Daily Archive: 05/21/2012

May 21 2012

DocuDharma Digest

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DocuDharma

May 21 2012

Austerity Is Economic Suicide

The economic crisis in Europe and the austerity response to it which has spread from Greece to other countries in Europe has dominated the news now for weeks. This past weekend the leaders of the G-8 met at Camp David where it was the main topic for discussion. While President Obama’s statement that encourages stimulus and growth as solutions to the EU problem, he did not discount austerity as one of the driving policies that has extended the downturn and caused social upheaval in Greece and now Spain. The reporting in the traditional mainstream media has been particularly lacking ion balanced analysis and, in some cases, some pretty sloppy and biased reporting.

William K. Black, an associate professor of economics and law at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, former litigation director for the Federal Home Loan Bank Board and a white-collar criminologist, takes reporters at the New York Times task for their profound ignorance on covering Europe’s financial, social, and political crises. He explains why they are so wrong:

Economists have known for roughly 75 years that adopting austerity in response to recession or depression will make the economic crisis grow and last far longer.  Austerity is to economics as bleeding was to medicine. [..]

The NYT article focuses on Alexis Tsipras, the Greek political leader whose party rose to prominence by promising to reject the loan-for-austerity program that the disgraced former Greek government agreed to at Berlin’s diktat. The article’s theme is that Tsipras is endangering all of Europe by demanding an end to austerity being imposed on Greece.  The reporters write, as if it were undisputed fact, that Tsipras has started “a high-stakes game of chicken with Europe’s leaders.”  But that reverses the facts.

The game that Berlin designed required the Greek to agree (1) to drive their economy off a cliff into a deepening Great Depression through increased austerity, (2) to force an enormous reduction in working class wages, (3) to sell Greek islands to private parties, and (4) to give up other aspects of sovereignty so that hostile, foreign, and private entities such as the IMF and the ECB could monitor its governmental actions.  The Greeks are now refusing to commit economic, political, and social suicide.  The Germans are demanding that they drive off the cliff because “a deal is a deal.”

If Greece were to drive off the cliff by adopting greater austerity it would likely destroy the EU.  Austerity would force Greece into a deepening depression, eventually lead to a default on Greek sovereign debt, and tear Greece apart.  Austerity has already generated a substantial neo-Nazi party in Greece.  Few Americans recall the Greek civil war between the right and the left that began in World War II and continued for several years after the war or the post-war coup.  Greeks recall the civil war and the coup and fear their resumption.  Proponents of the Berlin Consensus already have blood on their hands because of the suicides engendered by mass unemployment, small business failures, and hopelessness.  If the Berlin Consensus sparks a civil war or coup it could be fatal to the EU.

The EU crisis was also the topic of a heady discussion on this Sunday’s Up with Chris Hayes. Prof. Black was joined on the “Uppers” panel by Betsey Stevenson, former chief economist for the Obama Labor Department, Karl Smith, assistant professor of economics and government at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; and MSNBC policy analyst Ezra Klein.

Eurozone in fragile balance

Mr Hayes’ assessment of the political situation in Greece was challenged by a commenter at his blog. Carol P Christ wrote with regards to the political and social responses to the crisis:

Since you are a member of the Progressive Left, you might reconsider calling Syriza the ‘far” Left in comparison to ‘far’ right Golden Dawn. There is no comparison between the 2. Syriza is a coaliton of parties to the left of centrist PASOk and to the “right” of KKE the Communist Party. You might be voting for them if you were in Greece, but you surely would NOT be voting for Golden Dawn. There is NO “comparison” between the 2. Continuing to compare the 2 parties makes it seem that all Greeks are irrational. There is nothing irrational about voting for Syriza. [..]

The “austerity” programs of the EU and banking systems have already destroyed our economy. To blame immigrants as Golden Dawn does is illogical. To ask voters to reject the terms of the second austerity package which is leading to massive unemployment and daily failures of small businesses is by no means irrational.

The Green Party is also against the austerity packages. And we are not “irrational” either.

The dualistic thinking of the west (ironically a legacy of Plato) leads to the demonization of the “other” as irrational. Unfortunately Greece has been portrayed as the “irrational” other within Europe for some time now.

Greece does need to change, but punishing the poor and middle classes is not a “rational” policy. [..]

Let me add that the European union and the Euro should not be confused. The Euro has only been in existence for 11 years. England with one of the largest economies in Europe is not a member of the Euro, nor is Sweden. They are still part of Europe and the European Union.

In Greece the Euro led to a massive rise in prices (a cup of coffee from $1 to $3-5, etc.) without a concomitant rise in wages. For example a tour bus driver makes E700 a month and a radiologist E1400, wages that are near poverty level in the US. depending on family size. Yet the cost of living is as high or higher than in the US, thanks to the price rises that the Euro brought. Gasoline is over $10 a gallon. Sales tax is 23%.

