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June 2009 Archives

June 2, 2009

Non-story about a non-event

Shown above, a little Light Unto The Nations action, somewhere on the West Bank (aka Judea and Samaria).

Ah, the gathering storm. To hear Politico tell it, the Israel lobby and its bought legislators are really concerned that Obama might get off the reservation:

Obama faces growing pressure on Israel

As President Barack Obama prepares to depart for his first trip to the Arab world, the administration’s escalating pressure on Israel to freeze all growth of its settlements on Palestinian land has begun to stir concern among Israel’s numerous allies in both parties on Capitol Hill.

[But]the rhetoric, even from Obama’s critics, remains relatively sedate compared with the open insurrection other presidents, from Carter to the elder Bush, have triggered with attempts to apply direct pressure on Israel.

The whole item is worth reading if you're interested in the process by which "news" is fabricated on a slow day.

Obama hasn't said or done anything yet that might actually cause the slightest alarm to the Ultras in Israel and its lobby here at home. There isn't any "escalating pressure". There isn't any pressure at all. Obama has repeated the standard pieties about Israeli settlements uttered by every American president since 1967, without the least attempt to look like he means it.

The "defense" being mobilized by the Lobby and its multitudinous congressional mouthpieces is -- as usual with Israel and anything connected to it -- an offense. Buried in paragraph 23 of the Politico story is this gem:

[Florida Democratic congressman Robert] Wexler, an early Obama ally and a staunch defender of his Middle East policy, said in his view, the settlement freeze should apply only to settlements outside Israel’s security fence, or wall, and should exclude territory that appears likely to ultimately remain part of Israel.
The goal, obviously, is to get Obama to back down even from the standard hypocritical legalisms about settlements and acknowledge explicitly that the apartheid wall will be the border of any Palestinian Bantustan that may ever come into being -- at least until the Israelis see fit to move the goalpost yet again. The tactic is a contrived indignation about Obie's supposed "pressure" on our dear little plucky ally, The Only Democracy In The Middle East™.

There's also some wonderful tortured casuistry in this story about the "natural increase" in settlements -- as opposed to "expansion". For some reason this makes me think of Ezra Pound's ideas about usury.

June 3, 2009

Sizzle without steak

Little Bobby Reich is the measure of the pwagmatic pwog elite's good intentions. In a multi-part post at his blog site recently, he recapped America's job mission as he sees it. Interestingly enough it starts with abject surrender:

"First and most broadly, it doesn't make sense for America to try to maintain or enlarge manufacturing as a portion of the economy.... Even if the U.S. were to seal its borders and bar any manufactured goods from coming in from abroad ... we'd still be losing manufacturing jobs. That's mainly because of technology."
Oh I see. A bunch of robo plants here, somewhere, scattered about among the world-class infrastructure he wants plays no worthy part in Bobby's greener America.

What a colossal fallacy. Yes, jobs are evaporating inside modern plants, but that hardly means modern plants ought not be built here.

"A century ago, almost 30% of adult Americans worked on a farm. Nowadays, fewer than 5% do."
Sure, dodo, but we still have a huge ag sector. Is this really possible, such wooden-headed crap?

No. Here's the real gimmick, embedded in mush:

"Stop blaming poor nations whose workers get very low wages. Of course their wages are low; these nations are poor. They can become more prosperous only by exporting to rich nations."
So Bobby wants to up lift the third-raters -- by offshoring our production platform. Bobby sez it's the only way they can be uplifted: a system of trans-nat profit slurries.

As Church Lady used to say, "how conveeeeenient."

But let us continue following the bouncing dwarf:

"When the U.S. economy gets back on track, many routine jobs won't be returning -- but new jobs will take their place. [They] are easy to overlook -- much of the new value added is invisible."

Invisible value-added? Yes here it comes, Father, as you knew it would -- the IP express:

"A growing percent of every consumer dollar goes to people who analyze, manipulate, innovate and create.

These people are responsible for research and development, design and engineering. Or for high-level sales, marketing and advertising. They're composers, writers and producers. They're lawyers, journalists, doctors and management consultants. I call this "symbolic analytic" work because most of it has to do with analyzing, manipulating and communicating through numbers, shapes, words, ideas."

Breathtakingly pompous, eh? Note the follow-up patronization:
"Symbolic-analytic work can't be directly touched or held in your hands, as goods that come out of factories can be...."
My God, he must have Jerry Springer's audience in mind.
"Whatever consumers buy these days, they're paying more for these sorts of tasks than for the physical material or its assemblage. On the back of every iPod is the notice "Designed by Apple in California, Assembled in China...."
And here's the punchline, you illiterate sponge folk:
"You can bet iPod's design garners a bigger share of the iPod's purchase price than its assembly...."
Now comes Walleye Junction. With one eyeball we gotta take in the future, 'cause
"America’s biggest challenge is to educate more of our people sufficiently to excel at such tasks.... In decades to come, nations with the highest percentages of their working populations able to do symbolic-analytic tasks will have the highest standard of living and be the most competitive internationally."
And here's what the other Reich eyeball is eyeballing:
'[The] biggest challenge we face over the long term... how to improve the earnings of America's expanding army of low-wage workers who are doing personal service jobs in hotels, hospitals, big-box retail stores, restaurant chains, and all the other businesses that need bodies but not high skills."
I don't really need to hammer this home, do I? But I want to.

Two nations, two "biggest challenges", all in one.

The Up nation's biggest challenge:

"no other nation surpasses us in providing intellectual and creative experience within entire regions specializing in one or another kind of symbolic analytic work (LA for music and film, Silicon Valley for software and the Internet, greater Boston for bio-med engineering, and so on)."
And the Down nation's biggest challenge:
"[W]e’re in danger of losing ground because too many of our kids, especially those from lower-middle class and poor families, can’t get the foundational education they need."
Two nations, and "a yawning gap in income and wealth -- earning low wages with little or no benefits."

Comes now an very perfunctory Rx for biggest challenge #2, lifting the downer America:

"Unions could help raise their wages by giving them more bargaining leverage. A higher minimum wage and larger Earned Income Tax Credit could help as well.
" ... But then it's back to home court with a return to the panacea: more and better credentialing:
"Not all of our young people can or should receive a four-year college degree, but we can do far better for them than we're doing now. At the least, every young person should have access to a year or two beyond high school, in order to gain a certificate attesting to their expertise in a particular area of technical competence. Technicians who install, upgrade, and service automated and computerized machinery -- office technicians, auto technicians, computer technicians, environmental technicians -- will be in ever-greater demand."
Yeah, Bobby, especially if we build a new all-green robo plant production platform able to carry its weight in the world.

Then again, maybe Bobby has it all wrong. Maybe after we've destroyed the present production system and the Mittelstand earnings it threw off. as Bobby himself adds,

" -- eventually the dollar (might) drop so low that global firms will find it profitable to locate traditional manufacturing assembly (back here)in the United States. -- "
I could stop here, Bobby having gone full-circle like a gerbil in its wheel. But we've hardly hacked Bobby up enough about his absurd decades-old worship of our emergent legion of symbol whisperers. Fortunately, he admits to another twist here: "To be sure, symbolic analysts are popping up all over the world."

