16, 2014

How Stephen King Teaches Writing // The Atlantic

Stephen King believes in diagramming sentences and Strunk & White's Elements of style.  Jessica Fahey interviews him in The Atlantic. - gwc
How Stephen King Teaches Writing - The Atlantic:
by Jessica Fahey

Stephen King’s On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft has been a fixture in my English classroom for years, but it wasn’t until this summer, when I began teaching in a residential drug and alcohol rehab, that I discovered the full measure of its worth. For weeks, I struggled to engage my detoxing, frustrated, and reluctant teenage students. I trotted out all my best lessons and performed all my best tricks, but save for one rousing read-aloud of Poe’s “A Tell-Tale Heart,” I failed to engage their attention or imagination.
Until the day I handed out copies of On Writing. Stephen King’s memoir of the craft is more than an inventory of the writer’s toolbox or a voyeuristic peek into his prolific and successful writing life. King recounts his years as a high school English teacher, his own recovery from drug and alcohol addiction, and his love for his students (“even the Beavis and Butt-Head types”). Most importantly, he captivates the reader with his honest account of the challenges he’s faced, and promises redemption to anyone willing to come to the blank page with a sense of purpose.
I asked King to expound on the parts of On Writing I love most: the nuts and bolts of teaching, the geekiest details of grammar, and his ideas about how to encourage a love of language in all of our students.
For the interview click the headline above

Monday, September 15, 2014

Here's what Shakespeare's Plays Sounded Like in the Original Accent

Here’s what Shakespeare’s plays sounded like with their original English accent | 22 Words: "In this short documentary, linguist David Crystal and his son, actor Ben Crystal, look at the differences between English pronunciation now and how it was spoken 400 years ago. They answer the most basic question you probably have right now — How do you know what it sounded like back then? — and they discuss the value of performing Shakespeare’s plays in the original accent…"

Cleaning China's Smoggy Skies: China Released Draft Air Pollution Law Amendments for Public Comment | Barbara Finamore's Blog | Switchboard, from NRDC

Cleaning China's Smoggy Skies: China Released Draft Air Pollution Law Amendments for Public Comment | Barbara Finamore's Blog | Switchboard, from NRDC: "Though a burst of clear skies on Monday allowed Beijingers to marvel at a magnificent Mid-Autumn Festival moon, a blanket of smog choked the capital the next morning, reminding citizens of China’s grave air pollution woes. However, that same Tuesday, September 9th, the Legislative Affairs Office of China’s State Council released the first draft of the highly-anticipated revisions to the national Air Pollution Prevention and Control Law (hereinafter referred to as the Air Pollution Law), providing hope that blue skies won’t always be so fleeting. The State Council’s Legislative Affairs Office, which generates and reviews drafts of national laws and regulations, will be accepting comments on revisions of the law between September 9th and October 8, 2014. Releasing the draft law for public comment at such an early stage of the process is a big step forward for governmental transparency and public participation. The Chinese government does not usually seek public comments on laws until they are submitted to the National People’s Congress (NPC), at which point it becomes more difficult for the public to influence legislation. Amendments to the Air Pollution Law have been a long time in the making. China’s original 1987 Air Pollution Law was first revised in 1995 and further strengthened in 2000. But these earlier versions lacked specific details and mechanisms for enforcement."

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Sunday, September 14, 2014

I know that Bruce Ackerman says that this is Obama's Unconstitutional War.  And Andrew Sprung has been skeptical.  But I'm inclined to support the Obama approach to ISIS, pretty much for the reasons he has given.  - gwc
President Obama: “We Will Degrade and Ultimately Destroy ISIL” | The White House:


Friday, September 12, 2014

N.F.L. Agrees: Brain Trauma in 1 in 3 Players - NYTimes.com

This is the most shocking statement about workplace safety I have ever heard.  If football cannot be made safe it must be banned.  And I doubt it can be made safe. = GWC
N.F.L. Agrees: Brain Trauma in 1 in 3 Players - NYTimes.com:
The National Football League, which for years disputed evidence that its players had a high rate of severe brain damage, has stated in federal court documents that it expects nearly a third of retired players to develop long-term cognitive problems and that the conditions are likely to emerge at “notably younger ages” than in the general population.
The findings are a result of data prepared by actuaries hired by the league and provided to the United States District Court judge presiding over the settlement between the N.F.L. and 5,000 former players who sued the league, alleging that it had hidden the dangers of concussions from them.
“Thus, our assumptions result in prevalence rates by age group that are materially higher than those expected in the general population,” said the report, prepared by the Segal Group for the N.F.L. “Furthermore, the model forecasts that players will develop these diagnoses at notably younger ages than the generation population.”

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9/11 Thirteen Years Later

On September 10, 2014 President Obama explained without demagoguery his intention to destroy the extremist force that is commonly called ISIL or ISIS.  There are criticisms: particularly his broad assertion of Presidential power was criticized by constitutional law scholar Bruce Ackerman, Andrew Sprung said the President "phoned it in", Jonathan Hafetz lamented the "elasticity of the post 9/11 AUMF", and Republican leaders in Congress and at Fox News were generally shrill when not being silly.
I have to say..I am not worried about this expansion of the claim of authority/  The Marines landed on the shores of Tripoli and the republic stood. - gwc

Thursday, September 11, 2014

NJ Lawmakers May Increase Judges' Retirement Age | New Jersey Law Journal

Lawmakers Express Desire to Increase Judges' Retirement Age | New Jersey Law Journal:
by Michael Booth // NJLJ
"New Jersey lawmakers appear to be closer to taking another step toward increasing the mandatory retirement age of the state's judges. Although no formal vote was taken, members of the Assembly Judiciary Committee on Sept. 11 appeared united in their desire to push forward either one of two packages that would increase the retirement age from 70 to either 72 or 75. The committee heard about an hour of testimony on two proposed constitutional amendments and two implementing statutes. The Pension and Health Benefits Commission recommended passage of the measures in June. Chairman John McKeon, D-Morris, has said he wants to move on increasing the retirement age this year. Increasing the retirement age, which is being viewed as one way to keep the Superior Court bench staffed at a time of increasing vacancy rates, would require the approval of the state's voters."