The European Union is a good thing, but the Euro was driven more by market forces and the desire to sell goods freely in Europe, than by a concern for world peace, the environmental protection, or any of the other good things the European Union is working on.

The Euro has not been a good thing for Greece, in my opinion.

(I have taken the liberty of posting most of Ms. Christ’s comments because I think they go straight to the heart of the misrepresentation that is taking place in the traditional news media.)

In another article at the New Economic Perspective, Prof. Black reports that the former head of the European Central Bank (ECB), Jean-Claude Trichet, thinks that by giving European politicians the power to declare a sovereign state bankrupt and take over its fiscal policy it would salvage the euro. To quote Prof. Black, “austerians have decided that since democracy is the problem, imperialism is the answer.”

Nor are fixing the problems of the euro a solution for the austerians:

Trichet, however, says that answer is impossible:  “For the European Union, a fully fledged United States of Europe where nation states cede a large chunk of fiscal authority to the federal government appears politically unpalatable, Trichet said.”  Democracy remains the stumbling block, but Trichet has an answer to that problem – crush democracy.  He proposes that the EU:

   “[T]ake a country into receivership when its political leaders or its parliament cannot implement sound budgetary policies approved by the EU. The action would have democratic accountability if it were approved by the European Council of EU heads of states and the elected European Parliament, he said.”

Of course, the “sound budgetary policies” he means are the suicidal, and failed policies of trying to balance the budget during a Great Recession.  He does not understand even now that a nation in a severe recession cannot simply decide to run a budget surplus.  It can try to do so, by cutting spending or raising taxes, but those policies are likely to reduce already sharply inadequate public and private sector demand, which increases unemployment, increases demand for public services, and reduces government revenue – all factors likely to increase the budget deficit.  I am sure that the Greeks will consider the loss of their sovereignty at the hands of hostile foreign powers who openly sneer at the Greek people to represent the epitome of “democratic accountability.”

And what was the reaction of Berlin to Trichet’s policy to force suicidal austerity on the Greeks and bleed their economy while removing their sovereignty and right to democratic rule?  You know the answer.

As Prof Black so aptly noted that that austerity is “a policy where you’re handed a gun and told to shoot yourself. Eventually people say, ‘Now exactly why should I do that?’. [..]

Whether Greece is the good or the bad, the policy is stupid.”

The United States is not Greece. It has its own sovereign currency and a bond market which it controls. We do not need to follow the EU and shoot ourselves with austerity.

May 21 2012

Heist: Who Stole the American Dream?

A new, groundbreaking feature documentary about the roots of the American economic crisis, and the continuing assault on working and middle class people in the United States. “Heist” boldly reveals the crumbling structure of the U.S. economy – the result of four decades of deregulation, massive job outsourcing, and tax policies favoring mega-corporations and wealthy elites.

Through expert testimony, investigative filmmaking and key archival footage, “Heist” unfolds critical historical background, beginning with the dismantling of FDR’s New Deal, uncovering the ideological influence of the infamous Powell Memo and the Heritage Foundation’s Mandate for Leadership on government reform, and traces both Republican and Democratic allegiance to big business.

After detailing how the economy has been derailed, “Heist” offers a robust Take Action section with real world solutions and up-to-the-minute footage from the current Occupy Wall Street movement – an essential primer for everyday Americans to participate in the restoration of economic fairness and our democracy.

A movie with its pulse on the most urgent issues of our time, “Heist” aspires to spark national dialogue, champion solutions and encourage audiences to engage with one another to understand how we might create a fair, sustainable economy.

Heist: Who Stole the American Dream?


May 21 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”.

Follow us on Twitter @StarsHollowGzt

Paul Krugman: Dimon’s Déjà Vu Debacle

Sometimes it’s hard to explain why we need strong financial regulation – especially in an era saturated with pro-business, pro-market propaganda. So we should always be grateful when someone makes the case for regulation more compelling and easier to understand. And this week, that means offering a special shout-out to two men: Jamie Dimon and Mitt Romney.

I’ll come back shortly to the troubles at JPMorgan Chase, the bank Mr. Dimon runs. First, however, let me talk about Mr. Romney, whose remarks about those troubles were so off-point that they constitute a teachable moment.

Here’s what the presumptive Republican presidential nominee said about JPMorgan’s $2 billion loss (which may actually have been $3 billion, or $5 billion, or more, but who’s counting?): “This was a loss to shareholders and owners of JPMorgan and that’s the way America works. Some people experienced a loss in this case because of a bad decision. By the way, there was someone who made a gain.”

