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The Caliph at the Gates of Vienna By Pepe Escobar WWIII ANYONE?



Third Way panics over Bernie Sanders and the new American mainstream


Remember Third Way, the Wall-Street-run front group of supposed "Democrats?" Fresh off panicking over Elizabeth Warren, they're now panicking over Bernie Sanders.

"You would be back to 1972 if Bernie were nominated," warned Bill Daley, President Barack Obama's former chief of staff and a Third Way board member, referencing the blowout Richard Nixon win that year. "It was not a happy time for Democrats. The guy has been a socialist his whole life and now decides he is a Democrat and therefore the Democratic Party has got to move to that extreme? I think it is a recipe for disaster."

I love these assholes talking about the "extremes" inhabited by the likes of Sanders and Warren. What exactly is in Sanders' bucket of issues that is so far out of touch with America? Granted, he's hostile to Daley's friends on Wall Street, but that's actually popular. In fact, I'd be hard-pressed to find anything in his portfolio that is out-of-touch with the American mainstream.

There's a reason that Clinton has moved in his direction this past year instead of in the other direction. And where she doesn't quite go as far left as Sanders does, well, that's where her biggest liabilities emerge.

In its presentation, Third Way argued that a focus on issues like a $15 minimum wage, expanding Social Security benefits and advocating for single-payer health care all create the political dynamics that make Democrats electorally vulnerable.

Holy shit, those fuckers are delusional. Raising the minimum wage is overwhelmingly popular, even at $15. And who the fuck do they think is going to lose an election by advocating for greater Social Security benefits? And single payer? Popular! It's funny that the issues that supposedly doom Sanders are all issues supported by a majority of the American people, whether you want to slap the scaaaary "socialist" label on them or not.

Fact is, Sanders is well within the Democratic Party mainstream, which is well within the American mainstream. If you are against health care for all, against a minimum wage hike, and against a robust social net, then there's a word for you, and it's not "Democrat." So fuck off, Daley—this isn't your friends' party anymore.

The astronomer and the witch – how Kepler saved his mother from the stake


... 400 years ago, when her son was at the very height of his scientific career, Katharina Kepler was accused of witchcraft. It is because of this that it has become commonplace in Anglo-American writing to depict Kepler’s mother as a difficult, bizarre and half-crazed old crone. But what is the real story?

Kepler certainly must rank as one of the most influential scientists to come from a disadvantaged background. Whereas Galileo’s father was a noted scholar of music, Kepler’s was a soldier who kept running away from the family. His parents argued and the only brother close to him in age suffered from epilepsy. This made it difficult for the brother to attend school or learn a trade. Johannes Kepler, by contrast, soon emerged as an extremely talented boy. He was picked up by one of the most advanced Lutheran scholarship systems in Germany at the time and lived in boarding schools. He once fought against a boy who insulted his father, and was in his teens when the father disappeared for good. Kepler wrote bleak little characterisations of his parents and paternal family around the time that he finished university. He also wrote about himself as a flawed young man, obsessively interested in fame, worried about money, unable to communicate his ideas in a straightforward way. These pieces of writing have principally served as evidence who want to depict Kepler and his family as horrendous, even murderous. Yet these writings need to be put into context. Kepler wrote them very early in his life, and he did so in order to analyse his horoscopes. The whole convention of astrology was to point to character problems, rather than to laud lovely people. Kepler was a deeply Christian man, and one of his most impressive characteristics is how optimistic he soon began to feel about the world he lived in, against his odds and despite looming war. He built his own family and deeply cared about his wife and children. Kepler was confident about the importance of his discoveries and productive, even though he was never offered a university position.

Then came the accusation against his mother. The proceedings which led to a criminal trial lasted six years. The Imperial mathematician formally took over his mother’s legal defence. No other public intellectual figure would have ever involved themselves in a similar role, but Kepler put his whole existence on hold, stored up his books, papers and instruments in boxes, moved his family to southern Germany and spent nearly a year trying to get his mother out of prison. Local records for the small town in which Katharina Kepler lived are abundant. There is no evidence that she was brought up by an aunt who was burnt for witchcraft – this was one of the charges which her enemies invented. There is no evidence either that she made a living from healing – she simply mixed herbal drinks for herself and sometimes offered her help to others, like anyone else. A woman in her late 70s, Katharina Kepler withstood a trial and final imprisonment, during which she was chained to the floor for more than a year.

Kepler’s defence was a rhetorical masterpiece. He was able to dismantle the inconsistencies in the prosecution case, and show that the “magical” illnesses for which they blamed his mother could be explained using medical knowledge and common sense. In the autumn of 1621, Katharina was finally set free...