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Passive Aggressive: Scalia and Garner on Interpretation

Passive Aggressive: Scalia and Garner on Interpretation:
by Andrew Koppelman
Antonin Scalia’s coauthored treatise on legal interpretation is also a melodrama, with sharply drawn good guys and bad guys. The hero is the Faithful and Impartial Judge, the servant of Democracy. The argument is weak and inconsistent with Scalia’s actual practice as a judge. The book nonetheless nicely accomplishes what it is trying to do. Scalia is one of the authors, to be sure, but he is also the protagonist of a narrative. The author’s preeminent concern is seeing to it that you perceive the protagonist as the author intends: as the champion of judicial restraint, against all those liberal oligarchs. If you buy the story of Virtuous Scalia, that empowers Judicial Activist Scalia.
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Anti-gay slurs merit suspension: New Jersey Supreme Court

In I/M/O Jared Stolz, an insurance defense lawyer , has been suspended for three months because over a period of time he insulted his adversary, sending emails and faxed letters that said:

"Don’t feel you have to email me daily andlet me know just how smart you are."(November 3, 2009 email)."This will acknowledge receipt of yournumerous Emails, faxes and letters ....In response thereto, Bla Bla Bla Bla BlaBla." (November ii, 2009 fax.)"Did you get beat up in school a lot?,because you whine like a little girl."(January 27, 2010 email)."Why don’t you grow a pair?" (July 7, 2010email)."I’d send you the delivery receipt, but Iput both your email addresses in my ’JunkMail’ box, because that is all I get fromyou, JUNK." (Aug. 16, 2010 email)"What’s that girlie email you have.Hotbox.com or something?" (Sept 28, 2010email).
At one point after arguing several motions there was a physical confrontation.  Stolz had been angered by his adversary's threat to file ethics compliants.  When the adversary said to Stolz "don't ever touch me again" the responses was "why would I want to touch a fag like you?"

Those are the headline grabbers, but underlying that is the fact that Stolz was very busy and had, admittedly, decided to improve his lifestyle by paying more golf and spending more time with his family.  One result was that he neglected his files, which led in his case to lies to a judge.

The New Jersey Supreme Court affirmed the decision of its Disciplinary Review Board which found Stolz violated Rules of Professional Conduct 3.2, failure to treat those involved in the legal process with courtesy and respect; 8.4(d), conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice; 8.4(a), violating ethics strictures; 3.3(a)(1), knowingly lying to a tribunal; 3.3(a)(5), failing to disclose a material fact to a tribunal; and 4.1(a), knowingly lying to a third person.

Read more: http://www.njlawjournal.com/id=1202669638153/Attorney-Who-Called-Opposing-Counsel-Gay-Slur-Suspended#ixzz3CyQAty92

Monday, September 8, 2014

White People Commit the Most Heinous Crimes, So Why Is America Terrified of Black Men? | Alternet

White People Commit the Most Heinous Crimes, So Why Is America Terrified of Black Men? | Alternet:
by Lisa Bloom - author of Suspicion Nation
Underlying much of that subconscious racial bias is the most enduring, corrosive racial stereotype in America: the black-as-criminal mindset.  Historian David Levering summarizes it:  “Whites commit crimes but blacks are criminals.” While whites can and do commit a great deal of minor and major crimes, the race as a whole is never tainted by those acts.  But when blacks violate the law, all members of the race are considered suspect.  I used to anchor a show on Court TV, and when we heard about a new arrest for some horrific crime, my African American co-host would whisper, “Please don’t let him be black.”  It would never enter my mind to wish that a bad guy not be white, because no matter how sick the crime, other members of the white race are not impugned.

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How we grew up: an Israeli veteran on the dehumanising power of military control //New Statesman

Israeli soldiers in front of the barrier at the Qalandiya checkpoint between Ramallah and Jerusalem. Photo: Getty
New Statesman | How we grew up: an Israeli veteran on the dehumanising power of military control: "Yehuda Shaul writes of how he and his friends learned to glorify power, and lost their ability to see Palestinians as people whose lives are no less valuable. Now, he and hundreds of others are working to end the occupation."
by Yehuda Shaul
 I would be obliged to say that 47 years as an occupying power have taught Israeli society a similar lesson to the one learned by every soldier who serves in the Territories. We have learned to glorify power, and have lost our ability to see Palestinians as people whose lives are no less valuable than ours. We have learned to avert our gaze from the tears of the hundreds of children who were killed over the course of the past month in Gaza. In addition to the dozens of families that were erased when one-ton bombs were dropped on their homes. The destructive images give rise to feelings of pride, rather than questions about the people for whom the rubble was once a home. The abject poverty in Gaza arouses contempt, instead of questions regarding the roots of poverty in a region that remains under Israeli control.

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A War of Choice in Gaza - NYTimes.com

A War of Choice in Gaza - NYTimes.com:
by Roger Cohen
LONDON — Another round of violence is over in the Holy Land. More than 2,100 Palestinians, most of them civilians and many of them children, have been killed. More than 70 Israelis are dead. The grass, in that appalling Israeli metaphor, has been mown (and will now start growing again). Hamas, through its resistance, has burnished its reputation among Palestinians. Israel is angrier. Nobody is better off.
Periodic eruptions are intrinsic to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s strategy of maintaining the status quo of rule over millions of Palestinians, expansion of West Bank settlements and maneuver to deflect American mediation. Oppressed people will rise up. Israel’s anemic embrace of a two-state objective is the best possible cover for the evisceration of that aim. Still, the question arises: Was this mini-war necessary?
I think not. 

