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

    2014-12-19 21:00:59View | Delete

    Putin must be really hard up for allies. North Korea is a stone cold liability for its main historical ally China. The NK government is orders of magnitude beyond the corrupt oligarchs, kleptocrats, and dictators running the Central Asian (former SSRs) states Putin is used to dealing with.

    It is important to point out that 18% reduction in food production will occur with a 9+ billion world population. It needs to be understood in the following context: overpopulation, resource depletion, and ecological destruction, including global climate disruption will take world population from that 9+ billion mark first reached in about 2040 to less than 1 billion by 2100.

    That the high latitudes were being affected by climate change at the fastest rate has been known since the IPCC came out with its first report back in 2007 if memory serves.

    Re McCulloch, grand juries follow where prosecutors lead them. That no indictment was returned in Ferguson is because McCulloch led them there. Ditto, in New York. In cases of murder committed by police, prosecutors overwhelmingly use grand juries, not to indict police, but to conduct a whitewash.

    Re Jack Lew’s “misperceptions”, those aren’t misperceptions/mistakes at all. They are part of the class war waged against us. The “we’re just ordinary folks” is a trope to con us rubes.

    FIFA leaders knew where they were sending the World Cup in 2018 and 2022. They didn’t care then. They don’t care now. It’s all about the money. Big events like the World Cup and the Olympics now go to corrupt developing countries like Russia and Qatar because A) they have the money and B) the kleptocrats who run them are willing to spend it on vanity projects like these rather than on the well being of their own citizens.

    Just a cultural observation, I don’t think the Chinese “get” Christmas. This may explain why so many of the decorations I have seen in recent years are so crappy. On the other hand, the Japanese do seem to get it. They just put their own spin on it.

  • Hugh commented on the blog post The Roundup for December 12th, 2014

    2014-12-12 20:58:27View | Delete

    Good to know that raising tuition at universities in multiples of the inflation rate year in and year out still means that college hasn’t gotten more expensive, even if this defies even the most basic mathematics.

    Nowadays countries heavily dependent on oil exports for revenue need to pump flat out regardless of the price to keep their oligarchs happy and their societies from imploding. Saudi Arabia back in the 70s had enough production capability to inforce some production discipline, but for the last 10-15 years other countries cheated massively on their quotas. The difference now is the Saudis look they are caught up in the same dynamic. At the same time, the monster fields they used in the past to inforce discipline are playing out.

    The shenanigans with the budget bills just go to show the complete corruption of our political classes. The Democrats under Obama’s leadership have been selling out the country for 6 years. The losses in the last election cycle did not serve as a catalyst to adopt progressive positions but rather an incentive to accelerate their sellouts with, of course, Obama leading the way and Congressional Democrats following. Forget the outrage in the soundbites. This was a done deal. Nobody forced Obama into it. Nobody forced the Congressional Democrats to be ingorant of its contents until the last minute. If they had wanted to, they could have known, through the Washington grapevine if nothing else. So they probably had a pretty good idea, with plausible deniability, about it. There might be a few cosmetic tweaks to placate the rubes, but at the end of the day, this shitpile will be passed essentially intact, in this or the next Congress, becaus that is what Republicans and Democrats, and more importantly those who own them, want. I can already hear the arguments: didn’t like it but it was the best we could get; don’t be a purist; don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good, blah, blah, blah.

  • Hugh commented on the blog post The Roundup for December 11th, 2014

    2014-12-12 15:38:08View | Delete

    The Pew poll is important because it shows that the non-stop propaganda we are deluged with about the economy turning a corner, on the mend, GDP up, more jobs, less unemployment, and even with gas prices down for a bit, most Americans aren’t buying it. They, we, know that something is fundamentally wrong. My father was a master sergeant in the Army. It was a one income household. On that, my parents could have a house, a car, and later a second one, raise four kids, send three of them with some help to college, pay the bills, stay out of debt, and even take vacations to see our relatives in Western New York. Nothing fancy but very solid, and it was pretty much the norm. Almost anyone in the middle middle class or lower middle class could do it. Now that either doesn’t happen or is the exception for everyone outside the upper middle class.

    I may be simplifying a little here but we were an 80-20 country, where 80% had a good shot at a decent life. Now we are a 20-80 one. Life for the upper 20% is OK to fantastic. For the rest of us, it is a rearguard action seeking to limit, not our losses, but our rate of losses.

    To repeat, John Brennan was Obama’s deputy national security adviser and before that a security adviser to George Bush before Obama nominated him to be DCI at CIA. He was up to his eyeballs in torture, and Obama had no problems with this. As for the material in the torture report, we have known much of it for something like a decade. There is this curious power thing that nothing is really real until some official or official document says it. We all knew that NSA was spying on everyone all the time, or at least trying to. But it took Edward Snowden and his document trove to make it official, to make it real. The same thing seems to be going on with the torture report.

