Daily Archive: 02/06/2015

Feb 06 2015

Austerity Is Sheer Nonsense

Europe and austerity failed Greece

by Joseph Stiglitz, AlterNet

Friday, Feb 6, 2015 04:30 AM EST

Every (advanced) country has realized that making capitalism work requires giving individuals a fresh start. The debtors’ prisons of the nineteenth century were a failure – inhumane and not exactly helping to ensure repayment. What did help was to provide better incentives for good lending, by making creditors more responsible for the consequences of their decisions.



The idea of bringing back debtors’ prisons may seem far-fetched, but it resonates with current talk of moral hazard and accountability. There is a fear that if Greece is allowed to restructure its debt, it will simply get itself into trouble again, as will others.

This is sheer nonsense. Does anyone in their right mind think that any country would willingly put itself through what Greece has gone through, just to get a free ride from its creditors? If there is a moral hazard, it is on the part of the lenders – especially in the private sector – who have been bailed out repeatedly. If Europe has allowed these debts to move from the private sector to the public sector – a well-established pattern over the past half-century – it is Europe, not Greece, that should bear the consequences. Indeed, Greece’s current plight, including the massive run-up in the debt ratio, is largely the fault of the misguided troika programs foisted on it.

So it is not debt restructuring, but its absence, that is “immoral.” There is nothing particularly special about the dilemmas that Greece faces today; many countries have been in the same position. What makes Greece’s problems more difficult to address is the structure of the eurozone: monetary union implies that member states cannot devalue their way out of trouble, yet the modicum of European solidarity that must accompany this loss of policy flexibility simply is not there.

Seventy years ago, at the end of World II, the Allies recognized that Germany must be given a fresh start. They understood that Hitler’s rise had much to do with the unemployment (not the inflation) that resulted from imposing more debt on Germany at the end of World War I. The Allies did not take into account the foolishness with which the debts had been accumulated or talk about the costs that Germany had imposed on others. Instead, they not only forgave the debts; they actually provided aid, and the Allied troops stationed in Germany provided a further fiscal stimulus.



Seldom do democratic elections give as clear a message as that in Greece. If Europe says no to Greek voters’ demand for a change of course, it is saying that democracy is of no importance, at least when it comes to economics. Why not just shut down democracy, as Newfoundland effectively did when it entered into receivership before World War II?

One hopes that those who understand the economics of debt and austerity, and who believe in democracy and humane values, will prevail.

Heiner Flassbeck

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Feb 06 2015

The War Between the States

In an episode of this week’s crazy antics of our congress critters, Representative Alcee Hastings (D-FL) and Rep. Michael C. Burgess (R-TX) got into a heated discussion after Rep. Hastings opined that Texas was crazy:

Rep. Alcee L. Hastings did the one thing folks from the Lone Star State do not abide. He messed with Texas.

During a House Rules Committee hearing Monday on a bill to repeal the Affordable Care Act, the Florida Democrat grew heated in an argument with Texas Republican Michael C. Burgess over states that did not create their own insurance exchanges – the subject of a pending Supreme Court case.

“Had governors worked with the administration, we might not be in this position,” Hastings said. “I don’t know about in your state, which I think is a crazy state to begin with – and I mean that just as I said it.”

Perhaps it was luck (or careful calculation) that the panel’s chairman, Texan Pete Sessions, was not in the room during the testy exchange. Republican Virginia Foxx of North Carolina, who was stepping in for Sessions, quickly tried to intervene by cutting off Hastings for interrupting Burgess.

But Hastings wasn’t in the mood to be messed with either. He loudly asserted he had reclaimed his time, to which Burgess replied: “The gentleman made a very defamatory statement about my state and I will not stand here and listen to it!”

“Fine, then you don’t have to listen, you can leave if you choose,” Hastings shot back. “I told you what I think about Texas – I wouldn’t live there for all the tea in China.”

