In the Belly of the Beast: 3/29/11: Krugman: We can’t count on Obama not to surrender on Social Security


The WikiLeaks News & Views Blog for Tuesday, Day 122

from The Nation Blogs: Media Fix by Greg Mitchell



Friedrich Hayek, Zombie [Krugman]



The WikiLeaks News & Views Blog for Tuesday, Day 122

from The Nation Blogs: Media Fix by Greg Mitchell

Krugman: We can’t count on Obama not to surrender on Social Security

UPDATE: Call your senators at 1-866-251-4044. Tell them (both) to support the Sanders/Reid Social Security Protection Amendment. Act now to have an effect.

More here:

That headline is pretty straight-forward. It’s what many already believe is the case. And now the Professor is on board:

[B]y negotiating with himself, Obama seems to have ensured that the eventual budget “compromise” will give Republicans more than they ever imagined in the way of harsh cuts. … [If genuflecting] to the right was supposed to help Dems in the midterms, well, it didn’t; and it has meant that there is no effective counter-argument to the cut cut cut people.

So, can we now count on Obama, at least, not to preemptively surrender to the right by proposing Social Security cuts — cuts that we know will be a starting point, not an end to the discussion?

No, we can’t.

One more voice. Social Security defense will be a battle, folks. The man still wants to take it down a notch, the first in its history. Whether he’s doing that to raise himself up on its crippled frame, or just wants to cripple it for fun, is not at all the point.

Progressives can win this battle, just like we won in 2005. But we have to look past our blind spot — we have to deal with Obama like any other enemy of Social Security.

We don’t win on this if we don’t treat Obama like we treated Bush. Our reluctance to do that is his strongest weapon. Period.

“Shocked and Appalled”: Sister of Death Row Prisoner Troy Davis Responds to Supreme Court Ruling

Play_davisThe U.S. Supreme Court on Monday refused to hear the appeal of well-known Georgia death row prisoner Troy Anthony Davis, likely setting the stage for Georgia to schedule his execution. Davis was convicted in the 1989 killing of off-duty white police officer, Mark MacPhail. Since then, seven of the nine non-police witnesses who fingered Davis have recanted their testimony. No physical evidence ties Davis to the crime scene. With his legal appeals exhausted, Davis’s fate rests largely in the hands of Georgia’s Board of Pardons and Parole, which could commute his death sentence and spare his life. We speak with Troy Davis’s sister, Martina Correia. “No one wants to look at the actual innocence, and no one wants to look at the witness recantation as a real strong and viable part of this case,” Correia says. “I think there needs to be a global mobilization about Troy’s case.” [includes rush transcript]

BP execs may face manslaughter charges for oil rig explosion

This is potentially big news. It’s hard to see the Obama administration being so forceful and then there is the issue of the pro-oil spill Republicans in Congress. You can count on them to side with Big Oil regardless of the number of deaths or environmental disaster. Bloomberg:

Federal prosecutors are considering whether to pursue manslaughter charges against BP Plc (BP/) managers for decisions made before the Gulf of Mexico oil well explosion last year that killed 11 workers and caused the biggest offshore spill in U.S. history, according to three people familiar with the matter.

U.S. investigators also are examining statements made by leaders of the companies involved in the spill — including former BP Chief Executive Officer Tony Hayward — during congressional hearings last year to determine whether their testimony was at odds with what they knew, one of the people said. All three spoke on condition they not be named because they weren’t authorized to discuss the case publicly.

Charging individuals would be significant to environmental-safety cases because it might change behavior, said Jane Barrett, a law professor at the University of Maryland.


Government shutdown, here we come!

The Republicans are proposing, seriously, that we immediately cut agencies’ budgets by 30%, and immediately defund health care reform, taking insurance away from scores of Americans with pre-existing conditions.

Of course, the administration’s counter-offer, while “better,” is still proposing $30bn in immediate cuts. I’d be curious to see what CBO says the impact is going to be on the economy of such an immediate cut when our economic situation is still so fragile – likely, it’s going to hurt growth and raise unemployment – both rather idiotic ideas, but who cares about jobs, the public voted to cut the budget regardless of whether it risks another recession or increases the ranks of the unemployed. What? You mean people did not vote to increase unemployment? Funny that.

