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And, yes, I DO take it personally: 09/18/2011 - 09/25/2011
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Friday, September 23, 2011

Let them eat cake

thanks to outtacontext via blue texan at firedoglake...


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Krugman cheers on Elizabeth Warren

elizabeth warren's definitely got my attention (see previous post), altho' i must admit, i'd rather see her challenging obama in a primary than running for a massachusetts senate seat... she's gotten paul krugman's attention too, evidently...
Elizabeth Warren, the financial reformer who is now running for the United States Senate in Massachusetts, recently made some eloquent remarks to this effect that are, rightly, getting a lot of attention. “There is nobody in this country who got rich on his own. Nobody,” she declared, pointing out that the rich can only get rich thanks to the “social contract” that provides a decent, functioning society in which they can prosper.

Which brings us back to those cries of “class warfare.”

Republicans claim to be deeply worried by budget deficits. Indeed, Mr. Ryan [Wisconsin Republican Congressman Paul Ryan] has called the deficit an “existential threat” to America. Yet they are insisting that the wealthy — who presumably have as much of a stake as everyone else in the nation’s future — should not be called upon to play any role in warding off that existential threat.

Well, that amounts to a demand that a small number of very lucky people be exempted from the social contract that applies to everyone else. And that, in case you’re wondering, is what real class warfare looks like.

after musing about the demise of frank rich at the nyt, i've begun wondering just how much longer the super-rich elites will tolerate krugman's voice at the gray lady... i would not be at all surprised by a resignation announcement in the near future...

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Our two-faced president - Obama secretly sold bunker-buster bombs to Israel

i can't believe there was yet ANOTHER republican debate last night and it's still more than 13 months until the election... supposedly romney bested perry but, ferchrissake, who the hell cares...? bachmann, romney, perry and, yes, obama... they're all out there, competing for our attention while our bought-and-paid-for media keep trying to get us to believe it all means something...

meanwhile, the current white house occupant has once again demonstrated that his constituency is by no means the american people but rather the defense industry, israel and anyone who can put the right amount of money on the table...

from the daily beast...

In an exclusive story to be published Monday on growing military cooperation between the two allies, U.S. and Israeli officials tell Newsweek that the GBU-28 Hard Target Penetrators—potentially useful in any future military strike against Iranian nuclear sites—were delivered to Israel in 2009, just several months after Obama took office.

The military sale was arranged behind the scenes as Obama’s demands for Israel to stop building settlements in disputed territories were fraying political relations between the two countries in public.

The Israelis first requested the bunker busters in 2005, only to be rebuffed by the Bush administration. At the time, the Pentagon had frozen almost all U.S.-Israeli joint defense projects out of concern that Israel was transferring advanced military technology to China.

In 2007, Bush informed Ehud Olmert, then prime minister, that he would order the bunker busters for delivery in 2009 or 2010. The Israelis wanted them in 2007. Obama finally released the weapons in 2009, according to officials familiar with the still-secret decision.

James Cartwright, the Marine Corps general who served until August as the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told Newsweek the military chiefs had no objections to the sale. Rather, Cartwright said, there was a concern about “how the Iranians would perceive it,” and “how the Israelis might perceive it.” In other words, would the sale be seen as a green light for Israel to attack Iran’s secret nuclear sites one day?

do you think any of this will be a discussion topic over at me neither...

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Thursday, September 22, 2011

Elizabeth Warren - now HERE'S a candidate who's talking some sense...! [UPDATE]

it's so stunning to hear somebody actually talk sensibly and rationally about the insane situation in this country that i actually had to rub my eyes in disbelief while i was watching it...

you go, girl...!


here's elizabeth warren on msnbc this morning...

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Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Meltdown: The Men Who Crashed the World

al jazeera english is running a four-part series...

part 1...

In the first episode of Meltdown, we hear about four men who brought down the global economy: a billionaire mortgage-seller who fooled millions; a high-rolling banker with a fatal weakness; a ferocious Wall Street predator; and the power behind the throne.

The crash of September 2008 brought the largest bankruptcies in world history, pushing more than 30 million people into unemployment and bringing many countries to the edge of insolvency. Wall Street turned back the clock to 1929.

But how did it all go so wrong?

Lack of government regulation; easy lending in the US housing market meant anyone could qualify for a home loan with no government regulations in place.

Also, London was competing with New York as the banking capital of the world. Gordon Brown, the British finance minister at the time, introduced 'light touch regulation' - giving bankers a free hand in the marketplace.

All this, and with key players making the wrong financial decisions, saw the world's biggest financial collapse.

