B12 Solipsism

Spreading confusion over the internet since 1994

Barges, River Thames was uploaded to Flickr

added Lith Slenium/Gold tone in Photoshop

embiggen by clicking
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I took Barges, River Thames on August 06, 2010 at 09:19AM

and processed it in my digital darkroom on July 14, 2015 at 04:43PM

Written by eggplant

July 14th, 2015 at 10:11 am

Taking The Easy Way Out was uploaded to Flickr

Lake Michigan

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I took Taking The Easy Way Out on April 25, 2010 at 03:47PM

and processed it in my digital darkroom on July 08, 2015 at 06:49AM

Written by eggplant

July 7th, 2015 at 11:52 pm

Chicago to Tax Streaming Providers

Netflix Streaming July 2015

Wow, 9% is rather a large increase to my Netflix bill. I wonder if databases like Hoover’s  will be affected? Seems like they might. 

Chicagoans who pay to stream movies and music from services like Netflix and Spotify will now need to fork over an additional 9 percent for the privilege, as will Chicago businesses that pay to use everything from real estate to court databases online, under a decision the city quietly made recently to expand its taxing power.

The added costs are the result of a ruling by the city Finance Department that extends the reach of ordinances governing two types of taxes — the city amusement tax and the city personal property lease transaction tax — to cover many products streamed to businesses and residents alike.

According to the Finance Department changes, the 9 percent amusement tax, which has mostly been tacked onto tickets to concerts and sporting events, also now applies to paid subscriptions for streamed digital music and to streamed rental movies or TV shows, and “for the privilege of participating in games, on-line or otherwise,” if the person paying to receive the data is in Chicago.

 …

The personal property lease transaction tax expansion also applies to professional services, like electronic property databases real estate agents use, court case databases lawyers rely on and various financial information networks.

 

(click here to continue reading City extends taxing power to online movies, music, more – Chicago Tribune.)

Could I get around this by using a VPN? 

Written by Seth Anderson

July 2nd, 2015 at 11:10 am

Posted in Business,Chicago-esque

Tagged with , ,

Amtrak Plans Long Overdue Union Station Makeover

Reign In Your Instincts
Reign In Your Instincts…

I’m pleased to note that Union Station is getting a rehab, a long over-due rehab, opening up hidden rooms and so forth. Can’t wait – Union Station is such an iconic Chicago building, yet it has been seemingly neglected for a while, probably due to the inexplicable animosity the GOP has towards Amtrak and passenger trains in general.

John Hilkevitch reports:

Amtrak is betting millions of dollars to transform Union Station into an entertainment and tourist destination, complete with restaurants and outdoor cafes, retail, a hotel and even a grocery store, Getting Around has learned.

Amtrak wants to open up thousands of square feet of space long closed to the public, literally throwing open the doors to the 90-year-old building in a bid to return the landmark station to its heyday in the 1940s and ’50s.

Hidden deep inside Union Station are palatial rooms with 33-foot-high ceilings and assorted alcoves that have been mothballed for decades. During the golden age of passenger rail, those spaces were filled with ritzy restaurants, coffee shops (including the fabled Harvey House), a dance hall, tailoring shops specializing in custom suits, law offices and more.

Behind locked doors is the former Women’s Waiting Room, adorned with murals dating to the station’s opening in 1925, a period when female passengers would take refuge from the rough-and-tumble of traveling alone and freshen up during a stopover in Chicago by using pay showers.

Other hidden spaces, tucked behind the station’s marble walls and ornamental iron bars that cover part of the building’s facade, collect dust. Some of Union Station’s doors fronting Canal Street, potential portals to outdoor cafes, haven’t been cracked open in years, officials said.

Sanders said a well-known high-end grocery chain has expressed interest in opening a food emporium at Union Station. Sanders also said he envisions a hotel on the station’s second floor, with the hotel entrance and marquee on Adams Street between Canal and Clinton streets. He’s already dreaming about reinstalling canopies that once gracefully draped the entrances to Union Station, he said.

(click here to continue reading Amtrak plans Union Station makeover – Chicago Tribune.)

Ready to Take That Night Train To Memphis
Ready to Take That Night Train To Memphis

Either Whole Foods or Mariano’s, I’d guess, even though both have stores nearby on Halsted. 

