Archive for August 2010

Mercy Merilu Moving from the Chicken Stand to the Classroom

I recently came across the following quote:
“All of us do not have equal talents, but all of us should have an equal opportunity to develop our talent.”
— John Fitzgerald Kennedy
President Kennedy’s words stuck with me for a few days. Why? Because by leveling the educational playing field we — Vittana, and our lenders — are unlocking the talent and human potential in young people around world.
When we see results, they’re even more inspiring than a quote from a famous president. Whenever we receive an update from one of our students, the staff here at Vittana get so excited — we all stop working, read the update, smile, laugh… and feel re-energized for the rest of the day. As we get more and more of these from our updates initiative launched recently, we’re sharing them with you.
What’s amazing about these updates is how hard Vittana students are working to make the most out of the opportunities that you, the lender, have granted them and how that forever changes their lives.
Mercy, one of our Peruvian students, is one of our favorite examples.
At age 15, Mercy Marilu, known by friends as a bookworm, planned to attend college and dreamed one day of teaching as a professor. But, at age 18, she was forced to put her dream on hold for something far less glamorous — selling roast chicken on a dusty street corner in Huaycan, a town on the eastern outskirts of Lima, Peru. Strapped for cash and struggling to support two other children, Mercy’s parents could no longer financially support their daughter and expected her to immediately contribute to the family’s income.
Because of the help of fourteen generous Vittana lenders, Mercy now has the opportunity to go back to school and complete her teaching degree in elementary education. In addition to her own studies, she now has a new dream. She has opened a savings account in her daughter’s name, so one day she can also go to school as well. She’s determined to make a permanent change for herself and for her daughter.
This is what Vittana is about: opportunity and inspiration. Every month, hundreds of Vittana lenders keep creating this cycle, delivering a helping hand up instead of a handout.
Today on Vittana, there are 10 students needing your help to become everything from accountants to customs agents to teachers.

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Santorini A Blast From the Past

Think of a mountainous, moon-shaped island about eight miles wide. Then imagine the island shaped like a crescent, with its whole left side gone. Some 3,600 years ago, that’s what happened to the Minoan island of Thera when a giant volcano blew its lid right through that dot in the Aegean Sea.
Seawater filled the gap left by the blast, creating a lagoon about twice the size of the Las Vegas strip. Sheared off by the explosion, cliffs one thousand feet high were left edging three sides of the lagoon.
Geologists say the eruption created a tsunami wave that was so big — perhaps the height of a 16-story building — that it wiped out Crete (70 miles away) and went on to tear up the beaches at spots as far away as the Israeli coast.
Fast forward to today, and the island of Thera, now Santorini, is again triggering tsunamis. Only now they’re headed the other way, bringing tidal waves of tourists to the island on planes, cruise ships and water ferries.
The bulk of Santorini’s visitors arrive on a small navy of ferry boats and high-speed catamarans from Greece’s main port at Piraeus 130 miles away. About a half hour from the island, passengers start doing double-takes as Santorini’s snow capped cliffs come into view. Snow capped? As you get closer in, the snow turns into hundreds of whitewashed buildings running down the hillsides, seemingly built on top of each other.
A cable car near the dock area whisks visitors up the cliffs to the island’s main city at Fira in just a few minutes. Or you can walk up 588 steep, zig-zagging steps. Or ride up the steps on donkeys. A tip: Take the cable car.
During the summer it’s not unusual to see cruise ships anchored all over the lagoon while regularly scheduled jet flights from Athens (about a 40-minute hop) zip overhead to the Santorini airport. On peak travel days the scheduled flights are joined by charter jets from all over Europe.
Little did the ancient Minoans know that their big blast would some day create big-time tourism.
Today, looking down at the lagoon’s bluer-than-blue waters from atop the cliffs at Fira, you get the feeling you’re on another planet — if you can ignore the mobs of tourists meandering around.
Winding through the city are narrow lanes lined by wall-to-wall shops offering exquisite jewelry, classic Greek pottery and hand-woven clothing. You’ll also find plenty of bars and outdoor restaurants up there, typically with views of the eight-mile-long lagoon. The better the view, the steeper the prices.
There’s one time of the day when patrons are willing to pay just about anything for an outside seat at Fira or the nearby town of Oia: at sunset, when spectacular, sherbet-colored skies fill the heavens over the lagoon and as far as you can see beyond that.
History buffs can opt for a tour of the 40-mile-long island on buses leaving from the dock area. Along the way, guides point out remains of the days when Santorini was a colony of the Minoans, then of the Greeks, Phoenicians, Romans, Byzantines, Franks, Venetians (who named the island Santorini after Saint Irene) and the Turks. Santorini hooked up with Greece again in 1912.
The bus tours end in a hair-raising drive up the narrow, winding mountain roads to Fira (from which most tourists take the cable car back down to the docks).
Staying there: Visitors have a choice of 150 or so places to bed down around the island. They range from upscale hotels with stunning views of the lagoon such as the Astra Apartments & Suites ( to older, view-less inns for as little as $50 a night.
More information: Visit, and the Greek National Tourism Organisation at

StripMining and Mountaintop Removal Are Fun Big Coal Launches New Commercials VIDEO

Strip-mining is fun! Bring the kids!
In a bold new effort to counter “ill-informed” statements by coalfield residents and addled scientists and expose the “out-of-touch” regulatory efforts by Obama administration officials, Big Coal is launching a new series of commercials to set the record straight.
The first commercial–Just Adjust Your Attitude, Strip-Mining is Fun!–reminds so-called environmentalists that instead of harping on the destruction of strip-mining operations in 24 states–mountaintop removal mining in Appalachia, for example, has ONLY destroyed 500 mountains and 1.5 millions acres of hardwood forests, and jammed 2,000 miles of headwater streams with toxic coal waste, so what’s the big deal–the American public needs to look at the potential recreation benefits.
Last week West Virginia Coal Association Senior Vice President and Mountaintop Mining Coalition Co-Chair Chris Hamilton joined the coal industry’s planned rally on September 15th “to call on lawmakers and administration officials to discontinue efforts to regulate the coal industry.”
Regulate the coal industry? What an outrage.
Bottom line: Stop cursing the darkness of strip-mining and the largest forced removal of American citizens since the 19th century, and start lighting a candle for opportunities.
Here’s the first ad: Shawnee Hills Recreation
As a special pro bono project for Big Coal, this ad was created by YERT filmmaker Ben Evans for the Coal Free Future Project. Check out YERT (Your Environmental Road Trip) and their forthcoming feature film documentary @, along with the 50 short films already on their website. Here’s their trailer:

How Not to Be a Plain Jane

Plain Jane is a new summer reality series which I hosted. Each of the six episodes featured a new “Jane” searching for the change of a lifetime. The “Jane” of the week received a head-to-toe style transformation, including a new wardrobe and confidence-building exercises.
The show went beyond outward appearances to give all women the chance to make her romantic dreams come true. Once the transformation was complete, “Jane” surprised her unsuspecting crush with her new look and revealed her true feelings to him. A love connection is — or isn’t — made.
My tips…
Believe in your best bits. ‘Plain Jane’ is not about changing people or telling them they’re rubbish. It’s a positive message, which involves accentuating and tweaking assets – and we’ve all got at least one. So whether it’s your legs, your laugh, or your intricate knowledge of old movies, celebrate that thing and push it out there for all to see. Don’t be shy.
Look in the mirror naked. To dress your body, you need to know your body, and few of us are aware what specific shape we are. Are you top heavy? Apple? Pear? Column or hourglass? Wherever your flesh goes in and out, there are garments in the mall designed to specifically suit your shape. ‘Will it work on my figure,’ should be your first thought when shopping, as opposed to being distracted trend, color, price, fabric or which celebrity last wore it in the gossip magazines.
Buy the boy a drink. Women rarely buy the first drink, and chances are he’ll be flattered. Don’t be an aggressive cougar about it, but casually offering a beer to the guy you’ve got your eye on is a refreshing change from the usual motion of waiting for him to make the first move.
Enjoy yourself. As simple as that sounds, many of us worry so much about how we look, what we should be saying, and what everyone thinks of us that we look staged or uptight and forget to enjoy the moment. Fashion and dates are supposed to be fun, they’re not life-threatening diseases, so just relax and have a laugh. You’ve only got one life, time to live it.
Nothing ventured, nothing gained. One part of the show involves me making each ‘Jane’ tell her crush how she truly feels about him. Sometimes there’s a lot at stake – like 6 years of friendship or having to share an office with him afterwards. But not one girl regretted doing it. It was like a weight off their shoulders, a terrible fear finally conquered, and in some cases, the beginning of a blossoming romance. And it you’re a bumbling blunderer when you’re nervous, like some of the girls on the show were, don’t forget to rehearse your words!
Learn to walk in high heels. Practice makes perfect, and platforms or wedges are the easiest to balance in. Heels make you stand up straighter, they’re slimming, and they really make a difference to the silhouette and attitude you give off when entering a room, trust me!
Buy a red dress. If you’re single. You’re statistically more likely to be chatted up if you’re in red. I’d go for a one-shoulder shape, it’s elegant and chic and shows just enough skin to tickle a boy’s fancy…
Re-organize your closet. We only wear about a quarter of the clothes we own, mainly because our wardrobes are such a mess. Most things are lost and ignored in a messy bundle at the back. So get everything out on the bed, be objective about whether that decade-old little black dress could be updated with some new accessories or by a nip and tuck from the tailor. Color-coordinate the rest of your clothes and split everything into winter and summer, too.
Get your adrenaline pumping. Pick the most daring item on your bucket list and just do it. On Plain Jane we’ve been bungee-jumping, sky-diving and swimming with sharks. Don’t under-estimate how liberating facing a fear or pushing the envelope is. Stepping outside your comfort zone can help you see life with a whole new perspective, not to mention give you a little more faith in your own capabilities.
Invest in some color. Like it or not, your outfit speaks for you. Fact: we judge strangers on appearance within 8 seconds of meeting them. So you had better make your entrance count, whether it’s a job interview, a first date or a family gathering. So many – in fact, TOO many people – wear black, grey or brown, and allow themselves to fade into the background. Make a statement and be noticed in bright colors; it will certainly lift your mood, too.
The season finale of Plain Jane airs September 1 at 9pm on the CW.

