U.S. Military contractors engaged in de facto Human Trafficking

I find this latest report of human tafficking by U.S. military contractors in cahoots with local so-called subcontractors to obtain workers for U.S. bases to be so annoying I had to mirror the Democracy Now/Al Jazeera report here as my small part in spreading the truth.

The U.S. military industrial complex has no soul.

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Some facts about Venuezula from TheRealNews

Ironically, the very measures that Venezuela has taken to empower the poor have contributed to a confrontation with the world oligarchy.

I just discovered TheRealNews.com, which published this report and analysis of Latin American democracy in action. [I promise you'll like this -- Ed.]

Old forces are at play In the post-Hugo Chavez period in Venezuela.

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Albert Einstein was a socialist

Einstein Chalk Many of my liberal friends defend Capitalism, believe that “Hugo Chavez was a dictator”, and think that the radio station I listen to, KPFK, is a bunch of wacko leftists. At times, it makes me question my own beliefs. Am I really wrong in believing in socialism? So it was with a kind of relief when I discovered a fact that makes me feel content and even justified in having my so-called radical views. The fact I discovered is not by itself a reason to believe what I believe. It has taken me a life time to come to my beliefs and I realize how hard it is to change ones beliefs or the beliefs of others. But this fact I discovered somehow made me feel like I no longer have to defend myself to the liberals or the conservatives or the libertarian fundamentalist masses. The fact I discovered is that Albert Einstein was a socialist. I had not known that. Somehow, I felt soothed. If Albert Einstein, one of history’s most accurate thinkers, came to the same views I hold, I can walk a little taller, on surer footing. Einstein outlined his views in his article Why Socialism. Everyone who cares about the current economic crisis should read that article.

Socialism is a dirty word in America. Albert Einstein favored a society in which “the means of production are owned by society itself and are utilized in a planned fashion”. To some, especially the libertarian fundamentalists, that is a formula for control by government. I disagree. Einstein did not make precise the mechanism by which society owns or plans. I propose a definition of socialism that is consistent with Einstein’s goals for socialism but at first sight sounds as if it contradicts long standing beliefs about what socialism means. Namely, I propose that socialism is a way for more people to own more private property and have more control over their lives.

What is happening in the U.S. and world economy at the outset of the 21st century is that fewer people are owning and controlling the economy. That is Capitalism. A few people own and control, well, pretty much everything.

Is the only alternative to this skewed system of power one in which the government has more control? I think not.

What if, instead, more people owned the land they lived on (were no longer renters), owned more of the company they worked for (so the company was no longer owned by a few large share holders), and people shared ownership of commercial properties and voted on rent levels so that small businesses could thrive instead of enriching land lords of commercial properties? I am proposing that Socialism can be and is compatible with private property ownership. The difference with Capitalism is that under Socialism, as I am proposing, more people both individually and collectively own more things, not less things.

In other words, I acknowledge that “money is power”, to use a well worn phrase. I acknowledge that the structure of society is based on ownership. I do not attempt to deny that structural reality. Under some kind of fantasy “communism” that reality might change but we are not talking about “communism”, we are talking about a form of “socialism”. The socialism I am proposing does not attempt to overturn the structural fact of ownership. Instead, the form of socialism I propose is one that has as the goal to create a more equitable society with broader ownership.

This is not to say that socialism does not involve aspects of a planned economy with major government participation and control. Actually, in our Capitalist economy the government already engages in massive control, the details of which I will not try to enumerate here. So, socialists, unlike libertarian fundamentalists but like most practical Capitalists, are aware that government is both necessary and ultimately a good thing if done right. Socialists stress that there are issues beyond the control of jungle Capitalism that require democratic government planning and tax-based programs (social security, medicare, unemployment, the space program, the military, FDA, etc.).

The move I am proposing for the zeitgeist of socialism is to embrace the notion of private ownership where the ownership is spread to more people, not to fewer. The hard part is, of course, how to achieve this. The answer will not be just to increase taxes, although very progressive taxation is not harmful as shown by the booming US economy post World War II during the 1950s to the 1970s when tax rates on high income was much higher than it is today. The answer will involve major restructuring of laws towards increasing ownership of businesses by workers, strongly limiting rent on principal residences and facilitating purchase of primary residences in lieu of renting, concession models and other means for citizens of a city to take public ownership of commercial property, and nationalization of commodity services such as banks and insurance, removing those from for-profit-for-the-few mode. The people should own the banks and the insurance companies and elect high paid competent individuals to perform administration of those vital services. Measures such as these would take one or two generations to put into effect and most likely will require a new popular party to place them on a party platform. The Republicans and Democrats are not going to do this any time soon, although a venerable Democrat, Franklin Roosevelt, did attempt to point the country in this direction back in 1944 when he proposed his Second Bill of Rights. When will be begin to follow FDR’s and Albert Einstein’s advice?

