September 20, 2014
Your Daily Anus

Today’s award is shared equally between Judge Thomas Keith in Peoria, Illinois, and that city’s mayor, Jim Ardis. In 140 words:

A Swat team burst into Elliott’s house in Peoria looking for the source of a parody Twitter feed that had upset the town’s mayor by poking fun at him. “My identity as mayor was stolen,” he said after he dispatched the police… A Peoria judge ruled that the police were entitled to raid the house under the town’s “false personation” law which makes it illegal to pass yourself off as a public official. Judge Thomas Keith found that police had probable cause to believe they would find materials relevant to the Twitter feed such as computers or flash drives used to create it. It is not known whether he now regrets his decision to send in the Swat team. One measure of its success is that there is no longer one parody feed ridiculing Ardis on Twitter — there are 15.

Anus-Diagram-Resize1.jpg

Webding3.jpg


Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 2:52 PM | Permalink & Email Post | Comments (1)
Civil Liberties | Idiots | Legal Absurdities | Police State | Reveling in the Weird
September 18, 2014
Think of Your Customer as Peter Pan

From the New York Times:

Things like grab bars and anti-slip mats installed for older homeowners won’t appeal to most people. “Today’s buyers aren’t attracted to things like that,” said Corinne Pulitzer, an associate broker at Douglas Elliman Real Estate in Manhattan, explaining that someone else’s fixtures make it more difficult for buyers to imagine themselves living there.

“I would highly recommend removing them,” she said, “because they’re easily removed, and it just eliminates a distraction and a conversation you don’t want to have.”

Webding3.jpg


Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 2:35 PM | Permalink & Email Post | Comments (4)
Better Too Late Than Never?

From the New York Times:

The Justice Department has countered that crisis-era wrongdoing often amounted to reckless or risky behavior, but not criminal misconduct. Senior executives were far removed from the front lines of fraud, the department has argued.

In recent months, however, the Justice Department has pursued actions against bank employees suspected of manipulating foreign currencies. Those cases are expected to conclude in the coming months.

“Corporations do not act criminally, but for the actions of individuals,” Mr. Miller said in the speech, adding, “The criminal division intends to prosecute those individuals, whether they’re sitting on a sales desk or in a corporate suite.”


Somewhere Jamie Dimon is laughing. As are Angelo Mozilo, Lloyd Blankfein, Vikram Pandit, John Thain, Don Blankenship, and… but what the hell, who’s counting?


adimon.jpg

Webding3.jpg


Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 1:53 PM | Permalink & Email Post | Comments (1)
American Heroes | Economics and Society | Graft, Corruption and Malfeasance | Legal Absurdities | Rich White Trash | Weakening America
September 16, 2014
The King is Dead

From the New York Times:

WASHINGTON — Thomas Hale Boggs Jr., who was the son of two prominent members of Congress and yet, as a pioneer of the capital’s lobbying and fund-raising industry, was the one who came to be called “King of the Hill,” died on Monday at his home in Chevy Chase, Md…

Starting a small company with a partner, Jim Patton, Mr. Boggs used his familiarity with both the levers of power and the intricacies of policy to build the firm Patton Boggs into a giant that became synonymous with Washington lobbying and represented some of the nation’s largest corporations and trade associations.

Mr. Boggs had a notable success as a behind-the-scenes architect of the federal government’s 1979 bailout of Chrysler, his client. He was well known for battling on behalf of trial lawyers to block changes to tort law that threatened to make it harder for people to sue for damages, and for lobbying for free trade, a priority of his father’s, in Congress.

De mortuis nil nisi bonum and all that, but what comes to my mind is that old graffiti, “A man’s ambition must be small, to write his name on a toilet wall.”

Webding3.jpg


Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 5:25 PM | Permalink & Email Post | Comments (1)
American Heroes | Snark
Your Daily Dipshit

From the New York Times:

On Fox News on Monday, a county sheriff in Texas said he had received reports that Qurans and Muslim clothing had been found on smuggling routes. He said that was evidence that Muslims had been smuggled into the United States.

“If they show their ugly head in our area, we’ll send them to hell,” said the sheriff, Gary Painter, of Midland County. “I would like for them to hit them so hard and so often that every time they hear a propeller on a plane or a jet aircraft engine that they urinate down both legs. When you do that, then you’ve accomplished a lot.”

Webding3.jpg


Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 5:05 PM | Permalink & Email Post | Comments (3)
Fascism in America | Idiots | Police State
September 13, 2014
The Magnificent Lunacy of Paul Ryan

THE SET-UP:

To understand The Paul Ryan and his hapless plans to save America (the latest one, under discussion here, is a doozie), we need to start with The Ronald — just as to get the idea of silly putty you ought to have some idea of what putty is.

Ever since President Reagan uttered his most notorious Zen koan — “Government is not the solution to our problems; government is the problem” — conservatives of the heartless type (the neoconservatives) have been running around trying to convince the unwashed, the gullible, and the angry old white men and women of a myth: that if government is shrunk, then the nation, its young and old, its rich and poor, will soar to ever-higher prosperity. National and international greatness will soar in step.

