Daily Archive: 04/27/2012

Apr 27 2012

“Immigrants For Sale” Documentary

Immigrants For Sale is a ground-breaking online documentary series that goes inside the private immigrant detention industry, through the lens of those most impacted, the players behind the trade and the multi-billion dollar profits that fuel it all.

This is EPISODE 1, Animated Intro, by Brave New Foundation

The documentary is broken down into 11 online episodes.  

Here are EPISODES 2 through 11.

Apr 27 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”.

New York Times Editorial: Opening the Broadcasters’ Books

Television stations have been making a lot more money from campaign ads since the Supreme Court helped lift the limits on contributions to political groups. The public, though, has been kept in the dark about how much these groups and the so-called super PACs are spending, and where they are spending it, because the stations don’t want to make it easy to find out how much they are being paid for those ads.

On Friday, the Federal Communications Commission will have an opportunity to make this murky process far more transparent. By voting to require broadcasters to report their political ad sales on a national database – rejecting the stations’ claim that this is too burdensome or expensive – the commission can help the public get a far broader sense of the powerful financial forces driving today’s politics.

Justin Eliot: Broadcasters’ Last-Ditch Push to Hide Political Ad Data

With the Federal Communications Commission set to vote Friday on whether to require broadcasters to post political ad data online, the industry has been scrambling to water down the proposed rule.

The data is currently available only on paper at TV stations. We’ve been tracking the flurry of lobbying against the rule by big media companies, including the owners of many of the nation’s largest news outlets. In the latest development, Communications Daily reported earlier this week that the FCC has become more receptive to the industry’s attempts to soften the proposed rule.

Bill Moyers and Michael Winship: The Ghost of Joe McCarthy Slithers Again

We’ve talked at times about George Orwell’s classic novel 1984, and the amnesia that sets in when we flush events down the memory hole, leaving us at the mercy of only what we know today. Sometimes, though, the past comes back to haunt, like a ghost. It happened recently when we saw Congressman Allen West of Florida on the news.

A Republican and Tea Party favorite, he was asked at a local gathering how many of his fellow members of Congress are “card-carrying Marxists or International Socialists.”

He replied, “I believe there’s about 78 to 81 members of the Democrat Party who are members of the Communist Party. It’s called the Congressional Progressive Caucus.”

Robert Naiman: Budget Control Act Military Cuts Will Cover the Social Security Shortfall

Americans might remember that when the first mad cow was confirmed in the United States in December, 2003, it was major news.  The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) had been petitioned for years by lawyers from farm and consumer groups I worked with to stop the cannibal feeding practices that transmit this horrible, always fatal, human and animal dementia.  When the first cow was found in Washington state, the government said it would stop such feeding, and the media went away.  But once the cameras were off and the reporters were gone nothing substantial changed.

In the United States, dairy calves are still taken from their mothers and fed the blood and fat of dead cattle.  This is no doubt a way to infect them with the mad cow disease that has now been incubating here for decades, spread through such animal feeding practices.  No one knows how the latest dairy cow was infected, the fourth confirmed in the United States.  Maybe it was nursed on cow’s blood.  Perhaps it was fed feed containing cattle fat with traces of cattle protein.  Or perhaps there is a mad cow disease in pigs in the United States, which simply has not been found yet, because pigs are not tested for it at all, even though pigs are fed both pig and cattle byproducts, and then the blood, fat and other waste parts of these pigs are fed to cattle.

Eugene Robinson: What Immigration ‘Crisis’?

Now that the immigration “crisis” has solved itself, this is the perfect time for Congress and the president to agree on a package of sensible, real-world reforms.

Yeah, right, and it’s also the perfect time for pigs to grow wings and take flight.

Perhaps this week’s most significant news was a report from the nonpartisan Pew Hispanic Center showing that net migration from Mexico to the United States has slowed to a halt and may actually have reversed. That’s right: There may be more people leaving this country to live in Mexico than leaving Mexico to live here.

J. Peter Pham: An Incomplete Justice

THE verdict delivered Thursday against Charles G. Taylor for crimes against humanity ends a saga that began on Christmas Eve 1989, when Mr. Taylor and a group of Libyan-trained followers invaded Liberia, igniting a regional conflagration that eventually engulfed parts of Sierra Leone, Guinea and Ivory Coast.