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G.M.’s Board Is Seen as Slow in Reacting to Safety Crisis - NYTimes.com

G.M.’s Board Is Seen as Slow in Reacting to Safety Crisis - NYTimes.com: "The "Valukas Report" by the law firm Jenner & Block into GM's response to the ignition key defect continues to produce insights into how corporate responsibility took the form of self-protection and self delusion.  - gwc

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Saturday, September 6, 2014

China's Anti-Corruption Campaign - With the Party in Charge, the State Retreats

Wielding the Sword: President Xi's New Anti-Corruption Campaign
Fu Hualing, the Hong Kong University commentator, has an impressive new paper  on the current anti-corruption campaign under the leadership of Xi Jinping.  The observation that most impresses me is this:
There are clear signs that, constitutionally, the Party is coming out more openly and forcefully to play a more visible and direct role in managing the society. The constitutional principle of Party leadership is deeply entrenched, although the Party prefers to hide in the shadows pulling strings to exert political influence through the government and other front organizations.
Under Xi, the Party has become more conspicuous and more self-confident. The Party is more assertive in claiming its right to  rule directly, bypassing legislative and executive authorities not to mention the judicial authority.39 While the Party looms increasingly large amidst the increasing marginalization of the legal process in relation to anti-corruption, the relevant legal rules no longer apply as they used to such as access to counsels, disclosure and transparency.
Coupled with the silencing of social media and the narrowing of the public sphere in China in the immediate aftermath of the Xi take-over, anti-corruption enforcement is more opaque, more secretive and less rule-bound. 

Genuine patriots- volunteer lawyers at detention centers - NYTimes.com

The young volunteer lawyers representing refugee women and children not the angry flag wavers in San Diego are the genuine patriots. - gwc
In Remote Detention Center, a Battle on Fast Deportations - NYTimes.com

ARTESIA, N.M. — Sitting before a small video screen in a bare room in a remote corner of New Mexico, a young Honduran woman told her story this week to an immigration judge in Virginia. She had been serially raped, she said, spat upon and relentlessly hounded by a drug-dealing husband who regarded her as his property.
“I felt a fear of him so terrible it’s difficult to explain,” the woman, Heidy Lara Carballo, told the judge in a hearing on Thursday. When she last saw her husband before she fled to the United States, she said, he was circling their house, firing shots into the air, as she tried to hide inside.
“If I go back to Honduras, it is certain death,” Ms. Lara Carballo said.
The judge agreed, and in the first case to be decided since this center opened in June, she granted Ms. Lara Carballo’s request for asylum, saying she had presented a “textbook case” for being allowed to stay in the United States.
Ms. Lara Carballo’s case and others being heard here are changing the nature and purpose of a temporary detention center that the Obama administration set up in windowless barracks behind high fences for women and children caught crossing the border illegally. The plan was to hold the detainees briefly until they could be deported, sending a message to Central American families that illegal migrants would not be allowed to stay.
The transformation is partly due to a corps of volunteer lawyers who have come to argue the immigrants’ cases. Alarmed at the rush to deport the families, the lawyers, who call themselves a fire brigade, travel here from cities as far away as Denver, Portland and San Diego. At first, they were barely allowed to work inside the center, so they filed a federal lawsuit.
Now lawyers and the government are battling over the migrants’ deportations. Until recently, asylum officers here had found that less than 40 percent of the women had credible fears of persecution if forced to return home. But the lawyers, who have now counseled nearly 300 women, contend that as many at 80 percent could win asylum claims.
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Friday, September 5, 2014

Palestinians Must Redefine Martyrdom for Nonviolent Resistance | Ibishblog

Non-violent resistance is Palestine’s most powerful weapon

Palestinians Must Redefine Martyrdom for Nonviolent Resistance | Ibishblog:
by Hussein Ibish

"As the dust settles in Gaza – and both Israel and Hamas fatuously claim “victory” in a conflict that, yet again, produced no real victors – there is no question who the biggest losers were: the long-suffering people of Gaza. For all its empty boasting, Hamas’s strategy of armed struggle has once again been exposed as not merely a dead-end for securing Palestinian rights, but a disaster.

 Yet the diplomatic impasse – with no continuing process or talks, or grounds for expecting, or even hoping for, a significant breakthrough in the short-term – leaves the Palestinian movement agonising over what approach to national liberation would secure successes and not cause more harm than good.

 Multilateral diplomacy at the United Nations and various agencies can be costly while delivering limited benefits. And they cannot change any core political and strategic realities on the ground. Boycotts of Israel’s settlements are heartening, but hardly game-changers. Israel and its occupation project are more offended than threatened by them. But, combined with other non-violent approaches – especially state and institution-building initiatives as pioneered by former prime minister Salam Fayyad – astute, well-calculated multilateral initiatives and precise, focused anti-settlement boycotts could be significant tactical elements in a broader, integrated and effective Palestinian national strategy.

 As many have long noted, perhaps the single most powerful such tool that the Palestinians potentially have at their disposal – but which has not been systematically implemented or adopted as a core tactic by the national movement – is non-violent resistance to occupation on the ground. The occupation is a system of discipline and control over a subjugated people by a powerful foreign army. Worse, one of the main tasks of those occupying troops is to facilitate and protect the settlement project, which basically means taking land from its owners and illegally giving it to colonists."

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Judge Posner dismisses Wisconsin, Indiana same-sex marriage bans

The decision of District Judge Martin Feldman in Robicheaux v. Caldwell upholding Louisiana's bar on same-sex marriage heartened conservatives (e.g. Justice Scalia acolyte Kevin Walsh in the conservative Catholic blog Mirror of Justice).  Feldman sees the issue as a choice between "democratic processes"and "sincere lifestyle choices".  He opts for democratic process, finding a rational basis for the discrimination because "Louisiana's laws and Constitution are directly related to achieving marriage's historically preeminent purpose of linking children to their biological parents."

