In the Belly of the Beast: 4/6/11: Stiglitz: We have a government ‘Of the 1%, by the 1%, and for the 1%’

INDEX

The WikiLeaks News & Views Blog for Wednesday, Day 130

from The Nation Blogs: Media Fix by Greg Mitchell

Moshe Harbeltal at Harvard Law School


“POLITICS”

“Fascism is the open terrorist dictatorship of the most reactionary sector of monopoly capital”

Greg Mitchell | April 6, 2011


THE ECONOMY



ENVIRONEMENT


NUCLEAR POWER



Headlines for April 6, 2011

The WikiLeaks News & Views Blog for Wednesday, Day 130

from The Nation Blogs: Media Fix by Greg Mitchell

Moshe Harbeltal at Harvard Law School

I can’t believe that there was an uproar among the pro-Palestinian progressives at Harvard Law School regarding the decision to appoint Moshe Harbeltal at Harvard Law School–albeit in a visiting capacity.  The man is “credited” with writing the “ethics code” for the Israeli terrorist army.  Can you imagine the uproar if the writer of the “ethics code” of Saddam’s army was invited to teach at Harvard Law School?

Qur’an burning

I do believe that the media (East and West) contributed to the climate that led to the violent protests in Afghanistan (there are those in Afghanistan who don’t protest against foreign occupation but would violently protest and punish innocent for the act of one kook in Florida).  Arab media, in my opinion, gave way too much coverage of that kook and should have mentioned that he does not stand as a representative of a mainstream church, and Western media also gave it too much coverage because they crave any sensationalist story.  I mean, when KKK kooks feel like doing something outrageous they are ignored, as they should be.

Glenn Beck suggests Soros connected with Japan disaster, NZ earthquake, Ivory Coast civil war, Hamas, a union mtg, and the shooting of a poet’s son in Mexico

Actually, my title doesn’t do this justice. He’s claiming that all the issues are related to each other – they’re not “isolated incidents.”

The guy is nuts, or the biggest con man out there nowadays.  You have to wonder whether his apocalyptic meanderings are part of the reason Fox isn’t renewing his contract.  Did Fox worry that some nutjob, convinced the world was going to end, might eventually do something crazy?  Beck already has the inspiration of one violent nutjob, at least, under his belt, according to Media Matters.

Today Beck went off about the following eight stories, and claimed they’re all not “isolated incidents.”

1. Shooting of a son of a poet in Mexico.
2. A gathering of unions at the Peace Arch.
3. George Soros had a meeting about Breton Woods III.
4. Ivory Coast is having trouble.
5. Hamas is doing something (he didn’t explain what).
6. Something “important” happened in France that you need to know about (again, what?).
7. The crisis in Japan (post tsunami/earthquake/nuclear disaster).
8. Earthquake in NZ.

Here’s what he said after listing the above stories:

“This is a global time we live in.  If you look at all of these stories just as one isolated incident, you will of course say ‘it’s nuts.’  What are you making such a big deal out of it.  But if you learn to look at the world like this [points to crazy chalkboard with all the above incidents marked on it] what you will see coming is going to sweep the world here [points to Africa], then here [Europe], then here [North America].  And it’s gonna get faster and faster.”

Seriously messed up.


“POLITICS”

(Updated) What happens if there is a recount in Wisconsin?

UPDATE: The Journal Sentinel article linked below has been updated with recount information. To see the full description, click the link and search for the phrase “Here’s how the process would work”.

In the short version, county canvassing starts no later than this Thursday, and a recount could start as early as the following Tuesday. Once a recount starts, “Observers could challenge ballots, which would then be set aside for further review.”

Which leads to this, from Prosser campaign director Brian Nemoir (he also turns up here):

Nemoir said Wednesday that with a recount looming in the Supreme Court race between Prosser and challenger JoAnne Kloppenburg, the next step is to make sure “ballot integrity” is protected.

Nemoir said the campaign was beginning the process of checking with vote counters in each of the state’s 72 counties to make sure ballots are protected and not tampered with.

“Ballot integrity” — smells like ACORNs, doesn’t it. And Milwaukee. Get ready for a full dose of the ugly. Looks like it’s coming.
________

As I write, we’re still waiting for a result in the Wisconsin state Supreme Court race.

The closeness of the vote count means that a recount is at least likely, if not certain. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel has this to say on the subject, from a more general article on the ongoing vote count (my emphasis):

That close margin had political insiders from both sides talking about the possibility of a recount, which Wisconsin has avoided in statewide races in recent decades. Any recount could be followed by lawsuits – litigation that potentially would be decided by the high court. …

Either candidate can request a recount once the votes have been officially canvassed. If the margin between the candidates is less than 0.5% – as it is likely to be in this race – the state charges nothing to conduct the recount. If the margin is between 0.5% and 2%, the candidate asking for the recount must pay $5 per ward.

