Wednesday, November 30, 2011

30 November 2011: INETeconomics and UMKC

The Politics and the Sociology of the Economics Profession - James Galbraith

Uploaded by INETeconomics on Jun 8, 2010:

James Galbraith, professor at the University of Texas at Austin, notes that many economics institutions (especially journals and academic departments) are hierarchical and tribal by nature, and that sociology can exclude dissident views. Interviewed by Peter Leyden at King's College, April 2010.

I note that at around 4:20-4:30 he mentions the University of Missouri-Kansas City economics department, which is where Counterpunch's Mike Hudson teaches. Speaking of UMKC Econ:

L. Randall Wray, professor at UMKC, talks about Hyman Minsky, an American economist who, even in the relative stability of the 1950s, predicted financial collapse because of "speculative euphoria." Interviewed by Peter Leyden at King's College, April 2010. Uploaded by INETeconomics on Jun 8, 2010

L. Randall Wray discusses Hyman Minsky:

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Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Battlefield USA

civil lib girl

photo: Steve Rhodes

Monday, Nov. 28th : Robert johnson, Business Insider: Secret Bill To Be Voted On Today Would Allow The Military To Sweep Up US Citizens At Home Or Abroad

Either Monday or Tuesday the Senate will vote on a bill that allows the US military to imprison civilians with no formal charges and hold them with no trial.

The ACLU reports even US citizens wouldn't be immune as the legislation aims to declare national territory part of the "battlefield" in the War on Terror.

Termed the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) and drafted behind closed doors by Senators Carl Levin (D-Mich.) and John McCain (R-Ariz.)

Tuesday November 29th: Dave Dayden, Firedoglake: Udall Amendment Fails, Setting Up Showdown on Defense Authorization Bill | FDL News Desk

Mark Udall’s amendment to strip out indefinite detention provisions from the defense authorization bill failed today, and the bill will likely pass.

Senate rollcall for the Udall amendment:
Which reads, "To revise the provisions relating to detainee matters."

Incidentally, voting against the Udall amendment included

Bob Casey (D-PA)
Kent Conrad (D-ND)
Kay Hagan (D-NC)
Daniel Inouye (D-HI)
Mary Landrieu (D-LA)
Carl Levin (D-MI)
Joe Manchin (D-WV)
Claire McCaskill (D-MO)
Ben Nelson (D-NE)
Mark Pryor (D-AR)
Jack Reed (D-RI)
Jean Shaheen (D-NH)
Debbie Stabenow (D-MI)
Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI)

While Republicans Rand Paul(KY) and Mark Kirk(IL) voted for the amendment.

And FDL commenter wrote:

Dayden: If Obama follows through with the veto, there will have to be some change to the bill, if the 37 voting for the Udall amendment hold out. I smell an unsatisfying compromise.

There really aren’t 37 votes it’s all staged when the chips are down. That’s why they have cloakrooms to decide who’s the hero and who’s the Goat . And the waiting for the “peoples” president to veto it Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha .

Over at the libertarian Daily Paul, another commenter wrote:

Cowards Udall and Ron Wyden both voted FOR warrantless wiretaps – twice this year, but got favorable publicity for coming out against warrantless wiretaps.
In a nutshell, this bill will provide a loop-hole to our legal system, effectively nullifying the 5th, 6th, 7th, 8th, and 9th amendments.

I'll admit that BHO saying he'll veto doesn't reassure me. And as far as the second comment goes, I'm reminded of how back in the '90s Phil Gramm supposedly took credit for social programs he'd voted to ax beforehand, and how some New Republic writer referred to it as Gramm-standing.

I note also that neither senator from Alaska voted.(the vote was 60-38.) Maybe they were fishing.

Politically engaged bloggers and others often think Americans are especially dense, and certainly too many are. But I note that if you rely on major news portals to tell you what's been going on today, you're far more likely to have heard about Ann Coulter cursing on a talk show or Conrad Murray being sentenced than any of this, so it's not all the fault of ignorant people that they're ignorant. We often hear of "low-information voters," usually referred to disparagingly. Maybe another part of the problem is "medium-information voters", who are led by CBS, CNN, ABC, MSNBC, et al, to believe that they are in fact high-information voters and getting all the information they need. Ironically, Fox News as a reassuringly nutty counterpoint probably helps reinforce this impression for some. And if you are one of those medium-information voters and somebody tells you about these things, after such a convincing portrait of the lay of the political land has been offered to you, what must you think?

"Oh, what a whack-job."

Yes, a lot of people are goons who if they knew about this would cheer it on. While still others might feel squeamish about such a development, but would try to reassure themselves that the purpose is to protect us, and surely "they" wouldn't abuse it, etc, not because they necessarily believe it, but because it makes not fighting and just ducking your head and abiding with how things are a bit more bearable.(I have a feeling this group is much larger.) But how many people who would oppose this will even know?

"First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they attack you, then you win."

Yeah, sure. If you like the Gandhi quote, there's also this:

"The incestuous relationship between government and big business thrives in the dark"- Jack Anderson

I've never once seen that on the bumper of an automobile. Why, I don't know.

see also Information Clearing House, Senators Demand the Military Lock Up American Citizens in a “Battlefield” They Define as Being Right Outside Your Window
(via Mr Pez)

Fort Worth Star-Telegram/AP "Senate panel pushes defense bill with detainee provisions White House opposes"


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Monday, November 28, 2011

Eat more Kale, corpse fuel and the Keiser Report

(But not in that order...)

