Daily Archive: 12/10/2013

Dec 10 2013

Nothin’ From Nothin’ Leaves Nothin’

Bureau of Labor Statistics

Employment Situation Summary

December 06, 2013

The unemployment rate declined from 7.3 percent to 7.0 percent in November

[…snip…]

Both the number of unemployed persons, at 10.9 million, and the unemployment rate, at 7.0 percent, declined in November. Among the unemployed, the number who reported being on temporary layoff decreased by 377,000. This largely reflects the return to work of federal employees who were furloughed in October due to the partial government shutdown.

(See tables A-1 and A-11.)

[…snip…]

The employment-population ratio increased by 0.3 percentage point to 58.6 percent in November

As of December 6, 2013, the United States has a total resident population of 317,208,000

58.6 percent of 317,208,000 is 185,883,888 people. Supporting 317,208,000 people.

Which means of course that 41.4 percent of the US population is “unemployed” (not working anywhere, for any money) now.

Dec 10 2013

Salt Lake City TPP Talks Collapse

Some good news from lambert @ Corrente

Ministers miss 2013 deadline for US-led trade pact

By Martin Abbugao, AFP

5 hours ago

Barack Obama has hailed the TPP as a centrepiece of renewed US engagement in Asia, saying it contains market-opening commitments that go well beyond those in other free-trade accords.

The TPP talks also cover areas not included in other pacts, such as the environment and labour standards.

But the complexity of the issues already caused negotiators to miss the original 2012 deadline set by Obama to reach a deal.

They have been divided on a number of issues, including opening up Japan’s auto and farm markets, government procurement and limiting the role of state-owned enterprises — said by some countries to distort competition.

Patent issues — in particular on medicines — have also been a sticking point.



(G)roups like humanitarian organisation Medecins Sans Frontieres (Doctors Without Borders) say such patent protection would restrict access to cheaper generic drugs for millions of poor people.

US Fails To Close TPP Deal As Wikileaks Exposes Discord

Emma Woollacott, Forbes

12/10/2013 @ 9:28AM

The announcement comes as Wikileaks releases an internal memo and spreadsheet, revealing that the US is putting heavy pressure on other nations to conform with its demands.



The statement coincides with the release of two more documents from Wikileaks which reveal just how far apart the US is from the other nations involved in the treaty, with 19 points of disagreement in the area of intellectual property alone. One of the documents speaks of “great pressure” being applied by the US.

Australia in particular is standing firm, objecting to the US’ proposals for copyright protection, parallel importation proposals and criminalization of copyright infringement. It’s also opposed to a measure supported by all the other nations involved to limit the liability of ISPs for copyright infringement by their users. Japan, too – which only joined the talks in March – has vowed to protect its agricultural markets, which the US wishes to see opened up.

But the TPP is causing increasing disquiet in the US, as well as around the world. Over the weekend, campaign group Knowledge Ecology International (KEI) revealed that Nobel prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz of the Columbia University School of Business has written to the negotiators, calling on them to resist a tranche of measures that he says would weaken the 2001 Doha Declaration on TRIPS and Public Health.

These include extending patent terms and lowering the threshold for patentability of medicines, making surgical procedures patentable and mandating monopolies of 12 years on test data for biologic drugs. He also objects to the granting of compulsory licenses on patents, increasing damages for patent and copyright infringement, placing lower limits on injunctions, narrowing copyright exceptions and extending copyright protection to life plus 70 years.

“The TPP proposes to freeze into a binding trade agreement many of the worst features of the worst laws in the TPP countries, making needed reforms extremely difficult if not impossible,” he writes.

(Note: link to the Stiglitz letter added.)

Countries Remain Opposed to Some of More Extreme US Proposals in TPP Negotiations, According to WikiLeaks

By: Kevin Gosztola, Firedog Lake

Monday December 9, 2013 6:50 pm

“It should be mentioned that the US is exerting great pressure to close as many issues as possible this week,” the document reads. “[U.S. Chief] met with all twelve countries and said that they were not progressing according to plan.”



Large differences on how to handle “intellectual property” persisted and introduced “serious doubts” as to what would happen in Singapore.

Discussions on the environment went nowhere because the countries could not agree on the definition of “environmental law.”

On financial services, “positions” were “still paralyzed.” The US showed “zero flexibility.” And, as for the issue of agricultural export subsidies, “all TPP countries except the US are committed to eliminating them.



The US has been and remains the only country to support its own proposal to establish criminal offenses for “unintentional infringements of copyright, related rights and trademarks.”

All countries, after Salt Lake City, oppose the United States’ current proposals or positions on pharmaceuticals.

