Tuesday, January 31, 2012


A great piece on Alabama's noxious, hateful anti-immigrant law — intended to make life as miserable and unwelcoming as possible for undocumented immigrants that they'll choose to leave the state rather than deal with the never-ending barriers to living life — from This American Life:
(To warn you: the piece will leave you absolutely furious and seething with anger towards the ignorant assholes in Alabama who are making life hell for all Latinos there.  And let me just note how ridiculous it is that the man who authored the law, Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, like most proponents of the Alabama — and the similar Arizona — law, thinks of himself as a Christian. That's a whole lot of loving thy neighbor that he's spreading across the country. Ah yes, what could be more Christian than fanning the flames of hatred and intolerance, encouraging bigotry, and trying to make peoples' lives absolutely miserable? It's not an unintended consequence, either: the very point of these laws is destroy lives — both through state actions and through tacitly encouraging private citizens to treat all dark-skinned folk as suspect and thus deserving of no dignity or respect.)

Peter Gleick righteously rails against a thoroughly unsustainable water-mining project that exemplifies the sort of supply augmentation scheme we must move beyond:
We need new thinking about water in California and new innovative solutions. We must modify how we use water, and we must find new sources of supply. But the Cadiz Project is old thinking, based on the pillage-and-run philosophy of the past centuries, where water was seen as a resource to be mined and consumed, not managed in a sustainable way. This project is an insult to the notion of sustainability, to the efforts to protect the Eastern Mojave's beauty and unique nature, and to the idea that resource development should respect more than just narrow economic gain. The good news is there are excellent alternatives, including recycling and reuse of water, improved efficiency of use by our cities and farms, smarter and renewable groundwater use and recharge projects, and even desalination of brackish waters or the ocean if the economics and environmental challenges can be properly overcome. Cadiz might have made some sense a century ago when we didn't know better, but today it is neither appropriate for California nor necessary, and it should be cancelled.
We definitely need to start thinking about water supply differently, given that the supply is dwindling in many cities, thanks to climate change. Curbing sprawl would be one large part of the solution. While repopulating the Rust Belt and other more water-rich cities could be another.

As Gleick himself notes in an interview with the University of Minnesota Institute on the Environment's new magazine, making a point he's made before:
With respect to water; if there is any reason for optimism, it is in the fact that it is not a technological problem. We do have solutions. There are success stories out there. We are making progress. But we have to get away from the idea that there is a single solution, and we have to get away from the idea that what worked in the 20th century is going to work everywhere in the 21st century.

The fact that we failed to solve these problems is sad and inexcusable, but it doesn’t mean the problems can’t be solved. We just have to be smarter and be more committed to solving them.

Who's giving away their money? Turns out America's poorest give the most:
The generosity of poor people isn't so much rare as rarely noticed, however. In fact, America's poor donate more, in percentage terms, than higher-income groups do, surveys of charitable giving show. What's more, their generosity declines less in hard times than the generosity of richer givers does.

"The lowest-income fifth (of the population) always give at more than their capacity," said Virginia Hodgkinson, former vice president for research at Independent Sector, a Washington-based association of major nonprofit agencies. "The next two-fifths give at capacity, and those above that are capable of giving two or three times more than they give."

Indeed, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics' latest survey of consumer expenditure found that the poorest fifth of America's households contributed an average of 4.3 percent of their incomes to charitable organizations in 2007. The richest fifth gave at less than half that rate, 2.1 percent.

The figures probably undercount remittances by legal and illegal immigrants to family and friends back home, a multibillion-dollar outlay to which the poor contribute disproportionally.

None of the middle fifths of America's households, in contrast, gave away as much as 3 percent of their incomes.

Read more here: http://www.mcclatchydc.com/2009/05/19/68456/americas-poor-are-its-most-generous.html#storylink=cpy
This chart shows the reality of who gives quite well:
Poor give most to charity

The reality-denying fools published in the Wall Street Journal's op-ed page are lying liars who love to distort, obfuscate, and lie. Says Bill Nordhaus regarding the climate change denial op-ed pulished in the WSJ last Friday:
The piece completely misrepresented my work. My work has long taken the view that policies to slow global warming would have net economic benefits, in the trillion of dollars of present value. This is true going back to work in the early 1990s (MIT Press, Yale Press, Science, PNAS, among others). I have advocated a carbon tax for many years as the best way to attack the issue. I can only assume they either completely ignorant of the economics on the issue or are willfully misstating my findings.
MediaMatters, with help from Gleick and others, thoroughly dismantles the op-ed here.

Awful news from the world of those charged with protecting us: NYC police are using anti-Muslim films to train cops (and now that it's public, the police commissioner suddenly regrets it), while cops in East Haven, CT, seem to be inspired by Phoenix's Sheriff Joe and intimidate and harass Latinos for no reason other than their ethnicity (and the mayor doesn't care, but does like making racist comments in response). And after the revelations of the last year, the NYTimes editorial board calls for greater oversight of the out-of-control NYPD.

Leon Panetta  offers a pathetically weak — and unconstitutional — defense of the government's claim that we can now summarily execute US citizens without any judicial involvement: “If someone's a terrorist, they're a terrorist. Terrorism, terrorism, terrorism. He's a terrorist, damn it. Screw due process. Terrorism! Didn't you hear me? Terrorist. Yes, we will continue shitting on the Constitution, thank you very much. TERRORISM!

Hmm, I wonder why the Iraqi people aren't enamored with America.

Keystone XL will never die, so long as the GOP continues to try to find ways to promote dirty energy.

Not good news on wheat yields and global warming.

Pythons are killing everything in the Everglades.

We're not only altering the Amazon through deforestation, but through climate change, as well.

The state of the economy, in 11 charts.

Batshit insane demagogue Newt Gingrich is a complete hypocrite.

Batshit insane demagogue Frothy Mix Santorum is a complete hypocrite.

Toilet texting: everyone's doing it.

Happy 75th birthday to minimalist master Philip Glass.

!!! 5,000 hours of Alan Lomax field recordings will soon be streaming for free online! (h/t Nate) And even more excitingly:
The Association for Cultural Equity also has what it calls a repatriation program, meant to make Lomax’s work available to the communities where it was obtained and to pay royalties to the heirs of those whose music was recorded. On Friday recordings, photographs, video and documents are to be donated to the public library in Como, Miss., where in September 1959 Lomax made the first recordings of the blues guitarist Fred McDowell, whose songs were later covered by the Rolling Stones, Aerosmith, Bonnie Raitt and Jack White of the White Stripes.

“My father always felt that part of his job was to give something back to the people whose culture it was,” Ms. Wood said. “It’s a way of saying, ‘What you do is worth something,’ and what we do is an extension of that.”

Let's start labeling foods containing GMOs:

Kittens! Cute, cute kittens. Get ready for the Kitten Halftime Show. (h/t Megan D-J)

And finally, Heather's Happy Link Of The Day:

Sunday, January 29, 2012


Mining for gold in Peru is destroying the Amazon:
This gaping cavity is one of thousands being gouged today in the state of Madre de Dios at the base of the Andes—a region that is among the most biodiverse and, until recently, pristine environments in the world. All told, the Amazon River basin holds perhaps a quarter of the world’s terrestrial species; its trees are the engine of perhaps 15 percent of photosynthesis occurring on landmasses; and countless species, including plants and insects, have yet to be identified.

In Peru alone, while no one knows for certain the total acreage that has been ravaged, at least 64,000 acres—possibly much more—have been razed. The destruction is more absolute than that caused by ranching or logging, which accounts, at least for now, for vastly more rainforest loss. Not only are gold miners burning the forest, they are stripping away the surface of the earth, perhaps 50 feet down. At the same time, miners are contaminating rivers and streams, as mercury, used in separating gold, leaches into the watershed. Ultimately, the potent toxin, taken up by fish, enters the food chain.

Gold today commands a staggering $1,700 an ounce, more than six times the price of a decade ago. The surge is attributable to demand by individual and institutional investors seeking a hedge against losses and also the insatiable appetite for luxury goods made from the precious metal. “Who is going to stop a poor man from Cuzco or Juliaca or Puno who earns $30 a month from going to Madre de Dios and starting to dig?” asks Antonio Brack Egg, formerly Peru’s minister of the environment. “Because if he gets two grams a day”—Brack Egg pauses and shrugs. “That’s the theme here.”

The new Peruvian gold-mining operations are expanding. The most recent data show that the rate of deforestation has increased sixfold from 2003 to 2009. “It’s relatively easy to get a permit to explore for gold,” says the Peruvian biologist Enrique Ortiz, an authority on rainforest management. “But once you find a suitable site for mining gold, then you have to get the actual permits. These require engineering specs, statements of environmental protection programs, plans for protection of indigenous people and for environmental remediation.” Miners circumvent this, he adds, by claiming they’re in the permitting process. Because of this evasion, Ortiz says, “They have a claim to the land but not much responsibility to it. Most of the mines here—estimates are between 90 or 98 percent of them in Madre de Dios state—are illegal.”
As you might expect, the workers toil in pretty awful conditions; however, they often make more money in the gold trade than any of the alternatives they might have, so the despoiling of the Amazon continues.

In the era of climate change, we need big government:
Like it or not, government is a huge part of our economy. Altogether, federal, state, and local government activity -- that is collecting fees, taxing, borrowing and then spending on wages, procurement, contracting, grant-making, subsidies and aid -- constitutes about 35% of the gross domestic product. You could say that we already live in a somewhat “mixed economy”: that is, an economy that fundamentally combines private and public economic activity.

The intensification of climate change means that we need to acknowledge the chaotic future we face and start planning for it. Think of what’s coming, if you will, as a kind of storm socialism.