25 Nov. Keiser Report: Corruptify! (E214)
(via Skeptical eye)

This week Max Keiser and co-host, Stacy Herbert, discuss taxpayers in the West being pepper-sprayed with toxic debts while in China fraudsters receive five fingers of death. In the second half of the show, Max talks to Gregor Macdonald about Warren Buffett's investment in Japan and the cost benefit analysis of the energy policy of invading resource rich nations in order to liberate their oil.

Yahoo/AP: Vt. artist: I'll fight Chick-fil-A for my kale(also here and here)
Vt. folk artist says he'll fight Chick-fil-A giant for rights to phrase 'eat more kale'
Wilson Ring, Associated Press | MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) -- A folk artist expanding his home business built around the words "eat more kale" says he's ready to fight root-to-feather to protect his phrase from what he sees as an assault by Chick-fil-A, which holds the trademark to the phrase "eat mor chikin."

Bo Muller-Moore uses a hand silkscreen machine to apply his phrase, which he calls an expression of the benefits of local agriculture, on T-shirts and sweatshirts. But his effort to protect his business from copycats drew the attention of Chick-fil-A, the Atlanta-based fast-food chain that uses ads with images of cows that can't spell displaying their own phrase on message boards.

Sidney Morning Herald,"How corpses could power a television to save on energy"

Two from Polling Report:

Ronald Brownstein 11/22
Public Opposes Sequestration
With the congressional deficit-reduction super committee collapsing into stalemate, a solid majority of Americans say that Congress should block the automatic spending cuts established as a fallback if the panel deadlocked....

Thomas B. Edsall 11/22
The White Party
... With less than a year to go until the election, poll data suggest that the Republican "white" strategy has a chance of working. Since 2008, the Republican Party's biggest gains, and Obama's sharpest declines, have been among white voters. ...

[Sometimes when I can't think of a title, especially when I'm posting a grab bag o' links, I will just post the date. But today a title and an alternate, courtesy of Max Keiser: "Capitalism without bankruptcy is like Christianity without Hell."(6:30-6:55)]


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Sunday, November 27, 2011

Vance Packard and the Ultra Rich

Presently I'm reading Vance Packard's The Status Seekers, which published in 1959 as a follow-up to his 1957 book The Hidden Persuaders. Status Seekers is out of print and I gather it had less impact than Persuaders(which was reissued recently), or at least is not remembered as having had as much impact. There's no question Seekers is dated in some respects, such as his numerous references to the prices of things circa 1959, and to a "diploma elite" who were seemingly guaranteed better outcomes in their lives by virtue of having attended college.

If anything, its datedness is instructive as to how much the underpinnings of the US economy and the zeitgeist are so different today. At any rate, datedness in some trivial particulars doesn't disqualify a text as therefore having little or no value. It's a little like objecting to a film from years ago because you don't like the hairstyle of the protagonist.

This is from Chapter 2, "An Upsetting Era:"

This brings us to the second big economic change affecting class: the graduated federal income tax. Some have described it as the great leveler. The federal-government income taxes began rising in the thirties to fight the Depression, and soared even more steeply in the forties to finance World War II. They still remain near wartime levels. As a result, it has become virtually impossible for a man to become a multi-millionaire by salary alone. He needs to have capital gains, only one quarter of which he loses in taxes, or to be an oilman and get a "depreciation allowance." Still, in 1958, I was able to find, without too much difficulty, several dozen Americans who have established fortunes of at least $10,000,000 in the twenty years since income taxes have become so high.[4]

Despite the laments about high taxes, the number of American families with a net worth of a half-million dollars has doubled since 1945. Most of the very rich manage, one way or another, to hold onto the bulk of their new incomes each year. Meanwhile, corporate lawyers have applied their ingenuity to find non-taxable benefits for key executives. These range from deferred payments in the form of high incomes for declining years and free medical checkups at mountain spas, to hidden hunting lodges, corporate yachts, payment of country-club dues (according to the survey, three quarters of all companies sampled did this), and lush expense accounts. One sales manager declined a $10,000 raise and took instead a $10,000 expense account which, it was specified, he didn't have to account for.

(Packard's footnote refers to "How to Make a Fortune-- New Style" from Ladies' Home Journal, January 1959. No author is cited. He also cites a lot of academic sociologists throughout the book, so he wasn't just citing popular articles, although the citations are a bit sparse for my taste.)

In the 1989 interview above with Harold Channer, Packard talks about Ultra-Rich: How Much is Too Much? which had just been published a couple of months earlier, and which turned out to be his last book. In Ultra Rich he suggests an absolute limit of 25 million dollars on inheritable fortunes, which he argues would motivate the wealthy to be more mindful of creating civic legacies and take an interest in making plans to disperse their fortunes down to that limit before they died.

For my part I think an absolute limit like that is unrealistic and promotes corruption, much as Prohibition promoted an underground alcohol economy in the 1920s. I think Huey Long also argued for an absolute limit on wealth back in the 1930s.

But I appreciate Packard's intent as well as his noting that Reagan's tax policies were promoting inequality, which, if memory serves, not so many people fretted about in 1989. To put it in perspective, remember that Bush Senior had been inaugurated president that January, the same month that Ultra-Rich was published. My impression at the time was that many people regarded the Reagan era as being an aberration, and felt we were likely to go back to the New Deal Lite policies of Nixon, Ford and Carter, especially after George Bush Sr. had memorably described Reagan's ideas as "voodoo economics" in 1980. And of course most of us didn't know to call him Senior then.

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Friday, November 25, 2011

25 November 2011

above:Global Recession Looms as Euro Crisis Deepens

Nov 23rd: Costas Lapavitsas: Regulation is not enough, the public must take over the financial system.

