Pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong continue. As financial district crowds swelled Monday (reports conflict on this), riot police pulled back, CNN reported, to chants of “Stand down CY Leung!” (Leung is Hong Kong’s current chief executive). Protesters demanded elections free of interference from Beijing.

“The people of Hong Kong want freedom and want democracy!” a protest leader yelled into a megaphone as demonstrators — many of them university students — donned goggles, covered themselves in plastic wrap and held up umbrellas to shield themselves in case they were hit with tear gas or pepper spray. “Redeem the promise of a free election!” chanted the crowd.

With Washington focused on the Middle East, there was a tepid show of support from U.S. officials — and nothing from the White House that I could find — as pro-democracy protesters calling themselves Occupy Central with Love and Peace faced a police crackdown in Hong Kong on Sunday and into the early hours Monday.

The U.S. State Department said in a statement on Sunday that Washington supported Hong Kong’s well-established traditions and fundamental freedoms, such as peaceful assembly and expression.

The outbursts surprised some residents, the Guardian reported Sunday. People there are usually more interested in working and making money:

In many ways it was a very Hong Kong protest, down to the protesters who politely explained that they would not be present the next day as they needed to go to work.

But the resident saw something unique in the exuberance and spontaneity of the peaceful crowd – preempting plans to launch the civil-disobedience movement on Wednesday, a national holiday – combined with the tough tactics of the police. It is the first time officers have fired teargas in Hong Kong for almost a decade.

But the police response over the weekend changed that:

“Before dinner, I never would have imagined that I would join [the protests],” Candy Lamhttp://www.mozilla.com/en-US/firefox/central/, a 32-year-old bank employee, said.

“I thought it was unhelpful to confront the Communist Party in this way, and that we could find other ways to negotiate, but tonight is too much. I saw the 6 pm news and so many of us cried in front of the television.”

A 57-year-old construction worker, who only wanted to be identified by his last name, Ng, said he saw the tear gas on television and decided to join the protest then and there.

As of 7 a.m. EDT this morning, streaming video was still available here.

(Cross-posted from Hullabaloo.)


Categories : International, News
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Sep
28

Funny, how that works

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Perhaps it is not just a coincidence or a quirk of American policy-making that the words “innovation” and “reform” lately seem to attach themselves to ideas that drive more public money, public infrastructure, and public control into the hands of private investors. Nor that this meme is driven by lobbyists for public-private partnerships (P3s) where corporations stand to rack up profits by privatizing the commons.

Whether it is turning over state prisons to for-profit Corrections Corporation of America or public education over to publicly traded K12 Inc., we are to believe that despite the scandals and poor outcomes, the private sector will always do a better job than big gummint. We hear the private sector is more “efficient” than efforts run by the people and for the people. But more efficient at what?

This last week, as we noted, ITR Concession Co, and its parent company, the Spanish-Australian consortium Cintra-Macquarie declared bankruptcy on its concession to operate the Indiana Toll Road. The 75-year deal fell apart after only eight.

But getting back to efficiency. Think maybe the Germans could do it better? Maybe not.

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Sep
28

Sunday Morning Music

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Interpol has a new release out called El Pintor. Reviews are generally positive. All refer back to that first album of course. I won’t render my judgement until I take it for a drive up a long mountain road in New Mexico. Don’t know when that will be but hopefully soon. Until then here’s an oldie but a goodie.

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Sep
27

This will not go well

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So after getting fired, the former convict walks into the front of the Oklahoma business with a knife, attacks two women, and beheads one before being shot and disabled by a company employee, a county reserve deputy:

Mr. Nolen, 30, was convicted in 2011 of multiple drug charges, assault and battery on a police officer, and escape from detention, according to the Oklahoma Department of Corrections. He had earlier arrests on drug and assault charges.

Per another report:

According to the department’s database, Nolen had “Jesus Christ” tattooed across his chest, an image of praying hands on his right arm and “As-salaamu Ataikum,” tattooed on his stomach, which could be a misspelling of “As-salaamu Alaikum,” a standard Muslim greeting that means “Peace be upon you.”

Did we mention the suspect with the Jesus and praying hands tatoos recently converted to Islam? Fox News is already talking about the “ISIS effect.”