    The idea that the report is being released to keep US officials from “doing it again” is ludicrous. Of course, they will. They will call it something else. The circumstances will be different, but it will happen again. Why? Because they got away with it this time. No torturer or architect of torture (Bush, Cheney, Addington, the runners of the secret site), none of them have been tried, convicted, or will serve time for their actions. Here I am reminded of all the crimes, the largest in human history, which led up to and followed the 2008 meltdown. No one was held accountable. No one served time or lost their fortune. And the result? Their next crash is already in the works, and would alrady have happened if not for the Fed’s unlimited supply of free money to them.

  • Hugh commented on the blog post The Roundup for December 9th, 2014

    2014-12-10 13:15:39View | Delete

    Re the Supreme Court decision on not paying workers for long waits in security lines, the Obama Administration backed the corporations on this, and the 9-0 decision simply reinforces the point that the Court is corporatist and anti-labor. Except for 20 years in and around the Warren Court, the Supreme Court has always been the most reactionary branch in government. It has always been the mouthpiece, validator, and defender of the haves against the have-nots.

    DCI Brennan was one of the architects of the torture programs. What we are seeing is a lot of the cockroaches who backed torture coming out of the woodwork to defend and recycle their old lies about how they stood up, and all Marlboro man-like, did what was necessary, and it was all successful. They can get away with this crap because Obama declared he was moving on and none of the criminals involved had anything to worry about. So instead of being interviewed from their jail cells, we see them dressed in nice suits and obviously enjoying the good life. I can remember only one perfunctory investigation (a Ferguson type Establishment whitewash) using material supplied by the CIA itself and which found surprise surprise nothing.

    Russian oligarchy is a good fit for Turkey under Erdogan. That is Russian style kleptocracy is more in keeping with the direction Turkey is going than American style kleptocracy. Once US military planners realize that they can live without American bases in Turkey, Turkey could well lose its main backer for its presence in NATO. The real obstacle for Turkey is that so much of its advanced armaments are American made. There is also the issue of Erdogan’s increasing Islamism.

  • Hugh commented on the blog post The Roundup for December 5th, 2014

    2014-12-06 18:46:30View | Delete

    I should add employment fell about 250,000 so those 400,000/450,000 jobs I mentioned above really represent a shifting from full time to part time work.

  • Hugh commented on the blog post The Roundup for December 5th, 2014

    2014-12-06 18:31:11View | Delete

    321,000 “jobs” were not created in November. The government and media always report the seasonally adjusted number provided by the BLS as if it were an actual number. It is not. It is a trendline number, a smoothing of seasonal changes in the labor force. I wrote up an analysis of the BLS report mostly for my own benefit. I used to post these at naked capitalism and corrente, but I got booted from both. They really drank the koolaid on MMT even though it is, scratch the surface, an incredibly slapdash, ramshackle theory, heavily imbued with neoliberal elements and far more traditional than its “progressive” adherents would like to believe (in other words, another example of progressives self-destructively reading into traditional figures and ideas far more than is actually there). But enough of that.

    What actually happened in November is that the labor force shrank by over 100,000. About 400,000/450,000 employed/jobs were created, almost all seasonal part time jobs in retail. Real unemployment was 9.9%. Average weekly wages of the top 20% increased about $30 while those of everyone else went up about 35 cents. This was not a good report. What happened was pretty much what we would expect to happen in the run up to the end of the year shopping holidays. You won’t really hear this anywhere. Almost no one looks at the seasonally unadjusted data (what actually happened). They don’t understand about the difference between seasonally adjusted (trend) and unadjusted (real) figures, how the BLS’ definitions often differ from their real world interpretations, and they don’t really work through the tables. The result is a lot of psychobabble.

  • Hugh commented on the blog post The Roundup for December 3rd, 2014

    2014-12-03 21:03:45View | Delete

    Most of Bernie Sanders’ points are ones I and others have made for some time, but they need to be folded into a vision of the society of which they would be a part. We also need to take into consideration that nothing is going to happen until we reject both of the political parties which have created and defended the present kleptocracy.

  • Hugh commented on the blog post The Roundup for December 3rd, 2014

    2014-12-03 20:54:32View | Delete

    The reason Black Friday sales were down could be because such sales involve more of the lower 80% of the population in terms of income. Real unemployment remains at around 10%, and most of the jobs created since the 2008 meltdown have been of the crap variety. For holiday shopping, you need people with disposal income, and crap jobs do not provide this. On the other hand, Cyber Monday could be when more of the top 20% shop.

    Egypt and Syria were similar authoritarian police states. Despite this, Syria unraveled very quickly. Egypt’s military leaders are determined to prevent a similar collapse there. The thing is there is little they can do about Egypt’s overpopulation or their own corruption and the poverty and radicalism these create among Egypt’s vast majority.

    Ferguson or NY, it is the same. Grand juries have little leeway and go where prosecutors lead them. If no true bill is returned, it is because prosecutors did not want one.