Soar, that is, if and only if: costly government-run social “entitlement” programs (what a wretched label!) are cut back or eliminated; certain taxes shrunk or eliminated; union extortion of free-enterprise, job-creating heroes is blocked; and certain (note that word again) government regulatory powers are neutered or eliminated. Then and only then will riches and happiness pour down along the Laffer Curve and spray upon the rabble.

Of course, Reagan’s principle, so sweeping and unmodified, is for that very reason empty of rational support, either empirical or deductive — another way of saying that it is rubbish. But constitutionally harmful rubbish. Cloaked in the drama of the Immense and Immediate Danger of the “runaway” national deficit, this approach of favoring wealth and the wealthy served Ronald and Nancy well politically during their ascension and reign in the 1980s.

Unfortunately, it undermines attention to what our Constitution refers to centrally as “the common welfare,” which one would have thought comprises the welfare of all our people — welfare of many kinds and in many shapes. Hey, Willard and Grover and “Dick,” we live here too! Are we really supposed to mope around in the national sump waiting for scraps of largesse to trickle down upon us?

Governments everywhere are established in order to … govern. The Reagan principle, as if the excited impulse of a child, blatantly ignores the raft of things our national government, in particular, does that everyone seems to like. This is a looong list, such as getting a man on the moon, researching medical applications (which are then usually handed over to Big Pharma), providing disaster relief, building the Interstate Highway System, making sure airplanes don’t crash into each other, bringing aid to people suffering from massive disasters, making sure the economically marginal elderly have food and get medical care, and — oops, better be careful here — invading countries that are not imminent threats to us, with 100% of routine congressional Republican support…

…Read on

Posted by A. David Tucker at 4:56 PM | Permalink & Email Post | Comments (0)
Class Warriors | Congress | Political Commentary | Republicans
Peenalty Kicks

Son Ted sends this:

We are right in the middle of a superfun family long weekend in Toronto, had lunch yesterday at what turned out to be a terrific pub called The Queen and Beaver. They have a room for watching sports like soccer, and this is what Wyatt and I found in the rest room.

We were ROTFLMAO.

The ball hangs on a thread.


aunnamed.jpg

Webding3.jpg


Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 11:53 AM | Permalink & Email Post | Comments (1)
Sports
September 11, 2014
Just So…

From Andrew Sullivan at The Dish:

What I under-estimated was the media’s ability to generate mass panic and hysteria and the Beltway elite’s instant recourse to the language of war. I believed that Obama was stronger than this, that he could actually resist this kind of emotional spasm and speak to us like grown-ups about what we can and cannot do about a long, religious war in the Middle East, that doesn’t threaten us directly. But he spoke to us like children last night, assuming the mantle of the protective daddy we had sought in Bush and Cheney, evoking the rhetoric he was elected to dispel.

What the president doesn’t seem to understand is that this dramatic U-turn isn’t just foolish on its own national security terms; it is devastating to him politically. He is now playing on Cheney’s turf, not his own. His core supporters, like yours truly, regarded our evolution from that Cheney mindset one of Obama’s key achievements — and he tossed it away last night almost casually. He committed himself and us to a victory we cannot achieve in two countries we cannot control with the aid of allies we cannot trust. And, worse, he has done so by evading the key Constitutional requirement that a declaration of war be made by the Congress. He is actually relying on the post-9/11 authorization of military force against al Qaeda in Afghanistan to wage war in Syria (in violation of international law) and in Iraq.

Webding3.jpg


Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 12:27 PM | Permalink & Email Post | Comments (5)
News/Current Events | Our Longest National Nightmare Ever | Weakening America | World Affairs
Hope Springs?

Oddness is breaking out here and there in American politics. Look at this by Nat Stoller on Naked Capitalism. Tiny cracks in the bipartisan military-industrial-congressional complex appear. Could there be hope?

Selections:

To put it another way, Cuomo paid roughly $48 for every vote he got, where Zephyr paid roughly $2.70 (UPDATE: Philip Bump has a more accurate count, and calculated that it’s $60.62 for Cuomo to $1.57 for Zephyr, though all the data isn’t in yet). That’s a very big differential, in terms of the power of the messaging. If Zephyr had had a bit more money, she could have easily won…

Zephyr’s base bloc isn’t enough to win a primary, but it is part of a potential coalition that could do so. It’s the Occupy voter bloc, perhaps what Howard Dean had from 2002–2004 but infused with an economic justice frame. It is the only organized voting group that is able to sit outside the political establishment…

Zephyr Teachout consistently drew her biggest applause line with “It’s time for some good old fashioned trust-busting.” She made a point of saying that big cable is too big, and that Amazon is a threat to open markets. Zephyr often said she is an old school Democrat. What she meant is not just that she backs more funding for schools, but that she believes in a redesigned relationship between powerful private actors and the state similar to the one implemented by FDR. This is first and foremost about a strong antitrust agenda…

Micah wrote: What I find most intriguing about this is the way some tech VCs and entrepreneurs really seem to understand their success as tied to (or born up from) the open Internet and how we may link that to open politics or open democracy (defined as a system where the little guy can enter and compete on an open playing field, rather than one dominated by political and economic monopolists and duopolists). In other words, Comcast and Verizon are to the 21st century economy what the Democrats and the Republicans are to the political system.

ateachout.jpg

Webding3.jpg


Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 11:56 AM | Permalink & Email Post | Comments (0)
Class Warriors | Elections | Glimmers of Sanity | Hope for the Future | Political Commentary
September 10, 2014
Decadence


ORIGIN mid 16th cent.: from French décadence, from medieval Latin decadentia; related to decay.