Got the Wine Country Blues
Got the Wine Country Blues

And I should pop over, and snap a few photos of the staircase in its current worn condition, just for posterity.

In the meantime, the Canal Street entrances will be closed for more than two months starting around July 15, when work is scheduled to begin to replace both sets of the worn marble steps connecting the Great Hall to the station’s main entrance on Canal, where CTA buses stop. The combination deli and bar under the steps has closed in preparation for the work.

The friction from countless pairs of shoes over the years has effectively sanded down the marble, creating indentations on the treads of the steps, which display the most wear and tear near the brass railings.

The grand staircases are famous in their own right, having been filmed and photographed repeatedly in images seen around the world. There’s a dramatic scene in the 1987 film “The Untouchables” where Kevin Costner, playing mob crime fighter Eliot Ness, exchanges gunfire with Al Capone’s gang while a runaway baby carriage rolls bump by bump down the marble stairs.

New marble for the steps was recently cut out of the same quarries near Rome where 100 years ago the marble for the original Union Station steps was mined, Sanders said.

300 S Jackson - Ilford Delta 100
300 S Jackson – Ilford Delta 100

Written by Seth Anderson

June 29th, 2015 at 7:47 am

You Are Part of Everything was uploaded to Flickr

minnows, Lake Michigan

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I took You Are Part of Everything on May 23, 2015 at 05:45PM

and processed it in my digital darkroom on June 26, 2015 at 03:26PM

Written by eggplant

June 26th, 2015 at 6:10 pm

Tell Me All That You Know was uploaded to Flickr

Forest Preserve somewhere, being bitten by West Nile Virus-carrying mosquitos, probably…

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I took Tell Me All That You Know on June 22, 2015 at 12:35PM

and processed it in my digital darkroom on June 24, 2015 at 07:57AM

Written by eggplant

June 24th, 2015 at 1:50 am

Publishers Weigh Ways to Fight Ad Blocking

ATM$ Inside
ATM$ Inside…

Adblocking software is a default installation for any browser on any computer I set up, usually using Ghostery. I am frequently amazed at the sheer amount of tracking code a typical publisher uses. Dozens and dozens of third party cookies, sometimes even more.

Browsing the web without ads is actually kind of nice. No popups stealing your screen. No autoplaying video ads making the page load as slowly as if it were being dialed up through America Online circa 1999. And millions of people seem to agree. They’ve installed extensions to their web browsers that delete the ads from most, if not all, of of the sites they visit. One popular ad blocker, AdBlock Plus, claims that it’s been installed on people’s browsers more than 400 million times and that it counts “close to 50 to 60 million active users,” said Ben Williams, communications and operations director at Eyeo, the company that makes AdBlock Plus.

Ad blocking isn’t a new issue. People have been installing these extensions for years. But those people were considered a fringe group. But that group is getting closer to the mainstream as kids who grew up browsing the web on their parents’ computers are getting their own laptops that they can customize all the way.

And advertisers’ target audience du jour — millennials — appear to be more likely to use ad blockers than any other age group. Of the survey respondents who were between the ages of 18 and 29 years old, 41% said they use ad blockers. As further evidence ad blocking isn’t abating, Mr. Williams said AdBlock Plus has averaged 2.3 million downloads a week since 2013.

(click here to continue reading Publishers Weigh Ways to Fight Ad Blocking | Media – Advertising Age.)

Nelson Muntz Furniture
Nelson Muntz Furniture

If the trend continues, the ad-supported model of web publishing will die soon. I’m not sure what will replace it – a subscription model I guess – but web publishers did themselves no favors by making ads increasingly more obnoxious. Autoplay videos are evil, and I cannot wait until Apple allows ad blocking software on iPhones and iPads.

Ad blocking extensions have been possible on Safari for Mac for a long time, but plugin architecture for Safari on iOS is much more limited. With iOS 9, Apple has added a special case of extension for ad blockers. Apps can now include ‘content blocker’ extensions that define resources (like images and scripts) for Safari to not load. For the first time, this architecture makes ad blockers a real possibility for iOS developers to make and iOS customers to install and use.

The inclusion of such a feature at this time is interesting. Apple is also pushing its own news solution in iOS 9 with the News app, which will include ads but not be affected by the content blocking extensions as they only apply to Safari. There is also clearly the potential for Safari ad blockers to hurt Google, which seems to be a common trend with Apple’s announcements recently…

(click here to continue reading iOS 9 lets app developers make ad blockers for Safari | 9to5Mac.)