FBI Agents Accused Of Torturing U.S. Citizen Abroad Can't Be Sued



Federal agents who illegally detain, interrogate and torture American citizens abroad can't be held accountable for violating the Constitution. A divided federal appeals court on Friday tossed the lawsuit of a U.S. citizen who claimed the FBI trampled his rights for four months across three African countries while he was traveling overseas. In so many words, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ruled that the man, Amir Meshal, couldn't sue the federal government for such violations, and punted the issue to someone else.

"If people like Meshal are to have recourse to damages for alleged constitutional violations committed during a terrorism investigation occurring abroad, either Congress or the Supreme Court must specify the scope of the remedy," Judge Janice Rogers Brown wrote for the 2-to-1 court.

Meshal's case had drawn support from a number of law professors, along with present and former United Nations special rapporteurs on torture, who had hoped the court would help clarify when the U.S. can be made to answer for abuses abroad. At issue in the case was a 1971 decision by the U.S. Supreme Court, Bivens v. Six Unknown Unnamed Agents, which found for the first time that the Constitution allows citizens to hold liable federal officials who violate their rights -- even if Congress hadn't expressly passed a law to that effect. In subsequent decisions, however, Bivens liability has been greatly narrowed by the Supreme Court, and even more by lower courts interpreting those decisions. In Friday's ruling, the D.C. Circuit recognized the current legal landscape and noted it simply couldn't be extended to the "unconventional context" of Meshal's case -- a criminal investigation occurring abroad focused on alleged terrorist activity. This meant that his claims had to be dismissed.

"To our knowledge," Rogers wrote, "no court has previously extended Bivens to cases involving either the extraterritorial application of constitutional protections or in the national security domain, let alone a case implicating both -- another signal that this context is a novel one."

Indeed, all of this may very well be too new for judges to grapple with. And one of Rogers' main rationales for rejecting Meshal's suit is that courts are ill-equipped to dabble in the "sensitivities" of national security and foreign policy matters, where the political branches of government occupy the field.

Courts are "generally not suited to second-guess executive officials operating in foreign justice systems," the judge wrote.

But the court's recounting of Meshal's story seemed to offer its own counterargument. As told by the court, Meshal's case painted a picture of government overreach and egregious constitutional violations -- allegations that Rogers herself acknowledged were "quite troubling."


Unelectable and Unafraid


The Sanders-Clinton exchange (FIRST DEBATE) may not have reached the heights of Lincoln-Douglas, but it was a rare and worthwhile discussion of a real political question. Equally revealing was the way Cooper repeatedly tried to end the discussion. Cooper’s insistence that “the question is really about electability” often passes for practical wisdom in politics, yet it’s entirely untrue. The most important progressive changes in our history have been spearheaded by protest leaders — abolitionists and suffragettes, brawling strikers and ACT UP-ers — who were all wildly unelectable.

Of course, protest movements are different from presidential campaigns, where it stands to reason that electability should matter more — but not in the narrow and self-serving way that mainstream political consultants and pundits instinctively use the term. In their view, it’s just simple math why Bernie Sanders isn’t going to be president — according to polls, only about a third of Americans like socialism. The underlying assumption is that people’s ideas are unchanging — even when the idea in question is socialism, which few people have ever heard a positive word about in polite society until the Sanders campaign. But even if Bernie really is unelectable because of socialism’s low public opinion ratings, you might think that the Republicans’ virtually identical approval numbers would make them equally impotent. Yet here they are, running both houses of Congress and statehouses across the country, making the world a meaner and stupider place one day at a time.

The problem, as political scientists Martin Gilens and Benjamin I. Page argue, is that the US is not a democracy but an oligarchy:

Our analyses suggest that majorities of the American public actually have little influence over the policies our government adopts. Americans do enjoy many features central to democratic governance, such as regular elections, freedom of speech and association, and a widespread (if still contested) franchise . . . [but] when the preferences of economic elites and the stands of organized interest groups are controlled for, the preferences of the average American appear to have only a minuscule, near-zero, statistically non-significant impact upon public policy.

In other words, American democracy is like American cheese — a synthetic, democracy-like product that is chemically altered to eliminate almost all traces of organic popular power...


Silicon Valley's Cash Remains Cold to White House Hopefuls


White House hopefuls have yet to see the depth of Silicon Valley wealth that helped propel Barack Obama to the presidency. Silicon Valley is playing hard to get.

None of the candidates seeking the White House in 2016 has yet been able to unlock and consolidate the vast wealth of tech entrepreneurs and venture capitalists who have pumped tens of millions of dollars into previous elections, according to a new analysis by Crowdpac Inc.

