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Rhododendron. May, 2012. Photo credit: joanneleon
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Bernanke bails out Europe
The Fed debated domestic policy this week, but its actions in Europe are just as revealing

Warning that America’s sputtering economic recovery was grinding down, this week the Federal Reserve noted in classic Fed-speak that “strains in global financial markets continue to pose significant downside risks to the economic outlook.” But the Fed and its soft-spoken chairman Ben Bernanke announced nothing new to fix those strains. And they said even less about the steps they were already taking to prop up the staggering banks in Europe.

Bernanke’s silence speaks loudly of the strange and controversial role that America’s central bank now plays in global finance. The Federal Reserve’s charter gives it two basic legal mandates. One is to promote price stability, which means to combat both inflation and deflation, as central banks all over the world try to do. The other, to the surprise of many, is to promote full employment, which the Fed has literally never accomplished. Nothing in its charter explicitly empowers the Fed to act as central banker to the world, or anything close. But, in contrast to his predecessors as Fed chairman, Bernanke has increasingly talked up the full-employment mandate to justify increasing global intervention.

[ ... ]

Now at the libertarian Cato Institute, O’Driscoll revealed – and Bernanke later confirmed – that the Fed has entered into agreements with the European Central Bank to provide billions of dollars, which the ECB then lends to ailing banks in Europe to increase their liquidity. The Fed also agreed to similar deals with the central banks of England, Switzerland, Japan and Canada. Technically, the dollars are not loans. They are instead “currency swaps.” In return for the dollars, the ECB and other central banks give the Fed equivalent amounts of their own currency, along with an agreement to return the dollars at the same exchange rate.

Last December:
Bernanke Tells Senators Fed Plans No Aid to European Banks

Dec. 14 (Bloomberg) -- Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke told Republican senators the Fed plans no additional aid to European banks amid the region’s sovereign debt crisis, according to two lawmakers who attended the meeting.

Senator Bob Corker, a Republican from Tennessee, said Bernanke made it “very clear” in closed-door comments today the central bank doesn’t intend to rescue European financial institutions. Lindsey Graham, a South Carolina Republican, said Bernanke told lawmakers that “he doesn’t have the intention or the authority” to bail out countries or banks. Both senators spoke to reporters after leaving the one-hour session at the Capitol in Washington.

Class decides everything
Income increasingly dictates every aspect of our lives, from our politics to our health to our happiness

Class has long been a dirty word in America. We’re the society of opportunity after all – the place where anyone from anywhere can aspire to be president or at least get very rich.  Innumerable pundits and a litany of books have trumpeted the eclipse of class and the rise of a classless society. It’s an old saw. Way back in the late 1950s, the sociologist Robert Nisbet declared, “the term social class … is nearly valueless for the clarification of data on wealth power and status.”

But numerous indicators and metrics suggest that class does structure a great deal of American life. America lags behind many nations – from Denmark to the United Kingdom and Canada – in the ability of its people to achieve significant upward mobility. America’s jobs crisis bears the unmistakable stamp of class. This past spring, for example, the rate of unemployment for people who did not graduate from high school was 13 percent, substantially more than the overall rate of 8.2 percent and more than three times the 3.9 percent rate for college grads. At a time when the unemployment rate for production workers who contribute their physical labor was more than 10 percent, unemployment for professionals, techies and managers who work with their minds had barely broken 4 percent.

Commentary: Citizens United and the return of the 'copper kings'

Then as now, oligarchs were making their desires known.

A massive corporation controlled legislators and judges, and a commentator observed that "local folks now found themselves locked in the grip of a corporation controlled from Wall Street and insensitive to their concerns."

An expert testified before the U.S. Senate about "large sums of money that have been expended" on campaigns and how "many people have become so indifferent to voting."

A century ago, in the grand tradition of populist politics, Montana voters revolted against the "copper kings" and approved an initiative banning corporations from making "a contribution or an expenditure in connection with a candidate or a political committee that supports or opposes a candidate or a political party."

Adam Davidson Strikes Again, Tells Us to Ignore Downer Data and Trust the Confidence Fairy

While Adam Davidson’s current New York Times column, “How to Make Jobs Disappear” refrains from blatant advocacy of the interests of the 1%, his “Let Dr. Pangloss explain it” approach to economic news is still flattering to the established order. To the extent that anyone in the officialdom pays attention to his work, he’s holding up a rosy-colored mirror to their stewardship. And for the rest of us, his relentless “see, everything really is fine, now take your Soma” denies the reality of the hardships and stresses most ordinary Americans face.

