In the Belly of the Beast: 6/8/11: Barack Obama worst president for whistleblowers, says film-maker

INDEX (full text of stories follow Democracy Now headlines)

 The WikiLeaks News & Views Blog for Friday, June 10

 from The Nation Blogs: Media Fix by Greg Mitchell


“POLITICS”

Salon: Tim Geithner’s plan to lose the 2012 election

Former PM of Iceland charged over banking scandal



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

Who Are The Rentiers?

from Paul Krugman by By PAUL KRUGMAN
      
THE ULTRA-RIGHT


      
ENVIRONMENT





NUCLEAR POWER

      

“POLITICS”

Ellsberg: All Nixon’s Crimes Against me now Legal

 from Informed Comment by Juan
1 person liked this
 Daniel Ellsberg (Website here) interviewed on CNN’s “In the Arena”:

 
Courtesy Martin Torsleff

[CNN:]These days, when you find yourself thinking about Richard Nixon, what comes to mind?

[Ellsberg]: “Richard Nixon, if he were alive today, might take bittersweet satisfaction to know that he was not the last smart president to prolong unjustifiably a senseless, unwinnable war, at great cost in human life. (And his aide Henry Kissinger was not the last American official to win an undeserved Nobel Peace Prize.)

He would probably also feel vindicated (and envious) that ALL the crimes he committed against me–which forced his resignation facing impeachment–are now legal.

That includes burglarizing my former psychoanalyst’s office (for material to blackmail me into silence), warrantless wiretapping, using the CIA against an American citizen in the US, and authorizing a White House hit squad to “incapacitate me totally” (on the steps of the Capitol on May 3, 1971). All the above were to prevent me from exposing guilty secrets of his own administration that went beyond the Pentagon Papers. But under George W. Bush and Barack Obama,with the PATRIOT Act, the FISA Amendment Act, and (for the hit squad) President Obama’s executive orders. they have all become legal.

There is no further need for present or future presidents to commit obstructions of justice (like Nixon’s bribes to potential witnesses) to conceal such acts. Under the new laws, Nixon would have stayed in office, and the Vietnam War would have continued at least several more years.

Likewise, where Nixon was the first president in history to use the 54-year-old Espionage Act to indict an American (me) for unauthorized disclosures to the American people (it had previously been used, as intended, exclusively against spies), he would be impressed to see that President Obama has now brought five such indictments against leaks, almost twice as many as all previous presidents put together (three).

He could only admire Obama’s boldness in using the same Espionage Act provisions used against me–almost surely unconstitutional used against disclosures to the American press and public in my day, less surely under the current Supreme Court–to indict Thomas Drake, a classic whistleblower who exposed illegality and waste in the NSA.

Drake’s trial begins on June 13, the 40th anniversary of the publication of the Pentagon Papers. If Nixon were alive, he might well choose to attend. ”

For more on Drake see this posting.

 

Did you know that God isn’t even mentioned in the US Constitution?

 from AMERICAblog: A great nation deserves the truth by John Aravosis (DC)
 I never knew that.  Just realized it this morning.  So much for original intent.  Read it for yourself.  Time forn a constitutional amendment that simply reads: GOD.  Where’s Rick Santorum when you need him?
(PS Apparently the far right likes to claim that “yes, God IS mentioned” because the date is described as “Seventeenth Day of September in the Year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and Eighty seven.” Uh huh. Except that that is how you said the date back then, it wasn’t a conscious decision to invoke God in the Constitution.)

 

Arianna: Obama not doing enough for jobs

 from AMERICAblog: A great nation deserves the truth by John Aravosis (DC)

Reacting to the latest round of depressing jobs numbers, the president said that it is just like “if you got hit by a truck, it’s going to take a while for you to mend.” Being hit by a truck is not a bad metaphor — but he left something out. If you get hit by a truck, you are taken to a hospital for major interventions. When you are wheeled through the emergency room doors on a gurney, people react; they move purposefully and quickly; machines are brought out; desperate measures are taken. But that’s not at all what happened with the economy. Instead, the economy got hit by a truck, was wheeled into the ER, and those in charge largely left the patient to heal on his own while they went into a back room to talk about the long-term building plan for the hospital. You know what might help speed along the mending? Surgery.

The chorus is building. Criticism of the President, for not doing enough to address then nation’s lackluster economy, is growing – and it’s coming from the left. This is going to be an issue. It’s only a question of when it hits critical mass. And whether it hits critical mass in time to be turned around before it potentially dooms Obama in the 2012 elections.

That’s another theme you may start hearing more about soon. Joe and I are both convinced that the certitude of re-election is not as rosy as it seems, and the blame goes to the economy. We had a bad feeling a year before the 2010 election, in which we lost the House. And we’re starting to get another bad feeling about next year.  The President needs to, uncharacteristically, start focusing on an issue early rather than late.  More from Arianna:

As our Business Editor Peter Goodman puts it, the conditions underlying these numbers are “already familiar beyond the realm of professional economists and policymakers.” This is what most Americans, Goodman writes, “know in their bones, not from government reports and the abstract musings of economists, but from the everyday fears that accompany glancing at their checkbooks and their latest credit card bills: There is no relief in sight. No one in a position to influence this depressing picture is expending real energy to improve it, and least of all inside the White House, where leadership is imperative.”

Instead, the White House embraced the GOP message that the deficit is a bigger problem than jobs, kneecapping its ability to push for additional ways of stimulating the economy. And now the president and his team wanly claim there’s not much they can do. But what they don’t mention is how complicit they were in creating the conditions that have left them with not much to do. They gave away all the ammo and now plead helplessness because of… a lack of ammo.

The conventional wisdom is that “there is no appetite in Congress” for additional stimulus measures. But, in fact, members of Congress have an appetite for whatever their constituents have an appetite for.

It’s an excellent piece by Arianna. Much longer than the excerpt above. And it contains some interesting tidbits from other former administration officials. Read it.    

Salon: Tim Geithner’s plan to lose the 2012 election

 from AMERICAblog: A great nation deserves the truth by John Aravosis (DC)
 Well that was quick. I’d just written this morning that Joe and I were perhaps alone in beginning to worry about Obama’s chances in 2012. Next thing you know, Salon’s Andrew Leonard is worrying about the same thing.

[A]side from what should be the over-riding government responsibility to deal as forthrightly as possible with massive unemployment and economic hardship, there’s also a realpolitik issue that Geithner seems to be missing. Voters care more about how the economy is faring when they head to the ballot-box then they do about the state of the deficit. And as is already clear from the initial campaign salvos from credible Republican presidential candidates such as Mitt Romney and Tim Pawlenty, the 2012 election is going to be a referendum on the economy.

By ruling out any further stimulus — and, even worse, by abandoning efforts to keep the economy growing far too early — Geithner has helped to make Obama and the Democrats extremely vulnerable in 2012. If Republicans take the White House and the Senate in 2012, then it really won’t matter whether Geithner’s deficit pivot could have preserved “the capacity to do a whole range of things that are really important.” Healthcare reform will be dead. Banking reform will be dead. Medicare and Medicaid will face a deeply uncertain future.