    The Lima conference is a sham. I am not sure why it was even held, considering it isn’t being covered, and no real action or plan is going to come from it.

    The NYT buyouts are another example of the steady deterioration of American journalism. Newspapers raise their subscription fees on their customers even as they cut staff and de facto cut wages. The result is subscribers are paying more for less. The one thing you never here in media is the idea that improving quality just might attract new subscribers.

  • Hugh commented on the blog post The Roundup for December 2nd, 2014

    2014-12-03 13:58:10View | Delete

    DWBartoo, I have often written that the three great immediate issues we face are wealth inequality, kleptocracy, and class war, in other words the rich, how they got rich and how they stay rich. The last two of these, especially the last one, are still considered to radical for “polite” discussion. And it has been one of progressivism’s great failings that it has avoided preaching class consciousness. Class war keeps us in the 99% distracted, divided and set against each other. We are atomized and impotent. Class consciousness brings us together and empowers us.

    There are ways around the linguistic taboos that have been constructed around this. We can talk about social awareness, keeping in mind that what we are really talking about is class consciousness and not some anodyne psychobabble. We can get to the deeper questions of what kind of a society we want to live in, what our resources and our responsibilities are, and the limits we need to place on wealth, to achieve it.

  • The posturing is never over. Defense procurement is pork wrapped in the flag. The F-35 is the poster child for the unneeded, gold-plated, underperforming, costs out of control weapon program, but at least we have heard of it. The Pentagon spends tens of billions on other weapons systems we never hear about that also don’t work, and tens of billions go to contractors in contracts that reward them for jacking up costs and delivering shoddy products. Of course, it’s not just the Pentagon that is responsible for this system of institutionalized graft and stupidity. The Congress backs it because it provides jobs to their districts. This money would be better and more usefully spent if it went to say, rebuilding our infrastructure like Detroit’s power grid or funding our schools but Patriotism!

  • Hugh commented on the blog post The Roundup for December 2nd, 2014

    2014-12-03 12:43:32View | Delete

    Does anyone seriously expect any substantive action on climate change to come out of the Lima conference? I don’t. We are ruled by kleptocrats, and to be honest, kleptocrats don’t give a shit about climate change. Whatever happens, climate change or anything else, they figure they have stolen enough that they will be immune from its effects. For the rest of us, they simply don’t care. If they had cared, they wouldn’t be kleptocrats.

    My timeframe reads like this. We have about 5 years to throw out the kleptocrats and institute real solutions to problems like overpopulation, peak energy, and climate change. By 2025-2030 and this is not done, it’s game over whether we come to our senses or not. I am not optimistic.

  • Hugh commented on the blog post The Roundup for December 2nd, 2014

    2014-12-03 12:27:55View | Delete

    I agree with DWBartoo. We have seen this a million times. Democrats do the bidding of the rich and corporations, suppressing any hint of progressivism. When the reaction sets in, we start getting: Mistakes were made, but they were honest ones, and besides no one could have known at the time.

    While US meddling and blundering in Syria and Iraq have undoubtedly made the situation worse there, we need to remember that due to overpopulation, climate change, and unresponsive kleptocratic governments, failed, and in particular failing, states are the wave of the future. When civil institutions and civil society fail, people revert to whatever groupings are left. This is usually religious sect or tribe and in their more extreme forms. These groupings give to the disaffected and marginalized in both the developed and developing world ready made answers and a sense of meaning and purpose that they lack.

  • Hugh commented on the blog post The Roundup for December 1st, 2014

    2014-12-03 11:49:53View | Delete

    Just dropped by to correct my math above.

    3,000 tons a day for a year

    50 truckloads a day for a year
    100 truckloads a day for 6 months
    200 truckloads a day for 3 months

    Since ISIS would have to wait for much of this 1 million metric tons to be harvested, the last figure is probably the most accurate. This would still be a significant undertaking in terms of fuel and trucks. It would be impossible to hide and relatively easy to interdict.

  • Hugh commented on the blog post The Roundup for December 1st, 2014

    2014-12-02 13:53:17View | Delete

    To transport 1 million tons of grain, and I am assuming it would be moved by truck, ISIS would have to move 30,000 tons a day for a year. Say a truck can transport 60 metric tons at a time. You would need 500 truckloads a day for this task. I assume too that the timeframe for this has been a lot shorter. 3 months would need 2,000 truckloads a day; 6 months, would need 1,000 a day.

    Rail could move more, but there is no direct rail link between Iraq and Syria. 30 km of track and a major bridge are missing. So we are still talking an awful lot of trucks and an awful lot of diesel to fuel them. The math does not seem right to me on this one.

    Re free speech, the controlling precedent remains Brandenburg v. Ohio (1969), although this has been eroded somewhat in the wake of the War on Terror. It holds that speech much incite or be likely to incite violence or lawlessness, imminently. The key word is “imminently”. You can advocate violence, including the violent overthrow of the US government, but as long as no imminent violence is likely to result from that speech, it is protected.

  • 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.

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