Dec 10 2013

Promoting Mediocrity

Transcript

Transcript

Dec 10 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”.

Follow us on Twitter @StarsHollowGzt

John Scott and Robert Zaretsky: Why Machiavelli Still Matters

FIVE hundred years ago, on Dec. 10, 1513, Niccolò Machiavelli sent a letter to his friend Francesco Vettori, describing his day spent haggling with local farmers and setting bird traps for his evening meal. A typical day for the atypical letter writer, who had changed from his mud-splattered clothes to the robes he once wore as a high official in the Florentine republic.

Toward the end of the letter Machiavelli mentions for the first time a “little work” he was writing on politics. This little work was, of course, “The Prince.” [..]

Machiavelli has long been called a teacher of evil. But the author of “The Prince” never urged evil for evil’s sake. The proper aim of a leader is to maintain his state (and, not incidentally, his job). Politics is an arena where following virtue often leads to the ruin of a state, whereas pursuing what appears to be vice results in security and well-being. In short, there are never easy choices, and prudence consists of knowing how to recognize the qualities of the hard decisions you face and choosing the less bad as what is the most good.

New York Times Editorial Board: A Breakthrough Agreement at Risk

President Obama and President Hassan Rouhani of Iran both spent time last weekend trying to sell the Iran nuclear deal to skeptics among their constituents. In Mr. Obama’s case, that meant addressing pro-Israel supporters at the Saban Center for Middle East Policy, a Washington think tank. Mr. Rouhani’s speech to a university audience in Tehran was televised nationally. While either side could undermine the November interim agreement, and with it the best chance in 30 years for a genuine thaw in Iranian-American relations, the more serious threat seems to be on the American side. [..]

The outcome of these efforts is unclear. What is clear is that they are not only unproductive but unnecessary because Congress could, at any point in the future, order tougher sanctions if any deal falls apart. Equally clear is that they will almost certainly enrage the Iranians. The interim deal stated that no further sanctions should be imposed while it was in force. New penalties would betray that agreement, feed Iranians’ deep mistrust of Americans, deny Mr. Obama negotiating flexibility and, most likely, crush any hope that a diplomatic solution is possible.

Earl Ofari Hutchinson: GOP Turns Predictable Deaf Ear to Plea to Close Income Inequality Gap

President Obama gave it the good old college try when he virtually implored Congress to take a hard, long look at the surging income inequality gap in America. This was a step to put a partial brake on the widening gap by increasing the minimum wage, and limit slashes on spending programs that aid the poor and lower income workers. But Obama’s plea fell on the GOP’s deaf ears. House Speaker John Boehner lashed out that whatever poverty and income inequality there is can be blamed on Obama’s programs. This was not just the standard bash Obama dig from Boehner. He spoke for the overwhelming majority of Republicans.

In a Pew Research Center survey in March a substantial majority of Republicans flatly said that the economic system is fair to most people. And by a whopping margin, they denied that the income inequality gap was a “big problem.” In contrast a big majority of Democrats said just the opposite. Boehner’s blast at Obama and Republican’s deaf ear on income inequality was a pro forma rehash of the attacks on Obama for the problem.

Robert Creamer: Progressives Must Stand Up Against the Right Wing War on Public Employees

It’s time for Progressives — and Americans of all stripes — to wake up and smell the coffee. Without a robust, efficient, well functioning public sector, our economy will fall behind in the world and our standard of living will drop.

Government is the name we give to the things we choose to do together.

We have to attract the best and the brightest to staff our government. That requires that the teaches, firefighters, police officers, maintenance people, researchers, clerks, constituent service workers, programmers, air traffic controllers, managers, construction workers, corrections officers, policy analysts, and everyone else who works for our governments must be respected, well compensated, and have the right to collectively bargain over the wages and working conditions.

It’s time for us all to stand up against the Right Wing war on public sector employees.

Wendell Potter: Big Corporations Abandoning Conservative Group That Pushes Changes in State Laws

It’s amazing how a little sunlight will change the behavior of some of the biggest names in corporate America — sunlight here meaning greater transparency and accountability.

Over the past several decades, one of the country’s most influential political organizations — the 40-year-old American Legislative Exchange Council — was able to operate largely under the radar. Never heard of it? That’s by design. Founded in 1973 by conservative political operatives, ALEC has been successful in shaping public policy to benefit its corporate patrons in part because few people — including reporters — knew anything about the organization, much less how it went about getting virtually identical laws passed in a multitude of states.

That began to change two years ago when an insider leaked thousands of pages of documents — including more than 800 “model” bills and resolutions, showing just how close ALEC is with big corporate interests and revealing how it goes about getting laws passed to enhance the profits of its sponsors, usually at the expense of consumers.