Blocking ad tracking is also parenthetically about user privacy, and Apple is more likely to increase capabilities for its customers to opt out of the massive marketing databases of contemporary corporations like Acxiom, with the exception of inclusion in Apple’s own massive database of course. Apple is not a benevolent grandmother, but at least they are being more open about their marketing and data collection practices than some of their technology company peers.

Apple’s senior vice president of software engineering, Craig Federighi, who was onstage to present new “proactive” artificial intelligence features of the next iPhone operating system, paused before one of the slides to make the company’s devotion to privacy clear.

Yes, he said, the new software will try to anticipate your information needs, based on things like your calendar and location — something that its rival, Google, already does. But, Federighi added, “we do it in a way that does not compromise your privacy. We don’t mine your email, your photos, or your contacts in the cloud to learn things about you. We honestly just don’t wanna know.”

He continued: “All of this is done on [the] device, and it stays on [the] device, under your control.” And Apple says that if it does have to perform a lookup [online] on your behalf, it’s anonymous, it’s not associated with your Apple ID, and it’s not shared with third parties.

In case you missed that point, Federighi immediately repeated: “You are in control.”

(click here to continue reading Walt Mossberg: Apple’s Latest Product Is Privacy | Re/code.)

Waste Your Time and Money
Waste Your Time and Money

We are talking significant revenue at stake already:

“Consumers want a faster web, significantly less tracking by unknown third parties and clean, well-lit media experiences. [Apple’s mobile ad-blocking plan] just accelerates it, and opens up a significant share of the marketplace,” said Jason Kint, CEO of online publisher trade group Digital Content Next. That significant share would significantly cut into publishers’ revenues. Take the biggest digital ad seller — Google — as a proxy. PageFair has estimated that Google, which made $59.1 billion from advertising in 2014, lost $6.6 billion that year because of ad blocking. As Vice’s chief digital officer Mike Germano said at an industry conference in New York earlier this month, “I love my audience, but fuck you, ad blockers — 20% of my revenue is gone.”

How to Get Your Business To Show Up On Google
How to Get Your Business To Show Up On Google

Written by Seth Anderson

June 19th, 2015 at 8:23 am

Posted in Advertising,Apple,Business

Tagged with ,

Donald Trump Joins the Race

https://farm1.staticflickr.com/329/18555876696_c987530dac_z.jpg
 

Charles Pierce writes an essay on the inevitability of Donald Trump joining the Republican Clown Car, 2015 edition, and you should certainly click through to the short piece, and read it yourself. He concludes:

[Trump] is the inevitable result of 40 years of political conjuring, mainly by Republicans, but abetted by far too many Democrats as well. He is the inevitable product of anyone who ever argued that our political institutions should be run “like a business.” (Like whose businesses? Like Trump’s? Like Carly Fiorina’s Hewlett Packard?) He is the inevitable product of anyone who ever argued why the government can’t balance its books “the way any American family would.”

Bozo The Clown
Bozo The Clown

He is the inevitable result of the deregulated economy that was deregulated out of a well-cultivated wonder and awe directed at the various masters of the universe. Sooner or later, all of this misbegotten magical thinking was going to burp up a clown like Donald Trump. Sooner or later, the conversion of the institutions of the national legislature into vehicles for polite ratfcking was going to burp up a Trey Gowdy, who will interrogate not the actual Sid Blumenthal, but the one that exists in thousands of fundraising letters and chain e-mails. The politics of this country have dedicated themselves to the pursuit of hallucinations today. Wish I could say I was surprised.

(click here to continue reading Donald Trump Joins the Race.)

Written by Seth Anderson

June 17th, 2015 at 2:55 pm

Posted in politics

Tagged with ,

Reveal A Thing You’ve Forgotten was uploaded to Flickr

North Avenue Bridge over the Chicago River

embiggen by clicking
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I took Reveal A Thing You’ve Forgotten on April 25, 2014 at 07:00PM

and processed it in my digital darkroom on June 15, 2015 at 06:39PM

Written by eggplant

June 15th, 2015 at 11:58 am

City In The Rain was uploaded to Flickr

Rain, rain, rain

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I took City In The Rain on June 14, 2015 at 03:26AM

and processed it in my digital darkroom on June 14, 2015 at 08:28AM

Written by eggplant

June 14th, 2015 at 9:11 am

A Trans-Pacific Partnership Overview

Hapag-Lloyd
Shipping containers, Seattle.

