From the BBC:
A study, based on millions of articles, charted deteriorating national sentiment ahead of the recent revolutions in Libya and Egypt.
While the analysis was carried out retrospectively, scientists say the same processes could be used to anticipate upcoming conflict.
The system also picked up early clues about Osama Bin Laden’s location.
First I thought this story would be hackneyed, another dose of technophilia. However, if you read the actual research report, there’s a lot to be interested in. By digesting 100 million news articles and parsing the data different ways, it appears the researchers are able to identify patterns of discontent that lead to revolution. As well as discontent that does not. It’s also true, of course, that all media outlets have different biases beyond cultural. Reporters and editors might discount sentiments, or be blissfully unaware of stories, that don’t fit their pre-conceived ideas of what is news. The research also captures some of these biases, especially cultural ones.
Of course, the thought also occurs to me: what if they looked at US news stories about US politics since 1945? Are we set for revolution? Or, how low can we go? It’s also likely Big Brother also would be interested, although any government facing massive discontent would be hard pressed to turn sentiment around, except by the usual means of distraction, war, and the like.
Via The Arabist, a funny rap video:
Partnership Banks can raise revenue for states without raising taxes, and increase loans to small businesses precisely when Wall Street banks have cut back on lending and raised public borrowing costs. A Partnership Bank would act as a “banker’s bank” to in-state community banks and provide the state government with both banking services at fair terms and an annual multi-million dollar dividend.
If modeled on the successful Bank of North Dakota, Partnership Banks in other states would:
- Create new jobs and spur economic growth. Partnership Banks are participation lenders, meaning they partner—never compete—with local banks to drive lending through local banks to small businesses.1 If Washington State had a fully-operational Partnership Bank capitalized at $100 million during the Great Recession, it would have supported $2.6 bil- lion in new lending and helped to create 8,212 new small business jobs.2 A proposed Oregon bank could help community banks expand lending by $1.3 billion and help small business create 5,391 new Oregon jobs in its first three to five years.3 All of this would be accom- plished at a profit, which Partnership Banks should share with the state.
- Generate new revenues for states directly, through annual bank dividend payments, and indirectly by creating jobs and spurring local economic growth. The table above shows projected dividends for established Partnership Banks in the states considering such proposals, based on BND’s 2009 dividend payment to North Dakota’s General Fund.
- Lower debt costs for local governments. Like the Bank of North Dakota, Partnership Banks can get access to low-cost funds from the regional Federal Home Loan Banks.5 The banks can pass savings on to local governments when they buy debt for infrastructure investments. The banks can also provide Letters of Credit for tax-exempt bonds at lower interest rates.
- Strengthen local banks even out credit cycles, and preserve real competition in local credit markets. There have been no bank failures in North Dakota during the financial crisis. BND’s charter is clear that its goal is to “be helpful to and to assist in the development of [North Dakota banks]… and not, in any manner, to destroy or to be harmful to existing financial institutions.”6 By purchasing local bank stock, partnering with them on large loans and providing other sup- port, Partnership Banks would strengthen small banks in an era when federal policy encourages bank consolidation.
- Build up small businesses. Surveys by the Main Street Alliance in Oregon and Washington show at least 75 percent sup- port among small business owners.7 In markets increasingly dominated by large corporations and the banks that fund them, Partnership Banks would increase lending capabilities at the smaller banks that provide the majority of small business loans in America.
This is an idea whose time has come. According to the report, bills to create or study the possibility of creating a partnership banks are on the table in Oregon, Washington, Hawaii, New Mexico, Maryland, New Hampshire and Maine. This seems like a good way to fight back against what Stoller calls the Debtcropper Society.
Another source for information is the Public Banking Blog.
According to some of the (dare I say) evidence discussed in this article from the Village Voice.
My own take: if people were so easily influenced by pop music lyrics and if the songs of the past decades were more about “us” than “me”, why didn’t we have a wave of unity at that time? Is it only negative behaviors that are stimulated by lyrics? Or maybe its just more dramatic to blame music for suicide than to discuss how many times people find the will to go on nestled in the lyrics?
It would seem that expecting people to be convinced by the facts flies in the face of, you know, the facts.
Chris Mooney offered up a veritable briar patch of stochastic possibilities with his recent article, The Science of Why We Don’t Believe Science, at Mother Jones.