Rep. Hastings refused to apologize and further doubling down on his opinion

“One of their cities has a law that says that women can only have six dildos, and the certain size of things,” Rep. Alcee Hastings (D-Fla.) told CNN. “And if that ain’t crazy I don’t know what is.”

This has ignited the ire of the Texas delegations who are telling their fellow congress critters, don’t mess with Texas. The war between the two states also caught the attention of “The Daily Show” host Jon Stewart who lamented:

“We are run by children,” Stewart lamented.

But that got him wondering: What if Florida and Texas really did go to war over this? How would it unfold? And more importantly, who would win?

Sometimes C-Span can be more entertaining than a sit-com.

Feb 06 2015

How To Get Banned

Not from here of course, all we ask is that people get preapproved if they want to write about I/P and that you refrain from stalking, harrassment (bullying), hate speech, and outing, otherwise you can insult my intelligence and your fellow readers to your heart’s content because blogging is not crochet and best bring your sharpest needles and thickest skin if you want to play.

I recall a different time (2009) and a different place that is now a shadow of what it once was.  Barack Obama and his Administration had just decided to withold thousands of photographs of prisoner abuse and torture from Abu Ghraib and other sites under U.S. control.

That was then.  This is now.

Judge Gives US Government a Week to Appeal or Comply With Order Involving Thousands of Prisoner Abuse Photos

By: Kevin Gosztola, Firedog Lake

Friday February 6, 2015 11:54 am

The United States government has been given a week to appeal or comply with a federal judge’s order to provide a justification for why approximately 2,100 photographs of torture and abuse of prisoners must remain secret.

The American Civil Liberties Union has pursued the release of records related to detainee treatment and “the death of prisoners in United States custody and abroad after September 11, 2001, since October 2003.

In October 2009, the Protected National Security Documents Act (PNSDA) amended the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) to “provide that photographs could be made exempt from disclosure for a three-year certification by the Secretary of Defense to the effect that publication would endanger American lives.” Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki asked President Barack Obama not to release photographs of detainees abuse, for “fear of the consequences.” Secretary of Defense Robert Gates filed a certification to prevent the release of photographs and the court upheld that certification.

Three years later, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta renewed the certification, even though US troops had withdrawn and the war in Iraq had been declared over.

Judge Alvin Hellerstein found that Panetta’s certification failed to show why the release of the photos would continue to “endanger the citizens of the United States, members of the United States Armed Forces or employees of the United States Government deployed outside the United States.” He ordered the government in August 2014 to go through each of the photos and explain why they should not be released.

On February 4, Hellerstein informed the government he was skeptical of Panetta’s reclassification. He had already seen a small sample of the photos and did not think a national security exemption covered many of the photos he reviewed, according to The Guardian. He requested the government put forward a plan for assessing each individual photo to justify withholding them from the public.



According to The Intercept, government lawyers invoked the Islamic State’s use of past abuses to justify executions of hostages. A government lawyer stood in court and argued the government had already fulfilled its obligation to “review” the photos when associate deputy general counsel in the Department of the Army, Megan Weis, was designated in 2012 to look at the photos on Panetta’s behalf.



Hellerstein was not satisfied with this process.

The judge said he would be willing to go through the photos one by one in a closed session with the government. The government could explain why each one had to remain secret. But, at one point, Hellerstein added, “I did not enjoy seeing the pictures the first time. I would not want to see them again.”

He did not believe any threat posed by the Islamic State was justification for secrecy. Newsweek reported Hellerstein contended soldiers and citizens were as “exposed” as they were when the court favored release in 2005.



When Obama refused to release the photos in 2009 and responded to criticism, one of his remarks in defense of the decision was that they were not “particularly sensational.”

Journalist Jason Leopold reported last year that documents from the Defense Department show the photos come from “203 closed criminal investigations into detainee abuse in Afghanistan and Iraq.”

The Defense Department had actually planned to “mitigate the threat to security and political stability” by offering apologies to “regional partners” and “audiences who find [the] images humiliating.”