From the New York Times:

The million-dollar parking spots will be offered on a first-come-first-served basis to buyers at the 10-unit luxury apartment building being developed by Atlas Capital Group at Broome and Crosby Streets, itself the former site of a parking lot. At $250,000 a tire, the parking spaces in the underground garage cost more than four times the national median sales price for a home, which is $217,800, according to Zillow.

astorymaker-nero-palace-rome-archaeology-slide-show-1104151-515x388.jpg

Webding3.jpg


Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 2:49 PM | Permalink & Email Post | Comments (0)
September 08, 2014
Aversion Therapy

Friendly old Microsoft, as I learned over the weekend, has made it not quite impossible but inexcusably difficult to open a 1995 Word document. While I was messing around with this I came across a short story which I will now rescue from oblivion because why not. I have no recollection at all of having written the piece or why, or what if anything became of it. Tom Bethany is the protagonist of the six mysteries I wrote back in the Not So Gay Nineties; Hope Edwards is his married lover. Anyway, here goes:


AVERSION THERAPY

They were rowing a double scull on the Potomac just after dawn, the water flat and smooth as paint in a can. Both women moving up the slide to the catch, then drive, finish, release, and then all over again, two bodies with one brain. So Hope Edwards in the stern knew something was wrong even before Julie Holcomb in the bow began to cry.

The water strider tracks they had been making on the river, two perfect lines of neat puddles disappearing behind them, weren’t so perfect anymore. The blades of Julie’s oars weren’t slipping up out of the water quite so quietly on the release. At the catch, Hope could hear the tiny back splashes Julie was making, and feel the barely perceptible they made in the boat’s forward passage. There was a change in the deep rhythm of Julie’s breathing, just a hitch at first and then a small sound forced out of her as she drove into the stroke. A sob? A sob.

Hope Edwards eased off, and so Julie eased off behind her, too, and the boat whispered along through the water on its own momentum. “Julie?” Hope said. “Are you all right?”

“I’m fine,” Julie said.

The racing shell ran along until its momentum gave out, and then drifted.

“Go ahead,” Hope said. “Tell me.”

When Julie was finished, Hope said, “A friend of mine named Tom Bethany happens to be coming down from Cambridge tomorrow. This is just the kind of problem he loves.”

“One of your friends from law school?”

“Actually no. Tom’s sort of the opposite of a lawyer.”

***

…Read on

Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 5:26 PM | Permalink & Email Post | Comments (2)
American Heroes | Arts and Literature | Crime Fiction
September 05, 2014
A Question of Ethics

A golden oldie from Matt Stoller:

These systems interrelate, and inefficiency in one impacts the other. This became very obvious to me when I went to Kenya last summer, and saw how a semi-competent telecom and banking system could work. Kenya has the world’s most innovative mobile payments system, called M-Pesa. M-Pesa is a cell phone based cash remittance system based on text messages. Unlike Chase’s Quickpay system, M-Pesa just works, and works well.

You load your SIM card with money at any number of street stalls, telecom stores, beauty shops, or anywhere else someone has decided to set up a Safaricom outlet. Transfers happen via text message, and they cost 0.5 – 4% of the cost of the transaction, which is cost effective for a country where so few people have access to banks. Withdrawals can happen at any Safaricom outlet. If your phone is stolen, that’s ok, the cash is loaded onto your SIM card and you have a unique password. And everyone uses it. It’s like Paypal, only it’s not terrible.

This isn’t just a problem of monopolistic behavior or excessive market power. Safaricom is a very powerful company in Kenya, and there is basically no competition to what they do. Yet they have produced a terrific system that companies all over the world are trying to replicate. Cell service on volcanos where no one lives except zebras and lions is more reliable than cell service on Fifth Avenue in New York.

What seems to have happened is that American corporate executives are now more focused on financial engineering, which is essentially the extraction of capital from their enterprises and from the public, than they are at selling improved goods and services. For example, GE just got a tax break extended which added $3 billion a year in annual profit in the latest fiscal cliff deal. That’s a lot of money, and not one good or service was improved to drop that cash to the bottom line.

As another example, the cable industry is projecting an average monthly bill of $200 by 2020, versus $86 today. At 73 million subscribers, that’s an additional $100 billion a year of revenue. Comcast alone has 22 million customers – that’s $30 billion a year for this one company alone. And let’s be clear, this is not going to better products, Americans tend to get worse internet and cable service than counterparts around the world. Investing in manipulative pricing schemes, lobbying for tax breaks and not investing in good infrastructure is a rational choice for American corporate executives, since their ethic is to extract as much capital as possible from the American economy. And yet, this is why America can’t have nice things.

