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  • Hugh commented on the blog post The Roundup for November 25th, 2014

    2014-11-25 19:52:21View | Delete

    Chuck Schumer, the Senator of Wall Street, sheds a few crocodile tears over American workers. Let’s all vote Democratic! not.

    I remember catching heat for ripping First Look when it was first announced. What was its structure going to be, what was its business plan, what media platforms was it going to appear on, what news service(s) was it going to present, what was Omidyar’s role going to be, how was Omidyar and his money going to determine the what and how of what was covered, especially on economic and social issues like wealth inequality, and what was its editorial vision? There was quite simply no there there. It had not been thought through. Almost everything I mentioned above was blank or unaddressed. Having writers pursue the occasional story is very different from blogging the topic du jour which is very different from an actual news service. There was also the inherent contradiction of left wing journalistic independence while being on a micro-managing billionaire’s payroll.

    And there were other concerns. Greenwald and Poitras played it very smart dribbling out the first NSA stories, keeping the story alive, keeping the government off balance, catching it in lies. But at some point and that point was a long time ago, they needed to release the rest of the Snowdon trove to the internet. It was the progressive thing to do, and they didn’t do it. So now instead of the government passing on what we “need” to know, we have Greenwald and Poitras playing the same role. Turning the Snowdon documents into their own little cottage industry serves no one’s interests outside their own. Their failure to bring all the documents to the public so that we could see the full extent of the police surveillance state we live in allowed the Administration, the NSA, the rest of the intelligence community, and the political Establishment to regroup and bury any substantive reform. Way to go, Glenn!

    First Look made no sense from the start. It still doesn’t.

  • Hugh commented on the blog post Questions from Ferguson

    2014-11-25 15:53:57View | Delete

    McCulloch was biased and staged-managed the grand jury process to come up with the “objective” decision he wanted. The grand jury process was drawn out for three months in the hopes that anger would die down and reduce the reaction to the grand jury outcome. This, of course, didn’t happen. The announcement of the decision was made in the evening in primetime (A) to stroke McCulloch’s ego and (B) to tire out protesters (again didn’t happen). You might think that law enforcement wouldn’t want a riot at night as opposed to the day, but you would be mistaken. Most people are more tired and disoriented at night. Night makes it harder for protesters and rioters to organize and it makes it much harder to capture police actions, especially excessive force, on all the video cameras out there.

  • Hugh commented on the blog post No Tech Worker Shortage, No STEM Crisis

    2014-11-25 14:58:59View | Delete

    I agree with the consensus here that the non-existent STEM crisis and H1B visa program are about wage suppression. It reminds me of the job-skills mismatch argument and the mostly meaningless stat the BLS tracks on “job openings”. Millions of job openings but gosh darn it, no one qualified to fill them. Never mentioned, except by us, is the obvious response that if companies wanted qualified workers they could raise their wage rates to attract and retain them, and even *gasp* train them. Much easier in the minds of the Silicon Valley pirates to bring in cheap, abusable throwaway foreign tech workers.

  • Hugh commented on the blog post Israel Moves to Become Formal Ethnocracy

    2014-11-25 14:31:49View | Delete

    Re Scandinavia, Sweden went hardcore neoliberal back, I think, back in the 1990s, and as the Julian Assange case demonstrates, its judicial system is as rigged as any. It was also one of the countries that aided the CIA’s rendition and black sites programs. Denmark has also been trending neoliberal in the last few years. Despite the hoopla, the banks won out in Iceland. Norway is an exception largely because of its oil wealth which is paradoxal considering global warming. The Finns have some communitarian elements in their culture. That’s about it.

  • Hugh commented on the blog post Israel Moves to Become Formal Ethnocracy

    2014-11-25 14:18:32View | Delete

    This is how apartheid plays out in ever greater paroxysms of racism and extremism.

    I used to say that the two state solution died in 1995 with the assassination of Prime Minister Rabin by a Jewish extremist. Call it ironic that Israel’s political spectrum is much more in accord with the views of Rabin’s murderer than it is with Rabin. Now I think the two state solution was never viable going right back to 1948. What Israel/Palestine needs and has always needed is two nations, one people, one state. But there as here what people need and what they get are very different things.

  • My comment apparently got eaten. Did you notice how the prosecutor McCulloch milked his 15 minutes of fame?

    In legal circles, the saying goes that a prosecutor can get an indictment against a ham sandwich from a grand jury. That’s because a prosecutor organizes the evidence he/she needs to establish probable cause, leads the grand jury through it, and recommends the charges consistent with it. It is the rare exception when the grand jury does not go along with the prosecutor’s presentation and recommendations. None of this happened with this grand jury.