Yeah, Bobby, the Thirdies can build symbolians too, and for next to nothin' brother. But is Bobby daunted by this? Nope:

"... demand for symbolic analysts in the U.S. will continue to grow faster than the supply. Innovation creates that demand, and demand for it, in turn, generates more innovation.... It's simply wrong to assume a zero-sum game among nations. There is no finite amount of symbolic-analytic work to be parceled out around the globe. There is no limit to the capacity of the human brain to discover new problems needing to be solved, or to create better solutions to old problems. And no limit to the number of problems needing solutions."
That's as good place as any to leave off, as Rhodes Scholar Bobby launches himself toward H G Wells' greener pastures.

June 4, 2009

The sages are divided

Gulliver's third voyage is by far the best:

[The inhabitants of Laputa] are under continual Disquietudes, never enjoying a Minute's Peace of Mind; and their Disturbances proceed from Causes which very little affect the rest of Mortals. Their Apprehensions arise from several Changes they dread in the Celestial Bodies....

They are so perpetually alarmed with the Apprehensions of these and the like impending Dangers, that they can neither sleep quietly in their Beds, nor have any Relish for the common Pleasures or Amusements of Life. When they meet an Acquaintance in the Morning, the first Question is about the Sun's Health; how he looked at his Setting and Rising, and what Hopes they have to avoid the Stroak of the approaching Comet.

This conversation they are apt to run into with the same Temper that boys discover, in delighting to hear terrible Stories of Sprites and Hobgoblins, which they greedily listen to, and dare not go to Bed for fear."

Here's an account of a weekend spent at "an excellent NBER Conference on Climate Change: Past and Present", written by one Mike Roberts (close to a Comintern nom de guerre, that):
"A highlight was a fantastic exchange between two proverbial giants on the Big Climate Change Question."
The two giants in question were amusingly named Pindyck and Weitzman. Pindyck! How that poor man must have suffered in third grade or thereabouts. But now he's a giant, so that's all right, then.

P & W were engaged in the high-scholastic endeavor, it seems, of putting an economic price on global warming. Here's a sample of Roberts' ruminations on the fine-spun Chalcedonian reasoning that filled the air. "Fantastic", indeed:

Robert Pindyck['s] model had welfare as a function of output and output growth as a function of temperature change.... he assumed temperature change could not affect utility in any manner other than output.... [C]hanging this assumption alone could increase willingness to pay to 99 percent of income.

I noted Pindyck’s graphs omitted from consideration very large levels [of] risk aversion .... For relatively small amounts of risk aversion and uncertainty, greater risk aversion reduces willingness to pay to stop warming. But for very large levels of risk aversion, this reverses, and willingness to pay explodes with risk aversion [E]mpirical finance says risk aversion is crazy large... This assumption alone would seem to push everything to infinity or zero depending on the other assumptions.

There you have it, folks. Infinity or zero. Take your pick.

Mr Roberts' sum-up:

"We should worry a lot about what the future might hold."
Because if we didn't...?

Pious hope (and no change)

Here's Obie, laying down the law to a group of benighted towelheads:

Palestinians must abandon violence. Resistance through violence and killing is wrong and does not succeed. For centuries, black people in America suffered the lash of the whip as slaves and the humiliation of segregation. But it was not violence that won full and equal rights. It was a peaceful and determined insistence upon the ideals at the centre of America's founding.
As I often ask: Where do you start with this stuff -- this emetic concoction of falsehood, sanctimony, and hypocrisy?

"Resistance through violence and killing is wrong and does not succeed." Really? What were Stalingrad and Omaha Beach about? Gettysburg? Bunker Hill? The storming of the Bastille? Horatio at the bridge? Thermopylae?

Needless to say, Obie forgot to send the Israelis the same message.

The whole sick-making performance is like this -- Parson Obama, master of the drone aircraft and the cluster bomb for six days in the week, ascends the pulpit on the seventh and tells everybody -- well, almost everybody -- to renounce violence.

On Obie's one hand, the Israelis. On his other, the Palestinians. Obie weighs, Obie judges, Obie sits on the throne and apportions the deservedness and destiny of nations. So let it be written! So let it be done!

There would be a certain Cecil B DeMille grandeur in it if he could assume a Pharaonic manner, but the closest he can get is Pharisaical -- the I-mean-business furrowed brow, the moralizing scowl, the hollow sepulchral voice of a Methodist parson with a secret vice.

The qualities that his admirers admired him for -- intelligence, moral seriousness, high purpose, the whole Eagle Scout package -- curdle, it seems, once mixed with actual power, into a filthy foetid smarmy preacherly pustular effluvium worthy of Woodrow Wilson himself.

As Galilee's most illustrious son once observed:

For ye are like unto whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outwardly, but are within full of dead men's bones, and of all uncleanness.

June 5, 2009

Debellare diabolicos

It's kind of amazing, really, how much fatuous dribble Obama's Cairo speech has evoked. People, it seems, are very easily satisfied.

Taken pretty much at random, here's one that landed in my inbox today:

In Cairo, Obama Knocks it Out of the Park

By Craig Crawford

There's nothing like an Obama speech high. Thankfully, I was up early this morning to hear the live broadcast of our President's 6:10 AM ET address to the Muslim world in Cairo. It was a moment that made good on the promise of this man to begin the process of transforming relations and undermining terrorists.

"You have the ability to reimagine the world," Obama to young Muslims at Cairo University.

For the first time since Jimmy Carter's Camp David accords we have a president with the skills, understanding and commitment to make peace in a region that has bedeviled the world for generations.

Hold it. "A region that has bedeviled the world for generations"? What is this fool thinking of? The siege of Vienna? The battle of Manzikert? Would it not be more true to say, "a region that the world has bedevilled for generations"?

What do you do about these bedevilling regions? I guess you've got to civilize 'em somehow. As old Augustus' publicist eloquently wrote,

Hae tibi erunt artes: pacisque imponere morem,
Parcere subiectis et debellare superbos.
"This is your job: To get people used to submission; allow the grovellers to live; and kill everybody else." (My slightly tendentious translation.)

June 6, 2009

Thank God for the Myers-es

At last, something Obie and Hillary and I can agree on. We all think the Myerses are wonderful.

Here's the New York Times on the Myers story. (Much as I hate the Times, it must be admitted that its coverage was less insane and hysterical than its eponymous ancestor, the Times of London.)

U.S. Charges Couple With Spying for Cuba

WASHINGTON — The Justice Department charged Friday that a former State Department analyst and his wife worked as spies for Cuba for nearly 30 years, using a short-wave radio to pass on secret diplomatic information to their Cuban handlers.

Officials said the couple, Walter K. Myers, 72, and Gwendolyn S. Myers, 71, received little in the way of compensation from the Cubans except for the short-wave radio and some travel expenses. Rather, the officials said, the couple appears to have been driven by their strong affinity for Cuba and their bitterness toward “American imperialism.”