But this week, in Baskin v. Bogan, only nine days after oral argument, the 7th Circuit struck Wisconsin and Indiana's bans in a scathing opinion by Judge Richard Posner, saying
Formally these cases are about discrimination against the small homosexual minority in the United States. But at a deeper level, as we shall see, they are about the welfare of American children. The argument that the states press hardest in defense of their prohibition of same-sex marriage is that the only reason government encourages marriage is to induce heterosexuals to marry so that there will be fewer “accidental births,” which when they occur outside of marriage often lead to abandonment of the child to the mother (unaided by the father) or to foster care. Overlooked by this argument is that many of those abandoned children are adopted by homosexual couples, and those children would be better off both emotionally and economically if their adoptive parents were married.
It won't be long before the United States Supreme Court has to resolve the splits among the lower courts.  Conservatives will stack history and state sovereignty against the rising tide of opinion that accepts homosexuality and same-sex relationships as unobjectionable, or a positive good.  - GWC 

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

So You Really Think Liberal Zionism Is Dead? – Forward.com

For years the suggestion that one should talk to the PLO terrorists would earn you a trip to the political dustbin in America.  But Yassir Arafat went to the General Assembly with pistol on his waist.  The PLO was transformed and began to govern - though largely through the aid of the E.U. and the U.S..  Now the Palestinian Authority is respectable, if weak.  But Hamas?  We don't negotiate with terrorists.  But they won election in Gaza, and now find themselves entreating the PA, and Israel to let them govern.  So now we do negotiate with terrorists, and will do more.  So perhaps there is still a narrow window for the two state solution, argues J.J. Goldberg.  - gwc
So You Really Think Liberal Zionism Is Dead? – Forward.com:
by J.J. Goldberg

The way most pundits tell it, the seven-week [Gaza] conflict ended roughly in a draw. Hamas failed to win its non-negotiable demands for a seaport and prisoner release. Israel failed to achieve its essential goal of disarming Hamas. Instead, they dragged themselves to the cease-fire negotiating table like a pair of punch-drunk boxers who’ve beaten each other bloody and are desperate for someone to call it off.

But that analysis, while factually correct, overlooks the most dramatic development: Israel and Hamas are talking to each other. Israel, led by Benjamin Netanyahu, has signed an open-ended agreement with a Palestinian coalition that he’d vowed never to do business with, headed by Mahmoud Abbas’s Palestinian Authority but including Hamas and Islamic Jihad as constituent parties. Bibi’s also agreed, according to reports from the Egyptian capital, to continue negotiating in Cairo starting next month.

As for Hamas, it has accepted, at least for now, its new role as a junior partner in a Palestinian government that recognizes Israel. It’s agreed to suspend attacks on Israel indefinitely. Abbas’s troops will take control of the Rafah crossing between Gaza and Egypt, and by some reports the Gaza side of the crossings into Israel as well. Numerous reports out of Cairo say this is intended as a first step toward reestablishing Abbas’s authority in Gaza, though it’s not clear whether Hamas sees it that way.
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The punditry vs. the presidency - NY Daily News

Sarah Palin has a point about the lamestream media.  Unfortunately her best friends and sometime employer are the worst offenders.  It is a disease that she may have gotten on her own, but John McCain is a likely source of the infection.  Get tough is always the message - without any real calculation of what it would cost or produce.

Michael Cohen points out the shallowness of the recent ISIS hysteria.The rise of ISIS is terrifying, but far more for the people of Iraq and Syria than for Americans. It's true, albeit a minute possibility, that ISIS could establish a safe haven in the territory they hold, train some terrorists and send them to attack the United States.

But it's hard to be concerned over such a remote event, especially when Americans face serious actual challenges at home - like the constant drumbeat of senseless gun violence that takes the lives of an estimated 30,000 Americans every year.

The punditry vs. the presidency - NY Daily News
by Michael Cohen
"There is a fun foreign policy game making all the rounds in Washington D.C. this summer: Pin the tail on Barack Obama. Its appeal is not hard to understand; it's so easy to play. Step 1: Pick a foreign crisis that touches even slightly on U.S. national security interests. This shouldn't be hard, because the United States defines practically everything in the world as being an American interest. Step 2: Make clear that this is no garden-variety problem but rather "the defining crisis of [OBAMA'S] presidency," or a threat to the "very foundations of global order" or the answer to the question, "is this how World War III begins." Step 3: Bemoan the lack of "leadership," "strategy," "attention" or "fortitude" from the commander in chief. Note that the President is "weirdly detached" and "emotionally disengaged" (bonus points for a Churchill reference). Make corny jokes about how Obama's focus on golf is "turning into 'a real handicap.'" Ask snarky questions like "what would it look like if America actually had a Middle East strategy" that wasn't defined by "inaction" and the lack of a "clear vision." Even suggest that if only a Russian strongman were running America, those terrorists would finally get their due. Step 4: Insist that everything would be better if something had been done differently a few years ago (bonus points if you made that suggestion at the time)."

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Labor Day Movie Time: Once Were Unions – J.J. Goldberg – Forward.com

Labor Day Movie Time: Once Were Unions – J.J. Goldberg – Forward.com
by J.J. Goldberg
"Before saying goodbye to Labor Day weekend and heading back to work and school tomorrow morning, here’s a movie to get you into the spirit of Labor Day. It’s an hour-long documentary called “The Inheritance,” and believe me, it’s a great way to spend an evening. It was made in 1964 for the Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America, back when the Amalgamated was still the living, beating heart of a still living and breathing American Jewish labor movement. It’s as moving a film today as it was then, and a thousand times more important. (Full disclosure: I grew up in the Amalgamated. My father spent nearly all his adult life working there, first as an economist, then as a lawyer.) It’s no secret that unions are on the ropes today. In their heyday in the 1950s they represented about 35% of the American workforce. Today it’s 11% — and less than 7% in the private sector. Why does it matter?
Journalist Timothy Noah answers that question today about as well as anyone has recently in his Labor Day column on MSNBC.com, “The most challenging issue facing liberalism today”: Why must liberals recommit themselves to labor unions, in spite of their imperfections and weakened state?
 Mainly because the problem of ever-growing income inequality — a problem that didn’t exist for the half-century prior to 1979 — is intimately associated with labor unions’ decline. If you look at a line tracing the fall and rise in income share for the top 1% during the past century alongside a second line tracing the rise and decline in union membership, you will notice immediately that these lines are mirror images.
 To be sure, income inequality has many causes. But the decline in labor’s clout is one of the most significant — more significant, for example, than income-tax policy. Labor income’s share of the non-farm business sector has been dropping since 1960, but it has dropped most precipitously since 2000. A shift in GDP from labor to capital is precisely what you’d expect to see happen as unions’ influence dwindles. It’s also a recipe for the sort of financial instability that’s prevailed in the U.S. economy since the 1980s.
 This process won’t reverse itself, so anyone who professes concern about the problem of income inequality and the social problems that derive from it has to worry about the declining clout that workers exercise through labor unions. But the urgency of unions’ decline runs deeper than that. Financial journalist Justin Fox, executive editor of the Harvard Business Review Group, wrote an important post today on his HBR blog, bluntly titled “What Unions No Longer Do.” The short version: Unions no longer equalize incomes. Unions no longer counteract racial inequality. Unions no longer play a big role in assimilating immigrants. Unions no longer give lower-income Americans a political voice."