For some reason we still can’t fathom, the President simply joined the Hoover Economics bandwagon (as Krugman calls it), risking our economic recovery, in addition to a lot of good government services. Anyone who complained about the President’s poor negotiating skills during health care reform, or during the recent cave on the Bush tax cuts, will recognize the pattern. This is why Joe, Chris and I said early on in this administration that the President’s weakness on any one issue shouldn’t be ignored or written off as a one-time thing. It’s the way he operates, and it will affect every single deal he ever makes on every single issue you care about.

I do love how the Republicans keep saying $60bn in cuts, and the Dems keep inching towards the Republicans, while the GOP holds firm. Same old same old. It’s not a negotiation, it’s a conquest. Business as usual. What I fear even more than a shutdown is the President’s refusal to ever not-blink during a negotiation. He’ll never let it to come that – he doesn’t let hostage takers kill the hostages, and will do almost anything to make it stop – and the Republicans know it.

Teabaggers are coming to DC to protest GOP leaders

Republican leaders promised to cut $100 billion from the federal budget — and haven’t. That’s not sitting well with the teabagging crowd that takes full credit for electing them. So, they’re coming to DC to protest. Via press release:

Tea Party Patriots, the nation’s largest grassroots organization, today announced that it will hold its first “Continuing Revolution Rally” outside of the U.S. Capitol challenging Congress and the members it helped sweep into power to take swift action on the budget. Tea Party stars in Congress such as Reps. Mike Pence and Michele Bachmann will join thousands of Tea Party activists to send a message to the rest of Washington. Thursday’s rally is co-sponsored by Let Freedom Ring, the Institute for Liberty, and Smart Girl Politics.

“Members of Congress have abandoned their service to the people by passing continuing resolutions instead of cutting the $100 billion they pledged,” said Mark Meckler and Jenny Beth Martin, National Coordinators of the Tea Party Patriots. “Is it lack or leadership? Is it a lack of courage? A real budget will spark a national debate on the role of government, and that’s what the American people want.”

Let’s be clear here: If the teabaggers are coming to DC to protest against the Members of Congress who pledged to cut $100 billion, this protest is aimed at Boehner, Cantor and the other Republican leaders. And, yes, we do need a debate about what the American people really want. I think jobs and a better economy are on the top of the agenda, but we’re not seeing anything like that coming from the GOPers in Congress.

So, who is the star-studded lineup of speakers at the big rally? Several GOP members of Congress, including one potential presidential candidate:

Mark Meckler, National Coordinator, Tea Party Patriots
Jenny Beth Martin, National Coordinator, Tea Party Patriots
Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH)
Rep. Mike Pence (R-IN)
Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX)
Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN)
Dick Morris, Conservative Commentator
Rep. Steve King (R-IA)
Colin Hanna, President, Let Freedom Ring
Andrew Langer, President, Institute for Liberty

Doesn’t get more out there than Bachmann, King and Gohmert.

And, Dick Morris? Wonder if he’ll be stopping by the Jefferson Hotel?

The rally is scheduled for Thursday at noon ET. Given that it’s a tea party event, there will undoubtedly be wall-to-wall coverage on all the cable networks.

Rupert Murdoch’s phone-hacking newspaper ‘lost email archives’

This would be the corporate equivalent of “my dog ate my homework.” How convenient.

The News of the World has revealed that its computers have retained an archive of potentially damning emails, which hitherto it had claimed had been lost.

The millions of emails, amounting to half a terabyte of data, could expose executives and reporters involved in hacking the voicemail of public figures, including former deputy prime minister John Prescott, actor Sienna Miller, and former culture secretary Tessa Jowell.

The archived data is likely to include email exchanges between the most senior executives, including former editor Andy Coulson, who resigned as David Cameron’s media adviser in January, as well as three former news editors – Ian Edmondson, Greg Miskiw, and Neville Thurlbeck – implicated in the affair by paperwork seized from Glenn Mulcaire, the private investigator who was on the News of the World’s books. Edmondson was sacked in January. Miskiw and Thurlbeck were interviewed by police last autumn. No charge has been brought against any of them. Coulson and the three former news editors have all denied all involvement in criminal activity.


Paul Krugman - New York Times Blog

March 29, 2011, 2:55 PM

Friedrich Hayek, Zombie

Brad DeLong directs us to a 1932 letter by Friedrich Hayek and othersarguing that (a) deficits somehow caused the Great Depression (b) deficit spending would drive up interest rates and make the Depression worse.

