Vacation Webcams

Here’s a little virtual trip to some favorite places:

Reykjavik, Iceland ❯ Feel a little calmer with a peek at this quaint waterfront street in Iceland’s capital city.

Easter Island ❯ Watch the mysterious moai statues stand sentinel on the island as the waves slowly roll in.

Marlborough Sounds, New Zealand ❯ Imagine standing on the shore in Picton and watching the boats sail these age-old sunken valleys.

Cinque Terre, Italy ❯ Step into a fantasy of seeing the five seaside villages of Cinque Terre, where you can almost taste the pesto.

Alternative Sources of Progressive and Liberal News

HOT: The Guardian

Hats off to:  University of Pennsylvania School of Arts and Sciences

Netroots (Progressive Blogs and Podcasts)

Websites for Progressives

Progressive 527 Organizations

Writers

Useful Tools for Understanding the Media

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Music

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Progressive Religious Groups

Other Sites for News and Views

News from Around the World

Monet, 1879

In 1879, Claude Monet moved with his family to the village of Vétheuil on the north bank of the River Seine. For the next three years the town became the artist’s central landscape motif. His style during this period evolved from the blunt, broad strokes of the 1870s to delicate, rhythmic brushwork that reads like a gauze of spun sugar. The poplars in the background appear as twirling configurations of blue and green, while the clouds are painted in a broad and wet manner that suggests the flat quality of the sky at midday.

Climate Change best Bets / 2019 version

Don’t feel like watching that holiday movie you’ve already seen 900 times? Then gather ’round to learn about a topic even more timely than Christmas cookies and the dreidel song: our warming planet.

In addition to the best-known titles, like “An Inconvenient Truth” and its sequel, “Chasing Ice,” and Leonardo DiCaprio’s “Before the Flood” and “Ice on Fire,” here are five documentaries to try. Don’t worry about spoiling the holiday mood: Most of them end on an inspiring note.

“Years of Living Dangerously”

This series, featuring celebrity correspondents like Matt Damon and Olivia Munn, is a favorite of the climate scientist Katharine Hayhoe. Not only because it discusses climate impacts and solutions, but also because it tackles two huge myths: first, that climate change is a “distant issue,” and, second, that we can only fix climate change by “destroying the economy or our personal liberties.”

“Merchants of Doubt”

If you’ve ever wondered how the climate debate became, well, a debate, then this intriguing and infuriating film is for you. Based on a book by Naomi Oreskes and Erik M. Conway, it draws a parallel between the tactics of Big Tobacco and Big Oil, revealing the world of politics, spin and public opinion.

“Mission Blue”

Besides highlighting the work of the oceanographer Sylvia Earle, a National Geographic explorer-in-residence, this film also paints a picture of the devastating changes she has witnessed during her decades underwater. Xiye Bastida, a 17-year-old activist and organizer for Fridays For Future NYC, said it “shows the power we have as individuals to connect with nature and speak for nature.”

“This Changes Everything”

Inspired by Naomi Klein’s 2014 book of the same name, this documentary “aims to empower,” rather than scare, viewers into action. “The film tells moving, personal stories,” said Keya Chatterjee, executive director of the U.S. Climate Action Network, “but weaves them into a larger story about how colonialism and greed got us into this crisis, and also how people-power and disruption will get us out.”

“Racing Extinction”

Unless drastic changes are made, some biologists estimate we could lose up to 50 percent of Earth’s species within the next century. That devastating fact — a potential sixth extinction, wherein “humanity has become the asteroid” — is the basis for this fast-paced, wide-ranging film from Louie Psihoyos, who won an Oscar for “The Cove.” While some scenes are tough to watch, they’re balanced with awe-inspiring nature shots that showcase a world worth saving.

Source: New York Times email

Meet the 32-year-old wealth detective who finds the hidden money of the super rich

“Gabriel Zucman started his first real job the Monday after the collapse of Lehman Brothers. Fresh from the Paris School of Economics, where he’d studied with a professor named Thomas Piketty, Zucman had lined up an internship at Exane, the French brokerage firm. He joined a team writing commentary for clients and was given a task that felt absurd: Explain the shattering of the global economy. “Nobody knew what was going on,” he recalls.

 
 

At that moment, Zucman was also pondering whether to pursue a doctorate. He was already skeptical of mainstream economics. Now the dismal science looked more than ever like a batch of elaborate theories that had no relevance outside academia. But one day, as the crisis rolled on, he encountered data showing billions of dollars moving into and out of big economies and smaller ones such as Bermuda, the Cayman Islands, Hong Kong, and Singapore. He’d never seen studies of these flows before. “Surely if I spend enough time I can understand what the story behind it is,” he remembers thinking. “We economists can be a little bit useful.”

Bloomberg article.

Satellite Shootdown Fraud

The Defense Department claims it is planning to shoot down a rogue ultra-secret spy satellite because the fuel onboard poses a danger to people on the ground.

This explanation is so transparent it is almost laughable. The likelihood of being injured by the satellite has been calculated as something like one in a trillion, whereas being hit by lightning is somewhat more likely: one in 1.2 million.

The real reason for the shootdown attempt?

1) Components from the ultra-secret spy satellite could survive the re-entry and be recovered by bad guys.

or

2) It is a perfect opportunity to test the U.S. missile to satellite intercept capabilities.

or

3) Both

We’ve learned a lesson starting back in 1960, when President Eisenhower lied to the American people and to the world that the crash of Gary Power’s U2 over the USSR was a “weather balloon.”