    McCulloch basically lied when he said that all the evidence was turned over to the grand jury, and that the grand jury was left to “objectively” sift through it, because he very pointedly discussed how his prosecutors had pre-sifted it and determined which parts were objective and which weren’t in their presentations to the grand jury. This was not left as he said to the grand jury. Indeed the only specific detailed reference he made to the evidence before announcing the grand jury’s findings was how autopsy evidence “debunked” the account of Mike Brown being shot in the back. What I found odd about this was that this had been known for weeks, since the release of the autopsy report, and was largely irrelevant to the fact that officer Wilson fired repeatedly not to stop but to kill Wilson. If you want to stop someone, you shoot them in the knee or ankle. If you want to kill them, you shoot higher into the head and torso.

    McCullock did not fulfill the function of a prosecutor before a grand jury. His job was to present what the case was, not what it wasn’t. If he didn’t believe there was probable cause, he should not have gone to the grand jury at all. That he did and then presented the case for, not against, officer Wilson, and then made no recommendations turned this into nothing more than political theater.

    Add to this the makeup of the grand jury, seven males, nine whites, that the killer was a policeman, along with all of McCulloch’s deliberate failures, and can anyone be surprised at the result?

    What we are seeing in Ferguson is an ongoing promotion and defense of a police culture of impunity. This isn’t just about race although race is an important factor in Mike Brown’s murder. It is now legal for the police to kill any of us, the rubes and proles of the 99%, and get off scot-free. The police are increasingly militarized and unsurprisingly have begun to act like an army, an army of occupation. Blacks in this country have known this for decades. In Ferguson, white police force, black population. The police are not there to protect them but to keep them in their place. The thing is more and more this is not the fate of just blacks in this country but of all of us. Look at Ferguson and see your future, your near future.

  • Hugh commented on the blog post Secretary of Defense Hagel Announces Resignation

    2014-11-24 13:17:42View | Delete

    The conflict against ISIS is an upside down conflict where all of our supposed “friends” are opposed to us, either because they are anti-Shia (Saudi Arabia and the Emirates) or anti-Kurd (Turkey). At the same time, our obvious real allies in such a fight (Assad’s Syria, Lebanese Hezbollah, and Iran) the US government is largely opposed to. Meanwhile Iraq, a country you would think would be most concerned about ISIS, is largely a bystander with its government permanently mired in corruption and sectarianism.

    From a military point of view, the US has no bases in the area from which it can mount an effective aerial response. The Turks won’t let us use our bases there and Iraq has not provided bases for us either. With friends like these who needs enemies? The most effective way to take on ISIS would be the commitment of US troops with air cover. But just think of the reaction of the first beheaded American soldier ISIS captures. Instead we have “trainers”, i.e. combat troops but not directly involved against ISIS.

    So let’s review, no good staging areas, no airfields, no combat troops where they are needed, backstabbing allies, an endlessly corrupt and ineffective Iraqi government and military, and no political endgame to resolve the internal conflicts in either Syria or Iraq. If someone asked me to run such an idiot war, I would resign too.

  • Hugh commented on the blog post Federal Reserve Facing Scrutiny After Corruption Scandals

    2014-11-24 12:54:39View | Delete

    A sockpuppetry fest where Congressional sockpuppets get together with Fed counterparts and express shock that gambling is going on in the casino. The housing bubble burst in August of 2007. The meltdown began in September of 2008. We are, depending from which starting point you would like to begin at, 6 to 7 years on from these events. Even for the terminally slow, this is an incredibly delayed and slow motion reaction to the obvious.

    This is, of course, political theater. The failures are with our elites, and only from our point of view. For them, they weren’t failures at all but just milestones in the ongoing transfer of power and wealth to the rich and themselves.

  • Hugh commented on the blog post The Weekend Roundup for November 22-23rd, 2014

    2014-11-23 20:32:10View | Delete

    The theoretical basis for neoliberalism is an amalgam of neoclassical (the dominant system) and libertarian economics with some flavors sporting the occasional Keynesian, or more often pseudo-Keynesian, nod. The Counterpunch article points out the failure of neoliberalism to deal with the difference between the real and financial economies. This is a restatement of a point many of us have been making for years. Indeed the Nobel winning physicist and sometime economist Frederick Soddy pointed out the difference between real wealth and virtual (i.e. financial) wealth back in the 1930s. Of course, this criticism could be leveled at all of modern economics. We need to understand that modern economics, both orthodox and heterodox, is nothing more than propaganda, glorified carnie-speak. Its object is not meant to explain or describe the economy but to cover for one class’ (the rich and elites) looting of the others.