After all, climate scientists believe that atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide beyond 350 parts-per-million (ppm) could set off compounding feedback loops and so lock us into runaway climate change. We are already at 392 ppm. Even if we stopped burning all fossil fuels immediately, the disruptive effect of accumulated CO2 in the atmosphere is guaranteed to hammer us for decades. In other words, according to the best-case scenario, we face decades of increasingly chaotic and violent weather.

In the face of an unraveling climate system, there is no way that private enterprise alone will meet the threat. And though small “d” democracy and “community” may be key parts of a strong, functional, and fair society, volunteerism and “self-organization” alone will prove as incapable as private enterprise in responding to the massive challenges now beginning to unfold.

To adapt to climate change will mean coming together on a large scale and mobilizing society’s full range of resources. In other words, Big Storms require Big Government. Who else will save stranded climate refugees, or protect and rebuild infrastructure, or coordinate rescue efforts and plan out the flow and allocation of resources?

 Look forward, not backwards, said Obama. Unless, of course, we can prosecute whistleblowers for shining light on shameful lawbreaking:
[T]he man who reveals the torture may go to jail, but nothing is going to happen to the people who cooked up corrupt legal opinions to justify torture, who ordered torture, or who actually tortured.

And nothing will happen to the Bush administration officials who authorized “extraordinary rendition”— the illegal practice of seizing people and flying them to nasty places where interrogators can brutalize them. Or to the telephone companies that participated in illegal wiretapping programs. Or to the CIA officials who destroyed videotapes of prisoner interrogations.

The innocent victims of torture will be denied justice – like the Canadian man who was arrested at an American airport and then flown overseas to be tortured in a case of horrible mistaken identity. The infamous prison at Guantanamo Bay will not be closed. The men behind the Sept. 11 attacks may never be brought to trial because of the ineffectiveness and illegitimacy of the military tribunals created by President Bush and tweaked a bit by President Obama.
Glenn Greenwald summarizes the lessons we've learned well:
The Rules of American Justice are quite clear:

(1) If you are a high-ranking government official who commits war crimes, you will receive full-scale immunity, both civil and criminal, and will have the American President demand that all citizens Look Forward, Not Backward.

(2) If you are a low-ranking member of the military, you will receive relatively trivial punishments in order to protect higher-ranking officials and cast the appearance of accountability.

(3) If you are a victim of American war crimes, you are a non-person with no legal rights or even any entitlement to see the inside of a courtroom.

(4) If you talk publicly about any of these war crimes, you have committed the Gravest Crime — you are guilty of espionage – and will have the full weight of the American criminal justice system come crashing down upon you.

It's probably time to let go of the idea that Teabaggers are anything more than a movement of aggrieved white people and recognize that their supposed love of the Constitution really is besides the point:
A common trope for conservative policy intellectuals is that they want to “means test” the welfare state – reduce its availability for those with high wealth and income and focus it on those with the least wealth and income. But the Tea Party base wants the opposite – they are opposed to a welfare state for the poor, young people, undocumented workers and other groups they think are undeserving. The welfare state is worthwhile for people like themselves, but should be nonexistent or a burdensome affair for people they think don’t make the cut.

From the latest research on the Tea Party we learn that “Tea Partiers judge entitlement programs not in terms of abstract free-market orthodoxy, but according to the perceived deservingness of recipients…The fundamental distinction for them is not state vs. individual, it is the division of the United States into ‘workers’ vs. ‘people who don’t work.’” This is welfare as private charity, charity conditional on fitting certain expectations, not as an unconditional right. Food stamps are a particularly smart form of stimulus and redistribution. But the conservative mind doesn’t see the economy as something that is defective when involuntary unemployment shoots up or something that should work to the advantage of those who have the least. To them, the threat of people going hungry for failing in the market is what creates the ability to thrive in that market. The market doesn’t just reward the successful, it punishes those who fall behind. Food stamps deny people of that experience and leave them dependent; some conservatives are running once again with the idea that a base of people receiving aid in this Great Recession creates a permanent Democratic coalition by design.

Student protesters in Chile, despite some setbacks, have been quite successful in resetting the political agenda:
Echoing 1960s street activism, the Chilean Winter dabbled in the absurd, but with a high-tech, social-media twist. Thousands gathered in front of the presidential palace in June dressed as zombies, then broke into a choreographed dance to Michael Jackson’s “Thriller.” In July, students again gathered in front of the palace for a huge “kiss-in.”

Though the ideas came, said Giorgio Jackson, former student president of Chile’s Catholic University, from “everywhere, absolutely every local space,” the movement’s success hinged on the leadership’s ability to channel such creativity while maintaining a unified front to government and the media. The organization used a Web site to gather ideas and disseminate content for placards and posters. And it has used Ms. Vallejo’s 300,000-plus Twitter followers to quickly initiate huge “cacerolazos,” a form of dictatorship-era protest where people walk the streets banging on pots and pans.

While they vow to continue until all their lofty demands are met, the students have already scored some political victories. The government’s proposed 2012 budget has a $350 million increase for higher education, with promises to finance scholarships for qualifying students from families up to the 60th percentile in household income. Meanwhile, the year began with the naming of Chile’s third education minister in six months.

It was only a matter of time, perhaps, before the movement’s focus on education began to broaden. As more support for the movement came from outside the universities, its interests changed accordingly. “This year we have already started talking about political reforms and tax reforms, and we think the students and youth in general play an important role in profound reforms in the country,” said Noam Titelman, the new student president at Catholic University.

Tax reform is, not coincidentally, now at the top of the government’s agenda. And rightly so: though it has the largest economy in Latin America, Chile is the 13th most unequal country in the world.

“Something very powerful that has come out of the heart of this movement is that people are really questioning the economic policies of the country,” Ms. Vallejo said. “People are not tolerating the way a small number of economic groups benefit from the system. Having a market economy is really different from having a market society. What we are asking for, via education reform, is that the state take on a different role.”

Achieving info-wellness (h/t Wifey). And be sure to check out the link to Simon Johnson's list of productivity tools.

JSTOR: yet another example of the broken model of the academic publishing industry.

Ocean acidity: the highest it's been in 21,000 years.

The Pro-Pollution Caucus — better known as the GOP congressional delegation — may not be happy with the EPA's new mercury rules, but not only will there be massive public health benefits, but birds in the northeast will benefit, as well.

Shocking: letting the market dictate things and having no rules leads to overfishing and destroys fish stocks.

What a surprise: screwing further with the planet's climate may have unintended consequences. And that doesn't even address the complex governance issues surrounding geoengineering. Will the losers just sit there and take it? I sure as hell doubt it.

Cooling buildings with windcatchers.

An internet-based campaign forces the Chinese government to address air pollution concerns.

John Quiggin thoroughly dismantles libertarian economist Tyler Cowen's defense of inequality. And he makes this thoughtful observation:
As Mitt Romney’s tax returns show, wealthy Americans have the rules rigged in their favor from day one. And that’s assuming they obey the rules. Unlike the poor, they can mostly cheat with impunity. In these circumstances, it’s unsurprising that US inequality is so deeply entrenched. The only surprise is the suddenness with which the facts have become common knowledge.

GOP obstructionism, byzantine Senate rules, and our dysfunctional government kill yet another qualified nominee. The NYTimes calls for an end to this fillibustering nonsense.

Autonomously-piloted armed drones: nope, nothing troubling about this at all.

It sure would be nice if the blame-the-teachers education reformers actually relied on evidence, rather than ideology.

The inspiring life of gay Ugandan activist David Kato.

Oliver Wang with a great appreciation of Etta James.

Hear the Silk Road Ensemble performing at globalFEST 2012. And also on WNYC's Soundcheck:

 The always-lovely Sea and Cake perform a short set at OPB Music:

Ice Cube's good day was January 20, 1992.

How to burgle Mark Twain. (h/t DonPappy)

Monday, January 23, 2012


2011 was a year in climate extremes. In part, it was driven by socioeconomics and development patterns as much as actual climate:
[T]he long-term rise in the costs of global disasters is probably due mainly to socio-economic changes, such as population growth and development in vulnerable regions. That conclusion is backed up by a forthcoming study — supported by Munich Re — by economists Fabian Barthel and Eric Neumayer at the London School of Economics. Their analysis of events worldwide between 1990 and 2008 concludes that “the accumulation of wealth in disaster-prone areas is and will always remain by far the most important driver of future economic disaster damage” (F. Barthel and E. Neumayer Climatic Change; in the press). Any major weather event hitting densely populated areas now causes huge losses because the value of the infrastructure has increased tremendously, they note, adding that if the 1926 Great Miami hurricane happened today, for example, it would cause much more damage than it did at the time.

However, weather-related events are generally on the rise. Thanks to a relatively quiet Atlantic hurricane season, damage caused by extreme weather was actually lower in 2011 than in four of the previous five years. But weather accounted for about 90% of the year’s 820 recorded natural disasters, which caused at least 27,000 deaths. These disasters include flooding in Thailand, a series of tornadoes that hit the United States Midwest and southern states last spring, and storms and extreme rainfall over parts of the Mediterranean in November.

Since 1980, the report notes, the number of severe floods has almost tripled, and storms have nearly doubled, which insurance experts link, in part, to the impact of climate change (see ‘Catastrophe count’). “It would not seem plausible that climate change doesn’t play a role in the substantial rise in weather-related disasters,” says Ernst Rauch, head of Munich Re’s Corporate Climate Centre.
NOAA sums up 2011 in a nice powerpoint presentation (.pdf) here. (Despite being a La Niña year, 2011 was hot.) NOAA also lists the extremes (.pdf). Peter Gleick takes a look at the images that tell much of the tale.