Must see.
Matt Taibbi and Yves Smith on the Follies of Big Banks and Government

Various matters

(3) In case you’re wondering why the U.S. is poised to remove the Iranian group MEK from its list of Terror organizations, the reason (other than the large payments funneled to political leaders such as Ed Rendell, Howard Dean, Wesley Clark, Rudy Giuliani, Tom Ridge, Fran Townsend, etc.) [ ... ]

MEK is now beloved in Washington because they are being turned into the Ahmed Chalabis of Iran: used to create the false illusion that there is substantial support among Iranians for Western intervention in their country (note, too, how “appeasement” means: negotiating in order to achieve a peaceful resolution). The reality is that MEK, which supported Iraq in its war with Iran and was long protected by its patron Saddam Hussein, is widely loathed in Iran, a country where even actual opposition leaders support Iran’s right to pursue its nuclear program. MEK leaders are as far away from being the “Iran opposition head” as a person randomly selected from the U.S. phone book. But because this designated Terror group is now being used to advance American interests, it is, by definition, no longer a Terrorist group and will thus likely soon be removed from the list. That’s what “Terrorist” means: those who defy American dictates and impede its interests.

h/t Glenn Greenwald and lol:
The New York Times Profiled the Brant Brothers Because the New York Times Hates You

We at Gawker have warned you previously that the New York Times Style section exists solely to introduce you to society's biggest shitheads, and yesterday's profile of the Brant Brothers is no exception. At this point, it feels as if the Times is going out of its way to troll us all. No one at that paper could possibly think these two teenagers—who have yet to contribute anything meaningful to society—are inherently interesting. A much more reasonable explanation is that someone at the Times Style section sits down every week and is like, "Oh hey, how can we piss off everyone this week? I KNOW! Let's profile a pair of privileged dipshits!" Look at this fucking article:


Harry, 15, and his 18-year-old brother are the well-spoken product of cross-pollination of the Übermenschen.
I want to take this sentence, drag it out into the backyard, and beat it to death with a shovel. That sentence alone justifies every single conservative criticism that the Times exists with its head perpetually up its own ass. These two kids are the product of rich people. No pollination was involved. Terms like "Übermenschen" exist strictly so that pretentious assholes will use them to no effect.

[ ... ]

Return of the nasty party

David Cameron will signal today the end of "compassionate Conservatism" with plans for a crackdown on welfare spending for the young, the jobless and those with large families.

In a speech which will appeal to the Tory right, Mr Cameron will demand an end to what he calls Britain's "culture of entitlement". He will propose:

* Removing or restricting some benefits from out-of-work families with large numbers of children. This could include cuts to child benefit; [ ... ]

Shock at the BBC as reporters are told to start making money

There are fears for the future editorial independence of the BBC after news journalists were ordered to come up with money-generating ideas for the corporation, a leaked email reveals.

BBC bosses have told reporters to think of money-making schemes and present them to their line managers at forthcoming job appraisals – raising concerns that the organisation's prized editorial standards will be compromised by commercial imperatives.

The 2,400 staff working in the BBC's Global News department, including the BBC World Service, have been told that they must now "exploit new commercial opportunities [and] maximise the value we create with our journalism".

Celebration in Egypt as Morsi declared winner
Muslim Brotherhood candidate, now president-elect, vows in victory speech to "restore rights" to Egyptian people.

Morsi picked up 13.2 million votes out of just over 26 million, giving him about 51 per cent of the vote. His competitor, Ahmed Shafik, the final prime minister under Hosni Mubarak, received 12.3 million. More than 800,000 ballots were invalidated.

The president-elected delivered a victory address on Sunday night. He spoke on state television, long a medium which demonised him and the Muslim Brotherhood. He thanked the Egyptian people for their votes, calling them "my family" and "my beloved," and promised to work to "restore their rights."

"I have no rights, only responsibilities," Morsi said. "If I do not deliver, do not obey me."

Morsi calls for unity as he’s declared Egypt’s first non-military president

CAIRO — Mohammed Morsi, a twice-jailed member of the Muslim Brotherhood, was declared president of Egypt on Sunday, becoming this country’s first civilian, democratically elected leader, the region’s first Islamist president and the new official face of the 17-month-old uprising that has demanded, but not yet created, revolutionary change here.

The challenges ahead for Morsi are daunting. He is taking over a divided populace and sharing power with a military council that has governed Egypt directly or in the shadows since modern Egypt was created with the 1952 overthrow of the country’s monarchy. With no permanent constitution and the elected Parliament ordered dissolved 10 days ago, Morsi’s duties and powers are uncertain in a state where corruption and institutions established under the three-decade rule of Hosni Mubarak remain solidly in place,.

