Money doesn’t solve, salve, cure, stabilize, forge peace, make or keep promises. And aid packages, no matter how much they’re needed or with how much philanthropic goodwill they’re sent, will not help anyone by themselves. It matters as much in whose hands the money falls as fast as it flows. The United States State Department should have considered this when deciding to continue to fund and arm the Egyptian military regime.
As pivotal as Egypt has been as an historical ally and an advocate for various degrees of peace in the region, and as necessary as the country may be as a counterweight to the militant authoritarianism of Iran, the United States cannot afford to fund another oppressive regime. Or, rather, it can afford it, but it shouldn’t. And funding is what the Obama administration and Hilary Clinton are doing: sending 1.3 billion dollars of military assistance to the military regime despite clear evidence of human rights abuses.
“This year, it’s likely we’ll see a repeat of many of the strategies deployed during the midterm elections. As Mother Jones reported, the Koch nonprofits are quietly paying Tea Party organizers a hefty sum to collect personal information about voters in the Republican primary. Once the nomination is settled, we’ll see the Koch machine kick into gear to defeat President Obama — and it’s quite possible that, like two years ago, almost nothing will be disclosed.”—How the Koch Brothers Spent at Least $3.9 Million in Unreported Partisan Attack Efforts During the 2010 Election
House Republicans have passed the Paul Ryan budget resolution, a sweeping plan that slashes long-term mandatory spending, goes under the discretionary spending targets set by the debt limit deal, cuts taxes for the rich and corporations, changes Medicare to a voucher program, eliminates Pell grants for hundreds of thousands of students, and generally authorizes just about every conservative wet dream you can name. And after all that, Ryan’s budget doesn’t even balance until 2040, because it’s nearly impossible to do so without anything on the revenue side.
The vote was relatively close, with the budget passing 228-191. Ten Republicans voted against the budget resolution, up from four last year. Here they are:
Walter Jones (NC), Jimmy Duncan (TN), Tim Huelskamp (KS), Chris Gibson (NY), Justin Amash (MI), Todd Platts (PA), Ed Whitfield (KY), David McKinley (WV), Denny Rehberg (MT), Joe Barton (TX).
Not too many of those votes are because the budget wasn’t conservative enough: that explains Huelskamp, Amash and maybe Barton. The others face tough re-election battles, or in the case of Rehberg are running for Senate in Montana. Walter Jones is just idiosyncratic. But I agree with Dave Weigel, 10 Republicans out of 238 isn’t that many, considering they’ve opened themselves up yet again to charges of ending Medicare as we know it (regardless of what Politifact says).
It’s up to Thomas Perez to bring Trayvon Martin’s killer to justice. Perez runs the U.S. Justice Department’s Civil Rights division, which is leading an inquiry (in concert with the FBI) into the tragic shooting of the black teen from Miami. If the state attorney’s office in Florida declines to file charges against the gun-wielding George Zimmerman—the beneficiary of questionable police work and broad firearm and self-defense regulations—Perez and his colleagues in Washington could step in and file any number of charges, including police misconduct or even a hate crime.
It should come as a relief to Martin’s family that Perez is on the case; there are few lawyers in the nation better suited to manage an investigation of this nature. Since taking over the politicized and demoralized Civil Rights division in 2009, Perez has reinvigorated what Eric Holder once called the “the conscience of the Justice Department,” enforcing loads of civil rights laws intentionally ignored by the Bush administration. And as a young prosecutor working in the department he now leads, the Buffalo native racked up several high-profile convictions in cases targeting shady cops and white supremacists, including the arrest in 1994 of three Lubbock men who attempted to launch a “race war” by luring African-American locals to their car and firing a shotgun at them from a short distance, killing one and injuring two others.