As of Sept. 30, candidates had raised only about $1.92 million from the tech industry, according to Crowdpac, a Palo Alto, California-based group that tracks political contributions. The industry gave another $4.82 million to outside groups in the first half of the year, most of which was made up by Oracle co-founder Larry Ellison’s $3 million donation to the super-PAC backing Republican Marco Rubio.


Hillary Clinton Rattles Prison Stocks With a Single Tweet



For the second time in three weeks, the front-runner for the Democratic nomination wiped millions of dollars off the value of an industry...
Hillary Clinton may not be president, but she's moving the markets like she is one. For the second time in three weeks, the front-runner for the Democratic nomination wiped millions of dollars off the value of an industry with a single tweet.

On Friday, private prison stocks dropped sharply after Clinton said we needed to "end the era of mass incarceration."

"We need to end private prisons. Protecting public safety...should never be outsourced or left to unaccountable corporations," she said in a tweet drawn from comments she made during a speech on the criminal justice system in Atlanta.

Corrections Corp. of America fell more than 6 percent, lopping off approximately $200 million in value, while GEO Group Inc. dropped 4.2%, losing about $100 million....It was not the first time she's voiced concerns about private prisons and earlier this month her campaign said it would no longer take donations from the industry's lobbyists and PACs.

Earlier this month, biotech stocks tanked after Clinton slammed Turing Pharmaceuticals for increasing the price of a drug by 50 fold. "Price gouging like this in the specialty drug market is outrageous," she tweeted at the time.


The Sanders Brain Trust's Plan to Beat Hillary Clinton


...his comments were telling: about both the darkening assessment of Clinton among Sanders's people and their heady confidence that they can beat her. Though Sanders's top advisers concede that the past two weeks—from the first debate to Joe Biden's decision not to run to the Benghazi hearing—have provided Clinton with a boost, they contend that the fundamentals of the race remain unchanged. That Clinton is still a markedly weak candidate, far less in tune with the Democratic nominating electorate than Sanders. That their operation is stronger financially and organizationally than the establishment grasps. And that if Sanders can prevail in Iowa (where he is currently trailing) and New Hampshire (where he leads), the nomination will be within their grasp... Sanders's lieutenants provided me with a wide-ranging and at times detailed account of their strategy for the three-month sprint to the first two must-win contests. That strategy is premised on the notion that their campaign has shifted into a new gear, moving from what Weaver calls “the introductory phase” into “the persuasion phase.” This new phase will be more aggressive, hard-edged, and focused on driving home contrasts between Sanders and Clinton. In other words, it will be more negative. Just how nasty things will get remains one of two central questions that will define the battle ahead. The other is whether Sanders, with his deep aversion to negative campaigning, is willing and able to do what is required to take down Clinton without tarnishing his brand as a different kind of politician.

It's worth recalling that a similar set of questions confronted Barack Obama eight years ago. In using the J-J as a pivot point, Sanders was mimicking Obama, who famously did the same thing in November 2007 with a speech that eviscerated the then-front-runner (“Triangulating and poll-driven positions because we're worried about what Mitt or Rudy might say about us just won't do”) without ever uttering the word “Clinton.”

But unlike Obama's assault on Clinton then, says Sanders's chief strategist, Tad Devine, his boss's attack last weekend was in part a defensive measure: a response to Clinton having gone after Sanders at the debate on guns and afterwards for suggesting that Sanders's comment that “all the shouting in the world” wouldn't fix the problem with gun violence was at once directed at Clinton and in some way sexist. (“I've been told to stop shouting about guns,” she declared at a rally last Friday in Virginia and again at the J-J. “Actually, I haven't been shouting, but sometimes when a woman talks, some people think it's shouting.”)

“We had to fire a shot across their bow, because they were going to start to have their way with us,” Devine told me. “I pushed [Sanders] hard to do what he did to let them know, if they're going to do this stuff that two of the 12,000 votes he cast in Congress about guns are the definitive votes of the election—and oh, by the way, she is yelling because she's a woman. If they are going to start going down that road, we are not going to take it. And it is going to be about a lot of issues where she's gone from one place to another. We did five of them [at the J-J] and we could do 15 more.”


Bernie Sanders is in big trouble: You don’t have to be a neoliberal shill to see the cold, hard fact



...But if you want to know any of the reasons why Sanders is in trouble, you can start with the news yesterday that Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown has endorsed Clinton. As Matt Yglesias points out, Brown would be perhaps the most natural endorsement for Sanders in the entire Senate. He is an old-school liberal, pro-union and anti-free trade. Ideologically and personally, he and the senator from Vermont are very close. They have worked together on writing and introducing legislation as recently as earlier this month.