Although Mr. Taylor’s conviction, by a special tribunal in The Hague, will prevent him from endangering the security of West Africa again, the trial – with its limited scope – didn’t even begin to address the devastating damage Mr. Taylor did to his country. Though it is just, the conviction, with sentencing next month, demonstrates the severe limitations of an international justice system that is insufficient to deter future atrocities.

Apr 27 2012

Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz: Just Say No To CCA

Chair of the Democratic National Committee Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz:  Just Say No to Corrections Corporation of America.

Why is FL Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz siding with the Corrections Corporation of America and not her constituents in Southwest Ranches? 98% of her constituents DO NOT want a new for-profit immigrant detention center!

You can sign the petition here:  Debbie: Say No To CCA!

Apr 27 2012

On This Day In History April 27

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 27 is the 117th day of the year (118th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 248 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1805, Naval Agent to the Barbary States, William Eaton, the former consul to Tunis, led an small expeditionary force of Marines, commanded by First Lieutenant Presley O’Bannon, and Berber mercenaries from Alexandria, across 500 miles to the port of Derna in Tripoli. Supported by US Naval gunfire, the port was captured by the end of the day, overthrowing Yusuf Karamanli, the ruling pasha of Tripoli, who had seized power from his brother, Hamet Karamanli, a pasha who was sympathetic to the United States.

Lt. O’Bannon raised the US flag over the port, the first time the US flag had flown over a foreign battlefield. He had performed so valiantly that newly restored Pasha Hamet Karamanli presented him with an elaborately designed sword that now serves as the pattern for the swords carried by Marine officers. The words “To the shores of Tripoli” in the Marine Corps official song commemorate the battle.

Sources:

Wikipedia

About.com  

Apr 27 2012

The Good, the Bad and That Dead Fairy

The Confidence Fairy is Dead but its ghost is still haunting the halls of the European Union countries and the United States, as Herr Doktor notes:

This was the month the confidence fairy died.

For the past two years most policy makers in Europe and many politicians and pundits in America have been in thrall to a destructive economic doctrine. [..]

The good news is that many influential people are finally admitting that the confidence fairy was a myth. The bad news is that despite this admission there seems to be little prospect of a near-term course change either in Europe or here in America, where we never fully embraced the doctrine, but have, nonetheless, had de facto austerity in the form of huge spending and employment cuts at the state and local level.

Krugman also pointed the de facto austerity policy of the Obama administration and Congress have added to the stagnant job market:

Here’s a comparison of changes in government employment (federal, state, and local) during the first four years of three presidents who came to office amid a troubled economy:

Public Employment in 3 Administrations

That spike early on is Census hiring; [..] If public employment had grown the way it did under Bush, we’d have 1.3 million more government workers, and probably an unemployment rate of 7 percent or less.

The job market is taking its toll on consumer spending which will continue to slow down any recovery:

More Americans than forecast filed applications for unemployment benefits last week and consumer confidence declined by the most in a year, signaling that a cooling labor market may restrain household spending. [..]

“There has been some slowdown in the labor market,” said Yelena Shulyatyeva, a U.S. economist at BNP Paribas in New York, who correctly projected the level of jobless claims. “That makes consumers feel less confident, and makes them more cautious about their spending. We could see some weakness in April payrolls.”

And even though the predictions about the housing market have been optimistic don’t be fooled, there is a dark side as falling home prices drag new buyers under water

More than 1 million Americans who have taken out mortgages in the past two years now owe more on their loans than their homes are worth, and Federal Housing Administration loans that require only a tiny down payment are partly to blame.

That figure, provided to Reuters by tracking firm CoreLogic, represents about one out of 10 home loans made during that period.

It is a sobering indication the U.S. housing market remains deeply troubled, with home values still falling in many parts of the country, and raises the question of whether low-down payment loans backed by the FHA are putting another generation of buyers at risk.

As of December 2011, the latest figures available, 31 percent of the U.S. home loans that were in negative equity – in which the outstanding loan balance exceeds the value of the home – were FHA-insured mortgages, according to CoreLogic.