Martin’s murder isn’t the only racially-motivated shooting Perez is currently investigating, either. Less than 30 days ago, his staff issued a fresh series of indictments in a notorious 13-year-old cold case, a double-murder described by a Las Vegas homicide detective at the time as “one of the more heinous crimes” his wicked city had ever experienced (Las Vegas Review-Journal, January 11, 2001). It’s a heart-wrenching story about skinheads, anti-racist activism, and two charismatic young men taken well before their time. Tabling the obvious fact that the states’ suspects are presumed innocent until proven otherwise, let’s revisit this fascinating and newly-relevant massacre. [revisit →]
“There has been a great deal of discussion of the many deficiencies of the mortgage settlement, but its biggest has gone pretty much unnoticed. It isn’t just that the settlement gives the banks a close to free pass for past predatory, illegal conduct, but it also has such lax servicing standards and weak enforcement provisions so as to give the banks license to carry on with servicing abuses.”—Yves Smith
So far four appellate courts have dealt with [the Affordable Care Act]. Two say it’s fine, one declared it unconstitutional and one said it can’t be ruled on until it goes into effect in 2014 and someone is forced to pay penalties the following year. The only place in America now with an individual health care mandate in effect is Massachusetts (Romneycare) and it seems to be working poorly. More people are covered but medical costs have risen faster than anywhere else in America and the biggest beneficiaries are— you guessed it— the insurance industry. This is what Marcia Angell, a senior lecturer in social medicine at Harvard Medical School and former editor-in-chief of the New England Journal of Medicine, had to say about it in 2009:
There would be no need for an individual mandate in a single-payer system, since everyone would be covered automatically and it would be paid for through their income and payroll taxes. So asking me, a supporter of a single-payer health system, about mandates is a little like asking someone whether he’s stopped beating his wife. But even within our current system, I’m troubled by the notion of an individual mandate. I live in Massachusetts, where we have one. It requires people to buy private insurance at whatever price the companies choose to charge. As might be expected, this is a windfall for the insurance industry. Premiums are rising much faster than income, benefit packages are getting skimpier, and deductibles and co-payments are going up.
Many people can’t afford the premiums for the best plans, and so have to choose bare-bones, low-premium plans with high deductibles and co-payments. They are then left with insurance that they might not be able to afford to use, but have to purchase anyway.
A mandate is also extremely regressive. In Massachusetts, mandated insurance and co-payments can amount to nearly a third of income. Income taxes apportion the costs of public services more fairly, and I see no reason not to adopt that approach in paying for health care. To be sure, President Obama has said he would exempt people from the mandate who couldn’t afford to purchase their own health insurance. But aren’t these precisely the people most in need of it? Massachusetts has exempted 62,000 people from the mandate for that reason.
I would hope the President and Congress would come up with something less regressive and truly universal, and stop holding the rest of us hostage to the private insurance industry.
That’s the progressive argument— not “but Obama and the Democrats want it so it must be good.” The Democrats adopted a bad Republican idea to move the ball on universal health care. It was a cowardly (and, it being DC, corrupt) decision when they should have been passing single payer. The Republicans— always partisan hacks and obstructionists— bailed on their own idea and left the Democrats holding their bag of shit. And now the media and the political parties have turned it into a partisan circus with team red vs team blue, something to which not even the Supreme Court judges seem immune. Or are they?
As Mark Twain might say, reports of Obamacare’s demise are greatly exaggerated. While the conservative justices expressed considerable reservations about the law’s scope, Justice Kennedy, the key swing vote, also noted, near the very end of the argument, that the unique context of the healthcare market may be sufficient to validate the “individual mandate.” The biggest challenge the government has faced in defending the law has been the articulation of a limiting principle, and by argument’s end it seemed that Justice Kennedy might have heard one that he could sign on to. If he does vote to uphold the law, it’s possible that Chief Justice Roberts will join him, in the interest of not having the case decided by a single vote, in which case the vote would be 6-3.
Kennedy began his questioning by asking [Solicitor General Don] Verrilli whether Congress could “create commerce in order to regulate it,” echoing the challengers’ contention that while Congress can regulate commerce under the Commerce Clause, it should not be empowered to require people to “enter into commerce”—by purchasing health insurance against their will—in order to regulate them. If Congress has that power, the challengers maintain, there would be no limit to the federal government’s power. It could require people to buy broccoli, health club memberships, cellphones or burial insurance—all hypotheticals posed to the solicitor general by the Court’s conservative justices. And one of the Constitution’s most basic premises is that the federal government is a government of limited powers. As Justice Kennedy asked Verrilli, “Can you identify any limits on the Commerce Clause?” To get Kennedy’s vote, there has to be an affirmative answer to that question.
There is a limiting principle, however, and Verrilli and several of the justices articulated it during the two-hour-long argument. The nature of healthcare is such that we are all inevitably participants in the healthcare market (save for the Christian Scientists, and they are exempt). No one can avoid the need for healthcare, no one can predict when he or she will need it, and virtually no one can afford it when he or she does need it. And ultimately, the healthcare market provides free care to those who cannot pay for it (principally at hospital emergency rooms). Of course nothing is truly free, so hospitals and healthcare providers pass on the cost in higher fees and premiums to those who do pay. As such, those who do not buy insurance shift the costs of their care to the rest of us, increasing the average insured family’s costs by about $1,000 per year. So unlike the markets for broccoli, health clubs and cellphones, this is not a market anyone can truly avoid, and doing nothing ends up harming others by shifting one’s own costs to those who carry insurance.