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Monday, September 1, 2014

China’s environment lawyer serves poor | Inquirer Global Nation

China’s environment lawyer serves poor | Inquirer Global Nation:
 "MANILA, Philippines–He may be short in height, but 56-year-old Chinese lawyer Wang Canfa is a giant and the poor’s champion against unscrupulous businesses hurting them and the environment. For almost two decades, Wang, a legal scholar specializing in environmental law, has represented his country’s downtrodden who, due to poverty, have been powerless and voiceless against erring huge companies.

Through the Beijing-based Center for Legal Assistance to Pollution Victims (CLAPV), which he formed in 1998, the lawyer has pursued hundreds of cases and offered free legal services to poor clients. “Most of my clients are poor. Can you imagine how pollution results in the loss of property and livelihood?” Wang said, speaking through a translator, in an interview with the Inquirer. In ceremonies Sunday, Wang accepted the Ramon Magsaysay Award, Asia’s equivalent of the Nobel Prize, with four other individuals and an organization from Pakistan. The awards, named after the well-loved Philippine President who died in a plane crash in 1957, are given annually to honor those who have rendered selfless service to the people of Asia and have made valuable contributions in addressing issues of human development.
Besides Wang, the awardees this year are Hu Shuli, a Chinese investigative journalist; Saur Marlina Manurung, an Indonesian anthropologist; Omara Khan Masoudi, director of the National Museum of Afghanistan; Filipino schoolteacher Randy Halasan; and the Citizens Foundation in Pakistan. Unenforced laws Years back, Wang, a professor at China University of Political Science and Law, helped draft environmental laws for China. But while the laws protecting the environment are in place, his main concern is that they have not been enforced."
<iframe width="620" height="349" src="//www.youtube.com/embed/eL_HdMSiuqQ" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>

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'What Unions No Longer Do' // Mark Thoma

Upper middle class liberals used to acquiesce in false equivalents like "Big business and Big labor".  It had a surface plausibility when the UAW could negotiate with the Big Three and make gains.  But it was never a real truth.  Owning the means of production makes all the difference.  - gwc
Economist's View: 'What Unions No Longer Do': "Jake Rosenfeld, an associate professor of sociology at the University of Washington ... is out to change that. His book What Unions No Longer Do ... is an account of Rosenfeld’s attempt to empirically establish (mainly through a lot of regressions...) the consequences of Big Labor’s decline. ... [H]ere, for Labor Day, are the four big things that, according to Rosenfeld, unions in the U.S. no longer do: Unions no longer equalize incomes. ... Unions no longer counteract racial inequality. ... Unions no longer play a big role in assimilating immigrants. ... Unions no longer give lower-income Americans a political voice. ... The decline of unions in the U.S. has often been painted as inevitable, or at least necessary for American businesses to remain internationally competitive. There are definitely industries where this account seems accurate. ... But ... even if the decline of unions was inevitable or desirable, that still leaves those tasks unions once accomplished — which on the whole seem like things that are good for society, and good for business — unattended to. Who’s going to do them now?"

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Gaza ceasefire is too little, too late - Nathum Barnea // Ynetnews

It is difficult to identify anything that was accomplished by the latest Gaza war that provides a basis for optimism.  Shelling from Gaza made bordering areas unlivable and helped Israelis to hate Palestinians more than ever, and vice versa.  As much as Israel's army tried to minimize civilian casualties, they'll not persuade the Palestinians.  Israel is the occupying power.  As Israel continues to take more land over limp protests from the West, Palestinians will grow more alienated, if that is possible.  Though Hamas - as an urban army - put its citizenry at risk it was the Israelis who pulled the trigger, and Hamas soldiers who fought back against overwhelming force.  That makes them heroes at home.  Israeli political writer Nathum Barneaa explains.  - gwc
Gaza ceasefire is too little, too late - Israel Opinion, Ynetnews:
by Nathum Barnea  August 28, 2014
It isn't always the case that all's well that ends well. The fear is that instead of paving the way for removing the threat from Gaza, we are rather paving the way for the next round, either in Lebanon or in Gaza. But this is what our government has bestowed upon us, and we will have to live with it.

The final misstep was the failure to bring about a Security Council resolution before the ceasefire agreement. The draft resolution formulated in conjunction with the Americans focused on the reality in Gaza on the day after. It included a call for the demilitarization of Gaza and would have improved Israel's political situation, making it difficult for Turkey and Qatar to continue their support for Hamas.

But Netanyahu balked at the political price, and by the time he was persuaded to go with, it was too late. If there is a Security Council resolution now, it will be less comfortable for Israel, and more suited to the fit of Mahmoud Abbas.