Webding3.jpg


Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 6:28 PM | Permalink & Email Post | Comments (3)
America is Doomed | Economics and Society | Rich White Trash | Weakening America
September 02, 2014
Today’s Stupid…

…brought to you by Alternet:

In Israel, Jewish women fought for years for the right to pray at the Western Wall, braving routine threats, abuse and harassment by ultra-Orthodox Haredi Jews who believe the holy site should only be open to men. Finally, the reformers won a ruling in Israel’s courts, opening up a designated prayer section at the wall for women. The ultra-Orthodox responded by ordering their own wives and daughters to show up en masse and pack the women’s section, so that the women who actually want to pray there and who fought for the right to do so couldn’t get in.
Webding3.jpg


Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 2:42 PM | Permalink & Email Post | Comments (4)
Idiots | Politics and Religion | Religion and Society
August 29, 2014
Monkey See, Monkey Do

From The Washington Post:

At least four hostages held in Syria by the Islamic State, including an American journalist who was recently executed by the group, were waterboarded in the early part of their captivity, according to people familiar with the treatment of the kidnapped Westerners.

James Foley was among the four who were waterboarded several times by Islamic State militants who appeared to model the technique on the CIA’s use of waterboarding to interrogate suspected terrorists after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks…

Webding3.jpg


Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 1:17 PM | Permalink & Email Post | Comments (3)
Idiots | War on "Terror" | Weakening America
The Changing Face of The Establishment

Owen Jones is talking about the establishment, or perhaps rather The Establishment, in Britain, but his description hits home here in the US as well.

The establishment is a shape-shifter, evolving and adapting as needs must. But one thing that distinguishes today’s establishment from earlier incarnations is its sense of triumphalism. The powerful once faced significant threats that kept them in check. But the opponents of our current establishment have, apparently, ceased to exist in any meaningful, organised way. Politicians largely conform to a similar script; once-mighty trade unions are now treated as if they have no legitimate place in political or even public life; and economists and academics who reject establishment ideology have been largely driven out of the intellectual mainstream. The end of the cold war was spun by politicians, intellectuals and the media to signal the death of any alternative to the status quo: “the end of history”, as the US political scientist Francis Fukuyama put it. All this has left the establishment pushing at an open door. Whereas the position of the powerful was once undermined by the advent of democracy, an opposite process is now underway. The establishment is amassing wealth and aggressively annexing power in a way that has no precedent in modern times. After all, there is nothing to stop it.


US_Army_D9_bulldozer_Gail_Gray.jpg

Webding3.jpg


Posted by Chuck Dupree at 12:30 AM | Permalink & Email Post | Comments (1)
Political Commentary
August 27, 2014
Read It and Weep

From Al Jazeera:

“Eleven battalions of IDF artillery is equivalent to the artillery we deploy to support two divisions of U.S. infantry,” a senior Pentagon officer with access to the daily briefings said. “That’s a massive amount of firepower, and it’s absolutely deadly.” Another officer, a retired artillery commander who served in Iraq, said the Pentagon’s assessment might well have underestimated the firepower the IDF brought to bear on Shujaiya. “This is the equivalent of the artillery we deploy to support a full corps,” he said. “It’s just a huge number of weapons.”

Artillery pieces used during the operation included a mix of Soltam M71 guns and U.S.-manufactured Paladin M109s (a 155-mm howitzer), each of which can fire three shells per minute. “The only possible reason for doing that is to kill a lot of people in as short a period of time as possible,” said the senior U.S. military officer. “It’s not mowing the lawn,” he added, referring to a popular IDF term for periodic military operations against Hamas in Gaza. “It’s removing the topsoil.”

“Holy bejeezus,” exclaimed retired Lt. Gen. Robert Gard when told the numbers of artillery pieces and rounds fired during the July 21 action. “That rate of fire over that period of time is astonishing. If the figures are even half right, Israel’s response was absolutely disproportionate.” A West Point graduate who is a veteran of two wars and is the chairman of the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation in Washington, D.C., he added that even if Israeli artillery units fired guided munitions, it would have made little difference.

Webding3.jpg


Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 11:52 AM | Permalink & Email Post | Comments (1)
August 26, 2014
Our Economy Needs Global Conflict

I understand why some folks think it’s cynical to impute motive to action, especially when doing so reflects poorly on them or those they admire. But explain to me if you would the problems with this formulation: we sell weapons to countries who shouldn’t have them because (1) it keeps our economy humming, along the lines of what Chomsky calls the Pentagon system, and (2) Congress consistently manages to find a way around its own laws prohibiting the sale of arms to human rights violators because (1). Once these high-powered weapons are in such questionable hands it’s only a matter of time before they’re used. No, I’m not talking about Ferguson, Missouri, but about the United Arab Emirates (UAE), currently bombing Libya using weapons we built and sold to them. They did not, in the event, feel it necessary to notify the US, let alone seek support, possibly indicating how much they fear America’s wrath.

The first air strikes took place a week ago, focusing on targets in Tripoli held by the militias, including a small weapons depot, according to the [New York] Times. Six people were killed in the bombing.

A second round was conducted south of the city early on Saturday targeting rocket launchers, military vehicles and a warehouse, according to the newspaper.

Those strikes may have represented a bid to prevent the capture of the Tripoli airport, but the militia forces eventually prevailed and seized control of it despite the air attacks.

The UAE — which has spent billions on US-manufactured warplanes and other advanced weaponry — provided the military aircraft, aerial refuelling planes and aviation crews to bomb Libya, while Egypt offered access to its airbases, the paper said.