More details about the TPP, and more reasons for Democrats1 to oppose it.

Have you heard? The TPP is a massive, controversial “free trade” agreement currently being pushed by big corporations and negotiated behind closed doors by officials from the United States and 11 other countries – Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, and Vietnam. The TPP would expand the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) “trade” pact model that has spurred massive U.S. trade deficits and job loss, downward pressure on wages, unprecedented levels of inequality and new floods of agricultural imports. The TPP not only replicates, but expands NAFTA’s special protections for firms that offshore U.S. jobs. And U.S. TPP negotiators literally used the 2011 Korea FTA – under which exports have fallen and trade deficits have surged – as the template for the TPP. In one fell swoop, this secretive deal could:

In one fell swoop, this secretive deal could:

 

Although it is called a “free trade” agreement, the TPP is not mainly about trade. Of TPP’s 29 draft chapters, only five deal with traditional trade issues. One chapter would provide incentives to offshore jobs to low-wage countries. Many would impose limits on government policies that we rely on in our daily lives for safe food, a clean environment, and more. Our domestic federal, state and local policies would be required to comply with TPP rules.

The TPP would even elevate individual foreign firms to equal status with sovereign nations, empowering them to privately enforce new rights and privileges, provided by the pact, by dragging governments to foreign tribunals to challenge public interest policies that they claim frustrate their expectations. The tribunals would be authorized to order taxpayer compensation to the foreign corporations for the “expected future profits” they surmise would be inhibited by the challenged policies.

(click here to continue reading Trans-Pacific Partnership.)

especially since corporate America is so gung-ho for the agreement:

As big a setback as Friday’s vote on Capitol Hill was for President Obama’s efforts to advance his trade agenda, it was an even bigger rebuff for the leaders of American business.

While there are deep divisions over trade policy among Democrats, and to some extent among Republicans as well, corporate America has been nearly unified in its support of a deal that would lower various barriers to trade and investment between the United States and 11 other Pacific Rim nations.

Though many sought to put the best face on the vote, business groups and chief executives were quick to voice their displeasure with the House’s rejection of aid to workers harmed by imports, which could doom prospects for eventual approval of a wider trade pact.

(click here to continue reading Business Leaders React With Dismay to Defeat of Trade Bill – NYTimes.com.)

You Are A Wanderer By Trade
You Are A Wanderer By Trade

But still, the Democrats are to blame, not the Republicans who have majorities in both House and Senate…

Although certainly a minority, a few business groups oppose the trade pact. Unions, environmental groups and many liberals are also opposed. Many critics cited the job losses that followed the signing of North American Free Trade Agreement more than two decades ago.

There was also some applause for the defeat from groups like the American Sustainable Business Council, a network of progressive business organizations.

“The T.P.P. would give multinational corporations unprecedented power to evade safeguards that protect consumers, workers and the environment. It would hurt smaller, innovative businesses,” said David Levine, the group’s co-founder.

While most economists generally support the White House’s trade agenda, some on the left have kept up a steady drumbeat, warning that it has been structured primarily to advance the interests of Wall Street and major corporations doing business abroad.

(click here to continue reading Business Leaders React With Dismay to Defeat of Trade Bill – NYTimes.com.)

Yeah, economists like the NYT’s own Paul Krugman, who isn’t mentioned in this article, but who says he is against the TPP. 

Footnotes:
  1. and Republicans []

Written by Seth Anderson

June 13th, 2015 at 10:28 am

Posted in Business,politics

Tagged with ,

Democrats Always Take The Blame

F Trade
F Trade

I’m probably not the only one amused at the framing of the defeat of the Trans-Pacific Partnership Trade Deal. You see, even though Republicans have majorities in both House and Senate, the TPP failed solely because of those intransigent Democrats!  How dare they vote out of lockstep with the President?

The Chicago Tribune’s headline spells it out:

The House vote Friday included two related measures, both of which had to pass in order to send the legislation — which was approved last month by the Senate — to the president’s desk.

A bill to give the president fast-track authority to negotiate future trade deals was approved by a 219-211 vote. But another measure regarding assistance funds to retrain workers — a program typically supported by Democrats — failed 126-302 largely because Democrats voted against it.