Fifty First JDates 18 Mamas Boy

I am all for parenting. Having children, being a parent, spawning small Merediths, who go on Fifty First Toddler Playdates, etcetera. However, you gotta know where to draw the line. The myth of the overbearing Jewish mother – not a myth. I’m not entirely sure why this is. Boy #18 had a big case of the Mommies.
Newsflash: not sexy.
What I wore: Joe’s Jeans ripped denim jeggings (are jeggings over? Can I wear them a little bit longer? My mom says they resemble maternity wear. They are so comfy, and there is no fly, and they’re semi-hard to get on, it requires a little wiggle/jump, but they also suck you in!) A vintage cream button-down top that resembles an Equipment shirt. It was my Mom’s from the ’80s, in keeping with the theme of this date. My mom wore it when her shoulders had pads and her hair was 86% poofier, (which is saying something).
I think everyone’s mom had 1988 Hair that was a mix between a lion’s mane and what happens when you put your pinkie in an electrical socket. Stuart Weitzman black clogs accompanied this faboosh ensemble. Clogs are onomatopoeic. Cloggity clog clog clog.
Where we went: His mom’s house. Just kidding! Bourbon, Adams Morgan.
I liked this place, save for the several obnoxiously loud frat party entourages wearing matching polo shirts and screaming about football or women or something. Have the peanut butter pie.
There was some good conversation to be had – the importance of eel sauce, growing up in DC (I mean, I grew up in DC. He grew up in Potomac. SO NOT THE SAME), our pets. He talked about his mom a lot. And it was weird. And it was annoying, and I feel like he should have just brought Darlene on our date, shoulder-pads and all, so that she could fix the shmutz on his face.
Don’t get me wrong – this guy was really nice, pretty cute, and amusing. But talking about your parents on a date has the same amount of sexual zest as discussing Fetal Alcohol Syndrome. None.
It was sort of like when I dated a dental graduate student for a hot second freshman year of college. I went to a dental pregame (sugar-free chasers!) and began a sentence absentmindedly with “My mom.” I blame it on the word vomit, as I do most things. After realizing my faux pas, I sucked down my molar-friendly beverage and wandered off to look at some nerve endings, wanting to melt into the linoleum.
There’s nothing wrong with talking about your parents – they did feed you Cheerios in your high chair. It’s just important that you climb out of that high-chair and put on your big boy pants, or slip on your jeggings.
After our date we walked along the scenic crack-den that is Adams Morgan. I gave him a kiss on the cheek, and then licked my hand and patted down a stray hair that was fluttering in the wind. “Darlene would have wanted me to do that,” I said.

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After 30 Years of Federal Subsidies and Tariffs Ethanol Can Go It Alone

Corn-based ethanol has been America’s leading biofuel for more than 30 years and has blossomed into a thriving business. American farms and refineries now generate half of all ethanol produced around the globe.
Despite being a mature and profitable industry, corn ethanol producers are lobbying hard to extend perks they have enjoyed for three decades. The debate is heating up on Capitol Hill because the two main subsidies – a tax credit for blending ethanol with gasoline and an import tax on foreign ethanol, particularly Brazilian sugarcane ethanol – expire at the end of the year.
A diverse group of critics – including meat producers, anti-hunger activists, taxpayer advocates, free-market groups and environmental organizations – argue the subsidies are unnecessary and expensive. These strange bedfellows, who rarely agree on much else, are urging Congress to reform the existing ethanol policies. Defenders of the subsidies counter that the United States would suffer catastrophic job losses without them, domestic biofuel production would plummet and America would become more dependent on foreign energy.
To learn what would really happen, we turned to leading agricultural economists at Iowa State University, in the heart of corn country. The researchers at Iowa State found that Americans would benefit from ending the tax credit and trade protection. Key findings from the study, which was published last month, included the following:
Domestic Production. Elimination of the subsidies would have practically no short-term impact on U.S. corn and ethanol demand. That’s because Congress already mandates the use of renewable fuels like ethanol, and those requirements will triple from 13 billion gallons today to 36 billion gallons by 2022. As a result, corn ethanol production would continue to increase to some 14.5 billion gallons by 2014 even without tax credits or tariffs.
Taxpayer Savings. In a time of soaring budget deficits, $6 billion annually is real money. Ending the ethanol subsidies would save that amount. Yet some Washington politicians want to spend $30 billion for five more years of subsidies to corn ethanol.
Jobs. The study estimates that ethanol producers could lose about 300 jobs in 2014 – an estimate that’s miles away from the corn lobbyists’ dire warnings of losing up to 160,000 jobs. Spending $6 billion per year to save perhaps 300 jobs is a high price to pay. That’s $20 million per year per job lost!
Foreign Dependency. Because of strong demand in Brazil (the #2 ethanol market), imports are constrained and would rise only modestly to about 740 million gallons in 2014 – less than 5% of the total U.S. market.
Fuel Prices. Ending the subsidies would reduce ethanol prices by 12 cents per gallon in 2011 and 34 cents per gallon in 2014. Because most gas sold in the United States contains 10% ethanol – a limit the Environmental Protection Agency may increase to 15% this fall – lower ethanol prices would lead to modest savings at the pump.
The bottom line is that competition works. The market for corn-based ethanol will still grow. Productive farmers and ethanol refiners will keep their jobs. But Americans also would have access to clean and affordable sugarcane ethanol. Consumers and taxpayers will benefit.
Brazil ended government subsidies for ethanol more than a decade ago and eliminated its ethanol tariff early this year. It is time for America to do the same. As the world’s top producers of ethanol, the United States and Brazil should lead by example in creating a free market for clean, renewable energy.
Consumers win when businesses have to compete in an open market, because competition produces higher quality products at lower costs. The same principle holds true for renewable fuels. Competition will create a race to the future and generate better alternatives for Americans.
Joel Velasco is the Chief Representative in North America for UNICA, the Brazilian Sugarcane Industry Association. His e-mail address is [email protected]
For more information, visit

Clean energy drowned out in Washington by a Two Billion Dollar Juggernaut

Red State bloggers are all in a tizzy over an Open Secrets article showing that the American Wind Energy Association spent over $5 million last year on lobbying politicians in Washington, DC.
It’s about time we started seeing the clean energy sector make its voice heard on Capitol Hill and I hope we see more people pushing lawmakers to consider legislation that promotes the use of clean and unlimited sources of energy like the sun and the wind.
But the hair-pulling by Red State bloggers is more than a little ridiculous when you consider that the American Wind Energy Association’s $5 million lobby expenditure is equal to about 5 minutes of lobbying by the oil and gas lobby which spent a whopping $175 million in the same time period.
Looking over the last ten years, the numbers are even more startling.
Since 1999 the oil and gas sector has spent over $862 million – close to a billion dollars – trying to win concessions in the Capitol for their products. Combine this amount with the approx. $1.2 billion spent by electrical utilities and that is over $2 billion since 1999 in the name of oil, gas and coal.
In the same period the entire alternative energy sector spent a meager $105 million – one-twentieth the amount spent by its main competition.
Lobbying has its place in politics, no doubt about it – everyone, including industry, should have a chance to convince politicians of their argument for or against a proposed law or regulation. But the system is broken when a single sector can flood Capitol Hill with close to a billion dollars and drown out any other voice, which is exactly what the oil and gas industry does every day to great effect.

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Latino Youth Have Their Say on Arizona and SB1070

Students should be focused on getting back to school right now, not worrying about whether their parents will be targeted because they look Latino. Policies that target immigrants and their families have left Latino youth feeling anxious and frustrated, yet motivated to defend traditional American values such as fairness, freedom, and respect for diversity.
Today, NCLR released A Wake-Up Call: Latino Youth Speak Out About Arizona SB 1070, the findings from a forum held in July with 150 Latino youth leaders about Arizona’s anti-immigrant law, SB 1070, which is under temporary injunction but has been widely criticized by civil rights groups for attempting to legitimize and legalize racial profiling. Young people are our future leaders, workers, and voters. Raising them in an environment where Latinos are vilified and face discrimination is detrimental to our nation.
SB 1070 took effect as of July 29, but a U.S. District Court judge enjoined some of the most controversial elements of the law, including those that would have legitimized racial profiling and preempted federal authority over immigration laws.
The temporary injunction is expected to be reviewed by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals on November 2. Despite concerns over the constitutionality and consequences of this law, similar legislation has been floated in 22 other states. NCLR is among leading civil rights, labor, and faith organizations that have organized to boycott Arizona until the law is permanently repealed, overturned by the courts, or superseded by federal comprehensive immigration reform legislation.
NCLR researchers spoke with the Hispanic teenagers–most of whom are college students and second-generation Americans from across the nation–at its youth leadership convening, the Lderes Summit, during the 2010 NCLR Annual Conference in San Antonio in July. Their comments reveal the impact that anti-immigrant rhetoric, policies, and sentiment have on the everyday lives of Latino youth. One participant said that discrimination “is unjust and makes me as a Latino feel like less of a person.”
The youth spoke about their worries for family and friends, their alarm over racial profiling and discrimination, and growing concern over the disintegration of equality and respect for diversity. They expressed concern about the current collapse of American values, with one student saying: “It makes people lose hope for justice being served in the U.S.A.” They also spoke about their resolve to overcome these challenges by taking action and getting more engaged in their communities.
We will see more and more young Hispanics registering to vote and playing a larger role in determining our country’s political landscape. Rather than bashing immigrants and Latinos, politicians should focus on educating this next generation of leaders so they can in turn strengthen our economy and champion cherished American values such as fairness and justice.
Latino youth represent 22% of the U.S. population under the age of 18, and 92% are U.S. citizens. They are a potentially powerful voting bloc. According to Democracia U.S.A.’s analysis of U.S. Census data, 500,000 Hispanics will turn 18–making them eligible to vote– every year for the next 20 years. It would not be smart for our leaders to continue to ignore injustices against the Hispanic community. Now, more than ever, legislators must turn a deaf ear to the loud, divisive rhetoric of the immigration debate and work to find real solutions. Now, more than ever, Americans must take action and voice their disgust with SB1070. Make a personal pledge to boycott intolerance and send a message that enough is enough.