David Brooks: consummate insider, with nothing more than complete and utter disdain for “The People,” not to mention the very ideas of openness and transparency in government. Trust the experts, and no need to vet them — they know better than the proletariat ever will. After all, what could the people possibly do other than get confused by so much information that they're too stupid to understand?:
David: Can you think of a case when we have learned something from a disclosed tax return that was in any way useful? From Romney we’ll probably learn that he’s rich. We knew that. We’ll probably learn that he pays a 15 percent capital gains rate. This has been one of the most well-documented aspects of the private equity business. We’ll probably learn that he gives away a lot in charity. He’s conservative. Conservatives generally give much more to charity than liberals, even excluding church donations. There’s no surprise there.

Gail: No fair diverting the discussion with that charity thing. I don’t think Mitt would have brought up the 15 percent figure at all if he didn’t think he was in a corner. And while I don’t know if it’ll affect the election, it seems like an excellent education for the American public in how the tax system works to the advantage of certain citizens.

David: My own view is that the desire for full disclosure stems from a few things. First, pure prurience. Second, members of what used to be called the New Class perpetually labor under the delusion that other people dislike the rich as much as they do and if they can only disclose that someone is rich that will end their political chances. Third, there is a misbegotten ideology haunting the land, the ideology of sunshinism. This is the belief that everything should be made public.

Gail: I can’t believe you’re against sunshinism. We’re in the shining-of-sun-into-dark-corners business. And we’re only asking the man who wants to determine the future of our tax code how he made the current one work for himself.

David: Sunshinism is a destructive ideology. Forcing people to financially undress in public is just one of those incursions that repels decent people from running for office.

Gail: I repeat that we’re not talking about a guy running for the Planning and Zoning commission here. It’s not irrational for us to know what particular tax breaks a major presidential candidate has held near and dear in his own personal wealth-building life.

David: It also destroys people’s faith in government. Have you noticed that as democracy has become more open, cynicism has skyrocketed and the effectiveness of government has gone down the toilet? Bill Galston of the Brookings Institution has the best observation on this — that parts of government should be hidden for the same reason middle-aged people should wear clothes.

Gail: Let me stress, we are not asking anybody to take off their clothes. But I am not going to get behind the idea that it’s better for people to know less about their government. I don’t like the idea of disillusioning the public, but that horse is pretty much out of the barn.
As Corey Robin would likely argue, Brooks (who loves Burke, by the way) is simply representing the conservative id:
“The Reactionary Mind” certainly cuts hard against the common view that the radical populist conservatism epitomized by Sarah Palin represents a sharp break with the cautious, reasonable, moderate, pragmatic conservatism inaugurated by the 18th-century British statesman Edmund Burke. For Mr. Robin even Burke, that great critic of the French Revolution, wasn’t a Burkean moderate, but a reactionary who celebrated the sublimity of violence and denounced the inability of flabby traditional elites to defend the existing order.

This counterrevolutionary spirit, Mr. Robin argues, animates every conservative, from the Southern slaveholders to Ayn Rand to Antonin Scalia, to name just a few of the figures he pulls into his often slashing analysis. Commitment to a limited government, devotion to the free market, or a wariness of change, Mr. Robin writes, are not the essence of conservatism but mere “byproducts” of one essential idea — “that some are fit, and thus ought, to rule others.”
Robin elaborates in a long piece in the Chronicle, summarizing the main thrust of his recent book:
Conservatism is the theoretical voice of this animus against the agency of the subordinate classes. It provides the most consistent and profound argument for why the lower orders should not be allowed to exercise their independent will, to govern themselves or the polity. Submission is their first duty; agency, the prerogative of elites. Such was the threat Edmund Burke saw in the French Revolution: not merely an expropriation of property or explosion of violence but an inversion of the obligations of deference and command. "The levelers," he claimed, "only change and pervert the natural order of things."
The occupation of an hair-dresser, or of a working tallowchandler, cannot be a matter of honour to any person—to say nothing of a number of other more servile employments. Such descriptions of men ought not to suffer oppression from the state; but the state suffers oppression, if such as they, either individually or collectively, are permitted to rule.
By virtue of membership in a polity, Burke allowed, men had certain rights—to the fruits of their labor, their inheritance, education, and more. But the one right he refused to concede to all men was a "share of power, authority, and direction" they might think they ought to have "in the management of the state."

One of the reasons the subordinate's exercise of agency agitates the conservative imagination is that it takes place in an intimate setting. Every great political blast—from the storming of the Bastille to the March on Washington—is set off by a private fuse: the contest for rights and standing in the family, the factory, and the field. Politicians and parties talk of constitution and amendment, natural rights and inherited privileges. But the real subject of their deliberations is the private life of power. "Here is the secret of the opposition to woman's equality in the state," Elizabeth Cady Stanton wrote. "Men are not ready to recognize it in the home." Behind the riot in the street or debate in Parliament is the maid talking back to her mistress, the worker disobeying his boss. That is why our political arguments—not only about the family but also the welfare state, civil rights, and much else—can be so explosive: They touch upon the most personal relations of power.

When the conservative looks upon a democratic movement from below, this is what he sees: a terrible disturbance in the private life of power. "The real object" of the French Revolution, Burke told Parliament in 1790, is "to break all those connexions, natural and civil, that regulate and hold together the community by a chain of subordination; to raise soldiers against their officers; servants against their masters; tradesmen against their customers; artificers against their employers; tenants against their landlords; curates against their bishops; and children against their parents." Nothing to the Jacobins, he declared at the end of his life, was worthy "of the name of the publick virtue, unless it indicates violence on the private."

Historically, the conservative has sought to forestall the march of democracy in both the public and the private spheres, on the assumption that advances in the one necessarily spur advances in the other. Still, the more profound and prophetic stance on the right has been to cede the field of the public, if he must, but stand fast in the private. Allow men and women to become democratic citizens of the state; make sure they remain feudal subjects in the family, the factory, and the field.

No simple defense of one's own place and privileges, the conservative position stems from a genuine conviction that a world thus emancipated will be ugly, brutish, and dull. It will lack the excellence of a world where the better man commands the worse. This vision of the connection between excellence and rule is what brings together in postwar America that unlikely alliance of the capitalist, with his vision of the employer's untrammeled power in the workplace; the traditionalist, with his vision of the father's rule at home; and the statist, with his vision of a heroic leader pressing his hand upon the face of the earth. Each in his way subscribes to this statement, from the 19th century, of the conservative creed: "To obey a real superior ... is one of the most important of all virtues—a virtue absolutely essential to the attainment of anything great and lasting."
Nevertheless, as far as disclosure and openness goes — which brings us back to Brooks' original point — there are certainly limits to its effectiveness; Elizabeth Rosenthal visits the issue in a relatively insightful piece in the NYTimes:
Everyone agrees that openness is a virtue in a democracy. So what is going wrong?

One fundamental problem is that disclosure requirements merely get information onto the table, but themselves demand no further action. According to political theory, disclosure is both a citizen’s right and a tool to ensure good government and consumer protection, because it provides information that leads to informed decisions. Instead, disclosure has often become an endpoint in the chain of responsibility, an act of compliance with the letter of the law rather than the spirit of transparency.

“In the beginning, disclosure was a means to an end, and now it’s often an end in itself,” said Kevin P. Weinfurt, professor of psychiatry and behavioral science at Duke University. “People think, ‘If we’ve disclosed we’ve fulfilled our responsibilities.’ ”

Indeed, disclosure has taken on the gestalt of confession: Dump the information and be absolved of further moral or legal responsibility. How did car-crazy cities like Los Angeles and Phoenix earn an A+ in a study by the Roberts Environmental Center at Claremont McKenna College? By being superb at disclosing, not controlling, emissions. Clyde Wilcox, a political scientist at Georgetown University, said: “Disclosure by itself is not the solution to any problem. It’s a path to earn trust. But just saying things is not enough, unless you also do something.”

Part of the problem is that the goals of disclosure are often unclear, said Dr. Weinfurt, who has studied disclosure in medicine. “We want the information, but often no one knows exactly what to do with the information once they get it.”

For example, how should one respond to the government disclosure letters sent to homes in the United States with information about local water quality, containing lists of chemical compounds in parts per million? And what was the appropriate reaction to the Homeland Security Department’s recently abandoned program to disclose risk assessments with color-coded warnings at airports ranging from safe green to “severe” red?

Unlike the restaurant-grading system, such threat-level disclosure “is ineffective because there’s no way to act on it,” said Archon Fung, co-founder of the Transparency Policy Project at the Harvard Kennedy School.

Many disclosure programs today cloud rather than clarify a particular situation. As disclosure statements have become more numerous and more complicated, “consumers just ignore them or don’t understand what they say,” said Jeff Sovern, an expert in consumer law at St. John’s University.


But information overload, not consumer laziness, is often to blame, Professor Sovern says. At real estate closings, in less than an hour, buyers sign reams of paper they are seeing for the first time — including the mortgage disclosure form — to take ownership of a residence they’ve already chosen. Everyone signs, Professor Sovern says, adding: “Predatory lenders try to distract people with lots of paper. I think disclosures sometimes create the illusion of consumer protection — enabling legislators to claim credit for consumer protection, without the reality.”

When the Food and Drug Administration in the 1990s first mandated that drug makers list medicines’ side effects in order to advertise prescription drugs, there was a firestorm of protest from the industry. Now the litany of side effects that follows every promotion is so mind-numbing — drowsiness, insomnia, loss of appetite, weight gain — as to make the message meaningless.