The photos the government are afraid of releasing depict scenes such as soldiers zip-tying Iraqi detainees to bars in stress positions, a soldier pointing a pistol at a prisoner tied up with his head covered while lying on the ground, a dead Afghan national shot and killed and a female soldier holding a broom near a detainee as if she was going to stick it into his rectum.

Leopold’s report suggested the soldiers had wanted to hold on to these photos as “mementos.”

Like all court orders where judges refuse to show the utmost deference to the government’s secrecy arguments, the government does not think the court is correctly interpreting the law passed to effectively help the Pentagon conceal embarrassing photos. However, PNSDA clearly says the Secretary of Defense must issue a certification for a photograph. It does not refer to photographs collectively. So, a process that attempts to justify blanket certification for secrecy is not in line with the law.

The judge may decide that all or most of the photos should remain secret, but the judge has decided he will not defer to the government when it is not doing what the law says the Defense Department is supposed to do.

Hmm…

When Obama refused to release the photos in 2009 and responded to criticism, one of his remarks in defense of the decision was that they were not “particularly sensational.”

The photos the government are afraid of releasing depict scenes such as soldiers zip-tying Iraqi detainees to bars in stress positions, a soldier pointing a pistol at a prisoner tied up with his head covered while lying on the ground, a dead Afghan national shot and killed and a female soldier holding a broom near a detainee as if she was going to stick it into his rectum.

The proximate cause of my banishment was that I said that people who wanted to suppress these images were no better than the “Good Germans” who ignored the evidence of the Nazi Death Camps and when a particular member objected to that characterization I said that he too was behaving like a “Good German”.

I put it to you, gentle reader, how much acumen is required to ignore the trains arriving full of humans every day and leaving empty?  How insensate do you have to be to consume your dinner downwind of the stench of decay and the stink of burning flesh that you can claim not to know what crimes your leaders are committing in your name?

Or are you also worried that the irrefutable evidence of this will inflame the victims’ sentiments?

Why should they not be inflamed at this injustice?  What kind of excuse is that?

After slightly less than 2 years I was reinstated.  I never apologized, I have nothing to apologize for.  I was later banished again for defending a rape survivor against a drunken bully, but that’s another story.

Feb 06 2015

Yay Team Privacy!

So this was the gloomy news yesterday-

The World’s Email Encryption Software Relies On One Guy, Who Is Going Broke

by Julia Angwin, ProPublica

Thu, Feb 5th 2015 12:34pm

The man who built the free email encryption software used by whistleblower Edward Snowden, as well as hundreds of thousands of journalists, dissidents and security-minded people around the world, is running out of money to keep his project alive.

Werner Koch wrote the software, known as Gnu Privacy Guard, in 1997, and since then has been almost single-handedly keeping it alive with patches and updates from his home in Erkrath, Germany. Now 53, he is running out of money and patience with being underfunded.



Koch’s code powers most of the popular email encryption programs GPGTools, Enigmail, and GPG4Win. “If there is one nightmare that we fear, then it’s the fact that Werner Koch is no longer available,” said Enigmail developer Nicolai Josuttis. “It’s a shame that he is alone and that he has such a bad financial situation.”

The programs are also underfunded. Enigmail is maintained by two developers in their spare time. Both have other full-time jobs. Enigmail’s lead developer, Patrick Brunschwig, told me that Enigmail receives about $1,000 a year in donations – just enough to keep the website online.

GPGTools, which allows users to encrypt email from Apple Mail, announced in October that it would start charging users a small fee. The other popular program, GPG4Win, is run by Koch himself.



For almost two years, Koch continued to pay his programmer in the hope that he could find more funding. “But nothing came,” Koch recalled. So, in August 2012, he had to let the programmer go. By summer 2013, Koch was himself ready to quit.

