Daily Archive: 05/02/2014

May 02 2014

US Is an Oligarchy Not a Democracy

In a recently published Princeton University study, “Testing Theories of American Politics” (pdf), researchers Martin Gilens and Benjamin I. Page reveal through statistical analysis that the United States is no longer an actual democracy but has slipped into becoming a full fledged oligarchy.

The study starts with the question “Who governs? Who really rules?” in the US:

Despite the seemingly strong empirical support in previous studies for theories of majoritarian democracy, our analyses suggest that majorities of the American public actually have little influence over the policies our government adopts. Americans do enjoy many features central to democratic governance, such as regular elections, freedom of speech and association, and a widespread (if still contested) franchise. But, …” and then they go on to say, it’s not true, and that, “America’s claims to being a democratic society are seriously threatened” by the findings in this, the first-ever comprehensive scientific study of the subject, which shows that there is instead “the nearly total failure of ‘median voter’ and other Majoritarian Electoral Democracy theories [of America]. When the preferences of economic elites and the stands of organized interest groups are controlled for, the preferences of the average American appear to have only a minuscule, near-zero, statistically non-significant impact upon public policy.“[..]

The authors clarify that the data available are probably under-representing the actual extent of control of the U.S. by the super-rich:

   Economic Elite Domination theories do rather well in our analysis, even though our findings probably understate the political influence of elites. Our measure of the preferences of wealthy or elite Americans – though useful, and the best we could generate for a large set of policy cases – is probably less consistent with the relevant preferences than are our measures of the views of ordinary citizens or the alignments of engaged interest groups. Yet we found substantial estimated effects even when using this imperfect measure. The real-world impact of elites upon public policy may be still greater.

The Guardian‘s Ana Marie Cox and the Huffington Post’s Ryan Grim join the host of MSNBC’s “Now,” Alex Wagner, to discuss how the economic elite domination in the American political system.

The authors of the paper, Martin Gilens and Benjamin I. Page, sat down with Jon Stewart on The Daily Show to talk about the demise of democracy in the US.

May 02 2014

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: Why Economics Failed

On Wednesday, I wrapped up the class I’ve been teaching all semester: “The Great Recession: Causes and Consequences.” (Slides for the lectures are available via my blog.) And while teaching the course was fun, I found myself turning at the end to an agonizing question: Why, at the moment it was most needed and could have done the most good, did economics fail?

I don’t mean that economics was useless to policy makers. On the contrary, the discipline has had a lot to offer. While it’s true that few economists saw the crisis coming – mainly, I’d argue, because few realized how fragile our deregulated financial system had become, and how vulnerable debt-burdened families were to a plunge in housing prices – the clean little secret of recent years is that, since the fall of Lehman Brothers, basic textbook macroeconomics has performed very well.

But policy makers and politicians have ignored both the textbooks and the lessons of history. And the result has been a vast economic and human catastrophe, with trillions of dollars of productive potential squandered and millions of families placed in dire straits for no good reason.

Marsha Coleman-Adebayo: Obama’s “No Tolerance” for Freedom of Speech Policy (or Lament for Sunshine Week)

The Obama Administration has once again earned the shameful reputation for being the most secretive and punitive administration against whistleblowers in the history of the republic. Last week, another case of the Obama Administration’s insatiable appetite for secrecy was revealed via a April 21st memo from the Director of National Intelligence. This memo threatens members of the intelligence community with retaliation for any contact with reporters without the permission of their supervisor, even if the information is not classified. The memo stated:

“IC (intelligence community) employees… must obtain authorization for contacts with the media” on intelligence-related matters, and “must also report… unplanned or unintentional contact with the media on covered matters,” the Directive stated.

This escalating repression comes on top of its harsh sentencing of whistleblowers: Chelsea (Bradley) Manning-35 years for leaking the video Wikileaks dubbed ‘Collateral Murder’ of a deadly helicopter attack on a defenseless civilian population; 30 month imprisonment of former CIA agent John Kiriakou for exposing the US use of torture and waterboarding-while none of those responsible for the administration of torture have been tried; and forcing Edward Snowden to seek political asylum outside the US for exposing National Security Agency (NSA) excesses that include the unauthorized, universal invasion of planetary privacy.

Leonard Pitts, Jr: Leonard Pitts Jr.: [On race, meet dumb and dumberer

Oh, my Lord, where to begin?

You already know what this column is about. You know even though we are barely three sentences in. You knew before you saw the headline.

There are days in the opinion business when one story makes itself inevitable and unavoidable, one story sucks up all the air in the room. This is one of those times. One story.

Well … two, actually: the misadventures of Cliven Bundy and Donald Sterling. [..]

It is only possible to think that so long as you don’t look too closely, so long as you are willing to ignore dirty deeds done largely out of sight and back of mind by collective hands – everyone guilty, so no one is. Then some guys who didn’t get the memo speak a little too stupidly a little too loudly and people condemn them and feel good about themselves for doing so.

But many of us don’t really understand what they purport to condemn. Otherwise, how could there be all this noise about that which doesn’t matter – and silence about that which does?