Ian Welsh, "What's happening in Europe is what matters: rules of the financial rich"

from WikiNews:

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan apologizes on behalf of the state for the 1937–38 Dersim Massacre.

The interim government of Egypt resigns amid violent protests in which at least 30 people have been killed and more than 1,500 wounded.

Two from Pink Scare, a new(to me) blog which reads like it is written by an academic, but accessibly so:

Nov 2nd: Is the Problem the 1% or the System?

Nov 16th: Chicago's Democrat Machine Votes Unanimously For Austerity

This is a declaration of war by the 1% against the 99% right here in Chicago. The bill cuts over $400 million out of city services: It shuts down 6 of 12 Chicago Dept of Public Health clinics, it cuts $63 million from Family and Support services (which has already eliminated 63 full-time jobs this year alone), slashes full-time public library staff by 32% (on top of the 10% cuts last year) laying off more than 300 librarians, reduces hours for libraries, makes cuts to firefighter pay and closes fire-stations, etc. Meanwhile Rahm is pushing hard for big tax breaks (e.g. $23 million for the Chicago Mercantile Exchange) for the wealthy as well as public transit fare hikes.

Charles E. Lindblom, "Muddling Through" [PDF link; I'd never heard of Lindblom before reading Pink Scare. He looks like an interesting thinker.]

Healthcare Now, "Sponsor a Single-Payer Activist"

Blue Nile: 'High-end market is the healthiest'

Blue Nile CEO Mark Vadon discusses Black Friday sales for the online jeweler, and says the 'healthiest part of the market is the very high-end.'

MSN Money: "Over 55 and desperate for work"(via Fiscal Times)

Florida assistant principal calls police on kissing 12-year-olds

Chicago Tribune,"Competitive Shopping" Cited in Wal-Mart Pepper Spray Attack

Talking Points Memo, Gov. Brownback's Complaint About Student Tweet Lands Kansas Teenager In Principal’s Office

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Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Ron Paul and 9/11, etc

Apparently Ron Paul was on Face the Nation on Sunday. I didn't watch it, but CNN's Kevin Liptak discusses it here,

"Ron Paul reissues claims on American policy and 9/11"[1]


Presidential candidate Rep. Ron Paul reiterated his controversial stance Sunday that some policies of the United States contributed to the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001.

Paul said American intervention in foreign nations was a trigger to potential terrorists, who he said were sending the message: “We don’t like American bombs to be falling on our country.”

He cited withdrawing a military base from Saudi Arabia immediately after 9/11 as an indication that U.S. military policy was partly responsible for the actions of terrorists.Paul has previously said that the military presence in Saudi Arabia was a motivator for terrorists, who were angered by American troops in the Islamic country.

The Texas congressman made clear he did not think America’s form of government and economy were to blame, but rather the specific foreign policies pursued by the United States.

“To deny this I think is very dangerous, but to argue the case that they want to do us harm because we're free and prosperous I think is a very, very dangerous notion because it's not true,” Paul said.

He continued, “You're supposed to be able to criticize your own government without saying you're un-American.”

This video below, intercutting footage from a GOP debate with an RT story was uploaded 12 September 2011.[link]

In a more rational world Ron Paul's "surprising claim" would not be remotely controversial, as Liptak deems it. I've observed before that the big media's job is to encourage viewers to be unreflective and stupid, and our job in turn is to comply, in hopes of approval and cheeseburgers and sundry pleasant diversions on the TV. The other day Duncan Mitchel wrote

...I have long believed that elites consider literacy dangerous. They'd love to limit it -- ideally, by direct intervention into the brain so that readers could only look for, read, or understand, approved texts. That's because elites need the rabble to have minimal functional literacy in order to serve elite ends; but once you teach someone to read, it's hard to predict or control what she'll read next. This is why schools teach reading and writing so badly, in order to get a few fluent readers and writers, and many who just stumble along, regarding text as something vaguely unpleasant.

I'm not saying that someone sat down and consciously decided to do it that way; but our current, traditional approach works well enough for official purposes, to produce enough literates to do the necessary work while leaving the rest only half-taught. The ongoing drive by corporate and government elites to censor the Internet might just give a boost to physical print, though: the forbidden, as Butler pointed out in connection with slaves' great desire to learn to read and write, automatically becomes attractive.

(He's referring to Octavia Butler, per a discussion she had at MIT with Samuel R. Delany in 1998, which Duncan references in "Literally Literate")

Shifting gears a bit, a recent Slate article also touches upon this:

Christopher Hitchens, "In God They Trust: How the conservative belief in American exceptionalism has become a matter of faith"

Hitchens calls it a conservative belief, not a republican belief, but at the Slate web page there's a still photo from another recent GOP debate, which seems like the layout is meant to imply that American Exceptionalism is a conspicuously Republican Party idea. (If only that were so, then it might be easier to eradicate. Then again, if only we had a viable opposition party, as opposed to the democrats, who weren't a viable opposition party even in 2009-2010, when they controlled all three branches of government, and the president was denounced for his supposed socialism. To paraphrase JFK and put words in his dead mouth he never would have said, we are all republicans now, even if Ike was a lefty by our new standards...)


I remember Bernard-Henri Levy saying, in the early stages of the Iraq war that he opposed, that America had been essentially in the right about combating fascism and Nazism, and essentially right about opposing and outlasting the various forms of Communism, and that all else was pretty much commentary or, as one might say, merde de taureau. Something of the sort seems to apply in the present case, both in recent developments in Burma and Vietnam as well as in Libya and Syria. The crowds have a tendency to be glad that there is an American superpower, if only to balance the cynical powers of Moscow and Beijing. Perhaps if it were not for President Obama being in the White House, our right wing would be quicker to see and appreciate this point.