“We think they did it because they love Cuba,” said a law enforcement official....

The case had been under investigation for three years but intensified two months ago....

The Justice Department said that Mr. Myers examined some 200 intelligence reports that dealt with Cuba in 2006 and 2007, many of them classified or top-secret reports that were unrelated to his own duties at the State Department.

David Kris, the assistant attorney general for national security at the Justice Department, called the Myerses’ activity for Cuba “incredibly serious.”

....This April, an undercover agent from the F.B.I., posing as a Cuban official, approached Mr. Myers outside the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies in Washington, where he taught. The agent.... offered Mr. Myers a cigar and wished him a happy birthday.

Mr. Myers and his wife told the agent that they hoped to “sail home” to Cuba some day on their sailboat....

Somebody tell me why this is all so "incredibly serious." The Myerses apparently passed on some insider gossip to Castro's guys. It's not clear that this facilitated in any way a potential Commie invasion of Miami -- the Bay of Pigs in reverse -- though I would certainly applaud such a thing, if it should ever occur.

Owen will perhaps remember an old Commie friend of ours -- now dead, alas, in the line of duty -- who took a great interest in what he called, with vast approval, "turncoats": children of privilege, with insider access, who took up the lefty cause in a serious way, and betrayed their class for real. His great exemplar of such atheist saints was Kim Philby. Alger Hiss might make the list too, in a smaller way, and surely the Myerses deserve an honorable mention at the very least.

I love 'em, the Myerses. I even share their fantasy of escaping to Cuba on a sailboat -- wrote a very bad and unpublishable novel once, with just that as the premise.

I wish they had done more damage. But it's the thought that counts.

Obie and Hillary, of course, will find this all very convenient, as the Rosenbergs were convenient in their day. Any thought of rapprochement with Cuba is now postponed to the Greek Kalends.

One wonders what the corresponding excuse will be for Palestine. Stay tuned.

June 8, 2009

Humane killers

Had to check the date after reading this one: It's not April 1.

The Obama administration is considering a change in the law for the military commissions at the prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, that would clear the way for detainees facing the death penalty to plead guilty without a full trial.

The provision could permit military prosecutors to avoid airing the details of brutal interrogation techniques. It could also allow the five detainees who have been charged with the Sept. 11 attacks to achieve their stated goal of pleading guilty to gain what they have called martyrdom....

David Glazier, an associate professor at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles... said: “This unfortunately strikes me as an effort to get rid of the problem in the easiest way possible, which is to have those people plead guilty and presumably be executed."

Hey, win/win!

I don't often feel at a loss for words, but the demented depravity of this solution absolutely takes my breath away. It's fascinating to think that Obie -- who really looks quite human, and no doubt loves his daughters as much as the rest of us -- nevertheless lives in a cognitive world where Hannibal Lecter thinking like this might strike him as a nice blend of hard-nosed reasonableness and muscular humanitarianism.

The former law professor and current butcher-in-chief is, I believe, an admirer of Judge Posner, who will undoubtedly be delighted to see his influence at work.

Hey, it's a practical problem, it needs to be solved. What's the least-cost solution?

Searching for suitable images -- not that there are any -- I found this nice humanitarian document from a British horse-fancier group, which might be adapted for the press release if the Hope and Change team decide to go ahead with their program of euthanizing political embarrassments:

When may a horse have to be put-down?

Serious injury, terminal illness or chronic conditions. Where, in the opinion of a veterinary surgeon, a horse will not respond to treatment for any serious injury or condition involving significant pain, or where a horse is in such a condition that it would be cruel to keep it alive, the animal must be destroyed humanely, without unreasonable delay.

Permanent unsoundness or progressively degenerative conditions. In a non- emergency situation, where a horse is permanently unsound, or has a recurring or progressively degenerative condition, a rational decision must be made, with due regard for the horse's future and welfare.

End of usefulness or old age. When a horse reaches the end of its active working life, or is elderly, consideration must be given to whether the horse can be provided with a good quality of life in retirement or whether it would be kinder to have the horse painlessly destroyed.

Are you feeling insecure yet?

There's been some discussion about just what Hillary Clinton meant to say in a recent TV interview. Here's a transcript of the problematic exchange:

CLINTON: If Iran is seeking security, if they believe -- and, you know, you have to put yourself into the shoes of the other party when you negotiate -- if they believe that the United States might attack them the way that we did attack Iraq, for example...

STEPHANOPOULOS: Before they attack, as a first strike?

CLINTON: That's right, as a first strike, or they might have some other enemy that would do that to them, part of what we have to make clear to the Iranians is that their pursuit of nuclear weapons will actually trigger greater insecurity, because, right now, many of the nations in the neighborhood, as you know very well...

STEPHANOPOULOS: Because Israel will strike before they can finish?

CLINTON: Well, but not only that. I mean, other countries, other Arab countries are deeply concerned about Iran having nuclear weapons. So does Iran want to face a battery of nuclear weapons countries...

Lot of oddities here. Israel and the US are the only nuclear weapons states in the picture, but Hillary makes this strange reference to "other Arab countries" -- not that Iran is an "Arab country", of course -- and a nonexistent "battery" of nuclear powers.

She brought up sua sponte the notion of a preemptive first-strike attack on Iran; she wasn't asked about it.

To my ear, the money line was "their pursuit of nuclear weapons will actually trigger greater insecurity," situated solidly in the context of a hypothetical "first strike... the way that we did attack Iraq."

Looks to me like she wants to say it without actually saying it: somebody -- either the US or Israel, of course; who else is conceivable? -- is likely to attack the Iranians if they don't submit. What else could "greater insecurity" mean in this context?

It's hard to make any other kind of sense of this exchange, unless you assume that she experienced a minor subclinical brain aneurysm during the course of the interview. In which case one can only regret that the incident wasn't much more grave.

June 9, 2009

OUR holocaust! Ours!

From the annals of turf protection:

A plan to honor gays and other non-Jewish victims of Nazi persecution in Brooklyn's Holocaust Memorial Park was blasted Sunday by critics as political pandering....

"The Holocaust is a uniquely Jewish event," said Assemblyman Dov Hikind ....

Barry Lituchy, vice president of the park's Holocaust Memorial Committee [said] "This is an attempt to take control of the park away from the Jewish community."

"Control of the park"? It's a city park, I believe -- owned by all of us.

The picture above shows Assemblyman Hikind (on the right) visiting the fanatical settlement of Elon Moreh, on the West Bank -- one of the ultra-aggressive "forward" settlements ringing the Palestinian city of Nablus. The chap with Hikind is Benny Katzover, the settlers' cult leader. One would like to know what they're discussing -- plans for "natural growth," perhaps.

There's turf and then there's turf. There's physical turf like at Elon Moreh, taken at gunpoint.

What's more interesting and perhaps more unusual is to assert ownership of a historical event. Talk about intellectual property: The Holocaust™ -- what a franchise!

