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News & net notes…

January 30th, 2009 · No Comments

Day Two in Davos and some dominant themes are taking hold: contrition, paralysis, and the embrace of faith and philanthropy.

Yesterday, I wrote about the aura of contrition surrounding the financial types here, wafting off them like cheap cologne on a disco Lothario.

Today, at an off-the-record gathering of international editors and reporters, the contrition had spread to financial journalists. There was the sense that many had missed the boat, failing to ask the tough questions — and, even when they did, failing to stay on the story until it broke through the static.

That sense dominated discussions even after the session had ended. The mainstream media’s ADD — the desire to always look for the new hot story, instead of digging deeper into a complex one — was deemed partly responsible for the failure.

Solving the Global Food Crisis: The Case for a “Poverty Czar”
by Bruce Friedrich
Stop Rearranging Deck Chairs on the Titanic and Nationalize the Damn Banks
By Joshua Holland, AlterNet. Posted January 30, 2009.
It’s the best possible course to rescue our economy at this point; all the other options would be disastrous.
Close Torture Loopholes, Physicians’ Group Urges
by William Fisher
NEW YORK – While applauding President Barack Obama’s recent executive orders banning torture and other harsh interrogation practices, medical authorities are calling attention to a little-reported section of the Army’s Field Manual on Interrogation that they say still allows the use of tactics that can constitute torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment under U.S. and international law.
The suspect section of the Manual is known as Annex M, which allows the use of sleep deprivation, sensory deprivation, and isolation, termed “separation” in the Manual. Obama’s executive orders directed all government agencies, including the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), to follow the manual for interrogations.

George Bush’s Gift To The World: The End of American Imperialism
by David Michael Green
George W. Bush was unquestionably the worst American president in the two and a quarter centuries of the country’s existence.
After all, James Buchanan, the previous aspirant to the title, merely did nothing while the South seceded. Hah! You’ll have to do better than that, Jimmy, if you want to wear this crown!
Bush did far better, of course. It would appear to be the one thing in his entire life he actually worked hard at, and the one challenge he was able to meet successfully. This was an astonishingly destructive presidency, that’s true even despite the fact that we don’t really know much about his administration, because in addition to being the worst, it was also the most secretive ever. (I’m sure that’s just a coincidence, too.) Moreover, that’s also even considering that most Americans still vastly underestimate the depravity of Team Bush. As I have argued previously, if you think they were ‘merely’ arrogant bunglers with exceptionally bad politics, you’ve grossly underestimated them. In fact, they were predators who launched their class warfare agenda behind the smoke-screen of national security, faux patriotism and secret government.
Does this record of unparalleled devastation mean that Bush never did anything right in eight years? No, though it’s pretty much the case that he never did anything right on purpose.
Unquestionably, however, Bush did make some positive contributions to American life, even if they were completely inadvertent, and even if they were dwarfed by the swath of destruction he left all across the landscape. Put simply, George W. Bush’s greatest success was that he gave a very bad name to very bad things.
Like the Republican Party, for example. Or conservative ideology. Or theocracy. Or presidents with the last name of Bush. Or emotional midgets who seek the White House as a salve for their personal psychological neediness.
We can be grateful for all these contributions, and I certainly am – though “thanks” is not likely what I would say if I had the pleasure of relating my assessment of Mr. Bush to him directly. More likely it would be something closer to the gracious words Dick “Dick” Cheney had for Patrick Leahy early on in the administration, when the two bumped into each other on the Senate floor. Those remarks were not, shall we say, fit for print in a family newspaper.
But I digress.
George Bush left us many gifts, but perhaps the greatest of them is that he has ruined the sport of imperialism in America, maybe forever.

Rebuilding Green: The Next Revolution
by Erica Gies
When a tornado flattened Greensburg, Kan., in May 2008, the city vowed to rebuild — with a twist. All new municipal structures would be built “green,” with businesses and homeowners encouraged to follow suit. Likewise, in New Orleans, where Brad Pitt’s Make It Right foundation is constructing new, affordable green homes for Ninth Ward residents displaced by Hurricane Katrina. Such projects have decisively moved green building from the exclusive realm of the wealthy into the affordable mainstream. But you don’t have to see your home flattened by a natural disaster or be part of a community-wide initiative to build green.

The American Economy is Not Coming Back
The Ugly Truth

What we are now seeing is the beginning of an inevitable downward adjustment in American living standards to conform with our actual place in the world. As a nation of consumers, and not producers, with little to offer to the rest of the world except raw materials, food crops, military hardware and bad films (none of which industries employ many people), we are headed to a recovery that will not feel like a recovery at all. Eventually, productive capacity will be restored, as lowered US wages make it again profitable for some things to be made here at home again, but like people in the 1930s looking back at the Roaring 20s of yore, we are going to look back at the last two decades as some kind of dream.

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