Does Hitchens really believe the crowds in Libya and Syria "have a tendency to be glad there is an American superpower"? I guess he might; mostly he seems to believe that the West is the best, so he may decide to also believe that Libyans and Syrians, et al, look at things the way he does, because it helps reinforce his belief.[2]

How do you separate American Exceptionalism from "they hate us for our freedoms"? I don't see how you can. The former functions as a set of blinders, which prevents one from seeing the latter with anything like objectivity. If we're awesome and everybody knows we're awesome, a truth universally acknowledged and so forth, what other reason could there be? The politicians know they have to say it, even if they don't have to believe it, and the network reporters also have to say it, and who the hell knows what they believe? Presumably they believe in adapting and surviving and having an up-to-date demo reel.

Maybe the problem arises if our awesomeness is so self-evident, then we just have to assert it and it is so. This frees us of having to actually be awesome, or even just decent and well-behaved, which a lot of the world would happily settle for. We create our own reality, or at least our elites do, as a commenter recently reminded me.

Laurie Fendrich, Chronicle of Higher Education: "America Is Exceptional, but Keep It to Yourself" November 20, 2011. I may discuss this article and the related Pew poll a little more in a few days.

Two from the Christian Science Monitor:
Ron Paul's strength in Iowa shows it's too soon to write him off[3]

Did Ron Paul win GOP's national security debate?

[1]on's front page this story was linked as "Ron Paul's Surprising 9/11 Claim" I've mentioned this trend on news web sites before, to give their stories more than one title, depending on where you find it on the site. Slate and the Christian Science monitor both do it quite a bit too. I don't know what to make of it, apart from possibly being a SEO (search engine optimization) tactic to increase traffic, to increase the number of key words that might lead to the url.

[2]I've had the idea for some time of a post discussing Hitchens and Tom Friedman plus possibly a couple of other figures who strike me as pretty overrated, "Wrong except when they're right."

It would be about persons who often spew nonsense but occasionally offer more useful observations, seemingly because while they function as gatekeepers of conventional wisdom, they also need to say something that's not so merde de taureau-ey once in a while, whether to protect their reputations or as a tacit wink to knowledgeable cynics who may be listening. Of course the occasional non-wackjob sensible comment also helps create verisimilitude, so the officially agreed-upon crazy is easier to accept.

[3]I find it hard to believe Paul has a shot, even if all the candidates still in the GOP race still have a mathematical shot, even Rick Santorum. But part of the establishment media being the establishment is demonstrating they aren't marginalizing anybody, so what the hey.

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Saturday, November 19, 2011

Friday at Cal Davis

photo: Louise Macabitas

Angus Johnston at has a detailed narrative of the pepper spray incident at Cal Davis from Friday.

via Lili Loofbourow, who writes:

Even against an institutional backdrop that’s becoming more and more famous for meting out unnecessary violence to peaceful people, his behavior must be understood as somewhat exceptional. Look at his face as he sprays them (as best you can–he’s partially hidden behind a mask). Then fast-forward to the end of the clip (around 6:15), when the students announce to the officers that they are offering them “a moment of peace,” that is, the option of leaving without further escalating a truly horrible situation. They cry (in one of the most moving instances of the human mic I’ve ever seen) “You can go! You can go!”

It’s transcendently brilliant, this tactic–the students offer an alternative in a high-pressure situation, a situation that no one wants, but which seems inevitable in the heat of the moment. It’s an act of mercy which, like all acts of mercy, is entirely undeserved. Watch the other officers’ surprise at this turn in the students’ rhetoric, after they had (rightfully) been chanting “Shame on you!” Watch the officers seriously consider (and eventually accept) the students’ offer.

At around 6:15-6:30 they say "you may take your weapons and our friends, and go." What is "winning" in this instance? Letting them leave, but without the people they arrested? That was probably unrealistic. Getting Pike investigated, and possibly suspended or fired? I assume he was following orders issued, formally or not, from much more powerful people, although that is by no means a justification. If the Cal Davis chancellor(see below) is made to resign, big deal, she'll just go be a chancellor or university president somewhere else. People who hold such offices tend to be careerists who jump from one city and one gig to the next every 5 or 6 years anyway. But that doesn't mean they shouldn't be made to resign or be fired. Ian Welsh recently described the OWS movement as necessary but insufficient. Maybe disciplining cops who do things like this falls under the same category.

I also wonder how many regular people are even all that aware of these kinds of things, or buy the spin they are likely to hear from establishment news sources about how the cops had no choice, etc. (I'm reminded of the bumper sticker I still see from time to time that says "I don't believe the liberal media." Which of course could mean more than one thing these days, including the traditional reactionary stance, but also a mistrust of faux progressives, or an ironic or nihilist stance.)

But I still wonder, why did they do this? I tend to assume the cops, and by extension UCD, want the students to react violently, so they may look bad, and to do this the made themselves look bad, at least to people who are open to holding such a view, and don't automatically give authority figures a pass.

But of course many do give authorities a pass, and assume they mean well in practically all instances, apart from the usual few bad apples, etc. So I wonder to what degree the Occupy movement serves as a sort of Rorschach for people, whether they're "low-information voters" or troglodytes who want to know what their favorite talk radio blowhard thinks before they decide, people who want NPR to tell them what to think, people who'd rather watch Dancing With the Stars, and so forth.

More from Johnston:

UC Davis chancellor Linda Katehi released a statement last night in which she said she “deeply regretted” students’ actions yesterday, actions that “offer[ed] us no option but to ask the police to assist in their removal.” But of course you can’t regret something that someone else did, something you had no control over.