Given those realities, to uphold this law would not give Congress unfettered power to require us to eat granola, purchase electric cars or join health clubs. Participation in the markets for those products is not inevitable, nor does one person’s choice not to purchase such products impose substantial and foreseeable costs on others because he will be able to get the product for free even if he doesn’t buy it. Upholding the individual mandate would simply establish that where a national market is the victim of such a free-rider problem, Congress may address it as part of its general authority to regulate that market.
“I wrote the first notes for the Port Huron Statement in December 1961, when I was briefly in an Albany, Georgia, jail cell after a Freedom Ride to fight segregation in the South. The high school and college students engaged in direct action there changed my life. I had never met young people willing to take a risk—perhaps the ultimate risk—for a cause they believed in. Quite simply, I wanted to live like them. Those feelings, and the inspiration they gave me, might explain the utopian urgency of the Statement’s final sentence: “If we appear to seek the unattainable, as it has been said, then let it be known that we do so to avoid the unimaginable.””—Participatory Democracy: From the Port Huron Statement to Occupy Wall Street | Tom Hayden
I am sorry we used up all the oil. It took a million years for those layers of carbon goo to form under the Earth’s crust and we used up most of it in a geological instant. No doubt there will be some left and perhaps you can get around the fact that what remains is already distant, dirty, and dangerous, but the low-hanging fruit will be long-gone by the time you are my age. We took it all.
There’s no excuse, really. We are gas-hogs, plain and simple. We got hooked on faster-bigger-more and charged right over the carrying capacity of the planet. Oil made it possible.
Machines are our slaves and coal, oil, and gas are their food. They helped us grow so much of our own food that we could overpopulate the Earth. We could ship stuff and travel all over the globe, and still have enough fuel left to drive home alone in trucks in time to watch Monday Night Football.
Rocket fuel, fertilizer, baby bottles, lawn chairs: we made everything and anything out of oil and could never get enough of it. We could have conserved more for you to use in your lifetime. Instead, we demonstrated the self-restraint of crack addicts. It’s been great having all that oil to play with and we built our entire world around that. Living without it will be tough. Sorry.
A new study out from the UK-based Bureau of Investigative Journalism (TBIJ) provides some of the clearest accounting yet of the United States’ covert war on terror in Yemen, including the use of drone strikes. It shows that seventy-five percent of US drone attacks there have taken place since May 2011 during the instability created by the uprising in Yemen.
Altogether, TBIJ finds 44 US attacks have taken place in Yemen. About 34 of them have happened since May of last year. Somewhere between 275-390 people have been killed. Fifty-four to one hundred of those have been civilians while 221-289 have been “alleged militants.”
Data on recent attacks reveals an escalation in drone strikes this month. The number of attacks are now equal to, if not more than, the number of CIA drone attacks in Pakistan.
If you don’t already read the posts at TomDispatch.com whenever you can, you’re missing one of the most important conversations on the internet. The following is a brief history of the site’s beginning, by it’s creator, Tom Engelhardt:
[When] our bombing of Afghanistan began in October 2001, the writing was already on the wall for anyone to read. Watching the Bush administration, absorbing its imperial pretensions, sensing where they might lead, knowing that we were already “at war,” and that the country was being turned into some new kind of garrison state, I suddenly felt that nothing I had done was faintly good enough.
That sense actually went remarkably deep. I have a daughter and a son whose future I care about. I knew in some visceral way that we were heading into the worst years of my life, which meant theirs, too. I had a strong feeling that I simply couldn’t sit back and let them (and their peers) inherit the kind of planet I feared was in their future — not without doing something to resist our moment. Since I’m no megalomaniac, I didn’t expect anything to come of it; I simply felt a powerful need to raise my hand, to act, even if I had no idea how.
The result was a no-name listserv I began sending around late that October, first to friends and relatives and then to whoever jumped aboard. Nothing surprises me more than this: a decade-plus later, I’m still obsessively involved with its spawn, TomDispatch.com. I just had the urge to act in a way that seemed to fit with my life, an urge — thought of another way — to say to my children that I was sorry for the world I was leaving them.