[T]he electoral problem for Obama may not hinge on whether or not the president has the actual power to make manifest his will on job creation, but rather on whether he is perceived to be trying.Is he giving it his best shot? Is he making it clear to the general public what constraints have been placed on him by the opposition party and external events?


The answers are no, and no. And judging by Goldfarb’s Geithner profile, the White House is fine with that. It’s going to be a tough platform to run on, if the economy continues to slump as the campaign heats up.

That’s been our number one complaint about the President from the beginning. He doesn’t even try. Namely because, post election, he has it in his head that if the numbers are against you at the git-go, you’ll never change them for the better. Had candidate Obama believed that – that it is impossible to ever woo the public to your side if they’re not there already – he would have quit the race at the beginning, and Hillary would be President.

Where is candidate Obama, the guy who tried (though even during the campaign it was clear that not trying, notfighting, was already a problem)? We miss him. And we may be missing him a lot more come January of 2013 if he keeps this up.

Geithner is driving the economic agenda, which means Obama reelection strategy, too

Today, the Washington Post has a profile on Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner. Apparently, according to the conventional wisdom in DC (such as it is), Geithner is now the guy setting our economic agenda. He’s got Obama’s ear. Since the reelection is tied to the economy, Geithner is determining the reelection strategy:

Geithner has not only survived but quietly gained influence, which he has used to press President Obama to curb the nation’s soaring debt even at the expense of spending that might more directly spur employment.

His success at driving the agenda signals his status as the president’s closest economic counselor. With the departure this summer of Austan Goolsbee as chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers, Geithner will be the last remaining member of the president’s original economic team and, with Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke, one of the two remaining architects of the great banking bailout that began in 2008, even before Obama’s election.

Geithner, who was once a registered Republican and then an independent, has a faith in the marketplace that puts him at odds with many of Obama’s traditional Democratic allies, whose skepticism about markets seemed vindicated by the financial crisis. His debut on Obama’s team was also shaky. He faced questions about whether he had properly paid all his taxes, and his initial public defense of the administration’s plan for rescuing the financial industry was uninspired, prompting anxiety in the markets.

But over the past year, he has fared better, especially at pushing his viewpoint in internal White House debates. While forces outside the White House — in particular, Republican lawmakers — have helped turn Washington’s attention to the nation’s debt, Geithner’s efforts inside the White House have shaped how Obama confronts this defining moment. At stake in the months ahead are the size of government, the generosity of the nation’s safety net, the taxes people will pay and the debt that will weigh on future generations.

The policies molded by Geithner — and the balance they strike between slashing the deficit and supporting the economic recovery — could also ultimately determine whether Obama will win a second term.

Yep, move over Jim Messina. Geithner is running the reelection. I’ve never been overly impressed with the White House political operatives (yes, they got him elected against great odds when no one thought he would win. Heard it. That still seems to be their singular accomplishment.) I’m pretty sure Geithner does not understand electoral politics. And, he doesn’t seem to know — or care — that his policies could cause serious political problems for the President. He’s much more in tune with what Wall Street wants than anything related to the needs of voters — like jobs. And, the Democratic base values the nation’s safety net.

This article has quotes from Obama’s Chief of Staff William Daley. It was written with input from the highest levels at the White House. They want us to know of Geithner’s status. It doesn’t provide much comfort to those of us who are hoping the President will focus on job creation. He’s playing on the GOP’s turf of debt reduction. But, it’s Geithner’s turf, too.

If this nation doesn’t start creating jobs, Obama and Geithner run the risk of losing theirs. And, as the latest Washington Post/ABC News poll showed us yesterday, the numbers on the economy are really ugly:

By 2 to 1, Americans say the country is pretty seriously on the wrong track, and nine in 10 continue to rate the economy in negative terms. Nearly six in 10 say the economy has not started to recover, regardless of what official statistics may say, and most of those who say it has improved rate the recovery as weak.

The Republicans destroyed the economy. They weren’t held accountable and are not getting the blame. It’s Obama and Geithner’s economy. And, what happens with their economy is going to have a huge impact on the 2012 election.

Krugman: “Rule by Rentiers”

In economics, “rentiers” are people who get their money from, in effect, renting out something they own, as opposed to those who make things to sell. Some take a dim view of economies and states where rentier capitalism dominates:

The beneficiaries of [rentier] income are a property-owning social class who, it is argued, play no productive role in the economy themselves but who monopolise the access to physical assets, financial assets and technologies. They make money not from producing anything new themselves, but purely from their ownership of property (which provides a claim to a revenue stream) and dealing in that property.

Often the term rentier capitalism is used with the connotation that it is a form of parasitism[.]

You don’t have to moralize to see the point. Rentiers make money by charging a toll for access to some form of property they control.

This bring us to the point that Paul Krugman has been making for a while — that the jobs vs. debt-repayment debate is really a discussion between two social classes, creditor and debtors.

Krugman makes the point again in his column this morning (my emphasis throughout):

What lies behind this trans-Atlantic policy paralysis? I’m increasingly convinced that it’s a response to interest-group pressure. Consciously or not, policy makers are catering almost exclusively to the interests of rentiers — those who derive lots of income from assets, who lent large sums of money in the past, often unwisely, but are now being protected from loss at everyone else’s expense.

And he points the finger directly at the big-time bondholders:

Who are these creditors I’m talking about? Not hard-working, thrifty small business owners and workers, although it serves the interests of the big players to pretend that it’s all about protecting little guys who play by the rules. The reality is that both small businesses and workers are hurt far more by the weak economy than they would be by, say, modest inflation that helps promote recovery.

No, the only real beneficiaries of Pain Caucus policies (aside from the Chinese government) are therentiers: bankers and wealthy individuals with lots of bonds in their portfolios.

And now it comes clear. Remember, bonds are an asset with a price that fluctuates. Bonds are expensive when interest rates are low, and cheaper when interest rates are high. (If this confuses you, just trust it. This is like the law of gravity; hard-coded and built in. Interest rates and bond prices are two sides of a teeter-totter, literally.)

Remember 2008, when almost all of the Global Pool of Money went into U.S. Treasuries, as a flight to safety? Those people bought at the top of the market, when Treasury bond prices were peaking and demand was through the roof. No wonder they fear-fear-fear inflation and will fight desperately against anything that looks sideways at increasing interest rates.

It’s not just that they want the revenue stream to continue until all debts (bonds) are paid. They also don’t want the capital losses that will occur if bond prices fall. And capital losses are a greater near-term threat than bond defaults right now.

What do bondholders fear this minute? They think, wrongly in my opinion, that if the Fed increases the supply of bonds (by borrowing more to finance increased debt), the new supply of Treasuries will drive down the price of Treasuries they already own.

As I said, it won’t happen:

[H]ow could you have a clearer test of liquidity preference versus loanable funds than having the US government borrow almost $3 trillion with zero, absolutely no, effect on interest rates?

But modern rentiers (bondholders) won’t even let us take that chance. Thus economic stimulus, unemployment relief, and mortgage assistance are off the table.

It’s people vs. property one more time; isn’t that always the way? Welcome to the next downturn, just in time for 2012.

Kuttner: Debt politics pits the claims of the past against the productive potential of the future

 This seems to be a theme day at Casa GP, more about the economy than one meal should contain.
At least it keeps our minds off that flashlight of truth pointed at Anthony Weiner and his focus on the serial corrections of the deeply conflicted Justice Clarence Thomas.

Robert Kuttner has a terrific piece in The American Prospect, a one-page column that’s both a fast read andwonderfully enlightening (pdf).

The gist is this: One way to think about the current problem, with its monster overhang of consumer debt smothering consumer demand, is to decide who the political system is going to protect, creditors or debtors.

    • Protecting creditors protects the past. It attempts to resolve all past debts (with full repayment) before the economy can be allowed to move forward. In other words, everyone waits until creditors are made whole.
  • Protecting debtors (with bankruptcy, so their debts can be cleared) hastens the day when they can start being productive again and contribute to the health of the economy.

It’s possible to do both to some degree, but you can’t do all of the first without doing none of the second.

And creditors (rentiers, in Krugman’s phrase) are in charge. Here’s just a taste of Kuttner (my emphasis):

Economic history is filled with bouts of financial euphoria followed by painful mornings after. When nations awake saddled with debts incurred to finance wars, episodes of failed speculation, or grand projects that haven’t paid off, they have two choices. Either the creditor class prevails at the expense of everyone else, or governments find ways to reduce the debt burden so that the productive power of the economy can recover.

This is class war, but with a difference:

The creditor class views anything less than full debt repayment as the collapse of economic civilization. In fact, however, debts are often not paid in full. In the 20th century, speculators lost fortunes as dozens of nations defaulted on debts. Several 19th-century U.S. states and municipalities defaulted. Losers in wars and revolutions seldom pay debts. (Those czarist bonds have no value except on eBay.) The Brady Plan of the late 1980s paid bondholders of defaulting Third World debtors at about 70 cents on the dollar so that economic growth could resume.

Sometimes, debts simply cannot be paid. That’s why debtors’ prison was a ruinous idea (except as a deterrent). The real issue is how to restructure debt when it becomes impossible to repay. This is not just a struggle between haves and have-nots but between the claims of the past and the potential of the future.

It’s a really smart article, and as I said, a fast read. He contrasts the treatment of debt after WWI with the treatment of debt following WWII. Big difference, both in action and results. The quality of mercy indeed blesseth him that gives and him that takes. The post-Versailles French, wanting full reparations, bought dearly what they took.

The lesson could not be more current:

The banker-afflicted European Union is punishing Greece rather than finding a way to let it grow. In the United States, relief is denied to underwater homeowners because debt contracts are sacred, even as the policy prolongs the agony. Everywhere, budget austerity is advertised as the road to growth— though it denies the economy its productive potential.

We’re headed toward the post-WWI Versailles solution. By the pricking of my thumbs…

Greg Sargent: “Maybe it’s time for that pivot to jobs?”

 In light of the latest polling, which John wrote about below, Greg Sargent at the Plum Line has a suggestion — and I couldn’t agree more. Actually, the pivot to jobs should have happened a long time ago. But, the President needs to let the American people know he’s on their side:

Maybe it’s time for that pivot to jobs? The finding in today’s big Post poll that doesn’t matter at all: That Mitt Romney is roughly tied with Obama. It’s far too early for such head-to-head matchups to have any meaning, particularly since we don’t even know who the GOP nominee will be and the eventual nominee may find his or her standing and/or image dramatically impacted by a long and difficult GOP primary.

The findings that do matter, a lot: About six in ten disapprove of Obama on the economy and the deficit, with nearly half strongly disapproving of his performance in those areas. Forty five percent trust Congressional Republicans more than the president on the economy, up 11 points since March, versus 42 percent who trust the President.

Key takeaway: All the nonstop talk about the deficit is doing nothing to buoy Obama on the issue that matters most to voters. Indeed, the fact that all the chatter about the deficit isn’t allaying people’s anxiety about the deficit either may support the view — argued convincingly in many places — that deficit worries mainly reflect anxiety about the economy. Did somebody say we were trapped in a “Beltway Deficit Feedback Loop”?

One assumes that the Obama reelection team expects him to get a lift if and when the President is seen presiding over a deficit deal with Republicans. This will neutralize Dem overspending as a political issue, the thinking goes, at which point Obama can turn to jobs. But it’s not clear what Dems can do in policy terms on that front, since they seem to have concluded — perhaps rightly — that more spending to jump-start the economy is too tough a sell with the public.

I’m worried that the “turn to jobs might come too late.” Republicans aren’t worried about the economy. They destroyed it in 2007-8, yet reclaimed the House in 2010. They’re willing to let Americans suffer if it means regaining the White House. Plus, their Wall Street benefactors are doing quite well these days.

Obama and his team have played into the hands of the GOP and are caught in what Greg calls the “Beltway Deficit Feedback Loop.” It’s a great place for the GOPers to be, but not for Obama.

Notice how the Republicans are so willing to blame Obama for the current state of the economy — even though they caused the Great Recession. Yet, Obama never held Bush and the GOPers accountable for creating the mess. Apparently, that was too political and unseemly.

60% see wars as large part of deficit problem

 It’s the wars, stupid. Too bad nobody in Washington has the courage to end the war machine. End the damned wars and build a new stimulus to get the country working again for everyone and not just the defense contractors.

Far more Americans say that the cost of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan has contributed a great deal to the nation’s debt than say that about increased domestic spending or the tax cuts enacted over the past decade.

Six-in-ten (60%) say the cost of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan has contributed a great deal to the size of the debt. About four-in-ten (42%) say the same about the condition of the national economy.

By comparison, just 24% say increased spending on domestic problems has contributed greatly to the nation’s debt and even fewer (19%) cite the tax cuts enacted over the past decade. While half or more say spending and the tax cuts contributed at least a fair amount to the debt, 31% say increased domestic spending did little or nothing to increase the debt and 38% say the same about the tax cuts.

 Meet Obama’s new Solicitor General

 You know how the apologist crowd keeps saying “vote for the Democrats because the GOP is worse?” If only that was reality. Besides flooding the team with Wall Street revolving door types and failing to address the key issues that led to the current recession, they keep hiring jerks like this. Can you honestly say this doesn’t look like the kind of person Bush would have hired? Or any other Republican president? Now more than ever I wish there was another choice because our party sucks. It’s hard to imagine any scenario where I could vote for more of this.
Change we can believe in?

Verrilli, one of at least five former RIAA attorneys appointed to the administration, is best known for leading the recording industry’s legal charge against music- and movie-sharing site Grokster. That 2003 case ultimately led to Grokster’s demise, when the U.S. Supreme Court sided with a lower court’s pro-RIAA verdict. Grokster produced a legal foundation which the RIAA used against file sharing service LimeWire, which shuttered last year and agreed to pay the labels $115 million to settle a lawsuit.

Good luck with the continuing campaign to win over Republicans. Sounds like a winner.

White House disses Senate Dems’ jobs bill because it’s not small enough

 from AMERICAblog: A great nation deserves the truth by John Aravosis (DC)
1 person liked this
 You are quite possibly witnessing the beginning of the end of the Obama presidency.
It’s not a guarantee that the President will lose next year, and few people are even suggesting the possibility (though Carville recently did).  But just wait.  Sometime soon, more and more people will be talking about whether the economy is going to doom Barack Obama’s re-election in 2012.  And today is the first clear-cut sign of trouble – trouble of the President’s own making.

The White House today publicly undercut the Senate Democratic effort to pass jobs legislation to address the unemployment crisis in our country – mind you, unemployment just rose to 9.1% last month, and the public is none too happy about it.  So what is the White House’s concern about the Senate Dems’ jobs legislation?  It’s thinking too big.

Yes, too big.

Lots of folks have been complaining for a while that the White House had no message on jobs.  Well, now they do: “Think small.”

From The Hill:

The Obama administration on Tuesday night might have thrown a wrench into Senate Democratic plans to pass what they see as a jobs bill — by implying the bill spends too much money.

In a Statement of Administration Policy, the White House said it supports the broad goals of the bill.

“However, the bill would authorize spending levels higher than those requested by the president’s Budget, and the administration believes that the need for smart investments that help America win the future must be balanced with the need to control spending and reduce the deficit,” the administration said.

Let’s repeat that last line:

[T]he need for smart investments that help America win the future must be balanced with the need to control spending and reduce the deficit

Who says? Other than conservative Republicans, who says cutting the deficit is more important, or even just as important, as creating jobs?  (Answer: Tim Geithner.)  I can’t think of a single American who, come November of 2012, is going to say “cutting the deficit was more important than finding me a job.”

The President needs to get out of his Washington, DC bubble.  Things are bad out there.  Even those of us who have a job, who still have an income, are earning 1/3 of what we did before the crisis.  I dont’t give a damn about the deficit in the near-term, I want our economy back.  I want to stop worrying about whether some day in the future I won’t be able to pay my mortgage.  Things are far rosier in Washington, DC – our realty market is actually hot again – than they are in the rest of the country.  Maybe our policymakers and their staffs should spend some time back home and see how real people are coping.  Things are not well.

Thinking small about the economy is what George H.W. Bush did, right before he lost re-election.  I’ll leave you with a quote from Wikipedia that sums things up nicely:

“It’s the economy, stupid” was a phrase in American politics widely used during Bill Clinton’s successful 1992 presidential campaign against George H. W. Bush. For a time, Bush was considered unbeatable because of foreign policy developments such as the end of the Cold War and the Persian Gulf War. The phrase, made popular by Clinton campaign strategist James Carville, refers to the notion that Clinton was a better choice because Bush had not adequately addressed the economy, which had recently undergone a recession.

You’re always invincible, until you’re not.

Former PM of Iceland charged over banking scandal

 We can’t even get anyone in office charged over a war that was based on lies and is bankrupting the country. Maybe Iceland can teach us a few things about fighting corruption and democracy. Then maybe we can also go after the political class who ushered in the banking crisis. It must be nice to see some accountability.

Geir Haarde was charged with failing to prevent the banking crisis and failing in his prime ministerial duty to manage the fallout. He could face two years in jail if found guilty.

Haarde, 60, who stood down as prime minister in early 2009, said the charges were “political persecution”, calling for the case to be thrown out.

“I declare myself innocent of all charges and will do my utmost to prove my innocence,” he told the court in Reykjavikon Tuesday.

Al Qaeda spokesman tells terrorists to use NRA-favored gun show loophole to kill Americans

 from AMERICAblog: A great nation deserves the truth by John Aravosis (DC)
 Kind of embarrassing being on the same side as Al Qaeda. Via ThinkProgress, we hear from American-born al-Qaeda spokesmen Adam Yahiye Gadahn. He recommends would-be terrorists get weapons to attack Americans via the so-called gunshow loophole:

America is absolutely awash with easily obtainable firearms. You can go down to a gun show at the local convention center and come away with a fully automatic assault rifle, without a background check, and most likely without having to show an identification card. So what are you waiting for?

More from TP:

So it seems like it might be a pretty responsible and relevant idea to force individuals to go through a background check at gun shows and to prevent those on the terrorist watch list from purchasing firearms.

However, there are powerful people in this country that don’t want that to happen. The National Rifle Association is opposed to eliminating the gun show loophole. And, referring to the terror gap, an NRA spokesperson said recently that “it’s wrong to arbitrarily deny a law-abiding person a constitutional right.”


McKinsey now stonewalling on details of health care “study”

 from AMERICAblog: A great nation deserves the truth by John Aravosis (DC)
 McKinsey was happy to tout the study when they thought it would hurt health care reform, but now that people are asking question, suddenly McKinsey is shutting up. As Krugman, Sargent and Beutler note, that’s not a good sign.

Dale Maharidge’s Chronicles of Widely Ignored U.S. Working Poor Inspire Music of Bruce Springsteen

Maharidge_buttonDale Maharidge, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and author, inspired Bruce Springsteen to write the songs “Youngstown” and “The New Timer” with his first book, “Journey to Nowhere: The Saga of the New Underclass.” Maharidge’s most recent book, “Someplace Like America: Tales from the New Great Depression,” is a reported retrospective on his 30 years of covering the working poor and chronically unemployed. He and photographer Michael Williamson traveled more than half a million miles around the United States, reporting the story of how workers’ lives have gotten steadily worse. We speak to Maharidge about his work and how it came to inspire some of Springsteen’s most notable socially conscious songs. [includes rush transcript]

 

Iceland crowdsourcing on new constitution

In creating the new document, the council has been posting draft clauses on its website every week since the project launched in April. The public can comment underneath or join a discussion on the council’s Facebook page.

The council also has a Twitter account, a YouTube page where interviews with its members are regularly posted, and a Flickr account containing pictures of the 25 members at work, all intended to maximise interaction with citizens.

Meetings of the council are open to the public and streamed live on to the website and Facebook page. The latter has more than 1,300 likes in a country of 320,000 people.

 

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

SPLC: Obama administration gutted DHS office tracking non-Islamic domestic terror, following GOP criticism

 from AMERICAblog: A great nation deserves the truth by John Aravosis (DC)

The Southern Poverty Law Center this week urged the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to reassess the resources it devotes to investigating non-Islamic domestic extremism. The request came as the SPLC published an interview with a former top DHS analyst who charged that the department effectively dismantled the unit he once headed following the political right’s unjustified criticism of a 2009 report on right-wing terrorism.

“The department’s work should never be compromised by misguided criticism from any quarter,” SPLC President Richard Cohen wrote in a letter sent this week to DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano.

Johnson, who was interviewed for the upcoming summer issue of the SPLC’s Intelligence Report, said that following the controversy, the DHS dismantled the intelligence team that studied the threat from right-wing extremists and that the department no longer produces its own analytical reports on that subject. When the 2009 report was written, there were six analysts in the unit, including Johnson. Today, he said, there is one.

“DHS stopped all of our work and instituted restrictive policies,” said Johnson, who has since left the department. “Eventually, they ended up gutting my unit. All of this happened within six to nine months after the furor over the report. Since our report was leaked, DHS has not released a single report of its own on this topic. Not anything dealing with non-Islamic domestic extremism – whether it’s anti-abortion extremists, white supremacists, ‘sovereign citizens,’ eco-terrorists, the whole gamut.”