For the actions she did have control over, and will have control over in the future — the violence of her police — Katehi expressed no regret. She was, she said, “saddened.” She was “saddened to report that during this activity, 10 protestors were arrested and pepper spray was used,” and “saddened by the events that subsequently transpired to facilitate their removal.” No regret. Not even an active voice.
Lt. Pike has received a salary in excess of $100,000 from the people of California each of the last three years. More than 40% of his 2010 salary came from student fees.

Gawker:"Here's a cop, just casually pepper-spraying peaceful protesters"

2.Keiser Report: Vampire Banker Hunter (E212)

Uploaded by RussiaToday on Nov 19, 2011
Every week Max Keiser looks at all the scandal behind the financial news headlines. This week Max Keiser and co-host Stacy Herbert discuss the tiny rule changes and the Zombies behind the collapse of MF Global. Meanwhile, in Pennsylvania, a Keiser-Celente 2012 bumper sticker spotted! In the second half of the show, Max Keiser interviews Barry Ritholtz about the big lie that bankers did not cause the crisis and what MF Global means to the markets.


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Friday, November 18, 2011

Ray Lewis at OWS

You may have heard of how the NYPD broke up Occupy Wall Street Thursday night, and how similar police actions, possibly federally co-ordinated, occurred at other Occupy cities. The photo above by Johnny Milano is of retired Philadelphia cop Ray Lewis being arrested at OWS, via The New York Observer. A commenter at Facebook wrote,

"It seems as if they wanted to humiliate him before putting him in the van. I've seen a lot of different NYPD faces since this started and I've begun to notice a schism of late, between nervous and unsure in one group and smug and disdainful in the other. I don't know how smart it was making an example out of him because I think a lot of police are likely ashamed at how this has proceeded, and this couldn't have helped."

see also

Two items from Think Progress:

1.Tanya Somanader,"New York Churches Shelter Occupy Protesters, Now Monitored By New York Police"

2.Zaid Jilani, "The Daily Caller's Michelle Fields faced abuse from the NYPD and help from protesters"

"Daily Caller reporter Michelle Fields — who faced off with actor Matt Damon earlier this year over education policy — and videographer Direna Cousins both claim they were attacked by the New York Police Department (NYPD) while covering the raucous protests in the Financial District today."

from Fields and the Daily Caller:

“The protesters came up to me right away and asked if I needed any medical assistance. They were actually very kind and helpful. It was the police officers who were very aggressive,” Fields added.

Cüneyt, "Square One":

And, to be nasty, I look at capitalism and I see the Congo. I look at Marxism and I see despots. I look at liberal democracy and I see raped Vietnamese women. I look at conservatism and I see lebensraum and Manifest Destiny. I look at anarchism and I see futility. I look at libertarianism and I see privilege confused for principle. I see the world’s ideologies, like its faiths, and I see ugliness, ruin, waste, and error. I pick from their corpses and I go back to work.

[via Abonilox]


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Tuesday, November 15, 2011

"...all this stuff twirling around in my head."

Arthur Silber:
The great majority of people remain resolutely focused on the trivia of the day, and the latest "controversy" of the moment. Developments over a period of years and even decades bore them, and they have no interest in understanding them. Our politicians specialize in such ignorance, and most bloggers indulge their stupidity, and imitate it to varying degrees.

(update below)

That's what Silber wrote in 2007, in "The Worsening Nightmare" and he quotes himself Monday, in "I Care for Myself Too Much to Write About Iran." If you are familiar with Silber's writings you already know he does this a lot, although the newer posts generally have a lot of new content too. He can be a "heavy" writer and seem humorless at times, but if you don't haven't read Silber before you probably should. It's good to see him posting again.

Arthur's comments have a sort of serendipity about them, he posting the above on the same day as the now famous Herman Cain Libya flub. Maybe in a society that places a premium on being too cool and too innocent to know terribly much about the big world outside our borders, Herman Cain is the kind of candidate we deserve.

In a way, his foreign policy misstep was a kind of treat for establishment reporters, they getting to self-indulgently point a finger at him for his ignorance, while gliding past the fact that the marquee reporters and commentators themselves conspire to keep the electorate ignorant much of the time.

And then there's the fact that this "zinger" came via reporters at a small-market newspaper just doing their job who were not even trying to stump him, but just asking him boring old-fashioned questions about his stands on sundry issues. You know, as opposed to demonstrating their rarefied cleverness in endless, postmodern speculation on how the candidate's behavior will be perceived and so forth. In fact the vacuousness of much national-level news coverage may have contributed to Cain feeling it probably wasn't that important that he have considered opinions about Obama's foreign policy.

I suppose his impromptu concern that we not leave a post Qadaffi Libya in ruins should be touching, once he got his bearings straight and realized he needed to have a comprehensible opinion or two about the whole thing. In fact if he meant it, it would be both a sensible and decent thing for him to say. But you'd think if he meant it he'd have less difficulty remembering that he felt that way.

In a way the "gotcha" narrative the national level reporters apply to this story reflects badly not only on themselves and Cain, but people who buy into it, as it is more than a reflection of how insular the national media is, but how actively pernicious their influence is. It suggests that a presidential candidate has to demonstrate knowledge of US foreign policy just as a formality, and we will judge him mostly on his polish and poise in response, and actually taking tedious questions about how the US behaves towards other countries seriously is just being fussy. Come to think of it, this view is probably why we have a president like Obama.