Leo W. Gerard: ALEC Demands Lawmakers Pledge Allegiance – to ALEC

Witch hunter Joseph McCarthy would be proud of ALEC. So proud! Like McCarthy, the shadowy corporate lobby group wants oaths of allegiance.

McCarthy demanded loyalty pledges to the United States. ALEC, by contrast, wants its lawmaker members to vow first allegiance to ALEC.

ALEC (All Legislation Enhancing Corporations) asked the legislators it appoints as state directors to raise their right wings and swear: “I will act with care and loyalty and put the interests of the organization first.”

ALEC first. Before the lawmaker’s constituents. Before the interests of the lawmaker’s state. Before the constitution of the United States. ALEC asked its lawmakers to forsake their oaths of office and swear fidelity instead to the organization that wines, dines, indulges and indoctrinates them with buckets full of corporate cash. The ALEC loyalty oath clarifies the allegiance of the 1,810 state legislators that ALEC claims as members. They see their primary duty as serving corporations, specifically the corporations that give millions to ALEC.

Dec 10 2013

On This Day In History December 10

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

December 10 is the 344th day of the year (345th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 21 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1901, the first Nobel Prizes are awarded in Stockholm, Sweden, in the fields of physics, chemistry, medicine, literature, and peace. The ceremony came on the fifth anniversary of the death of Alfred Nobel, the Swedish inventor of dynamite and other high explosives. In his will, Nobel directed that the bulk of his vast fortune be placed in a fund in which the interest would be “annually distributed in the form of prizes to those who, during the preceding year, shall have conferred the greatest benefit on mankind.” Although Nobel offered no public reason for his creation of the prizes, it is widely believed that he did so out of moral regret over the increasingly lethal uses of his inventions in war.

History

Alfred Nobel was born on 21 October 1833 in Stockholm, Sweden, into a family of engineers. He was a chemist, engineer, and inventor. In 1895 Nobel purchased the Bofors iron and steel mill, which he converted into a major armaments manufacturer. Nobel also invented ballistite, a precursor to many smokeless military explosives, especially cordite, the main British smokeless powder. Nobel was even involved in a patent infringement lawsuit over cordite. Nobel amassed a fortune during his lifetime, most of it from his 355 inventions, of which dynamite is the most famous. In 1888, Alfred had the unpleasant surprise of reading his own obituary, titled ‘The merchant of death is dead’, in a French newspaper. As it was Alfred’s brother Ludvig who had died, the obituary was eight years premature. Alfred was disappointed with what he read and concerned with how he would be remembered. This inspired him to change his will. On 10 December 1896 Alfred Nobel died in his villa in San Remo, Italy, at the age of 63 from a cerebral haemorrhage.

To the wide-spread surprise, Nobel’s last will requested that his fortune be used to create a series of prizes for those who confer the “greatest benefit on mankind” in physics, chemistry, peace, physiology or medicine, and literature. Nobel wrote several wills during his lifetime. The last was written over a year before he died, signed at the Swedish-Norwegian Club in Paris on 27 November 1895. Nobel bequeathed 94% of his total assets, 31 million SEK (c. US$186 million in 2008), to establish the five Nobel Prizes. Because of the level of scepticism surrounding the will, it was not until 26 April 1897 that it was approved by the Storting in Norway. The executors of Nobel’s will, Ragnar Sohlman and Rudolf Lilljequist, formed the Nobel Foundation to take care of Nobel’s fortune and organise the prizes.

Nobel’s instructions named a Norwegian Nobel Committee to award the Peace Prize, the members of whom were appointed shortly after the will was approved in April 1897. Soon thereafter, the other prize-awarding organisations were established: the Karolinska Institutet on 7 June, the Swedish Academy on 9 June, and the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences on 11 June. The Nobel Foundation reached an agreement on guidelines for how the prizes should be awarded, and in 1900, the Nobel Foundation’s newly-created statutes were promulgated by King Oscar II. In 1905, the Union between Sweden and Norway was dissolved. Thereafter Norway’s Nobel Committee remained responsible for awarding the Nobel Peace Prize and the Swedish institutions retained responsibility for the other prizes.

Dec 10 2013

Remembering Mandela, His Victories and Failures

Mandela Embodied the Victories and Failures of the South African Liberation Struggle

Glen Ford: Were the compromises made to avoid bloodshed responsible for the poverty and suffering that continues today?

Mandela Led Fight Against Apartheid, But Not Against Extreme Inequality

Patrick Bond: Mandela deserves great credit for ending racial apartheid in South Africa, but his legacy includes the continuation of mass poverty