Please remember that Jamie and Barry are BFF’s. America is so effing screwed.

Bernard Harcourt: Welcome, Nato, to Chicago’s police state

The Nato summit will come and go, but Mayor Emanuel has authorised a ‘new normal’ of militarised social control in Chicago

With Nato delegates arriving Saturday night, the City of Chicago has been turned into a police state. Courtesy of Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who several months ago began implementing new draconian anti-protest measures, Chicago has gone on security lockdown. Starting early Friday night, 18 May 2012, the Chicago Police Department began shutting down – prohibiting cars, bikes, and pedestrians – miles and miles of highways and roads in the heart of Chicago to create a security perimeter around downtown and McCormick Place (where the Nato summit is being held). [..]

So, welcome, Nato, to the Chicago police state 2012. It may be hard to see or experience the security measures from within the perimeter, but for Chicagoans, the new experience is chilling. As one Chicagoan reportedly told NBC Chicago, the mass of security equipment “made her feel like she was on ‘lockdown’.”

And you thought the Bush/Cheney regime was bad

Robert Kuttner: Which Way for Europe?

PARIS — The good news: Austerity is finally on the defensive. At the Camp David G-8 summit, all the other national leaders pressed German Chancellor Angela Merkel to relent and to allow Europe’s ravaged economy to grow.

The bad news: The shift is mainly at the level of rhetoric and token policy changes. Nobody in the political mainstream is seriously proposing the kind of radical reform that would allow growth to occur.

Two weeks of interviews with progressive leaders in Europe — academics, the left wing of labor and social democratic parties, NGO groups — suggest a remarkable consensus on what needs to be done. You can see it in any of several manifestos from groups like Social Europe, the European Trade Union Confederation (pdf), Re-Define, Foundation for European Progressive Studies, Finance Watch, the British group Compass, among several others.

Simon Johnson: Jamie Dimon Should Resign From the Board Of The New York Fed

Jamie Dimon, CEO of JP Morgan Chase, is a member of the board of the New York Federal Reserve Bank. Mr. Dimon’s role there is sometimes presented as “advisory” but he sits on the Management and Budget Committee; here is the committee’s charter, which includes reviewing and endorsing “the framework for compensation of the Bank’s senior executives (Senior Vice President and above)”. His advice apparently extends to important aspects of how the New York Fed operates, including aspects of its personnel policies. [..]

To have Mr. Dimon involved in overseeing the management of the New York Fed, an organization that oversees his activities, decisions, and potential losses, is no longer acceptable. We do not accept such conflicts of interest in other parts of American society and we should not accept them in this instance.

Leonard Pitts, Jr.: Tough on Crime, Tough on Justice

So the people got sick of it, all those criminals being coddled by all those bleeding heart liberal judges with all their soft-headed concern for rights and rehabilitation. And a wave swept this country in the Reagan years, a wave ridden by pundits and politicians seeking power, a wave that said, no mercy, no more. From now on, judges would be severely limited in the sentences they could hand down for certain crimes, required to impose certain punishments whether or not they thought those punishments fit the circumstances at hand. From now on, there was a new mantra in American justice. From now on, we would be “tough on crime.”

We got tough on Jerry Dewayne Williams, a small-time criminal who stole a slice of pizza from a group of children. He got 25 years.

We got tough on Duane Silva, a guy with an IQ of 71 who stole a VCR and a coin collection. He got 30 to life.

We got tough on Dixie Shanahan, who shot and killed the husband who had beaten her for three days straight, punching her in the face, pounding her in the stomach, dragging her by the hair, because she refused to have an abortion. She got 50 years. [..]

May 21 2012

The Mouse that Roared! Greece’s Struggle Against Austerity by New York Brit Expat

We live in interesting times … Those on the left following the  situation in Greece were treated to an interesting spectacle in the last election in Greece on May 6th 2012. As expected, those mainstream parties that supported the EU/IMF/ECB memorandum (http://www.reuters.com/…) imposing even more harsh austerity on the country were punished: New  Democracy’s (the conservatives, centre-right) votes from 33%-19%, PASOK’s (the Greek socialist party) share fell from 43%-13%, LAOS fell below the 3% needed for securing seats (right-wing nationalist party) all lost seats in the election (greek election results).  This represents in many senses a significant rejection of the mainstream political forces that have been ruling Greece since the end  of the rule of the colonels (1967-74, for a history of modern Greece  see, History of modern Greece) and particularly of the austerity that they have been imposing on the people of Greece over recent months.