Death row inmate commits suicide after sentence lifted

Death row inmate commits suicide after sentence lifted

A 70-year-old death row inmate at California's San Quentin State Prison has killed himself a week after his death sentence was lifted.
A prison spokesman said a guard found George Smithey dead in his cell hanging from a noose made from bed sheets.
A judge ruled last week that Smithey was mentally retarded and therefore ineligible for the death penalty.
It is unclear if Smithey – sentenced to death in 1989 for murder – knew the judge had lifted the sentence.
The state Supreme Court ordered the sentence be reconsidered in 2008 because of the US Supreme Court's 2002 ruling that executing the mentally retarded violated a constitutional ban on cruel and unusual punishment.
A judge commuted Smithey's sentence to life without parole on 23 August, 2010.
The judge had rejected a defence of mental impairment at Smithey's 1989 trial, Deputy District Attorney Seth Matthews told the San Francisco Chronicle newspaper.
Smithey was convicted of murder, robbery and attempted rape in the 1988 death of Cheryl Nesler.


The Real Lesson from the Great Depression Fiscal Policy Works

Cross-posted from New Deal 2.0.
If the US government had a dollar every time someone proclaimed to learn the lessons of the Great Depression, we probably wouldn’t have a budget deficit. Usually, these debates turn on the question of fiscal policy and whether in fact, FDR’s New Deal had a discernable role in generating recovery. “Fiscal austerians” have done much to dismiss the economic achievements of the New Deal, some even suggesting that FDR’s fiscal policies worsened the crisis.
For a brief period during 2008, the views of neo-liberals like Alan Greenspan and Robert Rubin were shunted aside. But the FDR revisionists, who disapprove of fiscal policy measures of any kind, have come back. Now they’re brandishing the old arguments that “excessive” government spending risks “crowding out” private spending, making it impossible for the US government to deal with the recession (because it has run out of money) and hindering the capacity of the private sector to recover because of too much government interference in the “free market”. These complaints are usually accompanied by a wave of rhetoric condemning the “business un-friendly” policies of the current Administration, along with dire warnings of a “national solvency” crisis. After all, fiscal austerians are nothing, if not fully predictable.
Was the 1937 Relapse Caused by Increased Taxes and Unions?
In that context, we have to give some credit to Professors Thomas Cooley and Lee Ohanian, who have taken a more novel approach in their critique of the New Deal. In some respects, they actually validate the case for fiscal policy expansion (although the two authors might not see it that way). Cooley and Ohanian argue that:
The OMB numbers suggest that spending actually DID decline in 1937 and 1938 (see here) and, contrary to the assertions of Cooley and Ohanian, that decline had a very deleterious impact on economic activity and employment. I will address the tax issue presently, but let’s first deal with the “excessive unionization” canard. An objective observer looking at the US in the 21st century would hardly conclude that unions have any real power in the American economy today, any more that we have a “socialist” government dedicated to the promotion of a vast left wing agenda which enhanced union power. Obama has not addressed Labor Law reform and wages haven’t risen in a generation; in fact, last year they fell.
True, the President occasionally does display a social democratic rhetoric, but so far, redistributive policies have primarily benefited financial institutions. Social security benefits are under threat via a new “bipartisan commission” on long term deficits, public health care insurance proposals were eviscerated in the “health care reform” bill, and trade unions outside the public sector have withered over the past 30 years. Cost of living adjustment clauses have largely disappeared since the early ’80s (although some government benefits like social security retain them), average hourly earnings are virtually flat, and I would not be surprised to see wage deflation before the unemployment rate peaks this time around. US households are paying down debt on a net basis — even credit card debt — and creditors remain reluctant to make new loans. So the odds of a wage/price spiral taking root as a consequence of excessive union power look decidedly low – in fact, close to zero.
On the other question of taxes, I actually have some degree of sympathy with the arguments of Cooley and Ohanian, but largely because functionally, a tax increase works as a countercyclical policy which mitigates the impact of fiscal policy expansion.
Let’s go back to basics. Under a fiat currency regime, such as we have in the US, when the Federal government spends, it electronically credits banks accounts. Taxation works exactly in reverse. Private bank accounts are debited (and private reserves fall) and the government accounts are credited and their reserves rise. All this is accomplished by accounting entries only, but the main point is that spending creates new net financial assets and taxation drains them.
So in one sense, Cooley and Ohanian are right. Tax hikes do cut aggregate demand, much as government spending cuts do. In economic terms, both serve to depress economic activity. We agree with the authors: tax rises at this juncture are a dumb idea. They won’t serve to “reduce” the deficit, because the resultant impact on private sector activity is likely to diminish it and thereby increase the gap between government expenditures and revenues as the economy slows down.
The broader issue of government spending versus tax cuts is a political/distributional argument, and economists (and others) can legitimately argue about the respective multiplier effects of one versus the other. But at least this kind of discussion shifts the debate in the right direction -toward increasing economic activity and, hence, job growth and away from wrong-headed discussions of fiscal austerity and deficit reduction as a primary policy goal of government. FDR ran into trouble only when he moved away from fiscal expansion toward austerity in 1937.
At the outset of the Great Depression, economic output collapsed, and unemployment rose to 25 per cent. Influenced by his “liquidationist” Treasury Secretary, Andrew Mellon, then President Hoover made comparatively minimal attempts to deploy government fiscal policy to stimulate aggregate demand. Further, the Federal Reserve actually sold bonds to push up interest rates in a mindless effort to stem the gold outflows that we occurring as the rest of the world lost confidence in the US economy. So much for the halcyon days of the gold standard!
FDR’s Employment and Wage Strategy Worked
This all changed under FDR. The key to evaluating Roosevelt’s performance in combating the Depression is the statistical treatment of many millions of unemployed engaged in his massive workfare programs. The government hired about 60 per cent of the unemployed in public works and conservation projects that planted a billion trees, saved the whooping crane, modernized rural America, and built such diverse projects as the Cathedral of Learning in Pittsburgh, the Montana state capitol, much of the Chicago lakefront, New York’s Lincoln Tunnel and Triborough Bridge complex, the Tennessee Valley Authority and the aircraft carriers Enterprise and Yorktown.
It also built or renovated 2,500 hospitals, 45,000 schools, 13,000 parks and playgrounds, 7,800 bridges, 700,000 miles of roads, and a thousand airfields. And it employed 50,000 teachers, rebuilt the country’s entire rural school system, and hired 3,000 writers, musicians, sculptors and painters, including Willem de Kooning and Jackson Pollock. So much for the notion that government jobs are not “real jobs”, as we hear persistently from critics of the New Deal!
The reasons for the discrepancies in the unemployment data that have historically arisen out of the New Deal are that the current sampling method of estimation for unemployment by the BLS was not developed until 1940 (for more detail see here). If these workfare Americans are considered to be unemployed, the Roosevelt administration reduced unemployment from 25 per cent in 1933 to 9.6% per cent in 1936, up to 13 per cent in 1938 (due largely to a reversal of the fiscal activism which had characterized FDR’s first term in office), back to less than 1 per cent by the time the U.S. was plunged into the Second World War at the end of 1941.
In fact, once the Great Depression hit bottom in early 1933, the US economy embarked on four years of expansion that constituted the biggest cyclical boom in U.S. economic history. For four years, real GDP grew at a 12% rate and nominal GDP grew at a 14% rate. There was another shorter and shallower depression in 1937 largely caused by renewed fiscal tightening (and higher Federal Reserve margin requirements).
This economic relapse has led to the misconception that the central bank was pushing on a string throughout all of the 1930s, until the giant fiscal stimulus of the wartime effort finally brought the economy out of depression. That’s factually incorrect. Most accounts of the Great Depression understate the effect of the New Deal job creation measures, because they don’t show how much of the decline in official employment was attributable to the multiplier effect of spending on direct job creation. Also, the “work relief” category does not include employment on public works funded by the Public Works Administration (PWA) nor the multiplier effect of PWA spending. The figures tell the story indirectly, however, in the path official unemployment followed — steeply declining in periods when work relief spending was high and either declining more slowly or increasing in periods when work relief spending was cut back. In fact, by the end of 1934, more than 20 million Americans (one out of six!) were receiving jobs or public assistance of one form or another from the “Welfare State”.
Yes, 9.6% unemployment at the end of 1936 was still a big number. But it’s hard to imagine the Democrats being in political peril for the midterms, or witnessing the current abysmal state of Obama’s popularity ratings, if today’s Administration could reduce unemployment by two-thirds in one term in office, as FDR did under any honest measure of unemployment. Suffice to say, unemployment reduction was the singular focus of the Roosevelt Administration; by contrast, today we have “the new normal”, in effect, a faux intellectual argument to justify why we can’t generate higher job growth. It’s a testament to political failure.
In reference to the criticism of FDR’s “high wage” policy by Cooley and Ohanian, it is worth noting that the wage “inflation” which they decry was in reality a product of a deflationary environment in which the general price level fell faster than the money wage level. During the outset of the Great Depression, output generation collapsed in the face of the US federal government’s fiscal inaction and central bank interest rate hikes. This had the strange result of generating a counter-cyclical real wage increase, which in fact was nothing more than a product of depressed nature of the economy, in which overall prices were deflating prices faster than wages (for more information see here).
Overlaying the wage data with the true reduction in unemployment between 1933 to the end of 1936, makes it difficult to mount an empirical case that FDR wage improvements during the Great Depression were damaging to overall economic growth and increasing employment. Even if some sectors were disadvantaged (and that isn’t proven by Cooley and Ohanian) the evidence actually suggests that the rises in real wages were associated with rising overall employment.
Relapse Caused by Austerity Measures
What about the relapse in 1937/38? By 1936 many economists and financial experts (notably FDR’s Treasury Secretary, Henry Morgenthau) feared the country would go bankrupt if the government kept deficit-spending (sound familiar?). And after all, they argued, the government deficits had “pump-primed” the economy. The private sector could now take off on its own and get back to close to the full employment level of 1928-early 1929.
Consequently, Roosevelt ran (in 1936) on a platform that he would try to reduce, if not eliminate, the deficit. He won the election by a landslide — understandably, as the U.S. was out of depression by 1937. True to his campaign promise, government spending was cut significantly in 1937 and 1938, and taxes were raised to “fund” the new Social Security program. By 1938 Roosevelt submitted a budget in which the deficit was virtually eliminated (0.1% of GDP). The resultant economic relapse, based on efforts to balance the budget, exacerbated by a nonsensically tight monetary policy brought on by the Fed, duly followed.
This is unsurprising. Any type of fiscal austerity during a period of economic slowdown, whether via government spending cuts or higher taxes, will indeed depress economic activity.
But the other lesson of the Great Depression is that properly targeted fiscal policy which focuses on job creation can work. The Great Depression was indeed a disastrous human calamity but FDR’s New Deal (including the high wage policies) attenuated the disaster. There is nothing to the claims that the interventions made things worse, other than when Roosevelt himself capitulated to the tired old forces of financial conservatism and fiscal austerianism, and the economy paid the price. Thankfully, FDR was not ideologically wed to the ideas of fiscal austerity and quickly reversed course. It helped, of course, that his Cabinet was well represented by progressive figures such as Frances Perkins, Henry Wallace, Harold Ickes and Harry Hopkins, who overcame the forces of economic conservatism embodied by FDR’s Treasury Secretary, Henry Morgenthau. We need these kinds of progressive forces in current Administration, especially given the recent resignation of CEA head, Christina Romer. It’s time to let go of the old ideology, which created today’s crisis. Here’s hoping that President Obama, like FDR before him, changes course quickly. America is ready for a new New Deal.
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Just Another Walk