Extolling the virtues of transparency, Supreme Court Justice Louis D. Brandeis famously wrote in 1913 that “sunlight is said to be the best of disinfectants.” But in the cynical world, companies and political groups often deflect that light or diffuse it into 1,000 incomprehensible components.

While regulators and consumers see disclosure as a way to improve transparency, companies often regard it as a risk-management strategy. “Often the goal of disclosure is to reduce or eliminate the legal risk,” Dr. Weinfurt said. “It is so they can say, ‘Hey we told you so.’ ”


So perhaps the answer is not just more information. “I don’t necessarily think that more is better,” said Professor Fung of Harvard. “I’d like to see an effort toward prioritizing what information is really important and then some effort in providing the data in a way that is simple and effective.” 
(Also relevant in this entire debate regarding the will of the people, disclosure, tools like Brooks distorting social science to fit their pre-determined notions, and Brooks' unfettered love of  “Trust us, we're experts” technocracy, is this piece by Cosma Shalizi and Henry Farrell, which I pointed to in an earlier post. Check it out.)

While the intertubes was rightfully concerned with SOPA/PIPA this past week, many seemed to not notice a fairly significant Supreme Court decision on copyrighting of works already in the public domain:
The Supreme Court on Wednesday upheld a federal law that restored copyright protection to works that had entered the public domain.

By a 6-to-2 vote, the justices rejected arguments based on the First Amendment and the Constitution’s copyright clause, saying that the public domain was not “a category of constitutional significance” and that copyright protections might be expanded even if they did not create incentives for new works to be created.


The precise number of affected works is unknown but “probably number in the millions,” Marybeth Peters, the United States register of copyrights, said in 1996.

The law was challenged by orchestra conductors, teachers and film archivists who said they had relied for years on the free availability of such works.


In dissent, Justice Stephen G. Breyer, joined by Samuel A. Alito Jr., wrote that the clause meant to require a utilitarian approach, one under which authors were granted limited monopolies in order to encourage them to produce societally valuable works.

“Does the clause empower Congress to enact a statute that withdraws works from the public domain, brings about higher prices and costs, and in doing so seriously restricts dissemination, particularly to those who need it for scholarly, educational, or cultural purposes — all without providing any additional incentive for the production of new material?” Justice Breyer asked. The answer, he said, was no.

“The statute before us,” Justice Breyer wrote, “does not encourage anyone to produce a single new work.”


Justice Breyer said the majority’s approach did not take adequate account of the importance of free expression. “By removing material from the public domain, the statute, in literal terms, ‘abridges’ a pre-existing freedom to speak,” he wrote, referring to a key word of the First Amendment.

Justice Breyer added that the decision upholding the law would have negative practical consequences, as owners of copyrights now charge for works that were once free. “If a school orchestra or other nonprofit organization cannot afford the new charges, so be it,” he wrote. “They will have to do without — aggravating the already serious problem of cultural education in the United States.”
As Jason Mazzone adds:
Perhaps the only thing right about the Golan opinion is its timing: it arrives on the same day as the web-wide protests against the astonishing threat to freedom of speech that is SOPA.
What does this all mean? Not good things for those interested  in free speech or wider dissemination of cultural content, but perhaps grassroots lobbying — à la the protests against internet censorship — could help?:
There's no question that copyright restoration burdens speech; before Congress acted, we were all free to copy "Peter and the Wolf," to perform it, or to use its melodies in our own compositions. After restoration we can't do any of that without permission—which costs money. And there is no history of copyright restoration comparable to the history of copyright term extensions in Eldred. That doesn't matter, the court said in Golan, because Congress is free to restore copyrights without First Amendment review so long as doing so doesn't erase copyright's fair-use doctrine (a limited exception to copyright for teaching, criticism, and some other purposes) or its distinction between expression (copyrightable) and pure ideas (not copyrightable). The fair-use doctrine and the idea-expression distinction are the only "traditional contours" of copyright that Congress cannot disturb.

That's cold comfort to the artist who wishes to use a re-copyrighted work, or the archivist who wishes to digitize it and is now restricted to using whatever little snippet might qualify as "fair." As for the idea-expression distinction, in many cases that's no use at all. Major metropolitan orchestras will be able to afford to license the Shostakovich's symphonies that were once in the public domain. But less well-heeled regional orchestras or high schools won't. And it matters little that those orchestras remain free to communicate the "ideas" behind Shostakovich's work. What matters is the music, and that's back under copyright.

So, what's next? For teachers, scholars, artists, librarians, and others concerned with Congress's incessant expansion of the scope and duration of copyright, Golan makes clear that we can expect no help from the Supreme Court. Which brings me back to where I started—Wednesday's huge, and thus far effective, protests against SOPA and PIPA. Those protests demonstrated that the tech industry, allied with the online grass roots, could overcome Hollywood's pro-copyright lobbying muscle. It's too early to say for sure, but it's possible that those protests marked the end of Hollywood's and the publishing and music industries' lock on copyright policy. Someone might test that by proposing that legislation be offered to return to the public domain all the works that the Supreme Court says Congress had the right to take out in 1994. Those works belong to all of us. And I, for one, want them back.
As for SOPA/PIPA, Mark McKenna makes some similar points as Glenn Greenwald and Julian Sanchez regarding the odious copyright laws already on the books:
There are three general points to emphasize here. First, no one should breathe easier when advocates of PIPA and SOPA assure us that these bills target only “piracy” or “sites dedicated to infringing activity,” because copyright and trademark owners’ understandings of those terms go far beyond the core cases they use to attract public support. “Piracy,” in their view, isn’t just about counterfeit pharmaceuticals sold to unsuspecting consumers. It’s also about linking to websites or reselling authorized goods, and it could well include any unauthorized use of their work or the trademark.

Second, intellectual property law is already full of draconian measures justified on the grounds that they will be applied in only the most egregious cases. Just to name a couple of examples: Both copyright and trademark infringement can give rise to criminal liability in some circumstances, and copyright law provides for statutory damages of up to $150,000 per infringed work, even in cases lacking any evidence of harm to the copyright owner. These remedies are allegedly carefully bounded so that they apply only in the most egregious cases. But the history of IP enforcement is one of continual boundary pushing by rights holders (and the government acting on their behalf) and continual acquiescence of the courts. Despite an unambiguous statutory requirement that the government prove both that the defendant was using a mark that is substantially indistinguishable from the allegedly counterfeited mark and that the defendant’s use be likely to cause confusion, the government argues in counterfeiting cases that a mark is substantially indistinguishable when it causes confusion, effectively collapsing the requirements. Juries award huge statutory damage awards in cases with defendants who downloaded a few songs for personal use. (In one such case, the judge substantially reduced the jury’s award—though only after the third trial—reportedly making him the first judge to reduce a damage award in a copyright case.)

Given this history, and the recent efforts of ICE and private plaintiffs discussed above, there is absolutely no reason to believe any new remedial measures would be confined to the truly egregious cases on which those measures are sold to the public. Much as the Patriot Act was sold as necessary to protect us from terrorism but has in fact been used primarily in prosecuting drug cases, any new copyright or trademark measure should be expected to apply to new and unexpected cases far outside the core of either system.

Third, and finally, anyone who has been concerned about the scope of PIPA and SOPA should not be satisfied with the defeat of those bills, or even with defeat of their inevitably forthcoming cousins. Bad as those bills are, they expressly authorize conduct that is already occurring. Opponents need to turn their attention to existing law and demand that it be scaled back as well. Otherwise their victory this week will have been a pyrrhic one.

Having had time to revisit some of his writings, Gregory Sumner reflects on the passing of Vaclav Havel:
Since his passing in December I have revisited texts I had not looked at for twenty years—Letters to Olga, Disturbing the Peace, Open Letters—and am pleased to find them undiminished in their honesty, subtlety, and ironic humor. Havel’s optimistic but doggedly anti-utopian spirit lives on, beyond the absurd stage-set in which the playwright found himself during the grayness of “post-totalitarian” Communist rule. He understood that the pathologies and inertia besetting the world around him in the 1970s and 80s were but an extreme case of a more widespread cultural crisis: the alienation of people from their work; the estrangement so many feel from their communities, their friends and families, their highest aspirations—in short, the things that make life worth living. His commentary from more than three decades ago applies to our slick, hyper-technological consumer society today:
It is as though after the shocks of recent history…people had lost all faith in the future, in the possibility of setting public affairs right, in the meaning of a struggle for truth and justice. They shrug off everything that goes beyond their everyday, routine concern for their own livelihood; they seek ways of escape; they succumb to apathy, to indifference toward suprapersonal values and their fellow men, to spiritual passivity and depression.
What is potentially so exciting about the insurgencies of the past year is their challenge to this apathy, the way they have forced the problems of inequality and abuse of power to the surface. The people taking to the streets, and the millions more who agree with the critique if not always the style of their fellow citizen-activists, are united in grasping that the bargain as it has evolved is unsustainable, that political and economic elites, aloof from the sources of their often lavish perquisites, have to be held to account. Greed and selfishness in all their forms must be exposed, condemned, curtailed, in the name of the common good. “It really is not all that important,” Havel wrote in 1984, “whether, by accident of domicile, we confront a Western manager or an Eastern bureaucrat in this very modest and yet globally crucial struggle against the momentum of impersonal power.”