Abbas is the real winner of this war. Hamas given may have been given glory on the Palestinian street, but he and his Palestinian Authority have been given control over the process of rebuilding Gaza, a process that will involve channeling billions, as well as not inconsiderable corruption. Abbas has today won the status of positive leader and legitimate partner not only in the eyes of the Arab world and the international community, but also in the eyes of the Israeli public opinion. Perhaps Operation Protective Edge is the silver salver on which the State of Palestine is established.
For Netanyahu it was the first real military conflict of all his periods of tenure as prime minister. To a great extent, this was his big test. Israelis expected a leader, a statesman who knew what he wanted to achieve, a decision-maker who would hold a sincere dialogue with the public. What they got was a slick spokesman, and very little more. Looking back over the 50 days of the operation, one can see numerous wordy discussions, but will find it hard to spot significant decision by Netanyahu, or a single move for which he can be credited.

He couldn’t muster the courage to tell the Israeli public: "My fellow citizens, I am sorry. For decades I have preached to you that there is only one way to handle a terrorist organization – and that is to eliminate it. We must not negotiate, we must not compromise. I was wrong. And therefore I am now, under fire, holding close talks with Hamas and striving to reach an agreement. I have no other suggestions." Such a speech would, of course, never happen.

Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh at Gaza 'victory' rally (Photo: AFP)
Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh at Gaza 'victory' rally (Photo: AFP)

Not only was there no Israeli leadership – there was no transparency or honesty either. There were only fiery speeches about the animals in human form in Gaza, even as he negotiated with those same beasts. At his side was Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon, tight-lipped and mute. In a few years, one of the questions for trivia quizzes will be, "Who was defense minister during Operation Protective Edge?" And no one will be able to guess correctly, not for even for a million shekels.

And it is not only Israel's citizens who have discovered that they have no leadership, the Cabinet ministers have too. There has been friction in the upper echelons during every military confrontation, but the worst thing that stood out this time was that the rules of the game were broken. Cabinet ministers lost the last remnants of their faith in the prime minister, and the prime minister lost the last of his willingness to share details of what was happening. Ministers were informed of Israel's agreement to the ceasefire by telephone - a humiliating end to a shameful process.

The fourth uncomfortable truth that Israelis discovered during the operation was that it is more and more difficult for Jews and Arabs to enjoy a shared existence. The Jews became radicalized and the Arabs became radicalized. Racist expressions became legitimate. Threats on the lives of artists and journalists became routine. This perilous reality, which endangers the democratic discourse and endangers domestic coexistence, is one of the poisoned chalices that the Gaza conflict leaves behind.

And it leaves in its wake another trail: the bitter aftertaste it has created in Israel's relationship with the United States. Israel paid for the bombing of Gaza with stormy protests in Europe and a worrying expansion in the international boycott. This was expected, more or less. And while an investigation by the UN's anti-Israel Human Rights Council was inevitable, the row with the US government was utterly unnecessary.

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Sunday, August 31, 2014

U.S. Urges Israel To Reverse Planned West Bank Land Appropriation – Forward.com

This criticism of Israel seizure of another 1,000 acres of Palestinian farm land is  presumably a pro forma statement by the U.S. which will put no muscle behind it.  I remember when I was a Mondale-appointed member of the Democratic National Platform Committee in 1984.  There was a contested vote calling for an end to building settlements.  Congressman Stephen Solarz spoke against it.  Like other Mondale delegates I voted for it as consistent with the Camp David accords.  Then-Congressman Charles Schumer sat behind me.  Voting by state I raised my hand to vote for the measure.  When I looked back to see how the New York delegates were voting Schumer began berating me.  With the Gaza war in suspense I expect I would get similar reactions from friends if I raised my hand again. - gwc
U.S. Urges Israel To Reverse Planned West Bank Land Appropriation – Forward.com:

Reuters) — The United States sees Israel’s announcement on Sunday of a land appropriation for possible settlement construction in the occupied West Bank as “counterproductive” to peace efforts and urges the Israeli government to reverse the decision, a State Department official said.

Israel laid claim to nearly a thousand acres (400 hectares) in the Etzion settlement bloc near Bethlehem, a move which an anti-settlement group termed the biggest appropriation in 30 years and a Palestinian official said would cause only more friction after the Gaza war.

“We have long made clear our opposition to continued settlement activity,” the U.S. official said. “This announcement, like every other settlement announcement Israel makes, planning step they approve and construction tender they issue is counterproductive to Israel’s stated goal of a negotiated two-state solution with the Palestinians.”

“We urge the government of Israel to reverse this decision,” the official said in Washington.

Read more: http://forward.com/articles/204921/us-urges-israel-to-reverse-planned-west-bank-land/#ixzz3C1TxlZcL

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Universal suffrage but no free election for Hong Kong Chief Executive

Hong Kong City Hall - lower block
The National Peoples Congress Standing Committee has announced the protocol for election of the new Chief Executive of Hong Kong in 2017.  Sufrage shall be universal but only two or three candidates will be allowed.  They shall be chosen by an appointed nominating committee.  Only candidates endorsed by a majority of the committee members will appear on the ballot.  Candidates must "love the country and love Hong Kong".  China retains sovereignty but permits a capitalist economy in Hong Kong - exemplified by the slogan `one country two systems'.

Freedom summer 1964 - They heard the Call of Freedom // Boston Globe

A police officer took a photograph of a group, including Linda Wetmore (plaid dress, holding “Register to Vote” sign), standing outside of the Leflore County Courthouse in Greenwood, Miss., on July 16, 1964.

What became known as Mississippi Freedom Summer was a project of SNCC - the Student Non-violent Co-ordinating Committee.  Three of those volunteers were murdered: Michael Schwerner, Andrew Goodman, and James Chaney. The Freedom Summer workers sought to build on the momentum of the civil rights movement which had spurred the 1964 Civil rights Act  Their objective was to create "freedom schools" which would encourage Black Mississippians to stand up for their rights.  That summer three civil rights workers were killed, the Mississippi Freedom Democratic party lost its fight to represent the state at the Democratic National Convention and the southern civil rights movement reached a peak.  The next year the Voting Rights Act would pass and much of the attention shift north and west to the large cities. - gwc
Summer of 1964 - They Heard the Call of Freedom
by Eric Moskowitz // Boston Globe
They were idealists taking on the nation’s shame, students who stood with brave, black Mississippians denied a most basic civil right: the vote

Friday, August 29, 2014

What the Pundits Got Wrong About the Rick Perry Indictment

What the Pundits Got Wrong About the Rick Perry Indictment:
by Forest Wilder // Texas Observer August 18, 2014
The Travis County DA is no different, in almost every respect, than the more than 300 local elected prosecutors in Texas. She is locally elected and is a servant of the jurisdiction she represents. The only thing unique about the Travis County DA’s office is that it contains the Public Integrity Unit, which polices corruption in state government. Practically speaking, this anti-corruption unit is one of the few checks on the power and influence Perry has accumulated over 14 years in office.