Because the Senate had previously approved both measures as a single bill, the House’s failure to pass the retraining measure prevented the overall package from advancing. Supporters plan to hold another vote on the retraining bill early next week, giving the White House and congressional Republicans another chance to drum up votes.

Obama’s push for the legislation was his biggest lobbying effort since the 2010 passage of the Affordable Care Act. He personally pressed fellow Democrats to support the measure in a meeting Friday morning on Capitol Hill and during an unscheduled appearance Thursday night at the annual congressional ballgame at the Nationals ballpark.

(click here to continue reading Obama suffers big loss as trade bill is defeated at hands of Democrats – Chicago Tribune.)

from the NYT, a slightly less pointed version:

He made it personal. He appealed to their loyalty. He asked them to give him what every modern president has had. He argued the facts, disputed the politics, quarreled over the history and at times lashed out at those who still refused to stand with him.

Yet in the end, after years of frustration with Republicans blocking his ideas in Congress, President Obama on Friday found the most sweeping legislative initiative left on his agenda thwarted not by the opposition but by his own party. If not for his fellow Democrats, Mr. Obama would have a landmark trade bill heading to his desk for signature.

(click here to continue reading Washington Dysfunction, With a Twist: Democrats Desert Their President – NYTimes.com.)

The Wall Street Journal’s perspective is clear: Obama should just resign now since there are only 2 years left in his term…

House Democrats dealt President Barack Obama a major setback in his bid for expanded trade-negotiating powers, roundly rejecting on Friday a workers-aid program that was a key component of the bill and leaving the White House’s trade agenda in limbo.

While stinging, the vote was not the last word in the trade fight, as House Speaker John Boehner (R., Ohio) said there would be a re-vote by Tuesday on extending the aid program, which is designed to help workers hurt by international trade.

But Friday’s defeat showed the degree to which Mr. Obama’s trade agenda is on shaky ground in Congress. The House voted against the workers-aid program by 126-302. To improve those numbers, House Republican leaders, the White House and pro-trade businesses will need to find ways to win over a combination of Democrats who are skeptical of the overall trade push and Republicans leery of supporting the aid package.

It also underscored the waning influence of a second-term president, particularly on an issue many Democrats see as toxic to their re-election prospects, given concerns in their districts that U.S. jobs are being sent overseas.

 

(click here to continue reading House Deals Blow to Obama’s Bid for Trade Deal, Rejects Worker-Aid Program – WSJ.)

You get the idea.

speculative commodities trades
 What about the bill being defeated because it is a boondoggle? 

The political battle over the enormous, twelve-nation trade agreement known as the Trans-Pacific Partnership keeps getting stranger. President Obama has made the completion of the deal the number-one legislative priority of his second term. Indeed, Republican opponents of the T.P.P., in an effort to rally the red-state troops, have begun calling it Obamatrade. And yet most of the plan’s opponents are not Republicans; they’re Democrats.

Obama’s chief allies in his vote-by-vote fight in the House of Representatives to win “fast-track authority” to negotiate this and other trade deals are Speaker John Boehner and Representative Paul Ryan—not his usual foxhole companions. The vote may come as soon as Friday. The House Republican leaders tell their dubious members that they are supporting Obama only in order to “constrain” him. Meanwhile, Obama is lobbying members of the Black Congressional Caucus, whose support he can normally count on, tirelessly and, for the most part, fruitlessly. “The president’s done everything except let me fly Air Force One,” Representative Cedric Richmond, Democrat of Louisiana, told the Christian Science Monitor this week. Nonetheless, Richmond said, “I’m leaning no.”

The long, bad aftertaste of NAFTA—the North American Free Trade Agreement, enacted in 1994—explains much of the Democratic opposition to the T.P.P. Ronald Reagan originally proposed NAFTA, but Bill Clinton championed it, got it through Congress mainly on Republican votes, and signed it. In many Democratic districts, NAFTA is still widely blamed for the loss of hundreds of thousands of American manufacturing jobs, and for long-term downward pressure on wages. When President Obama argues that the T.P.P. is not NAFTA, he is correct. It convenes Pacific Rim nations and economies of many stripes, from wealthy, democratic Japan to authoritarian, impoverished Vietnam, and it includes six countries with which the United States already has free-trade agreements. If enacted, it will encompass forty per cent of global economic activity. It is less a traditional trade deal than a comprehensive economic treaty and, at least for the United States, a strategic hedge against the vast and growing weight of Chinese regional influence. What exactly the T.P.P. will do, however, is difficult to know, because its terms are being negotiated in secret. Only “cleared advisors,” most of them representing various private industries, are permitted to work on the text. Leaked drafts of chapters have occasionally surfaced—enough to alarm, among others, environmentalists, labor groups, and advocates for affordable medicine.

(click here to continue reading Why Does Obama Want This Trade Deal So Badly? – The New Yorker.)

The Trade Union Vow
The Trade Union Vow

It’s hard to think of a fight that has showed President Obama to worse effect than his effort to pass Trade Promotion Authority and the Trans-Pacific Partnership over widespread Democratic opposition. His respect for his opponents has been at low ebb, and since many of his opponents in this fight are Democrats, that means we’ve seen him taking uncharacteristically nasty shots at people like Sen. Elizabeth Warren.

Now, in the aftermath of a vote in which the must-pass-to-pass-the-TPA Trade Adjustment Assistance was defeated, Obama used his weekly address to mislead about what’s going on. House Democrats overwhelmingly voted against the traditionally Democrat-supported assistance program for displaced workers because, according to the rule the House had adopted, TAA was linked to the fast-track TPA bill. No TAA, no TPA. Since TPA passed in the wake of TAA’s defeat, Republican leadership is bringing TAA back for another vote in hopes of getting it, and fast track along with it, through next week. That’s the weird, confusing procedural background—background Obama pretended does not exist as he touted the benefits of Trade Adjustment Assistance in his weekly address.

(click here to continue reading Obama misleads on trade assistance and fast track in weekly address.)

Lets Make a Deal
Lets Make a Deal

Paul Krugman calls it a defeat of the Davos Democrats, I like that phrase:

OK, I didn’t see that coming: even though I have come out as a lukewarm opponent of TPP, I assumed that it would happen anyway — the way trade deals (or in this case, dispute settlement and intellectual property deals that pretend to be about trade) always do. But no, or not so far.

A brief aside: I don’t think it’s right to call this a case of Washington “dysfunction”. Dysfunction is when we get outcomes nobody wants, or fail to do things everyone wants done, because there doesn’t seem to be any way to package the politics. In this case, however, people who oppose TPP voted down key enabling measures — that is, they got what they wanted. Calling this “dysfunction” presumes that this deal is a good idea — and that kind of presumption is precisely what got successfully challenged yesterday.

Or to put it another way, one way to see this is as the last stand of the Davos Democrats.

Davos Democrats are known as the people who told us to trust unregulated finance and fear invisible bond vigilantes. They just don’t have the credibility to pull off arguments from authority any more. And it doesn’t say much for their perspicacity that they apparently had no idea that the world has changed.
TPP’s Democratic supporters thought they could dictate to their party like it’s 1999. They can’t.

(click here to continue reading Decline and Fall of the Davos Democrats – NYTimes.com.)

Written by Seth Anderson

June 13th, 2015 at 9:45 am

Amazon Associates Linkage Dying Off

Amazon the Everything Store
Amazon the Everything Store…

I got an email from the Amazon Associates division, reading, in part:

As part of our continuing effort to improve the Associates program’s products and services, we are making some changes to our technology platform. This platform change will require you to replace some older product links, banners, and widgets you currently have hosted on your website as they will no longer be supported after July 31, 2015. Text links are not impacted by this deprecation.

Action Required
We ask that you replace or update the impacted ad units prior to July 31, 2015. The links require the following update that can be facilitated through your CMS (content management system). You may make these replacements at whatever scale you are comfortable with.
– Find and replace ws.amazon.com with ws-na.amazon-adsystem.com
– Find and replace rcm.amazon.com with rcm-na.amazon-adsystem.com

Keep in mind that starting August 1, 2015, any remaining legacy product links (text + image, image-only), banners, and widgets will be served with non-clickable public service announcements that will not send traffic to Amazon, impacting your referring traffic and potential earnings, if not addressed. On September 1, 2015, these legacy ad units will no longer render, thereby creating a broken link on your website.