As we act, each in our own ways, for a better world, it is important to maintain our balance and our bearings, to be mindful of the shortcomings of those whom we would challenge—to keep an eye out for our own ideological posturing, self-satisfaction, and hubris. To Vaclav Havel, a humane response to “impersonal power” involved not only militancy but an attitude of openness and questioning, humility, and a sense of the limitations of our vision. “Anyone who takes himself too seriously soon becomes ridiculous,” he reminds us, “while anyone who always manages to laugh at himself cannot be truly ridiculous.” As we move into new phases, new fronts in the fight for social justice, we should avoid black–and-white, reflexive thinking. As Havel said in early 1989:
It is not hard to demonstrate that all the main threats confronting the world today, from atomic war and ecological disaster to a catastrophic collapse of society and civilization—by which I mean the widening gulf between rich and poor individuals and nations—have hidden deep within them a single root cause: the imperceptible transformation of what was originally a humble message into an arrogant one.

An ethical analysis of the climate denial machine.

Bad air quality and social unrest in China.

Ai Weiwei: The Evolution of a Dissident.

Our wasted health care dollars. At the same time, Zeke Emanuel reminds us liberals of the various trade-offs when it comes to health care spending in the larger context of controlling costs.

Drones and democracy. The answer to Singer's question, by the way, is an overwhelming yes.

Pretty and crazy snake pics.

Andy's making his Oscar nomination picks. On the basis of having watched 4 films in 2011.

My beloved Leonard Cohen gets a nice write-up in the Guardian.

YES YES YES. Here's the new Leonard Cohen record.

Heather's Happy Link of the Day: Wifey is growing plants. Yay.

Saturday, January 21, 2012


It looks like SOPA/PIPA is on hold for the time being. TPM documents how it went down. How long until we get a bipartisan agreement that essentially preserves all the odious aspects of the bill, but still passes?  Meanwhile, the government isn't holding off on shutting down websites. After all, just the previous day, the government shut down Megaupload.

As usual, Glenn Greenwald puts the internet-censorship bills in the larger context, reminding us that the government already has many of these powers to filter the internet:
[M]any SOPA opponents were confused and even shocked when they learned that the very power they feared the most in that bill — the power of the U.S. Government to seize and shut down websites based solely on accusations, with no trial — is a power the U.S. Government already possesses and, obviously, is willing and able to exercise even against the world’s largest sites (they have this power thanks to the the 2008 PRO-IP Act pushed by the same industry servants in Congress behind SOPA as well as by forfeiture laws used to seize the property of accused-but-not-convicted drug dealers). This all reminded me quite a bit of the shock and outrage that arose last month over the fact that Barack Obama signed into law a bill (the NDAA) vesting him with the power to militarily detain people without charges, even though, as I pointed out the very first time I wrote about that bill, indefinite detention is already a power the U.S. Government under both Bush and Obama has seized and routinely and aggressively exercises.

I’m not minimizing the importance of either fight: it’s true that SOPA (like the NDAA) would codify these radical powers further and even expand them beyond what the U.S. Government already wields (regarding SOPA’s unique provisions, see Julian Sanchez’s typically thorough analysis). But the defining power that had everyone so up in arms about SOPA — shutting down websites with no trial — is one that already exists in quite a robust form, as any thwarted visitors to Megaupload will discover. There are two points worth making about all of this:

(1) It’s wildly under-appreciated how unrestrained is the Government’s power to do what it wants, and how little effect these debates over various proposed laws have on that power. Contrary to how it was portrayed, the Obama administration’s threatened veto of the NDAA rested largely on the assertion that they did not need a law vesting them with indefinite detention powers because they already have full power to detain people without a trial: not because any actual law expressly vested that power, but because the Bush and Obama DOJs both claimed the 2001 AUMF silently (“implicitly”) authorized it and deferential courts have largely acquiesced to that claim. Thus, Obama argued about indefinite detention in his NDAA veto threat that “the authorities codified in this section already exist” and therefore “the Administration does not believe codification is necessary,” and in his Signing Statement the President similarly asserted that “the executive branch already has the authority to detain in military custody” accused Terrorists “and as Commander in Chief I have directed the military to do so where appropriate.” In other words: we don’t need any law expressly stating that we can imprison people without charges: we do it when we want without that law.

That’s more or less what happened with the SOPA fight. It’s true that website-seizures-without-trials are not quite as lawless as indefinite detentions, since there are actual statutes conferring this power. But it nonetheless sends a very clear message when citizens celebrate a rare victory in denying the Government a power it seeks — the power to shut down websites without a trial — only for the Government to turn around the very next day and shut down one of the world’s largest and best-known sites. Whether intended or not, the message is unmistakable: Congratulations, citizens, on your cute little “democracy” victory in denying us the power to shut down websites without a trial: we’re now going to shut down one of your most popular websites without a trial.

(2) The U.S. really is a society that simply no longer believes in due process: once the defining feature of American freedom that is now scorned as some sort of fringe, radical, academic doctrine. That is not hyperbole. Supporters of both political parties endorse, or at least tolerate, all manner of government punishment without so much as the pretense of a trial, based solely on government accusation: imprisonment for life, renditions to other countries, even assassinations of their fellow citizens. Simply uttering the word Terrorist, without proving it, is sufficient. And now here is Megaupload being completely destroyed — its website shuttered, its assets seized, ongoing business rendered impossible — based solely on the unproven accusation of Piracy.

It’s true, as Sanchez observes, that “the owners of Megaupload don’t seem like particularly sympathetic characters,” but he also details that there are difficult and weighty issues that would have to be resolved to prove they engaged in criminal conduct. Megaupload obviously contains numerous infringing videos, but so does YouTube, yet both sites also entail numerous legal activities as well. As Sanchez put it: “most people, presumably, recognize that shutting down YouTube in order to disable access to those videos would not be worth the enormous cost to protected speech.” The Indictment is a classic one-side-of-the-story document; even the most mediocre lawyers can paint any picture they want when unchallenged. That’s why the government is not supposed to dole out punishments based on accusatory instruments, but only after those accusations are proved in an adversarial proceeding.
Julian Sanchez's column at Cato, pointed to by Greenwald, makes similar points — while also noting that these sorts of actions are not good for innovation:
Just about everyone’s hard drive these days is full of copyrighted music in MP3 format. But it isn’t necessarily “infringing content.” In my case, it’s music I’ve downloaded from legal venues like the iTunes store or ripped from CDs I purchased back when one still bought music in shiny-plastic-disc form. Many people will put their legal MP3 files in a private Dropbox folder, or some other cloud storage service, so they can access the music from the office as well as their home desktops, or from their networked mobile devices. Creating a public link to those files, and distributing them to anyone on the Internet who wants them, would clearly be copyright infringement. But that doesn’t mean the files themselves are suddenly “infringing content,” and it doesn’t mean that every user should lose his own access to the same files because other users tried to publicly distribute them.

This is another reason the takedown-before-trial model is disturbing. Again, there’s strong evidence in the indictment that Megaupload’s conduct here was anything but innocent. But now imagine some other cloud storage site that comes under the crosshairs of the government or content industries. As I suggest above, they might have very good reason for only disabling specific, publicly distributed links to a copyrighted file in response to a takedown notice, rather than cutting off access to every user who has remotely stored the file, regardless of how they’re using it. At a trial, they’d get to explain that. If the site is shut down before its operators have an opportunity to even make the argument … well, that doesn’t bode well for investment in innovative cloud services.
This Neil Gaiman interview precedes the entire SOPA/PIPA debate, but should be required viewing for those who argue that artists always lose when consumers share content:

More fallout from Keystone XL: the Pro-Pollution Caucus lost even though they spent millions on lobbying, while Big Pollution's cronies can't keep their lies straight, and Romney's getting in on the act, too. The Sierra Club's take on Keystone XL is that it represents the administration's efforts to move beyond oil; I'm a bit less optimistic — especially considering the lack of action on climate change, as well as statements like this from Max Baucus — but we'll see what happens:
So kudos again to the Obama administration for standing up to intense pressure from what is still the wealthiest industry on the planet.

It's fantastic that we've stopped what once looked like an unstoppable pipeline, but let's not forget that if we really want to move our country beyond oil, we need to do more than just stop bad things -- we have to move forward on good things, too. Fortunately, this year the Obama administration also plans to make one particularly good thing happen: setting a new average fuel-economy standard of 54.5 mpg for cars and trucks by 2030.

That translates to using 1.5 million fewer barrels of oil per day by 2030 — as much oil as we imported from Saudi Arabia and Iraq combined last year. The amount of carbon pollution eliminated would be a staggering 600 billion metric tons — the equivalent to one year of current U.S. CO2 emissions. It will be the single biggest thing any nation has done to address climate pollution -- and the biggest step yet toward moving America beyond oil.
And as expected, The Onion's take on Keystone XL is as good as it gets.

Good news on the fracking front. After many years, the EPA is going to supply clean water to those affected by fracking pollution in Dimock, PA:
First, the earth around the rural town of Dimock, Pa., was cracked open as gas drillers used fracking to tap the vast energy supplies of the Marcellus Shale.

Then, in April 2009, residents there lost their access to fresh drinking water. Wells turned fetid. Some blew up. Tap water caught fire.

Now, nearly three years later — and after a string of lawsuits and state investigations has ushered Dimock to the forefront of the environmental debate over drilling but failed to resolve the water problem — the Environmental Protection Agency is stepping in to supply drinking water itself.

On Friday, the agency announced it would bring tanks of drinking water to four homes, including that of Julie Sautner, whom ProPublica first interviewed about her water problems in 2009.

“Data reviewed by EPA indicates that residents’ well water contains levels of contaminants that pose a health concern,” the agency said in a statement. Tests showed dangerous levels of arsenic, a carcinogen, as well as glycols and barium in at least four wells, and the EPA is apparently concerned that the contamination may be more widespread.

According to the statement, the EPA plans to test the water supplies in 60 additional homes for hazardous substances.
Too bad Pennsylvania's insane Teabagger governor is doing his best to squelch the science.