Even white supremacists?  Disturbing. And it fits an administration pattern of not fighting back against GOP attacks, but rather, acceding to them.  This is why Joe, Chris, Gaius and I are so insistent on pointing out when the Obama administration caves on an issue, and why we just won’t let it go.  Whether it’s on the stimulus, on health care reform, the Bush tax cuts or domestic terrorism, a pattern has developed, and it’s a good indicator of future action. And it needs to stop.

Here’s what we wrote at the time about that domestic terror report.

Barack Obama worst president for whistleblowers, says film-maker

Judith Ehrlich, who made film on Pentagon Papers’ Daniel Ellsberg, criticises indictment of Bradley Manning over WikiLeaks

Barack Obama

Documentary-maker Judith Ehrlich has attacked Barack Obama’s record on whistleblowers. Photograph: Larry Downing/Reuters

Barack Obama has the worst record of any US president when it comes to dealing with whistleblowers, according to the Oscar-nominated director of a documentary about the man who leaked the Pentagon Papers in the 1970s.

Judith Ehrlich, whose 2009 film The Most Dangerous Man in America: Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers explored the 70s leak of US government documents on the Vietnam war, said Obama had indicted five alleged whistleblowers since taking office, making him the “worst president in terms of his record on whistleblowing”.

One of these is Bradley Manning, the US army private who is in detention, accused of leaking 250,000 diplomatic cables to the website WikiLeaks. The WikiLeaks exposé, published in late 2010 in partnership with papers including the Guardian and New York Times, has been compared to the Pentagon Papers in terms of its scale.

Another is understood to be Thomas Drake, a former official at the National Security Agency accused of passing classified documents to a newspaper reporter.

Ehrlich, who co-directed the 2009 film profiling Ellsberg and events leading up to the publication of the Pentagon Papers, won a Peabody award and an Oscar nomination for best documentary feature.

Speaking at a session on WikiLeaks at the Sheffield Doc/Fest on Thursday, she said whistleblowing had become more dangerous than ever, in part due to the restrictions imposed by the US patriot act, which was brought in by George Bush in 2001 and recently extended for several years by Obama.

Ehrlich praised Manning for his “courage” if he were responsible for the US embassy cables leak, adding: “There is no safe way to leak. He is prepared to spend his life in prison or be executed.”

Also speaking at the session was Vaughan Smith, the founder of an organisation championing independent journalism, the Frontline Club, and a friend of the WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. He said that, contrary to popular perception, Assange did not promote “radical transparency” and was interested in a “conversation about what can and cannot be made transparent”.

Greenwald: Post-Weiner, the private sexual activities of public figures are inherently newsworthy and need no other relevance

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 This may be my last post on the Weiner frenzy, barring any political relevance (for example, to what extent will Weiner be even more wedded to the Clintons if he and his marriage to Huma Abedin survive?).
But as to the spectacle, Glenn Greenwald says exactly what I’m thinking (thus my emphasis):

There are few things more sickening — or revealing — to behold than a D.C. sex scandal. Huge numbers of people prance around flamboyantly condemning behavior in which they themselves routinely engage. Media stars contrive all sorts of high-minded justifications for luxuriating in every last dirty detail, when nothing is more obvious than that their only real interest is vicarious titillation. Reporters who would never dare challenge powerful political figures who torture, illegally eavesdrop, wage illegal wars or feed at the trough of sleazy legalized bribery suddenly walk upright — like proud ostriches with their feathers extended — pretending to be hard-core adversarial journalists as they collectively kick a sexually humiliated figure stripped of all importance. The ritual is as nauseating as it is predictable.

What makes the Anthony Weiner story somewhat unique and thus worth discussing for a moment is that, as Hendrick Hertzberg points out, the pretense of substantive relevance … has been more or less brazenly dispensed with here. … This is just pure mucking around in the private, consensual, unquestionably legal private sexual affairs of someone for partisan gain, voyeuristic fun and the soothing fulfillment of judgmental condemnation. And in that regard, it sets a new standard: the private sexual activities of public figures — down to the most intimate details — are now inherently newsworthy, without the need for any pretense of other relevance.

I’d really like to know how many journalists, pundits and activist types clucking with righteous condemnation of Weiner would be comfortable having that standard applied to them. … If Chris Matthews or Brian Williams or any politician ever patronized or even visited a porno site on the Internet or had a sexually charged IM chat with someone who isn’t their spouse, shouldn’t that now be splashed all over the Internet so we can all read it — not just the fact of its existence but all the gory details?

Read the rest; he drills down.

I think two point are worth considering.

First, Glenn’s right about the relevance. There’s none in the Weiner case. It’s all about the ick. (Even the self-shot explicit photo is badly done.) This is basically a tabloid story, made more so by Huma’s pregnancy (which Breitbart is calling a “PR attempt” — another ick).

It’s a brave new world indeed, and only the brave should apply. The gun used against Weiner can and will be fired again. You might think the IOKIYAR rule applies in Village-land, and for all the Dainty Minds who rule the (air)waves, that will be true. They and the Republicans they love will be safe.

But at some point, someone will get even, again and again. There are a lot of frustrated someones out there. So watch for it. Got porn, Mr. Matthews? There have never been more ways of finding out.

Which brings me to the second point. Remember the John Ashcroft–James Comey hospital scandal in 2004? Recall that this was about Ashcroft and Comey refusing to sign off on a never-defined Bush-Cheney NSA domestic spying program, and Bush sending Alberto Gonzales to apply the screws.

Think for a second. Ashcroft and Comey refused to re-confirm a spying program. Now, Ashcroft and Comey are Movement Conservatives down to the decoder ring. Ashcroft “lobbies for and invests” in the homeland securities industry. Comey went on to be Senior VP at Lockheed before moving to Money Street.

What NSA bridge was a bridge too far for even James Comey to cross? The program he and Goldsmith wouldn’t sign off on was never revealed:

In early January 2006, the New York Times, as part of their investigation into alleged domestic surveillance by the National Security Agency, reported that Comey, who was Acting Attorney General during the March 2004 surgical hospitalization of John Ashcroft, refused to “certify” the legality of central aspects of the NSA program at that time. The certification was required under existing White House procedures to continue the program. After Comey’s refusal, the newspaper reported, Andrew H. Card Jr., White House Chief of Staff, and Alberto R. Gonzales, then White House counsel and future Attorney General, made an emergency visit to the George Washington University Hospital, to attempt to win approval directly from Ashcroft for the program.

Comey confirmed these events took place (but declined to confirm the specific program) in testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee on 16 May 2007. FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III, like Comey, also supported Ashcroft’s decision; both men were prepared to resign if the White House ignored the Department of Justice’s legal conclusions on the wiretapping issue.

Let’s say you were a relentless power-freak and culture commando who ran Bush’s foreign policy from his office at the Naval Observatory. Let’s say a 2001 disaster handed you the keys to the NSA spy capability and an unlimited domestic mandate. What would you do with that power?

Would you spy on just “the enemy” or “your enemies” (broadly considered)? What about political opponents? What about the press? And what better way to keep folks in line than via the nation’s obsession with porn? If you could find out, for example, that one of the Dainty Minds noted above has “interesting interests” — what would you do?

You could buy a lot of fawning coverage and suppressed investigations, for starters, with some press schmuck’s porn list in your pocket. And nail your share of opponents as well. (How do you think the FBI caught on to Eliot Spitzer? Lindsay Bayerstein thinks the Roger Stone story is a “red herring.” Maybe the Feds were preemptively watching his bank transfers. Would that be a bridge too far for someone like Mueller?)

I’m concerned that these stories, and story-types, intersect. If so, we’re just starting down a long and dirty road.

The joys of repressed voyeuristic titillation

The joys of repressed voyeuristic titillationThe joys of repressed voyeuristic titillation

Chris Matthews and the chest of Rep. Anthony Weiner

There are few things more sickening — or revealing — to behold than a D.C. sex scandal.  Huge numbers of people prance around flamboyantly condemning behavior in which they themselves routinely engage.  Media stars contrive all sorts of high-minded justifications for luxuriating in every last dirty detail, when nothing is more obvious than that their only real interest is vicarious titillation.  Reporters who would never dare challenge powerful political figures who torture, illegally eavesdrop, wage illegal wars or feed at the trough of sleazy legalized bribery suddenly walk upright — like proud peacocks with their feathers extended — pretending to be hard-core adversarial journalists as they collectively kick a sexually humiliated figure stripped of all importance.  The ritual is as nauseating as it is predictable.

What makes the Anthony Weiner story somewhat unique and thus worth discussing for a moment is that, as Hendrik Hertzberg points out, the pretense of substantive relevance (which, lame though it was in prior scandals, was at least maintained) has been more or less brazenly dispensed with here.  This isn’t a case of illegal sex activity or gross hypocrisy (i.e., David Vitter, Larry Craig, Mark Foley (who built their careers on Family Values) or Eliot Spitzer (who viciously prosecuted trivial prostitution cases)).  There’s no lying under oath (Clinton) or allegedly illegal payments (Ensign, Edwards).  From what is known, none of the women claim harassment and Weiner didn’t even have actual sex with any of them.  This is just pure mucking around in the private, consensual, unquestionably legal private sexual affairs of someone for partisan gain, voyeuristic fun and the soothing fulfillment of judgmental condemnation.  And in that regard, it sets a new standard: the private sexual activities of public figures — down to the most intimate details — are now inherently newsworthy, without the need for any pretense of other relevance.

I’d really like to know how many journalists, pundits and activist types clucking with righteous condemnation of Weiner would be comfortable having that standard applied to them.  I strongly suspect the number is very small.  Ever since the advent of Internet commerce, pornography — use of the Internet for sexual gratification, real or virtual — has has been, and continues to be, a huge business.  Millions upon millions of people at some point do what Weiner did.  I know that’s a shocking revelation that will cause many Good People to clutch their pearls in fragile Victorian horror, but it’s nonetheless true.  It’s also true that marital infidelity isincredibly common.

If Chris Matthews or Brian Williams or any politician ever patronized or even visited a porno site on the Internet or had a sexually charged IM chat with someone who isn’t their spouse, shouldn’t that now be splashed all over the Internet so we can all read it — not just the fact of its existence but all the gory details?  After all, this is about character, judgment, veracity: these are Important Journalists and Politicians, and how can we trust them if they’re not even faithful to their spouse?  Isn’t that the standard now — the one they’re gleefully propagating?

Yes, Anthony Weiner lied — about something that is absolutely nobody’s business but his and his wife’s.  If you’re not his wife, you have absolutely no legitimate reason to want to know about — let alone pass judgment on — what he does in his private sexual life with other consenting adults.  Particularly repellent is the pretense of speaking out on behalf of his wife, as though anyone knows what her perspectives on such matters are or what their relationship entails.  The only reason to want to wallow in the details of Anthony Weiner’s sex life is because of the voyeuristic titillation it provides: a deeply repressed culture celebrates when it finds cause to be able to talk about penises and naked pictures and oral sex while hiding behind some noble pretext.  On some level, I find the behavior of the obviously loathsome Andrew Breitbart preferable; at least he’s honest about his motive:  he hates Democrats and liberals and wants sadistically to destroy them however he can.  It’s the empty, barren, purse-lipped busybodies who cannot stay out of other adults’ private and sexual lives — while pretending to be elevated  — that are the truly odious villains here.

In The AtlanticConor Friedersdorf argues that the private consensual sexual activities of politicians are none of our business, and in reply,Megan McArdle insists that “society has [an] interest in whether people keep their vows” in marriage and thus it’s a good thing “to use a few of our precious news hours to say, ‘Hey, not okay’!”  Except McArdle has absolutely no idea what vows Weiner and his wife have made to each other, and she shouldn’t know, because it’s none of her business, despite her eagerness to learn about it and publicly condemn it.  Even if she had any idea of what she was talking about — and she plainly doesn’t — nothing is less relevant than Megan McArdle’s views of the arrangement Anthony Weiner and his wife have for their marriage and whether each partner is adhering to that arrangement.  That a journalist atThe Atlantic wants to talk about this, and dig into the details, and issue judgments about it, says all one needs to know about our press corps.

Can one even imagine how much different — and better — our political culture would be if our establishment media devoted even a fraction of the critical scrutiny and adversarial energy it devoted to the Weiner matter to things that actually matter?  But that won’t happen, because the people who comprise that press corps, with rare exception, are both incapable of focusing on things that matter and uninterested in doing so.  Talking about shirtless pictures and expressing outrage about private sexual behavior — like some angry, chattering soap opera fan furious that one of their best-known characters cheated — is about the limit of their abilities and their function.  And doing so is so easy, so fun, so self-justifying, and so exciting in that evasively tingly sort of way.

* * * * *

Let me add one point:  I am not and have never been an Anthony Weiner fan.  While I agree with him on many issues, his overriding concern always seemed to me to be his own career, and, as I’ve noted before, he isone of the most extremist AIPAC loyalists in the Congress, which is not an easy distinction to achieve.  This is about the principle, not the person.

Bill Moyers on His Legendary Journalism Career: “Democracy Should Be a Brake on Unbridled Greed and Power”

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Moyers_buttonIn a Democracy Now! special broadcast, we are joined by legendary journalist Bill Moyers, a founding organizer of the Peace Corps, press secretary for President Lyndon Johnson, a publisher of Newsday, and senior correspondent for CBS News. Public television is where he has made his home, producing many groundbreaking shows and winning more than 30 Emmy Awards. Moyers has just published a new book, “Bill Moyers Journal: The Conversation Continues,” a collection of interviews from his popular PBS show that aired from 2007 to 2010. “The greatest change in politics in my time has been the transformation of democracy, America, from a citizens’ society, the moral agency of all those people in the civil rights movement who stood up against the weight of authority and against persecution and acted as agents of change—the change from a citizens’ society to a consumer society, where most of us are caught up on that treadmill, trying to get more,” Moyers says. In a wide-ranging interview, he also discusses the state of the public media infrastructure he helped to establish as part of the Johnson administration. “Public broadcasting, which remains a place that treats you as a citizen and not a consumer, is also threatened. We must defend it. We must call it back to its heights. We must continue to support it, because without it, we’re at the mercy, totally, of corporate power.” [includes rush transcript]

Anderson Cooper tonight: How “anti-sissy” therapy destroyed a young boy

 from AMERICAblog: A great nation deserves the truth by John Aravosis (DC)
A horrible story of how an effeminate little boy was forced into therapy that included beating him every time he did something “girly,” like playing with dolls.  He ended up killing himself as an adult.  His “doctor”?  A founder of the religious right hate group, Family Research Council.  Anderson Cooper will be reporting on this on his show tonight at 10EST on CNN.  You can also read more about it on AMERICAblog Gay.

THE ECONOMY

The Stalled Recovery, Smoke and Mirrors, and the Carnage on the Street

 from Robert Reich
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 The Dow ended the week below 12,000 for the first time since March. This is the sixth straight week of downs for the Dow. It’s almost as bad over at the Nasdaq. All the gains racked up in 2011 have now been erased.

What’s going on?

The real economy is catching up with the financial economy, as it always does eventually. Wall Street is built on smoke and mirrors, while the real economy is based on jobs and wages. Smoke and mirrors can only take you so far – as we learned so painfully three years ago.

Jobs and wages stink, if you haven’t noticed. They’ve been bad for months, even before this week’s data made it fairly clear the recovery has stalled.

Stock prices had been rising nonetheless. That was partly because big corporations were enjoying big sales and fat profits from their foreign operations. But foreign sales are slowing. Chalk that up to the European debt crisis, Europe’s insane austerity measures, Japan’s tragedy, and China’s concerns about inflation.

Meanwhile, other companies have been busy restocking inventories in the hope American consumers will be in a mood to buy. But that hope is coming to an end, as the reality dawns that American consumers can’t and won’t buy very much, given their shrinking home values, high debts, and job worries.

Stock prices were also rising because of Wall Street’s certitude that it can make loads of money from the gullibility of millions of small investors. Here’s where the smoke and mirrors come in.

Over the past year, the Street lured small investors back into the market on the smokey promises that the worst is over and stock prices are bound to rise. The lure became a self-fulfilling prophesy. As investors re-entered the market, they bid up stock prices. Hence, the mirror.

Insiders on the Street are always the first to bail when they sense they’ve been overselling, as they started to do a few weeks ago. This gives them a second opportunity to make money off small investors — by selling short.

The nation’s second-largest financial redistribution in history (the largest, on a percentage basis, occurred in 1929) came in 2007 and 2008 – from small investors and their pension funds to the Street’s savvy traders who shorted them. Now it’s been repeated, although on a smaller scale.

And Washington? Completely clueless. Our representatives in the nation’s capital continue to obsess about future budget deficits and games of chicken over raising the debt ceiling — neither of which has anything at all to do with the stalled recovery and the carnage on the Street.

Otherwise, the airwaves are filled with Weiner’s tweets, Gingrich’s implosion, and Pallin’s emails. When times are tough we look for entertainment.

DeLong: The Obama administration didn’t have a Plan B for the macroeconomy

 With all the negative analysis regarding the new next-leg downturn, you would hope that the Obama administration had a plan. According to UC Berkeley economist Brad DeLong, that’s not the case.
In a short, striking post DeLong quotes Mark Thoma, who says in part:

We have millions of people out of work, we face the prospect of a five to ten year recovery for employment, yet the administration has no plans to even try to push Congress to do more. … [I]t’s hard to conclude that the unemployed are anywhere near the top of the list.

And then DeLong adds this:

Two and a half years ago I remember asking a couple of newly-chosen Obama appointees: That’s fine, but what if it isn’t enough and we don’t get a strong recovery. What is Plan B? You have to be thinking about Plan B.

Now it is clear: there is no Plan B. There never was a Plan B.

This isn’t hyperbole. He’s joined the list of those who sound really frightened.

It’s got to be hubris that caused this; what else could it be? We’re way past stupid. I have a Plan B when I go make coffee.

Update: Paul Krugman piles on. First he quotes Christina Romer, “There was a definite split among the economics team [in the fall of 2009] about whether we should push for more fiscal stimulus, or switch our focus to the deficit.” Then he says:

This matches what I was hearing. And it tells you that it wasn’t just the Republicans: a substantial faction within the administration was eager to “pivot” away from the jobs issue. … The case for doing more … was overwhelming.

Yet even within the administration, people were itching for a switch to deficit hawkery.

Who Are The Rentiers?

 from Paul Krugman by By PAUL KRUGMAN

Following up on my rentier post and the eurocentric followup, a question: who are we talking about? That is, who stands to gain from deflation, and lose if inflation is, say, 4 percent over a period of 10 years? Is it little old ladies living on fixed incomes, and salt of the earth workers who have scrimped and saved?

Well, no. There are, of course, some ordinary people who would lose a bit from higher inflation. But Social Security — the bedrock of retirement for most Americans — is indexed to inflation, and retirement accounts invested in stocks wouldn’t be hurt.

If you want to see who really has a stake in the inflation dispute, go to Edward Wolff’s latest on the American wealth distribution (pdf). Here’s the takeaway:

Holdings of assets, by wealth class, 2007

Financial securities are overwhelmingly held by the rich — more than 60 percent by just one percent of the population, more than 98 percent by the top 10 percent. It’s true that middle-class Americans own significant shares of deposits, and that some part of their pension accounts would be in bonds. On the other hand, middle-class Americans owe the lion’s share of debt; relatively speaking, the wealthy have hardly any.

So if you think about the distributional consequences of the choice between a Japan-style lost decade of very low or negative inflation and a Mankiw-Rogoff strategy of higher inflation for a while, it’s very much about benefits to the wealthy versus benefits to the middle class. Since I’ve been arguing that some inflation would help the economy recover, what we’re seeing in practice is that defending the interests of a small wealthy slice of the population takes priority over a possible recovery strategy.

Welcome to the Recovery

 from Paul Krugman by By PAUL KRUGMAN

For unrelated reasons (textbook!) I just reread Tim Geithner’s unfortunate August 2010 op-ed Welcome to the Recovery. Even at the time, it seemed tone-deaf to both the economic and the political realities; now, of course, it looks much worse.

But Zachary Goldfarb’s deeply depressing piece on Geithner’s role in the internal economic debate offers some context: it looks as if “Welcome to the Recovery” was aimed not at the nation at large but at the pro-stimulus camp within the administration. No need to do more, Geithner was saying; we’ve got this under control.

Except, of course, they didn’t.

Also, when I read this from the Goldfarb piece:

The economic team went round and round. Geithner would hold his views close, but occasionally he would get frustrated. Once, as Romer pressed for more stimulus spending, Geithner snapped. Stimulus, he told Romer, was “sugar,” and its effect was fleeting. The administration, he urged, needed to focus on long-term economic growth, and the first step was reining in the debt.