Somehow that feels weird to me. A country the size of South Carolina with a population less than that of North Carolina has aerial refuelling planes and the expertise to pull off a combat mission using them, though admittedly there were probably few air defenses to contend with.

In light of such disarray, some will argue, we can’t afford to pull out of the Middle East conflict. Just as the weapons dealers wanted, we’ve sold too many weapons there to walk away now; it’d be a bloodbath. But it’s politically impossible to do the only useful thing, which is pressure the Israeli government until it begins to attend to the popular will. That, however, would set a bad precedent that might be recognized here at home.

Webding3.jpg


Posted by Chuck Dupree at 10:18 PM | Permalink & Email Post | Comments (1)
World Affairs
August 25, 2014
Move Along, Folks, Nothing to See Here

Were you expecting great things from the man President Obama charged with getting at the truth of Michael Brown’s death by cop? As I wrote a couple of weeks back, don’t hold your breath. Some more reasons why:

As the U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia from 1993 to 1997, Holder was in charge of policing the local police. When police violence spiraled out of control, he did little to protect Washington residents from rampaging lawmen.

The number of killings by Washington police doubled from 1988 to 1995, the year 16 civilians died from officer gunfire. Police shot and killed people at a higher rate than any other major city police department, as a Pulitzer Prize-winning Washington Post investigation revealed. The Post reported that “Holder said he did not detect a pattern of problematic police shootings and could not recall the specifics of cases he personally reviewed.” Holder declared: “I can’t honestly say I saw anything that was excessive…”


aobama-and-holder.jpg

Webding3.jpg


Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 11:44 AM | Permalink & Email Post | Comments (0)
Civil Liberties | Essential Liberties | Fascism in America | Police State | Race | Weakening America
The Good News is You’re Not Pregnant

Just when you thought you had heard it all, along comes this heart-warming story out of California:

After a few minutes, the girl shouted loudly as she found tapeworms in her fecal waste. Cabral-Osorio said, “It was so gross and she had pooped all these tapeworms. There were a couple that were very long and wiggling around trying to get out of the toilet.”

It was quite shocking to see that the mother was quite calm over the situation. Later, the girl’s mother confessed that she had purchased a tapeworm pill in Mexico and had secretly given to her daughter to lose weight.

The mother apologized and said that she had done it to make her daughter thinner for an upcoming beauty pageant…


atapeworm.jpg

Webding3.jpg


Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 10:09 AM | Permalink & Email Post | Comments (7)
Animal blogging | Reveling in the Weird
August 23, 2014
Sell It All, Let the Market Sort It Out

James Meek has a magnificent article at The Guardian. Were it possible to imagine a riveting description of the impact of privatization of formerly public services in Britain compared with the contemporaneous process in the former Soviet Union, this would be it. Part history and travelogue, part rumination on the relative advantages and disadvantages of socialism and capitalism, the argument is superficially unpretentious but sophisticated and in the end deep, and in lovely prose to boot.

The article can’t easily be summarized, but it recounts the author’s philosophical journey through economics coinciding with a physical one as the tide of capitalism swept aside the old communal structures of the former Soviet Union. He gives credence to often-argued claims about the benefits to society of privatizing public services, then proceeds to explore the available information to see if that credence is warranted. While he does not like the result, he is careful in apportioning responsibility. The National Health Service, for example, remains private but has seen many market-like “reforms” modify its behaviors.

What the story of the latter years of the NHS shows is that the most powerful market force eating away at the core of the welfare state is not so much capitalism as consumer capitalism — the convergence of desires between the users of a public service and the private companies providing it when the companies use the skills of marketing to give users a sense of dissatisfaction and peer disadvantage. “If consumption represents the psychological competition for status,” writes Daniel Bell, “then one can say that bourgeois society is the institutionalisation of envy.” Hip replacement, a procedure invented within the NHS by John Charnley, began as a blessed relief from pain for which patients were, as Charnley said, pathetically grateful. It rapidly progressed to a rationed entitlement. It has now become a competitive market.

Spoiler alert, though, Meek does blame Thatcher for the loss of what was formerly the property of the British people and is now more often than not owned by foreigners. The losses, he asserts, were not measured only in pounds and real estate. In a real sense part of the compact between state and individual was dissolved, and corporations, even more faceless and less accountable than government, took over and immediately began raising rates, the British railways, water, and electricity being prime examples. Ironically, it appears that the best-run, most efficient railway corporations are owned by other, mostly European, states, flatly contradicting the basis for privatizing to begin with.

But Thatcher cut taxes and spending! Well, yes and no. Progressive income tax rates were cut, sure enough, but she also raised the VAT, a consumption-based tax that is inherently highly regressive. So much like the situation here in the US, the actual amount paid by individuals in taxes is adjusted to place the heaviest burden on the lower brackets. And that’s ignoring what I think is a powerful argument Meek makes that given the absolute necessity in today’s world for electricity, water, and communications the amount we pay to have those in our homes is a tax in every way except that it’s collected by private corporations rather than accruing to the common benefit.

