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  • Hugh commented on the blog post The Roundup for July 23nd, 2014

    2014-07-24 15:07:53View | Delete

    Botched executions are par for the course. This all stems from the 2008 Supreme Court case Baze v. Rees which declared constitutional these chemical cocktails administered by non-physicians and controlled by prison officials. I wrote at the time that it was a disaster waiting to happen. It was a contradiction. To be administered correctly, you would need an MD present, but ethically no physician in good conscience could be part of such an affair. Baze said that using less trained personnel was OK.

    The Supreme Court’s history with the death penalty has been horrendous. In the 1878 Wilkerson v. Utah, the Court said death by firing squad was OK. Wilkerson the executee was shot, in the arm, and took about a half hour to expire, not the quick end he envisioned but a cruel and unusual punishment. This was followed up by Kemmler in 1890 allowing for execution by electric chair. They jolted him with electricity for 17 seconds but did not kill him. So they upped the amperage for a second go. The smell was so bad that several of the witnesses had to leave. You might have thought that a record like this would teach the justices a little humility, except of course that humility is not a word in their vocabulary.

  • Hugh commented on the blog post The Roundup for July 23nd, 2014

    2014-07-24 14:47:39View | Delete

    Interesting to see the Russian form of hasbara here. While the Russian separatists are shooting down planes right and left, we are asked to disbelieve our lying eyes and buy into some convoluted story about how someone else, the Ukrainians, NATO, or Martians are the real culprits in the downing of the Malaysian airliner. On the one hand, we see how disorganized the Russian separatists have been in securing the crash site. On the other, we are supposed to believe that they are so professional that they could never f*ck up and shoot down a civilian plane by mistake.

    This is all an example of how when a military situation is allowed to fester, the possibility for miscalculation increases. The Russian rebels were more or less on the ropes and steadily losing ground. They are using anti-aircraft missiles to even things up but in doing so they miscalculated, shot down a civilian airliner full of Westerners (yes, racism is important in this), and now they are radioactive. In essence, they embraced a strategy which will gain them a few tactical victories but ultimately in downing the Malaysian jet, they lost the war.

  • Not a bug, but a feature. The democratization of higher education that came with the GI Bill and extended into the 60s and 70s has been successfully reversed. A college education became less and less about personal growth and creating an informed citizenry and more and more about the corporatization of universities. It all became about training, buying a ticket into corporate America. The universities in their structure, administrations, and corporate partnerships followed suit. They became corporations selling a commodity, those tickets to students and cogs to the corporations. When corporations stopped really wanting qualified personnel and opted for their current peonage system, universities again followed suit producing debt peons of their own. That was for the rubes. Universities have always been elite institutions, not just the Ivies. Increasingly what they are selling, for those who can pay, is an outgrowth of that, credentials and connections. It isn’t just the Ivies that are financially out of reach of all but the well to do but the flagship state universities, and more and more any university education at all.

    As for the Yale prof lamenting his students, it is important to point out that universities have always been engines of the status quo. No one has ever gone to college to learn how to become a rebel. If it happens, it does not because of the system but inspite of it. And lets face it, the Ivies larded with their entitlement, stuffed with their wealth and privilege are the last place we should expect rebellion to come. It just goes to show how far down the rabbit hole we are that this kind of “the sun comes up in the east” observation would be taken as surprising or noteworthy at all.

  • Hugh commented on the blog post The Roundup for July 16th, 2014

    2014-07-17 13:13:50View | Delete

    We need progressives on the Supreme Court. Warren despite the branding is no more a progressive than McCain is a maverick. Progressives should be looking within their own ranks for progressive choices, not to the occasional standard pol passing through mouthing a few progressive catchphrases.

  • This is razzle dazzle for us rubes. $7 billion equals big number in rubeland. It doesn’t matter if it has nothing to do with the severity of Citigroup’s crimes or if in banksterland, it would be known as chump change. Holder is, was, and always will be a corporate lawyer. His thinking is basically hit the public with a “big number” and this is the most anyone of them will see or remember. This allows the real enormity of Citi’s crimes, all the sordid details, and all the real lack of investigation to be swept under the carpet. What Citigroup has purchased, on the cheap, is an immunity bath, and more.

    If Citi had been convicted of a felony, that would have caused it grievous, possibly fatal harm. In addition to the felony conviction, all the evidence in the criminal complaint and most of that used at trial would have been available for civil suits by Citi’s victims against the bank. In essence, the government would have already done all the heavy lifting for the plaintiffs. This settlement leaves all the hurdles to the civil suits in place, stacks the deck in Citi’s favor, and, as I said above, ends any threat of further federal prosecution. For Citi, it’s a great deal, no more than cost of doing business, and it was all mediated by, as EternalVigilance so aptly calls him, Consigliere Holder.

  • Hugh commented on the blog post Citigroup Pays Just $7 Billion For Causing Financial Crisis

    2014-07-14 14:03:11View | Delete

    Both Stanford and Madoff ran Ponzi schemes that were unrelated to the frauds of the housing bubble and meltdown. There have been a few other financial figures convicted as well but mostly for things like insider trading.

  • Hugh commented on the blog post Citigroup Pays Just $7 Billion For Causing Financial Crisis

    2014-07-14 12:38:23View | Delete

    Important to remember that Bill Clinton selected Robert Rubin and Larry Summers to be his Treasury Secretaries, that Glass-Steagall was repealed under his and Summers’ watch in 1999 in Gramm-Lisch-Bliley (the retroactive legalization of the Citibank-Travelers merger), and that Clinton signed into law the Commodities Futures Modernization Act of 2000 which deregulated derivatives. Important too to remember that Rubin spent 26 years at Goldman Sachs and was its chairman and CEO for two years before joining the Clinton Administration. And the $126 million he was paid while he was at Citigroup was for his connections and influence. He wasn’t just Clinton principal economic advisor but Obama’s too, although he had to do so from behind the scenes after the 2008 meltdown, being publically succeeded once again in that role by Larry Summers.

    If I had to make a WAG, I would say that the number of people who should have been convicted for their roles in the housing bubble and meltdown would be minimum 30,000. alan1tx manages to find only two, and these are instructive being not the banksters at the major financial institutions but a couple of guys who tried to defraud them. And even Farkas’ $3 billion scam pales before the trillions in losses the banks’ inflicted on us in their thefts and frauds.

  • Quackery is the paradigm of our times, a directed quackery which serves the interests of the classes which rule us, the rich and elites. It dominates the area, economics, that I am currently working primarily in, but this form of charlatanism for hire permeates all social fields. Iraq and the fake War on Terror were the crucible for many of these. With Iraq, we had military and foreign policy determined by people who knew nothing about these subjects, and in fact had disdain for them. And we had a sycophantic courtier press willing to parrot their lies and propaganda.

    In America, we do not have a justice system. We have a two-tiered system of laws, a Dickensian one meant to keep most of us in a state of submission and a second permissive one which allows the rich and powerful to do whatever they want no matter how senseless and brutal. This second system uses the laws to sanction lawlessness. It is this one which John Yoo has so enthusiastically served throughout his career, and it is why instead of sitting in a jail cell for his crimes, he has been rewarded with an endowed chair of law at a nationally known law school.

  • If progressives want real progressive leadership, they need to start recruiting from within their own ranks. They need to stop making Establishment political figures who occasionally use a little progressive rhetoric the next progressive messiah. Elizabeth Warren is not going to save you. Nor is Bernie Sanders. Obama and Hillary Clinton think you are chumps and rubes. None of them give a shit about you. None of them want to do more than make a few cosmetic changes, and most of them don’t even want to do that. They are all products of and heavily invested in the same system which is looting the rest of us. To turn against it they would have to turn against who they are.

    The same can be said for progressive ideas. If you want a progressive social philosophy or economics start working from your progressive principles. Don’t expect a theory like Modern Monetary Theory just because it is heterodox to be progressive. The people who put it together weren’t progressive, and it comes out of a deeply anti-progressive tradition.

    I understand the sense of desperation, but progressives doom themselves to failure by reading into people and ideas, not what is there but what they wish was there. What they need to do is look to themselves, start trusting themselves. Otherwise it’s just words, and not even their own.

  • Hugh commented on the blog post The Political Decision in Hobby Lobby

    2014-07-06 15:54:23View | Delete

    Some random observations:

    In its 224 year history, except for the 19 years of the Warren Court and its aftermath, roughly from Brown in 1954 to Roe in 1973, the Supreme Court has always been the upholder of the power and privileges of the haves against the have-nots. It has championed the rights of the propertied against the unpropertied, of slaveholders, of employers against workers, of Jim Crow segregationists, of corporations, and of course always of the rich. This decision against women, and more particularly working class women is consonant with the Court’s whole history.

    Yes, Alito’s legal thinking reads like a cartoon. We need to keep reminding ourselves that the Supreme Court lacks all legitimacy. We should never forget nor forgive the judicial coup of Bush v. Gore. But isn’t it amazing the power symbols have over us? Dress a carney act up in black robes and suddenly an instrument of class war becomes invested with power and majesty.

    This case would never have arisen if we had a universal payer Medicare for All healthcare system, instead of the employer based one Obama saddled us with.

    The decision is based on the Religious Freedom Restoration Act and could be reversed simply by amending this act to say that nothing in it should be construed to take precedence over the ACA. Politically, it is a win for both the Democrats and the Republicans since both can run on it in November with no real likelihood that either will have to do anything about it.

    It isn’t just that this case coincides with the religious biases of its Catholic male members but their class prejudices as well. The women in their families and those they are likely to know are going to be covered in the same gold-plated healthcare plans they are. This decision is all about people, women, not in their class. It in no way touches them and theirs. And of course, it is deeply sexist. I assume male employees at Hobby Lobby will still have access to Viagra in their plans.

    As Ruth Bader Ginsburg noted in her dissent, the language “the least restrictive means of furthering that compelling governmental interest” effectively means that if the government wants it, the government, not the private sector, i.e. corporations, will have to pay for it. And while Alito says the decision is only about contraception and does not mean that “vaccinations or blood transfusions, must necessarily fall if they conflict with an employer’s religious beliefs. Nor does it provide a shield for employers who might cloak illegal discriminationas as religious practice,” his division is completely arbitrary. There is no reason other than Alito’s sayso as to why these and other restrictions would not apply.

    Re Roberts, I think the real villain in his confirmation process was the gasbag from Vermont Patrick Leahy, the ranking Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, who voted for confirmation despite his belief that Roberts was lying about his promise not to overturn precedent, that is go against stare decisis. Although in the absence of a filibuster, opposition votes to Roberts were purely cosmetic, Obama, Biden, and Clinton did vote against him. Of more note is that Wyden, Feingold, and Leahy voted for him.

  • To use Piketty’s language, it is a case of seeking an r that is much greater than g. Pension funds are notoriously underfunded. At the same time, they promise rates of return in the 8%-8.5% range, and they are doing this despite a GDP growing at 2%-2.5%. On top of this, they are supposed to seek safe investments and so are precluded from risky bets on their own. What they are not prohibited from doing is partnering up with hedge funds and private equity outfits. Now even if these arrangements worked, the alpha the pension funds are buying is usually at the expense of other workers who see their wages hammered and their jobs downsized or shipped overseas. And these investments are extremely vulnerable to any downturn. When the bubble in equity (stocks) pops, the underlying bubble in derivatives will too. Private equity which depends on cheap credit and lots of it as well as gullible buyers will find a dearth of both. Pension funds will be decimated. Add in corrupt politicians, pension administrators with an IBG YBG attitude doing the bidding of the hedge funds and private equity, and the fees, charges, and risks of these and you have a witch’s broth of bad news for current and future pensioners. But for the moment the Fed is keeping the bubbles inflated, so it’s all good, right?

  • This site does harm precisely because it propagates the idea that there are real differences between the two parties. It rejects Republicans but can only be critical of some Democrats some of the time. Yet if we go to the substance, the only differences among the Bush Administration, the Obama Administration or a putative McCain or Romney Administration are atmospheric.

    The Democrats showed that even when they had the Presidency and control of both Houses of Congress, they not only would not fight for progressive goals, they would actively fight against them.

    In a politician’s whole political career, there are only a handful of votes that define who they really are. The healthcare was such a vote, and every pretend progressive in Congress, bar none, voted for the corporatist model of Obamacare, which was itself largely indistinguishable from Romneycare.

    So where are these good Democrats? We all know the dodges of revolving heroes. So where are the good Democrats who have stood up against this most corporatist of neoliberal Presidents, and done so consistently, and not just for their predictable star turns as the hero du jour.

    You are mired in the world of the two legacy parties. You can or will not look beyond them. And much the same can be said about FDL in general. If the site owner fills the site with Democratic voices that is a choice. If this site were truly progressive, then the decision about whether to support Democrats would not be the site owner’s alone. So it seems a bit strange that you would put off the responsibility for that decision on to the site owner but then give a pass to the decision to have posters solidly within the two party framework.

    The question is and remains how long can you and this site can stick with the Democrats or whatever subset of them on any given day in the face of their now years long record of failures and betrayals of you. Sticking with the Democrats must resemble an awful lot be caught inside the movie Groundhog Day. No matter how it plays out it always ends up the same way.

    There are other options, but none as long as you stay with the Democrats.

  • Nice riff on “If you can’t argue the facts, argue the law. If you can’t argue the law, pound the table.”

    Activism without direction doesn’t mean squat. Republicans can be activist too. So what is your point?

    The site can not pretend to be an opinion leader if it is and remains so far behind events.

  • The cognitive dissonance in this post is that it clings to the belief that Obama and the Democrats are somehow better than the Republicans and that they, and especially Obama, can be persuaded to adopt positions and policies that they have actively worked against for the last 3 1/2 years.

    If this post had been addressed to Mitt Romney, everyone would think it was just silly. So how is it any less silly to direct it at Obama who effectively has governed to the right of George Bush, not just embracing Bush’s policies but expanding upon them?