This is not a new topic for the Open Left crowd. Some topics, however, may benefit from being repeated. There’s a lot of “motivated reasoning”, I think, in the deference so many on the leftish end of the US political spectrum show toward Obama and the Democratic Party in general. This is not a novel idea. It has been hashed over by others.
There is much to be discussed about the motivations that beget the kind of rational use of the irrational that underlies this phenomenon. Or is it, the irrational use of rationality? Ivy League lawyer, Dan Kahan, sums it up:
The study subjects weren’t “anti-science”—not in their own minds, anyway. It’s just that “science” was whatever they wanted it to be.
The Off Topic series continues and this time it is chemical. More precisely, the discussion begins with thermodynamics and this Gibb’s Free Energy diagram.
It seems strangely appropriate to mention that the phrase “Free Energy” was the first thing about academic chemistry that resonated with my childlike entrancement with nature. What more could an Anarchist want? But that’s another story.
There are 2 key aspects to the energy diagram, 1) the relative position of the left and right hand states (pun fully intended) and 2) the shape/height of the transition between them. (this video explains in more detail).
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This is a continuing Off-Topic series explores concepts put forward by people trying to understand biological mechanisms in terms of chemistry and physics. My intent is to relate these biological mechanisms to the events observed in human societies and cultures.
The ongoing actions of human beings and other natural forces are forcing us to reassess definitions of “stability” and the closely associated mechanisms of “change”. The basis of stability implies a temporal standard. That is, how long must we fend off instability in order to be deemed “stable”? But, time is only one of the recognized biological scales.
It seems prudent to consider such from the biological perspective because ultimately, human culture, society and the politics are biological systems. More complex than an ant colony, no doubt about that, but nonetheless, a vast pile of animals crawling all over everything.
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This talk shows how the internet is used both against and by dictators, challenging notions that the new technology automatically promotes democracy and liberty.
Austerity-Mania has gripped the entirety of the nation’s political class (read: “rich white people”), and sadly allegedly liberal Maryland is no exception. Despite resisting the Republican Wave of 2010 and handly re-electing a (supposedly) liberal Democrat Governor, Maryland’s proposed 2011 budget is long on cuts in both education and public works, and extremely short of tax increases for the wealthy and corporations.
Fortunately, the resurgence in the labor movement sparked by the action in Wisconsin has also caught on here in Maryland- as many as 15,000 rank and file, leadership and progressive activists took to the streets of Annapolis and demanded that Democrats who ran on their reputation as the party of labor “Keep the Promise” and balance the budget in a way that doesn’t decimate their ranks and the collective future of the state.
Governor O’Malley, always the opportunist, appeared and quickly reminded the collected crowd (some of whom greeted him with jeers) that the Democrats value labor not for their contributions, but for their campaign money and their votes:
“Look we have tough decisions ahead of us,” O’Malley said. “But we are committed to staying at the table, and figuring this out together” with the unions, he said.
Note there were no promises to preserve pensions or find a way to balance the budget without vicious slashing of education funding and public works. While the above link claims that the crowd was disarmed, I was there and I can report that the majority in attendance were not sold. In fact, it was widely reported that union leadership had resolved not to allow politicians to participate and that the Governor’s staff simply “insisted” that O’Malley be allowed to address the crowd.
Regardless, to see a crowd in Annapolis of this size should give progressives hope that despite the platitudes of centrist hucksters like O’Malley and OFA, there is a legitimate and robust progressive movement being born in this nation- one that is not dependent on the Democrats and their agenda of surrender- one that will hopefully turn back the insane tide of austerity and redistribution of wealth to the richest Americans.
On one hand we are faced with a Corporo-Conservative assault on labor unions using their mercenary GOPper legislators in WI and elsewhere.
On the other, a cultural hegemonic front that systematically excludes Progressive views, analysis, and solutions from the mainstream media, elected office, and the history of our nation.
As Merge Left was taking form from the remains of Open Left one idea that percolated up was for us to use this site to organize members to swarm other web-sites and media outlets in a effort to push their coverage toward the left. To show them that the Right Lane is Closed!
This coming Monday morning from 9 – 11 AM (CST) we have an opportunity to swarm Minnesota Public Radio (MPR) during the Midday call-in program. The site is structured to allow non-members to stream the programs in real time and to submit questions via the website or a toll-free phone line. We can do this.