More fodder for the fear-mongering campaign ads Gail Collins runs down in the New York Times:

The most popular terrorism-connected campaign theme is overall border security, since it allows conservative candidates to roll up ISIS terrorists with illegal Hispanic immigrants. “She’s for amnesty, while terrorism experts say our border breakdown could provide an entry for groups like ISIS!” announced that David Perdue ad against Michelle Nunn in Georgia. Some experts believe that even at this early hour, Perdue has wrapped up the title of Worst Commercial of the Campaign.

The “terrorism experts,” by the way, are actually the Texas Department of Public Safety.

From there, the ads descend from revoking the passports of American terrorists to Scott Brown, now the Republican candidate for Senate from New Hampshire, bragging how “he sponsored a bill to revoke the citizenship of anyone who gives aid to a terrorist group.” Terrorist, terrorist group, and anyone, of course, being in the eye of the fear-mongerer. Collins notes that Perdue’s ads suggest that Nunn “funded organizations linked to terrorists” when running George H. W. Bush’s Points of Light charity.

Now a beheading. This will not go well.

(Cross-posted from Hullabaloo.)


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The GSV manifesto declares, “we believe the opportunity to build numerous multi-billion dollar education enterprises is finally real.”

Venture capitalist, Eric Hippeau, believes the “education market is ripe for disruption.”

Writing for the Nation Investigative Fund, Lee Fang details how venture capitalists and firms such as K12 Inc. view it as their mission to disrupt traditional public schools through vouchers applied to private schools, expanded charter schools, and the “next breakthrough in education technology.”

[D]espite wave after wave of negative press, K12 Inc. figures as a solid investment opportunity to many. Baird Equity Research, in a giddy note to investors this year about the potential growth of K12 Inc., noted, “capturing just two million (3.5%) of the addressable market yields a market opportunity of approximately $12 billion … Over the next three years, we believe that the company is capable of 7%+ organic revenue growth with modest margin expansion.” How will it achieve this growth? According to Baird, K12 Inc.’s “competency in lobbying in new states” is “another key point of differentiation.” The analyst note describes “K12’s success in working closely with state policymakers and school districts to enable the expansion of virtual schools into new states or districts” as a key asset. “The company has years of experience in successfully lobbying to get legislation passed to allow virtual schools to operate,” Baird concludes.

In the process, they also educate children. It’s there in the footnotes in 6-point type.

Look, there are friends who happily send their kids to small, community-based, parent-organized charter schools that provide them with a quality education. These aren’t them. Lobbyists and campaign donations from would-be “multi-billion dollar education enterprises” will make mincemeat of those schools the way Walmart kills off mom-and-pop stores. But in the scheme of things, they’re small potatoes. Privatizing public education itself is the breakthrough the Walmarts of the education industry seek.

Next year, the market size of K-12 education is projected to be $788.7 billion. And currently, much of that money is spent in the public sector. “It’s really the last honeypot for Wall Street,” says Donald Cohen, the executive director of In the Public Interest, a think tank that tracks the privatization of roads, prisons, schools and other parts of the economy.

Investors call that steady, recession-proof, government-guaranteed stream of public tax dollars “the Big Enchilada,” as Jonathan Kozol wrote in Harpers before the market crash.

Standing in their way? “Unions, public school bureaucracies, and parents,” says Hippeau. Because it sure isn’t neoliberals in the Obama administration. It’s hiring education industry veterans to oversee applying to educating our children Monsanto’s tactic of using its GM crops to crowd out competing seed sources.

As I wrote awhile back,

From this perspective, it’s bad enough that states are not providing education on at least a not-for-profit basis. But it’s far worse than that. They’re giving it away! That’s a mortal sin. A crime against capitalism. The worst kind of creeping socialism. Hundreds of billions of tax dollars spent every year in a nonprofit community effort to educate a nation’s children, and the moguls are not skimming off the top. The horror.

(Cross-posted from Hullabaloo.)


Categories : Education, Privatization
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Sep
26

Friday Open Thread

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Rumor has it that our friends from VIP-NC were back in Asheville last night to circulate more “I know this guy” rumors of anecdotes of fraud, the potential for fraud, the theoretical possibility that circumstances exist that someone might, with little trouble, commit voter fraud maybe. Everything but live, breathing perps committing an actual crime. But they want to prevent the theoretical possibility of maybe-possibly crimes by requiring people to present id cards to vote. Not good enough!