    It would be laughable if it weren’t so effective. Neoclassical economics is based on the summation of the decisions of autonomous, rational actors, who don’t exist. Their decisions are, in turn, based on utility, a concept which is both undefinable and unquantifiable. The summation of these decisions produce economic equilibria which likewise do not exist. It has no understanding of, indeed does not treat, basic banking, and together with the rest of modern economics, it has no conception of not just the financial economy but a credit-based one or the problem of interest.

    Again if we view modern economics as propaganda, this is not at all surprising. The economy is not some kind of autonomous beast or scientific process. It exists to serve the needs of society, that is all of us, not some of us, or a very few of us, but all of us. Society is not a summation of our economic decisions. It is about what we want, the kind of life we wish to have, and the commitments we make to ourselves and others to achieve such a society. The job of modern economics of all stripes is to bury this simple truth so deep that it is never heard or spoken by anyone –because if we should, the whole mass of justifications for the vast inequalities of power, wealth, and privilege which the rich and elites enjoy over us would evaporate. From their point of view, this must never happen, and modern economics does its part to see that it never does.

  • The Fed is a private banking cartel, one of the very few points the libertarians ever got right. As the run up to and aftermath of the 2008 meltdown showed, it doesn’t police the banking industry but it will create trillions to bail them, not us, out.

    I agree with the sentiments expressed here that this is kabuki. This is about turf. Dudley is a former chief economist at the vampire squid of banking Goldman Sachs and is thoroughly a creature of the banking industry. Lukewarm liberals in Congress would like to strip away some of the Fed’s regulatory powers it isn’t using and spin them off to other agencies that won’t use them either. Republican libertarians would like to reduce the Fed’s ability to regulate because they don’t like the concept of regulation to begin with but principally as a means to keep the Fed from another bailout of the banks after the next crash since this offends their libertarian principles. The likelihood of any serious action against the Fed is small. It’s owned by the banks, and the banks own most of Congress.

  • Progressives simply do not get immigration. By 2050, the country on its present trajectory will have nearly 400 million people. Much of this population growth will be fueled by the newly arrived and their children. You can choose your parameters but a sustainable population for the country would be less than 200 million, and probably more likely in the 150 million range. Do the math.

    This may well be the crux of the matter, but it is not why immigration reform grates on the last nerve of so many Americans. They can look around and even if they can’t enunciate it clearly, they know the country isn’t working for them. They’re citizens. They’re working their asses off and they see themselves ignored and falling further and further behind. So who do Obama and the Democrats make a big, glitzy push to help? Not them, but people who aren’t even citizens, who aren’t here legally, and in many cases don’t speak their language. There can be and is plenty of racism in this, and often the reasons are wrong, but the main point remains valid. The needs and concerns, let alone the hopes and aspirations, of ordinary Americans are not being served.

    Obama to date has been a bigger deporter of illegals than Bush. So you should ask yourself why the change of “heart”. Certainly, there is some electoral calculus in pandering to Hispanics, but remember Obama is about Obama and he has already run in his last election. From the point of view of our ruling classes, immigration is primarily about wage suppression. Many industries depend heavily on cheap wages and illegals: agriculture, construction, poultry and meat processing (slaughterhouses), construction, accommodation (hotels and motels), and restaurants. H1-B visas have extended wage suppression into supposedly high wage sectors, such as Silicon Valley, and you will note that this forms a central part of Obama’s immigration program.

    With the Establishment’s view that the economy is looking up and with, by their measure, unemployment tracking down (and the horrific possibility, not reality but possibility of wage increases), it looks to them like a good time to promote cheap labor and to ease back on deportations and immigration restrictions. Sure, Obama will dress this up as humanitarian and good economic sense, and the Republicans will howl and play to their nativist base, but this is just another case of dueling sockpuppets. Their rhetoric means nothing. Their actions say everything. If both sides were serious about reducing and/or eliminating illegal immigration, they would enact draconian penalties on employers who hired illegals or discriminated against citizens of Hispanic heritage.

  • Hugh commented on the blog post The Roundup for November 19th, 2014

    2014-11-20 12:35:58View | Delete

    John Jay Chapman wrote in 1900 of this effect in the political, not economic, arena in his work Practical Agitation:

    “A generation of men has been consumed by the shibboleth “reform within the party,” —a generation of educated and right-minded men, who accomplished in their day much good, and left the country better than they found it, but are floating to-day like hulks in the trough of the sea of politics, because all their mind and all their energy were exhausted in discovering certain superficial evils and in fighting them”

    I would think that being the “fastest of the fast” tempered with the experience of time would add responsibility to ask the deeper questions, not avoid them, but as Chapman notes, reform comes in waves and each wave builds on and leaves behind the previous wave.