All in all, a great piece of writing whose focus on the UK illuminates its idiosyncratic issues as well as the larger human, political and economic, questions that society generally has failed to grapple with.


water_privatization2.jpg

Webding3.jpg


Posted by Chuck Dupree at 10:03 PM | Permalink & Email Post | Comments (0)
Economics and Society
August 21, 2014
The Occasionally Good Old Days

Back in the late 1950s I worked for a long-dead tabloid called The Washington Daily News. It struggled as the smallest of the three papers in town and was being kept alive, I suspect, mainly to give the Scripps-Howard chain a right-wing voice in the capital. Its editor was John O’Rourke, a remote figure who appeared irregularly in the city room. As far as I can remember, I had never met him.

Until the paper published the first of a three-part series I had written on the crooked practices of local car dealers. Shortly after the paper hit the streets, O’Rourke showed up trailed by four other suits and disappeared into his office. A few minutes later the city editor hollered that Mr. O’Rourke wanted to see me in his office right away. “Tough luck,” the reporter at the desk next to me said. “You’ve just written the world’s first one-part three-part series.” We both knew that auto ads were a major part of the paper’s puny revenue stream.

The four suits in the editor’s office turned out to be the paper’s business manager, its advertising director, and two representatives from the auto dealers. Plainly I was toast.

“Can you back up everything in your pieces?” O’Rourke said without a word of preamble as I stood there.

“Yes, I can.”

“That’s all, then. Go on back to work.”

And so I did. That was the sum total of my first and only meeting with Mr. O’Rourke. The series ran in its entirety.

I mention this because:

Time Inc. has fallen on hard times. Would you believe that this once-proud magazine publishing empire is now explicitly rating its editorial employees based on how friendly their writing is to advertisers?

Last year — in the opposite of a vote of confidence — Time Warner announced that it would spin off Time Inc. into its own company, an act of jettisoning print publications once and for all. Earlier this year, the company laid off 500 employees (and more layoffs are coming soon). And, most dramatically of all, Time Inc. CEO Joe Ripp now requires his magazine’s editors to report to the business side of the company, a move that signals the full-scale dismantling of the traditional wall between the advertising and editorial sides of the company’s magazines.

Even with all of that, though, it is still possible to imagine that Time Inc.’s 90+ publications, which include some of the most storied magazines in American history, would continue to adhere to the normal ethical rules of journalism out of simple pride. Not so!

Here you see an internal Time Inc. spreadsheet that was used to rank and evaluate “writer-editors” at SI.com. (Time Inc. provided this document to the Newspaper Guild, which represents some of their employees, and the union provided it to us.) The evaluations were done as part of the process of deciding who would be laid off. Most interesting is this ranking criteria: “Produces content that [is] beneficial to advertiser relationship.” These editorial employees were all ranked in this way, with their scores ranging from 2 to 10.


a7052548-retro-photo-journalist-camera-fedora-hat-with-a-press-pass-in-the-headband-and-ballpoint-pen-with-no.jpg

Webding3.jpg


Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 6:35 PM | Permalink & Email Post | Comments (2)
Historical Perspectives | Media | Our Sordid Press Corps
August 19, 2014
Why Am I Not Surprised…

…by this from Public Citizen? Because I am deeply versed in economics? Hardly. I never took so much as an introductory course in economics.

No, I was suspicious of NAFTA when Clinton first trotted it out twenty years ago not because I had a deep understanding of the free trade issue but because I was old enough by then, although only sixty, to have already learned the difference between shit and chocolate ice cream.

Cut out those pesky tariffs, Clinton told us, so we can move those unionized auto assembly jobs from Michigan to Mexico and everybody benefits. Mexican wages are bound to go up and if American workers wind up taking a little hit on wages their cars will become cheaper.

See? Easy. In our pursuit of the greatest good for the greatest number there is no need, for instance, to include in NAFTA a requirement to lower American tariffs in lockstep with the predictable increase in Mexican assembly line wages. The invisible hand of the market will take care of that. It wouldn’t (and didn’t), of course, the invisible hand being invisible due to its nonexistence.

Absent any such requirements, it was plain that Clinton wasn’t selling us chocolate ice cream. And sure enough:

On the eve of the North American Free Trade Agreement’s 20th anniversary, a new Public Citizen report shows that not only did promises made by proponents not materialize, but many results are exact ly the opposite. Such outcomes include a staggering $181 billion U.S. trade deficit with NAFTA partners Mexico and Canada, one million net U.S. jobs lost because of NAFTA, a doubling of immigration from Mexico, larger agricultural trade deficits with Mexico and Canada, and more than $360 million paid to corporations after “investor-state” tribunal attacks on, and rollbacks of, domestic public interest policies.

The study tracks the promises made by U.S. corporations like Chrysler and Caterpillar to create specific numbers of American jobs if NAFTA was approved, and reveals government data showing that instead, they fired U.S. workers and moved operations to Mexico. The data also show how post-NAFTA trade and investment trends have contributed to middle-class pay cuts, which in turn contributed to growing income inequality; how since NAFTA, U.S. trade deficit growth with Mexico and Canada has been 45 percent higher than with countries not party to a U.S. Free Trade Agreement, and how U.S. manufacturing and services exports to Canada and Mexico have grown at less than half the pre-NAFTA rate.

