Moyers & Company: The Conscience of a Compassionate Conservative

Moyers & Company: The Conscience of a Compassionate Conservative
Jul 25 2014

Politicians in Washington, DC, seem to have stopped talking — and listening — to their colleagues across the aisle, contributing to our virtually deadlocked Congress. While Washington appears to have stopped their conversations, Bill decided to start a new one.

This week he speaks with the American Enterprise Institute’s president Arthur C. Brooks, whose political views in large measure differ from his own, on how to fight America’s widening inequality.

Brooks says that despite the heated rhetoric of the far right, the compassionate conservatism once touted by George W. Bush isn’t dead. It’s alive and well at the conservative AEI, where Brooks became president in 2009. Residing now at the top of the conservative pecking order in Washington, Brooks advises Republican leaders in Congress and spreads AEI’s message to a wider audience. His specialty, as Newsweek describes it, is “translating ideas from policy speak into soaring moral prose.” One of his key ideas: The endgame of free enterprise is not to preserve wealth but to create opportunity for the poor.

“Republicans could come screaming out of the gate going forward and say, ‘We’re the ones who will fight for the poor. We’re the ones who will fight for workers,’” Brooks tells Bill. “You might not agree with what we’re gonna– how we’re gonna do it, but let me tell you, you will not doubt what’s on our hearts.”

Moyers presses Brooks on why companies like Target, McDonald’s and Wal-Mart don’t pay a living wage to their employees who then have to rely on public programs to support themselves – in Walmart’s case, about $4,000 per worker. Brooks argues the market doesn’t support higher wages and agrees that the country needs public policies that make work profitable for workers.

Video+Transcript: 24:30 min

Web Extra: The Conscience of a Compassionate Conservative: <>

This week on the show, Bill spoke with the president of the conservative American Enterprise Institute, Arthur C. Brooks. Their conversation was so interesting that they kept talking, and we kept our cameras rolling after the broadcast interview ended. In this web extra, the two talk about the failures of capitalism, who is to blame for the 2008 financial crash, food stamps and a whole lot more.

Video+Transcript: 18:52 min

No way this could ever blow back …

[Note:  This item comes from reader Randall Head.  DLH]

Subject: No way this could ever blow back …
Date: July 25, 2014 at 1:30:17 EDT

London firm creates mind-controlled commands for Google Glass
A London software firm has developed MindRDR, an app that allows Google Glass to connect to a biosensor capable of detecting brain waves. 
By Salvador Rodriguez
Jul 11 2014

Forget voice commands and touch gestures: A London firm has developed a way for Google Glass users to control their devices just by thinking.

This Place, an agency that specializes in creating user interfaces and experiences for programs used in the medical industry, developed a software called MindRDR that allows Google Glass to connect with the Neurosky MindWave Mobile EEG biosensor, a head-mounted device that can detect a person’s brain waves.

EEG stands for electroencephalography, which is the measurement and recording of electrical activity in the brain. EEG biosensors have been around for decades, but until recently they were very expensive. Neurosky is a Silicon Valley company that sells EEG biosensors, some for as little as $79.99 from

The system works by pairing the EEG biosensor with Google’s $1,500 Glass device using Bluetooth. Once the connection has been made, the user fires up MindRDR, which takes what the EEG biosensor detects and converts it into commands that Glass can process. 
lRelated Google picks first partners to convince businesses to use Glass

After turning on the app, users will see a camera interface on the screen of their Google Glass. They can then pick a subject, aim their head in its direction, and concentrate on it while Glass displays a meter showing the level of their brain waves. The more intently a user focuses, the higher the meter climbs until it reaches the top, triggering Glass’ camera. By repeating the process, users can direct MindRDR to upload the photo to one of their social networks. 

For now MindRDR can only be used to snap pictures, but This Place Chief Executive Dusan Hamlin said he hoped the agency would continue developing the software so that it could eventually help users overcome mobility limitations. Specifically, Hamlin said he would like MindRDR to help people who suffer from locked-in syndrome, in which a patient has lost motor control but remains aware and alert, as well as quadriplegia.

“The ability to be able to use their mind to make outputs to a device could be a huge thing for them,” Hamlin told the Los Angeles Times in a Skype interview.

But the possibilities for MindRDR extend beyond the medical field. Hamlin said he sees MindRDR as the launching point for a world where people can interact with their digital devices by simply thinking about what they want. To that end, This Place has uploaded the code for its software onto GitHub, a popular website used by developers to share code they create with others for free.

“What we’ve done is just scratch the surface, and we hope that we’ve inspired people to build on what we’ve started,” Hamlin said.