“I hope we develop clean, renewable energy sources soon, or that you and your generation figure out how to do that quickly. In the meantime, sorry about the climate. We just didn’t realize our addiction to carbon would come with monster storms, epic droughts, Biblical floods, wildfire infernos, rising seas, migration, starvation, pestilence, civil war, failed states, police states, and resource wars.”—Chip Ward
[Besides] the larger debate over abortion, concerns about contraception have been germinating in some quarters for several years. In 2003, on the 30th anniversary of Roe V. Wade, Cristina Page, of the National Abortion Rights Action League, and Amanda Peterman, from Right to Life Michigan, co-wrote an op-ed in The New York Times, titled “The Right to Agree.” In this op-ed, Page and Peterman wrote of finding common ground on such issues as support for single mothers, affordable child care, an end to violent rhetoric and actions, and supporting legislation that would require that health insurance plans cover contraceptives. While there was reportedly little strong response from pro-choice organizations, Peterman found herself ostracized from her fellow activists. Page has subsequently written about how this chain of events helped her to realize that much of the purported anti-abortion activity actually is not focused on abortion per se, but on larger anxieties about families and sexuality.
So what does this have to do with the world outside? Despite the very low rates of abortion (and sexually-transmitted diseases) in the Netherlands, that country’s policies of sex education, along with subsidizing and promoting contraception, do not endear themselves to American conservatives. The exact opposite is true. While the Times, in a 2006 article titled “Contra-Contraception” highlighted the ethical reasons for such seeming cognitive dissonance, it also seems likely that there is a subconscious (and sometimes very conscious!) strategic explanation. In other words, if the Netherlands, and many other countries in Europe and around the world, manage to prevent abortions by preventing pregnancy, that is not considered an acceptable strategy, partially because the resulting low fertility rates allegedly leave such countries open to conquest by Muslim immigrants.
This hypothesis, sometimes awkwardly referred to as “Eurabia” (most Muslim immigrants, like most Muslims in general, are not Arab), has become a staple of right-wing rhetoric in the past decade. Pat Buchanan has mentioned this trope repeatedly, beginning with his book Death of the West in 2001. Mark Steyn has largely built a career on this sort of thing; he made a considerable impact with America Alone in 2006, and was continually invoking concerns of low fertility, though without explicitly mentioning an Islamic takeover, in recent months. Numerous other authors have added their voices to this chorus of fear, and opponents of the idea also responded in kind. Indeed, such fears are not only misplaced, they are comprehensively wrong across the board. The numbers regarding fertility and immigration patterns, as well as the social and political beliefs of many Muslims in Europe, do not even remotely support the hypothesis of people like Steyn, and yet their ideas have stuck in the minds of many. Anders Behring Breivik and the English Defence League share these concerns. Perhaps more importantly, so does the American Christian Right, the most bellicose demographic in America, and the same one responsible for the wave of legislation targeting contraception and abortion. […]
American conservatives seem to want “more babies” more than they want fewer abortions, partially due to fear that the wrong people are reproducing too often. This is one reason, though not the largest, why Cristina Page and Amanda Peterman had such a brief opportunity to agree.
There are many hundreds of pages on this subject in Marx, and many tens of thousands in commentaries and analyses of his work, so my summary of his views is of necessity cartoonishly compressed and simple. Marx’s model works like this: competition pressures will always force down the cost of labour, so that workers are employed for the minimum price, always paid just enough to keep themselves going, and no more. The employer then sells the commodity not for what it cost to make, but for the best price he can get: a price which in turn is subject to competition pressures, and therefore will always tend over time to go down. In the meantime, however, there is a gap between what the labourer sells his labour for, and the price the employer gets for the commodity, and that difference is the money which accumulates to the employer and which Marx called surplus value. In Marx’s judgment surplus value is the entire basis of capitalism: all value in capitalism is the surplus value created by labour. That’s what makes up the cost of the thing; as Marx put it, ‘price is the money-name of the labour objectified in a commodity.’ And in examining that question he creates a model which allows us to see deeply into the structure of the world, and see the labour hidden in the things all around us. He makes labour legible in objects and relationships.
The theory of surplus value also explains, for Marx, why capitalism has an inherent tendency towards crisis. The employer, just like the employee, has competition pressures, and the price of the things he’s selling will always tend to be forced down by new entrants to the market. His way of getting round this will usually be to employ machines to make the workers more productive. He’ll try to get more out of them by employing fewer of them to make more stuff. But in trying to increase the efficiency of production, he might well destroy value, often by making too many goods at not enough profit, which leads to a surplus of competing goods which leads to a crash in the market which leads to massive destruction of capital which leads to the start of another cycle. It’s an elegant aspect of Marx’s thinking that the surplus theory of value leads directly and explicitly to the prediction that capitalism will always have cycles of crisis, of boom and bust.