A good place to read about how to achieve socialism is Democracy at Work.

Dennis Allard
Santa Monica
January 12, 2014

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No Rent and Distributed Ownership

Today’s morning thought is inspired by an interview of Russell Brand by Jeremy Paxman on the BCC Newsnight program.

I agree with Russel Brand. But. Brand and others on the left who have enough fame to be interviewed by the media need to be more effective in delivering their message.

THE LEFT NEEDS TO STOP BITCHING AND PROMOTE AN EXPLICIT PLATFORM.

Brand wants to reduce economic inequality in society. But interviewer Jeremy Paxman asks a good question… What *is* the solution?

Brand’s humorous response offers no solution. He mentions raising taxes and refers to some vague “alternative political systems” that “should not ignore the needs of the people”.

Russel, get a clue. People cannot guess what changes are needed and most of them are not going to go off and read some book that explains it to them. Here you are, on the air on BBC, the YouTube video has been viewed ten million times, and you offer no platform, no agenda, no specific ideas.

Paxman asks you what your solution would be like.

You respond by saying what it “won’t be like”.

You mention raising taxes and some vague idea about corporations being more responsible.

Ten million views wasted (except you are funny and entertaining so that’s good).

Let me be constructive and ask you to consider some concrete ideas that you and others on the left could promote, explicitly, when offered such opportunities.

To start, we need a platform based on FDR’s Second Bill of Rights. FDR proposed that in his State of the Union address on January 11, 1944!

Let’s get even more radical. I propose the following three changes to society:

(1) Everyone should own part of the company they work for and not just be wage slaves. By law the company should be owned in part by workers who work for the company.

(2) Ban rent on primary residences. Everyone should own their primary residence. The word “Lord” in “Land Lord” comes from feudalism. Let’s get to a point where we no longer have any Lords.

(3) Transform commercial rent to local government owned franchises. There would still be rent but it would be controlled by the local citizenry and benefit the local citizenry rather than a small class of commercial land owners.

Now that is a concrete platform. Please Russel, get some concrete proposals out there on the air. If not these, then something else, but something.

The above proposals are “socialist” you ask? You thought socialists are for government owning everything, right? No, not right. Socialists are for more people owning things, not fewer people owning things. In particular people should have significant ownership in their work place and homes.

You don’t get to an equitable society via charity and the welfare state (although those are necessary temporary measures). No, you get to an equitable society by acknowledging that the “free” market is a place where those with land and money are the ones who are free. Hence the need to shift land and money to more people.

It would not be easy to implement these concepts since implementing them means a transfer of ownership from a small minority to a large majority. That will take time, creativity, and true democracy. The concepts apply to commercial property as well as to homes. Why should a small business owner have to pay rent to a land lord who sucks money out of the economy? Although these ideas are easy to state they will be very hard to implement. But these ideas should at least be on the table.

Returning to the Jeremy Paxon interview of Russell Brand, I think Brand made one general point and two concrete points. The general one is that things are totally screwed up and need to change (there “will” be a revolution). That is obvious and has been stated by many over decades and centuries. The concrete points were the proposal to raise taxes and the observation that the Occupy movement made economic disparity a topic of public discussion. I would argue that is the only thing achieved so far by the Occupy Movement.

As for raising taxes, that does not solve the problem, which is distribution of ownership. One often hears about the screwed distribution of wealth. What does that mean? It means ownership. Ownership of land and of the work place.

We live in a “free market”, which is free to the extent you have power and you have power to the extent you have wealth. The market is free to those who have enough money and power to participate in it. Until more people have more power, i.e. ownership of society, the free market is a useless excuse for the status quo.

Of course we should use taxes (perhaps without need to raise them) to help people and not engage in military conquest. And we should keep the welfare state as a measure of last resort. But we still have a welfare state. How to change that? I encourage pundits such as Brand to bring in the concept of more distributed ownership into their talking points.

Another issue is the banks. Won’t we still all be paying the banks? Yes, so another thing we need to do is nationalize the banks, a topic for future discussion.