But after the Snowden news broke, Koch decided to launch a fundraising campaign. He set up an appeal at a crowdsourcing website, made t-shirts and stickers to give to donors, and advertised it on his website. In the end, he earned just $21,000.

The campaign gave Koch, who has an 8-year-old daughter and a wife who isn’t working, some breathing room. But when I asked him what he will do when the current batch of money runs out, he shrugged and said he prefers not to think about it. “I’m very glad that there is money for the next three months,” Koch said. “Really I am better at programming than this business stuff.”

And here is the good news today!

Internet Comes Through For Developer Of Key Email Encryption Tool

by Mike Masnick, Tech Dirt

Fri, Feb 6th 2015 6:13am

Yesterday, we reposted Julia Angwin’s article from ProPublica about how the guy behind GPG, a key tool for email encryption, Werner Koch, was basically broke, and that attempts to crowdfund money to keep going hadn’t been all that successful. The story seemed to resonate with lots of people, and the donations started flowing. After getting a grand total of just about €34,000 in 2014, he’s already well over €100,000 this year, with most of that coming yesterday after Angwin’s story went up. On top of that, Stripe and Facebook each agreed to fund him to the tune of $50,000 per year (from each of them, so $100k total), and the Linux Foundation had agreed to give him $60k (though, Koch admits that the deal there was actually signed last week).

Either way, this is great to see, though it’s unfortunate that it had to wait until an article detailing his plight came out.



It really is quite incredible when you realize how much of the internet that you rely on is built by people out of a true labor of love. Often, people have no idea that there even is an opportunity to support those projects, and it’s great that Angwin was able to highlight this one and get it the necessary funding to keep moving forward.

Feb 06 2015

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: A Game of Chicken

On Wednesday, the European Central Bank announced that it would no longer accept Greek government debt as collateral for loans. This move, it turns out, was more symbolic than substantive. Still, the moment of truth is clearly approaching.

And it’s a moment of truth not just for Greece, but for the whole of Europe – and, in particular, for the central bank, which may soon have to decide whom it really works for.

Basically, the current situation may be summarized with the following dialogue:

Germany to Greece: Nice banking system you got there. Be a shame if something were to happen to it.

Greece to Germany: Oh, yeah? Well, we’d hate to see your nice, shiny European Union get all banged up.

Or if you want the stuffier version, Germany is demanding that Greece keep trying to pay its debts in full by imposing incredibly harsh austerity. The implied threat if Greece refuses is that the central bank will cut off the support it gives to Greek banks, which is what Wednesday’s move sounded like but wasn’t. And that would wreak havoc with Greece’s already terrible economy.

New York Times Editorial: Courage and Good Sense at the F.C.C.

The Federal Communications Commission will soon put in place regulations designed to prevent cable and phone companies from blocking or slowing down information on the Internet. The companies and their congressional allies are using scare tactics to stop this from happening. [..]

The telecommunications industry and Republicans like Senator John Thune of South Dakota are accusing Mr. Wheeler and President Obama, who called for strong rules in November, of imposing “public utility” regulations on the Internet. This, they say, will stifle the incentive to invest in high-speed networks. Those arguments are preposterous. The commission is not trying to regulate the price of broadband service. Nor is it forcing cable and phone companies to lease access to their networks to competitors, which it could do under a 1996 telecommunications law.

E. J. Dionne, Jr.: Budget Battle: ‘Envy’ vs. ‘Greed’

Rep. Paul Ryan values his reputation as a serious policy analyst and a genial soul. But he’s not above name-calling, and he insists that President Obama’s budget is the product of “envy economics.”

Ryan’s label invites a comparable description of his own approach, which would slash taxes on the rich while cutting programs for the poor and many middle-income Americans. If Ryan wants to play the branding game, is it unfair to ask him why “greed economics” isn’t an appropriate tag for his own approach?

Ryan’s opening rhetorical bid is unfortunate because there are signs that at least some conservatives (including, sometimes, Ryan himself) seem open to policies that would redistribute income to Americans who have too little of it.