Skepticism by Syrian opposition groups and their foreign supporters over the Kofi Annan peace plan ostensibly accepted by President Bashar al-Assad is hardly surprising: The plan specifies no timetable or sequence for its cease-fire and political solution to the power struggle that has claimed some 9,000 lives over the past year, and — most galling to the opposition — it doesn’t require Assad to stand down. Assad, moreover, last November “accepted” a plan with many similar provisions, but made sure it was never implemented. There’s no reason to believe he’d have agreed, on Tuesday, to accept Annan’s plan if he didn’t believe it offered him a possibility of ending the crisis while remaining in power. Still, for all its flaws, Annan’s plan is the only game in town. And matching the strongman in playing it might be key to the opposition’s prospects in the weeks and months ahead.
The “Friends of Syria” group of Western and Arab supporters of the opposition will meet in Istanbul on Friday, after corralling the fractious opposition to forge a united statement of principles, establish a more inclusive lineup, and empower the Syrian National Council to negotiate on behalf of the opposition. But while it may boost sanctions against Assad and offer more non-lethal aid to opposition groups on the ground, the Friends group remains unlikely to countenance any moves to send arms to the rebels. And the prospect for foreign military intervention remain remote. Over in Baghdad, where the Arab League is meeting, Saudi Arabia continues to press for a more aggressive strategy of backing the armed opposition, but appears unable to win endorsement from the summit’s host, Iraq. With the regime easily prevailing in the head-to-head military battle on the ground, that leaves the plan formulated by Annan, mandated by the U.N. and the Arab League to mediate. And rather than reject it, the Western powers appear set to press for its implementation on terms and a timetable that block the regime’s current military campaign against opposition strongholds. Assad, meanwhile, will seek to approach the plan on terms that reinforce state authority.
Annan’s plan does not claim to be a program to reconcile the regime and its opponents or to resolve their differences. Instead, it’s a plan to demilitarize Syria’s power struggle and restrict it to political means. The regime’s goals, and those of its opponents, remain fundamentally irreconcilable: Assad is determined to remain in power, while the opposition finds a consensus that eludes it on so many other issues when it comes to demanding his immediate ouster. What Annan’s plan offers, is a formula for managing that power struggle within rules that limit its capacity to spill blood — in a U.N. supervised cease-fire that withdraws the military from the cities and stands down armed opposition groups, while allowing freedom to protest peacefully and forcing the regime and opposition to negotiate.
“To accept Zimmerman’s version of events and relieve him of any culpability is to ignore Trayvon Martin’s right to walk from the 7-11 back to his place of residence unthreatened. To accept Zimmerman’s version ignores Trayvon Martin’s right to “stand his ground” and defend himself against the perceived threat of an older and larger man following him and questioning his right to be where he is.”—What About Trayvon’s Right to Self-Defense? (via azspot)
A founder of the Bradley Manning Support Network, who says federal agents seized his laptop because of his support for the alleged Wiki-leaker, will have his day in court.
U.S. District Judge Denise Casper in Boston yesterday ruled that a lawsuit challenging activist David House’s border searches and other interviews by government agents may continue.
In an opinion (PDF) rejecting the U.S. government’ request to dismiss the case, Casper wrote that just because “the initial search and seizure occurred at the border does not strip House of his First Amendment rights,” especially because it would have disclosed of “internal organization communications” related to the support network.
House, with the help of the American Civil Liberties Union, filed the lawsuit against the Department of Homeland Security, arguing that searching and seizing his electronic devices at the border violates his First Amendment and Fourth Amendment rights.
It alleges the unconstitutional search of his hard drive, which was unencrypted, and other devices happened in November 2010, when House was returning from a Mexico vacation and connecting through Chicago’s O’Hare airport. House says that a pair of Homeland Security agents questioned him about Manning, the support network, and Wikileaks.
Yesterday’s ruling was only a preliminary one — it said House had “asserted a plausible” Fourth Amendment and First Amendment claim — and the lawsuit will continue. And Judge Casper denied a request from House to force Homeland Security do disclose exactly what they did with the data from the seized devices.
“Whenever a Republican tries to claim they aren’t racist, let’s remember this Trayvon Martin incident.
You see, Republicans could have easily taken the stand of defending the Stand Your Ground laws. They could have said they welcomed an investigation and believed that the investigation would show the truth.
But they didn’t do that. Instead, the went after the victim and portrayed him as someone who probably had it coming.
This is all we need to know about Republicans and how they approach matters of race. When given an opportunity, they didn’t hesitate for a second to smear a dead kid.”
“One day, historians will look back on these advertisements and conclude that conservatism had reached an intellectual and moral nadir, and had only two political cards left to play: fear and anger. Lacking a positive program of its own, it has opted to push paranoid delusions instead. That’s what these advertisements are really all about. What’s significant is the window they provide into the anxiety-plagued psyche of segments of the GOP base. They say far more about those that made them, and about their intended audience, than they do about Obama.”—Conservative Crush Porn (via azspot)
Michael Hudson is one of those people I read immediately when a new article pops up. I always learn something.