In these ways, by distributing ownership, wealth and power in society will belong to more people rather than fewer. It sounds simple and idealistic but it also rings true.

Dennis Allard
Santa Monica
October 27, 2013

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Chemtrails are really just Contrails

One of the many bogus conspiracy theories speaks of so-called chemtrails.

Chemtrails are actually contrails. Contrails (condensation trails) are water vapor caused by both jet engine exhaust and the Bernoulli effect around a plane’s wings as air is rapidly decompressed and cooled, causing water to condense (due to the laws of Thermodynamics having to do with pressure and temperature). Basically, contrails are man-made clouds (water vapor only) and they are often quite beautiful. It is a pity that some people are naive and ignorant about the true nature of this phenomenon. They are living their lives in needless fear instead of marveling at what is a beautiful thing created by a combination of technology and nature. Contrails are created by a plane moving through the atmosphere under the right atmospheric conditions. You will tend to notice them on days where there are already cirrus clouds being formed due to the same atmospheric conditions but it is possible to see them on clear days if the amount of water in the air at high altitude is just right.

There are two ways contrails form. One is from jet engine exhaust that contains water. Have you ever noticed water dripping from an automobile exhaust on a cold day? Same thing. Warm air holds more water than cold air. As air cools, the evaporated water in the air will condense. (That is one of the reasons that rain is more likely as night falls and the atmosphere cools.) One of the byproducts of combustion engines, including jet engines, is water in the exhaust. As the exhaust leaves the jet engine, it cools so the water in the exhaust will condense into water vapor (a cloud). On some days at some altitudes, that exhaust water is fully absorbed by the atmosphere. On other days, it takes a while to be absorbed so the contrail stays visible for a short period of time. On yet other days, the conditions are such that the water vapor forms into man-made clouds. The same logic applies to natural clouds. Some days clouds appear and others they don’t appear, depending on pressure and temperature of the atmosphere.

The other way contrails form is caused by fluctuations in air pressure around the wings of the airplane. Have you ever released air from a bicycle tire by pressing on the valve and noticed that the air released is very cold and sometimes causes moisture to condense on the valve? Same thing. When a plane wing moves through the air at 500 miles per hour it impacts the air it is moving through. The air is compressed then decompressed, which under the right conditions of moisture content in the air can cause that moisture to condense into contrails.

Contrails are explained in more detail in the Wikipedia article on Contrails.

I put gathered a small collection of links to videos that debunk Chemtrails. These videos are all fairly short and to the point. And of some entertainment value.

There is one popular chemtrail conspiracy video that was proven to be a hoax because the pilot who made the original video later admitted it was a hoax. See: Contrail Science

Cheers,
Dennis Allard
Santa Monica
October 17, 2013

Posted in Morning Thoughts, Technology | 4 Comments

How to block calls on your iPhone

It is now easy to block unwanted phone calls to your iPhone if you have iOS 7.

When an incoming call arrives from a number you do not wish to receive calls from in the future, hang up, go to your Phone Recents list, select the number you wish to block by pressing the little “i” icon, then scroll down and select “Block this Caller”.

That’s all there is to it.

Dennis Allard
Santa Monica
October 20, 2013

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How to watch TV without Time Warner

Time Warner and CBS, two gargantuans of television, are bickering with the result that a few million people are not able to view CBS via Time Warner Cable. I somehow feel this is all part of the ongoing reconcentration of wealth into the hands of fewer segments of society. Just my gut feel. Whatever the ultimate reason, those few million people are denied seeing the channel 9 news and other favorites that are defacto part of our social fabric in spite of being owned by the corporatcracy. In short, since these are not truly public institutions, we don’t get to decide how they are managed. The corporates do. The “Free” Market decides.

LA Times clip on Time Warner vs. CBS - 2013-08-03

It’s not like TV in the United States has not always mostly been privately owned (even though airways are in principle a public resource). We used to have commercial-free public television. In days gone by. The Libertarian Fundamentalists long ago convinced too many that government is bad (implication, corporations are good) and that how dare “they” (the government, elected by you and me), i.e., us, use tax dollars to fund quality programming.

The good news is that, at least so far, there is still freely available channels, including CBS, thanks to the good old rabbit ear antenna.

All modern digital HD TVs can view channel 2, 4, 5, 7, 9, 11, 13, 28, 34, etc here in Los Angeles. Without cable TV. For no charge. You just hook an antenna up to your TV using the coax connection.