The Public Integrity Unit is largely funded by the Texas Legislature. That money isn’t earmarked for Rosemary Lehmberg; it’s earmarked for the oversight function of the Travis County DA’s Public Integrity Unit. It is that money that Perry threatened to line-item veto if Lehmberg did not resign. When she did not, and Travis County opted not to remove her, Perry then yanked the funding. Afterwards, he continued to make offers to restore the funding in exchange for Lehmberg’s resignation, according to media reports. One account says he signaled that he would find Lehmberg another well-paying job within the DA’s office. Had she resigned, Perry would have appointed her successor.

The criminal case against Perry centers on his “coercion” of a local elected official using threats and promises. It is not premised—as has been repeatedly misreported—on the veto itself. Craig McDonald, the head of Texans for Public Justice and the original complainant, has said as much. As McDonald told CNN:

“The governor is doing a pretty good job to try to make this about [Lehmberg] and her DWI conviction. But this has never been about his veto of her budget and about her. This is about his abuse of power and his coercion trying to get another public citizen to give up their job.”

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Mervyn Susser, 92, Dies - Studied Illness and Society - NY Times

Mervyn Susser and his wife Dr. Zena Stein
Mervyn Susser, 92, Dies; Studied Illness and Society - NYTimes.com:

Mervyn Susser has died.  The physician, epidemiologist, and philosopher of science was 92 when he passed at home in Hastings on Hudson.  The former editor of the American Journal of Public Health, he was a South African-born progressive, who collaborated with his wife Zena Stein.  I had just began to seriously look at the problem of how to prove causation of disease in occupational illness cases where no exact mechanism  of injury could be identified. Susser gave me direction as I represented the Trial Lawyers Association  in the asbestos-related disease case Landrigan v. Celotex, a landmark guide in the use of scientific evidence.

When I was in graduate school at B.U. Howard Zinn’s syllabus on method included Karl Popper, the positivist philosopher of science and anti-communist polemicist.  Popper was a skeptic who asserted that propositions could not be proven, only falsified.  On that foundation he built a vision of science that ironically saw it as the brick by brick construction of certainty.  In the culture of science that view was embraced as a strong attachment to the null hypothesis and an extreme attachment to calculations of probabilities.

Mervyn Susser, like the great progressive epidemiologists Irving Selikoff  and Sir Austin Bradford Hill, was motivated by the fight against disease and the need to identify causal relationships.  The epidemics of heart and lung disease associated with tobacco and asbestos motivated Selikoff and Hill. Susser, a pioneer of community medicine, worked in a clinic treating Black citizens in Johannesburg. In the progressives view causal inference was to be achieved neither by idolatry of formal tests of statistical significance nor by anecdotal snapshots.  Rather the public health called for a socially aware observational perspective informed by clinical methods, pathology, and biostatistics.  No single factor was decisive.  The health of patients called for effective strategies, not skepticism.

Susser's was always the approach of a physician concerned for his patients.  He wanted to help and that required rejection of skepticism, magic, and authoritarianism:

"The philosophy of causal inference reaches deep into abstractions. Applied in clinical (practice), however, it yields some practical benefits. For clinicians, inference is a constant and every day activity. In going about their business of diagnosis and treatment, clinicians are constantly making logical inferences, that is to say, drawing conclusions from a set of facts and premises...This logic (of causal inference) enables the contemporary clinician, in dealings with patients, to shift from charismatic priest-like authority to the authority of tried knowledge and of rational predictions founded on explicit models of causal relationships."  
This approach offered guidance for judges and lawyers who seek to achieve a just result for those who suffer from illness, and for those who would act to prevent illness.  Dr. Susser explained that scientific skepticism is to be doubted.  “We have to practice believing”.  He wrote:

In the end, a quality which lawyers should understand better than any- judiciousness- matters more than any.  Scientists use both deductive and inductive inference to sustain the momentum of a continuing process of research.  The courts of law, and the courts of application, use inference to reach decisions about what action to take. Those decisions often cannot rest on certitudes, most especially when population risks are converted into individual risks. It is my firm belief, nonetheless, that practical decisions that draw sustenance from scientific inference will be better decisions than those that do not.  


George W. Conk
Against the Odds: Proving Causation of Disease with Epidemiological Evidence, 3 Shepard's Expert and Sci. Evidence Q. 103 (1995)

Mervyn Susser
Causal thinking in the health sciences: concepts and strategies of epidemiology (1973)

`Causal Thinking in Practice: Strengths and Weaknesses of the Clinical Vantage Point', Pediatrics 74:842-849 (1984)

 `The Logic of Sir Karl Popper and the Practice of Epidemiology', American Journal of Epidemiology 124:711-718 (1986)

`Rules of Inference in Epidemiology', Regulatory Toxicology and Pharmacology 6:116-128, 116 (1986)

Susser, Epidemiology, Health and Society, Selected Papers, Oxford University Press, New York, 1987.