The Fed is officially supposed to perform two functions: First, to promote “price stability.” This means in practice, fight against wage inflation and preserve sufficient unemployment so that wages will not increase. The “prices” that are supposed to stabilize are the price of labor (wages) and commodity prices.
Meanwhile, the Fed seeks to inflate asset prices, above all real estate prices. Under Alan Greenspan, the aim of the Bubble Economy was to inflate housing prices by enough so that homeowners could borrow the interest to pay the bankers each year, and even enough to spend on consumer goods that their stagnant wage levels were not sufficient to buy. The result was to vastly increase the volume of debt – and debt service became a rising element of prices throughout the economy. Debt-leveraged housing prices ended up absorbing about 40 percent of typical family budgets, and a rising share of corporate income as well, leaving less for spending on current production of consumer goods and capital goods.
The second function the Fed was supposed to perform was to promote full employment. Mr. Greenspan made it clear that he believes that this is incompatible with the ideal of price stability. He pointed out before Congress that the virtue of loading down homeowners, college students and others with debt was that they were afraid to go on strike or even complain about working conditions or seek higher wages, for fear of being fired and missing a mortgage payment or credit-card payment. Going on strike or losing as job would threaten them with loss of a home, and an immediate increase in the credit-card interest rates and penalties that they had to pay. So the Fed became the leading administrator in Wall Street’s war against labor.
Under Mr. Greenspan’s tenure and that of his successor, Ben Bernanke, the Fed has overseen the greatest shift of wealth n American history since the Robber Barons.
Finally, the Fed has taken over the functions of government by threatening to close down the economy if the government does not bail out the banks at taxpayer expense, and protect the wealthy 1% against losing money.
[Whether] you think modern American capitalism needs to be fundamentally reformed or whether you think it just needs a few tweaks here and there, you probably can at least agree, for starters, that our system definitely can’t work if corrupt, failing companies escape consequence by leaning on an endless supply of bailouts and low-interest financial patronage by the Federal Reserve.
The conservative argument on TBTF is beginning to blend in with, and become indistinguishable from, the progressive argument. You can say the current system is private enterprise corrupting government, or you can call it repressive government corrupting private enterprise, but it increasingly amounts to the same thing.
By now, virtually everybody who has an informed opinion on the matter thinks the TBTF system makes no sense and must end — the only people who really disagree are the leaders of those firms, and the politicians who depend on their money. There may not be many more papers like this Dallas Fed report coming down the pipe from influential political sources, but there will be even fewer arguing the converse, i.e that TBTF is a good idea that’s been great for America. There isn’t anyone outside Jamie Dimon’s inner circle who’d even think about writing that paper.
Reports like this one by the Dallas Fed are important because they add legitimacy to the argument for breaking up TBTF. Intellectually, pretty much everybody likely agrees with Rosenbaum. But they need someone with the right credentials to tell them that saying so isn’t revolutionary socialism. Once people on both sides of the aisle start realizing they agree about breaking up these banks, who knows? It might even happen.
“For me, the D vs. R horserace is a parlor game with minor ramifications for our daily lives. Whichever corporate party wins, unemployment and underemployment will continue to worsen, income disparity will widen, and most of our taxes will fund the worst approach to international affairs since a former Austrian corporal blew his brains out in a bunker under Berlin. Thanks to the Occupy movement, real politics is back where it belongs—in the streets. That’s what I’ll be watching and working. With a lot of luck (and even more pepper spray) this will be a year of revolution rather than more electoral devolution.”—Ted Rall
Marx saw the two fundamental poles of economic, and social and political, life as labour and nature. He didn’t see these two things as static; he used the metaphor of a metabolism to describe the way our labour shapes the world and we in turn are shaped by the world we have made. So the two poles of labour and nature don’t stay fixed. But what Marx doesn’t allow for is the fact that nature’s resources are finite. He knows that there is no such thing as nature unshaped by our assumptions, but he doesn’t share our contemporary awareness that nature can run out. This is the kind of thing which is sometimes called ironic, but is closer to tragedy, and at its heart is the fact that the productive, expansionist, resource-consuming power of capitalism is so great that it is not sustainable at a planetary level. The whole world wants to have a First World bourgeois lifestyle, and the whole world can see what that looks like by glancing at a television set, but the world can’t have it, because we will burn through its resources before we get there. Capitalism’s greatest crisis is upon us, and it is predicated on the unavoidable fact that nature is finite.