Kristen Bell Sings for a Minimum Wage Increase as Mary Poppins

[Note:  Well executed & fun.  Worth watching!  DLH]

Kristen Bell Sings for a Minimum Wage Increase as Mary Poppins
By Dennis Green
Jul 24 2014

It seems not even the magic of Mary Poppins can solve living below the poverty line.

In this political Funny or Die parody, Kristen Bell channels the legendary Julie Andrews as Mary Poppins. She’s not here to sing about spoonfuls of sugar, but rather for an increase the federal minimum wage. And we can all probably agree that Poppins deserves a raise.

At least the parody solves the one Mary Poppins mystery: She buys all her magic birds in bulk from Mexico.

Video: 3:16 min

Re: The free market is an impossible utopia

[Note:  This comment comes from friend Bob Frankston.  DLH]

From: “Bob Frankston” <>
Subject: RE: [Dewayne-Net] The free market is an impossible utopia
Date: July 20, 2014 at 9:06:46 EDT

My problem is the opposite. Whence this magical thinking – the idea that
markets will just heal themselves and will also give all us the results we
each want as if there is no ambiguity or conflicting expectations but just
one singular perfection? There many related notions — such as looking at
the national debt purely in terms of money owed to bondholders but not
including money owed for maintenance of infrastructure. (let alone social

The free market is an impossible utopia
By Henry Farrell
Jul 18 2014

The End of ‘Genius’

[Note: This item comes from friend Bob Frankston. Bob's comment: 'This is one reason I’ve started to use DIO (Do It Ourselves) rather than DIY to emphasize the power of cooperation and the value of infrastructure.' DLH]

The End of ‘Genius’
Jul 19 2014

WHERE does creativity come from? For centuries, we’ve had a clear answer: the lone genius. The idea of the solitary creator is such a common feature of our cultural landscape (as with Newton and the falling apple) that we easily forget it’s an idea in the first place.

But the lone genius is a myth that has outlived its usefulness. Fortunately, a more truthful model is emerging: the creative network, as with the crowd-sourced Wikipedia or the writer’s room at “The Daily Show” or — the real heart of creativity — the intimate exchange of the creative pair, such as John Lennon and Paul McCartney and myriad other examples with which we’ve yet to fully reckon.

Historically speaking, locating genius within individuals is a recent enterprise. Before the 16th century, one did not speak of people being geniuses but havinggeniuses. “Genius,” explains the Harvard scholar Marjorie Garber, meant “a tutelary god or spirit given to every person at birth.” Any value that emerged from within a person depended on a potent, unseen force coming from beyond that person.

As late as the Renaissance, people we’d now consider quasi-divine creators were more likely to be seen as deft imitators, making compelling work from familiar materials. Shakespeare, for example, did not typically dream up new ideas for plays but rewrote, adapted and borrowed from the plots, characters and language of previous works. “Romeo and Juliet,” as Mark Rose, a professor at the University of California, Santa Barbara, notes, is an episode-by-episode dramatization of a poem by Arthur Brooke.

Of course, theater is inherently collaborative. But the Elizabethan stage was more like the modern film industry, where the writer is generally less an auteur than a piece of a machine. Surviving records show three or four or even five playwrights receiving pay for a single production, according to the Columbia professor James Shapiro. The irony is that Shakespeare, whose world serves so well to illustrate a collaborative (or networked) idea about how good work is made, would become the icon of the solo creator.

The big change began with Enlightenment thinkers, who sought to give man a dignified, central place in the world. They made man’s thinking the center of their universe and created a profoundly asocial self.

Meanwhile, as the feudal and agrarian gave way to the capitalist and industrial, artists needed to be more than entertaining; they needed to be original, to profit from the sale of their work. In 1710, Britain enacted its first copyright law, establishing authors as the legal owners of their work and giving new cultural currency to the idea of authors as originators.

This is when we start to see the modern use of “genius.” In an essay published in 1711, Joseph Addison cited Shakespeare as a “remarkable instance” of “these great natural geniuses” — those lit up by an inner light and freed from dependence on previous models.

But it was during the Romantic era that “the true cult of the natural genius emerged,” Ms. Garber writes — with Shakespeare as its signal example. He was a convenient case; so little biographical material existed that his story could be made up.


The Secret Government Rulebook For Labeling You a Terrorist

The Secret Government Rulebook For Labeling You a Terrorist
By Jeremy Scahill and Ryan Devereaux
Jul 23 2014

The Obama administration has quietly approved a substantial expansion of the terrorist watchlist system, authorizing a secret process that requires neither “concrete facts” nor “irrefutable evidence” to designate an American or foreigner as a terrorist, according to a key government document obtained byThe Intercept.