I had made that walk at least a hundred times before. The long and
arduous trek from the front gate back to our offices, humping fifty
pounds of body armor on my back with a heavy machine gun slung on my
side. The smell of sweat and dirt filled my nostrils as the Kevlar
collar pressed crooked up against my face. I walked with a
pseudo-limp because of the hot black steal barrel that always fell
uncomfortably up against my left calf. From afar I’m sure I looked
like a boy in a man’s uniform, unfit and improperly sized for the
adult accoutrements with which I was adorned. I felt numb as I
usually did after a four hour watch in the heat of the day and,
although it was over and I was on my way back to the sanctuary of air
conditioning, the unpleasantness of it all still lingered.
Suddenly a wave of feeling ran over me and I stopped in my tracks.
No sound of alarm or internal worry gave reason for my halt but a pure
moment of existentialism washed over me and abruptly woke me from my
daze. I stood still for a second and stared up at the blazing sun
that I’m still sure to this day burns hotter there in F.O.B. Loyalty
than anywhere else in the world. I looked away and my vision was
filled with white fuzzy spots as my eyes scanned the ground around me.
The spots didn’t seem out of place against the white and rocky earth
on which I stood. More so at that second than any of the months
before or the months that would follow I felt out of place; a
foreigner in a strange land without reason. I lost my identity for
only a moment and could see myself as others in ages past. I was sure
that other young men had stood near this exact spot and felt the same
way. They knew they were somewhere they didn’t want to (and
rightfully shouldn’t) be, because of reasons they couldn’t understand.
I felt overwhelming pity for all living things both past and present.
I felt an anxiety for the future life forms that would stand in this
place and feel the way I did at that moment. For just a second I
forgot my conditioning, or rather this societal conditioning that has
taken many generations to cultivate failed me.
As I stood there, temporarily dumbfounded, a friendly helicopter sped
over me at a low enough altitude to blast me with air and a bit of
dust and debris. It wasn’t a cooling relief as it felt more like a
giant hairdryer hovering above my head but it did awaken me from my
conscious slumber. I hunched back over and began moving forward again
like a dog pulling a sled, but my snow was sand and my sled was the
gear of war. My mind, however, continued to wander away, passing over
and analyzing what I had felt in that strange second. Perhaps it was
heat exhaustion or lack of food or lack of sleep or lack of any of the
other things that seemed to turn up short in my life during that time.
I got back to the office and plopped myself down in one of the cheap
leather chairs at the linguists’ listening station. I sat for several
minutes just thinking or rather not thinking before a friend pointed
out that I was still wearing all my gear and hadn’t off-loaded my
weapon. With a delayed response I told him that I thought I needed
some food, and so we headed out of the office and into the hall. I
traded my helmet and body armor for a soft-cap and uniform blouse. I
borrowed a sidearm from my commander so I didn’t have to carry the
heavy on the walk to chow. We walked fast down the road and around
the corner toward the mess hall. My friend jokingly pointed out the
“pot holes” that covered the road.
“They are really letting these roads go to shit,” he said.
I gave a laugh that sounded more like a sigh. I had heard it too many
times in the last few days — the same joke about the craters from a
heavy shelling that our base in East Baghdad had been blessed with the
week before.
We brandished our IDs to the guard stationed at the outer perimeter
of the dining facility and continued to walk down the heavily
fortified corridor toward the actual entrance. At the washing station
(hand washing is mandatory), I cupped my hands together and let them
fill and overflow with the cold clean water. My face met my hands
half way, and I attempted to rub away the dirt and sweat and anything
else that still lingered on my face and in my mind. We grabbed some
fried food to-go and sat at a table near the exit chugging ice water
and sodas for a minute in preparation for the walk back to work. I
must have been staring off in a strange way because my friend asked me
if I was feeling all right. I hesitated to explain, unsure if I
wanted to open the Pandora’s box that is the soldier’s mind while away
at war. The genuine concern in his eyes got the best of me and so I
began to recount my walk back from guard shift that day. I tried to
convey the strangeness of that moment under the sun, stressing (and
possibly exaggerating) the meaning underneath it all. I could hear
myself going on and on and began to feel like a babbling patient on
the couch with a therapist. I wrapped up the story abruptly, feeling
a bit embarrassed and exposed by my gushing.
With a look of understanding, my friend nodded and looked away for a
second as if he was thinking of something similar, or at least
related, to what I had been saying.
“Lot’s of weird stuff happens out here,” he said. “I think it helps
to tell each other stories about it.”
As we got up from the table and began heading back to the office, I
felt a strange sense of relief, a lightness. Not because I thought
that someone else understood what I had gone through, but perhaps
because someone else had listened and I had said it all aloud. The
walk back was less memorable and being received by the air
conditioning felt more natural. I traded in my sidearm for my heavy
and my soft cap for my helmet, but I left the body armor under the
desk. I wouldn’t have that walk again until tomorrow.

Food Corporations Lie Yet Again

Flip through just about any women’s magazine and you will find Chef Tyler Florence’s smiling face with a quote saying, “Delicious news: Wish Bone helps you absorb more of the vitamins in your salad…” The quote goes on to say that it’s the nutritious oils in Wish Bone dressings that help the body better absorb antioxidants vitamins A and E from the salad.
But wait, is that an asterisk I see after that claim? Sure is.
At the bottom of the ad, well below Chef Florence’s confident smirk is the following disclaimer (in the tiniest, illegible type possible to still be legal): “*Vs a salad without dressing. Wish-Bone Dressings contain up to 130 calories, 13 g of fat, 2 g of saturated fat and 340 mg of sodium per serving. The actual increase in absorption will vary depending on the amount and type of dressing used and the type of salad.”
And the delicious news would be what, exactly? That another huge corporation wants to sell you swill in a salad dressing bottle and is willing to bend the truth to do it?
Wish-Bone knows America loves celebrity chefs. Celebrity chefs are respected and admired. Hell, we are rock stars. People listen to us and trust our advice about food. I know; I am one. With that respect comes a responsibility to tell people the truth, not spin it so another company can pull one over on the public again. I don’t think we can be party to that kind of deception. It makes us no better than the talking heads on “Fox News” spinning the truth into fear and hate for the benefit of ratings.
Wish-Bone is trying to sell us the nonsense that their dressings are the reason that a salad is healthy for us; their nutritious oils, to quote them. Let’s take a look at what Wish-Bone is really feeding us.
Their website qualifies their claim even more than their ads. It says that the absorption benefits only apply to salad dressings with 2 grams of fat or more and only to the dressings that make the claim on their package. Interesting…
Wish-Bone House Italian weighs in at 110 calories for a 2-tablespoon serving, along with 10 grams of fat and 2 grams of sugar. (And who eats only 2 tablespoons of dressing?) It seems all the dressings include sugar, salt, water, sodium benzoate, calcium disodium edta and/or sulphur dioxide to protect quality (that means preservatives, folks), caramel color, a variety of flavors, natural and not so much and soybean (likely GMO) and extra virgin olive oil.
There are references on the site to the science of bioavailability and how oil or fat is needed in order for the body to absorb fat soluble nutrients like vitamins A and C, our powerful antioxidant pals. All true, all good information, but not likely the cornerstone of Wish-Bone dressings.
Once again, a powerful corporate giant teams up with your friendly celeb chef up to sell you a bill of goods; dressings that take your salads from being a healthy choice to being one of the myriad reasons your waistline continues to expand. Leave it Wish-Bone to turn healthy foods sour.
They quote the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition as saying that the addition of full fat dressings promote the absorption lycopene, alpha and beta carotenes, all of which aid in protecting us from heart disease and some cancers. But then their products are loaded with ingredients not so great for health. So it’s a big trade-off. Nutritious oils combined with not so nutritious preservatives, artificial flavors and sugar sort of compromise their nutritious claim pretty quickly.
But okay, you can argue that Wish-Bone just wants to sell dressing and their bottles don’t boast the worst of ingredient lists out there, to be frank. But what’s Tyler Florence’s excuse?
A graduate of Johnson & Wales in South Carolina, he has worked in the food business for nearly 20 years as a chef, restaurateur, cookbook author and “Food Network” star. He is regarded as, to quote his “Food Network” bio, “one of America’s most important culinary voices. He is a father, family man and a nice guy.”
So why sell out of the consumer? A savvy businessman, it would be tough to believe that this quote was used without his approval. It would be tough to believe, with his background and understanding of food, that he did not know the agenda here; that he did not know that Wish Bone was twisting the truth to serve their purpose and sell America more processed foods.
Want to create a salad that really helps the body absorb antioxidants more effectively? Make a classic vinaigrette of 4 parts extra virgin olive or avocado oil, 1 part lemon/lime juice or vinegar, sea salt and cracked black pepper to taste. You’ll create a delicious truly healthy salad; absorb all your fat-soluble nutrients. No sodium benzoate, calcium disodium edta, sulphur dioxide, caramel color or anything else less than natural to compromise your health.
Wish Wish-Bone adieu and make a healthy salad as Mother Nature intended, not as they and Tyler Florence want to sell you.

