Monday, July 8, 2013

Monday Links and Readings -- July 8

When the media juggles several big stories at once is when the best material gets tossed into the mix. Otherwise everybody is trying to yell louder than the rest and the same material gets stuck in a loop. This week we have the Zimmerman trial, a plane crash in San Francisco, simmering conflicts in Syria and Turkey, conflict coming to a boil in Egypt, railroad disaster in Lac Megantic, Quebec, fires and floods all over the place and L'affaire Snowden.  All this competing for air and ink! ABC's QandA is trending on Twitter. What more can I say?

Here's an audio link to this story if you want to listen as you continue to read. 
I heard it a few days ago and found it to be excellent. 

As Snowden told the Guardian, “This country is worth dying for.” And, if necessary, going to prison for — for life.

But Snowden’s contribution to the noble cause of restoring the First, Fourth and Fifth amendments to the Constitution is in his documents. It depends in no way on his reputation or estimates of his character or motives — still less, on his presence in a courtroom arguing the current charges, or his living the rest of his life in prison. Nothing worthwhile would be served, in my opinion, by Snowden voluntarily surrendering to U.S. authorities given the current state of the law.

I hope that he finds a haven, as safe as possible from kidnapping or assassination by U.S. Special Operations forces, preferably where he can speak freely.

What he has given us is our best chance — if we respond to his information and his challenge — to rescue ourselves from out-of-control surveillance that shifts all practical power to the executive branch and its intelligence agencies: a United Stasi of America.

This is tied to a particular kind of personal austerity politics that the Right loves and too many liberals accept, a kind of asceticism that they push on the elderly and lower-income people in a convoluted way rather than just straight-up cutting their monthly allowance. And yet it is a trap - if you adjust to the cheap stuff, you get your benefits cut, so then you have to adjust more to cheaper stuff, and then they cut you again. The cuts aggregate, meaning people who rely on Social Security longer (more women, for instance) get hit harder.
Chained CPI is another way to dictate what choices people on benefits can make; for all the lip service paid to freedom and liberty, American politicians do not seem to like the freedom and choice involved when people are given a check and allowed to prioritise what they like. They prefer, instead, the virtues of sacrifice, the willingness to live on less and less in service of some greater good (like "debt reduction" or "keeping the company in business"). The idea that freedom includes the freedom to want more is off the table.

Fascinating analysis. Not too long to read. The term "salafi" is not as precise as most non-Muslims imagine. For the Muslim Brotherhood keeping them all in line is like herding cats. They are learning the hard way that politics really is the art of the possible. 
...Had the Brotherhood governed as a big-tent Islamist party in the way its leaders promised to do, it would have been on far surer footing. Unlike the Salafis, the Muslim Brotherhood was ideologically equipped to govern in this manner. But its organizational bias toward authoritarianism and secrecy, coupled with the extraordinary difficulty of governing in post-revolutionary Egypt, pushed the party over the cliff.

After a recent Rosh Hodesh service, Anat was arrested; and in a humiliating and misogynistic move, was strip-searched by the Jerusalem police for the "crime"of a woman reading from the Torah. Which is to say, since I, a man, can technically read from Torah at the Kotel and she can not, this is *her* movement, not mine, and I was there, with the other men, to *support* the Women of the Wall in their strategy and goals.
This is Zionism? Young Haredi men, living on government subsidies to study in yeshivas, refusing to serve in the Israeli army, benefiting from the protection of the Israeli army, heaping abuse on men and women who do serve in the Israeli army, protecting them, so that they can deny their fellow Jews' right to practice their Judaism. Our colleague Rabbi Sari Laufer of Rodeph Shalom in New York, six months pregnant, had a hard-boiled egg thrown at her, hitting her in the neck, and bringing up a painful welt the size of her hand. Others were sprayed with water, raw egg, and curses. According to Haaretz, two arrests were made.


Moving along, take a look at how much America spends 
on education and reflect on how little we get in return. 
It's almost as expensive as health care 
and with the same less than excellent results. 

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