I have issues with MSC and their sometimes lax standards (driven in large part by the fact that they're somewhat co-opted by the fishing industry itself), but this is still a pretty strong start in mainstreaming sustainable seafood:
Gone are unsustainable choices such as Chilean sea bass (which has an AVOID rating on the Monterey Bay Aquarium's Seafood Watch). Target's grocery department is now carrying more than 50 MSC-certified or Best Aquaculture Practices (BAP)-certified fresh and frozen seafood products. The goal is to sell only sustainable and traceable seafood by 2015.

Target has eliminated farmed salmon from its stores due to concerns about environmental impacts, and wild-caught salmon are now available in all its stores nationwide. Target says it's also partnering with FishWise, another non-profit organization that works with seafood companies to implement environmentally responsible business practices.

"Partnering with FishWise allows Target to identify certified product choices, encourage source fisheries and farms to become certified and build a time line to reach our 2015 goal," Erin Madsen, a Target spokeswoman, explained to me in an email.

And how might these commitments influence our pocketbooks? Well, lots of factors influence the fluctuating prices of seafood. It's all about supply and demand. Currently, about 14 percent of global fisheries have gone through an MSC certification. It's possible that as retailers demand more sustainable fish, prices could rise if supplies are limited.

But Target says it's working to keep prices competitive. When Target announced the commitment to wild-caught salmon, Madsen says the retailer was able to source the salmon at the same price as farmed salmon.

And how about our nation's largest retailer? Walmart says as of January 2011, about 73 percent of all the fish they sell was certified as sustainable. And by June, of this year Walmart will require all suppliers of fresh and frozen seafood products to source from certified fisheries.

In Israel, the battle over women's rights and autonomy takes a religious turn (h/t Mr. Eppig):
[M]ore and more, public buses in Israel are enforcing gender segregation imposed by ultra-Orthodox riders in and near their neighborhoods. Woe to the girl or woman who refuses to move to the back of the bus.

This is part of a larger battle being waged in Israel between the ultra-Orthodox and the rest of Israeli society over women’s place in society, over their very right to have a visible presence and to participate in the public sphere.

What is behind these deeply disturbing events? We are told that they arise from a religious concern about modesty, that women must be covered and sequestered so that men do not have improper sexual thoughts. It seems, then, that a religious tenet that begins with men’s sexual thoughts ends with men controlling women’s bodies.


The ultra-Orthodox men in Israel who are exerting control over women claim that they are honoring women. In effect they are saying: We do not treat women as sex objects as you in Western society do. Our women are about more than their bodies, and that is why their bodies must be fully covered.

In fact, though, their actions objectify and hyper-sexualize women. Think about it: By saying that all women must hide their bodies, they are saying that every woman is an object who can stir a man’s sexual thoughts. Thus, every woman who passes their field of vision is sized up on the basis of how much of her body is covered. She is not seen as a complete person, only as a potential inducement to sin.

Of course, once you judge a female human being only through a man’s sexualized imagination, you can turn even a modest 8-year-old girl into a seductress and a prostitute.

At heart, we are talking about a blame-the-victim mentality. It shifts the responsibility of managing a man’s sexual urges from himself to every woman he may or may not encounter. It is a cousin to the mentality behind the claim, “She was asking for it.”

So the responsibility is now on the women. To protect men from their sexual thoughts, women must remove their femininity from their public presence, ridding themselves of even the smallest evidence of their own sexuality.

Riffing off a recent set of articles in the NYTimes on Big Organic, Marion Nestle offers some wise thoughts on a sustainable food system.

The controversy over the impacts of methane leaks (via fracking) on potential global warming continues.

Republican obstructionism and pro-pollution views leads to the the withdrawal of yet another qualified Obama nominee.

A disappointing announcement from EPA. Their explanation as to why they're ignoring a court order doesn't really clarify the situation for me. Anyone care to chime in and explain?

A win for women's health and a victory over religious fundamentalism masquerading as freedom. Really, this is a pretty big deal.

Abortion: a question of trusting women to make their own moral judgments?

Timothy Garton Ash says quelling ignorance is no excuse for censorship.

Architecture as a political act in Detroit.

Speaking of Detroit, the NYTimes website is hosting a fascinating video on scrap metal salvagers in the city; I'm pretty sure this same film could be made in the abandoned buildings and houses here in metro Phoenix, as well.

Following up on my previous post, which included links to the TAL episode and other related tidbits, here's more on Apple's supplier Foxconn.

Withholding organ transplants for the “disabled.” The new eugenics?

Finally, some accountability for Morgan State University's obscenely overpaid president.

The biggest Kochsuckers in Congress? Here they are.

Yay! Another new one from Islands:

I was a big fan of Michael Gordon's piece Timber, written for untuned wooden percussion and released last year in a gorgeous package. This performance of it is pretty great:

Heather's Moronic Bullshit Link Of The Day: Typical idiotic bullshit from Slate. Heather's Happy Link Of The Day: A great, hilarious response from Kate Harding.

Thursday, January 19, 2012


The big news on the internet yesterday/today is the efforts against SOPA/PIPA. I'll be less of a cynic than usual and begin by noting that the protests have actually been very useful, insofar as internet-users seem to actually be paying attention and some members of Congress have been persuaded to change their minds:
A freshman senator, Marco Rubio of Florida, a rising Republican star, was first Wednesday morning with his announcement that he would no longer back antipiracy legislation he had co-sponsored. Senator John Cornyn, the Texas Republican who heads the campaign operation for his party, quickly followed suit and urged Congress to take more time to study the measure, which had been set for a test vote next week.

By Wednesday afternoon, Senator Orrin G. Hatch, Republican of Utah and one of the Senate bill’s original co-sponsors, called it “simply not ready for prime time” and withdrew his support.


“As a senator from Florida, a state with a large presence of artists, creators and businesses connected to the creation of intellectual property, I have a strong interest in stopping online piracy that costs Florida jobs,” Mr. Rubio wrote on his Facebook page. “However, we must do this while simultaneously promoting an open, dynamic Internet environment that is ripe for innovation and promotes new technologies.”

Mr. Rubio has outsize influence for a junior senator entering his second year in Congress. He is considered a top contender for the vice presidential ticket of his party’s White House nominee this year, and is being groomed by the Republican leadership to be the face of his party with Hispanics and beyond.

Mr. Cornyn posted on his Facebook page that it was “better to get this done right rather than fast and wrong. Stealing content is theft, plain and simple, but concerns about unintended damage to the Internet and innovation in the tech sector require a more thoughtful balance, which will take more time.”
More on defections here. They're dropping like flies. But there's still plenty more work to be done.

Frank Pasquale offers some excellent analysis of SOPA/PIPA in the Boston Review:
[W]hat does it say about our Congress that it is readier to turbocharge a police state, largely in the service content industry oligopolists, than it is to revise and expand a venerable licensing method to support struggling journalists, artists, and musicians? Make content affordable and accessible, and the piracy problem will decline precipitously.

Unfortunately, as Bernard Harcourt has shown, contemporary American politics has continually privileged policing and punishment, while marginalizing the welfare state and its support for the arts and the commons. This is a tragic imbalance on many levels, not least for creative endeavors. The dole has supported many an artist. Hans Abbing’s fascinating work Why Are Artists Poor? flatly states that many creatives survive thanks to the generosity of the European welfare state. He sees the “exceptional economy of the arts” as essentially “pre-capitalist,” with gift relationships, personal contact, and dependence crucial aspects of the equation.

SOPA and current legislative battles have more to do with preserving CEO paydays for the massive content industry than with the actual material foundations for creativity. And we should not be surprised if the ultimate political economy of IP enforcement shifts to vertically integrated firms that use control over the “pipes” to monitor, deter, and perhaps ultimately ban content that threatens profits. The great irony of libertarians’ outrage over SOPA is that the same conduct they’d condemn if perpetrated by FBI content police, they’d likely characterize as an inalienable right of cable companies if done solely by those private entities to manage their networks. The strange bedfellows now opposing SOPA probably won’t be together for long.

SOPA has spawned a powerful alliance of netizens to support basic principles of due process, free expression, and accountability online. But this battle is merely a prelude to a much more contested debate about the proper allocation of digital revenues. Like health care battles between providers and insurers, struggles between content owners and intermediaries will profoundly shape our common life. Stopping SOPA is only one small step toward preserving a fair, free, and democratic culture online.
Clay Shirky also offers a good take in the video below:

Some more good primers on the horribleness of this pro-censorship piece of bipartisan legislation hereherehere, here, here, here, and a vid here. And a funny take here. And Jon Stewart offers the best metaphor for SOPA here. Take action here. And here. And here. And here.

Still, even with all this anti-SOPA/PIPA energy, there's a decent chance that the legislation may end up on Obama's desk. Tell him to veto it here. He's made some encouraging statements in the past, though he did the same with the indefinite detention bill a few weeks ago and then acquiesced to minimal changes made by Congress and signed the odious bill soon after.

It looks like Keystone XL is down for the count, in large part because of an idiotic GOP miscalculation; they took away the time to do a proper environment review and left Obama with no choice:
Keystone XL oil pipeline, saying the $7 billion project could not be adequately reviewed within the 60-day deadline set by Congress. While the president’s action does not preclude later approval of the project, it sets up a baldly partisan fight over energy, jobs and regulation that will most likely persist through the November election.

The president said his hand had been forced by Republicans in Congress, who inserted a provision in the temporary payroll tax cut bill passed in December giving the administration only until Feb. 21 to decide the fate of the 1,700-mile pipeline, which would stretch from oil sands formations in Alberta to refineries on the Gulf Coast.