    Stiglitz exemplifies a problem I see a lot also with progressives. They are often very critical of the Democratic party but they can not really move forward and beyond it until they reject it. Stiglitz is the best of the criticizers of modern economics within the Establishment mold but he can only go so far and must ultimately fail and become irrelevant unless and until he rejects his class and its self-serving economic models.

  • Hugh commented on the blog post Neocons Want To Try Nation-Building In Iraq Again

    2014-11-19 20:51:45View | Delete

    The neocons wanted to put permanent US bases in Saudi Arabia, but even placing them in the deep desert created too much resentment. The Saudis bailed. This sent the neocons looking for other candidates, and the search for permanent bases along with oil were the two principal reasons for the invasion of Iraq. That didn’t work out so well either. But you can never keep the neocons down for long. So now they are thinking about an American presence in the Kurdish region. From a geostrategic point of view, this is a terrible idea. Like Afghanistan, Iraqi Kurdistan is landlocked and surrounded by generally hostile neighbors. This includes the Turks who are becoming a more and more dubious “ally” and of course, the Saudis who always were. Iraqi Kurdistan would be less a platform for American power than another trap for it.

    And did anyone else catch the glaring contradiction between “nation building” and carving up Syria and Iraq?

  • Hugh commented on the blog post The Roundup for November 19th, 2014

    2014-11-19 20:42:34View | Delete

    Stiglitz is the most progressive sounding of the Establishment liberals. He echoes themes, such as taxation of corporations and the rich, I have written on in the last few years –although at nothing like the levels I have suggested. But as a solid member of the Establishment, he still fails to address the criminality of the rich and elites, the classes to which he belongs, that is at the heart of the inequality he writes so passionately about. The result is calls for action that would leave these classes firmly in place but curb some of their excesses. While this sounds promising, it is rather like asking organized crime, on their own, to dial back some of their most egregious criminal activities. It is an approach that completely ignores and/or misunderstands what organized crime is.

    There are other tells, such as Stiglitz’s support of Obamacare, his passing reference to the $700 billion of the TARP and not the trillions in Fed bailouts, or his focus on corporate and income tax rates but not estate taxes, which help fix where he is truly coming from.

    On the article about the Center for American Progress’ take on the recent elections, it is important to remember that the CAP is a Democratic policy group. Its president is Neera Tandem. She was a policy advisor to the last Hillary Clinton presidential campaign and then later to Obama’s. She was a senior architect of the corporatist Obamacare.

    Here is a list of their corporate donors:

    Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP, The Albright Stonebridge Group, American Beverage Association, American Iron and Steel Institute, America’s Health Insurance Plans, or AHIP, Anglo American, Apple Inc., AT&T, Bank of America, Blackstone, Blue Cross Blue Shield Association, Blue Engine Message & Media, Blue Shield of California, BMW of North America, CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield, Citigroup, The Coca-Cola Company, Comcast NBCUniversal, Covanta Energy, CVS Caremark Inc., Daimler, DeVry Education Group, Dewey Square Group, Discovery, DISH Network, Downey McGrath Group, Inc., DRS Technologies, Eli Lilly and Company, Facebook, Federal Home Loan Bank of Dallas, GE, Genworth Financial, The Glover Park Group LLC, Goldman Sachs, Google, Health Care Service Corporation, The Ickes and Enright Group, Japan Bank for International Cooperation, Kohlberg Kravis Roberts, McLarty Associates, Microsoft Corporation, Monitor Deloitte, Motion Picture Association of America, or MPAA*, MyWireless.Org, Northrop Grumman, Pearson, PepsiCo, PG&E Corporation, Quest Diagnostics, Samsung Electronics America, Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office in the United States, or TECRO, Tata Group of Companies, Time Warner Inc., T-Mobile, Toyota Motor North America, Visa Inc., Walmart, Wells Fargo.

    Yeah, the people at CAP are really looking out for ordinary Americans. Just ask their friends.

  • Hugh commented on the blog post Democrat’s Demographic Fatalism Facing Critiques

    2014-11-17 12:11:30View | Delete

    The first step toward creating a progressive party and movement is to break definitively with the Democrats. It really is that simple. Progressives have been stuck in a Waiting for Godot moment waiting for the Democrats to get their act together and reform themselves. It’s not going to happen. They are an integral part of the class war the rich and elites wage against us in order to maintain their kleptocracy. These are not well meaning but mistaken people. They are engaged in a deeply criminal enterprise which kills tens of thousands each year and immiserates tens of millions. Without an understanding of the criminal element in what they do, we are always left with the con that the system really can work for us. It just needs a little tweaking.

