Daily Archive: 12/03/2013

Dec 03 2013

Lessons in Institutional Dysfunction

As you know our boys were off this week for the holiday, but Jon left us some web exclusive, on topic lessons in institutional dysfunction.

Corporations

Cable News

Sports

International

Congress

Dec 03 2013

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”.

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Richard (RJ) Eskow: ‘Thinking Globally, Acting Locally’ In the Minimum Wage Fight

Something is happening. It’s beginning to look as if the fight for a livable minimum wage might – just might – alter our political future.

Makes sense, when you think about it. The minimum wage struggle is occurring at the intersection of powerful forces. It’s taking place at a time of growing economic inequality, the erosion of working people’s rights, and the globalization of an economic oligarchy whose scope of power is unprecedented in modern times.

And now it appears to be applying an old maxim from the early days of the environmental movement: Think globally, act locally.

Glen Ford: Obama’s Ludicrous Afghanistan Declarations

“Since when has the U.S. voluntarily left anyplace it has forcibly occupied?”

The most ridiculous actor in the fictitious U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan is not President Hamid Karzai, the hustler the U.S. installed as its puppet after the American invasion in 2001. The real clowns in this charade are those Americans that pretend to believe President Obama when he says the U.S. war in Afghanistan will end on the last day of next year. Obama is, of course, lying through his teeth. The United States and its NATO allies plan to keep 10,000 to 16,000 troops in the country, occupying nine bases, some of them set aside for exclusive American use – and would remain there at least ten years, through 2024. Shamelessly, Obama claims these troops – including thousands from the Special Operations killer elite – will have no “combat” role. It’s the same lie President Kennedy told in 1963, when he called the 16,000 U.S. troops then stationed in Vietnam “advisors,” and the same bald-faced deception that Obama, himself, tried to pull off, unsuccessfully, in Iraq – until the Iraqis kicked the Americans out.

Barack Obama has arrogated to himself the right to redefine the very meaning of war, having two years ago declared that the 7-month U.S. bombing campaign against Libya was not really a war because no Americans were killed. In Afghanistan, Obama waves his semantic magic wand

to transform the past 12 years of war into 10 more years of not-war, simply by changing the nomenclature. This is hucksterism from Hell.

Eugene Robinson: Morally Questionable Go-To Weapon

U.S. drone attacks in Afghanistan, Pakistan and other countries may be militarily effective, but they are killing innocent civilians in a way that is obscene and immoral. I’m afraid that ignoring this ugly fact makes Americans complicit in murder.

It is understandable why President Obama has made drone attacks his go-to weapon in the fight against terrorists and the Taliban. Armed, pilotless aircraft allow the CIA and the military to target individuals in enemy strongholds without putting U.S. lives at risk. But efficacy is not legitimacy, and I don’t see how drone strikes can be considered a wholly legitimate way to wage war.

Ewen MacAskill: The Long Arm of US Law: What Next for Edward Snowden?

The US will chase the NSA whistleblower wherever he tries to go, and if he ends up in an American court, he may not be free for decades

After an eventful six months, Edward Snowden will be hoping for a quieter time ahead – but not as quiet as life in a maximum-security American jail. In Russia since fleeing Hong Kong in June, the NSA computer specialist-turned-whistleblower is living under fairly restrictive conditions. But at least he still has access to the internet – crucial to him – although the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, made it a condition of granting Snowden temporary asylum that he do nothing to embarrass the US further. [..]

Snowden has permission to live, work and travel in Russia until 31 July next year, although he is likely to be granted further extensions beyond that. His supporters in Germany, including prominent members of the Green party, are pushing for him to be granted asylum in the country, given the service they say he has done in revealing the scale of surveillance, particularly the secret US monitoring of Angela Merkel’s mobile phone. But the German government has made it clear that this is an unlikely as it does not view him as a political refugee.

One of the worst-case scenarios for Snowden is if Russia, after a few years of exploiting his presence for propaganda purposes, decided to do a deal with the US, possibly exchanging him for a high-profile Russian in an American jail.

Robert Reich: The True Price of Great Holiday Deals

Online retailing is the future. Amazon is the main online shopping portal this holiday season but traditional retailers are moving online as fast as they can. Online sales are already up 20 percent over last year, and the pace will only accelerate.Target and many other bricks-and-mortar outlets plan to spend more on technology next year than on building and upgrading new stores.

Americans are getting great deals online, and they like the convenience. But there’s a hidden price. With the growth of online retailing, fewer Americans will have jobs in bricks-and-mortar retail stores.

Robert Sheer: Welcome Back, Jesus

Forget, for the moment, that he is the pope, and that Holy Father Francis’ apostolic exhortation last week was addressed “to the bishops, clergy, consecrated persons and the lay faithful.” Even if, like me, you don’t fall into one of those categories and also take issue with the Catholic Church’s teachings on a number of contested social issues, it is difficult to deny the inherent wisdom and clarity of the pontiff’s critique of the modern capitalist economy. No one else has put it as powerfully and succinctly.

It is an appraisal based not on “just pure Marxism coming out of the mouth of the pope,” as Rush Limbaugh sneered, but rather the words of Jesus telling the tale of the Good Samaritan found in Luke, not in “Das Kapital.” As opposed to Karl Marx’s emphasis on the growing misery of a much needed but exploited working class, Francis condemns today’s economy of “exclusion” leaving the “other” as the roadkill of modern capitalism: “Today everything comes under the laws of competition and the survival of the fittest, where the powerful feed upon the powerless. As a consequence, masses of people find themselves excluded and marginalized: without work, without possibilities, without any means of escape.”