Ike got caught with his hand in the cookie jar. Ever since then, we’ve come to the realization that sometimes we have to take what our government says with a very, very large grain of salt

Congress Breaks Congress by Taking Too many Breaks.

Senator Arlen Specter once said something intriguing when asked what recommendations he would make for improving Senate procedures. He suggested, sotto voce, that Senators should work longer.
By his account, Senators start their week mid-day Tuesday with luncheon meetings and by Thursday afternoon they are itching to get back to their home states. By Friday most of them have fled the Capital City for Reagan Airport.
To backup this plaint, the official numbers are now in: The Senate met for a meager 126 days during the past legislative year; the House met for a paltry 93 days.
We shan’t say this is a “Do Nothing” Congress reminiscent of President Truman’s complaint made decades ago. (Shall we?)
But it seems true indeed that legislators have been presiding over a “Do little, in very little time” Congress.

Internationalism overtakes isolationism – International Relations

Beginning with the U.S. entry in the Spanish-American War, America experienced a shift of diplomatic and military isolationism from European affairs to one of internationalism and brief imperialism. It is important to note that no single event or person can explain U.S. foreign policy behavior entirely. American foreign policy is the result of a combination of causes and events, including the influence of several sources. These influences include five major categories to the making of U.S. foreign policy, including the following: external sources, American societal norms, the make-up of the U.S. government, the roles of individuals and institutions and lastly, the effect that individual people have in contributing to the foreign policy making process.

America’s “splendid little war” with Spain in 1898 provided the US with a colonial empire almost overnight. These newly acquired, or annexed, foreign lands, and the accompanying responsibilities thereof, included the Phillipines, Puerto Rico, Guam, Hawaii, and Cuba. One of the primary reasons that America went to war in 1898 was Spanish meddling in the affairs of Cuba, contrary to the Monroe doctrine. This American doctrine, however, did not preclude America itself from meddling in Caribbean affairs, or meddling in the affairs of any Western Hemisphere country for that matter. Spain had a massively larger army, but its navy was in disrepair. The U.S., on the other hand, had modernized its Navy under the direction of Alfred T. Mahan. This naval supremacy was the tipping point in the Spanish-American war between the two nations – the New World vs. the Old World.

When the US defeated the Spanish navy at Manila the victory propelled the US onto the world stage as a true and tested global actor. Up to that point, the US had been isolationist in nature, still recovering from the horrific American Civil War in the 1860’s. Some scholars believe that once U.S. western expansion was completed in 1880 and industrialization had come full bore after the Civil War, the American capitalist machine turned its eye to new markets in Latin America and the Far East.

The first openings of the Chinese market in the Far East put the U.S. in direct competition with the European powers, particularly Britain, Spain, France and Russia. There was a rush by the great powers at this point into the Chinese markets. The U.S. did not want to be left behind because this was a large market for U.S. industrial goods and source of seemingly infinite raw materials. John Hay, President McKinley’s Secretary of State summed up the U.S.’s awkward position at this juncture in history: “…we do not want to rob the Chinese ourselves, and our public opinion will not permit us to interfere, with an army, to prevent others from robbing her…”

The US, therefore, developed an Open Door Policy toward China, meaning that the US would not tolerate the division of China into “spheres of influence,” insisting that its territorial integrity be respected. This was a bold move on America’s part because it had little more than morality on its side, not a vast army, and only a small navy compared to European powers. This American “policy” had little effect because the United States was not prepared to support the Open Door policy with force. Successive administrations to the 1940s, however, considered it the cornerstone of their Far Eastern policy.

At the same time, the US was active in the external affairs of many Latin American countries. Of particular interest to US foreign policymakers was Panama and the isthmus canal project there. The US became directly responsible for Panama’s break from Columbia. Panama’s independence from Columbia secured America’s ability to connect the Atlantic and Pacific markets via the Panama shipping canal – a triumph of American economic and foreign policy.

Other external sources that influenced the U.S at this time included continued warfare between the great powers: The Russo-Japanese War; the British, German and Italian blockade of Venezuela; the clashes between Germany and France over French North Africa; the British-German naval arms race for control of the seas and the world’s commerce; and the growing tensions in the Middle East, where oil had been discovered. These were all inputs into America’s foreign policy decision-making process which pulled it from isolationism to internationalism. America was now vying with Britain, France, Germany, Russia, and Japan for what future U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt called “the domination of the world.”

Societal sources also had their unique impact on American foreign policy. Domestic beliefs were transferred to the international sphere. For example, America has always had a sense of exceptionalism – the belief that America is a superior country in every way and that American beliefs and forms of government should be exported to other nations. One scholar put it this way: “The United States (s)hould transform other nations into communities that shared America’s political and social values and also its religious beliefs.” This is reminiscent of Democratic Peace Theory, which is still in vogue today as seen by America’s continuing attempt to export liberal democracy and free markets to other nations.

TURNING and turning in the widening gyre … the falcon cannot hear the falconer;

The Second Coming
By Yeats
(frequently quoted by Joseph Campbell)

TURNING and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,

The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: somewhere in sands of the desert
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Reel shadows of the indignant desert birds.
The darkness drops again; but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?