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The data is clear and indisputable.
A very few people control a huge share of the capital available in the world. The personal and/or familial fortunes of these folks are a “ceiling”. This ceiling covers the globe. By my calculation only about 30% of the top 100 are considered residents of the US. Even so, much of the discussion has been focused on the nasty ways that one or two of the US plutocrats use the riches their families have amassed. But David Koch, funder of Koch Heads across the US, only ranks #24. Now, I understand that “all politics is local” and most of us at Merge Left live in the US, so that focus is to be expected. Likewise, the emphasis of most posts on local and state level issues and actions is quite appropriate. Action and organization begin in our hometowns and Merge Left is, in a sense, our virtual hometown. The fact remains that the ceiling, the special place that the greed of the globes oligarchs has pushed them, covers the world.
For a moment, I’d like to refocus on the “floor”, the thing that underlies the ceiling, the place where 99.8% of the world’s population stands, even as we are forced (coerced?) to support the thieving bastards in the ceiling.
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Despite the U.S. rhetorical defense of the “universal rights” in the region, it is still premature to conclude that this hegemonic alliance will allow the Arab move for change to run its course, judging by the historic experiences of the last century as well as by the containment tactics the United States is now adopting to defuse whatever strategic changes might be created by the revolting Arab masses.
At least two good points: 1) “premature” to conclude hegemonic change/shift, and 2) “containment” tactics are being used to damp the up-rising.
#1 is obvious, IMHO. The push for justice and dignity is more like an asymptote than a goal-line.
#2 Begs the question of whether one wishes the Jasmine Revolution to continue to spread, or to recede.
Meanwhile, at home the folks are all atwitter and askance.
Really!? What do you say when you hear, “no one could have seen it coming?”, or “Intelligence failure”?
Excuse me if I look elsewhere for some level-headed news and discussion.
So for once in my life I get to use the phrase: “Good News Everyone” and not mean it in a sarcastic way. Today I witnessed what may be just the beginning of an actual change of direction in this country- one not, of course, catalyzed by a Democrat or a Republican, but one that starts from the ground up.
For too many years progressives have been either content to sit on their hands and let right wing loons be the only voice heard by the media, or have been convinced by the same corporate media that their views are out of the mainstream. However, the events unfolding in the midwest may be inspiring liberals to get off the bench and into the game- to be both seen and heard.
This photo was taken in Annapolis, at a solidarity rally held by the Maryland and DC AFL-CIO. While this may not be 80,000 strong in Madison, the following should be noted:
- Maryland is a state with a Democratic governor and a Democratic legislature- while there are always ridiculous demands for concessions due to a fiscal crisis which was caused by banks playing Vegas Dream with other people’s money- there’s no immediate threat of the nature facing Wisconsin public employees. This was purely a show of solidarity
- The tea party contingent, such as it was, consisted of about a dozen stragglers whose most creative chant consisted of “We’re Broke” and “Broke is Broke”. Apparently, they’re broke
- This was the middle of a work day after an ice/snow storm, which is typical for Wisconsin in June, but for Maryland can cause major traffic issues
I was there, and between rank and file union members and their supporters there were more than one hundred working people standing in Lawyers Mall in downtown Annapolis. Across the street- about 20 Tea Party “counter demonstrators” were shipped in from clear across the state to obstruct a sidewalk and feign relevance. Of course, the local media pretended that both protests were of equal import. Regardless, labor was on the scene and the local media did take notice.
Regardless, this could really be the start of a greater movement to counterbalance the tea party. If only labor would join forces with the burgeoning US Uncut movement.
Additionally, Gibson says certain US Uncut participants have reached out to the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) in order to bridge the divide between liberalism’s two great abandoned resource pools: the poor and labor.
Oh. Well, isn’t that something?
A certain grifter once said, “we are the ones we have been waiting for” (in reference to what basically amounted to a faux grassroots movement designed to supplant one group of corporatist lackeys with another). It turns out that, for those of us waiting for actual hope in change, that the labor movement is who we’ve been waiting for. With so many “Real Americans” (h/t Digby) in the spotlight fighting back against predatory capitalism, maybe the wait is finally over.