The Pentagons Message on Cybersecurity

In the last few days, several news sources have reported on a recent article by the Defense Department’s Deputy Under Secretary William Lynn III that revealed that in 2008 malware from an infected flash drive found its way into the U.S. Central Command computer network. This malware, which sought to spy on U.S. secret military networks, is alleged to have been developed by a foreign government. But the real story is not that such an attack occurred (indeed, Wired presents a rather cogent argument that perhaps this was not an attack by a foreign power at all). Rather the importance of the article is its description of the Pentagon’s cybersecurity policy.
While many in Washington have been arguing for better forms of attribution in order to deter such attacks, Lynn says straight out that’s not the issue. Cold War deterrence models of assured retaliation are unlikely to work. The speed of action and reaction in cyberspace is so fast that it is simply impossible to attribute with sufficient certainty to launch a counterattack. The rules of engagement, Lynn points out, must be “appropriate, proportional, and
justified — in each particular case.”
Defense is what matters, and Lynn claims that in the last two years, under the U.S. Cyber Command the U.S. military has streamlined responses to attacks, while NSA has sharpened its intrusion detection efforts and the Pentagon has enhanced its ability to search for “lurkers” within DoD networks. All good (if it works), and none of it a surprise. But the next issue Lynn raises is.
The Defense Department’s Deputy Under Secretary says that the threat to U.S. intellectual property — the inventions, processes, and business plans of U.S. industry — “may be the most significant cyberthreat that the United States will face over the long term.” Lynn’s absolutely right, and he’s pointing to a really hard problem.
The U.S. Department of Defense employs half a million people, and it hasn’t been able to secure its systems. It may be appropriate for defense contractors to adopt some of the same cyberdefenses as the U.S. military, but extending government military defenses to other companies beyond the .gov realm is not (nor is that solution suggested by Lynn). So how will a Cisco, Apple, or Genentech — to pick three powerhouses of U.S. industry — with sixty-four thousand, sixteen thousand, and eleven thousand employees respectively — do it?
Solving this cybersecurity question is the 64 billion dollar question. How much of the intrusion detection and intrusion prevention systems designed by the U.S. government is appropriate for use by U.S. industry? Who should be controlling the systems? Should the technology be shared with multinational corporations? Openness is an issue. Companies want your “visit” to them to be easy, but visiting is different from intruding. What is the right balance between an open website and requiring credentials (asking web visitors to register cuts initial inquiries in half)? When security solutions fail, who is at fault, and how should liability be handled?
We’ll need changes in technology — over the last two decades we giddily interconnected without building in security from the start. We’ll also need new policy and legal regimes. Protecting U.S. industry is the primary cybersecurity issue. Good for Lynn
for saying so.

The Awful Price for Teaching Less than We Know

Watching Glenn Beck’s performance Saturday at his “Restoring Honor” rally in Washington, DC, I thought of the novelist Sinclair Lewis’ Elmer Gantry, the charlatan evangelist who seduces most of those around him with his hearty backslapping and false piety.
Then I realized it wasn’t Gantry of whom I was reminded so much as another Lewis character, Berzelius “Buzz” Windrip, the politician who poses as a populist, then once elected president turns the United States into a fascist dictatorship, aided by an angry, unknowing electorate and a paramilitary group called the Minute Men.
Read how Sinclair Lewis described Windrip seventy-five years ago in his novel It Can’t Happen Here and think Beck: “He was an actor of genius. There was no more overwhelming actor on the stage, in the motion pictures, nor even in the pulpit. He would whirl arms, bang tables, glare from mad eyes, vomit Biblical wrath from a gaping mouth; but he would also coo like a nursing mother, beseech like an aching lover, and in between tricks would coldly and almost contemptuously jab his crowds with figures and facts — figures and facts that were inescapable even when, as often happened, they were entirely incorrect.”
Entirely incorrect. In its despair and confusion, a large segment of the American populace is prepared to believe anything it’s told, in part because we are a country less and less educated, increasingly unable to tell fact from fiction because we are so unschooled in basic essential knowledge about America and the world/
I remembered a conversation my friend and colleague Bill Moyers had with journalist and author Susan Jacoby on Bill Moyers Journal in 2008, just after the publication of her book, The Age of American Unreason.
She cited a 2006 National Geographic-Roper Survey: “Only 23 percent of college-educated young people could find Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Iran and Israel, four countries of ultimate importance to American policy on the map — a map, by the way, that had the countries lettered on it. So in other words, it wasn’t a blank map, [which] meant they didn’t really know where the Middle East was either… If only 23 percent of people with some college can find those countries on a map that is nothing to be bragging about. And that has to have something to do with why, as a country, we have such shallow political discussions.”
It’s not much of a leap from there to the Pew Research Center survey earlier this month reporting “nearly one-in-five Americans (18%) now say Obama is a Muslim, up from 11% in March 2009. Only about one-third of adults (34%) say Obama is a Christian, down sharply from 48% in 2009.”
The jump in the “Obama is a Muslim” numbers is sharpest among Republicans (and a new Newsweek poll finds a majority of Republicans also believe that it’s “definitely” or “probably” true that “Barack Obama sympathizes with Islamic fundamentalists who want to impose Islamic law around the world”). But as New York Times blogger Timothy Egan noted in an entry headlined, “Building a Nation of Know-Nothings,” it’s “not just that 46 percent of Republicans believe the lie that Obama is a Muslim, or that 27 percent in the party doubt that the president of the United States is a citizen. But fully half of them believe falsely that the big bailout of banks and insurance companies under TARP was enacted by Obama, and not by President Bush.”
Back when Moyers spoke with Susan Jacoby about “the ignorance and erosion of historical memory that makes serious deceptions possible and plausible,” she cited as an example that, “If we don’t know what our Constitution says about the separation of powers then it certainly affects the way we decide all kinds of public issues.”
According to a survey conducted last year by The American Revolution Center, a non-partisan, educational group, more than half of American adults “mistakenly believe the Constitution established a government of direct democracy, rather than a democratic republic,” a third don’t know that the right to trial-by-jury is guaranteed by the Bill of Rights and “many more Americans remember that Michael Jackson sang ‘Beat It’ than know that the Bill of Rights is part of the Constitution.” (Sixty percent knew that reality TV’s Jon and Kate Gosselin had eight kids but more than a third did not know that the American Revolution took place in the 18th century.)
So is it any wonder that many Tea Partiers are equally unknowing of the fact that much of their grass roots movement is bankrolled by fat cats with ulterior motives like billionaire libertarians David Koch and his brother Charles, who, as a former associate told The New Yorker’s Jane Mayer, seems to have “confused making money with freedom?” Or that continuing tax cuts for the rich while supporting deficit reduction are inherently incompatible concepts? Or that raging Islamophobia plays right into the hands of radical terrorists who use our bigotry to incite and recruit? Or that Glenn Beck just says whatever craziness pops into his head?
“It’s one thing to forget the past, with predictable consequences, as the favorite aphorism goes,” Timothy Egan wrote on the Times website. “But what about those who refuse to comprehend the present?”
Years ago, I attended a rally protesting government cuts in funding for education and the arts. One of the speakers suggested that we boomers may be the first generation to teach the next generation less than we know. That often-willful ignorance may turn out to be our final, fatal mistake, the greatest American tragedy of all.
Michael Winship is senior writer at Public Affairs Television in New York City.

Ground Zero in Net Neutrality Debate New Survey Shows Consumers Will Abandon Slower Sites Fast