May 02 2014

On This Day In History May 2

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 images to enlarge

May 2 is the 122nd day of the year (123rd in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 243 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 2011, Osama bin Laden, the head of Al Qaeda and mastermind of the 9/11 attacks on the United States, died . He was killed in an attack on the compound where he was hiding outside the Pakistan capital of Islamabad. U.S. President Barack Obama announced on national television that bin Laden had been killed in Abbottabad, Pakistan by American military forces and that his body was in U.S. custody.

The raid began around 1 a.m. local time, when 23 U.S. Navy SEALs in two Black Hawk helicopters descended on the compound in Abbottabad, a tourist and military center north of Pakistan’s capital, Islamabad. One of the helicopters crash-landed into the compound but no one aboard was hurt. During the raid, which lasted approximately 40 minutes, five people, including bin Laden and one of his adult sons, were killed by U.S. gunfire. No Americans were injured in the assault. Afterward, bin Laden’s body was flown by helicopter to Afghanistan for official identification, then buried at an undisclosed location in the Arabian Sea less than 24 hours after his death, in accordance with Islamic practice. [..]

A break in the hunt for bin Laden came in August 2010, when C.I.A. analysts tracked the terrorist leader’s courier to the Abbottabad compound, located behind tall security walls in a residential neighborhood. (U.S. intelligence officials spent the ensuing months keeping the compound under surveillance; however, they were never certain bin Laden was hiding there until the raid took place.) The U.S. media had long reported bin Laden was believed to be hiding in the remote tribal areas along the Afghan-Pakistani border, so many Americans were surprised to learn the world’s most famous fugitive had likely spent the last five years of his life in a well-populated area less than a mile from an elite Pakistani military academy. After the raid, which the U.S. reportedly carried out without informing the Pakistani government in advance, some American officials suspected Pakistani authorities of helping to shelter bin Laden in Abbottabad, although there was no concrete evidence to confirm this.

May 02 2014

The Breakfast Club: 5-2-2014

Welcome to The Breakfast Club! We’re a disorganized group of rebel lefties who hang out and chat if and when we’re not too hungover  we’ve been bailed out we’re not too exhausted from last night’s (CENSORED) the caffeine kicks in. Join us every weekday morning at 9am (ET) and weekend morning at 10:30am (ET) to talk about current news and our boring lives and to make fun of LaEscapee! If we are ever running late, it’s PhilJD’s fault.

 photo BeerBreakfast_web_zps646fca37.png

This Day in History

May 02 2014

TDS/TCR (Das Kapital)

TDS TCR

Pride of the North East

Even Connecticut, and let’s be honest, who nobody else from the region likes or respects.

2014, feel the excitement

Web Exclusive Extended Interview below.

May 02 2014

The Internationale

Why Aren’t North American Workers More Militant?

May Day 2014: Reflections On Oligarchy

By: DSWright, Firedog Lake

Thursday May 1, 2014 9:28 am

Despite the origins of the holiday coming from events in Chicago the holiday is officially ignored in the USA. Outside the US celebrations are common in most major capitals in the world.

After the questionable trial and execution of anarchists for alleged involvement in a bombing in Haymarket Square in 1886, solidarity movements sprang up around the world and International Workers’ Day or May Day was born. The US government recognizes Labor Day in September a behavior started by President Grover Cleveland in 1887 to thwart attempts at linking May Day with the labor movement in America.

Workers and activists who protested in Chicago in 1886 were objecting to the economy and conditions of the Gilded Age – where the top 1%’s wealth and consequential political power so dwarfed the 99%’s that the American people questioned whether they had a functioning republic. Sound familiar?

Social science has advanced somewhat since the 19th century so today we have clear evidence the sepsis of plutocracy that effected the Gilded Age has flared up again. A study by Princeton University demonstrates thoroughly that the US has become a de facto oligarchy while field experiments confirm that donors rather than voters have the power. All this while the Supreme Court, a body ruled by nine lawyers who have never successfully run for public office, continues to gut restraints on money in politics.

We are in a new Gilded Age without a doubt so will there be another social movement that lays the groundwork for a Teddy Roosevelt to take on entrenched moneyed interests? Or has the resilience of corporate power and imperialism sucked America into a death spiral with which there is no escape?

Should we keep fighting or is it time to embrace the suck?

Never.

The Internationale

Arise ye workers from your slumbers

Arise ye prisoners of want

For reason in revolt now thunders

And at last ends the age of cant.

Away with all your superstitions

Servile masses arise, arise

We’ll change henceforth the old tradition

And spurn the dust to win the prize.

So comrades, come rally

And the last fight let us face

The Internationale unites the human race.

No more deluded by reaction

On tyrants only we’ll make war

The soldiers too will take strike action

They’ll break ranks and fight no more

And if those cannibals keep trying

To sacrifice us to their pride

They soon shall hear the bullets flying

We’ll shoot the generals on our own side.

So comrades, come rally

And the last fight let us face

The Internationale unites the human race.

No saviour from on high delivers

No faith have we in prince or peer

Our own right hand the chains must shiver

Chains of hatred, greed and fear

E’er the thieves will out with their booty

And give to all a happier lot.

Each at the forge must do their duty

And we’ll strike while the iron is hot.

So comrades, come rally

And the last fight let us face

The Internationale unites the human race.

The Internationale is a famous socialist, communist, social-democratic and anarchist anthem.  It is sung traditionally with the hand raised in a clenched fist salute.

A DocuDharma tradition now at The Stars Hollow Gazette.