Truly, nothing ever changes. The insistence that big deficits somehow caused the crisis even thought they actually didn’t appear until after the crisis was well underway — and were clearly caused by the crisis, not the other way around — prefigures the debate in Europe, in which everyone declares that fiscal irresponsibility is the core issue even though both Ireland and Spain had low debt and budget surpluses on the eve of crisis.

And Hayek’s prediction that deficits would drive up interest rates despite high unemployment was, of course, totally wrong.

Here’s the picture for the United States. (Yay FRED!) Budget balance, in millions of dollars, red line, right scale; long-term interest rates, blue line, left scale:


You can see that the deficit came after the slump began, not before, and that much bigger deficits never did push rates up. You can also see the big mistake of 1937, when FDR gave in to the austerians of his era.

Still, you can make excuses for Hayek and friends: this was all new territory, and macroeconomics barely existed as a field.

What’s terrifying is the fact that, as Brad notes, the arguments of today’s pain caucus are exactly the same as those Hayek was making in 1932, except that they’re less well expressed. And they’re sticking with their doctrine even though the economic story — deficits mainly the result of the slump, not the cause, and interest rates not rising in the face of those slump-caused deficits — is playing out the same way:




EU working on plans to ban gas and diesel by 2050

It all sounds pretty interesting. Of course, at least one industry analyst sees oil running out in fifty years, so someone better find a solution quickly.

According to new reports, the European Union will announce plans to ban all fossil fuel-powered cars in Europe by 2050. The detailed plan will be outlined in the European Union’s Roadmap on Transport, which will come out on Monday. By 2030, the EU plans to have reduced fossil fuel traffic by half, particularly in urban areas.

The EU hopes to achieve its goal by ramping up focus on hybrid technology in the next couple decades to make a smooth transition to all-electric power by the middle of the century. A big part of the shift seems to be moving away from personal transportation and toward public conveyances wherever possible.


EPA measuring radiation in rainwater

It has been detected in a few states and not yet measured in others. As I say this, I’m looking out my own window at the rain falling. They say that it’s still safe, but it’s hardly a comforting thought. Either way, what the heck is anyone supposed to do? Forbes:

The Environmental Protection Agency yesterday reported finding elevated levels of iodine-131, a product of nuclear fission, in rainwater in Pennsylvania and Massachusetts. The levels exceed the maximum contaminant level (MCL) permitted in drinking water, but EPA continues to assure the public there is no need for alarm:

“It is important to note that the corresponding MCL for iodine-131 was calculated based on long-term chronic exposures over the course of a lifetime – 70 years. The levels seen in rainwater are expected to be relatively short in duration,” the agency states in a FAQ that accompanied yesterday’s brief news release.

“In both cases these are levels above the normal background levels historically reported in these areas.”

Core of Japanese nuke plant may have melted through containment vessel

Bad news. I’m not finding this reported by much other media, though not sure how to interpret that. From the Guardian:

The radioactive core in a reactor at the crippled Fukushima nuclear power plant appears to have melted through the bottom of its containment vessel and on to a concrete floor, experts say, raising fears of a major release of radiation at the site.

The warning follows an analysis by a leading US expert of radiation levels at the plant. Readings from reactor two at the site have been made public by the Japanese authorities and Tepco, the utility that operates it.

Richard Lahey, who was head of safety research for boiling-water reactors at General Electric when the company installed the units at Fukushima, told the Guardian workers at the site appeared to have “lost the race” to save the reactor, but said there was no danger of a Chernobyl-style catastrophe.

More from the German press:

Findings of plutonium traces outside Japan’s stricken Fukushima 1 nuclear power plant have reinforced the view that there has been a partial reactor meltdown, Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano said Tuesday.

And a brief mention this morning from Reuters here.

30% of US nuclear plants fail to report serious problems – sayonara safety

There is probably a lot more happening in this industry that we should know about, but don’t. WSJ:

Nearly 30% of U.S. nuclear-power plants fail to report equipment defects that could pose substantial safety risks, a flaw in federal oversight that could make it harder for regulators to spot troublesome trends across the industry, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s inspector general said Thursday.

The Office of Inspector General said nuclear-plant operators were confused about what they were required to report to regulators about manufacturing defects. One section of federal law, known as Part 21, requires them to report defective equipment that could cause a safety risk, while another section calls for them to report only defects that compromise safety.


This entry was posted in Background & Analysis, Corporations, Corruption, Events, Human Rights, Imperialism, Obama, Social Security, UltraRight. Bookmark the permalink.

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