Jared Bernstein: The Policy Goal Whose Name Must Not Be Spoken

Back in my White House daze, while helping out with an economics speech to be given by a top senior official, I suggested a sentence that had the word “distribution” in it in the context of income or tax policy or something. Not even “redistribution.” Needless to say, editors went ballistic–they didn’t just cross it out, but that warned me to go through and make sure no such socialistic language was anywhere to seen.

I totally saw and see their point, by the way. The word’s a dog whistle that releases the hounds, if not the Foxes. And yet, one of my rules of thumb in this work is that when policy does a lot of something and that something cannot be spoken of, we’re courting dysfunction and distortion.

Tom Steyer: A Bad Deal: TransCanada Can’t Change the Facts About Keystone XL

Someone at TransCanada must be getting nervous.

As approval of the proposed Keystone XL pipeline appears to be resting on extremely thin ice, TransCanada on Wednesday announced they would be entering the oil-by-rail business to help further their tar sands investments.

What about the pipeline? Well, in a transparent attempt to freshen up the company’s tired talking points, TransCanada’s CEO is using this announcement to continue to push flawed arguments on why America should forsake our national interest and allow the Keystone XL pipeline to be built. Give us the pipeline, TransCanada argues, or we’ll start using trains — but we’re taking the tar sands out of the ground no matter what.

I beg to differ.

Andrew Reinbach: The Honor of Senator Joni Ernst

When most people hear “combat veteran,” they think firefights with the enemy. But the military defines combat veteran differently — as soldiers who served in a combat area.

Which brings us to Senator Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), one of the GOP’s most recent stars. It was Sen. Ernst who was selected to give the Republican response to President Obama’s recent State of the Union message this year.

Senator Ernst calls herself a combat veteran at every turn — on her Senate web page, in campaign debates, and in her stump speeches. She can say this because she served in a combat zone. [..]

Real combat veterans I spoke to don’t think much of how the Senator talks up her combat duty. Larry Hanft, for instance, who earned the Combat Infantryman’s Badge fighting in Vietnam, says, “By her definition, everybody who stepped off the plan in Kuwait is a combat veteran. Joni Ernst is using her military experience to gain a political edge and pull the wool over the eyes of the American people. She’s a fraud…” Mr. Hanft is one of Sen. Ernst’s constituents.

Feb 06 2015

The Breakfast Club (Unforgetttable)

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.

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This Day in History

President Ronald Reagan born; Hillary Clinton runs for the U.S. Senate; Britain’s King George VI dies; baseball legend Babe Ruth and reggae superstar Bob Marley born.

Breakfast Tunes

Happy Birthday, Natalie. Be well

Something to Think about over Coffee Prozac

What’s One More War

I don’t claim to know how to solve all the world’s problems, but arming everyone and letting God sort it out hasn’t worked very well lately.

Atrios

Feb 06 2015

On This Day In History February 6

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.

February 6 is the 37th day of the year in the Gregorian calendar. There are 328 days remaining until the end of the year (329 in leap years).

On this day in 1952, Elizabeth II becomes the first Queen regnant of the United Kingdom and several other realms since Queen Victoria, upon the death of her father, George VI. At the exact moment of succession, she was in a treehouse at the Treetops Hotel in Kenya.

Elizabeth II (Elizabeth Alexandra Mary, born 21 April 1926) is the Queen regnant of 16 independent sovereign states known as the Commonwealth realms: the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Jamaica, Barbados, the Bahamas, Grenada, Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands, Tuvalu, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Belize, Antigua and Barbuda, and Saint Kitts and Nevis. In addition, as Head of the Commonwealth, she is the figurehead of the 54-member Commonwealth of Nations and, as the British monarch, she is the Supreme Governor of the Church of England.