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A modest proposal: corporately-endowed elected officials

why not have corporations endow elected offices the way they do university professorships or perhaps the same way the naming rights to sports stadiums are bid for and purchased...?

we could have the "Goldman Sachs Speaker of the House" or the "Google Senate Armed Services Committee Chair" or the "Jamie Dimon United States Senator from New York" or the "Kleiner Perkins Mayor of San Francisco"... this way, we could stop pretending that our so-called representatives work for any constituency other than the one who paid for their office... we could also stop the fleecing of us peasants for money we don't have and perpetuating the delusion that our votes actually make a difference... we could eliminate the vast amounts of money collected by media outlets in campaign advertising and basically save everyone the agony of watching the never-ending election reality show... plus, think of how much fun it would be watching the super-rich elites engage in an open bidding war for the office of the president... (not that they aren't doing that right now anyway, but it would be fun to see it out in the open...)

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Cornel West thinks Obama needs a primary challenger

and, quite honestly, so do i...

cornel west speaking with martin bashir on msnbc via raw story...

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Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Eurotarp and state-sanctioned wealth confiscation

max keiser and stacy herbert...

max and stacy make quite a pair and their informed rants always perk up a slow tuesday afternoon...

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Monday, September 19, 2011

How about debt cancellation?

david graeber speaking in an interview with democracy now...
...when you hear a Republican talk about class warfare, you know they’re waging it.


I think that for the last 30 years we’ve seen a political battle being waged by the super-rich against everyone else, and this is the latest move in the shadow dance, which is completely dysfunctional economically and politically. I mean, it’s the reason why young people have just abandoned any thought of appealing to politicians. We all know what’s going to happen. The tax proposals are a sort of mock populist gesture, which everyone knows will be shot down. What will actually probably happen would be more cuts to social services. The very fact that the rhetoric is about the debt, which is really a non-issue, is itself the problem.


I think President Obama really has bought into the dominant ideology, which is essentially Republican. Finally, he has to wage an election campaign, so he has to make some gestures in the other direction, because he knows the overwhelming majorities of the American public are in favor of taxing the rich. And he also knows that it’s almost certainly going to be shot down. There’s nothing that the Republicans are less likely to put up with than a proposal like this.


In the ancient Middle East, often new kings would simply declare a clean slate and cancel all debts, or all consumer debts, commercial debts, between merchants were often left alone. The Jubilee was a way of institutionalizing that. In the Middle Ages, there were bans on interest taking entirely. There have been many mechanisms.

But whenever you have what I call a period of virtual credit money, when money is recognized not to be a thing like gold and silver, but a social relation or promise that people make to each other, which has become increasingly clear since the '70s, when we went off the gold standard—and I think 2008 really brought that home—debts can be renegotiated. They're not set in stone. Trillions of dollars of debt was made to disappear. We understand now that this is a political arrangement, and it can always be readjusted. And I think what the people coming to the squares—and Wall Street now included—are saying is that, well, if that’s true, if democracy is going to mean anything now, we’re all going to have to be able to weigh in on what sort of promises are made and what sort of promises are adjusted when you enter into a crisis.

now, THERE'S a thought...!

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Jeremiah Wright on Obama: Who have you become?

well worth reading...

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Why Obama keeps Geithner and why he's calling for a tax on millionaires... (Cue the progressive music) [UPDATE]

there's a lot of s*** hitting the fan with the publication of ron suskind's new book, Confidence Men: Wall Street, Washington, and the Education of a President... i've been reading various reviews and analyses but leave it to glenn to hit the nail on the head...

Geithner wasn't chosen and hasn't remained despite being "associated with the deregulatory policies of the past" and despite being the bankers' "man in Washington." He is empowered precisely because of those facts, as was pointed out even before Obama's inauguration. That Geithner and Summers were empowered after enabling the financial crisis through Wall Street subservience isn't a mystery; it's the explanation (And just by the way, replacing the word "despite" with the phrase "because of" is -- in general -- one of the most valuable tools for translating Washington propaganda into reality; here is an excellent example showing how that works, from the first paragraph of a New York Times article two weeks ago:

Documents found at the abandoned office of Libya’s former spymaster appear to provide new details of the close relations the Central Intelligence Agency shared with the Libyan intelligence service -- most notably suggesting that the Americans sent terrorism suspects at least eight times for questioning in Libya despite that country's reputation for torture.

Note how the paragraph instantly transforms from misleading nonsense into obvious truth simply by changing "despite" to "because of"; this repeatedly is an effective instrument for deciphering propaganda -- e.g., the U.S. continues to brutalize people in the Muslim world "despite" the fact that doing so produces more Terrorism and thus ensures Endless War.)

glenn also refers to the same matt taibbi piece i referenced in an earlier post...
I remember following Obama on the campaign trail and hearing all sorts of promises before union-heavy crowds. He said he would raise the minimum wage every year; he said he would fight free-trade agreements. He also talked about repealing the Bush tax cuts and ending tax breaks for companies that move jobs overseas.