I took a vacation from cable TV in recent years but recently subscribed to Verizon FIOS so I could watch the Dodgers, another defacto part of public society but, now, unlike before, NOT available most days on public air waves. Actually the real reason I subscribed to FIOS is that I work on the Internet so need high speed internet and Verizon almost gives away FIOS TV once you have FIOS internet. Ironically, I changed to FIOS internet away from Time Warner Cable Internet and am so happy to have done so. Time Warner simply did not know how to keep a router up 24×7 (it was more like 23.9 x 7) and that got real old real fast. FIOS for me has been operating for two straight years without any outage (maybe one short outage). I guess that’s a plug for Verizon FIOS (a trade name and color scheme I dislike but a technology I love that should be available to everyone as a public utility).

Let me repeat the good news about how to bypass Time Warner Cable to watch channels 2, 7, 9, 28 (KCET) etc. all in HD (High Definition) without paying a cent for a cable TV subscription…

You use a rabbit ear antenna. I would recommend setting up a long wire and moving the antenna to the attic or the roof. I did that and the HD reception of all the above channels is outstanding. I think it’s even better than what comes in on cable.

Once you do this, you might even conclude that spending $80 per month for cable (that’s about a $1000 per year), isn’t worth it. You can can still listen to the Dodgers on radio when they are not televised on the public air waves. They still haven’t figured out how to force us to pay money to listen to radio. Not yet.

Dennis Allard
Santa Monica,
August 7, 2013

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The case of imprisoned Barrett Brown of Anonymous

Barrett Brown is less known than Edward Snowden but is no less a hero of truth.

If you care about freedom of speech, you should read about another unjustly imprisoned whistleblower, covered by the Democracy Now story on jailed Anonymous member Barrett Brown


Dennis Allard
Santa Monica
July 19, 2013

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Amnesty International statement on Edward Snowden

Here is a link to the Amnesty International statement on Snowden:

http://www.amnestyusa.org/news/news-item/usa-must-not-persecute-whistleblower-edward-snowden

Listening to the interview with Edward Snowden by Glenn Greenwald aired on the Democracy Now I hear an honest intelligent person who is coming clean and revealing activity of the US government which should not be kept secret.

Since this interview was made public in June, many in the US government, the US press, and even some liberal friends of mine have referred to Snowden as a “traitor” and as someone guilty of espionage. As many have asked, if he is a spy, who is he spying for? The American people? In that case we need more spies like Snowden to inform us about the back room deals and activities done by those who purport to represent us. Where is the transparency Obama promised? Transparency shmerecy.

Some people state that Snowden has information that might harm American operatives. Says who? An unamed representative who says Snowden has other secrets in his possession but the nature of those and any proof that he has such secrets will remain secret and he will be prosecuted by a secret court in a secret place in secret? At some point you have to say fuck secrecy.

The use of “spy” and “espionage” is Orwellian scare tactic speech. As best as I can tell so far, reading between the lines of the New York Times and other US press much as Russians used to read Pravda to distill the truth, Snowden is no spy, he is a whistleblower and should therefore have his rights respected.

No, what’s going on is that the NSA is pissed that their secret massive bugging campaign has been revealed. They knew that the public would not like having their phone calls monitored (and if you don’t mind the government monitoring your phone calls, fine, but that is a separate subject than the fact that they have been doing it without telling you they’re doing it, which is basically all that Snowden has revealed). So now the US power structure wants to make an example of Snowden by bringing down the hammer on him. He doesn’t have any information that will harm anyone. If I’m wrong I’ll eat my words. I’ll just say this, remember Vietnam and remember the Pentagon papers. Our government has done horrible wrong and illegal acts. When a whistleblower helps reveal those acts, this one being minor compared to what happened in Vietnam, he or she is a hero in my book, especially given the hatred that he or she will endure from a fawning obsequious public and the risk of solitary confinement by our new order so-called security state. These same words apply all the more to Bradley Manning, another hero who did hero work.


Dennis Allard
Santa Monica
July 4, 2013

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Zero Dark Thirty, a review

Here is my review of Zero Dark Thirty. For me, it’s a story, about the movie, about going to see the movie, and about this life I find myself passing through. It’s always that way.

I previously shared my thoughts about the politics of the making Zero Dark Thirty in
a prequel to this review. I didn’t have a lot of good things to say then, and I have mixed things to say now. Let’s put it this way, I’m glad this did not win Best Picture, not that Argo deserved it.