“NAFTA’s actual outcomes prove how damaging this type of agreement is for most people, that it should be renegotiated and why we cannot have any more such deals that include job-offshoring incentives, requirements we import food that doesn’t meet our safety standards or new rights for firms to get taxpayer compensation before foreign tribunals over laws they don’t like,” said Lori Wallach, director of Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch. “Given NAFTA’s record of damage, it is equal parts disgusting and infuriating that now President Barack Obama has joined the corporate Pinocchios who lied about NAFTA in recycling similar claims to try to sell the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), which is NAFTA-on-steroids…”


aChocolateIceCream.jpg

Webding3.jpg


Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 3:50 PM | Permalink & Email Post | Comments (2)
Economics and Society | Historical Perspectives
August 15, 2014
Has Lindsey Graham Heard About This?

Let Carl Strock tell you what it’s all about:

I am all in favor of fairness, but I do think it’s a dangerous business to tout reason on so public a stage as a license plate, which can be seen by innocent children whose minds are not yet fully developed…

atrust2-300x160.jpg

Webding3.jpg


Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 6:18 PM | Permalink & Email Post | Comments (2)
Glimmers of Sanity | Politics and Religion
August 12, 2014
Don’t Hold Your Breath

Here’s the Attorney General, in theory the boss of an FBI which has never once found any of its own agents guilty in the deaths of the hundreds of people they have shot to death over the years, vowing to get to the bottom of the police murder of 18-year-old Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri:

In Washington, Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. said Monday that the episode “deserves a fulsome review.” He added, “Aggressively pursuing investigations such as this is critical for preserving trust between law enforcement and the communities they serve.”

Here’s the dictionary definition of fulsome:

Complimentary or flattering to an excessive degree: they are almost embarrassingly fulsome in their appreciation.
Webding3.jpg


Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 4:35 PM | Permalink & Email Post | Comments (3)
Police State | Race
United Police States of America

It’s worse than I thought, and I thought it was pretty bad. See this from John W. Whitehead, president of the Rutherford Institute:

The number of violent crimes in the country is down substantially, the lowest rate in 40 years, while the number of Americans being jailed for nonviolent crimes, such as driving with a suspended license, are skyrocketing…

As with most things, if you want to know the real motives behind any government program, follow the money trail. When you dig down far enough, as I document in my book A Government of Wolves: The Emerging American Police State, you quickly find that those who profit from Americans being arrested are none other than the police who arrest them, the courts which try them, the prisons which incarcerate them, and the corporations, which manufacture the weapons and equipment used by police, build and run the prisons, and profit from the cheap prison labor…

Second, there’s the profit-incentive for states to lock up large numbers of Americans in private prisons. Just as police departments have quotas for how many tickets are issued and arrests made per month — a number tied directly to revenue — states now have quotas to meet for how many Americans go to jail. Having outsourced their inmate population to private prisons run by corporations such as Corrections Corp of America and the GEO Group, ostensibly as a way to save money, increasing numbers of states have contracted to keep their prisons at 90% to 100% capacity. This profit-driven form of mass punishment has, in turn, given rise to a $70 billion private prison industry that relies on the complicity of state governments to keep the money flowing and their privately run prisons full. No wonder the United States has the largest prison population in the world…

What some Americans may not have realized, however, is that America’s economy has come to depend in large part on prison labor. “Prison labor reportedly produces 100 percent of military helmets, shirts, pants, tents, bags, canteens, and a variety of other equipment. Prison labor makes circuit boards for IBM, Texas Instruments, and Dell. Many McDonald's uniforms are sewn by inmates. Other corporations — Microsoft, Victoria's Secret, Boeing, Motorola, Compaq, Revlon, and Kmart — also benefit from prison labor.” The resulting prison labor industries, which rely on cheap, almost free labor, are doing as much to put the average American out of work as the outsourcing of jobs to China and India.

Webding3.jpg


Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 4:03 PM | Permalink & Email Post | Comments (1)
America is Doomed | Civil Liberties | Police State
August 11, 2014
The Grass is Always Greener…

Peter sends this further evidence of our civilization’s collapse:

Unlike most other grass paint, we refuse to use inferior man-made and non-earth friendly pigments that result in a transparent blue/green color which makes grass appear un-natural. LawnLift™ uses only “All Natural” true color pigments that have garnered us the best color in the industry! From small pet urine spots to entire dormant or dead lawns LawnLift™ has you covered….

ainstructions_image1.jpg

Webding3.jpg


Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 4:33 PM | Permalink & Email Post | Comments (3)
America is Doomed | Reveling in the Weird
August 10, 2014
Economic Ectomorphism

In case you haven’t already seen it, here’s an interesting chart from the International Comparison Project at the World Bank via Matt Yglesias at Vox. Representing GDP on the vertical scale and population size on the horizontal allows for a grasp on information that is less abstract and more intuitive.


imfchart.jpg

Click to view full-size image


One can take many lessons from such a graph, of course. I imagine there are capitalists looking at more detailed versions as a map of “national markets”, i.e. populations, to exploit next. But it also puts in perspective that China soon becoming the largest economy doesn’t mean its standard of living (as measured by GDP per capita) has even risen to the world average. Largest is a measure of breadth as well as height.

Webding3.jpg


Posted by Chuck Dupree at 4:37 PM | Permalink & Email Post | Comments (1)
Economics and Society
August 05, 2014
School for Warmongers?

From Sam Smith. What think?