The State Department, which has authority over the project because it crosses an international border, said there was not enough time to draw a new route for the pipeline and assess the potential environmental harm to sensitive grasslands and aquifers along its path. The agency recommended that the permit be denied, and Mr. Obama concurred.

“As the State Department made clear last month,” the president said in a statement, “the rushed and arbitrary deadline insisted on by Congressional Republicans prevented a full assessment of the pipeline’s impact, especially the health and safety of the American people, as well as our environment.”
In the end, the GOP forced the administration to choose between which law to enforce, and Big Oil's voting arm in Congress lost:
Today’s decision, expected from the State Department, would make official what the administration has said from the outset: that under current law, it cannot accelerate the permitting process, especially in light of the need for additional environmental reviews of a new path for the pipeline through Nebraska.

Nebraska hasn't identified possible alternate routes that would allow the pipeline to circumvent a key aquifer.

"It's a fallacy to suggest that the president should sign into law something when there isn't even an alternate route identified in Nebraska and when the review process is" not yet done, White House spokesman Jay Carney said Tuesday. "There was an attempt to short-circuit the review process in a way that does not allow the kind of careful consideration of all the competing criteria here that needs to be done."
More on the GOP's backfiring tactics here.

John Boehner is not happy, and trots out the usual claptrap bullshit about how Obama loves joblessness and wants to denying good, hard-working (white?) Americans the tens of thousand jobs that the pipeline and a continued love affair with dirty energy would produce. Newt ain't happy, either. The NYTimes editorial writers are pleased, though:
The foolish requirement that Mr. Obama issue a decision on the pipeline by Feb. 21 — cynically inserted into the payroll tax bill passed in December — could never be met given the need for a thorough environmental study before any judgment is made.

The president made the right call in accepting the recommendation of the State Department, which has primary jurisdiction over the proposed 1,700-mile pipeline that would cross through ecologically sensitive areas in the Midwest. Mr. Obama said his judgment was based not on the merits but on a timetable that was “rushed and arbitrary.” He has maintained that a decision on the current proposal could not be made until some time next year. The pipeline sponsor, TransCanada, could submit a proposal to build along another route, but that, too, would require time for a comprehensive environmental review.

Republicans intent on scoring campaign points immediately repeated their fallacious cries that “tens of thousands of jobs” would be lost by not instantly approving the project. They made no mention of the risks inherent in the project: harm to the Canadian boreal forests and threats to water supplies in the Midwest. Bipartisan opposition to the pipeline has notably been led by Gov. Dave Heineman of Nebraska, a Republican.

The extraction and production of tar sands oil in the fields of northern Alberta would also cause far more greenhouse gas emissions than drilling for conventional crude. Lobbyists and House Republicans have tried to sell the project as a reduction in America’s dependence on Middle Eastern oil. But much of the pipeline oil that would be refined on the Gulf Coast would be destined for foreign export.

Far more important to the nation’s energy and environmental future is the development of renewable and alternative energy sources. This is the winning case that Mr. Obama should make to voters in rejecting the Republicans’ craven indulgence of Big Oil.
The Keystone XL jobs and energy security lies have been repeatedly debunked, but let's do it again, this time thanks to the State Department's own assessment:
Regarding economic, energy security, and trade factors, the economic analysis in the final EIS indicates that, over the remainder of this decade, even if no new cross-border pipelines were constructed, there is likely to be little difference in the amount of crude oil refined at U.S. refineries, the amount of crude oil and refined products such as gasoline imported to (or exported from) the United States, the cost of crude oil or refined products in the United States, or the amount of crude oil imported from Canada. . . .

The analysis from the final EIS, noted above, indicates that denying the permit at this time is unlikely to have a substantial impact on U.S. employment, economic activity, trade, energy security, or foreign policy over the longer term.
Yet even though Keystone XL may not be revived anytime soon, Team Obama certainly hasn't given up on promoting fossil fuels. Nevertheless, for the time being, you can thank Obama here. This likely isn't the end of the battle. Repubs saw this coming and are planning other anti-environment shenanigans in the future. So, what's next?

Lastly, let's not forget that Keystone XL is all about dirty fuels and has nothing to do with energy security. Ed Markey gets it.

The National Center for Science Education gets involved in the movement to defend climate science against its reality-denying foes:
Although scientific evidence increasingly shows that fossil fuel consumption has caused the climate to change rapidly, the issue has grown so politicized that skepticism of the broad scientific consensus has seeped into classrooms.

Texas and Louisiana have introduced education standards that require educators to teach climate change denial as a valid scientific position. South Dakota and Utah passed resolutions denying climate change. Tennessee and Oklahoma also have introduced legislation to give climate change skeptics a place in the classroom.

In May, a school board in Los Alamitos, Calif., passed a measure, later rescinded, identifying climate science as a controversial topic that required special instructional oversight.

"Any time we have a meeting of 100 teachers, if you ask whether they're running into pushback on teaching climate change, 50 will raise their hands," said Frank Niepold, climate education coordinator for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, who meets with hundreds of teachers annually. "We ask questions about how sizable it is, and they tell us it is [sizable] and pretty persistent, from many places: your administration, parents, students, even your own family."

Against this backdrop, the National Center for Science Education, an Oakland-based watchdog group that supports the teaching of evolution through advocacy and educational materials, plans to announce on Monday that it will begin an initiative to monitor the teaching of climate science and evaluate the sources of resistance to it.

NCSE, a small, nonpartisan group of scientists, teachers, clergy and concerned individuals, rose to prominence in the last decade defending evolution in the curriculum.

The controversy around "climate change education is where evolution was 20 years ago," said Eugenie Scott, executive director of NCSE.
Regardless of one's opinions on the veracity of the science, the market has spoken: insurance companies are paying out more in climate disasters, and subsequently are raising premiums. This is what happens when “[t]here [are] a record number of billion-dollar natural disasters.

Federal prosectors aren't falling for Sheriff Joe's stalling tactics:
If Arpaio's representatives do not agree to set up meetings with federal officials by mid-March to address the discrimination Justice Department investigators found in the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office, the Justice Department will assume that Arpaio does not want to cooperate with investigators, leaving a legal battle as the only option.

The Justice Department's letter to Arpaio's attorneys was the most recent written exchange between the two agencies in the wake of a 22-page notice of findings federal officials released last month. It accused the Sheriff's Office of widespread discrimination.

The letter delivered to Arpaio's attorneys late Tuesday afternoon was also among the most vigorous exchanges from federal officials.

An attorney for Arpaio's office released a statement late Tuesday saying the agency disagreed with some of the Justice Department's interpretations but remained encouraged by the possibility of cooperating with federal officials to avoid being sued.

The Justice Department last month accused the Sheriff's Office of rampant discrimination against Latinos in its police and jail operations, prompting an immediate suspension of Arpaio's participation in federal immigration enforcement.

Arpaio responded to the Justice Department nearly three weeks later with a letter stating his intention to cooperate but demanding more than 100 pieces of information that could provide detailed examples of the institutional discrimination the Sheriff's Office is accused of.

Arpaio's response included a request for federal officials to disclose the identities of residents who were the victims of discrimination by the Sheriff's Office and of deputies who made critical comments about Arpaio's agency.

Arpaio and other sheriff's officials have also made numerous statements about their desire to cooperate with federal investigators, yet strongly questioning the findings and motivations of the years-long civil-rights probe.

The inherent discrepancy between those two stances — cooperation and confrontation -- was noted in the Tuesday letter from Assistant U.S. Attorney General Thomas Perez.

"Dismissive, inaccurate statements accompanied by overly broad document requests are inconsistent with your professed interest in negotiating, and in working with us to craft sustainable solutions to MCSO's significant civil-rights and public-safety problems," Perez wrote.

Conor Friedersfdorf responds to the idiotic defense of Obama penned by Andrew Sullivan:
After reading Andrew Sullivan's Newsweek essay about President Obama, his critics, and his re-election bid, I implore him to ponder just one question. How would you have reacted in 2008 if any Republican ran promising to do the following:

(1) Codify indefinite detention into law; (2) draw up a secret kill list of people, including American citizens, to assassinate without due process; (3) proceed with warrantless spying on American citizens; (4) prosecute Bush-era whistleblowers for violating state secrets; (5) reinterpret the War Powers Resolution such that entering a war of choice without a Congressional declaration is permissible; (6) enter and prosecute such a war; (7) institutionalize naked scanners and intrusive full body pat-downs in major American airports; (8) oversee a planned expansion of TSA so that its agents are already beginning to patrol American highways, train stations, and bus depots; (9) wage an undeclared drone war on numerous Muslim countries that delegates to the CIA the final call about some strikes that put civilians in jeopardy; (10) invoke the state-secrets privilege to dismiss lawsuits brought by civil-liberties organizations on dubious technicalities rather than litigating them on the merits; (11) preside over federal raids on medical marijuana dispensaries; (12) attempt to negotiate an extension of American troops in Iraq beyond 2011 (an effort that thankfully failed); (13) reauthorize the Patriot Act; (14) and select an economic team mostly made up of former and future financial executives from Wall Street firms that played major roles in the financial crisis.

I submit that had Palin or Cheney or Rumsfeld or Rice or Jeb Bush or John Bolton or Rudy Giuliani or Mitt Romney proposed doing even half of those things in 2008, you'd have declared them unfit for the presidency and expressed alarm at the prospect of America doubling down on the excesses of the post-September 11 era. You'd have championed an alternative candidate who avowed that America doesn't have to choose between our values and our safety.

Yet President Obama has done all of the aforementioned things.