It looks, from the Republican side, that a recount is certain:

At the Seven Seas Restaurant in Hartland, Prosser told a handful of supporters at 1:40 a.m., “There is little doubt there is going to be a recount in this race.”

I was interested in the comment above about litigation. The phrase “decided by the high court” can only mean by the state Supreme Court, on which Prosser currently sits.

One of the most contentious issues for this court is recusal — when does a judge have to recuse himself? For example, the conservatives justices believe that a judge doesn’t have to recuse himself or herself from cases involving campaign contributors. Will Prosser recuse himself from deciding his own case? It’s likely, but not certain. Stay tuned.

Also, stay tuned for this, regarding Gov. Walker’s anti-union law:

Legal challenges to the new law – which would eliminate most collective bargaining for most public employees – are expected to reach the high court, but it’s not clear if the justices would take up the case before this race’s winner is scheduled to be sworn in Aug. 1.

One more way for Prosser to rule would be to put this case before the Court ahead of the election result, especially if Prosser’s not likely to be elected.

Never forget Republican Law RL-1: When you have the power, use it.


Spending in the Wisconsin Supreme Court race—Republicans win 4-to-3

Goal ThermometerIn the Journal Sentinel article I linked to earlier, was this tidbit about spending in the Kloppenberg–Prosser race:

The Brennan Center for Justice at the New York University Law School estimates interest groups spent more than $3.5 million on TV ads, breaking the $3.38 million record set in the 2008 Gableman-Butler contest, with four conservative groups backing Prosser spending a total of 37% more than one liberal group backing Kloppenburg.

That’s actually not a bad ratio, considering how deep are the pockets of big business. Looks like someone underspent. Think they’ll correct that next time?

(Speaking of spending, you can still help Recall the Republican 8. Just click the link on the right. Thanks.)

And this just in: JoAnne Kloppenberg has declared victory:

Supreme Court candidate JoAnne Kloppenburg declared victory Wednesday, based on results reported by the Associated Press.

The Associated Press shows Kloppenburg received 740,090 votes and incumbent David Prosser received 739,886 votes. The margin is 204 votes.

Congratulations, Wisconsin. So far, so good.

Obama’s base: Already inflamed, thanks

Washington Post article today reports on the current federal budget push-me-pull-you between Ds and Rs, and includes this:

At the same time, White House officials are reluctant to agree to proposals that would inflame Obama’s liberal base, especially during the same week that the president launched his reelection campaign with a direct appeal to core supporters who provided the energy for his 2008 bid.

Would inflame”? Meaning, might do so in the future?

Judging by the reaction to this post yesterday, I’d say Mr. Obama’s “core supporters” are feeling pretty inflamed already. Fired up, to be sure, though not in the way Mr. Obama is thinking.

And as long as you’re over at the WP, don’t miss this Harold Meyerson column. Money quote right at the top:

If it does nothing else, the budget that House Republicans unveiled Tuesday provides the first real Republican program for the 21st century, and it is this: Repeal the 20th century.

Thanks to the indispensable Greg Sargent for the heads-up on both articles. If you don’t check into Greg’s “Plum Line” blog, add it to your daily reading list.

Are you feeling fired up?

Since President Barack Obama officially launched his reelection campaign this week, niggling thoughts have filled my mind: How do I feel about this? Excited? Ready for the fight? Eager to help? Determined to donate? Convinced of the cause?

Last time around, I felt no doubt. For me, Mr. Obama’s first campaign was energized by the sense that his victory was a moral imperative. I gave time and money, talked it up, helped turn out the vote. For the first time in my life, I was voting FOR a presidential candidate, not just AGAINST his opponent. Candidate Obama talked about “change you can believe in,” and I believed.

And now? This time, I find myself having to make intellectual contortions to make the case. I think: What could the slogan be this time?

“Change you can believe in: As long as you don’t expect ME to get out front and make a forceful argument for it.”

“Change you can believe in: As long as the GOP and the Chamber of Commerce approve.”

“Change you can believe in: As long as it doesn’t really challenge the power of Wall Street or inconvenience the wealthy.”

Yeah, I know just writing this is going to earn me the flames of all you Democratic pragmatists out there. You’ll argue that Mr. Obama did what he could given the difficult circumstances. Silly me for thinking there is real value and power in idealism, or that failing to consistently and forcefully challenge the ideological framing set by one’s opponents is what making real change requires.

This time around, I’m falling back to my old way: “Can’t let Orange Johnny Boehner and Pickled Mitch McConnell have a partner in the White House. Guess I’ll vote for Obama.” It’s a valid way of assessing the situation and it provides some motivation, certainly, but it hardly fuels a fire in my belly.

How the Obama reelection campaign energizes its base is a question already on the table. The President said yesterday in a conference call with supporters, “I’m fired up. I don’t know about everyone else.”

This post is my answer. But it’s also an invitation to you: How are you feeling? Fired up?


CIVIL LIBERTIES TODAY
“Fascism is the open terrorist dictatorship of the most reactionary sector of monopoly capital”

New York Court to Hear Case Against Psychologist Accused of Torture in Guantánamo Interrogations

Play_gitmoThe Obama administration has announced that key suspects in the 9/11 attacks will be tried by military commissions at the U.S. military base at Guantánamo Bay—not in U.S. civilian court. There will, however, be one Guantánamo case tried in New York. Today the New York State Supreme Court will hear the case against Dr. John Leso, a psychologist accused of participating in torture during interrogation of detainees in Guantánamo. The case was brought on behalf of Dr. Steven Reisner, who is at the center of a growing group of medical professionals campaigning against the participation of psychologists in the U.S. government’s interrogation programs. [includes rush transcript]

Published on The Nation (http://www.thenation.com)

Dan Ellsberg and ‘Saving Private Manning’

Greg Mitchell | April 6, 2011

After many months in the shadows, Pvt. Bradley Manning, who sits in the brig at the Quantico base in Virginia in near-solitary confinement, has recently drawn some high-level defenders, from Hillary Clinton’s former chief spokesman at the State Department to editors at The New York Times and The Guardian.   But none of them stand by Manning for his alleged crimes – he’s accused of leaking a massive number of classified documents to WikiLeaks — but instead  protest the conditions of his harsh confinement.

One person, however, has spoken up for Manning for his actual (alleged) actions as a whistleblower ever since his arrest last May. That would be Daniel Ellsberg, the man who leaked The Pentagon Papers four decades ago. He was even arrested twice in two days last month as part of his pro-Manning activism.

I’ve known Ellsberg pretty well for almost thirty years (and he turns 80 tomorrow), so this doesn’t surprise me one bit.  But I’ll let Dan explain.  Here are a few excerpts from my new book [1], Bradley Manning: Truth and Consequences, charting Ellsberg’s  support for Manning during the past month or so.
*

When new charges against Bradley Manning were announced by the military on March 2, 2011, one that stuck out was the claim that he had passed classified information to “the enemy.”  The “aiding the enemy”  charge was terribly serious but “the enemy” was not identified. It might have been terrorists, insurgents, the leftwing media or Julian Assange. But this much was known: It could carry the ultimate penalty of execution. The military suggested that it would not seek the death penalty, but this would not stop a judge from overruling the Army.

Daniel Ellsberg said he was struck by the thought that Manning could be the first American to be executed for giving information to Americans since Nathan Hale. And he recalled that Nathan Hale said, ‘I regret that I have but one life to give,’ comparing him to Manning who in the chat logs with Adrian Lamo (the convicted hacker who turned him in) indicated he was prepared to go to jail for life or be executed.

And the logs, Ellsberg noted, indicate that Manning had no intention of aiding any enemy. Rather, he believed that he would be promoting discussion on issues that were being kept secret.

About ten days later, P.J. Crowley, the State Department spokesman, spoke out against how the military was mistreating Manning in the brig, and when that caused controversy, he quit under pressure. Asked at a press conference to comment, President Obama revealed that he had talked to Pentagon officials about this, and they assured him Manning was being treated like others and there was no reason for concern.

Ellsberg, never known for his speed-writing, managed to get a response up at The Guardian by the end of the afternoon. “President Obama tells us,” he observed, “that he’s asked the Pentagon whether the conditions of confinement of Bradley Manning, the soldier charged with leaking state secrets, ‘are appropriate and are meeting our basic standards. They assure me that they are.’

“If Obama believes that, he’ll believe anything. I would hope he would know better than to ask the perpetrators whether they’ve been behaving appropriately. I can just hear President Nixon saying to a press conference the same thing: ‘I was assured by the White House Plumbers that their burglary of the office of Daniel Ellsberg’s doctor in Los Angeles was appropriate and met basic standards.’

“But if President Obama really doesn’t yet know the actual conditions of Manning’s detention ….then he’s being lied to, and he needs to get a grip on his administration…. If he does know, and agrees that it’s appropriate or even legal, that doesn’t speak well for his memory of the courses he taught on constitutional law….

“The fact that Manning’s abusive mistreatment is going on at Quantico – where I spent nine months as a Marine officer in basic school – and that Marines are lying about it, makes me feel ashamed for the Corps. Just three years as an infantry officer was more than enough time for me to know that what is going on there is illegal behavior that must be stopped and disciplined.”

A few days later, , Ellsberg would appear on Democracy Now! “The conditions under which Manning is being held clearly violate the Eighth Amendment of the Constitution against cruel and unusual punishment—even for someone being punished, having been convicted,” he said. “This is something that is likely to drive a person mad, and may be the intent of what’s going on here.”

Then he made an important point often overlooked: “The WikiLeaks revelations that Manning is charged with having revealed, having to do with Iraq, show that in fact the U.S. military in which Manning was a part, turns over suspect to the Iraqis with the knowledge that they will be and are being tortured. Turning these suspects over, with that knowledge, is a clear violation of our own laws and of international law. It makes us as much culpable for the torture as if we were doing it ourselves.

“Moreover, the Wikileaks logs show, the order is given: ‘Do not investigate further.’ That’s an illegal order, which our president could change and should change and must change with one call.

“Reportedly, Manning was very strongly motivated, at one point, to try to change this situation, because he was involved in it actively, and knew that it was wrong. He found that it was not being investigated within the government and was not being dealt with at all. That’s a big difference between the Pentagon Papers and the Wikileaks logs. The former were higher level things which didn’t reveal field-level war crimes. The Wikileaks actually do.”

Then, on  March 19, Ellsberg was arrested with dozens of others outside the White House in a civil disobedience action in support of Bradley Manning, a prelude to pro-Manning rallies held in dozens of cities around the world the next day. Ellsberg would give a speech that day outside the Quantico base – and get arrested again, with nearly three dozens others.

Interviewed by CNN, Ellsberg said, recalling his own famous leak back in the early 1970s, “I was willing to go to prison. I never thought, for the rest of my life, I would ever hear anyone willing to do that, to risk their life, so that horrible, awful secrets could be known. Then I read those logs and learned Bradley was willing to go to prison. I can’t tell you how much that affected me.”

He added, again looking back forty years: “I was that young man — I was Bradley Manning.”

Mitchell also wrote “The Age of WikiLeaks. [2]”  His new book about Manning is available both in print [1] and as an e-book. [3]



THE ECONOMY

Stiglitz: We have a government ‘Of the 1%, by the 1%, and for the 1%’

That headline is the evaluation of Joseph Stiglitz, Nobel Prize winner and former Chief Economist of the World Bank. Not that this is news to many, but it’s good that men of Stiglitz’s reputation are making the point so publicly.

In a feature article in the May 2011 Vanity Fair, Stiglitz says baldly — We’re now a government by the very very rich. The point is stark, and Stiglitz has the data (and the magazine space) to back it up.

For reference, the income of the top 1% starts at $500,000 and rises to several billion. Here’s his opening (my emphasis throughout):

Americans have been watching protests against oppressive regimes that concentrate massive wealth in the hands of an elite few. Yet in our own democracy, 1 percent of the people take nearly a quarter of the nation’s income—an inequality even the wealthy will come to regret. … In terms of wealth rather than income, the top 1 percent control 40 percent. Their lot in life has improved considerably. Twenty-five years ago, the corresponding figures were 12 percent and 33 percent.

That time span starts mid-Reagan (the father of our woes) and ends in 2010. This translates as follows:

    Total income of the top 1% grew from 12% to 25%.
    Total wealth of the top 1% grew from 33% to 40%.

But doesn’t a rising tide “lift all boats”? Aren’t we all getting rich along with them? The answer would be No:

[The “rising tide”] response would be misguided. While the top 1 percent have seen their incomes rise 18 percent over the past decade, those in the middle have actually seen their incomes fall. For men with only high-school degrees, the decline has been precipitous—12 percent in the last quarter-century alone. All the growth in recent decades—and more—has gone to those at the top. In terms of income equality, America lags behind any country in the old, ossified Europe that President George W. Bush used to deride. Among our closest counterparts are Russia with its oligarchs and Iran.

The article is terrific for the data; you can read it for that alone. But I’m interested in the consequences. I’ve been asking myself for months: Do the rich really need the rest of us? Do they think they still need us? And if not — if the very wealthy continue this process of wealth concentration — what’s the outcome?