Places like Harvard and Oxford — and their after-school programs such as the Washington think tanks — teach the few how to control the many and it is impossible to do this without various forms of abuse ranging from sophism to corporate control systems to napalm. It is no accident that a large number of advocates of this war — in government and the media — are the products of elite educations where they were taught both the inevitability of their hegemony and the tools with which to enforce it.

It will be some time before places such as Harvard and the Council on Foreign Relations are seen for what they are: the White Citizens Councils of state violence. Still, in a little gift of history, one of their lesser offspring, George W. Bush, may speed things up a bit as he brags and blithers about, gleefully brutalizes, perversely exaggerates, and cynically promotes cruel and authoritarian ideas his brighter colleagues have worked so hard to wrap in the costume of decency and democracy. He is the Council on Foreign Relations out of the closet, the carefully contrived paradigm run amuck, the great man of history turned dangerous fool, real politik turned into absurdist caricature. For that at least, we should thank him: he has shown us the true nature of a great lie.


aHARVARD-COMMENCEMENT-2014-570.jpg

Webding3.jpg


Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 2:06 PM | Permalink & Email Post | Comments (0)
Class Warriors | Education | Warmongers
August 04, 2014
Who’s In Charge Here?

So now that John Brennan has admitted that he lied about CIA spying on the Senate Intelligence Committee as the committee prepared its report on Bush-era torture, his denials and denunciations of his accusers at the time are in retrospect even more clearly self-serving and dishonest. But Obama won’t fire him because he’s afraid of the consequences. Brennan knows where the bodies were buried, which drones killed them, and when Obama ordered those drone strikes.

Whatever happens with the [torture] report itself and despite the recent CIA apology, don’t expect the Senate to bring perjury charges against former CIA leaders for any lies to Congress. (It didn’t do so, after all, in the earlier case of Director of National Intelligence James Clapper.) And don’t expect prosecutions of significant figures from a Justice Department that, in the Obama years, refused to prosecute even those in the CIA responsible for the deaths of prisoners.

The fact is that, for the Fourth Branch, this remains the age of impunity. Hidden in a veil of secrecy, bolstered by secret law and secret courts, surrounded by its chosen corporations and politicians, its power to define policy and act as it sees fit in the name of American safety is visibly on the rise. No matter what setbacks it experiences along the way, its urge to expand and control seems, at the moment, beyond staunching. In the context of the Senate’s torture report, the question at hand remains: Who rules Washington?


obama-drone-cartoon.jpg

Webding3.jpg


Posted by Chuck Dupree at 1:43 AM | Permalink & Email Post | Comments (4)
Political Commentary
August 03, 2014
Opie Does Guantanamo

I just can’t get over Obama’s statement the other day: “We tortured some folks.”

We tortured some folks. Is that okay? Does anything about that strike you as wrong? Do you find that phrase as jarring as I do? I’m not the slightest bit surprised we’ve tortured people. I’d be surprised if we didn’t. And I’m glad Obama used the word torture and didn’t hide behind some bullshit euphemism like “enhanced interrogation techniques.” But there is still something grotesque about that sentence and none of the articles I’ve read mention it. In fact, a lot of the commentary makes the same mistake. What am I talking about? Let me show you by way of a brief illustration:

“Say, Harlan, what er y’all doin’ down there?”

“Hey, Hollis, not much. We’re just down here torturin’ some folks.”

“Good deal. You been torturin’ a lot of folks lately?”

“Got a new shipment just last week. Around here we call that job security.”

“You must be doing somethin’ right.”

“We’re doing a lot of things right, and we’re torturin’ some folks.”

“Good deal. Say, Loretta wanted me to invite you over tonight for some pie, but I don’t want to bother you if you’re too busy torturin’ folks and all.”

“Shoot, Hollis, you know I can always take a break from torturin’ folks for some of Loretta’s rhubarb pie!”

See what I mean? Using “torture” and “folks” in the same sentence isn’t just bad style. It’s a slimy way of soft-pedaling bad behavior. Folks don’t really hurt folks. There are just folks doin’ the stuff folks do, and if they occasionally make mistakes and accidentally harm folks, well, most folks don’t mind. Least ways not around here in America, where folks know how to forgive and forget.

It’s even worse when you consider that Obama’s whole statement is aimed at letting the torturers off the hook. How? They were just folks!

“It’s important for us not to feel too sanctimonious in retrospect about the tough job that those folks had,” Obama said. “A lot of those folks were working hard under enormous pressure and are real patriots. But having said all that we did some things that were wrong,” he said. “And that’s what that report reflects.”

It’s important that folks don’t put on airs and become sanctimonious about the good folks at the CIA, who are just workin’ hard to keep us folks back home safe. You get the idea. And don’t for a second think this effect is incidental. People torture people. Folks are jes folks, tryin’ their hardest in this gosh durn crazy world. People have faces that register pain. Folks are just, well, folks, an abstract mass of sunny beings in a fundamentally benign universe. You’re a folk. I’m a folk. The vicious little sadist pouring water down the nose of a naked man strapped upside down in a gurney, well, he’s a folk, too. And when he gets home from the wars folks are gonna honor his service.

This harmless politician’s word is, in fact, a nasty little euphemism that absolves the guilty and coaxes us into forgetting the victims.

…Read on

Posted by OHollern at 11:10 AM | Permalink & Email Post | Comments (5)