The full Milkwaukee Journal-Sentinel interview is below. And yes, Herman's just another ambitious empty suit. But the conduct of non-marquee, non-beltway political reporters(the unfortunate sound quality notwithstanding) is actually more interesting, serving as a reminder of how journalism was done 30 plus years ago. (Follow up questions? What are those?)

update: I changed the 1st clip to a slightly longer version which may give you a better sense of the context.

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Sunday, November 13, 2011

13 November 2011: Iran, etc

Is it just me, hearing Fareed Zakaria's pain at restraining himself, wanting to say he recognizes part of his job is placating war loving oligarchs nutballs? We could feel bad for him, but one imagines he's well compensated to talk out both sides of his mouth, to hint that war with Iran would be crazy, that they are complying with regular inspections, but "who can say" what their intentions are?

Who, who?

Maybe this is as close as a talking head on TV can get to saying that US foreign policy is deliberately counterproductive and stupid, which is to say not very close. And another thing you can't say on television is that Saddam and Qadaffi were both allied with the US at one time, then US policy changed, so see what it got them. Or to put it another way: the Iranians must by now conclude that it would be insane to not get nuclear warheads.

Two from the Christian Science Monitor:
1.Iran nuclear report: Why it may not be a game-changer after all The Iran nuclear report released yesterday by the UN nuclear watchdog agency sought to corroborate details provided by US intelligence in 2005. But some nuclear experts are unconvinced.

In a 14-page annex to its quarterly report on Iran released yesterday, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said new intelligence and other data gave it "serious concern" about the allegedly peaceful nature of Iran's nuclear program. But the casus belli for military strikes that anti-Iran hawks in the US and Israel expected to gain from the IAEA report is far from clear-cut.

Imminent Iran nuclear threat? A timeline of warnings since 1979

The report is based on more than 1,000 pages of information shared with the agency by US intelligence in 2005, one year after they were apparently spirited out of Iran on a laptop computer. But deep skepticism about the credibility of the documents remains – Iran has long insisted they are forgeries by hostile intelligence agencies – despite a concerted attempt by the IAEA to verify the data and dispel such doubt.

"It's very thin, I thought there would be a lot more there," says Robert Kelley, an American nuclear engineer and former IAEA inspector who was among the first to review the original data in 2005. "It's certainly old news; it's really quite stunning how little new information is in there."

and 2.Mystery surrounds deadly blast at Iran ammunition depot

Lew Rockwell,"12 Facts About Money and Congress That Are So Outrageous That It Is Hard To Believe That They Are Actually True" [via Mimi]

Brayden Goyette, Truthdig, "Flat Taxes Are Big in the Former USSR. Have They Worked?"

Arthur Silber re OWS

Scott Olsen, the vet who was injured at the Oakland OWS protests last month, discusses his progress since surgery at his Google Plus page in a public posting, here.[via Gary Farber]

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Saturday, November 12, 2011

Two birds with one stone

PROTECT IP Act Breaks The Internet from Fight for the Future on Vimeo.

update, 14 Nov: Hi Sideshow-ers, and welcome to our wee nanoblog. And thanks for the kind, Avedon C., as BDR would say. And yes, she has been pointing out that we'll miss the internet when it's gone for some time.

Or maybe, "two birds with one stone(around your neck)"?

Many bad things are happening but this is one of them, and it's not just because you'll miss the internet.

The video above is via Cory Doctorow at and Gary Farber. Doctorow notes that SOPA has been characterized as an end run around net neutrality, but he's right that it's much more than that, and it sounds like it's being pushed through the congress PDQ.


PROTECT IP (S. 968)/SOPA (HR. 3261) creates the first system for Internet censorship - this bill has sweeping provisions that give the government and corporations leeway and legal cover for taking down sites "by accident," mistakenly, or for NOT doing "enough" to protect the interests of Hollywood. These bills that are moving very quickly through Congress and can pass before Christmas aim to give the US government and corporations the ability to block sites over infringing links posted by their users and give ISPs the release to take any means to block peoples' sites, including slowing down your connection. That's right, some say this bill is a workaround to net neutrality and is bigger than net neutrality.

I'm reminded of how quickly Visa, Mastercard and Paypal accommodated the government's request to shut down Wikileaks' funding, even though it wasn't necessarily all that clear that they were doing anything unlawful, just so the money people could demonstrate their fealty to the state, that they were going to be accommodating, while it also demonstrated how close the relationship is between the federal government and big corporations. Likewise, this doesn't sound like it's just about shutting down media piracy, but shutting down non-corporate speech, gadfly speech, whistle-blowers, etc.

Sometimes I feel like I inhabit a neighborhood of the blogosphere where the denizens usually feel like activism and demonstrating anything resembling civic earnestness just proves you're naive, and I mostly concur. All the same, I still feel this is something we should try to stop, whoever we is, via writing(or faxing) your congresspeople, etc. Even if stopping may be prove to be just delaying, it's worth it, because tomorrow's another day, etc. Anyway, the kids with the bongo drums can't do it all by themselves.

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Thursday, November 10, 2011

Roy Casagranda teach-in

Occupy Austin teach-in on Monday, Oct. 31 featured Roy Casagranda, Political Science Professor, Austin Community College, on "Major Changes Are Necessary"

Produced for Austin Indymedia by Jeff Zavala

via zgraphix

and But I did everything right, "Law School's a Complete Waste of Time and Money"

Ok, this is pretty long, relative to our being accustomed to video clips embedded at blogs being 5 to 10 minutes tops, but when you can I encourage you to watch the whole thing. (His characterization of American liberalism is particularly interesting. Also, I think he's right that FDR was trying to save capitalism, and about why Warren Buffet wants his taxes to go up.)