I get really depressed. Whether he knew it or not, Geithner was making theMellon-Schumpeter-Hayek argument that any effort to push up demand was somehow artificial and unsound. Not what anyone should be saying in the modern world, least of all a top official in an allegedly progressive Democratic administration.

In 2007, the top 1% owned 50% of all investment assets; the bottom 90% owned 73% of all debt

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 As a follow-up to this post about the creditor class and the debtor class, we find this interesting data (h/t Paul Krugman). It’s part of a Table 9 from Edward Wolff’s Levy Institute paper, Recent Trends in Household Wealth(pdf); to see the whole table with notes, click the link and go to page 52). The highlights below are mine.

This shows clearly the divide between the creditors (who own the assets) and debtors (who owe the debts) in the U.S. As of 2007, the upper 1% (net worth of $8.2 million or more) owned 49.7% of all investment assets. The rest of us owned the debt. Those numbers can’t have gotten better.

(If you click through to the rest of the table, you’ll see that the top 10%, as a group, owned 87% of all investment assets.)

Remember: If you owe debt, deflation is a demon, since you pay back cheaper borrowed dollars with dollars that are now worth more. To make that simple, imagine borrowing a dollar that buys two Waldo-burgers and paying it back later with one that buys four. You’re down two Waldo-burgers (plus the interest).

But if you are a creditor, deflation is an angel with honey-sweet breath and a gift in each hand. You really want to be a lender in times of deflation. In our example above, the lender just doubled his money by waiting, and charged interest for the privilege.

In Krugman’s phrasing, “Deflation is hell for workers and business owners, but it’s heaven for creditors.” (For more on deflation, what it is and what it does, see here.)

Bottom line — who’s behind that push to keep interest rates low low low (as in Europe) and for debtors to pay back every dime? The same people who are trying to bring back debtor’s prisons.

You got it. Our friends, the very very rich. No cramdown for you, sir; time to be extra responsible.

I guess giving them all that Reagan-Bush-Clinton-Bush money didn’t buy their love after all.

AT&T gave cash to merger backers, including prominent gay group, NAACP, NEA

 from AMERICAblog: A great nation deserves the truth by John Aravosis (DC)
This has been a growing story in gay-blog land for the past several days, but finally appears to have hit the mainstream media with the involvement of non-gay groups.  AT&T has somehow received letters supporting its merger with T-Mobile from big Washington special interest groups that have nothing to do with telecom issues.  At the same time, as Politico notes, those groups receive funding from, guess who, AT&T. More from Politico:

AT&T is lining up support for its acquisition of T-Mobile from a slew of liberal groups with no obvious interest in telecom deals — except that they’ve received big piles of AT&T’s cash.

In recent weeks, the NAACP, the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation and the National Education Association have each issued public statements in support of the deal.

The NAACP was one of the first groups to announce public support of the T-Mobile acquisition. It received a $1 million contribution from AT&T in 2009 and has received funding in the six figures dating to 2006, according to the group’s annual reports.

Video: Republican Congressman Calls Social Security a “Pyramid Scheme”

 from PA Editors Blog by Political Affairs
 Popout

 From Americans United for Change

 

Feminist economists sing the blues

 from Raj Patel by Raj
 Not all economists are humourless apologists for the rich. From the feminist economics network comes this chronicle of a flash mob, at a post-Inside Job discussion. Admittedly, the internet has better examples of flash mobs, with better tunes and, frankly, better singing. But the sentiment’s right on, and the organization behind it eminently sensible. Check out Make Wall Street Pay, and get ready for some toe curling below the fold.

 

 

 

 

Jamie Dimon’s Bizarre Idea About Why The Recovery Has Stalled

 from Robert Reich
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 According to JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon, the recovery has stalled because of strict banking regulation.

I’m not making this up.

At a financial conference today, Dimon told Fed chief Ben Bernanke there’s no longer any reason to crack down on Wall Street. “Most of the bad actors are gone,” he said. “[O]ff-balance-sheet businesses are virtually obliterated, … money market funds are far more transparent” and “most very exotic derivatives are gone.”

Dimon said he worried that financial reform legislation is “holding us back at this point” from a stronger economy.

Someone should remind Dimon that a few years ago, before any stricter regulation or oversight went into effect, he and his colleagues on the Street almost eviscerated the American economy. Remember, Jamie? The Street’s antics required a giant taxpayer-funded bailout.

JPMorgan Chase and the other giant banks on Wall Street are bigger than they were before. And now they’re certain they’re too big to fail. Without far stricter regulation they have every incentive to repeat their binge.

Dimon believes most of the bad actors are gone. To the contrary, none of the truly bad actors has been prosecuted. In fact, most are making more money than ever before.

Off budget businesses obliterated? Funds more transparent? Exotic derivatives gone? Dimon still doesn’t get it. The only reason there’s been any progress at all to date is because rules have been tightened and regulators are more vigilant. But at this very moment the banks — including JPMorgan Chase — are lobbying heavily to relax the rules so they can return to their old ways.

The recovery has stalled because most Americans are still in the gravitational pull of the recession — unable and unwilling to buy enough to keep the economy going. And that’s largely because the terrible consequences of what Dimon et al did to the economy are still being felt by most Americans.

On what planet has Jamie Dimon been living?

 

 

THE ULTRA-RIGHT


     
ENVIRONMENT



    
NUCLEAR POWER

Japan Admits 3 Nuclear Meltdowns, More Radiation Leaked into Sea; U.S. Nuclear Waste Poses Deadly Risks

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Japan_nuke_buttonAlmost three months after the earthquake and tsunami that triggered a nuclear disaster in Japan, new radiation “hot spots” may require the evacuation of more areas further from the damaged Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power facility. Japan’s Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency recently admitted for the first time that full nuclear meltdowns occurred at three of the plant’s reactors, and more than doubled its estimate for the amount of radiation that leaked from the plant in the first week of the disaster in March. “What they failed to mention is that they discharged an equally large amount into the ocean,” says our guest Robert Alvarez, former senior policy adviser to the U.S. Secretary of Energy. “As [the radiation] goes up the food chain, it accumulates. By the time it reaches people who consume this food, the levels are higher than they originally were when they entered the environment.” Alvarez also discusses his new report on the vulnerabilities and hazards of stored spent fuel at U.S. reactors in the United States. Then we go to Tokyo to speak with Aileen Mioko Smith, executive director of the group Green Action. She says citizens leading their own monitoring efforts are calling for additional evacuations, especially for young children and pregnant women. [includes rush transcript]

 

Japan: activists demand nuclear abolition, three months into Fukushima disaster

 from World War 4 Report blogs by WW4 Report
 From the central committee of the Movement for Democratic Socialism (MDS), Tokyo, June 10:

It will soon be three months since the Eastern Japan catastrophic earthquake and tsunami broke out and the successive Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant disaster was triggered. We are grateful to all of you for the messages and largesse you have sent us from many parts of the world to encourage us in our efforts to gain democratic recovery from the disaster and the total abolishment of nuclear power plants. We, once again, express our profound gratitude. As for the donations, we are making full use of them in our activities to help reconstruct the disaster-stricken communities. Let us now turn to how we, MDS, are campaigning against nuclear power plants.

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