We’ve heard a lot lately from the corporate and governmental sides of the net-neutrality debate. Today a new survey shows the consumer side — and what all the jockeying is really about. The key finding: Many visitors will abandon websites that load slowly, and some will go to competitive sites as a result.
It’s clear that millions of dollars are at stake — for some companies, billions, if new regulations allow some sites to have a speed advantage. This survey, conducted for Gomez by Equation Research, shows that consumers are getting increasingly impatient with slow websites — a cautionary tale for all web businesses.
The survey shows that nearly a third of visitors will start abandoning slow sites anywhere between one and five seconds. That’s quite a difference from the “eight-second rule” of a decade ago and the half-minute many of us were willing to wait in the early, dial-up days of the web.
There’s simply so much competition, most consumers know they can find what they want on another site if their original destination is too slow or unavailable. That means every second counts. The survey reveals that 37 percent of consumers say a slow site makes them less likely to return, and 27 percent say they’d be more likely to visit a competitor’s site.
Two-thirds of all consumers say they encounter slow-loading sites on a weekly or more frequent basis, and 70 percent agree that slow-loading sites are “frustrating.”
If you think this is just an unfounded opinion, think again. We recently monitored 500 million individual web-user interactions, which showed that with an extra two seconds of wait time, user abandonment rates rise by eight percent. For an extra eight seconds of wait time, abandonment rises by 38 percent. Those are big numbers in today’s highly competitive business environment.
And what about the mobile web? Certainly wireless device customers are more forgiving of slower sites on a smartphone? Well, only to a point. More than half expect websites to load as fast on their mobile device as on their home computer.
It makes sense that mobile expectations are rising given the many exciting new mobile devices now available to consumers. But the reality is that wireless performance is still lagging behind.
Gomez real-user data shows that mobile users have significantly different experiences, depending on whether their network provider is a wireless carrier or traditional wired (or WiFi) ISP. There were also large performance variances among U.S. mobile network carriers compared to the more consistent wired networks.
However, not all mobile performance problems can be blamed on limitations inherent in today’s wireless networks. The best websites are structured or architected to minimize the impact of performance problems on the end-user experience. As consumers get increasingly savvy, more of them understand that some sites simply do better than others.
The bottom line for mobile: Regardless of who’s to blame for slow websites, the customer is likely to have a negative impression of the website itself.
This means slow websites risk a long-term, damaging effect on their corporate brands. Can you name a few websites you visit that consistently perform more slowly than others? Most active web visitors can.
In your mind, poor performance is now part of that website’s image. This can be just as damaging as a physical store, restaurant or other business that is known for its poor service. Now think of a few sites you visit that always load quickly. How positive is their brand image to you as a result?
That’s why the smartest web businesses do all they can to ensure a speedy web experience, regardless of the network being used. And why services that either monitor or speed up website performance are doing well. It’s also why major players are jockeying right now to influence net neutrality regulations to their advantage.
Imad Mouline is the Chief Technology Officer of Gomez, the web performance division of Compuware Corporation (NASDAQ: CPWR). He is a veteran of software architecture, research and development and is a recognized expert in web and mobile application development, testing and performance management. His breadth of expertise spans web 2.0, cloud computing, web browsers, web application architecture and infrastructure, and SaaS.

Make Sure This Cop Is Not Silenced

If you draw a paycheck from the City of Chicago, it’s usually not a good career move to criticize Mayor Daley and his top brass. But that didn’t stop Lieutenant John R. Andrews, a twenty-five year veteran of the Chicago Police Department, from speaking out last month about Good King Rich and his court in an online essay entitled: A City at War with Itself: Chicago — Fast Tracking to Anarchy (Understanding the Organizational Paralysis of the CPD and the Mission to Recovery).
Andrews’ title is far more complicated than his message, which, in a nutshell, is this: (1) CPD is woefully understaffed; (2) street cops are regularly outgunned by bands of thugs who no longer fear the police; (3) the corrupt culture of Chicago cronyism has left a lasting stain on the department; and (4) as a result of all these things, morale on the force is at an all-time low.
Andrews, by all accounts, is not a loose cannon. Nor is he a guy in search of his fifteen minutes of fame. He’s just a career cop who knew he was taking a risk by posting his controversial essay on a personal blog.
He told the Chicago Sun-Times’ Neil Steinberg that he has had “zero disciplinary problems” during his quarter-century as a Chicago cop. Nevertheless, after blogging about Daley, Superintendent Jody Weis, the family Carothers, and others, he’s become the target of a CPD internal affairs investigation. Go figure.
It remains to be seen whether the mayor and his men will be successful in their attack on the messenger. But one thing is clear — they’ve had remarkably little success attacking Andrews’ message.
If you want to know why that is, do two things. First, read the lieutenant’s essay. Then, the next time you see a Chicago cop out and about, politely ask that officer whether he or she shares Andrews’ concerns.
I’ve repeated this exercise many times over the last few weeks, and I’ve yet to have a cop tell me that Andrews is off-base or that Andrews exaggerates either the problems within CPD or the problems cops face daily on our city’s streets. More often than not, I’ve gotten an earful about all that is wrong within both the department and City Hall.
The tone of the responses I’ve received hasn’t surprised me in the least, because Andrews’ basic message wasn’t news to me. Several of my friends who are Chicago cops have been telling me the same general things for a couple of years now. What is news is that Andrews had the courage to go public with these problems and start naming names. Chicagoans from every neighborhood need to make sure this police veteran isn’t hung out to dry for speaking truth to power.
Lt. John R. Andrews loves the many honorable men and women with whom he serves on the CPD. He also cares greatly about what the future holds for the law-abiding citizens of Chicago. That’s why he’s speaking out.
I’ll do my best to have his back on this one, and I hope you will, too. He’s probably going to need our help.

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Who Is Kevin Powell

I am an everyday American.
And I come from very humble beginnings: My mother migrated from rural South Carolina in the 1960s to Jersey City, where she met my father. She fell in love with him; he was not in love with her, but I was conceived anyhow. And except for a few experiences with him until I was eight years old, I do not know my father at all. I am an only child because my mother was determined not to make the same mistake twice.
No matter, mother took her God, her Southern work ethic, her grade-school education, mixed it with welfare and food stamps, and we survived. Survived poverty, dilapidated tenement buildings, violence, crime, rats, roaches and the kind of miserable living conditions I would not wish on anyone.
What saved my life, when I look back on it now, were our faith, my mother’s leadership and her vision for our lives — in spite of not having much in terms of material items — and a quality public school education. It was her, my mother, who refused to settle for my attending the worst failing schools in Jersey City simply because we were poor and stuck in the ghetto. I remember my mother applying, year after year, for this one particular grammar school, “across the boulevard,” because she had been told it was of a superior quality. In Jersey City it was called “open enrollment,” the process of finally integrating the city’s public school system. Back in the 1970s I had no idea that that was what we children were doing.
The other part of my education involved libraries and various after school programs. No way I’d be writing this blog right now had it not been for my mother pushing books on me, in spite of the fact she has never read a book herself, except parts of the Bible. We would go, virtually every Saturday, to the Greenville Public Library. My mother and I both had library cards just because. But she would read the newspapers while I roamed the shelves pulling book after book, thrilled that my imagination was being set free.
And those after school programs were a lifesaver. Everything from the Police Activity League, to the Boys and Girls Club, to the local YMCA were at my disposal. When I see so many Brooklyn youth just out there on the streets today, I know that would have been me had I had no community centers, no extracurricular activities, no evening, weekend or summer jobs to speak of.
In spite of the foundation my mother gave me, I have certainly had my ups and downs, as many of us do. I was a straight A student K-12, but was often suspended from school for fighting or for disrespecting a teacher or principal. I did go to college on a financial aid package, spent four years and eight full semesters there at Rutgers University, but never graduated because being a student and youth leader became far more important to me. I have been the victim of violent crimes and I have been violent against males and females in my past lives. Which is why my life now, in my early 40s, is dedicated to nonviolence, peace and love, and why I have become such an outspoken advocate for women and girls who have survived domestic violence and physical abuse.
I have experienced things I could not have imagined in my childhood, from being on the very first season of MTV’s landmark show “The Real World,” to being a very successful and visible founding writer for Quincy Jones’ Vibe magazine. I’ve wanted to be a writer since I was a boy, and I have authored or edited 10 books. I did not get on a plane until I was 24 years old, but over the past 20 years I have visited nearly all 50 American states and several nations overseas as a speaker, as an activist, and even as a negotiator in the middle of an international conflict in Antigua and Barbuda in the Caribbean just last year.
And I have experienced many lows, including deep depression, both when I was kicked out of college and nearly a decade later when I was fired from Vibe. I am a vegan now and only drink water, but I spent several years abusing alcohol to ease (so I thought) my wounds. And for a long spell I was financially illiterate and irresponsible, and that nearly ruined me until my mother helped me purchase a condo in Brooklyn and the reality of paying a mortgage forced me to get my economic house in order.
Finally, I love people, all people. My very rich and very broad life experiences — both here locally in New York City, and as I have journeyed America and abroad — led me back to the great passion of my college years about a decade ago: helping people to help themselves. For I could not imagine doing anything else with my life now other than being a public servant in some form or fashion.
And because of my lives as an activist, as a writer, as a public speaker, as a mentor, counselor, adviser, teacher and more these past 25 years, I have learned how to listen to and talk with people, how to create simple and proactive solutions, and how to be a bridge to information, resources and services in the manner I feel a public servant should be.
For I know what my mother and I needed in my childhood. I know what I needed as a younger man in terms of employment options, and guidance. And I know what I needed just a few years back as I tried to figure out owning a piece of property in Brooklyn.
That makes me you. And you. And you. And you as well. Everyday people, everyday Americans, doing what we have to do, to survive, and win.
Except for my great love of music and culture, and of sports and exercise, nothing, absolutely nothing, gives me greater pleasure than pointing someone toward a G.E.D. program, or another person toward a job opportunity, or someone toward an event to help them know their tenant rights or how they can avoid foreclosure, or yet another toward ways they can organize their block, their building, their housing project or even their own lives.
For what is the point of a life, any life, if it is not to experience everything possible, be everything possible, and, most importantly, touch as many other lives as possible in the most positive of ways?
Kevin Powell is a 2010 Democratic candidate for Congress in Brooklyn, New York’s 10th Congressional District. The Democratic Primary is on Tuesday, September 14th. Kevin can be reached at

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I was Googles first employee

I was Googles first employee

“Google was very lucky,” he says.
“It started just at that time when there was a transition between being able to get around [the internet] with directories and friends' recommendations, to where you really needed to be able to search for things to find them.”
And as the internet grew, so too did Google's payroll.
“We grew too big for the garage. We were six people. We had hired three more who hadn't started yet and so we needed a new space. And we spent a lot of time looking.”
The office space they settled on was in the so-called 'lucky building' at 165 University Avenue – though Silverstein disagrees with this mantle.
“In the space right before us was some sort of website for learning Spanish or something like that. I've forgotten their name, but you've never heard of them. So certainly… it didn't entirely lead to blockbuster companies.
“I think what's really lucky is starting in Silicon Valley,” he says.
“If you're a start-up, the support network for things like financing, legal help, for finding people who are able to do the human resources… it's so much better in Silicon Valley than most parts of the world.”
“I think it's probably coincidence… that a lot of successful companies have come out of this one building, but it's not coincidence at all that a lot of successful companies have come out of this one part of the world.”