  • Yes, this was planned mission creep. Obama has been trying to find a way back into Iraq since the failure to come up with a status of forces agreement guaranteeing legal immunity for US troops operating in Iraq forced him out. Importantly what never seems to get mentioned is that Iraq will continue to fragment in the absence of a comprehensive political and economic settlement between its national groups, and such an agreement is not really in the works. Additionally, barely mentioned is the issue of systemic corruption which insures the ineffectiveness of the government, the army, and the security services. When the US agrees to assume a larger and larger role in Iraq, this takes pressure off Iraqi leaders to deal seriously with either of these issues.

  • Nancy Pelosi dismissing opponents of the Iraq War criticizing her for her failure to oppose the war in any real, substantive way:

    “They are advocates,” she said. “We are leaders.” October 9, 2007

    Of course, the obvious retort would be, “Well, Nancy, if your a leader, then lead!” But what Pelosi was really saying is FU except when I can use you.

    She thinks we are stupid rubes. Gruber does. Obama always has. For Republicans, it is axiomatic. This gotcha moment is just more political theater.

    Democratic and Republicans officeholders are part of the class of servant elites who do the bidding of the rich and who engage in meaningless fights to keep us rubes distracted from the ongoing and massive looting of the country and us.

  • Hugh commented on the blog post Obama Battles His Own Appointee On Net Neutrality

    2014-11-12 13:17:14View | Delete

    The primary weapon in class war is distraction. The image I have of all these pseudo contests and conflicts is of a guy with a sockpuppet on each hand. The one sockpuppet says I am a Democrat (or Obama) and the other says I am a Republican (or Wheeler). We are invited to believe that some real issue is being debated and fought over by said sockpuppets. But the whole exercise is a fiction. The same guy is behind both. The point is to send us down a rabbit hole and keep us there, unfocused on his agenda, and his thefts.

  • Hugh commented on the blog post Regulators Fine Banks For Rigging Foreign-Exchange Benchmarks

    2014-11-12 12:55:54View | Delete

    All of these “deals” are kabuki. Their object is not to penalize banks but to give them effective immunity from the crimes they have committed and to retain most of the profits from them. Those who perpetrated the crimes not only are not punished they received large bonuses for them. As noted above, the fines will be taken as business losses and used to reduce the banks’ tax bills. Investors might take a hit in dividends but since most of their profits come from stock price and not dividends, with the stock markets in a bubble this hit will be minor and transistory. The big losers in these deals are the general public. They remain saddled with a criminal banking system and lose even the possibility that some of those foregone taxes might “trickle” back down to them.

  • It is important to remember that the frauds involving mortgage loan originations to the construction of trusts to the multiple iterations of CDOs and CDS written on them constitute the largest interconnected frauds in human history. Not only has no one gone to jail for any of these they remain largely uninvestigated by Justice, the Treasury, the Fed, the SEC, and the FBI. It would be laughable to say that this was an oversight. It was a policy which Obama stated even before his Inauguration.

    Non-prosecution and non-investigation were only the start of what was far more than a cover up. A GAO report laid out the various emergency facilities which the Fed created. The activity of these (summing the figures available in the appendices) came to something over $28 trillion. This does not mean the Fed at any particular time lent out this amount but rather that banks, foreign and domestic, accessed this much to clear, and more importantly cut the costs of clearing the more egregious of their accounts. This figure does not include the activities through the Fed discount window which were likely quite large, and it does not include the emergency programs run through the Treasury (principally involving Money Markets and shadow banking), both of which remain secret. Let’s just say that compared to any of these the $700 billion of the TARP was chump change.

    Beyond on all these, we had the travesty of the mostly contentless Dodd-Frank which was not really not a regulatory bill but more a promise to write regulations down the road. In the event, these have been successfully stymied and deflected by the banking sector. And we had the spectacle of courts allowing banks to forge paper trails back to the original mortgages, all of this blatantly illegal, so that they could dispossess and evict millions of duped homeowners. We have had a few cosmetic programs to “help” homeowners which, of course, did nothing of the sort. We have had a series of settlements with “history-making” fines which largely evaporate on closer inspection and whose residue can be written off on taxes at the end of the day anyway. The object of these settlements was political theater, to give rubes like us the appearance that banks were being punished when in fact they were being given immunity baths. And as others have noted, statute of limitations either has or will shortly run out leaving the biggest frauds in human history and those who perpetrated them free and clear –to do it all over again.

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