Robert Fisk: Morsi is no revolutionary and not much of a nationalist. The army elite has already laid traps for him
Zaghloul might be missed today, after an election in which the words 'Islam'and 'security' seemed like interchangeable platitudes

While 50 million Egyptians were waiting yesterday to hear that they had elected a Muslim Brotherhood mediocrity over a Mubarak bag-carrier, I paid a visit to the home of Saad Zaghloul. Not for an interview, you understand (Zaghloul died 85 years ago and is buried opposite his house in a mausoleum styled like a pharaonic temple) but as a pilgrimage to a man who might have served Egypt well today, a revolutionary and a nationalist whose Wafd party stood up to the British empire and whose wife, Safeya, was one of the country's great feminists.

Mohamed Morsi is no revolutionary. No feminist. Not much of a nationalist. And the army elite has already laid its traps for him. But the "deep state" represented by his opponent, Ahmed Shafik, receded yesterday. Up to a point – and only up to a point – Zaghloul would have approved.

Morsi's win is a victory for the revolution
Morsi's victory is the best progressives could have hoped for, and will allow a grassroots movement to slowly build.

For the military, it's quite a fall from grace. It's hard to describe Egyptian protesters' feelings of solidarity and unity with the army during the 18 days that forced Hosni Mubarak from power. Soldiers literally slept with protesters in Tahrir Square, while military leaders issued adamant messages of support for the people and pledged to give them "everything they wanted".

In the 18 months since February 11, 2011, the military has squandered almost all of the goodwill that remained with the Egyptian people. True, some still support the military, either because they're part of the economic elite, the bloated security system, or are tied to both through patronage networks. The plight of Coptic Christians, who fear Islamist power even more than a government that has massacred them with impunity, is even more tragic.

[ ... ]

For its part, the Muslim Brotherhood played a minimal role in the revolutionary protests that brought down Mubarak. But it dominated the transitional period, winning the largest share of seats in the now disbanded parliament - and today the presidency.

Despite the electoral victories, the Brotherhood has manoeuvred itself into a position as untenable long term as the military's. Months of barely clandestine negotiations between the Brotherhood and SCAF over how to divide post-revolutionary power (which continued even as SCAF eviscerated the constitution), coupled with the leadership's lack of serious criticism for mass arrests, military trials and violence against protesters, cast a long shadow over its integrity and commitment to democracy.

Chinese Economic Data Is Looking Horrible, And The Government Is Lying About It

It's long been believed that China's economic data is untrustworthy, but now that the Chinese economy is clearly cooling down, that theory is being put to the test, and it seems to be confirmed that the government isn't always forthright about the numbers.

[ ... ]

He notes that in addition to there being an economic slowdown, this is a year of political transition, which further creates pressure on folks at all levels of government and in state-owned-enterprises to juice up the data.

Scientists warn US east coast over accelerated sea level rise
Study says sea level is rising far faster than elsewhere, which could increase incidence of New York flooding

Asbury Sallenger, at the US geological survey at St Petersburg, Florida, who led the new study, said: "That makes storm surges that much higher and the reach of the waves that crash onto the coast that much higher. In terms of people and communities preparing for these things, there are extreme regional variations and we need to keep that in mind. We can't view sea level rise as uniform, like filling up a bath tub. Some places will rise quicker than others and the whole urban corridor of north-east US is one of these places."

The hotspot had been predicted by computer modelling, but Sallenger said: "Our paper is the first to focus on using real data to show [the acceleration] is happening now and that we can detect it now."

Singapore's Supertree-Powered Gardens By the Bay Opens to Public (Photos)

One of the largest horticultural attractions in the world, Singapore's Gardens by the Bay, opens to the public Friday, June 29, offering a unique fusion of nature and technology.

Since we last reported on the project's most distinctive element -- 18 giant solar-powered, plant-growing "Supertrees" -- UK-based landscape architects Grant Associates have released some stunning photos of the £500 million complex.

Blog Posts of Interest

The Evening Blues - 6-22-12

Tell the EPA to stop enabling the 1%, and ban the bee-killing pesticide! on DailyKos by ZhenRen

TransLife Center to open in Chicago on DailyKos by rserven

Fallows changes a headline. Good move? on DailyKos by litho

Collapsing U.S. credibility oon Salon by Glenn Greenwald

Free Bradley Manning Contingent Marches in Chicago Pride Parade on The Dissenter by Kevin Gosztola

One Former Democratic President & Nobel Peace Prize Winner Shames Another on DailyKos by Jesselyn Radack

USGS: East Coast Sea Level Rise Accelerating, Gulf Stream Weakening on DailyKos by FishOutofWater

Originally posted to DFH writers group on Mon Jun 25, 2012 at 05:30 AM PDT.

Also republished by Team DFH.

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