Yet Brown joined 33 of his Senate colleagues who have already endorsed Clinton. From a pragmatic political viewpoint, the move makes sense. Brown has been mentioned as a possible vice presidential candidate for Clinton. He represents that most swinging swing state of Ohio, which makes his being on the ticket very attractive for her and the party. If he stays in the Senate, he’s up for re-election in the 2018. Since getting Democratic voters out to the polls in the midterms is always tough, an endorsement from President Hillary Clinton could be very helpful. Not to mention the money that the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee will be more likely to contribute to his campaign.

In terms of the Bernie Sanders campaign for president though, Brown’s endorsement is another sign that Sanders is being beaten in the invisible primary for the Democratic nomination. And winning the invisible primary is still a hugely important step for a Democrat, one that the Vermont senator has either neglected or just flat-out lost. For anyone unfamiliar with the term “invisible primary,” here is a pretty good explainer. In brief, the invisible primary is the conversation that takes place between different factions and leaders of a party in the year leading up to the start of voting in Iowa. This conversation results in the party starting to coalesce behind a front-runner. If there is more than one strong candidate, this can go all the way up to the convention. If there is only one clear front-runner, the party will start lining up early behind him or her.

This is what has happened with Hillary Clinton. Nate Silver’s FiveThirtyEight has been keeping track of endorsements with this chart, which makes it starkly clear just how much of a lead Clinton has over Sanders in that area. Something to keep in mind is that many of those endorsers (including Sherrod Brown) are superdelegates, who are free to pledge their support to a candidate regardless of how the voting went in their state’s primary. Two months ago, Bloomberg reported that Clinton had already unofficially locked up commitments from 440 of the approximately 713 superdelegates who will cast ballots at next summer’s Democratic convention...



Weekend Economists' Devil Nights October 30-November 1, 2015

Such a weekend we have in store! Devil's Night, Hallowe'en or All Hallow's Eve, All Saints' Day, and el Dia de Los Muertes...

all derived from the ancient Celtic Festival Samhain (pronounced /ˈsɑːwɪn/ SAH-win or /ˈsaʊ.ɪn/ SOW-in Irish pronunciation: [sˠaunʲ])

It is a Gaelic festival marking the end of the harvest season and the beginning of winter or the "darker half" of the year. Traditionally, Samhain is celebrated from sunset on 31 October to sunset on 1 November, which is about halfway between the autumn equinox and the winter solstice. It is one of the four Gaelic seasonal festivals, along with Imbolc, Beltane and Lughnasadh. Historically, it was widely observed throughout Ireland, Scotland and the Isle of Man. Similar festivals are held at the same time of year in other Celtic lands; for example the Brythonic Calan Gaeaf (in Wales), Kalan Gwav (in Cornwall), and Kalan Goañv (in Brittany).


Samhain is believed to have pagan origins and there is evidence it has been an important date since ancient times. The Mound of the Hostages, a Neolithic passage tomb at the Hill of Tara, is aligned with the Samhain sunrise. It is mentioned in some of the earliest Irish literature and many important events in Irish mythology happen or begin on Samhain. It was the time when cattle were brought back down from the summer pastures and when livestock were slaughtered for the winter. As at Beltane, special bonfires were lit. These were deemed to have protective and cleansing powers and there were rituals involving them.

Like Beltane, Samhain was seen as a liminal time, when the boundary between this world and the Otherworld could more easily be crossed. This meant the Aos Sí, the 'spirits' or 'fairies', could more easily come into our world. Most scholars see the Aos Sí as remnants of the pagan gods and nature spirits. At Samhain, it was believed that the Aos Sí needed to be propitiated to ensure that the people and their livestock survived the winter. Offerings of food and drink were left outside for them.

The souls of the dead were also thought to revisit their homes seeking hospitality. Feasts were had, at which the souls of dead kin were beckoned to attend and a place set at the table for them. Mumming and guising were part of the festival, and involved people going door-to-door in costume (or in disguise), often reciting verses in exchange for food. The costumes may have been a way of imitating, and disguising oneself from, the Aos Sí. Divination rituals and games were also a big part of the festival and often involved nuts and apples. In the late 19th century, Sir John Rhys and Sir James Frazer suggested that it was the "Celtic New Year", and this view has been repeated by some other scholars.

In the 9th century AD, Western Christianity shifted the date of All Saints' Day to 1 November, while 2 November later became All Souls' Day. Over time, Samhain and All Saints'/All Souls' merged to create the modern Halloween. Historians have used the name 'Samhain' to refer to Gaelic 'Halloween' customs up until the 19th century.

Since the latter 20th century, Celtic neopagans and Wiccans have observed Samhain, or something based on it, as a religious holiday. Neopagans in the Southern Hemisphere often celebrate Samhain at the other end of the year (about 1 May).

MUCH MORE AT https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Samhain
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