Elizabeth was educated privately at home. Her father, George VI, became King-Emperor of the British Empire in 1936. She began to undertake public duties during the Second World War, in which she served in the Auxiliary Territorial Service. After the war and Indian independence George VI’s title of Emperor of India was abandoned, and the evolution of the Empire into the Commonwealth accelerated. In 1947, Elizabeth made the first of many tours around the Commonwealth, and married Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh. They have four children: Charles, Anne, Andrew, and Edward.

In 1949, George VI became the first Head of the Commonwealth, a symbol of the free association of the independent countries comprising the Commonwealth of Nations. On his death in 1952, Elizabeth became Head of the Commonwealth, and constitutional monarch of seven independent Commonwealth countries: the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Pakistan, and Ceylon. Her coronation in 1953 was the first to be televised. During her reign, which at 58 years is one of the longest for a British monarch, she became queen of 25 other countries within the Commonwealth as they gained independence. Between 1956 and 1992, half of her realms, including South Africa, Pakistan, and Ceylon (renamed Sri Lanka), became republics.

In 1992, which Elizabeth termed her annus horribilis (“horrible year”), two of her sons separated from their wives, her daughter divorced, and a severe fire destroyed part of Windsor Castle. Revelations on the state of her eldest son Charles’s marriage continued, and he divorced in 1996. The following year, her former daughter-in-law Diana, Princess of Wales, died in a car crash in Paris. The media criticised the royal family for remaining in seclusion in the days before Diana’s funeral, but Elizabeth’s personal popularity rebounded once she had appeared in public and has since remained high. Her Silver and Golden Jubilees were celebrated in 1977 and 2002 respectively, and planning for her Diamond Jubilee in 2012 is underway.

Feb 06 2015

The Daily/Nightly Show (Use The Force Luke)

Tonight’s topic is three parent babies and there’s a lot of confusion about just what those are.

Cells are not just undifferentiated masses of goo, they have microscopic structures similar to the organs of multicellular organisms and one of those is the Mitochondria.  Now the principal function of  Mitochondria is to convert Glucose and Fatty Acids (cell food) into Adenosine triphosphate which can be used either for energy or to construct cell structures.  It also, to a lesser extent, produces a similar chemical, Cyclic adenosine monophosphate, which carries intracellular signals and regulates the conversion of ATP into energy or structural elements.

In addition to supplying cellular energy, mitochondria are involved in other tasks such as signaling, cellular differentiation, cell death, as well as maintaining the control of the cell cycle and cell growth.

To assist in these tasks Mitochondria have their own DNA which both disassembles the incoming Glucose and Fatty Acids and assembles the ATP and AMP designating whether the ATP is to be converted to energy or used by Nucleic DNA for further processing into more complex proteins.

Mitochondrial DNA is unique and distinct from Nucleic DNA, is passed only from mother to offspring, and has no bearing whatever on the unique characteristics of the multicellular organism (what we would normally think of as genetics like hair, eye, and skin color).  If damaged or defective though it can produce several diseases related to Cellular respiration (it’s been implicated in Juvenile Diabetes for instance).

The British Parliament has recently approved a procedure that in cases of In Vitro Fertilisation will allow for Doctors in cases where damage to the Mitochondrial DNA is detected to replace that DNA with DNA from a donor, creating a “three parent baby”.

Of course Conservatives are up in arms as they are about anything regarding sex, but a surprising number of supposedly intelligent people are also buying into the concept that this minor procedure opens the door to eugenics and “designer babies”.

We’ll see tonight if Larry is fooled.

Do you know what Mitochondrial DNA is?

Just keeping it 100.

Continuity

E. Coli Nation

Next week’s guests-

The Daily Show

Bob Odenkirk will be on to pitch his new series Better Call Saul which premieres February 8, 2015.  I was never into Breaking Bad, the original series that spawned this spin off, so I can’t say from personal knowledge, but critics I’ve read say it’s not nearly as dark as the original and the advertising and preview clips seem to bear this out.

The 2 part web exclusive extended interview with Wes Moore (ugh) and the real news below.