    While I know some here have already done this, my question is, and remains, when will this site abandon not just Obama, but the Democrats, all of them? What will it take, how long will it be, how many betrayals have to occur, before FDL is officially done with them? What credibility can this site (not the community) have that 3 1/2 years into Obama and 6 to 8 years with the Democrats it still maintains the fiction that some Democrats are better than others and that if only the right argument is used the Democrats will see and embrace the light? We are years beyond that point. Yet how can this site have any credibility continuing to act as if we are not?

  • I am “among the suspiciously growing group of those who now claim ‘I told you so’” and have been since July 2008. We warned you about Obama before the election, even before the convention, and we were told that the important thing was to turn the page on Bush by defeating McCain. While FDL went off on in futile pursuit of the mirage of the public option in healthcare, we told you from the outset the fix was in. I personally wrote about the need to start a new progressive party and did so here: Third Party? How About a First Party in July 2009. I and others were told get back to us when you start electing candidates. The vote on healthcare was a defining moment, but not for FDL. Every liberal and so-called progressive member of the House and Senate betrayed the progressive cause. Yet two years on, FDL has still not broken with the Democrats. Yes, there is a lot of criticism of Democrats, and support for Occupy, but everything is still viewed within the two party framework. Netroots Nation is a case in point. It is a false flag operation of the Democratic party. It was founded and is still largely controlled by a Democratic operative Markos Moulitsas. The speakers I heard about were all Democrats or Obamites like Jones. Why were there no speeches from non-Democratic progressive alternatives?

    For those who still believe in lesser evilism, remember this. You are voting for evil, and if the last 4 years should have taught you anything it is that the lesser evil, secure in the knowledge of your support, quickly becomes the greater evil. You are voting for kleptocracy. You are voting for more of the same. Finally, remember that no one owns your vote but you. If a candidate or party can’t give good, substantial, and most importantly positive reasons for your support, if they can only say the other guy is worse, don’t vote for them. They obviously don’t want your vote, so why vote for them?

    And finally to FDL in general, FDL has had no problem rejecting the Republicans and has done so for years. Why then will FDL not equally reject the Democratic party that differs from the Republicans in no substantial way? The Democrats have been shoving the lesson down the throats of progressives for nearly a decade now that you can’t be progressive and Democratic. When will FDL learn the lesson we all have been taught?

  • Hugh commented on the blog post Live Chat – William K. Black: The Foreclosure Settlement

    2012-02-17 15:33:04View | Delete

    I am so sorry to hear about Mary. She was one of the most committed people I knew to Constitutional rights and personal freedoms. I will miss her.

  • Hugh commented on the blog post Live Chat – William K. Black: The Foreclosure Settlement

    2012-02-17 14:51:53View | Delete

    No you haven’t. Re-read my comment at 84. You continually say that politicians must be pressured or voted out of office, but you fail to recognize, despite masses of evidence, that politicians aren’t pressured. Threaten them with loss of office and they will go into the private corporate welfare system of lobbying and think tanks where they will make multiples of their current salaries with far less aggravation. And those who replace them will come from the perennial choice between the corporatist Democrat and the corporatist Republican.

    Failing to understand that kleptocracy is the system means nothing more than advocating solutions to the wrong problems. It means your efforts will be misdirected both in practical and theoretical terms, and as I said, leaves me wondering at what point you become part of the problem, since by willfully and persistently mischaracterizing it you allow it to fester and grow that much more.

    You may think this is terribly unfair, but there are real lines being drawn here, and you and yours can no longer temporize about them. You can not have it both ways. You can not in good faith limit your criticisms to what is comfortable to you and your class. You either complete the analysis and act on it or you stand with those you say you criticize. You may not like this choice but it is the choice we all must make. And as you take a leadership role, you should be among the first and not the last to make it.

  • Hugh commented on the blog post Live Chat – William K. Black: The Foreclosure Settlement

    2012-02-17 12:51:46View | Delete

    You have often referred to a criminogenic environment, but this is an incomplete analysis. The problem is not rampant crime in the economic system. It is the system as criminal enterprise, that is kleptocracy.

    There is a major difference in these two views. According to you and liberal economists in general, the economic/political system is essentially sound. So you advocate putting “pressure” on Obama and the Democrats to “force” them to take measures and adopt policies to curb and punish criminal acts. But of course this never happens. And the reason it doesn’t is because your analysis is wrong. If you look at things from a kleptocratic perspective, it is axiomatic why reform will never work or even be tried, why the guilty will remain not only free and uninvestigated but made both richer and more powerful.

    My question to you is how much longer will be before you and liberal economists take the plunge and address kleptocracy as it is and not in the tentative way you have done so far and most economists have avoided altogether? And if you do not, at what point do you and they become part of the problem?