It's not just that he hasn't done those things. The more important thing is that the people he's surrounded himself with are not labor people, but stooges from Wall Street.

glenn continues...
That's why -- after 2 1/2 years -- we suddenly see an outburst of "fighting for jobs" and, now, a call to raise taxes on the rich. He does that precisely because everyone -- especially the rich -- knows it will not and cannot happen. We're now formally in (re-)election season, so it's time again to haul out the progressive music. ... [N]one of this presages an actual change in how the government functions or, especially, on whose behalf it labors. That's precisely why he feels free to advocate such things without alienating his funding base. It's still the government of Tim Geithner and his bosses/owners; election season (combined with rising elite fear of social unrest) just requires a bit more pretense to obscure that fact.

glenn concludes his post with this all-too-sadly-true cartoon...



check out this reuters headline...
Obama deficit plan aimed at Democratic base


"I will not support any plan that puts all the burden on closing our deficit on ordinary Americans," Obama said. "We are not going to have a one-sided deal that hurts the folks who are most vulnerable."

With polls showing most Americans unhappy with his economic leadership, Obama's re-election hopes could hinge on his ability to convince voters that Republicans represent the rich, not the middle class. That was the main theme of his remarks on Monday, in which he repeatedly said all Americans must pay their "fair share" of taxes.

so, what am i supposed to do now...? after falling in love, accepting a proposal for marriage only to find that i hooked up with a spouse-beater and then taking my licks until i finally decided to leave the two-faced creep, do i now convince myself that it was all a misunderstanding and meekly return home...?

words ain't gonna bring me back, sweetie... trust me...

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Roubini calls for a Greek default, Argentina-style, and a return to the drachma

i have been a first-hand witness to developments in argentina following the 2001 economic collapse and have posted on it repeatedly here... i've never ceased to admire the guts it took for argentina to unilaterally kiss off the world bank, the imf, the global banks and the super-rich elites that they serve and go its own way... needless to say, the howls of outrage and disbelief from the holders of the world's capital were deafening... but argentina kept on keepin' on and has enjoyed growth rates averaging 9% a year since then, while at the same time accumulating a current accounts surplus that allowed them to totally pay off $10B worth of imf debt THREE YEARS EARLY - IN CASH...

the downside, unfortunately, is that the endemic corruption that is part and parcel of every level of argentine government survives untouched, the rich continue to get richer, the real inflation level hovers at 27% (despite the "official" government figures that peg it at less than 10%) and argentina is in the process of selling its heart and soul (farmland, oil, gas and minerals) to china...

nonetheless, i think roubini is 100% correct... greece should do what's right for greece and its citizens and refuse to be held hostage to those same super-rich elites and their bankster buddies just so they can stay in the eurozone...

roubini in the ft...

Greece is stuck in a vicious cycle of insolvency, low competitiveness and ever-deepening depression. Exacerbated by a draconian fiscal austerity, its public debt is heading towards 200 per cent of gross domestic product. To escape, Greece must now begin an orderly default, voluntarily exit the eurozone and return to the drachma.

The recent debt exchange deal Europe offered Greece was a rip-off, providing much less debt relief than the country needed. If you pick apart the figures, and take into account the large sweeteners the plan gave to creditors, the true debt relief is actually close to zero. The country’s best current option would be to reject this agreement and, under threat of default, renegotiate a better one.

Yet even if Greece were soon to be given real and significant relief on its public debt, it cannot return to growth unless competitiveness is rapidly restored. And without a return to growth, its debts will stay unsustainable. Problematically, however, all of the options that might restore competitiveness require real currency depreciation.

The first of these options, a sharp weakening of the euro, is unlikely while the US is economically weak and Germany über-competitive. A rapid reduction in unit labour costs, through structural reforms that increased productivity growth in excess of wages, is just as unlikely. Germany took 10 years to restore its competitiveness this way; Greece cannot wait in depression for a decade.

The third option is a rapid deflation in prices and wages, known as an “internal devaluation”. But this would lead to five years of ever-deepening depression, while making public debts more unsustainable.

Logically, therefore, if those three options are not possible, the only path left is to leave the eurozone. A return to a national currency and a sharp depreciation would quickly restore competitiveness and growth, as it did in Argentina and many other emerging markets that abandoned their currency pegs.

Of course, this process will be traumatic. The most significant problem would be capital losses for core eurozone financial institutions. Overnight, the foreign euro liabilities of Greece’s government, banks and companies would surge. Yet these problems can be overcome. Argentina did so in 2001, when it “pesified” its dollar debts. America actually did something similar too, in 1933 when it depreciated the dollar by 69 per cent and repealed the gold clause. A similar unilateral “drachmatisation” of euro debts would be necessary and unavoidable.