June 10, 2009

Danger, Greg Mankiw! Danger!

My darling imp, Harvard Yard's own Greg Mankiw, recently weighed in on the pending pub-op plan. Here's Greg, lasering to the nub right up top:

"Most discussions of the issue leave out the answer to the key question: Would the public plan have access to taxpayer funds unavailable to private plans? If the answer is yes, then the public plan would not offer honest competition to private plans."
Wam-bam bingo -- eh?

Now I know that not a soul reading this gets swayed by such a caveat. We pwogs of the saber-toothed variety couldn't give a Dutch fuck if "taxpayer subsidies would tilt the playing field in favor of the public plan," because for us heroic crypto-socializers the pub-plan-op is at best "a disingenuous route toward a single-payer system."

I think Greg is wrong even on his own terms, and I think he knows it. The imp hasn't counted all his potential tilts. Some are costless and sufficient.

But let me back up first. Let's look at a GSE like Fanny and Freddie. Are those taxpayer funds at work? Well, not so anyone regular should care. Yes, Uncle's implicit guarantee reduces their borrowing costs; but hey, that doesn't come out of the hides of taxpayers like you and me, does it?

Maybe Greg intentionally leaves something out here -- I doubt he misses much of anything in these waters -- but he's clever, he has an escape hatch in his use of the fuzzy phrase "taxpayers' funds". And if one takes the bait -- and surely we're meant to (note the slip into the use of the word 'subsidy') -- then we assume Greg means some sort of overt taxpayer cost, which indeed raises hackles.

You could so twist these words around to make a pub-plan option "standing on its own financially" look like "a private nonprofit plan," but "in essence" it would hardly be so.

Any civic "foundation" has to pre-build an adequate endowment before launching itself. On the other hand, an uncle-backed outfit simply issues bonds that in the event won't require any out of pocket taxpayer subsidy.

Uncle's guys could quickly be up and running and over the initial hump to the point where they're servicing their fixed costs and starting to retire their sunk costs out of operating margins like any viable privateering corporation does.

No operating subsidy needed, especially if the new outfit is just an add-on to medicare with its already existing facilities and staff.

Obviously if the criterion is Greg's "fundamental viability of the enterprise", then any startup hump is irrelevant, right?

Greg tries closing his argument with this: "But then what's the point [of a public plan option]? ...If advocates of a public plan want to start a nonprofit company offering health insurance on better terms than existing insurance companies, nothing is stopping them from doing so right now."

See, Greg wants us to conclude the reason these non-profit options don't already exist is because there aren't any worthwhile savings there to capture. Indeed the non-profit, with its eunuch's driveless nonprofit constitution will prolly higher-cost themselves out of existence.

T'ain't so, and Greg knows it, or he wouldn't be blowin' his casuist's sax like this.

Yes, a pub-plan option could be a competitor to be feared, Greg -- but not because it might have availible to it some taxpayer subsidy. Yes, Greg, you're right: unlike sleeping under bridges, "There is free entry into the market for health insurance."

But no, it does not follow that if a public plan without a taxpayer subsidy "would succeed, so would a nonprofit insurance company."

The real reason there are no viable non-profits today is simpler: what if a nonprofit on the scale necessary to capture these known economies is, as a practical matter, unconstructible by civic action alone?

If so, then Greg's "bottom line... honest competition in the provision of health insurance" does not lead to his conclusion that "a public option cannot do much good," since if it could some private goo-goo outfit would already be doing it.

Nope, Greg, you can't exorcise the spectre with that facile florish. Stay tuned, and see what, if anything, can fell PPO.


PS: Greg gives his overanxious tilt away right at the end by adding this bit, quite gratuitously and without further support: a public option "can potentially do much harm."

Well yes it can -- to the private profiteering insurance ghouls; but not to the pocketbooks of us little schmucked-up tax- and premium-payers.


I was pleased to note that Owen's previous post about Greg Mankiw was the 1789th one published on this blog. Allons, enfants!

Orthodoxy is my doxy, heterodoxy is your doxy

I note with the delight that the hip and cool Rachel Maddow is now up in arms about "terrorism":

Rachel Maddow: Right-Wing Terrorism Must Be Stopped

The tactics of anti-choice extremists are designed to change policy by terrorizing Americans. How do we stop them from committing violent acts?

We begin tonight with another deadly act of domestic terrorism....

And [last Sunday], George Tiller was shot.... inside his church in Wichita. He was killed instantly. A man named Scott Roeder is the suspect in custody in this case. He‘s known in extremist anti-abortion circles....

What‘s the strategy to stop them?

Joining us now is Jonathan Turley, professor of constitutional law at George Washington University.

I wanted to ask you tonight if it‘s legally appropriate, legally useful, to approach this problem as terrorism?

Rachel, it appears, embraces the whole cognitive world of "terrorism" and "anti-terrorism" -- she just has a slightly different most-wanted list.

Murder has been a crime for a long time -- since Sinai and before, actually -- but that doesn't suffice for Rachel, any more than it does for the capi of the gigantic and still growing incarceration sector. For her as for them, the job long since ceased to be about catching criminals and punishing them. Rather, the job is crime prevention -- "how do we stop" people from doing bad things?

Now a little reflection quickly reveals that this is a much bigger task than the old after-the-fact, catch-'em-and-lock-'em-up mission. For one thing, it requires quite a lot of monitoring, well before anybody commits an actual crime:

MADDOW: To the extent that there is a movement that this man saw himself as part of, and I spent a lot of time in very dark corners of the Web today looking at the websites and publications ...
"Dark corners of the Web"! Doesn't that give you a delicious frisson? Where are the cops who should be patrolling these mean streets?
To the extent that there is something beyond the loner, the lone murderer here, to the extent that there is a rhetorical association, there are organizations that support this sort of thing, does it give law enforcement any additional tools to consider them while they prosecute this crime? ... Are there law enforcement tools that would be useful in these cases to acknowledge those ties?

... We collect intelligence on foreign bodies. In terms of what we do domestically to disrupt homegrown terrorist plots, to disrupt criminal enterprises, to break up organized crime in these efforts, there‘s—I mean, there‘s civil liberties concerns, there‘s also strategic concerns about how these things can be done legally on American soil.

Ah, the sacred "American soil!" Rachel Maddow -- the latest convert to Homeland Security.


I usually don't pay much attention to the Supreme Court -- unlike my dear good liberal neighbors, who love it deeply. To my way of thinking, the Court was designed to be a reactionary institution, and if it behaves like one, blame the Founding Fathers. So I hope for little from it, and fear little from a reactionary president's ability to appoint Thomases and Scalias, vile though these reptiles undoubtedly are.

But I was pleased by Obie's nomination of Ms Sotomayor to replace Mr Souter -- one bland corporate centrist in place of another, keeping the existing complexion of the court intact.

It would be difficult to find a more perfect illustration of the Ratchet Effect. The Republicans have spent the last thirty years or so moving the Court back to its natural position on the Right. And when Mr Hope and Change gets an opportunity, quite early in his tenure, to nominate a justice, what does he do?