US consumer confidence rises marginally sparking rally

US consumer confidence rises marginally sparking rally

US consumer confidence picked up slightly more than expected in August, giving Wall Street a boost.
The monthly survey from the Conference Board gave an index reading of 53.5, up from a revised 51 in July.
It followed a widely expected drop in US business sentiment, also released earlier.
US stocks rose strongly on the consumer confidence figures, with the Dow Jones index climbing over 1%, breaking back through the 10,000-point level.
Despite the warm reception from markets, the Conference Board noted that overall, consumers remained apprehensive about the future, particularly when it comes to the labour market.
Some 45.7% of those who responded to the survey said jobs were “hard to get”, marginally higher than July's 45.1%.
US shares had been sliding steadily since disappointing personal income data for July was announced on Monday morning.
However, the latest consumer confidence figure chimes with Monday's data, which also showed that consumers were spending a bigger share of their income.
Meanwhile, the Institute of Supply Managers released its latest business barometer.
It registered a drop to 56.7 in August, from 62.3 in July, in line with expectations. A level above 50 indicates expansion.


Hurricane Earl churns towards US east coast

Hurricane Earl churns towards US east coast

Hurricane Earl is heading for the eastern coast of the US after causing power cuts and heavy rain across the eastern Caribbean.
The category-four storm is already generating sustained winds of 215km/h (135mph).
It could near the Outer Banks islands of North Carolina by Friday and then travel up the east coast on Saturday and Sunday.
Everywhere from the Carolinas all the way north to Maine could be affected.
Forecasters say it is a major hurricane and could cause “catastrophic” damage if it hits land.
The hurricane is expected to gain strength without reaching category five-strength.
The National Hurricane Center said it was too early to say what effect Earl would have on the eastern US coast.
“It's still staying off the coast at this point for the whole eastern US,” forecaster Barry Baxter told Reuters news agency.
The NHC's forecast map suggests a 10-20% probability of hurricane force winds in the easternmost part of North Carolina and a lower probability along much of the rest of the coast.
Even if the hurricane does not hit land there will still be tropical storm strength winds along much of the east coast.
Earl is being closely followed by Tropical Storm Fiona, currently east of the Leeward Isles with winds of up to 65km/h. Are you making preparations ahead of the storm? Send us your comments using the form below The BBC may edit your comments and not all emails will be published. Your comments may be published on any BBC media worldwide.


US Soccer Choses Stability Over Change in Keeping Bob Bradley

Change can be difficult. But sometimes change is needed. In the decision to keep Bob Bradley I was one in favor of change. This is not because of some ingrained Bob Bradley hate. I have defended him throughout the last World Cup cycle and think he would have done a good job at Aston Villa. Keeping Bob Bradley is no disaster and was likely the right decision for US soccer after US soccer likely failed to get Juergen Klinsmann for a second time. But the real question now is whether Bradley can move the team forward and take them to the next level.
Our chief problem as a national team, in my view, is that we have no third gear. We seem to have just two gears — 1st or 5th. As we saw in the World Cup, the US team would too frequently start like zombies in 1st gear but would kick it into 5th gear when their backs were against the world. But teams in a 90-minute game need a 3rd gear. They need to develop a way of playing that can be sustained for more than 90 minutes, that puts teams on the back foot through skill, guile and possession, instead of sweat. To instill this new gear, I felt the US men’s national team was in need of fresh eyes and of refining its style of play. And I am not sure Bradley is the man for that job.
How This Likely Went Down
What looked to have happened here is both US soccer and Bob Bradley essentially broke up their marriage for a brief period and went looking for something better. Bradley was trying to throw his hat in the ring in England, first with Fulham than with Aston Villa. Sunil Gulati of US soccer examined what other possible candidates were out there and went back for Klinsmann. In the end, both these flings didn’t materialize.
For US soccer, the pursuit of Klinsmann again made sense. But it is likely that Klinsmann again wanted too much control over the direction of player development — a big issue in 2006 when Gulati went after him then. Perhaps that is both a small price to pay and something that is sorely needed. But I think in the eyes of Gulati, US soccer player development is already moving in a new direction and continues to produce better players, and as a result, better national teams. In other words, it ain’t broke. So handing over substantial control to a foreign coach who we know thinks the US development system is crap and that college athletics is no way to develop talent, could rock the boat so much that it capsizes. Furthermore, for US soccer there really aren’t that many great coaches out there. They all have jobs — except for Sven Goran Eriksson.
It is presumed that US soccer was the bad guy here that made poor Bob Bradley wait. The timing of this seems to point to a different scenario. I bet both US soccer and Bradley agreed that they would explore other options, while maintaining Bob’s contract. When US soccer and Bradley met last week, that likely meant that Gulati had failed to get Klinsmann and then offered Bradley a new contract. Bradley, thinking he had a real shot at Villa, said he wanted to see what would happen there. This weekend, Villa effectively eliminated Bradley from contention, as it said it wanted someone who had Premier League experience. Hearing word on that, it was likely Bradley who called Gulati — not the other way around.
Why Klinsmann Would Have Made Sense
There were two fundamental reasons I was in favor of a new coach — namely Klinnsmann.
First, I felt the team is in need of a stylistic and tactical makeover. The US is need of updating its style of play. Over the last decade, the US has developed a counterattacking approach toward taking on top teams and under Bradley has shown a gritty fighting spirit that we can be proud of as a country. But we have yet to have developed a true attacking style. And going forward, the US will increasingly be unable to rely on an underdog status. Klinnsmann and Joachim Low transformed the German team into a vibrant flowing attacking force.
The US now has the players to emulate this to a certain degree. Under Bradley we saw flashes, but the approach has been the constant and outdated 4-4-2 — no matter if the US had the players to make this system work. When Charlie Davies went down, so should have the 4-4-2, but Bradley, determined to have a speed striker play off Altidore, brought on and started Robbie Findley in three World Cup games. That was trying to stick a square peg through a round hole and exposed Bradley’s tactical rigidity. The 4-4-2 is now outdated in world football, and the 4-2-3-1 is the formation that was most used and was most successful during the World Cup. The US has the personnel to implement this system but Bradley failed to recognize it.
Finally the fact that the player pool is fairly settled made the US prime for a new system of play. We know what these players can do, it is about making them play better. This cycle is not so much about player development but about instilling an effective style of play.
Second, the US needed a fresh look at the player pool. Sometimes teams and players need a fresh look. Things change over four years and players that once had it sometimes lose it. In the 2006 cycle, the US got stale. Players like John O’Brien made the World Cup squad based off performances four years before. Beasley played despite a lack of form. But this is not just about dropping players like Jonathan Bornstein and Robbie Findley, or figuring out which players should start, it is about figuring out where players should play and in what manner — should Donovan and Dempsey move up top? How do Jose Torres, Stuart Holden, Benny Feilhaber, Jermaine Jones, Maurice Edu, Ricardo Clark, and Michael Bradley fit into the side? With the seeming lack of true wingers, do we play a more 4-3-3? Sometimes a new coach sees different attributes in players and can make these players more cohesive.
Sometimes managers have a hard time letting go of players. For instance, for the US, the last World Cup should be the end of the road for Bocanegra. He is 31. He will be 35 in 2014. If Bocanegra was a World Class defender he no doubt would be kept, but he is not world class and will inevitably decline in four years. Meanwhile, the US has the opportunity to start anew. Will Bradley let Bocanegra go? His record of letting go of aging players isn’t bad, but this is the guy that was his captain. That is just one of the examples of the personal challenges facing Bradley.
However, this is a safe, solid choice. We know the US will not suffer an epic collapse like Mexico did earlier this cycle. We know that the US will be competitive and will make the World Cup. We know that the team will fight and play with spirit. We know that there will be no drama in the locker room. We know we will have a shot at making a decent run in 2014. But we don’t know if we will actually be any better.