Major eurozone banks and investors would also suffer large losses in this process, but they would be manageable too – if these institutions are properly and aggressively recapitalised. Avoiding a post-exit implosion of the Greek banking system, however, may unfortunately require the imposition of Argentine-style measures – such as bank holidays and capital controls – to prevent a disorderly fallout.

< wipes away crocodile tears thinking about bank losses >

also, thinking about greece and argentina reminded me that it was only one month and one year ago that i spent nearly two weeks with dear macedonian friends on the beach on the halkidiki peninsula in northern greece... i remember remarking at the time how similar the greek and the argentine mindsets seemed to me... both argentines and greeks, imho, are unequaled champions at living in the moment... when they're enjoying their free time, nothing else - and i mean NOTHING - else gets in the way... at any time of day, every greek family i saw had a large table either outside on the grass or on a terrace or balcony, complete with plenty of chairs, lots of food and drink, and no end of family and friends gathered around and my time in argentina is replete with memories of the same scenes...

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The United States and its gray economy

from wikipedia...
A grey market or gray market also known as parallel market is the trade of a commodity through distribution channels which, while legal, are unofficial, unauthorized, or unintended by the original manufacturer. The term gray economy, however, refers to workers being paid under the table, without paying income taxes or contributing to such public services as Social Security and Medicare. It is sometimes referred to as the underground economy or "hidden economy."

i've been in numerous countries where the grey economy amounted to better than 40-50% of the country GDP... in my mind, "gray economy" and "3rd world country" have become almost synonymous but it wasn't until this article that i suddenly realized the u.s. is rapidly heading in the same direction...


[I]n 2009, economics professor Friedrich Schneider estimated that it was nearly 8 percent of the US's GDP, somewhere around $1 trillion. (That makes the shadow GDP bigger than the entire GDP of Turkey or Austria.) Schneider doesn’t include illegal activities in his count-- he studies legal production of goods and services that are outside of tax and labor laws. And that shadow economy is growing as regular jobs continue to be hard to come by—Schneider estimated 5 percent in '09 alone.


Workers in the underground economy can also be vulnerable to exploitation; the Monthly Review pointed out that workers, especially undocumented immigrants, are pushed into off-the-books work out of desperation and have no officials to appeal to when their conditions are horrific or their pay substandard; wages are pushed downward and expectations lowered.

Labor economist Mark Price agreed. He told me, “People enter such arrangements because of their difficulty finding formal employment. Think of undocumented immigrants that work as house-cleaners or in the construction industry.”

He continued, “Employers or consumers who use workers in this way are doing so to boost profits or lower prices. Of course documented workers also can end up choosing to work in the underground economy but that choice, like the choice for the undocumented, has the same basic driver--the inability to find formal paid employment that meets a worker's needs.”

just one more example of how our super-rich elites are destroying any semblance of a social contract in their mad rush to control every last scrap of money and power...

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Sunday, September 18, 2011

This is a bribe-based system—an oligarchy all the way to the core

mark sumner posting on daily kos...
The greatest pretense in American politics is this: that our politicians can be utterly dependent on money given to them by contributors, but not be influenced by the source of those funds. It's not true. It's never been true. Now that the judicial takeover of our electoral system is complete, there's not even any reason to hide it. This is a bribe-based system—an oligarchy all the way to the core. Getting it back isn't going to be easy, and probably can't be done with dollars. It's going to take something far more dear.

it's about time that we woke up and smelled that fabled coffee... there is zero daylight between the repubs and the dems... they're both bought and paid for puppets totally beholden to their super-rich, elite handlers... as long as the principle driver is money, we're going to continue to get what we've been getting - governance at all levels singularly focused on the needs of those who pay to have people elected who will serve their needs and their needs alone, the common good be damned...

meanwhile, we, the peasants, are continually exhorted (by democrat-dedicated sites such as daily kos, among others) to toss our pathetic and scarce dollars into the hat to try to outspend those who can contribute millions without breaking a sweat... tell me how THAT'S going to work...

as long as we continue to support the myth that we can somehow make our completely broken two-party system work, we only continue to enable the oligarchs to run our lives and subvert any semblance of the principles the united states was founded on... whenever we attempt to make a stand for the common good, we will find it being attacked with the kind of vigor and unlimited resources that will only succeed in stomping it out... the welfare of senior citizens...? education for our national treasure, the young...? the fate of the unemployed...? the disadvantaged...? the working poor...? fuhgeddaboudit... anyone who doesn't have the advantage of money is, by definition, powerless, so, screw 'em...

where does this leave us...? i wish i knew... what i do know is that what we've been doing isn't working and i, for one, simply can't face the prospect of another repeat of our every four year reality show...

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