He carefully keeps the court where the Republicans left it.

June 13, 2009

The Pwog Gauntlet Is Cast

Are you deliberately trying to start a civil war?

If your answer is yes, then stop this cowardly half-assed screwing around. You speak the language of war and honor; but the honor code of the warriors you pretend to revere demands that you declare your intentions. If you really believe that the only way to get the America you want is to negate a fair election, shred the Constitution, and violently cleanse the country of everyone who doesn’t agree with you, then man up and get on with it. If it’s a shooting war you want, do not doubt that there are plenty of progressives who will oblige you. If this goal is so important that you’re really willing to kill for it, please don’t forget that you will also need to be willing to die for it. Because, like martyrs Greg McKendry and Steven Johns proved, we are willing to do whatever is necessary to stop you.

Oh, dear...

Are the pwogs are going to start shooting wingnuts?! The prospect is a little bit alarming, if farfetched. I think they should recommit to cranking out pointless, turgid reifications for think tanks and get back to accusing the wingers of being the "real postmodernists". We'd all be a lot safer. Also, it would be helpful if the pwogs could stop calling themselves "the left". They're crackpot meritocrats who support capitalism, neocolonialism and a kinder, gentler police state, but get upset when this freak show is run poorly by Republicans.

The one and only...

... dear Alex has a fine one over at his site:

Who Needs Yesterday's Papers?

"I read the anguished valedictories to our sinking newspaper industry, the calls for some sort of government bailout or subsidy, with mounting incredulity. It’s like hearing the witches in Macbeth evoked as if they were Aphrodite and her rivals vying for the judgment of Paris. Sonorous phrases about “public service” mingle with fearful yelps about the “dramatically diminished version of democracy” that looms over America if the old corporate print press goes the way of the steam engine. "

He can touch the sweet spot just right, can't he?

The Vice-Hormagaunt

Hormagaunt: a legendary undying monster that steals children and lives on the supposedly mythical planet Thamber.

My man!

I don't know when the results of an election have delighted me so much -- and I mean really delighted; hence, loathèd Irony!

The Plain People of Iran have handed the Tehran hipsters and the professional and mangerial classes their own heads on a platter. Anti-inflation, forsooth! Fiscal responsibility! Faugh!

Apparently turnout was around 85%. Wow!

I may want to write a bit more about this when I've finished the champagne (and slept off the aftermath), but for the moment, in the best blogger style, I'll just crib a few grafs from a quite good piece in the English newspaper The Guardian:

Wishful thinking from Tehran
Since the revolution, academics and pundits have predicted the collapse of the Iranian regime. This week, they did no better

...[F]ew here [in Iran] doubted that the incumbent firebrand President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad would win. My airport cab driver reminded me that the president had visited every province twice in the last four years – "Iran isn't Tehran," he said. Even when I asked Mousavi supporters if their man could really carry more than capital, their responses were filled with an Obamasque provisional optimism – "Yes we can", "I hope so", "If you vote."

... It is true that Mousavi supporters jammed Tehran traffic for hours every night over the last week, though it was rarely mentioned that they did so only in the northern well-to-do neighborhoods of the capital.

In 1997 as the ashes of the Iran-Iraq war settled and the country saw a decade relative stability, voters came out in mass to support the former president-cleric Khatami against his rival, Natiq Nouri, a senior member of the establishment. Western reporters saw this in terms of a grand generational divide: young freedom loving liberals against elder conservative clerics. But it was really a vote for the ideal of honesty and piety against allegations of entrenched corruption. Many of those same Khatami supporters voted for Ahmedinejad yesterday, despite the fact that Khatami's face was on every one of Mousavi's campaign posters.

For over a week the same social impulses of anti-corruption, populism, and religious piety that led to the revolution have been on the streets available to anyone who wanted to report on them. Ahmedinejad, for most in the country, embodies those ideals. Since he came into office he has refused to wear a suit, refused to move out of the home he inherited from his father, and has refused to tone down the rhetoric he uses against those he accuses of betraying the nation.

In the last week Ahmedinejad turned the election into a referendum on the very project of Iran's Islamic revolution. Their street chants yelled "Death to all those against the Supreme Leader" followed by traditional Shia rituals and elegies. It was no match for the high-spirited fun-loving youth of northern Tehran who sang "Ahmedi-bye-bye, Ahmedi-bye-bye" or "ye hafte-do hafte, Mahmud hamum na-rafte" (One week, two weeks, Mahmoud hasn't taken a shower).

Perhaps from the start Mousavi was destined to fail as he hoped to combine the articulate energies of the liberal upper class with the business interests of the bazaar merchants. The Facebook campaigns and text-messaging were perfectly irrelevant for the rural and working classes who struggle to make a day's ends meet, much less have the time to review the week's blogs in an internet cafe.

June 15, 2009

Prepare to meet your maker, Uncle

"What may prove to be the last rites of American hegemony"
-- Thus opens the latest installment of Hudson's Baying BRIC Hounds of Doom, now playing over at Counterpunch.

BRIC is Brazil, Russia, India, and China, the new order quartet. Uncle's days as hegemon are numbered, sez Hud, who started this particular final countdown in 1972. A long count to end all long counts, eh?

Hudson predicts nothing less than "the replacement of the global dollar standard with a new financial and military defense system," and yet, as he notes, a now-ongoing meeting of this grand anti-Yank posse "has elicited only a collective yawn from the US and even European press."

Imagine that! The complacent fools! Why -- Attila is practically at the gates -- and attacking on two fronts:

I: Replacement of the global dollar standard with a new financial system.

The dollar is imperial because of a single because: if it's to be a trans-nat's limited-liability world, the dollar works fine for now.

Hey, isn't it prolly easier to guide Washington than some open UN-sponsored global monetary authority in... ZURICH?

World money, or its essential homunculus, a supra-national world C-bank-only reserve currency, adds nothing border-transgressing corporations can imagine they want that Uncle Lucky Dollar can't provide already. The old known-quantity gimmick operates here.

II. A new military defense system.

That is, ending the NATO gang's romp license. Yikes!

Then we might as well talk about a world army, too, while we're at it, eh? Like folks first offered up seriously after the first Great War.

Okay, so that meme du jour didn't exactly turn into a global wild fire like Charlie Chaplin and Mary Pickford -- alas. Even after four years of utterly senseless mutual big-power slaughter -- even then we didn't get an earth-wide consolidated supranational army to preserve international peace.

We got the Spanish flu instead.

June 18, 2009

Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also

Wonderful chart below -- click on it to see full size:

Full context here. Comment seems superfluous.

My other man!

From Le Monde:

Venezuela supports Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and condemns "campaign of discreditation"

Caracas took a stand in favor of Tehran in connection with the contested re-election of president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. "Venezuela expresses its firm rejection of the capaign of discreditation, ferocious and without foundation, which has been unleashed abroad against the institutions of the Islamic Republic, in order to disturb the political climate of this brother country"....

The Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez, had "congratulated Ahmadinejad...." [and] considers his Iranian counterpart a "courageous fighter for the Islamic revolution and against capitalism." Chavez referred to the "spokesmen for capitalism" who are questioning the vote....

When he assumed the presidency, Ahmadinejad benefited from Chavez' help in breaking the isolation of Iran, fostering relations with Bolivia, Nicaragua, and Ecuador.... And Venezuela supported Iran in the International Atomic Energy Agency which sought in vain for transparency in the Iranian nuclear program, suspected of including a military aspect.

Third and fourth largest oil producers in OPEC, Iran and Venezuela have always been advocates of reducing production in order to increase the price of crude oil.

Tweety birds

Shown above, the seal of Israel's spy agency, Mossad, with its new, slightly less sinister motto (Proverbs 11:14, instead of 24:6 from the same book of cracker-barrel apophthegmata).

Needless to say, the Jerusalem spookery has been up to its elbows in the recent events in Iran.

We've all read about how those kewl up-to-date hip young people in Tehran are using Twitter to organize opposition to Ahmadinejad, right? Turns out there may be a bit more to the story:

Israeli Effort to Destabilize Iran Via Twitter #IranElection

Anyone using Twitter over the past few days knows that the topic of the Iranian election has been the most popular. Thousands of tweets and retweets alleging that the election was a fraud, calling for protests in Iran....

I became curious and decided to investigate the origins of the information. In doing so, I narrowed it down to a handful of people who have accounted for 30,000 Iran related tweets in the past few days. Each of them had some striking similarities -

  1. They each created their twitter accounts on Saturday June 13th.
  2. Each had extremely high number of Tweets since creating their profiles.
  3. “IranElection” was each of their most popular keyword
  4. With some very small exceptions, each were posting in ENGLISH.
  5. Half of them had the exact same profile photo
  6. Each had thousands of followers, with only a few friends. Most of their friends were EACH OTHER.
I narrowed the spammers down to three of the most persistent - @StopAhmadi @IranRiggedElect @Change_For_Iran

I decided to do a google search for 2 of the 3 - @StopAhmadi and @IranRiggedElect. The first page to come up was JPost (Jerusalem Post) which is a right wing newspaper pro-Israeli newspaper.

JPost actually ran a story about 3 people “who joined the social network mere hours ago have already amassed thousands of followers.” Why would a news organization post a story about 3 people who JUST JOINED TWITTER hours earlier? Is that newsworthy? JPost was the first (and only to my knowledge) major news source that mentioned these 3 spammers.

The whole thing is well worth reading; apparently the Jerusalem Post pulled the story our blogger mentions shortly after his post appeared.

That eloquent con artist Winston Churchill once observed (if memory serves) that truth is so valuable in wartime that it must be escorted with a bodyguard of lies. This may be a lemma of a more general law; another such lemma, I suspect, is that insight in times of crisis is always surrounded with a bodyguard of imbecilities, and the more important the crisis, the higher the ratio of imbecility to insight.

Here's a currently popular imbecility; this particular instance comes from one of my lefty mailing lists:

> Proof: Israeli Effort to Destabilize Iran Via Twitter #IranElection
> Monday, June 15, 2009 19:52
> Posted in category Politics
> iran1 Right-wing Israeli interests are engaged in an all out Twitter
> attack with hopes of delegitimizing the Iranian election and causing
> political instability within Iran.  
These analyses in Ha'aretz suggest the major part of the Israeli right has 
exactly the opposite interest:

ANALYSIS / Ahmadinejad win actually preferable for Israel
By Amos Harel and Avi Issacharoff, Haaretz Correspondent
June 14 2009


The narrow strategic thinking of pro-Ahmadinejad Israelis
By Aluf Benn
June 17 2009

Pretty dumb, huh? Ahmadi is supposed to be preferred by the Israeli "right" (is there anything else in Israel but the "right" these days?) -- because he's easier to demonize. So it follows that if Israel were going to intervene in Iranian politics, it would be to keep Ahmadi in place. (This gambit has, of course, the convenient side-effect of further demonizing Ahmadi in the eyes of people who aren't Israel fans -- ah, there are wheels within wheels!)

Such sophomoric wiseacre-y overlooks a couple of important facts. One of these facts is that the Israel fan club's noise machine can demonize anybody it wants to, any time. It's what they do, and they've had a lot of practice and they've gotten really good at it.

More to the point, though, is that instability and turmoil in Iran -- with the possibility of regime collapse and serious social conflict -- is infinitely more valuable to Israel than any second-order propaganda advantage. The propaganda apparatus can be counted on to do its job effectively through thick and thin, but real upheaval in Iran is definitely thick, a consummation devoutly to be wished.

Seems like this ought to be elementary, but apparently it's not. I wonder why.

Well, no, actually, that's a lie. I think I know. The weenies who adopt the theory that Ahmadi is an invaluable propanda prize are assuming that the only people who matter in the world are people like themselves -- that is, sanctimonious moralizing liberals for whom a religious backwoods hick like Ahmadi is the Antichrist. Of course Israel must be deeply concerned all the time about what such good-hearted formerly Methodist Unitarians might be thinking.

After all, what else matters? Facts on the ground? Bah, that's vulgar materialism.

June 19, 2009

Hillarycare, Part Deux

Deja vu, all over again:
Senate Dems pare back health bill

WASHINGTON – Key Senate Democrats, bidding for bipartisan support on health care, pared back subsidies designed to make insurance more affordable on Thursday and floated a compromise that rules out direct government competition against private insurers.

Rigor mortis

Could this man, Gentle Ben of Temple Fed, be the future Jimmy Stewart of homespun people's biz finance? It's on the order of the day, and the grey lady has a question in her mouth about it all: should the fed emerge from the current credit crisis as a hands-on outfit operating exclusively for the collective benefit of that noblest of all noble abstractions -- "the people"?

[T]he Fed... stepped in to fill the lending vacuum left by banks and Wall Street firms [and now] officials have been dragged into murky battles over the creditworthiness of narrow-bore industries like motor homes, rental cars, snowmobiles, recreational boats and farm equipment."
And what's so wrong with that?
"A growing number of economists worry that the Fed’s new role poses risks to taxpayers and to the Fed itself -- If the Fed cannot extract itself quickly, they warn, the crucial task of allocating credit will become more political and less subject to..."
Hold that fart --
"... rigorous economic analysis."
Because? For one thing, such micro lending is "far removed from the central bank’s expertise."

Get it? Credentialed meritoids, awake!

As if that alone were not enough to set the entire professional class of the upper West Side into motion, the grey lady goes on to mouthpiece mode: "Fed officials acknowledge" that doing stuff like lending to real economy credit sectors directly could

"undermine the Fed’s political independence and credibility as an institution..."
Ready the ass-cannon again --
"... that operates above the fray."
"Political independence" from whom? One can only imagine -- the congress, and in particular the House, that pool of fetid stupors. Yeah, sure, the House created the Fed in the first place, but this "independence" is supposedly crucial. Not only does independence forfend us from bad outcomes, independence also must mean independence to do as autocratically as the Fed likes -- or rather, as Wall Street likes. What with economy-wide wage spirals and the like looming in the prudent bizzman's calculating mind -- no Argentina here -- por favor!