For Stiglitz, there are several outcomes. One is that, once the process reaches “critical mass” (my term), it continues almost on its own:

[W]e’re doing inequality on a world-class level. And it looks as if we’ll be building on this achievement for years to come, because what made it possible is self-reinforcing. Wealth begets power, which begets more wealth. During the savings-and-loan scandal of the 1980s—a scandal whose dimensions, by today’s standards, seem almost quaint—the banker Charles Keating was asked by a congressional committee whether the $1.5 million he had spread among a few key elected officials could actually buy influence. “I certainly hope so,” he replied.

And he notes this stark reality:

Virtually all U.S. senators, and most of the representatives in the House, are members of the top 1 percent when they arrive, are kept in office by money from the top 1 percent, and know that if they serve the top 1 percent well they will be rewarded by the top 1 percent when they leave office. … [Thus when] pharmaceutical companies receive a trillion-dollar gift—through legislation prohibiting the government, the largest buyer of drugs, from bargaining over price—it should not come as cause for wonder. It should not make jaws drop that a tax bill cannot emerge from Congress unless big tax cuts are put in place for the wealthy. Given the power of the top 1 percent, this is the way you would expect the system to work.

His conclusion sounds a warning bell, the Cairo-to-Wisconsin connection:

In recent weeks we have watched people taking to the streets by the millions to protest political, economic, and social conditions in the oppressive societies they inhabit. Governments have been toppled in Egypt and Tunisia. Protests have erupted in Libya, Yemen, and Bahrain. The ruling families elsewhere in the region look on nervously from their air-conditioned penthouses—will they be next? … [T]here is one thing that money doesn’t seem to have bought: an understanding that their fate is bound up with how the other 99 percent live.

On the last point, I think I disagree. Is their fate bound up with ours? I’m not sure.

I wonder if the super-rich haven’t decided that they really can do without the rest of us, without middle-class America. After all, isn’t that what villas in France are for? They’re certainly doing everything in their power, via their eager operatives in both parties, to turn back the clock to the age of the robber barons, regardless of consequences.

Perhaps one of the following is true: Either they really don’t need us any more (as we go offline as consumers, billions of Asians take our fading places). Or they simply think they don’t need us.

Either way, it spells trouble for the new America, a world I once said could easily become “a faltering second-world economy with a useful first-world military.” That’s a dangerous combination for us left-behinds to deal with.

Jamie Dimon of JPMorgan Chase is at it again

This guy really needs to shut up and focus on running his bank. The real stifling of economic growth came from the banks playing like Vegas gamblers. If they could have controlled themselves with self-regulation as they promised, we wouldn’t have millions more unemployed and an economy in tatters. Regulations are not the problem. Selfish and irresponsible people like Dimon are the problem. Funny how he and the rest of that industry didn’t mind accepting government handouts when it kept them afloat but now they’re against government intervention. Any time the bankers want the Fed to stop feeding them free money, just say the word.

New international bank capital standards are excessive and may impede economic growth, JPMorgan Chase Chief Executive Jamie Dimon warned on Tuesday.

“It will stifle economic growth and I already believe it is,” said Dimon, who was speaking at the annual spring meeting of the Council of Institutional Investors.

The new Basel III rules being phased in over several years from 2013 will roughly triple to 7 percent the minimum core capital a bank must hold to withstand shocks and spare taxpayers from footing the bill in the next financial crisis.



ENVIRONEMENT

Green Energy in 20-40 Years?

from Informed Comment by Juan

All the power the world needs could be provided by alternative energy sources within 20-40 years if the political will could be found, according to Stanford researchers. Note that they do not include nuclear energy in their calculations.

Part of their technique is to include ‘externalities’ of hydrocarbon fuels in their cost estimates, such as health costs of pollution.

wind turbines

Wholesale Solar Energy Costs Rivalling Coal

from Informed Comment by Juan

Bloomberg reports that wholesale solar energy costs are falling 8% a year and may already rival coal in sunny climes like the Middle East and Japan. They’re expected to be halved in the next decade.

Bloomberg writes, “Installation of solar PV systems will almost double to 32.6 gigawatts by 2013 from 18.6 gigawatts last year, New Energy Finance estimates.”

The Fukushima Nuclear Plant produced 4.7 gigawatts. However, it produced them at an extremely high cost if you factor in what it has done to the Japanese economy this year. India just stopped imports of Japanese fish, which is an extreme reaction but likely to be all too typical.

Japan has already made important advances in solar research and likely there will be new government and private sector funding for solar R & D in that country– which will help us all.




NUCLEAR POWER
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