In an interview with The European Nobel Prize winning economist, Joseph Stiglitz said:

…When you look at America, you have to concede that we have failed. Most Americans today are worse off than they were fifteen years ago. A full-time worker in the US is worse off today than he or she was 44 years ago. That is astounding – half a century of stagnation. The economic system is not delivering. It does not matter whether a few people at the top benefitted tremendously – when the majority of citizens are not better off, the economic system is not working… [..]

The argument that the response to the current crisis has to be a lessening of social protection is really an argument by the 1% to say: “We have to grab a bigger share of the pie.” But if the majority of people don’t benefit from the economic pie, the system is a failure. I don’t want to talk about GDP anymore, I want to talk about what is happening to most citizens.

Meanwhile back in Europe with the distinct possibility that French President Nicholas Sarkozy may lose to the Socialist candidate François Hollande, some leaders are getting the message but aren’t ready to give up totally:

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte and Finance Minister Jan Kees de Jager struck a deal with the opposition and got a majority backing on an austerity package to meet the 3 percent budget deficit target in 2013, after seven weeks of talks with Geert Wilders’s Freedom Party failed and led to the collapse of the minority government.

The package increases the value-added tax to 21 percent from 19 percent, doubles the bank tax to 600 million euros ($791 million) and changes the financing of mortgages, De Jager said in a letter to parliament yesterday.[..]

The Labor Party, the Socialist Party as well as the Freedom Party of Geert Wilders didn’t back the agreement. “This is a bad package and the people with a state pension will pay the bill,” Wilders said in parliament.

In an editorial in Bloomberg News, the editors expressed their ideas how European leaders can “boost economic growth in the euro area”:

First, Europe’s leaders must recognize that common deficit rules alone will not guarantee the currency union’s survival. When countries such as Italy and Spain fall into a spiral of shrinking output and rising budget deficits, countries with stronger economies must be willing to help, either by transferring funds or by stimulating their own demand.

Currently, that would mean more German spending. [..] The Bundesbank would also need to live with a little more German inflation than the current 2.1 percent. Higher prices in Germany would help make other euro- area economies and their exports more competitive, reducing both their current account deficits and Germany’s surplus.

Second, the agreement should give Spain and Greece in particular more time to bring down debts piled up over the past 30 years. Requiring them to slash education, research and development, and other budgets will only stunt their future growth potential. To calm markets concerned about Spain’s deficits, the rest of Europe — Germany again — and the International Monetary Fund would have to provide more bailout funds.

Finally, the pact should acknowledge one of the most immediate requirements for a return to economic expansion: Recapitalization of private sector banks so that they can start providing businesses with more credit. Without that, Europe is doomed to anemic growth and a persistent confidence crisis, no matter what documents its politicians may sign.

Stiglitz in his interview makes two important points. First, “The question of social protection does not have to do with the structure of production

It has to do with social cohesion or solidarity. That is why I am also very critical of Draghi’s argument at the European Central Bank that social protection has to be undone. There are no grounds upon which to base that argument. The countries that are doing very well in Europe are the Scandinavian countries. Denmark is different from Sweden, Sweden is different from Norway – but they all have strong social protection and they are all growing.

Hear that, Mr President and Congress? Get your hands off reduction in the social safety net.

And second, that here in the US, “politics is at the root of the problem“:

Most Americans understand that fraud political processes play in fraud outcomes. But we don’t know how to break into that system. Our Supreme Court was appointed by moneyed interests and – not surprisingly – concluded that moneyed interests had unrestricted influence on politics. In the short run, we are exacerbating the influence of money, with negative consequences for the economy and for society. [..]

The diagnosis is that politics is at the root of the problem: That is where the rules of the game are made, that is where we decide on policies that favor the rich and that have allowed the financial sector to amass vast economic and political power. The first step has to be political reform: Change campaign finance laws. Make it easier for people to vote – in Australia, they even have compulsory voting. Address the problem of gerrymandering. Gerrymandering makes it so that your vote doesn’t count. If it does not count, you are leaving it to moneyed interests to push their own agenda. Change the filibuster, which turned from a barely used congressional tactic into a regular feature of politics. It disempowers Americans. Even if you have a majority vote, you cannot win.

The Europeans may well be the “game changers” because the election of their politicians doesn’t hinge on campaign contributions, long drawn out primaries or a rigid two party system that has degenerated into a lack of political choice. We need to kill the fairy once and for all and put governance in the hands of the American people.