The Fed under its normal modus operandi lets our private banks gather in the windfalls of credit expansion, by costlessly creating a larger monetary base and leaving the lending out of the new money -- and at multiples, yet, limited only by a generous reserve ratio -- to the banksta caste. With nice assured margins, too.

The bankstas can lend it out to whomever they wish, and more importantly, not lend it out when they don't wish. And that's what the present so-called liquidity trap really is all about: not lending -- except back to Uncle of course.

Thus arises the "lending vacuum" mentioned above by the Times, that got the Fed pro-tem in the loan biz. And damned if now -- as the horror appears to recede -- these bankers don't get their front men out cautioning Uncle to keep his issuing of new fiscally driven debt -- at least for real purchases of real products -- to a biblical minimum.

Quite the paradox, at least on the surface. After all, the more new securities issued by Uncle, the higher the rate of interest he pays and borrowers earn -- all else equal, as they say.

Here's the great "concern" in a nutshell:

"Executives and lobbyists [will] flock to the Fed, providing elaborate presentations on why their niche industry should be eligible for Fed financing or easier lending terms."
Images resembling Griffiths' Reconstruction South Carolina legislature should roll past the inner eye here, in whiteface of course. It is to shudder, comparing this scene of chicken bones and smoldering billion-dollar niche loans piling up on The Hill with that halcyon Babbitland scene of yore where these same "executives" -- with their CFO in tow -- enter the office of the local banker. In the latter scenario, the CEO must fill this beady-eyed banker's ear, not the ear of some ballot-box baboon

Obviously this will lead to a better, higher overall social welfare result. Obviously.

Such are the rhumba-like miracles of "rigorous economic analysis" when clutched tightly in the profit nuts by the grand old goosing hand of the market place.

June 20, 2009

Those damn poor people

Here's an interesting item, brutally redacted with scholarly ellipses mostly omitted, from James Petras:

“Change for the poor means food and jobs, not a relaxed dress code or mixed recreation... Politics in Iran is a lot more about class war than religion.” --Financial Times

Western leaders rejected the results because they ‘knew’ that their reformist candidate could not lose.

For months they published daily interviews, editorials and reports from the field ‘detailing’ the failures of Ahmadinejad’s administration; they cited the support from clerics, former officials, merchants in the bazaar and above all women and young urbanites fluent in English, to prove that Mousavi was headed for a landslide victory. A victory for Mousavi was described as a victory for the ‘voices of moderation’, at least the White House’s version of that vacuous cliché.

What is astonishing about the West’s universal condemnation of the electoral outcome as fraudulent is that not a single shred of evidence in either written or observational form has been presented either before or a week after the vote count.

As long as the Western media believed their own propaganda of an immanent victory for their candidate, the electoral process was described as highly competitive....

... the Western media ignored the class composition of the competing demonstrations – the fact that the incumbent candidate was drawing his support from the far more numerous poor working class, peasant, artisan and public employee sectors while the bulk of the opposition demonstrators was drawn from the upper and middle class students, business and professional class.

.... over two-thirds of Iranian youth were too poor to have access to a computer and the 18-24 year olds “comprised the strongest voting bloc for Ahmadinejad of all groups” (Washington Post June 15, 2009).

The only group, which consistently favored Mousavi, was the university students and graduates, business owners and the upper middle class.

The great majority of voters for the incumbent probably felt that national security interests, the integrity of the country and the social welfare system, with all of its faults and excesses, could be better defended and improved with Ahmadinejad than with upper-class technocrats supported by Western-oriented privileged youth who prize individual life styles over community values and solidarity.

That about says it all, but the whole piece is well worth reading, in particular for its dissection of the Azeri Gambit.

June 22, 2009

A name that should live in infamy...

Tom Daschle, of course. From The Note:

"While I feel very strongly that consumers should have the choice of a national, Medicare-like plan, my colleagues do not... But we were concerned that the ongoing health reform debate is beginning to show signs of fracture on the public plan issue, so in order to advance the process of developing bipartisan legislation and to move it forward, it's time to find consensus here."
Guy deserves a drive-by Uzi spray of harmless but malodorous dung bullets from a speeding Prius registered to Ralph Nader. This Mr-Rogers ghoul embodies all that is venal fey and worm-eyed in the Dembot oversoul.

Familiar territory

Brer Rabbit in the briar patch, by Matt Schwartz, http://meswartz.blogspot.com/2007/09/compare-and-contrast-brer-rabbit.html

Time to give Mike Hudson, numbers man from La Mancha, his due. From a recent Counterpunch item:

"In reaching across the aisle for Republican support – and no doubt future campaign contributions from the financial sector -- Pres. Obama is morphing into Joe Lieberman.... Confronting the wreckage of a debt crisis worse than any since the Great Depression, Mr. Obama has achieved what no Republican could have: rescuing the Bush Administration’s pro-creditor policies that fostered the Bubble Economy in the first place."
A corking good start, that. Okay, so it's a long long trail ahead, but there's these twinklers:
"The deregulation-by-centralization ploy -- The politically astute way to deregulate a public utility – especially in the wake of a financial crisis that has much of the population up in arms – is to shed crocodile tears over Wall Street’s “culture of irresponsibility,” as Mr. Obama did on Wednesday, and then claim that you are “centralizing” regulation to make it stronger rather than weaker. If you are going to block future bank regulation, of course you promise that your act will provide greater public oversight. Mr. Obama has tapped the Federal Reserve for this role. But this is precisely what exacerbated the Greenspan Bubble."

"One way to make credit-card rates more economic would be for the government to provide its own rival service. After all, credit cards have become a major form of payment today. Isn’t electronic payment really a public utility? The difference is that unlike electric and gas utilities or railroads, there is no regulation to keep fees in line with economically necessary basic costs to the card issuer.... To really protect consumers, why not counter extortionate credit-card practices by re-introducing anti-usury laws? They were evaded initially by companies incorporating themselves in states with “race to the bottom” laws. If Washington can override state prosecutors to prevent punishment of financial fraud, why can’t it override such ploys by the usury industry? Here’s where centralized federal law really should count for something."

"The plan is silent when it comes to the reported 25 per cent of U.S. real estate sunk into a state of negative equity and 1/8 already in arrears heading for foreclosure as the mortgage debt attached to it exceeds its (falling) market price."

A few quibbles and boos. Hudson's indictment has six counts:
  1. Regulatory capture. Preparing the ground for future Alan Greenspan “free market” ideologues
  2. Failure to give meaningful teeth to fraud reduction
  3. Failure to reverse the shift to pro-creditor bankruptcy laws
  4. Failure to re-introduce Glass Steagall or otherwise limit lenders “too big to fail”
  5. Failure to deter credit default swaps and other “casino capitalist” gambles
  6. Failure to reform the tax system that has distorted the financial system to promote predatory extractive debt, not productive industrial credit
The last four are largely fragrant crackerbarrel airballs worthy of Bill Bryan or Andy Jackson: small is beautiful, simple is better, using too much of other people's money is a hazard, debt is heavy and default is human -- so Uncle oughta legislate accordingly -- a return to Santa's village?

Here's Mike's summary verdict on Ob's draconian crackdown:

"Mr. Obama explained: “we are proposing a set of reforms to require regulators to look not only at the safety and soundness of individual institutions, but also – for the first time – at the stability of the system as a whole.” But this is just what is not being done."
And as to the bankstas' reaction (errr -- in camera) to the prospect that maybe all this high flown proposin' might just turn out to happen? Mike quips nicely:
“Born and bred in the briar patch,” crowed B’rer Rabbit triumphantly after being thrown there.
Amen, B'rer Hudson.

Sede vacante

File under Too Good To Be True:

Fighting tears, shah's son calls crisis a 'moment of truth'

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The son of the former shah of Iran called Monday for solidarity against Iran's Islamic regime, warning that the democratic movement born out of the election crisis might not succeed without international support.

"The moment of truth has arrived," Reza Shah Pahlavi said at Washington's National Press Club. "The people of Iran need to know who stands with them."

Pahlavi has lived in exile since 1979, when his father, Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi, was overthrown during the Islamic Revolution....

The son now lives in the United States with his family, where he spends much of his time talking about the Islamic regime in Iran.

During his remarks, he broke into tears when he spoke of "bullets piercing our beloved Neda," a woman killed Saturday by Iranian police at a protest in Tehran, whose death has become a rallying cry among demonstrators in Iran.

Those Pahlevis, well known for their tearful devotion to the Plain People Of Iran.

June 23, 2009


Here's EPI elf John Irons. Recently he was reminding our federal senate that there is at least one cap Uncle oughta blow off, not put on -- and that one is now on our two-sided payroll tax. Irons wants to get rid of the cap on earnings taxable for Social Security.

I agree, of course -- though I hasten to add, in Paine's world we'd now be on payroll tax holiday till further notice.

But even in Paine's world, we'd enjoy scheduling a nasty 6% tax increase on all "upper earners" payroll, for the dark day when extraction recommences -- errr umh -- down the road somewhere, when we're flyin' through the endless main drag of hyperemployment city.

Some nice Irons tidbits:

"Due to growing income inequality, the share of earnings above the cap has risen from 10 percent in 1982 to over 16 percent in 2006. This is because incomes have grown strongly at the top while middle incomes have stagnated."
Note the sloppy misleading use of terms here -- "income" and "earnings" -- as if they were interchangeable. But hey. Let's not quibble.
"Including the employee and employer shares of Social Security and Medicare taxes, earners in the middle fifth of the income distribution pay an average effective payroll tax of about 11 percent.

In contrast, the top 1 percent of earners pay just 1.5 percent on average."

Question: should "newly-taxed earnings above the taxable maximum" also raise these folks' benefits?

Paine's world's Solomon-like answer -- hell no!

June 28, 2009

A Culture of Blackmail and Dependency

NEW YORK – General Motors Corp. has agreed to take on responsibility for future product liability claims, removing what could have been a sizable roadblock on the automaker's path to a quick sale of its assets and emergence from Chapter 11 bankruptcy as a new company.

As part of its government-backed restructuring plan, GM wants to sell the bulk of its assets to a new company and leave behind unprofitable assets and other liabilities such as product-related lawsuits. A hearing on the proposed sale is scheduled for Tuesday.

The previous business model was the best effort of well-meaning managers, but somehow or other the dead weight of "unprofitable assets and other liabilities" grew and grew until, sadly, poor GM went bankrupt. Unprofitable assets and other liabilities occur without agency, needless to say. They just happen! All we can do is bob along on the tides that generate them. And anyway, the golden lunch pail crowd and the sinister Asians made them do the things that occurred without agency.

GM's founder, Abner Snopes, was a humble man who didn't take shit from no one. He worked hard, but couldn't get a break. Beset from all sides, he did what any man might do in his circumstances and handed the torch, er, managerial ethos on to his successors.

They did their best too, as their legacy demanded, and I think we can all agree that recriminations are unhelpful, with the exception of recriminations for the golden lunch pail crowd and any other undeserving wretches that need a sharp lesson in economic realities.

June 29, 2009

Obama's Island

From The Washington Post:

White House Weighs Order on Detention
Officials: Move Would Reassert Power To Hold Terror Suspects Indefinitely

Obama administration officials, fearing a battle with Congress that could stall plans to close the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay, are crafting language for an executive order that would reassert presidential authority to incarcerate terrorism suspects indefinitely....

Such an order would embrace claims by former president George W. Bush that certain people can be detained without trial for long periods under the laws of war....

After months of internal debate over how to close the military facility in Cuba, White House officials are increasingly worried that reaching quick agreement with Congress on a new detention system may be impossible....

"Civil liberties groups have encouraged the administration, that if a prolonged detention system were to be sought, to do it through executive order," the official said. Such an order could be rescinded and would not block later efforts to write legislation....

[S]everal officials involved said they have found themselves agreeing with conclusions reached years earlier by the Bush administration: As many as 90 detainees cannot be charged or released....

"These issues haven't morphed simply because the administration changed," said Juan Zarate, who served as Bush's deputy national security adviser for counterterrorism and is now at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington.

Indeed, the "issues haven't morphed" and it's not even clear that the administration has changed.

June 30, 2009

Juan Cole, laptop bombardier

Juan Cole's blog recently carried an extraordinary carpet-chewing piece by one Mansoor Moaddel, who I presume from his name is a member of the Iranian diaspora:

Iran’s Crisis and the U.S. Option:
Support Mousavi now or fight Ahmadinejad tomorrow

The current civil uprising in Iran reflects not just a protest against a rigged election. Nor is it primarily a symptom of contentions for power or clashes between opposing perspectives on the nature of the Islamic regime. It is, rather, resistance against a political coup, whose engineers plan to impose a Taliban-style Islamic government on Iran....

Ahmadinejad’s deeds are Islamic extremism in action. He has already restricted the freedom of Iranian citizens, expanded men’s authority over women, increased political persecution, undermined the rights of religious and ethnic minorities, and supported terrorism and political adventurism abroad....

At this point, the regime cannot secure its rule without unleashing a reign of terror. And if this coup succeeds, the regime will forge ahead with its expressed plans for nuclear development and support for religious extremism abroad....

The option that is left for the United States is either to effectively support Mousavi’s camp today or risk a military confrontation with Ahmadinejad tomorrow.

One wonders just what that ominous phrase "effective support" might mean. Sounds like regime change to me.

About June 2009

This page contains all entries posted to Stop Me Before I Vote Again in June 2009. They are listed from oldest to newest.

May 2009 is the previous archive.

July 2009 is the next archive.

Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.

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