dan ariely, author of predictably irrational, with some more amazingly fascinating insights on the human condition – in a great RSAanimate video!

i’ve been told it doesn’t have anything to do with sanskrit, but it’s still pretty good. apparently it’s from chérie carter-scott’s book “if life is a game, these are the rules”

thx, alistair!

most of these figures seem fairly accurate, at least the general dimensions/relations!

nice appearance by the always-amazing naomi klein on bill moyers. 30 min worth watching. i love her analysis of most climate activist messages that target the individual (‘you can do something about it by changing your behavior’) and often neglect the necessity for collective action. this point is the reason i finally became a fan of annie leonard’s story of stuff series when she presented the story of change, and what i love about occupy movement: the realization that we need to break out of the individualistic thinking that keeps us competing against each other rather than working together. we’re all in the same boat and should start acting more like it.

i’m mostly contemplating her point that part of the reason why public opinion on the subject of climate change has been so shaky is the discrepancy between saying ‘this is a huge, armageddon-style problem’ but suggesting that the solutions only have a very minor impact on our lives (‘changing light bulbs’) and do not demand big sacrifices from anyone. maybe it’s because ‘being radical’ has been put in such a bad public light, and the public debate tends to frame climate activists as radical – while it’s actually the other way round, as mckibben so rightly points out: the true radicals are those who are fundamentally changing the composition of the atmosphere.

i’m no historian, but i do tend to agree with her (as i usually do..) that this is the greatest problem we’ve ever faced as humanity. it’s what makes this the most interesting issue to work on and be a part of.

by the way, also just in: 350.org is calling climate activists around the world to join the global power shift kick-off in istanbul from 10-17 june 2013. i’m hoping i can join, and look forward to meet climate activists from around the world!

350.org on the Do The Math Tour: 3 sold-out nights so far, and clear language: 5 times more than is safe to burn.

It’s simple math: we can burn 565 more gigatons of carbon dioxide and stay below 2°C of warming — anything more than that risks catastrophe for life on earth. The only problem? Fossil fuel corporations now have 2,795 gigatons in their reserves, five times the safe amount. And they’re planning to burn it all — unless we rise up to stop them.

What we can do? Well, join the tour, join the movement. It sounds very promising, with an interesting program and some great guests, incl. Naomi Klein and Kumi Naidoo. Wish the tour would make it to Europe.

And I like the approach of divestment from the fossil fuel industry to solve this problem:

It just doesn’t make sense for universities to invest in a system that will leave their students no livable planet to use their degrees on, or for pension funds to invest in corporations that will ruin the world we plan to retire in.
The one thing we know the fossil fuel industry cares about is money. Universities, pension funds, and churches invest a lot of it. If we start with these local institutions and hit the industry where it hurts — their bottom line — we can get their attention and force them to change. This was a key part of how the world ended the apartheid system in South Africa, and we hope it can have the same effect on the climate crisis.

I miss George Carlin. I think he raises a good (possibly the best) point that it doesn’t really matter who you vote for. But I think there’s an important reason to vote, which has gone largely underreported: upcoming nominations of Supreme Court justices.

Currently there are 5 traditionally conservative (Roberts, Scalia, Kennedy, Thomas, Alito) and 4 traditionally liberal (Ginsburg, Breyer, Sotomayor, Kagan) Supreme Court judges, with Kennedy occasionally siding with the liberal opinion. The four judges in italic are likely to be replaced within the next years due to their age (over 73 years), with Ginsburg being the most likely candidate.

Why is this important? For starters, there’s the potential overturning of Roe v. Wade, and the endangerment of affirmative action (Fischer v. University of Texas on Affirmative Action in education is to be decided soon) as well as gay rights (DOMA & California’s Proposition 8). But there’s something even more fundamental: the current and former courts’ support of power of corporations over the protection of individual rights.

Conservative Supreme Court Activism

In a 2010 speech, Sen. Al Franken (D) makes the point that right-wing Supreme court activism has strategically strengthened the power of corporations in the last years (It’s a 40 minute speech, but I can highly recommend taking the time to watch).

What conservative legal activists are really interested in is this question: What individual rights are so basic and so important that they should be protected above a corporation’s right to profit?

And their preferred answer is: None of them. Zero.

He goes on to recount numerous cases in which ‘the Roberts Court has systematically dismantled the legal protections that help ordinary people find justice when wronged by the economically powerful’:

Stoneridge stripped shareholders of their ability to get their money back from the banks that helped defraud them, Conkright made it easier for employers to deny workers their pension, Leegin put the burden onto the small business owners to show that price fixing will hurt competition under the Sherman Act, and Exxon reduced the damages that Exxon had pay for Exxon Valdez oil spill from $2.5 billion to $500 million USD because it could have an ’unpredictable impact on its future profitability’.

