When Privacy Jumped The Shark

Edward Snowden

The Article: When Privacy Jumped The Shark by Frank Rich in New York Magazine.

The Text: Here’s one dirty little secret about the revelations of domestic spying at the National Security Agency: Had Edward Snowden not embarked on a madcap escape that mashed up plot elements from Catch Me If You Can, The Fugitive, the O.J. Bronco chase, and “Where in the World Is Matt Lauer?,” the story would be over. The leaker’s flight path, with the Feds and the press in farcical flat-footed pursuit, captured far more of the public’s attention than the ­substance of his leaks. That’s not his fault. The public was not much interested in the leaks in the first place. It was already moving on to Paula Deen.

At first blush, the NSA story seemed like a bigger deal. The early June scoops in the Guardian and the Washington Post were hailed universally as “bombshells” and “blockbusters” by the networks. America’s right and left flanks were unified in hyperventilating about their significance: Rand Paul and The Nation, Glenn Beck and Michael Moore, Rush Limbaugh and the Times editorial page all agreed that President Obama had presided over an extra­ordinary abuse of executive power. But even as Daniel Ellsberg hailed the second coming of the Pentagon Papers, the public was not marching behind him or anyone else. The NSA scandal didn’t even burn bright enough to earn the distinction of a “-gate” suffix. Though Americans were being told in no uncertain terms that their government was spying on them, it quickly became evident that, for all the tumult in the media-political Establishment, many just didn’t give a damn.

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Econ 101 Is A Sham

Alan Greenspan

The Article: Econ 101 is killing America by Robert Atkinson and Michael Lind in Salon.

The Text: In the Middle Ages, people looked to the Church for certainty. In today’s complex, market-based economies, they look to the field of economics, at least for answers to questions concerning the economy. And unlike some disciplines, which acknowledge that there’s a huge gap between the scholarly knowledge and policy advice, economists have been anything but shy about asserting their authority.

As we can see from the current dismal state of economic affairs, economies are incredibly complex systems, and policymakers who are forced to act in the face of this uncertainty and complexity want guidance. And over the last half century, neoclassical economists have not only been more than happy to offer it, but largely been able to marginalize any other disciplines or approaches, giving them a virtual monopoly on economic policy advice.

But there are two big problems with this. First, despite economists’ calming assurances, we still know little about how economies actually work and the effect of policies. If we did, then economists should have sounded the alarm bells to head off the financial collapse and Great Recession. But even more problematic, even though most economists know better, they present to the public, the media and politicians a simplified, vulgar version of neoclassical economics — what can be called Econ 101 — that leads policymakers astray. Economists fear that if they really expose policymakers to all the contradictions, uncertainties and complications of “Advanced Econ,” the latter will go off track — embracing protectionism, heavy-handed “industrial policy” or even socialism. In fact, the myths of Econ 101 already lead policymakers dangerously off track, with tragic results for the economy and everyday Americans.

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Chris Christie, Anti-Equality Crusader

Chris Christie

The Article: How One Man is Stopping Gay Marriage in NJ by Rob Tornoe in The Contributor.

The Text: Today, New Jerseyans will look across the Delaware River and see their gay brothers and sisters in the tiny state of Delaware getting married. The people wanted it, the legislature voted for it and Gov. Jack Markell signed it into law. A responsive government at work. ??In New Jersey, the only response gay marriage advocates have received is a shrug of the shoulder from Gov. Chris Christie, who cares more about impressing big money donors with a backwards view on equality than acting on the will of the individuals he was elected to represent.

Over 60 percent of New Jerseyans want gay marriage, and both the Assembly and state Senate passed a law legalizing it. The only thing standing between same-sex couples in New Jersey and equal rights is Christie’s veto, which he’s been unwilling to relinquish following the U.S.Supreme Court’s landmark ruling on gay rights.

??You see, Christie, a Republican, has done enough to anger members of his own party. Merely shaking hands with Obama got former Florida Governor Charlie Crist ex-communicated from the party, so Christie’s full-on bromance with the president in the wake of Hurricane Sandy could really hurt him among the backwards ideologues he’s hoping to woo in Iowa and South Carolina.

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150 Years Of Misunderstanding The Civil War

Civil War

The Article: 150 Years Of Misunderstanding The Civil War by Tony Horowitz in The Atlantic.

The Text: In early July, on the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg, pilgrims will crowd Little Round Top and the High Water Mark of Pickett’s Charge. But venture beyond these famous shrines to battlefield valor and you’ll find quiet sites like Iverson’s Pits, which recall the inglorious reality of Civil War combat.

On July 1st, 1863, Alfred Iverson ordered his brigade of North Carolinians across an open field. The soldiers marched in tight formation until Union riflemen suddenly rose from behind a stone wall and opened fire. Five hundred rebels fell dead or wounded “on a line as straight as a dress parade,” Iverson reported. “They nobly fought and died without a man running to the rear. No greater gallantry and heroism has been displayed during this war.”

Soldiers told a different story: of being “sprayed by the brains” of men shot in front of them, or hugging the ground and waving white kerchiefs. One survivor informed the mother of a comrade that her son was “shot between the Eye and ear” while huddled in a muddy swale. Of others in their ruined unit he wrote: “left arm was cut off, I think he will die… his left thigh hit and it was cut off.” An artilleryman described one row of 79 North Carolinians executed by a single volley, their dead feet perfectly aligned. “Great God! When will this horrid war stop?” he wrote. The living rolled the dead into shallow trenches–hence the name “Iverson’s Pits,” now a grassy expanse more visited by ghost-hunters than battlefield tourists.

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We Must Hate Our Children

We Must Hate Our Children

The Article: We Must Hate Our Childre by Joan Walsh in Salon.

The Text: Next time you’re watching a college graduation, as you look out over the sea of caps and gowns, make sure you notice the ball and chain most graduates are wearing as they march onstage to receive their diplomas. That’s student loan debt, which at over $1 trillion tops credit card debt in the U.S. today. The average burden is $28,000, but add in their credit cards and they’re graduating with an average of $35,000 in debt. It’s no wonder that people who’ve paid off their student loan debt are 36 percent more likely to own homes than those who haven’t, according to new research by the One Wisconsin Now Institute and Progress Now.

What kind of society sends its young people from higher education into adulthood this way? I’m aware I’m only talking about those lucky enough to go to college, when roughly one-third of high school graduates don’t – but if this is the way we treat our relatively lucky kids, the rest of them don’t have a prayer. For many, the school to prison pipeline functions much more efficiently than the school to college one; California is one of at least 10 states that now spends more on prison than education (all education, not just higher education). According to the Federal Reserve Bank, two-thirds of college graduates leave with some debt, and 37 million Americans are repaying a student loan right now.

Unbelievably, interest rates on federally subsidized loans are doubling today, from 3.4 to 6.8 percent. As Congress bickers over alternatives, even Democrats are backing “market-based” plans that aren’t as bad as GOP ideas, but aren’t good either. I hope they can find a way to lower interest rates, but the real scandal isn’t the rate hike. The real scandal is that we take for granted that young people must go into debt – at whatever interest rate – to pay for college.

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