“Two legal experts have independently told Palmetto Public Record they expect the U.S. Department of Justice to issue an indictment against South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley (R) on charges of tax fraud as early as this week.”—via Political Wire. (via evanfleischer)
In fact, they exceeded the minimum amount of signatures required by almost 400,000. Now, pending approval by the Wisconsin Government Accountability Board tomorrow (a formality), the recall will be finalized and put into motion. The primaries for recall candidates will be held May 8th of this year, and the general is scheduled for June 5th.
Christ, it took them long enough. Keep drawing it out as long as you want, Scotty. You’re out.
The FTC put the online advertising and user tracking industry on notice Monday that it’s time to clean up its act and start treating users’ data with respect, laying out broad guidelines for companies to follow. But the agency stopped short of calling for federal regulation of online data collectors, amid protests from online companies that regulation would kill a vibrant industry.
“With this Report, the Commission calls on companies to act now to implement best practices to protect consumers’ private information. These best practices include making privacy the “default setting” for commercial data practices and giving consumers greater control over the collection and use of their personal data through simplified choices and increased transparency,” the FTC said, adding that doing so should increase user’s trust in services and increase business for all.
While there’s no stick involved yet for online companies, the report did call for federal legislation that would force transparency on giant data collection companies like Choicepoint and Lexis Nexis. Few Americans know about those companies’ databases but they are used by law enforcement, employers and landlords. The FTC is asking Congress to make it easier for Americans to view and correct their data, as legislation requires with credit bureaus.
The FTC report emphasizes what it calls “privacy by design,” alluding to the idea that privacy and data security should be built into any service, not an afterthought. The four principles called for in the report are data security, reasonable collection limits, sound retention practices, and data accuracy.
The civilians they murder are deemed “collateral damage”. Over 90 percent of persons killed in US military “engagements” since Vietnam are, in fact, civilians. Those totals, in the case of Iraq, hover right around one million killed. Americans, by and large, are completely desensitized to what should be seen as a massive, one sided, blood bath. Americans, however, are easily programmed and will virtually fall for whatever propaganda is thrown their way. Most Americans are not able to see beyond the coordinated program of indoctrination they have received since childhood. They have been trained not to critically think; therefore they accept almost whatever messages that are methodically presented to them.
“How ironic that Barack Obama’s health care agenda would be in a far stronger legal position had the president stuck by his earlier support of a public option. Clearly, our federal government has the judicially affirmed power under our Constitution to use public revenues to provide a needed public service, be it education, national security, retirement insurance or health care. Obama’s health care reform should have simply extended Medicare and Medicaid coverage to all who wanted and needed it—no individual mandate—while allowing others to opt out for private insurance coverage. That’s an obvious constitutional solution that even those die-hard Republican justices would have a difficult time overturning.”—Five Hypocrites and One Bad Idea | Robert Scheer
[Karl Marx] didn’t think it was possible to move past capitalism without a fundamental overturning of the existing social, political and philosophical order.
He was right: no alternative has developed. Economics as a discipline has in effect become the study of capitalism. The two are taken as the same subject. If there were ever going to be a serious and sustained theoretical challenge to the hegemony of capitalism inside economics – a serious and sustained challenge subsequent to the one provided by what used to be called ‘actually existing socialisms’ – you’d have thought one would have come along since the near terminal meltdown of the global economic system in 2008. But all we’ve seen are suggestions for ameliorative tweaking of the existing system to make it a little less risky. We have at the moment this monstrous hybrid, state capitalism – a term which used to be a favourite of the Socialist Workers Party in describing the Soviet Union, and which only a few weeks ago was on the cover of the Economist to describe the current economic condition of most of the world. This is a parody of economic order, in which the general public bears all the risks and the financial sector takes all the rewards – an extraordinarily pure form of what used to be called ‘socialism for the rich’. But ‘socialism for the rich’ was supposed to be a joke. The truth is that it is now genuinely the way the global economy is working.
The financial system in its current condition poses an existential threat to Western democracy far exceeding any terrorist threat. No democracy has ever been destabilised by terrorism, but if the cashpoints stopped giving out money, it would be an event on a scale that would put the currently constituted democratic states at risk of collapse. And yet governments act as if there is very little they can do about it. They have the legal power to conscript us and send us to war, but they can’t address any fundamentals of the economic order. So it looks very much as if Marx’s omission of the word ‘capitalism’ [from the first book of Das Kapital], because he foresaw no alternative within the existing social order, was an instance of his crystal ball functioning with particularly high resolution. [++]
[The Obama-is-a-Muslim] cult doesn’t attract mainstream support from the larger church of Obama haters. Indeed, these more orthodox faithful have carefully shifted the debate from Obama being Muslim to Obama acting Muslim. Evangelical pundits, presidential candidates, and the right-wing media have all ramped up their attacks on the president for, as Baptist preacher Franklin Graham put it recently on MSNBC, “giving Islam a pass.”