He tells the story of Lilly Ledbetter who sued her employer after she found out shortly before her retirement that she had been receiving less pay than her male counterparts. The Supreme Court interpreted the legal requirement to sue within 180 days to refer to the first time she was discriminated against, not the most recent discriminatory check.  Considering she simply did and could not know about it then, this is simply insane (Fortunately, the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act loosening those requirements was the first bill Obama signed into law).

Citizens United: Super PACs and 501©(4)s

The most important ruling, however, was the Citizens United decision in 2010, which fundamentally changed campaign finance and essentially created the basis for ‘Super PACs’ – those theoretically independent organizations that can spend an unlimited amount of money on campaigning.

They are required to disclose their donors, but there’s a way around it: The ‘501©(4) Social Welfare Organization’ (which can spend money on campaigning) does not need to disclose its donors or even report to the IRS until after the election (i.e. after the campaign). What’s more, it even enjoys tax-exempt non-profit status, and – get this – it can even donate its money to the Super PAC, which then only needs to disclose a donation by the ‘501©(4)’.

Stephen Colbert has brilliantly dissected this insane change in campaign finance by setting one up himself in a mockery of the process. His lawyer’s answer to what ‘the difference between that and money laundering’ is ’It’s hard to say.’

Here’s an informative interview with lawyer Trevor Potter, a self-declared Republican:

This has led to an enormous rise in campaign spending, with the latest estimates reaching about $6 billion USD (compare that to the previous record of $700 million USD in 2008). Most of which, we’ll never know where it came from. And lot of that money has gone into negative attack ads, leading experts to call this “very likely to be the most negative race since the advent of television” (John Greer).

If I could, I surely would

So the Super PAC / 501©(4) combination seems like the perfect tool for those that according to Carlin ‘own this country’ to influence the election that will most likely determine who will decide upon the future of the Supreme Court. It might even be a major reason that they spend so much money on it. And check out the numbers USA Today posted:

That’s why I think this election matters. A more liberal court might revisit Citizens United, eliminating the need for a constitutional amendment to overturn the decision. Should Ginsburg and Kennedy be replaced with a more conservative judge however, it’s safe to assume that this outrageous campaign finance game will continue along with the hollowing out of individual rights at the benefit of a corporation’s right to profit.

Unfortunately, I’m not allowed to vote. And I know that Americans don’t particularly like advice from the rest of the world, but if I could, I surely would make use of that privilege.

people with interesting lives.. (thx, giò!)

Seit mehr als 3 Wochen demonstrieren Flüchtlinge, die von Würzburg nach Berlin gelaufen sind, um auf das unmögliche Asylrecht aufmerksam zu machen, seit einer Woche auch im Hungerstreik vor dem Brandenburger Tor.

Dabei werden Ihnen bei Temperaturen um den Nullpunkt und Bodenfrost Decken/Isomatten von den Behörden weggenommen, sie dürfen nicht mal zur medizinischen Behandlung weder liegen noch sitzen, und auch nicht im Rollstuhl sitzen. Ständige Änderungen der Auflagen inklusive.

Öffentliche Aufmerksamkeit bis vor 2 Tagen: sehr gering. Die Medien kommen halt erst wenn sich Politpromis und/oder nackte Frauen dazustellen. Dazu ein schöner Beitrag von Ennomane.

Es sollte nicht vergessen werden, wie es zum verschärften Asylrecht kam, damals, Anfang der 90er. Da brannten Asylbewerberheime, vielleicht erinnert sich noch jemand an Rostock-Lichtenhangen. In Hoyerswerda kapitulierte der Staat und evakuierte die Asylbewerber – und schon hatten die Rechten den Erfolg den sie wollten: Hoyerswerda war ausländerfrei. An den Ressentiments scheint sich auch in den letzten 20 Jahren nicht sonderlich viel geändert zu haben. Ich kann mich auch noch sehr gut daran erinnern, und stimmte auch Martin Hyuns Artikel zu.

Dieser Artikel fasst das ganz gut zusammen, wie es dazu kam, dass ausgerechnet die Opfer (!) des Asylrechtsmissbrauchs bezichtigt wurden und als Konsequenz der Pogrome dann das Asylrecht verschärft wurde. In den Worten von Ennomane: “Eigentlich erbärmlich. Nein. Uneigentlich.”

Anbei noch ein schockierendes und recht aktuelles Video vom September, wo sich Geschichte zu wiederholen droht: ‘Hass statt Gastfreundschaft: Asyl in Wolgast’

Wen wundert es noch, dass Deutschland gerade von UN-Experten für Defizite bei der Achtung von Menschenrechten, gerade bei der Abschiebung von Asylbewerbern, kritisiert wurde.