No, Obama isn't a radical Kenyan anti-colonialist. But he is a lawbreaker and an advocate of radical executive power. What precedent could be more radical than insisting that the executive is empowered to draw up a kill list of American citizens in secret, without telling anyone what names are on it, or the legal justification for it, or even that it exists?

Mitt Romney makes money from investments, not labor. So he pays half as much in taxes as he should. I can't say I blame him for utilizing ridiculous tax loopholes that he supports. After all, under a Romney administration, he'd keep the loophole, made even more extreme under the Bush tax cuts, in place:
As a candidate, Mr. Romney has also advocated tax policies that would significantly benefit people who, like him, derive most of their income from investments.
Assuming Congress does not act to extend the Bush-era tax cuts, the rate for capital gains income is set to return to 20 percent for the 2013 tax year, while the rate for dividend income will jump to 39.6 percent. But in his economic plan, Mr. Romney calls for making permanent the Bush-era tax cuts on capital gains and dividend income, keeping them both at the current rate of 15 percent.
The NYTimes editorial page chimes in on the issue, as well (h/t Katelyn):
As for that 15 percent rate, it’s all completely legal. Mr. Romney didn’t even need a sharp accountant. If Mr. Romney has done one good thing with his partial disclosure — although it clearly wasn’t his goal — he has reminded Americans of the fundamental unfairness of the current tax code and of how determined Mr. Romney and his party are to keep it that way.

Currently, the tax code imposes a top rate of 15 percent on investment income — generally, capital gains and dividends — that flows overwhelmingly to wealthy taxpayers. In comparison, top rates between 25 percent and 35 percent are applied to the wages and salaries for many working Americans.

Worse, an egregious loophole in the law lets private equity partners pay the lower 15 percent rate on much of their income — known as “carried interest” — even though those earnings are not typically gains from investing their own money, but rather a share of profits from investing someone else’s money.
No, that doesn't mean it's in any way reasonable that we have such ridiculous loopholes that encourage investment over actual work. Pat Garafolo explains more about the loophole and how it benefits private equity managers:
Managers of private equity firms like Romney are often paid under an arrangement in which they receive both a set fee for their management, as well as a share of the profits that the firm makes for investors. While their management fees are taxed at normal income tax rates, the share of investor gains that go to a private equity manager (called "carried interest") are treated as capital gains, and thus taxed at a top rate of 15 percent. (Hedge fund managers and partners in real estate ventures also benefit from receiving carried interest.)

The argument for a lower capital gains rate is that it encourages investment. Whether that's true or not, private equity managers are allowed to pay the capital gains rate on the profits they make managing someone else's money, not for any risk that they take themselves. Treating carried interest as capital gains is an unjustifiable tax break that needs to be eliminated.

Congress has attempted to close the carried interest loophole on a number of occasions, with the Democrats passing legislation to close it three times when they controlled the House of Representatives. But intense lobbying and Senate intransigence has kept the tax giveaway in place.
Of course, as Wonkette points out, in Mittens' world he's earning his money and entitled to paying obscenely low tax rates for doing nothing more than sit on others' money:
Romney would peg himself as a big risk-taker. Someone who plays “We Are The Champions” at a campaign rally despite the fact that he hasn’t even become champion of anything yet. And lest we forget the worst part of the “corporations are people” comment is really what came after it:
Everything corporations earn ultimately goes to people.
With insane rhetoric like that, it should come as no surprise that Romney is certainly no longer a moderate, as is far to the right of Bush. Since Obama and most Dems want to see this nonsense end, it's no wonder that Mittens feels under personal attack. How dare he be taxed as much as middle class Americans who actual have jobs?! It's not like he's making much money anyway. He's unemployed. He's poor. He doesn't make “very much” money from speaking fees. Yup, only a third of a million dollars:
He also characterized as “not very much” the $374,327 he reported earning in speaking fees last year, though that sum would, by itself, very nearly catapult most American families into the top 1 percent of the country’s earners.

Newt Gingrich traffics in the politics of racial resentment. He's an amoral asshole who'd rather see people suffer than get much-needed assistance:
For months, Mr. Gingrich has made racial resentment an integral part of his platform as a conservative challenger to Mitt Romney. He has traversed the country calling President Obama “the greatest food-stamp president in American history” and presenting African-Americans with the great revelation that they should prefer paychecks to federal handouts. When he was called on it at the debate by Juan Williams of Fox News, he took the measure of the crowd and doubled down.

“The fact is that more people have been put on food stamps by Barack Obama than any president in American history,” he announced, to wild cheers. “I know among the politically correct, you’re not supposed to use facts that are uncomfortable.” What you’re not supposed to do, actually, is mislead the public.

The fact is that Mr. Obama has “put” no one on food stamps. People apply for food assistance, known officially as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, because they’re poor or out of work and their families are hungry. The number of people using the program, which is now at a peak, began rising with the recession, in 2007, and continued through four of the toughest years ever faced by the poor and near-poor in modern history. Mr. Obama eased the eligibility requirements as part of his stimulus program, a desperately needed measure that helped struggling families and the economy.
James Clyburn further explains the dog-whistle:
South Carolina Rep. James Clyburn, who is black, says it is no longer the "welfare queen," a line oft-touted by Ronald Reagan, but "king of the food stamps."

"I guess a lot of people see it as, if Ronald Reagan can do it and be so lionized by conservatives, then I ought to be able to do it," says Clyburn, the third ranking Democrat in the House.

Clyburn says it's an old strategy: candidates using race as a wedge to get votes.

"That is something they have been told will work to connect the president as being a black-oriented president, taking away from somebody else to give to black people," he says.

That depends on the perception that African-Americans benefit disproportionately from the food stamp program, even though blacks are not the majority of food stamp recipients.
And Charles Blow elaborates on the condescending, belittling bullshit:
Gingrich seems to understand the historical weight of the view among some southern whites, many of whom have migrated to the Republican party, that blacks are lazy and addicted to handouts. He is able to give voice to those feelings without using those words. He is able to make people believe that a fundamentally flawed and prejudicial argument that demeans minorities is actually for their uplift. It is Gingrich’s gift: He is able to make ill will sound like good will.
Ta-Nehisi Coates says it best:
When a professor of history calls Barack Obama a "Food Stamp President," it isn't a mistake to be remedied through clarification; it is a statement of aggressionre. And when a crowd of his admirers cheer him on, they are neither deluded, nor in need of forgiveness, nor absolution, nor acting against their interest. Racism is their interest. They are not your misguided friends. They are your fully intelligent adversaries, sporting the broad range of virtue and vice we see in humankind. If you are a praying person, you should pray for their electoral destruction in November.
It seems his ignorance and bigotry know no bounds, however, as Newton would refuse to ever support a Muslim for President. (Don't believe his bullshit — you can't be a Muslim without subscribing to Sharia. And no, believing in Sharia doesn't mean you want to overthrow the government anymore than accepting the Ten Commandments does.)

A popular climate change course at the University of Chicago hits the web.

No, wind turbines are not a human health hazard.

Food, Inc. says dioxin is good food.

The GOP loves invasive snakes. But Ken Salazar seems to be a bit wiser.

Who needs to protect kids from lead poisoning?

The Daily Show takes a look at Apple's controversial supplier Foxconn:

A recent episode of This American Life takes a more in-depth look at Apple's Chinese supply chain in what was originally an on-stage monologue by Mike Daisey and then adapted for radio:

Recent news on Foxconn. Some follow-up from TAL, as well. Wired carried a good piece on Foxconn last spring, too. Meanwhile, could unionization actually be coming to Foxconn? Not necessarily.

Looks like Scott Walker is headed for a recall election. Democracy lives!

Good news: a year without polio in India. Bad news: polio on the rise in Afghanistan.

The Village Voice's “Pazz and Jop” poll for 2011 is out. With the exception of the 1%-loving Kanye/Jay-Z album, I concur with the rest of the top 5.  Though in a year with plenty of great jazz (e.g., a great triology from Dave Douglas,  as well as wonderful releases from James Farm, Matthew Shipp, Vijay Iyer's Tirtha project, and Rudresh Mahanthappa, among others), it's a bit of a disappointment to see little-to-no jazz near the top of the list. Similarly, the lack of what's often called "world music" is a pretty egregious oversight. Seriously, where's Terakaft? At #902? Ballaké Sissoko & Vincent Segal at #194? And it's not at all a surprise that plenty of the great classical releases of the past year were ignored completely, both recordings of older repertoire, as well as some excellent modern stuff (such as a number of great releases featuring So Percussion, along with gems from jazzsters Brad Mehldau and Kevin Hays, lovely tunes from Finland by Kronos, wonderful solo cello recordings by Boris Andrianov, gorgeous recordings of Glass's string quartets by Brooklyn Rider, and a transcendent new album from the Now Ensemble, along with so much more). Speaking of the best music of 2011, I've mentioned it before, but I suppose it doesn't hurt to play the self-promotion game yet again — especially since I've added even more tunes to the mix — but my Spotify playlist of favorite tunes from 2011 is here.

Yes, yes, yes: another absolutely lovely new tune from Shearwater. Along with new records from the Magnetic Fields, Islands, Andrew Bird, and the legendary Leonard Cohen, there are no albums I'm more looking forward to in 2012. (If you missed it, another gorgeous new Shearwater tune here.) Also a public service announcement to my Columbus friends: Shearwater plays the Wexner Center on the release date of the new album. Be there!

A pretty, new tune from Grizzly Bear/Department of Eagles' Daniel Rossen.

New Bruce!:

New crazy video from Santigold:

And new crazy video from Danger Mouse, Daniele Luppi, and Jack White: