Daily Archive: 04/03/2012

Apr 03 2012

Who decides who’s “viable”?

     

Following up on one of my previous posts, I want to post regarding Glenn Greenwald's recent shilling for three Democrat Congressional candidates running for their party's nomination.  Specifically, I want to comment on something he said in his opening paragraph:

 "Most  Congressional contests are boring and largely inconsequential; the   vast bulk features certain victory by unnotable incumbents or open-seat   races between Party-approved, script-reading, poll-driven,  cookie-cutter  challengers. But there are a few new candidates for  Congress who are  both genuinely exciting and viable, and thus very much worthy of  attention and support."

 I  put the relevant statement in bold-faced type.  I have to marvel at  Greenwald's curiously contradictory dismissal of candidates he deems not  to be viable, because here he is using his blog to do what journalists  are supposed to do in elections: highlight candidates whose policy  positions are relevant to the electorate, thereby providing voters with  information they need to render good decisions at the ballot boxes.

Shouldn't  it be voters who decide which candidates are viable by casting their  ballots?  How are they supposed to do that when media figures — even  liberal ones — deny them information they need?

 Jill Stein, Roseanne Barr, and Kent Mesplay are all running for the Green Party nomination this year, with Stein so far having won more primaries.  Stewart Alexander is running on the Socialist Party ticket, Gary Johnson is running for the Libertarian Party nomination, and Rocky Anderson  is running on the newly formed Justice Party.  But you wouldn't know  that to hear the mainstream news and blogs tell it; as far as they're  concerned, these candidates aren't "viable", aren't "serious", and are  therefore excluded from all discussion that isn't ridicule.

Regardless  of your political views, shouldn't you as a voter determine which  candidates are worthy of your ballot?  Journalists have an obligation to  provide all the relevant facts, including candidates for public  office.  When certain candidates and political parties are ignored or  dismissed by the mainstream media, it becomes even more important for  them to include such persons in their reporting.  Deny voters the  necessary information, and they cannot render fully informed decisions  at the polls.  This has the effect of disenfranchising voters because  those voters are limited in who they are allowed to vote for, and in  such circumstances the options are almost always limited to candidates  who represent the polar opposite of the public interest.

 I am not asking Greenwald or any other media personality to endorse  any candidates they don't wish to endorse.  Nor should they.  But if  Americans are to have any hope of using the electoral system to generate  real, substantive change for the better, they deserve to have all  candidates reported on objectively so that they may decide for  themselves who is "viable" and who isn't.

   

Apr 03 2012

99% Spring – An Occupy-Like Movement For People Who Like To Be Told What To Do?

What would you say if someone asked you what the keys are to the Occupy Movement’s identity?  You might mention some of the slogans, like “We are the 99%,”  or perhaps their statements against corporate personhood or the actions of occupations of public spaces and the calls for economic justice and accountability for the banksters that caused the recent economic crash.  Those are among the hallmarks, but probably the biggest part of Occupy Wall Street’s identity is the General Assembly process.  

The general assembly process is what sets Occupy apart from any other movement going right now.  It is what defines the movement as a “horizontal movement” or a “leaderless movement;” that is, a movement whose ideals and actions are broadly agreed upon by the entirety of its membership.  It is what makes Occupy a (small d) democratic movement.

This consensus process is what Occupy stands for and wants to transmit, a process for creating a durable democratic infrastructure, a basis upon which useful, inclusive, democratic institutions can be built.

As it says in Occupy’s Statement of Autonomy”:

Occupy Wall Street is a people’s movement. It is party-less, leaderless, by the people and for the people. It is not a business, a political party, an advertising campaign or a brand.  It is not for sale.

We welcome all, who, in good faith, petition for a redress of grievances through non-violence.  We provide a forum for peaceful assembly of individuals to engage in participatory democracy. …

Any organization is welcome to support us with the knowledge that doing so will mean questioning your own institutional frameworks of work and hierarchy and integrating our principles into your modes of action. … Those seeking to capitalize on this movement or undermine it by appropriating its message or symbols are not a part of Occupy Wall Street.

Apr 03 2012

Punting the Pundits

“Punting the Pundits” is an Open Thread. It is a selection of editorials and opinions from around the news medium and the internet blogs. The intent is to provide a forum for your reactions and opinions, not just to the opinions presented, but to what ever you find important.

Thanks to ek hornbeck, click on the link and you can access all the past “Punting the Pundits”.

Joe Nocera: Why People Hate the Banks

A few months ago, I was standing in a crowded elevator when Jamie Dimon, the chief executive of JPMorgan Chase, stepped in. When he saw me, he said in a voice loud enough for everyone to hear: “Why does The New York Times hate the banks?”

It’s not The New York Times, Mr. Dimon. It really isn’t. It’s the country that hates the banks these days. If you want to understand why, I would direct your attention to the bible of your industry, The American Banker. On Monday, it published the third part in its depressing – and infuriating – series on credit card debt collection practices.

Rep. Luis Gutierrez: The Stolen Dreams Act

Word is leaking from the Senate that Republicans, facing stiff and well-deserved opposition from most Hispanic voters, are crafting a bill similar to but not nearly as good as the DREAM Act, a bill to legalize the immigration status of young people who grew up in the United States but are currently undocumented immigrants.

Reports indicate that a proposal backed by Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, who opposes the DREAM Act, would allow certain young people to eventually earn legal status by attending certain four-year colleges or serving in the U.S. military. The proposal would bar these young people raised in the United States from ever becoming citizens. Similar restrictive or watered down proposals are said to be coming from Sens. Kay Bailey Hutchison of Texas and Jon Kyl of Arizona (both of whom have supported the DREAM Act before now opposing it). Let’s call them collectively the ‘Stolen Dreams’ Act.

The New York Times Editorial: A Judge Turns on the Light

A federal judge took an important step toward ending secret donations to big-spending political groups, striking down regulations that permitted some groups to hide their donors. Unfortunately, the ruling probably came too late to flush this corrupting practice from this year’s elections – though there is still time for Congress to do so.

The secret-donor problem began in 2007 when the Supreme Court, in the Wisconsin Right to Life case, ended restrictions on corporate and union political spending by advocacy groups in the weeks prior to an election. A few weeks later, the Federal Election Commission, naïvely suggesting that some corporate donors to those groups might not have intended to give for political purposes, said that only those donations explicitly earmarked for political purposes had to be disclosed. The loophole was obvious: Just don’t declare any donation to be political, and they can all be secret.

Richard (RJ) Eskow: Lemmings

Europe’s in crisis. Unemployment is at a fifteen-year high after climbing for ten straight months, thanks to the austerity measures imposed on it by conservative leaders in France, Germany, and the international financial community.

But if you think things are bad over there, imagine what they’ll be like if Republican budget measures are imposed here. The GOP budget makes European austerity look like summer camp.

Ever wonder why lemmings jump off cliffs?

Robert Reich: Turning America Into a Giant Casino

Anyone who says you can get rich through gambling is a fool or a knave. Multiply the size of the prize by your chance of winning it and you’ll always get a number far larger than what you put into the pot. The only sure winners are the organizers — casino owners, state lotteries, and con artists of all kinds.

Organized gambling is a scam. And it particularly preys upon people with lower incomes — who assume they can’t make it big any other way, who often find it hardest to assess the odds, and whose families can least afford to lose the money.

Yet America is now opening the floodgates.

Henry Aaron: Why Health Care Isn’t Broccoli — Some Basic Economics

It isn’t often that the course of history turns on principles taught in freshman economics. But the fate of the health reform legislation is now in jeopardy in part because some Supreme Court justices have so far failed to grasp such principles.

The government defended the mandate that nearly everyone carry insurance by arguing that almost everyone is in the market for health care at one time or another during their lives. People who are not insured may at any time become seriously ill or suffer major injury. The health care they will need is often costly and many people will not be able to pay for it. Under the Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act of 1986 hospitals must treat everyone who needs emergency care regardless of ability to pay. As a result, hospitals and other providers get stuck with bad debts. To make up their losses on the uninsured, they must charge those who have insurance more than the cost of their care in order. In the jargon of economics, those with insurance are forced to ‘cross subsidize’ those without it. And that, in turn, boosts the cost of insurance, which is already high enough, reduces its affordability, and thereby increases the ranks of the uninsured.

Dave Zirin: Players Getting Played: Why a Look at the NCAA’s Past Makes Me Weep for Its Future

A very common narrative, as we approach the men’s NCAA basketball finals between Kentucky and Kansas, is that after this year’s round of March Madness, change will truly be on the march. The argument goes that scandal is so widespread, the NCAA will have to enact common sense reforms or risk collapsing under the weight of its own hypocrisy. As the great Charles Pierce wrote for Grantland, “The paradigm is shifting under their feet, and the people running the NCAA know it….It’s taken longer than it did for golf and tennis, and even longer than it took for the Olympics, but the amateur burlesque in American college sports is on its way to crashing and the only remaining question is how hard it will fall. The farce is becoming unsupportable.”

As much as I’d like to believe that shame and scandal would cause the NCAA to change in a positive fashion, the past tells us a different story. It’s worth remembering the NCAA’s post-war scandals and the change they wrought. This shows in stark terms that when it comes to the NCAA, change doesn’t always mean progress.

Apr 03 2012

On This Day In History April 3

This is your morning Open Thread. Pour your favorite beverage and review the past and comment on the future.

Find the past “On This Day in History” here.

April 3 is the 93rd day of the year (94th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 272 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1948, President Harry S.Truman signs Foreign Assistance Act.

President Harry S. Truman signs off on legislation establishing the Foreign Assistance Act of 1948, more popularly known as the Marshall Plan. The act eventually provided over $12 billion of assistance to aid in the economic recovery of Western Europe.

In the first years following the end of World War II, the economies of the various nations of Western Europe limped along. Unemployment was high, money was scarce, and homelessness and starvation were not unknown in the war-ravaged countries. U.S. policymakers considered the situation fraught with danger. In the developing Cold War era, some felt that economic privation in Western Europe made for a fertile breeding ground for communist propaganda.

The Marshall Plan (officially the European Recovery Program, ERP) was the large-scale economic program, 1947-1951, of the United States for rebuilding and creating a stronger economic foundation for the countries of Europe. The initiative was named after Secretary of State George Marshall and was largely the creation of State Department officials, especially William L. Clayton and George F. Kennan. Marshall spoke of urgent need to help the European recovery in his address at Harvard University in June 1947.

The reconstruction plan, developed at a meeting of the participating European states, was established on June 5, 1947. It offered the same aid to the Soviet Union and its allies, but they did not accept it. The plan was in operation for four years beginning in April 1948. During that period some US $13 billion in economic and technical assistance were given to help the recovery of the European countries that had joined in the Organization for European Economic Co-operation. This $13 billion was in the context of a U.S. GDP of $258 billion in 1948, and was on top of $12 billion in American aid to Europe between the end of the war and the start of the Plan that is counted separately from the Marshall Plan.

The ERP addressed each of the obstacles to postwar recovery. The plan looked to the future, and did not focus on the destruction caused by the war. Much more important were efforts to modernize European industrial and business practices using high-efficiency American models, reduce artificial trade barriers, and instill a sense of hope and self-reliance.

By 1952 as the funding ended, the economy of every participant state had surpassed pre-war levels; for all Marshall Plan recipients, output in 1951 was 35% higher than in 1938.[8] Over the next two decades, Western Europe enjoyed unprecedented growth and prosperity, but economists are not sure what proportion was due directly to the ERP, what proportion indirectly, and how much would have happened without it. The Marshall Plan was one of the first elements of European integration, as it erased trade barriers and set up institutions to coordinate the economy on a continental level-that is, it stimulated the total political reconstruction of western Europe.

Belgian economic historian Herman Van der Wee concludes the Marshall Plan was a “great success”:

   “It gave a new impetus to reconstruction in Western Europe and made a decisive contribution to the renewal of the transport system, the modernization of industrial and agricultural equipment, the resumption of normal production, the raising of productivity, and the facilitating of intra-European trade.”

George Catlett Marshall (December 31, 1880 – October 16, 1959) was an American military leader, Chief of Staff of the Army, Secretary of State, and the third Secretary of Defense. Once noted as the “organizer of victory” by Winston Churchill for his leadership of the Allied victory in World War II, Marshall served as the United States Army Chief of Staff during the war and as the chief military adviser to President Franklin D. Roosevelt. As Secretary of State, his name was given to the Marshall Plan, for which he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1953.

Apr 03 2012

Carolyn Maloney Gets an Education on Financial Fraud

Anytime that Congress passes a bill with a cute acronym, you should be very suspicious. ~ Chris Hayes

Last week Congress passed the Jump Start Our Business Startups Act (pdf), the JOBS Act, which is set to be signed into law with much fanfare by President Obama despite the fact that it will in all probability create an explosion of financial fraud. The act rolls back many of the regulations that were passed under Sarbanes-Oxley in 2002. Professor of economics and law at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, Bill Black wrote an outstanding article for the New Economic Perspectives that was cross posted at naked capitalism, explaining with clarity how the jumpstart Obama’s Bucket Shops Act is just another in a long series of fraud-promoting legislation. He closed with this analysis:

We have trashed a regulatory system that was the envy of the world. It helped bring us prosperity, far greater economic stability, fewer and less severe recessions, and reduced income inequality. It made freer enterprise possible because the regulatory cops on the beat helped limit the Gresham’s dynamic in which bad ethics drives good ethics out of the marketplace. When frauds prosper honest businesses are among the victims. The three de’s have brought us recurrent, intensifying financial crises, the end of any material gains by the middle class, losses for the working class, the expansion of poverty and extreme inequality, and the domination of our political system by crony capitalism. Elite fraud and corruption are now common in America.

The entire article is a must read.

During a panel discussion on Up with Chris Hayes, Prof. Black and Alexis Goldstein of Occupy the SEC “educated” Democratic Representative Carolyn Maloney, who represents the the Upper East Side constituency of top Wall Street earners, on just how bad this bill is. As Yves Smith observes, “it is pretty hard to imagine that Carolyn Maloney would do anything that would seriously inconvenience her constituency”:

You need to watch the full segment to get the effect, but Maloney starts out by saying that the JOBS Act probably won’t create many jobs, but she was nevertheless getting complaints about how costly it was for “small” businesses to hire auditors (earth to base, if they are public, they would not qualify as “small” in most people’s book). Goldsmith devastates Maloney with her command of the bill, pointing out that it covers companies of up to $1 billion in revenues, that the tech companies its backers keep invoking have VC firms ready and willing to invest, and the new format well be used by PE firms flipping companies they had taken private back to public investors. By the end, Maloney is telling Goldsmith to send her suggestions for improved legislation and she’ll put it forward (I’ll believe her sincerity when I see action).

Yves is right, Alexis shreds Carolyn. Watch this segment, it is a thing of beauty.

Prof. Black also explains “stump & dump” scams and “cloud financing” that can cause devastating losses and won’t create any jobs.

Apr 03 2012

2012 NCAA Men’s Basketball Championship

Let me be the first to say it-

I.

was.

wrong.

And so we are left with 2 teams that I really couldn’t have less interest in- Kentucky and Kansas.  I don’t even know which one to hate more.

Still, when you embark on these long term sports projects you have to stick with them even when Lance Armstrong is out of the picture lest you brand yourself a mere partisan fan instead of a student of the game.

Semifinal Results-

Result Seed Team Record Seed Team Record Region
69-61 1 *Kentucky 37-2 South 4 Louisville 27-10 West
64-62 2 *Kansas 32-6 Mid West 2 Ohio State 28-8 East

Tonight’s Action-

Seed Team Record Region Seed Team Record Region
1 Kentucky 37-2 South 2 Kansas 32-6 Mid West

Zap2it says coverage starts at 9 pm on CBS.

Apr 03 2012

A Republican Sues For Single Payer Health Care

It would seem that there really are rational Republicans in elective office. Thank you to Louisiana Attorney General Buddy Caldwell who recognized that the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act neither protects the patient or makes health care affordable. The only thing that will do that is single payer and that isn’t in the bill. Single payer health care spreads the cost of health care across the spectrum, covering everyone, and insures access to care from birth to death. So, AG Caldwell is suing the Obama Administration because he trusts the government more than the greedy, profit driven insurance companies.

ThinkProgress spoke with Louisiana Attorney General Buddy Caldwell outside the Supreme Court on Wednesday. Caldwell opposes Obamacare and the individual mandate, but for a different reason than most of his fellow litigants: it props up the private health insurance industry. “Insurance companies are the absolute worst people to handle this kind of business,” he declared. “I trust the government more than insurance companies.” Caldwell went on to endorse the idea of a single-payer health care system, saying it’d “be a whole lot better” than Obamacare:

   KEYES: You don’t think the subsidies for low-income people are going to be helpful?

   CALDWELL: No, no. The worst thing you can do is give it to an insurance company. I want to make my point. All insurance companies are controlled in their particular state. If you have a hurricane come up the east coast, the first one that’s going to leave you when they gotta pay too many claims is an insurance company. Insurance companies are the absolute worst people to handle this kind of business. I trust the government more than insurance companies. If the government wants to put forth a policy where they will pay for everything and you won’t have to go through an insurance policy, that’d be a whole lot better.

I don’t know about the rest of Mr. Caldwell’s politics but I wish there was a Democrat in the White House that agreed with him on this.