My friend Juan and I decided on the spur of the moment to go see Zero Dark Thirty, which we had been planning to go see for some time. The only show left that night was over in Century City at a fancy massive mall I had not been to in ages. So we got into my 1991 Audi Coupe Quattro and hit the road from Santa Monica toward the lights of Century City.

Mall Entrance Century City Mall Map

We are both interested in politics and were looking forward to see an entertaining movie that, at the same time, dealt with issues about use of US force in far away places. I had enjoyed the evening so far, since I don’t drive often but when I do, LA at night is a wonderful experience, with distant views of the Hollywood hills and the ballet of cars moving at high speed on the freeway. We navigated our way to the mall and entereed an enormous parking structure, itself an architectural wonder. We were careful to remember where we parked.

We were early so walked around the impressive wide outdoor walkways of the mall lined by store fronts offering luxury goods to the upscale community around Century City and Beverly Hills. It was past closing time for most stores, which gave a bleak feel to the large corridors normally filled with passing shoppers. There were a few straglers still walking around as if this were a park.

Mall Corridor Centry City Mall Glamor Centry City Mall Shopper IMAX theater

We had almost an hour to fill before the movie so we found our way to an Italien pub-like restaurant on the second level near the escalator. It was layed out like a sushi bar but served Italian specialties. We sat at the bar. We were the last customers of the evening so we engaged in banter with the crew, most of whom seemed to be from different parts of the world. Our main server seemed to have a Russian accent. I wondered how much she was paid and how many hours of her salary would be needed to cover the price of a movie at the IMAX theatre where I had pre-booked seats at $18 each. Here she was, still working at this late hour after the mall rush, still serving food to a couple of wanderers from Santa Monica would could easily afford the high priced seats and who needed a last minute bite to eat before exiting back to the mall corridor and into the megalithic theater complex located nearby.

It was time to see the movie. It was what I expected. Entertaining, well acted, good cinematography. It had more torture scenes than I had been lead to believe from the reviews making me wonder if there is that much difference in how much we hate other cultures compared to how much they hate our culture. The physical IMAX screen was incredible. I only then realized this was IMAX. I had never been to see IMAX and this was, by far, the largest most beautiful screen I had ever seen. Lousy sound though, as if recorded in an empty gymnasium with very hard walls to bounce the sound off of. Not the sound system, that was great. I mean the recording of voice in the movie. I wondered if maybe they just had the sound turned up too high in the theater. But no, I think it was lousy sound engineering in the film itself.

The script was written in a frenetic sytle we have to get used to these days. It has this cutsey way to throw so many Arabic names at you in rapid succession and allusion to a juxtoposition of supposedly correlated events that you would need to pay another $36 each to see the movie two more times in order to really figure out what the hell was going on in the CIA agent’s stream of consciousness.

Anyway, the movie has two parts, the lead up, most of the movie, with frentic evidence gathering and somewhat over-acted CIA interactions. Probably somewhat exaggerated and maybe a bit over acted in a couple spots.

zerodarkthirty01 zerodarkthirty02

Then, the last part, about the last half hour or more, where Seal Team Six did its thing. THAT was well done. Very realistic. No Rambo here. Just extremely well trained, well armed, and high tech soldiers going into a feudal state at night to kill someone. Which they do expeditiously. Not legal by any international standards, but this is the American Empire speaking. You blow up 3000 people, you are going to be toast one day or another. Of course, there being no time for character development of the soldiers, you are watching a skit, basically, dropped into the movie to show what the rest of the movie was supposed to be about. Kind of two movies in one really, both ultimately superficial, with us in the theater playing our part and being entertained. Did we learn anything? I don’t think so. Were we entertained? Yes, I was. Does this movie give pause for thought and lead to a discussion of the issues involved? I don’t know. Did it in your circle of friends?

After the movie ended, Juan and I discussed it as we walked back to the enormous parking structure. On the way out we showed our parking validation to the attendant, which let us out free. The attendant was standing there, in the cold night, next to the stark cold mechanical exit gate, owned by whatever mega-corporation rakes in the millions of dollars per year in parking fees levied on visitors to that particular Century City parking complex. I pulled out a five dollar bill and handed it to the guy. He deserved much more than that, but his boss, the corporation who owns that parking structure does not care. That is how it is.

There are other young men being better paid to become Seal Team warriors. And others being trained to sit in a bunker and command drones to do our robotic killing for us. That is also how it is. The movie made me think about all of that, being part of an immersive experience I had that evening.

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