The thing is, I probably won’t bother. When Amazon decided to kill off the Illiniois affiliates program rather than give the state a taste of the tax revenues, as we’ve discussed previously, I stopped posting as many reviews of Things I Discovered That You Might Like Too. Coincidentally, this was also around the time I became a half-hearted blogger, posting less frequently and decidedly less enthusiasm. My daily traffic plummeted, probably because there are now many alternative blog-like media outlets, places like Gawker and Deadspin and Curbed, and so on – not written by hobbyists and part-timers like myself, but paid writers1.

After a couple of years, Amazon decided that paying taxes to all the state governments was not as big a deal as they had once complained about, and reinstalled the Affiliate program. However, they wouldn’t give me my old affiliate link back, nor would they merge the two accounts I had, so basically I stopped using Amazon links much.

I don’t think I’m going to go back through the thousands of posts I’ve made to correct the Amazon links, they will just become dead links, and I no longer will get a 3% bonus from Amazon if you clicked through one of this blog’s links and purchased something. Possibly, I’ll fix a few, if I happen to run across the post for other reasons; I doubt I’ll create replacements on a global level. I stand to lose dozens or more cents, but there are more important items on my agenda.

Moving on…

Footnotes:
  1. or whatever it is that the Huffington Post model is of exploitation, a model followed by some other sites []

Written by Seth Anderson

June 13th, 2015 at 9:06 am

When right-winger blather killed

A book that I’ve been meaning to read as well…

I finally read John Kelly’s troubling The Graves Are Walking: The Great Famine and the Saga of the Irish People (iBook) Our problems feel small. Ireland lost one in three people in the late 1840s. At least a million died in the famine and its related illnesses; another two million fled for England, Canada, the United States or other ports of refuge.

But I kept coming back to U.S. politics anyway. Hauntingly, Kelly repeats the phrase that drove British famine relief (or lack of it): they were so determined to end Irish “dependence on government” that they stalled or blocked provision of food, public works projects and other proposals that might have kept more Irish alive and fed. The phrase appears at least seven times, by my count, in the book. “Dependence on government:” Haven’t we heard that somewhere?

In fact, the day after finishing Kelly’s book, I found Salon’s Michael Lind writing about the Heritage Foundation brief, “The Index of Dependence on Government.” It could have been the title of a report by famine villain Charles Trevelyan, the British Treasury assistant secretary whose anti-Irish moralism thwarted relief, but of course it was written by well-paid conservative Beltway think tankers. The very same day PBS aired a Frontline documentary revealing that our fabulously wealthy country has the fourth highest child-poverty rate in the developed world, just behind Mexico, Chile and Turkey. 

And I couldn’t help thinking: we haven’t come far at all.

(click here to continue reading When right-wing blather killed – Salon.com.)

 

and Joan Walsh’s thumbnail review:

A brief overview is necessary: Kelly fights the notion that the British famine response was “genocide,” or even, as I put it in my book, “ethnic cleansing.” It was more benign and commonplace, he argues, though still cruel and deadly: An effort to use a tragedy to advance a political agenda, and to imagine God’s hand at work advancing that agenda, in matters that are well within the realm of human action to prevent or correct.

Famine Ireland combined the worst of feudalism and capitalism. Anglo-Irish landlords, given their land in “plantations” after decades of war in the 16th and 17th centuries to displace conquered Irish Catholics, were a big part of the problem. At least a quarter were absentee and only wanted the highest rents they could gouge; resident landlords preferred “conspicuous consumption” – Ireland enjoyed a million acres of deer parks and gardens – to building the infrastructure of modern agriculture.

So British leaders wanted to use the famine “to modernize the Irish agricultural economy, which was widely viewed as the principal source of Ireland’s poverty and chronic violence, and to improve the Irish character, which exhibited an alarming ‘dependence on government’ and was utterly lacking in the virtues of the new industrial age, such as self-discipline and initiative,” Kelly writes. Trevelyan told a colleague: God “sent the calamity to teach the Irish a lesson…[and it] must not be too mitigated.”

Sometimes I felt like quibbling with Kelly over his effort to refute charges that the famine response was a deliberate form of ethnic cleansing, given the way it was driven by centuries of crippling prejudice against Irish Catholics. But he’s right: It isn’t genocide when we don’t act to stop the deaths of people we don’t care about in the first place. Certainly some Irish leaders veered into crazy anti-British conspiracy theories. The famine even had its version of Jeremiah Wright: Irish revolutionary John Mitchel, who claimed the British government created typhus in laboratories and deliberately infected the Irish, much as Wright accused the U.S. government of spreading AIDS in poor black communities. I guess centuries of oppression can lead to some crazy, intemperate ideas.