You know, it’s theoretically possible, that underneath their artificial skin, VIP-NC might be Red Lectroids from Planet 10. You know, there could be thousands of them Lectroids on our planet, in our country, and voting illegally in our elections, and no one would ever know, would they? Because WE’RE NOT LOOKING. So, DNA tests for every voter. I mean, you wouldn’t want Red Lectroids corrupting the integrity of our sacred elections, would you?

What other rumors are going around?


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The Kenyan Pretender is just that overhanded, salute-wise!

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Germans are much happier with their lot than Americans, writes Harold Meyerson. Satisfaction tracks more closely with a country’s economy than its style of government, according to a recent Pew survey of the world’s economies. Nine out of ten people in countries with “advanced” economies were dissatisfied with theirs, and eight felt their economies were “bad.” Except Germany.

A strong, manufacturing-driven export economy (with the Euro a factor) and a weaker financial sector sets Germany apart from the United States. Whereas 58 percent in the U.S. feel the economy is bad, 85 percent of Germans felt things in Germany were going well. Why?

Many of Germany’s most successful companies are privately owned and not subject to investor pressure to reward large shareholders through practices prevalent in the United States, such as slashing wages, cutting back on worker training and research and development and buying back stock. Publicly traded German companies still retain their earnings to invest in expansions, a practice that was the U.S. norm until the doctrine of rewarding shareholders with nearly all of a company’s profits took hold during the past quarter-century.

In the United States, major shareholders and the top executives whose pay increasingly is linked to stock price control the corporate boards that approve these kinds of distributions of their companies’ earnings. In Germany, however, the profits that companies rack up are shared more broadly because shareholders don’t dominate corporate boards. By law, any sizable German company must divide the seats on its board equally between management- and worker-selected representatives. Any company with more than 50 employees must have managers meet regularly with workers’ councils to discuss and negotiate issues of working conditions (but not pay). These arrangements have largely ensured that the funding is there for the world’s best worker-training programs and that the most highly skilled and compensated jobs of such globalized German firms as Daimler and Siemens remain in Germany. They have ensured that prosperity is widely shared in Germany — not concentrated at the top, as it is in the United States.

Damned socialists. No … wait.

Some friends observed that tax and economic policy changes in this country over the last thirty years have shifted the business model from one that encouraged, long, slow growth sustained by good schools, sound infrastructure, and reinvestment — more like the German model — to one that encourages financialization and get-rich-quick schemes. Make your money fast and cash out. If that’s not your business model, said one from experience, American venture capitalists are uninterested in your better mousetrap.

Says Meyerson, since the 1980s U.S. business and government leaned on Germany “to get with the Wall Street program.” The Germans declined. Their economy did not. Overall, Germans seem rather satisfied with the results.

(Cross-posted from Hullabaloo.)


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The WaPo front page headline “Airstrikes bring together
Arab nations often at odds” started that old Captain and Tennile song playing in my head. (I know. Sorry.) It seems we’ve been thinking about it wrong all these years. Lasting war is the only hope for peace in the Middle East.

The four Persian Gulf nations whose warplanes flew in concert with U.S. jets over Syria this week have spent the past few years acting with far less harmony, riven by divergent approaches to address the growth of Islamist political movements in the Arab world.

The differences among the countries have grown so stark and acrimonious that earlier this year, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain withdrew their ambassadors from Qatar, which has funded Islamists across the region to the consternation of the other three nations. In the months that followed, they have continued to wage a proxy war of sorts in Egypt and Libya, where the UAE recently conducted airstrikes against rebels backed by Qatar.

But then along comes ISIS (ISIL, the Islamic State, etc.). Theodore Karasik, the director of research at the Institute for Near East and Gulf Military Analysis in Dubai, says the group considered the threat “to be greater than what was happening among them.” The United Arab Emirates ambassador to the U.S. believes that this new and improved radical Islam is such an existential threat to the region that, “We need to confront it as a team.”

Now, combining their roguish ways with old-fashioned American firepower, this undisciplined band of miscreants and misfits must somehow work together to save the galaxy from ISIS — to a 1970s soundtrack.

Uh-huh.

(Cross-posted from Hullabaloo.)


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As corporate-carpetbagger friendly as the NCGOP has made North Carolina since taking control of the legislature in 2010, they keep surprising. This latest revelation Monday from North Carolina echoes the billion-dollar, Hudson Lights real estate deal thought connected to Gov. Chris Christie’s Bridgegate scandal. WCNC-Charlotte has video here.
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