Cheat Sheet (to keep track of the players):

SYRIZA: coalition of the radical left, led by Alexis Tsipras

New Democracy: Conservative, centre right neoliberals, led by Samaras

PASOK: Panhellenic Socialist Movement, Socialist party led by Venizelos

KKE: Communist Party of Greece

ANTARSYA: Coalition of Greek Anticapitalist Left, hard left

Golden Dawn: Chrysi Avgi, Greek Fascist Party, neonazis

DIMAR: Democratic Left, centre left to left wing, led by Fotis Kouvelis

LAOS: right wing nationalists

Independent Greeks: Right-wing split off of New Democracy, anti-austerity

May 21 2012

On This Day In History May 21

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.

Click on image to enlarge

May 21 is the 141st day of the year (142nd in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 224 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1881, the American Red Cross was established in Washington, D.C. by Clara Barton, who became the first president of the organization.

Clara Barton

Clara Barton (1821-1912) had a career as a teacher and federal bureaucrat when the American Civil War broke out. Barton liked teaching when she was younger. All of her older siblings became teachers. Her youngest sibling was 12 years of age, when Barton was born. Her brother David was always like a teacher to her. She taught her first class, at age 17. She also expanded her concept of soldier aid, traveling to Camp Parole, Maryland, to organize a program for locating men listed as missing in action. Through interviews with Federals returning from Southern prisons, she was often able to determine the status of some of the missing and notify families.

After performing humanitarian work during and after the conflict, on advice of her doctors, in 1869, she went to Europe for a restful vacation. There, she saw and became involved in the work of the International Red Cross during the Franco-Prussian War, and determined to bring the organization home with her to America.

When Barton began the organizing work in the U.S. in 1873, no one thought the country would ever again face an experience like the Civil War. However, Barton was not one to lose hope in the face of the bureaucracy, and she finally succeeded during the administration of President Chester A. Arthur on the basis that the new American Red Cross organization could also be available to respond to other types of crisis.

As Barton expanded the original concept of the Red Cross to include assisting in any great national disaster, this service brought the United States the “Good Samaritan of Nations” label in the International Red Cross. Barton became President of the American branch of the society, known officially as the American National Red Cross. Soon after the initial May 1881 meeting in Washington, on August 22, 1881, the first local chapter of the Red Cross was formed in village of Dansville, New York, where Barton kept a part-time residence between 1876 and 1886. Subsequent local chapters were established in Rochester and Syracuse. Ultimately, John D. Rockefeller, along with four others and the federal government, gave money to create a national headquarters in Washington, D.C., located one block from the White House.

May 21 2012

This Is America Under Barack Obama

Our Forefathers would weep.

Occupy Journalists Stopped, Searched, Handcuffed & Interrogated at Gunpoint

by Kevin Gosztola

Under cover of the night around twelve police cars stopped five journalists when they were heading back to where they are staying in Chicago during the NATO summit. All five have been covering protests against the NATO summit for the past few days.

The five journalists included Luke Rudkowksi, who streams as @Lukewearechange, Tim Pool, who streams as @Timcast, Jeoff Shively (@Jiraffa), Dustin & Jess. They are known for their work livestreaming and tweeting out regular coverage of Occupy protests.

There’s more from Tim Poole

There appears to have been a conscious targeting of bloggers and livestreamers. The Chicago police, possibly with help from the Department of Homeland Security, FBI or other federal agencies, appear to be working off a list of “suspected” people or spaces where they must go “check in” on what is happening simply to ensure all is safe. Of course, this is illegal. Without a warrant or probable cause, rights are being clearly violated.

In each of these instances, the police did not inform those detained why they were being detained. The police stopped them to find criminal activity that they could then use against the journalists to make arrests. And so far they have not been able to find any justification for arresting any of these people, but they have been able to briefly frighten and infuriate these journalists and also to impound a vehicle.

May 21 2012

Pique the Geek 20120520: Tanning Pros and Cons

Tanning, either by the sun or by artificial means, is hugely popular in the United States and elsewhere.  The word itself is interesting, deriving from the Old English tannian which in turn is derived from the Latin tannum, meaning oak bark.  This makes sense, because the inner bark of certain oaks are rich in phenolic compounds that have been and still are used to tan raw skins into leather.

During the tanning process the skins darken, just like the human skin usually darkens when exposed to the ultraviolet light in sunlight or tanning salons.  I use the term usually because some very fair people never tan but just burn, and very dark skinned people show little or no tanning.  Albinos are not capable of tanning.

Before we get to the science behind tanning, it is of service to look at the cultural aspects of it.  There has been a sea change in attitudes about tanning in the past century.  I shall use my mum as an example.

May 21 2012

In Memoriam: Donna Summer

She will sing and dance forever in our hearts.

Sing on, Donna. We will dance forever to your voice.

Blessed Be. The Wheel Turns

May the Goddess guide her on her journey to the Summerlands. May her family, friends and the world find Peace.