love the new weeknd mixtape
biggie’s house hip hop tourism cell phone photo club
CHICKENS BREAKING UP FIGHT
VERY POSITIVE ROLE MODELS FOR THE COMMUNITY *LIL B VOICE*
Since the Tunisian revolution spread to the rest of the Arab countries, speculators have been making guesses at when it would reach Israel (that is to say, Palestine). But very few predicted that the movement would first spread to middle-class Jewish Israelis first.
Though the Israeli economy remains strong and has weathered the economic downturn well, cost of living is high, and an incipient housing bubble has made it quite difficult for middle class Israelis to own property. That being said, though the housing crisis prompted the present protests, they are in fact the culmination of frustration with regressive neoliberal policies enacted since the 1990s. Finally, there is the distinct feeling that Israeli government over the past twenty years has fallen increasingly under the sway of a few small interest groups, namely, big business and the military.
Many Westerners can relate. Berlusconi’s Italy, Cameron’s Britain, Obama’s America, all of these countries have seen dramatic growth (and, perhaps more scary, fusion) of state and corporate power. It’s manifested itself differently in different countries: Berlusconi’s hold over the Italian media, Cameron’s scary response to the recent riots*, or Obama’s kowtowing to Tea Partiers/Banks/Literally Everyone.
However Israel is a different society from that that exists in America, Britain, or Italy. External pressure as well as kibbutzism has encouraged a sense of community and egalitarianism that doesn’t exist in America. In this context, the divisive neoliberal policies are just that much more offensive.
Nevertheless, with Israel added to the list of nations experiencing an “Arab Spring”, a threshold has been crossed. It was toed during Spain’s days of student protests but ultimately did not develop into a society-wide phenomenon there, as it has in Israel. Can these protests make the jump across the Mediterranean?
*I believe the British riots are not part of the phenomenon I’m describing
Smoov-E reinvents himself as rockabilly musician. Yeah, it’s weird.
Oracles & Modern Finance
This is a little bit heavy on the “Imagine there’s no heaven”, even for me, so bear with me. But picture a 30th century observer reading history books about the current financial crisis. Reading about our financial markets, speculations, bonds, securities – most of the economic activity of the industrialized world functions in the abstract. The mutual agreement that it does function, that the money, even when abstracted to such an absurd degree, still exists in some meaningful way, is the driving force of most economic activity. And equally, when people start to agree that there’s a problem, there’s a problem. Greece lied about its deficit for close to a decade, and if they had kept lying about it, the markets would have kept chugging along.
Our 30th century observer will be hard pressed to distinguish this from religious belief; the self-fulfilling prophesies of our oracle bankers drive our economic success or failure. The global economic crisis could be called something of a reverse-placebo effect.
This finally brings together the two big stories in recent history that involve information, privacy and power: WikiLeaks (and all the Anon/LulzSec stuff that came out of that debacle, which is still ongoing) and Murdoch’s NOTW phone hacking scheme. Both Manning/Assange and the NOTW staff did the same thing: they went around official/appropriate channels to get at information that they were not supposed to have, in order to report the truth. The obvious difference is two-fold: NOTW did so to make money, whereas Manning probably knew he would go to jail, and Assange did so only to fuel his ego; and NOTW tapped the phones of individuals to get salacious details about family deaths and kidnappings, while WikiLeaks has gone after organizations, exposing only “official secrets”. The profit motive and the power dynamics (especially considering NOTW’s cozy relationship with 10 Downing and Scotland Yard) are completely different — even making Murdoch look like a likely WikiLeaks target in the future — but the goal of liberating information that would otherwise be deemed private is the same.
The same Internet that cheered on Assange and Manning, and currently support Anon and LulzSec, are now spitting at the ground as they watch the unfolding scandal in the UK. It’s obvious why — this is despicable behavior — but shouldn’t it make people rethink the “information wants to be free” maxim? At least a little bit?
This seems like false equivalence. As you say, the power dynamic is completely different, and there’s the profit motive as well. But more importantly, equivalence here implies that governments and corporations have a right to privacy, which is a pretty dangerous place to go.
China: Ghost Cities & Co-optation
It seems that the capitalist turn that Chinese government has taken in the last 20 years hasn’t been complemented by a change in the education system. The young people interviewed here all seem to be upstanding young socialists despite their government’s apparent dismissal of those values.
It’s typical of western media to portray the Chinese government as a lumbering monstrosity, unaware of or unable to correct the massive inefficiencies of its central planning. But if even if some weird australian version of Dateline and lowly property officials living in slums alike are picking up on it, it seems impossible that the problem isn’t being addressed at some level. Or is the alleged inefficiency simply an easy way of explaining a phenomenon that is perhaps more even sinister?
The program doesn’t really go into the ownership of all of these empty apartments. Some of them are apparently owned by property speculators, and I suspect the rest are owned by government-controlled companies or the government directly. The idea seems to be to sell them to investors, who will rent them out to China’s vaunted middle class. If that’s the case, this construction is a somewhat misguided attempt to enrich the already very rich – the same basic subsidization of the rich that happens in the west. But is the Chinese government really at the mercy of its new capitalist aristocracy as much as the US, Russia and Europe are to their more established ones?
The Chinese economy is dependent on foreign consumption of domestic products, most of which (iphones!) have no domestic market to speak of. GDP per capita remains lower than most of Asia. Given the incredible size of the Chinese economy, it’s telling that most of the investment doesn’t make it back to the citizens. But then there are these inexplicably expensive and pointless infrastructure projects – empty cities designed for 12 million people, or high speed rail lines that no one is going to ride.
If it’s really all about money in modern China, who’s making money off of these projects?
You ever read through a whole article thinking it was satire? Well:
Paul Ryan: Obesity Savior?
The congressman’s budget plan might not be a good way to tackle the federal deficit, but his approach could help solve one of our biggest public health problems
With historical deficits averaging 2.5 percent of GDP, the United States is now wrestling with budget shortfalls approaching four times that rate. To address this burden, House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan proposed his Path to Prosperity, a polarizing program of budget cuts considered by Democrats and Republicans alike to be a draconian antidote to the nation’s budgetary ills.
Ryan’s tough-love recommendations include:
- Cap spending
- Keep taxes low so the economy can grow; and
- Reducing government spending to historical levels, below 20 percent of GDP.
Using the congressman’s template, the path to prosperity on obesity can be outlined in three simple steps:
1. Cap the calories. It’s time to lower the number of calories sold to each consumer. Companies are already starting to shift their product portfolios to lower-calorie versions and several, like the soft drink marketers, have already demonstrated that this can be accomplished without impairing profits.
2. Keep taxes low to promote product R&D. Proposals such as soda or “fat” taxes only serve to raise revenues for government treasuries and have not been proven to lower obesity rates. Higher taxes reduce revenues and steal dollars earmarked for developing lower-calorie, better-for-you products that meet emerging consumer demands.
3. Reduce per capita calorie levels to historical levels. This goal is the most difficult to achieve and requires the toughest love. While companies involved with the Healthy Weight Commitment Foundationhave made a positive pledge to reduce calories by 1.5 trillion in five years, there’s a long way to go to revert back to “pre-obesity” 1970 levels. Pulling out 69 trillion calories will take a Herculean effort. It’s imperative that we consider incentives to entice food marketers to accelerate their reduction in calories sold.
Well thanks, Hank Hardello, author of Stuffed: An Insider’s Look at Who’s (Really) Making America Fat, former food executive with Coca-Cola, General Mills, and Cadbury-Schweppes.
Seriously, tax cuts to promote R&D on healthy food?