The conservative mainstream still calls the president’s religious beliefs into question, but they stop just short of accusing him of apostasy and concealment. What they consider safe is the assertion that Obama is acting as if he were Muslim. In this way, Republican mandarins are cleverly channeling a conspiracy theory into a policy position.
There is a whiff of desperation in all this. After all, it’s not an easy time for the GOP. The economy shows modest signs of improvement. The Republican presidential candidates are still engaged in a fratricidal primary. By expanding counterterrorism operations and killing Osama bin Laden, the president has effectively removed national security from the list of Republican talking points.
One story, however, still ties together so many narrative threads for conservatives. Charges that the president is a socialist or a Nazi or an elitist supporter of college education certainly push some buttons. But the single surefire way of grabbing the attention of the media and the public — as well as appealing to the instincts of the Republican base — is to assert, however indirectly, that Barack Obama is a Manchurian candidate sent from the Islamic world.
Ryan "Budget" passes the house. It will die in the Senate.
I put budget in quotes because it wasn’t actually a budget at all. An assistant transcribed one of Ryan’s Ayn Rand wet dreams “in horrifying detail” according the assistant, who replaced some of the more disturbing parts with Jefferson quotes in the final draft.
“It doesn’t take a genius to realize that if you can’t stop your forces from repeatedly blowing up wedding parties, conducting airstrikes on unarmed children, massacring villagers, urinating on dead locals, and burning their holy book, all efforts at employing sophisticated cultural knowledge to win hearts and minds and “counterac[t] enemy propaganda that portrays Coalition forces as oppressive foreign invaders that do not respect Islamic life in Afghanistan” are likely to fail in spectacular fashion.”—Nick Turse
As the Hill recently explained in a story on how John McCain, Lindsey Graham and Joe Lieberman were pushing for a resolution basically promising to make war with Iran, “Graham, Lieberman and McCain are considered some of the top foreign policy experts in the upper chamber,” because they always, invariably support military intervention everywhere for any reason, and that is invariably considered a sign of “seriousness” in Washington. If you don’t like waging wars everywhere, forever, you are a weird kooky hippie, and everyone laughs at you. If you believe that bombs and troops have the power to magically solve all problems, you are invited on all the Sunday shows every week to offer your sober analysis of the foreign situation.
“While structural adjustment and market liberalisation has been great for foreign corporations and wealthy Egyptians, it has devastated Egypt’s economy: average per capita GDP growth has plummeted from 4.1 per cent prior to 1990 to 2.7 per cent during the neoliberal era. Nearly a third of all Egyptians now live below the poverty line. As Cambridge economist Ha-Joon Chang has shown, this trend parallels that of developing countries in general, which have seen growth rates halved since the 1980s as a result of neoliberal policy. Despite this glaring evidence, Hassan Malek, speaking for the Muslim Brotherhood, recently said that Mubarak’s free-market policies were on the right track.”—Neoliberal Egypt: The hijacked revolution | Jason Hickel
Relying on data from the 1974-2010 waves of the nationally representative General Social Survey, the study found that people who self-identified as conservatives began the period with the highest trust in science, relative to self-identified moderates and liberals, and ended the period with the lowest.
In addition to examining how the relationship between political ideology and trust in science changed over almost 40 years, Gauchat also explored how other social and demographic characteristics—including frequency of church attendance—related to trust in science over that same period. Gauchat found that, while trust in science declined between 1974 and 2010 among those who frequently attended church, there was no statistically significant group-specific change in trust in science over that period among any of the other social or demographic factors he examined, including gender, race/ethnicity, and socioeconomic status.
“This study shows that the public trust in science has not declined since the mid-1970s except among self-identified conservatives and among those who frequently attend church,” Gauchat said. “It also provides evidence that, in the United States, there is a tension between religion and science in some contexts. This tension is evident in public controversies such as that over the teaching of evolution.”
As for the study’s implications, Gauchat said it raises important questions about the future role of science in public policy. “In a political climate in which all sides do not share a basic trust in science, scientific evidence no longer is viewed as a politically neutral factor in judging whether a public policy is good or bad,” said Gauchat, who is also concerned that the increasingly politicized view of science could turn people away from careers in the field. “I think this would be very detrimental to an advanced economy where you need people with science and engineering backgrounds.”