`What is a Cause and How Do We Know One?  A Grammar for Pragmatic Epidemiology', American Journal of Epidemiology 133:635-648 (1991)

Thursday, August 28, 2014

How I Know Israel Won the Gaza War – Forward Thinking – Forward.com

Israel won the war, of course, but...Hamas survived adn will not disappear. They are part of the equation looking ahed; Mahmoud Abbas and the Palestinian Authoirty won too. They will ahve a stronger role going forwad - partucularly by policing the Gaza border. - gwc

How I Know Israel Won the Gaza War – Forward Thinking – Forward.com:

by Brent Salsey

"...four things stand out for the immediate future. First, it is clear that Israel has won the war. Much of Hamas’s military capabilities have been degraded or used up, its regional allies are few and far between (and themselves bereft of much regional influence), and none of its efforts to achieve a tactical victory over Israel succeeded. In addition, the United States and many European governments are now talking about demilitarizing Gaza (essentially, disarming Hamas and the smaller jihadist groups) as part of a longer-term process to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. All of these tilt the balance of power in Israel’s favor.

Read more: http://blogs.forward.com/forward-thinking/204809/how-i-know-israel-won-the-gaza-war/#ixzz3BiVHee65"

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Is Gideon Levy the most hated man in Israel?

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Is ACA reducing SS Disability rolls?

This makes sense.  After two years on ssd you get Medicare.  Get off ssd you lose it.  But if you can afford health insurance you'll keep working because you have to stop working to get on ssd.  And there is a five month waiting period.  And the approval process is slow.  How would you pay even your subsidized ACA  premiun if you quit work?

Jon Stewart Slams Fox News Ferguson Coverage

U.S. Allies Behead ISIS fighters in Syria - NYTimes.com

Guillotining f King Louis XVI

The impulse to attack ISIS after the savage beheading of American photojournalist James Foley was strong.  But this story reminds one that such savagery is not an ISIS monopoly, as "our bastards" do the same thing.  And I suppose one should remember the French Revolution and the execution by guillotine of King Louis XVI. - gwc
American Fighting for ISIS Is Killed in Syria - NYTimes.com:
WASHINGTON — Like many teenage boys who grew up in the Midwest in the 1990s, Douglas McAuthur McCain was a fan of Michael Jordan’s Chicago Bulls and loved to play basketball.
But as he grew older, he lost interest in basketball as he shuttled between two suburban Minneapolis high schools. He never graduated, and in his late teens, he began to have run-ins with the law. In the decade that followed, he was arrested or cited nine times on charges including theft, marijuana possession and driving without a license.
Mr. McCain moved back and forth from Minneapolis to San Diego and then abroad. Officials now know he ended up in Syria, where three days ago, Mr. McCain became the first American to die while fighting for the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. He was 33.
The rebels who killed him were fighting for the Free Syrian Army, a rival group backed by the United States, and they went on to behead six ISIS fighters — but not Mr. McCain — and then posted the photographs on Facebook.
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The U.S.-Israel Relationship Arrives at a Moment of Reckoning

The U.S.-Israel Relationship Arrives at a Moment of Reckoning:
FP Interview with Martin Indyk (former U.S. mid-east Ambassador)
 "one can, in a sense, look at the long arc of the relationship and say everything's going to be all right. But where it won't be all right is for Israel itself, because as nice as it is to have strategic alignments, none of that solves Israel's existential problem: What is it going to do about the 2.6 million Palestinians it has responsibility for now? And if it doesn't find a way to resolve that issue, that existential dilemma, if Israel continues to control 2.6 million Palestinians in the West Bank, it's going to have to decide sooner rather than later whether it's a democracy or a Jewish state, but it won't be able to be both.
I witnessed it during these negotiations. The younger generation of Palestinians who have grown up knowing nothing but Israeli occupation don't believe in a two-state solution, don't believe there will ever be an independent Palestinian state. They want equal rights in Israel. And that's where this is heading. And then Israel will find itself in a really serious dilemma. It's only a matter of time. And no matter how strong the relationship is between the United States and Israel, it's not going to help solve that dilemma unless Israelis decide that they want to resolve it"
"David Rothkopf: How has what happened in Gaza altered the dynamics of the peace process?
Martin Indyk: I think it's made it a lot more difficult -- as if it wasn't difficult enough already -- because it has deepened the antipathy between the two sides. The Israelis look at Gaza and what's happened there and understandably say, "We cannot allow such a thing to happen in the West Bank." And therefore, today there's a lot more credibility to the argument that the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) have to stay in the West Bank, otherwise Israelis fear there will be tunnels into Tel Aviv and there will be rockets on Ben Gurion Airport, and Hamas will take over and they'll face a disaster in the "belly" of Israel. 
There are security answers to all of that, but I just think the Israeli public attitude is going to be far more concerned about any kind of Israeli military withdrawal from the West Bank. At the same time, the Palestinian attitude will be even stronger that there has to be an end to the occupation, which means a complete Israeli military withdrawal from the West Bank. And the process of negotiating peace does not have any credibility with them unless they have a date certain for when the occupation is going to end, and basically the Israeli attitude will likely be that the occupation is not going to end if that means a complete withdrawal of the IDF. 
So beyond all of the antagonism that conflict generates this Gaza war may have put another nail in the coffin of the two-state solution. 
So beyond all of the antagonism that conflict generates this Gaza war may have put another nail in the coffin of the two-state solution. 
On the positive side, I think that Abu Mazen [Mahmoud Abbas], the Palestinian leader, has gained some credibility in some quarters in Israel by the way in which he had his security forces cooperate with Israeli security forces during the Gaza crisis and the way in which he prevented a third intifada from breaking out in the West Bank. But whatever he may have gained on the Israeli side, I fear he's lost on the Palestinian side because they see Hamas resisting Israel and they see ISIS [the Islamic State] using violence to establish its Islamic State over in Iraq, and all Abu Mazen has to offer is negotiations as the way to achieve Palestinian statehood. And negotiations don't have any credibility anymore, 20 years after Oslo and with over 300,000 Israeli settlers in the West Bank and settlement growth continuing and the collapse of the latest effort. So I think that too has also made it more difficult. And now Abu Mazen is responding to his need for "street cred" by threatening to go the international route to unilateral recognition of Palestinian statehood, which will generate an Israeli counter-reaction.
And once the dust settles, we may have a politically weakened [Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu as well. There was already the problem of distrust between the people and the leadership -- I'm afraid that's just going to be compounded by what's happened [in Gaza]. "

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