Build a School Then Build It Again

How do you win a hearts and minds campaign? Protecting and prioritizing the hearts and minds of civilians over all else is a pretty good start. Unfortunately, although the Republic of India has been engaged in counterinsurgency campaigns against rebellious internal populations for decades, it has yet to successfully concentrate its efforts on the needs of its civilians. The source of this failure can be found among India’s hidebound military institutions and their defensiveness toward critiques of any kind.
Over the course of its history, India has seen its fair share of civil conflict. Most recently, in April of this year, 75 federal paramilitary troops were killed when Maoist rebels ambushed security convoys in Central India. The dominant public reaction to this attack was a call to clamp down even harder on the Maoists. While understandable, such a reaction is not wise: if a policy is failing and we want different outcomes, we must do things differently. India’s counterinsurgency doctrine has long focused on security, but this approach has failed to cultivate security within the dreaded “Red Corridor” where Maoist-Naxals rule. A new approach is needed.
India has a great deal of experience in counter-insurgency, though this is not necessarily a positive sign. India is currently fighting Maoists in its Central and Eastern states, Kashmiri militants in its most Northern state, and separatists in its entire North East. The tragedy of this situation is not, as Indian Prime Minister Manmohan has stated, that India’s most imminent and salient security woes concern internal matters, but that these matters have been around since India’s inception. Out of the seven major insurgencies in India’s history, five are still raging. While numerous resources have been committed to quelling the bug of separatism – including countless lives lost and oceans of blood spilt – the Indian government is no closer to achieving internal peace than it was decades ago. Indeed, the prospects of peace may be dimmer than ever.
The Home Ministry of India has barely been able to keep apace of the rapid expansion of the Maoist-Naxal insurgency. In 2004, roughly 9,300 hard-core rebels were present in only nine states. Since then, their numbers have swelled to 40,000 permanent and 100,000 itinerant militia members as they have spread into 22 of India’s 35 states and territories.
Commencing as a peasant revolution hostile to rich, exploitative landlords, the Naxal movement matured in the deeply impoverished rural villages of eastern India. According to Foreign Policy Magazine’s Anuj Chopra, villagers in these areas survive on leaves and berries; toil away on scorched farms; live without access to electricity, schools, or hospitals; die of snakebites and treatable diseases like malaria and tetanus; and are overrun with naked, chronically malnourished children with distended bellies. The Naxals aim to establish an autonomous Marxist state devoid of the Indian government’s control as well as its malfeasance, neglect, exploitation and abuse. Ironically, over decades of fighting, the Naxals have come to resemble their enemy and are responsible for many of the same abuses of power and avarice they ostensibly oppose. They regularly tax local villagers, extort mining companies and local businesses, commit extra-judicial killings, abduct and kill government officials and police officers, and stop aid from getting through.
It is, however, possible to divide the indigenous “tribals”, known as adivasis, and the Naxals, but this will take a critical understanding of the nature of guerilla warfare. Firstly, nations tend to focus on the wrong population: usually the loudest or most violent elements. We are inclined to obsess over the terrorist instead of the people whose support the terrorist must naturally depend upon. What nations learn painfully is that in the context of insurgencies, the greatest strength of a militant group is the support of a local population, which is usually impossible for a large and clumsy conventional army to capture. Mao’s own strategic theory was based on the premise that “if the totality of the population [could] be made to resist surrender, this resistance [could] be turned into a war of attrition which [would] eventually and inevitably be victorious.” While Indian forces spotlight Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) as their greatest obstacle to subduing Naxal-inspired separatism, the Naxals see their symbiotic relationship with the local “tribals” as their real secret weapon. The “tribals” act as human couriers, serving as a rudimentary intelligence and communications network in areas of the jungle where cell phones don’t work. The “tribals” also provide Naxals with food, provisions, young recruits and physical space to operate under civilian cover. In an insurgency, such civilian support is decisive.
Secondly, a nation’s greatest strength – preponderant military power – is in counterinsurgency its greatest weakness, especially when it engenders hubris and an unwillingness to change. India prides itself as a master of counterinsurgency and even trains militaries from the United States, Singapore, South Africa, Iraq, and Afghanistan at its famed Counterinsurgency and Jungle Warfare School (CIJW). Yet as former Indian solider and Johns Hopkins doctoral candidate Anit Mukherjee has found, the facts do not support the perception of success. To say that India’s strategy of employing conventional force against insurgents has failed is an understatement, yet one that is a hard pill for India’s civilian leaders and military brass to swallow. These leaders seem drunk on technological prowess and acquiring expensive warfare capability – and perhaps with good reason. After all, advanced weapons systems, deep pockets, and elite soldiers should be able to thrash a bunch of uneducated, malnourished boys in the jungle. Yet herein lies the paradox. When a group of individuals take up arms and do so in the name of compelling grievances, they are difficult if not impossible to scare off. As Henry Kissinger once said, the guerilla wins if he does not lose; the conventional army loses if it does not win.
India allows itself to fall prey to a common fallacy: the idea that “if [an] opponent’s military capability to wage war can be destroyed, [its] will to continue the struggle is irrelevant since the means to that end are no longer available.” Interestingly, in the case of insurgencies, this is not only wrong; it is the reverse of the truth. Again Henry Kissinger is instructive: because insurgencies usually lack the
India is not alone in believing that violent insurgencies compel violent responses. Nations tend to spend heftily on conventional equipment and training, and therefore default to depending on them. Yet the challenges conventional forces currently face hardly merit this dependence, and the hubris it provokes as traditional warfare grows ever less likely or useful.
Thirdly, a nation must be more self-critical and willing to admit mistakes relative to its opponent. Few realize that there is widespread disaffection among the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF), the Special Police Officers (SPOs) and the Indian paramilitaries. These forces are under-equipped, out-manned, under-fed, and experience continuous low morale. Only roughly 20% of the CRPF actually shows up for counterinsurgency training and many believe that these forces are not vested in the issue or the state. According to an Indian security specialist, “the Naxals are better trained, better equipped and have more entrenched interests.” Then there is the problem of political corruption; so endemic it destroys any trust left in government. Finally, while the theatre of war changes swiftly, soldiers complain that no new assessments have been conducted. One CRPF solider raged that the force didn’t have enough units to secure a stretch of road once it has been cleared:
The answer is no if the aim is to win. The eyes, ears, and hands of the Indian counter-insurgency strategy are hamstrung, and without changing course completely, India stands to find itself exactly where it is today years from now, minus of course the many brave soldiers, misguided militants, and unlucky civilians caught in the crosshairs.
Through painful trial and error, nations spend a great deal of blood and treasure trying to grasp these lessons of counterinsurgency. As in life, the best solution is usually the simplest one. Instead of trying the same approach and hoping for a different outcome, why not try something fresh?
Greg Mortenson, author of Three Cups of Tea and now a consultant to the American military in Afghanistan on counterinsurgency strategy, believes that “there is no military solution in Afghanistan” and that the education of girls is the only real long-term fix. Nicholas Kristof has calculated that one solider costs as much as 20 schools in Afghanistan, and believes that “building schools is a better bet for peace than firing missiles (especially when one cruise missile costs about as much as building 11 schools).” Mortenson believes that the cost of just 246 soldiers posted for one year is equivalent to what it would cost to pay for higher education for all Afghans. This money could help build an Afghan economy and civil society, which will yield greater peace dividends than military counterinsurgency strategies alone.
Detractors, war hawks and hard power ‘realists’ will wail that it is impossible to run schools unless there are troops to protect them. This is not only incorrect- as many NGOs in Afghanistan can evince -it misses the point entirely. War is a theatre and the aim is winning over hearts and minds. Thus it is not only important to show that the state is putting the people’s needs first, it must also show that the enemy is not. India’s strategy must be defensive as opposed to offensive; defense is a great deal safer than offense. Set up a well-guarded installation with several rings of security. Build a school close by, just outside the outer ring of defense. Leave it undefended but heavily monitored with cameras. Let the school be blown to smithereens by insurgents (they don’t want development and certainly not schools connecting local populations to broader ones) and then build it again, and again, as long as it takes to show the local population, on whose support an insurgency relies, that the State cares more about them than the insurgents do. Something governments often miss is that insurgencies, especially ones that have been around for decades, tend to prioritize their own power and interests above and beyond those of the population they claim to be seeking to liberate. This is certainly true with regard to the Naxals, who have a vested interest in an impoverished society, which allows them to maintain and expand their reach. Statistics show that Naxals have attacked 316 targets over the past three years, including communication networks, railway infrastructure, mines, and pipelines. These projects employed thousands of local “tribals” until their destruction.
In order to co-opt the “tribals”, disseminate footage of insurgents attacking the school via radio, television, newspaper, and loudspeaker. Underscore to the public that the leaders of the Naxal movement are not from the region, but are urban elites. Launch a public relations campaign emphasizing Naxal atrocities. This must all be done while also simultaneously emboldening local tribal councils, or panchayats, establishing clinics near security installations, continuing work on cutting Naxal supply lines, and re-training Indian forces to this new strategy in the meantime. The government of India must illustrate to the public what it is willing to do to make amends, starting with acknowledgement of the many mistakes it has made in its history, especially in the name of counterinsurgency. India has committed $1.2 billion dollars in humanitarian, reconstruction, and developmental aid to Afghanistan, believing that “its development assistance is guided by Afghan needs and priorities.” Why not do the same within its own borders?

White Heat

Whatever one thinks about the current administration’s ministrations in their struggle to repair what was so callously broken under eight years of steady demolition, one clear result of the Obama presidency has been to hasten the squeeze on White America. Because — I know, hard to believe! — there is a faction of Americans who identify more with skin color than with national or political affiliation.
The phenomenal idea of a black president of the United States, and one who does not fit their comfortable stereotypes of blackness, has forced these folks’ comfortable prejudices into a corner and, like all cornered animals, is screeching, claws out, fangs froth-flecked and dangerously desperate.
The most visible corner of Caucasian coagulation was on the mall this past Aug. 28th at the Glenn Beck Beige-a-palooza, where, despite laughable assertions about reclaiming the civil rights movement (!) and reintroducing faith into the national dialogue, White America gathered to circle the wagons around their besieged race identity.
The preservation of whiteness is the basic impulse behind virtually all activity springing white-hot from the Fox News/right wing smelter, a torrent of aggressively defensive responses to that Black Man in the White House, the thing which epitomizes the end of their sovereignty. Black presidents, gay marriage, illegal aliens, Islamic recreation centers — it’s all too, too much.
Of course, as models less of intelligent design and more of Darwinian adaptability, these moderately articulate beings greet such charges with offended outrage or smirking ripostes, denying that such things as racism even exist anymore. Hell — we got ourselves a black president! Isn’t that proof enough? They then throw their anger back on the observation itself, accusing the accusers of bigotry or of cowardice, of liberals possessing all the character of anyone from Benedict Arnold to Satan’s accountant. Classic bully behavior, called out by the truth about themselves, unable to deal with the waste that has become their lives, lives lived in crouching neurosis, not a life, really, when one is in constant fear that Daddy will beat them or Mommy will reject them (that’ll be $500 please and see you here next week. Next?).
They will lace their outrage with violent imagery, redolent code words that evoke “frontier justice” or weave their defense into classic patriotic themes and memes: “the founding fathers”, “freedom of religion”, etc., performing like a terrorized interrogatee whose outlandish behavior is boiled down to simplistic justifications, like “HAL” in “2001: A Space Odyssey” singing “Daisy, Daisy”; a sad but fascinating display of the trembling core beneath the armor being stripped away.
The Obama presidency is not over, hopefully far from it. The work it has endeavored to finish (or in some cases even begin) despite the relentless obstruction and destruction on the part of the entrenched White Right represents not only the last chance for a restoration of democratic principles for all who call themselves Americans but also the last stand for these on-the-brink-of-extinct warriors, their last attempt to matter at all costs. Like the Alamo except the only shooting going on is in their own feet.
Watching anything shivering in its death throes is sad. In the case of a dying, hateful, race-obsessed giant though, they are not coming a moment too soon. But it is still advisable to lay down some newspaper and stand way the hell back. This thing’s realllly angry. It might get messier.

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