The “March 2013 Watchlisting Guidance,” a 166-page document issued last year by the National Counterterrorism Center, spells out the government’s secret rules for putting individuals on its main terrorist database, as well as the no fly list and the selectee list, which triggers enhanced screening at airports and border crossings. The new guidelines allow individuals to be designated as representatives of terror organizations without any evidence they are actually connected to such organizations, and it gives a single White House official the unilateral authority to place “entire categories” of people the government is tracking onto the no fly and selectee lists. It broadens the authority of government officials to “nominate” people to the watchlists based on what is vaguely described as “fragmentary information.” It also allows for dead people to be watchlisted.

Over the years, the Obama and Bush Administrations have fiercely resisted disclosing the criteria for placing names on the databases—though the guidelines are officially labeled as unclassified. In May, Attorney General Eric Holder even invoked the state secrets privilege to prevent watchlisting guidelines from being disclosed in litigation launched by an American who was on the no fly list. In an affidavit, Holder called them a “clear roadmap” to the government’s terrorist-tracking apparatus, adding: “The Watchlisting Guidance, although unclassified, contains national security information that, if disclosed … could cause significant harm to national security.”

The rulebook, which The Intercept is publishing in full, was developed behind closed doors by representatives of the nation’s intelligence, military, and law-enforcement establishment, including the Pentagon, CIA, NSA, and FBI. Emblazoned with the crests of 19 agencies, it offers the most complete and revealing look into the secret history of the government’s terror list policies to date. It reveals a confounding and convoluted system filled with exceptions to its own rules, and it relies on the elastic concept of “reasonable suspicion” as a standard for determining whether someone is a possible threat. Because the government tracks “suspected terrorists” as well as “known terrorists,” individuals can be watchlisted if they are suspected of being a suspected terrorist, or if they are suspected of associating with people who are suspected of terrorism activity.

“Instead of a watchlist limited to actual, known terrorists, the government has built a vast system based on the unproven and flawed premise that it can predict if a person will commit a terrorist act in the future,” says Hina Shamsi, the head of the ACLU’s National Security Project. “On that dangerous theory, the government is secretly blacklisting people as suspected terrorists and giving them the impossible task of proving themselves innocent of a threat they haven’t carried out.” Shamsi, who reviewed the document, added, “These criteria should never have been kept secret.”

The document’s definition of “terrorist” activity includes actions that fall far short of bombing or hijacking. In addition to expected crimes, such as assassination or hostage-taking, the guidelines also define destruction of government property and damaging computers used by financial institutions as activities meriting placement on a list. They also define as terrorism any act that is “dangerous” to property and intended to influence government policy through intimidation.

This combination—a broad definition of what constitutes terrorism and a low threshold for designating someone a terrorist—opens the way to ensnaring innocent people in secret government dragnets. It can also be counterproductive. When resources are devoted to tracking people who are not genuine risks to national security, the actual threats get fewer resources—and might go unnoticed.

“If reasonable suspicion is the only standard you need to label somebody, then it’s a slippery slope we’re sliding down here, because then you can label anybody anything,” says David Gomez, a former senior FBI special agent with experience running high-profile terrorism investigations. “Because you appear on a telephone list of somebody doesn’t make you a terrorist. That’s the kind of information that gets put in there.”


NASA wants commercial space companies to help new Mars missions communicate

NASA wants commercial space companies to help new Mars missions communicate

Jul 24 2014

The relay radios on two Mars science orbiters are making it possible to communicate with NASA’s robots, rovers and landers on the red planet. But these spacecraft might be out of commission soon, and NASA believes one possible solution is to purchase services from commercial space companies that plan to launch orbiters of their own. See, the rovers and landers on Mars communicate with the ground crew by using a severely limited direct link or by using the Odyssey and the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter as relay stations. Sadly, the agency has no plans to launch more orbiters of its own at the moment, and this could disrupt communication in a few years’ time.

Thus, the agency has asked for the detailed investigation (a process called Request for Information or RFI) on the feasibility of paying for the services of commercial orbiters to communicate with robots on Mars beyond 2020. To be clear, NASA hasn’t talked to contractors and companies about anything concrete yet, and it’s also working on other projects that could solve the issue, including LADEE, which transmitted data to the moon via laser beams in 2013. Using orbiters as relay stations has been really cost effective, though, so the space division’s hoping to make it work for future missions.