Dec 03 2013

On This Day In History December 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.

December 3 is the 337th day of the year (338th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 28 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1947,A Streetcar Named Desire opened on Broadway.

Marlon Brando‘s famous cry of “STELLA!” first booms across a Broadway stage, electrifying the audience at the Ethel Barrymore Theatre during the first-ever performance of Tennessee Williams‘ play A Streetcar Named Desire.

The 23-year-old Brando played the rough, working-class Polish-American Stanley Kowalski, whose violent clash with Blanche DuBois (played on Broadway by Jessica Tandy), a Southern belle with a dark past, is at the center of Williams’ famous drama. Blanche comes to stay with her sister Stella (Kim Hunter), Stanley’s wife, at their home in the French Quarter of New Orleans; she and Stanley immediately despise each other. In the climactic scene, Stanley rapes Blanche, causing her to lose her fragile grip on sanity; the play ends with her being led away in a straitjacket.

Widely considered a landmark play, A Streetcar Named Desire deals with a culture clash between two iconic characters, Blanche DuBois, a fading relic of the Old South, and Stanley Kowalski, a rising member of the industrial, urban working class.

The play presents Blanche DuBois, a fading but still-attractive Southern belle whose pretensions to virtue and culture only thinly mask alcoholism and delusions of grandeur. Her poise is an illusion she presents to shield others (but most of all, herself) from her reality, and an attempt to make herself still attractive to new male suitors. Blanche arrives at the apartment of her sister Stella Kowalski in the French Quarter of New Orleans, on Elysian Fields Avenue; the local transportation she takes to arrive there includes a streetcar route named “Desire.” The steamy, urban ambiance is a shock to Blanche’s nerves. Blanche is welcomed with some trepidation by Stella, who fears the reaction of her husband Stanley. As Blanche explains that their ancestral southern plantation, Belle Reve in Laurel, Mississippi, has been “lost” due to the “epic fornications” of their ancestors, her veneer of self-possession begins to slip drastically. Here “epic fornications” may be interpreted as the debauchery of her ancestors which in turn caused them financial losses. Blanche tells Stella that her supervisor allowed her to take time off from her job as an English teacher because of her upset nerves, when in fact, she has been fired for having an affair with a 17-year-old student. This turns out not to be the only seduction she has engaged in-and, along with other problems, has led her to escape Laurel. A brief marriage marred by the discovery that her spouse, Allan Grey, was having a homosexual affair and his subsequent suicide has led Blanche to withdraw into a world in which fantasies and illusions blend seamlessly with reality.

In contrast to both the self-effacing and deferential Stella and the pretentious refinement of Blanche, Stella’s husband, Stanley Kowalski, is a force of nature: primal, rough-hewn, brutish and sensual. He dominates Stella in every way and is physically and emotionally abusive. Stella tolerates his primal behaviour as this is part of what attracted her in the first place; their love and relationship are heavily based on powerful-even animalistic-sexual chemistry, something that Blanche finds impossible to understand.

The arrival of Blanche upsets her sister and brother-in-law’s system of mutual dependence. Stella’s concern for her sister’s well-being emboldens Blanche to hold court in the Kowalski apartment, infuriating Stanley and leading to conflict in his relationship with his wife. Blanche and Stanley are on a collision course, and Stanley’s friend and Blanche’s would-be suitor Mitch, will get trampled in their path. Stanley discovers Blanche’s past through a co-worker who travels to Laurel frequently, and he confronts her with the things she has been trying to put behind her, partly out of concern that her character flaws may be damaging to the lives of those in her new home, just as they were in Laurel, and partly out of a distaste for pretense in general. However, his attempts to “unmask” her are predictably cruel and violent. In their final confrontation, Stanley rapes Blanche, which results in her nervous breakdown. Stanley has her committed to a mental institution, and in the closing moments, Blanche utters her signature line to the kindly doctor who leads her away: “Whoever you are, I have always depended on the kindness of strangers.”

Dec 03 2013

Bank Fraud: They All Did It

Documents in JPMorgan settlement reveal how every large bank in U.S. has committed mortgage fraud



Transcript can be read here

Dec 03 2013

Black Friday: ‘Tis the Reason for the Season

5 x Five – Colbert Holidays: Black Friday

Shopping on Black Friday takes consumer confidence, consumer courage, and a subscription to Sky Mall magazine.

Gloomy Numbers for Holiday Shopping’s Big Weekend

by Elizabeth A. Harris, The New York Times

With the economy bumping along at a lackluster pace, and this year’s shorter-than-usual window between Thanksgiving and Christmas, sales and promotions began weeks before Thanksgiving Day, making this holiday shopping season more diffuse than ever. That left Black Friday weekend itself, the season’s customary kickoff, looking a bit gloomy.

Over the course of the weekend, consumers spent about $1.7 billion less on holiday shopping than they did the year before, according to the National Retail Federation, a retail trade organization.  [..]

More than 141 million people shopped online or in stores between Thursday and Sunday, according to a survey released Sunday afternoon by the retail federation, an increase of about 1 percent over last year. And the average amount each consumer spent, or planned to spend by the end of Sunday, went down, dropping to $407.02 from $423.55. Total spending for the weekend this year was expected to be $57.4 billion, a decrease of nearly 3 percent from last year’s $59.1 billion. [..]

Many retailers have been warning of a muted holiday shopping season. Walmart and Target both trimmed their yearly forecasts recently, citing economic factors like slow wage growth, unemployment and sliding consumer confidence. Executives at Best Buy cautioned that intense price competition on some items during the holidays was likely to affect their bottom line, despite its healthier performance recently.