I do have one minor quibble: Casagranda suggests it was the same group of people he characterizes as left-wing Christian activists in the '50s and early '60s who subsequently morphed into folks like the Moral Majority, et al, in the '80s, and I don't think that's correct. Even in the earlier era we had various right-wing social conservatives, although there's no question that the political impact of the Christian right is much stronger today. But as I said it's a minor point, and you should definitely watch this.

see also

Constitutional Daily, Cruel and Unusual Soy Beans

John Caruso, "Israel's Other Airline"

No Caption Needed, "Seeing Beyond American Exceptionalism"

Cüneyt, "Ethos"


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Monday, November 07, 2011

Ron Suskind and those wacky liberals at the Obama administration

Aaron Task and Henry Blodget again, via Yahoo Finance:

above: "No Change: 'Fat Cats' Still Winning Despite Obama's Tough Talk"

Does Blodget really believe that Obama offended Wall Street by calling them fatcats? Me kinda skeptical, but I suppose he may. The last time I speculated about the inner broilings of somebody out there in the big world, a certain commenter scolded me, so maybe I better not.

However I remember in May of 2010, Obama said he was going to "put his boot on the throat" of BP during the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, and some other pol denounced him for it, but the Justice Department or the EPA or whoever behaved as if their hands where tied when the administration discouraged BP from using Corexit as a dispersant. (Incidentally use of Corexit is banned altogether in the British Isles.)

According to Wikipedia:

On May 19, the Environmental Protection Agency gave BP 24 hours to choose less toxic alternatives to Corexit from the list of dispersants on the National Contingency Plan Product Schedule, begin applying the new dispersant(s) within 72 hours of Environmental Protection Agency approval or provide a detailed reasoning why the approved products did not meet the required standards.[203][204] On May 20, US Polychemical Corporation reportedly received an order from BP for its Dispersit SPC 1000 dispersant. US Polychemical said that it could produce 20,000 US gallons (76 m3) a day in the first few days, increasing up to 60,000 US gallons (230 m3) a day thereafter.[205]

Also on May 20, BP determined that none of the alternative products met all three criteria of availability, toxicity, and effectiveness.[206] On 24 May, Environmental Protection Agency administrator Jackson ordered the Environmental Protection Agency to conduct its own evaluation of alternatives and ordered BP to scale back dispersant use.[207][208] According to analysis of daily dispersant reports provided by the Deepwater Horizon Unified Command, before May 26, BP used 25,689 US gallons (97.24 m3) a day of Corexit. After the EPA directive, the daily average of dispersant use dropped to 23,250 US gallons (88.0 m3) a day, a 9% decline.[209] By July 30, more than 1,800,000 US gallons (6,800 m3) of dispersant had been used, mostly Corexit 9500.[210]

So maybe an Obama boot on the throat means, "I want you to fear my wrath up to nine percent of the time."

Likewise, Obama sounds a bit silly when he calls people fatcats. Frankly it's embarrassing. It's reminiscent of a drunk who threatens a much bigger guy when he knows his sober buddies are holding him back and the other guy isn't particularly interested.

In the 1st video clip, above, Aaron Task suggests that BHO wanted to be much tougher with the bank in early 2009, but Tim Geithner and Lawrence Summers talked him out of it, so I guess they qualify as the two sober friends who prevented the fight in question. Blodget starts things off by suggesting that fight would have involved "coming down hard" on Wall Street, and Task chimes in by suggesting that could've meant nationalizing the banks, although he stumbles and says privatizes for a moment. And yes, I'm tempted to read into that, that it was one of them Freudian slips, but what do I know about what people may really be thinking?

Incidentally, Jonathan Schwarz of Tiny Revolution recently mentioned the same book that Task refers to, Confidence Men by Ron Suskind. His discussion suggests a different conclusion, and it didn't go along with the Obama as impressionable naif theme at all. I haven't read it, although it sounds interesting.

Here's a quote from Suskind, via Schwarz:

According to one of the participants, he then said, "I'm not out there to go after you. I'm protecting you. But if I'm going to shield you from public and congressional anger, you have to give me something to work with on these issues of compensation."

No suggestions were forthcoming from the bankers on what they might offer, and the president didn't seem to be championing any specific proposals. He had none; neither Geithner nor Summers believed compensation controls had any merit.

After a moment, the tension in the room seemed to lift: the bankers realized he was talking about voluntary limits on compensation until the storm of public anger passed. It would be for show.

Is this what happened? Even if it isn't, and is just what Suskind's source said, it certainly doesn't square with Aaron Task's interpretation of the book. Maybe Task is a slower reader than Jon Schwarz, and hasn't gotten that far.

Below, Blodget says some sensible things here about infrastracture spending, then he sneaks in the usual bit about unsustainable entitlements needing to be cut, and says nothing about taxes. It reminds me of how Alan Simpson said some sensible sounding things to the lady from Reuters in the interview clip I posted the other day, but also snuck in a similarly themed swipe regarding those supposedly unsustainable entitlements.

Henry Blodget | Daily Ticker – Mon, Oct 3, 2011 2:13 PM EDT

see also The Promiscuous Reader, "The Protection Racket"


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Saturday, November 05, 2011

Assorted OWS related clips 5 Nov 2011

The video above, "Gov. Scott Walker gets checked, Mic Checked!" is from a meeting this past Thursday, but the rest are from October:

Uploaded by IOccupyFor on Nov 4, 2011: When Wisconsin Governor gave a speech at Chicago's Union League Club the morning of Nov 3rd, he has some unexpected guests: Stand Up! Chicago

via and Avedon Carol

below, October 21, 2011 McLaughlin: Occupy Wall Street Demands Are Preposterous!