Laura Miller adds:

The Irish economy was backward and precarious, but for Trevelyan the failure of the potato crop presented not a life-or-death crisis but an opportunity to forcibly modernize it. He agreed to a limited public works program (in which out-of-work laborers were paid a pittance to build roads to nowhere) because he believed it would break the peasant class of its reliance on barter and subsistence farming. The idea was to sell them corn imported from overseas because the grain couldn’t be cultivated in Ireland, thereby accustoming them to using money. However, when Ireland’s mercantile men objected to the price-depressing effects of government-funded grain, Trevelyan vowed not to sell it too cheaply, claiming that high prices would promote foreign imports.

These strategies amount to the 19th-century version of what Naomi Klein has dubbed the “Shock Doctrine”: an attempt to force economic reforms on a population reeling in the aftermath of a disaster. Kelly intersperses the nitty gritty of the shifting Irish economic situation with horrific glimpses of its human toll: streets jammed with gaunt, half-naked wraiths who had sold their clothes for food, families gathered mutely in miserable cottages to die, unburied corpses by the roadside, entire hamlets razed by landlords seeking to evict “dead weight” tenants they’d otherwise have to help. If only these unfortunates could have sought comfort in “Thoughts and Details on Scarcity”!

Recognizing that the British handling of the famine was “parsimonious, short-sighted, grotesquely twisted by religion and ideology” rather than deliberately genocidal is important because while powerful, paranoid, racist madmen like Hitler are relatively rare, our own time is replete with men like Trevelyan. The Moralists saw the famine as a combination of divine judgement on the Irish people and the market working itself out in accordance with God’s plan, an equation of brutal capitalism with pseudo-Christian piety that can be just as destructive as outright malevolence. That version of the story may not be as satisfying dramatically and morally as the one with the evil, homicidal Englishman, but it does do what history does best, which is to show us how not to repeat it.

(click here to continue reading “The Graves Are Walking”: Was the Great Potato Famine a genocide? – Salon.com.)

Written by Seth Anderson

June 13th, 2015 at 8:40 am

Posted in Books,politics

Tagged with , ,

Chicago, Glenview police officers charged with perjury

Police Line - Do Not Cross
Police Line – Do Not Cross.

In a just world, these officers would all serve time in prison. Knowing our skewed justice system, they will not spend a moment in jail. The state’s attorney’s office must have been pretty pissed at these guys to file felony perjury charges.

Three Chicago police officers and a Glenview police officer have been charged with lying under oath in court during a drug case last year.

The officers — Chicago police Sgt. James Padar, Officer William Pruente, Officer Vince Morgan and Glenview Officer James Horn — have been charged with felony perjury, according to a statement issued early Monday by the Cook County state’s attorney’s office.

The charges come after a video contradicted the officers’ sworn testimony during a March 2014 court hearing on whether evidence in the drug case had been properly obtained.

The other officers took the stand and backed up Pruente’s version of the stop, to one degree or another, before Sperling’s lawyer played police video of the traffic stop.

The video, a copy of which was obtained by the Tribune, showed Pruente walking up to the car, reaching through the open driver’s window, unlocking the door and having Sperling step out of the car. Sperling was then frisked, handcuffed and led to a squad car while his car was searched.

 

(click here to continue reading Chicago, Glenview police officers charged with lying in drug case – Chicago Tribune.)

The digital revolution has changed our society in many ways, many negative1 but also in one undeniably positive way. So many citizens now have the capability to record what actually happens during interactions with law enforcement. We are learning that police cannot be trusted to tell the truth unless they know there is contrary evidence. How many drug arrests over the decades come down to the word of a police officer cited as incontrovertible evidence? Thousands? Hundreds of thousands? Millions?

Footnotes:
  1. planned obsolescence leading to massive amounts of environmental pollution, stripping our planet of resources to feed the insatiable maw, isolating people from human contact, etc. []

Written by Seth Anderson

June 9th, 2015 at 12:06 pm

Posted in crime,News-esque

Tagged with , ,