I've heard of OWS protesters demanding free college tuition and demanding student loans being canceled, but I've never heard them demanding a 20 dollar/hour minimum wage as McLaughlin suggests they have, so I am skeptical. Have you heard or seen anything about this?

Naomi Klein @ Occupy Wall Street 10-06-2011

And here's a video of Naomi Wolf being arrested a week or so later[via Occupy Cyberspace, where she offers some comments about the events.]

And finally, here's snarky Sam Seder, "Prediction: Occupy Wall Street Will Outlast Erin Burnett's Show. Seriously." Uploaded by Seder on Oct 7, 2011. I tend to think he will be wrong, and the authorities will become more aggressive before the year is over, and this first round of OWS style protest will disperse, but we'll see.

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Friday, November 04, 2011

Alan Simpson interview (30 June 2011)

above: June 30 - Chrystia Freeland talks with former senator Alan Simpson at the Aspen Ideas Festival.

from yesterday's post:

This is that Reuters interview with Alan Simpson from June 30th at the Aspen Conference, when the debt ceiling faux debate was still going on. As I said, I think this is interesting because, by turns, he plays scandalous truth-teller and shifts back to shilling for collapse. (It takes a lot of brass to shill for 1890s style government, as he does in the debt commission report, and simultaneously attack the GOP for being unduly influenced by Grover Norquist.)

From Arthur Silber,regarding Elizabeth Warren and some other things. A lot of people are worried about you Arthur, and happy to hear from you again. Be well.

Rob Payne, "The Hitler syndrome and Iran"

Obama was the worst thing that could have happened to American politics. Weak, venal, self serving, a habitual and incurable liar, Obama has almost single handedly wiped out what passed for the anti-war movement in America. Obama had a mandate and full support of the majority of Americans to overturn the past eight years of Bush policy but instead of a president who might have tried we got Obama. That opportunity is long gone thanks to Obama and will likely not return for many years.

Christian Science Monitor:"To define poverty, US has a new (and improved?) formula"

Harvard Crimson, "Group Endorses Walk Out in Economics 10"

Students staged a walkout from an intro Macroeconomics class taught by famed economist Greg mankiw, protesting his teaching that a minimum wage is inefficient, which they regarded as imposing a right-wing slant on his course.

Jeff Nilsson,Saturday Evening Post: Taxing the Wealthy: The Continuing Controversy

Editorials from 1913 and 1935 show how the Post changed its mind about higher taxes for the wealthy.

ABC News, Pa. Cafe Boss: I Made Black Man Cashier, Got Fired
By JOE MANDAK Associated Press
PITTSBURGH November 3, 2011 (AP)

A white man claims he was fired as manager of a suburban Panera Bread shop for repeatedly having a black man work the cash register instead of putting him in a less visible location and having "pretty young girls" be the cashiers.

Scott Donatelli contends in a federal lawsuit he was denied extra medical leave and was fired in September after double hip replacement surgery earlier this year. He claims the reason was that he bucked race-related personnel rules communicated to him by a district manager for Sam Covelli, a franchisee based in Warren, Ohio, about 80 miles northwest of Pittsburgh.

Earlier this year, Donatelli says, the district manager told him, "It's what Sam wants and what our customers want. They would rather see pretty young girls" at the cash register.

Zachary Roth, Yahoo News: "Bankrupt church wants donations for pastor’s sick wife ferried in limo"

Some members of a bankrupt Orange County, Calif. megachurch are expressing outrage after fielding an email request for congregants to deliver food to waiting limos so that it can ferried to the founder's sick wife. The appeal comes weeks after a lawsuit charged that the founder of the Crystal Cathedral house of worship, Rev. Robert Schuller, and his family had been paying themselves lavish salaries and other benefits while the church was in financial straits.

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Thursday, November 03, 2011

The oligarchs vs Iran, etc ; 3 Nov 2011

above:Bachmann: Iran Threatened U.S. with Nukes Uploaded by TheYoungTurks on Oct 31, 2011

"GOP Presidential candidate Michele Bachmann makes a transparently false charge that Iran has threatened the U.S. and Israel with nuclear weapons it denies possessing."

It's axiomatic in many quarters to say Michele Bachmann is just crazy. She may be, but she may also want a war with Iran on behalf of Israel, whether per her religious views regarding the end times or for some other reason. We seem to live in an age where both the democrats and republicans want war, where wanting war is "the new normal" even when it's also seen as bad manners to say that about somebody. But it's ok to say somebody's crazy, or to say "we have have a responsibility to protect." (I don't think I've heard anybody accuses Samantha Power or anybody else associated with Obama administration foreign policy of being crazy.)

It's not crazy so much as it's monstrous to hunger for wars and bloodshed, and bang the drum for them. Dismissing somebody as crazy sounds a bit like absolving them of the moral dimension of what they advocate, as if you're suggesting they probably don't know any better. Also, if you say Bachmann is calculating rather than crazy, this reflects on how monstrously calculating other, more sober-sounding persons may be.

below: Uploaded by Testarossa1982 on Jun 18, 2011

Lastly, this interview with Alan Simpson is from June 30th, when the debt ceiling faux debate was still going on. Unfortunately Reuters has not permitted embedding at this point, at least not of the YouTube version. I think this is interesting because, by turns, he plays scandalous truth-teller and shifts back to shilling for collapse. (It takes a lot of brass to shill for 1890s style government, as he does in the debt commission report, and simultaneously attack the GOP for being unduly influenced by Grover Norquist.)

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